Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Sententiae Patristicae: Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading 1 Kings 19:16b, 19–21
Second Reading Galatians 5:1, 13–18
Gospel Luke 9:51–62

St. Ambrose--the Lord calls some of us like Elisha to give up all we have to devote ourselves to the prophetic teaching:
‎It is the intention, therefore, that makes the gift valuable or poor, and gives to things their value. The Lord does not want us to give away all our goods at once, but to impart them little by little; unless, indeed, our case is like that of Elisha, who killed his oxen, and fed the people on what he had, so that no household cares might hold him back, and that he might give up all things, and devote himself to the prophetic teaching. (1 Ki 19:20) (Ambrose, De offic. 1.30.149, NPNF2, vol. 10, pg. 25)

St. John Chrysostom on the response of the Apostles, 1 Ki 19:20, 21 and Mt 8:21, 22:
‎But mark both their faith, and their obedience. For though they were in the midst of their work (and ye know how greedy a thing fishing is), when they heard His command. they delayed not, they procrastinated not, they said not, “let us return home, and converse with our kinsfolk,” but “they forsook all and followed,” even as Elisha did to Elijah” (1 Ki 19:20, 21) Because such is the obedience which Christ seeks of us, as that we delay not even a moment of time, though something absolutely most needful should vehemently press on us. Wherefore also when some other had come unto Him, and was asking leave to bury his own father, (Mt 8:21, 22) not even this did He permit him to do: to signify that before all we ought to esteem the following of Himself. (Chrysostom, Hom. Mt. 14.3, NPNF1, vol. 10, pg. 88)

John Cassian--the struggle between the spirit and the flesh serves to urge us on to a higher state:
‎This conflict too we read in the Apostle has for our good been placed in our members: “For the flesh lusteth against the spirit: and the spirit against the flesh. But these two are opposed to each other so that ye should not do what ye would.” (Gal 5:17) You have here too a contest as it were implanted in our bodies, by the action and arrangement of the Lord. For when a thing exists in everybody universally and without the slightest exception, what else can you think about it except that it belongs to the substance of human nature, since the fall of the first man, as it were naturally: and when a thing is found to be congenital with everybody, and to grow with their growth, how can we help believing that it was implanted by the will of the Lord, not to injure them but to help them? But the reason of this conflict; viz., of flesh and spirit, he tells us is this: that ye should not do what ye would.” And so, if we fulfil what God arranged that we should not fulfil, i.e., that we should not do what we liked, how can we help believing that it is bad for us? And this conflict implanted in us by the arrangement of the Creator is in a way useful to us, and calls and urges us on to a higher state: and if it ceased, most surely there would ensue on the other hand a peace that is fraught with danger. (Cassian, Collat. 1.4.7, NPNF2, vol. 9, pg. 332)

St. Augustine--as soon as, by sin, the soul deserted God, the flesh began to rebel against it:
‎For, as soon as our first parents had transgressed the commandment, divine grace forsook them, and they were confounded at their own wickedness; and therefore they took fig-leaves (which were possibly the first that came to hand in their troubled state of mind), and covered their shame; for though their members remained the same, they had shame now where they had none before. They experienced a new motion of their flesh, which had become disobedient to them, in strict retribution of their own disobedience to God. For the soul, revelling in its own liberty, and scorning to serve God, was itself deprived of the command it had formerly maintained over the body. And because it had willfully deserted its superior Lord, it no longer held its own inferior servant; neither could it hold the flesh subject, as it would always have been able to do had it remained itself subject to God. Then began the flesh to lust against the Spirit, (Gal 5:17) in which strife we are born, deriving from the first transgression a seed of death, and bearing in our members, and in our vitiated nature, the contest or even victory of the flesh. (Augustine, De civ. Dei 13.13, NPNF1, vol. 2, pg. 251)

St. John Chrystosom--St. Paul is not to be understood as calling the body evil. "Flesh" and "spirit" speak more of two mental states than of body and soul:
‎What then is his meaning? it is the earthly mind, slothful and careless, that he here calls the flesh, and this is not an accusation of the body, but a charge against the slothful soul. The flesh is an instrument, and no one feels aversion and hatred to an instrument, but to him who abuses it. For it is not the iron instrument but the murderer, whom we hate and punish. But it may be said that the very calling of the faults of the soul by the name of the flesh is in itself an accusation of the body. And I admit that the flesh is inferior to the soul, yet it too is good, for that which is inferior to what is good may itself be good, but evil is not inferior to good, but opposed to it. Now if you are able to prove to me that evil originates from the body, you are at liberty to accuse it; but if your endeavor is to turn its name into a charge against it, you ought to accuse the soul likewise. (Chrysostom, Hom. Gal. 5, NPNF1, vol. 13, pg. 41)

Tertullian--Christ response to the young man wishing to first bury his father reveals that we are priests:
‎For the reason why He recalls that young man who was hastening to his father’s obsequies, (Mt 8:21, Lk 9:59, 60) is that He may show that we are called priests by Him; (priests) whom the Law used to forbid to be present at the sepulture of parents: (Lev 21:11) “Over every dead soul,” it says, “the priest shall not enter, and over his own father and over his own mother he shall not be contaminated.” “Does it follow that we too are bound to observe this prohibition? ”No, of course. For our one Father, God, lives, and our mother, the Church; and neither are we dead who live to God, nor do we bury our dead, inasmuch as they too are living in Christ. At all events, priests we are called by Christ; debtors to monogamy, in accordance with the pristine Law of God, which prophesied at that time of us in its own priests. (Tertullian, On Monogamy 7, ANF, vol. 4, pg. 64)

St. Augustine on Luke 9:58:
‎What then did He answer? “Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His Head.” (Lk 9:58) But where hath He not? In thy faith. For in thy heart foxes have holes, thou art full of guile; in thy heart birds of the air have nests; thou art lifted up. Full of guile and self-elation as thou art, thou shalt not follow Me. How can a guileful man follow Simplicity? (Augustine, Serm. 100.1, NPNF1, vol. 6, pg. 420)

St. Augustine--Christ rebuked the Apostles because they called for vengenge out of hatred rather than correction out of love:
‎And when the disciples had quoted an example from this Elias, mentioning to the Lord what had been done by him, in order that He might give to themselves also the power of calling down fire from heaven to consume those who would not show Him hospitality, the Lord reproved in them, not the example of the holy prophet, but their ignorance in respect to taking vengeance, their knowledge being as yet elementary; (Lk 9:52-56) perceiving that they did not in love desire correction, but in hated desired revenge. (Augustine, De serm. Dom. in mont. 1.20.64, NPNF1, vol. 6, pg. 28)

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