Friday, February 4, 2011

Sententiae Patristicae: Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading Isaiah 58:7–10
Second Reading 1 Corinthians 2:1–5
Gospel Matthew 5:13–16

St. Cyprian of Carthage on Is 58:6-9:
‎He promises that He will be at hand, and says that He will hear and protect those who, loosening the knots of unrighteousness from their heart, and giving alms among the members of God’s household according to His commands, even in hearing what God commands to be done, do themselves also deserve to be heard by God. (Cyprian, De orat. Dom. 33, ANF, vol. 5, pg. 456)

St. Augustine--God himself is the source of our love of neighbor:
‎‎Therefore love thy neighbor; look at the source of thy love of thy neighbor; there thou wilt see, as thou mayest, God. Begin, then, to love thy neighbor. “Break thy bread to the hungry, and bring into thy house him that is needy without shelter; if thou seest the naked, clothe him; and despise not those of the household of thy seed.” And in doing this, what wilt thou get in consequence? “Then shall thy light break forth as the morning light.” (Is 58:7, 8) Thy light is thy God, a “morning light” to thee, because He shall come to thee after the night of this world: for He neither rises nor sets, because He is ever abiding. He will be a morning light to thee on thy return, He who had set for thee on thy falling away from Him. (Augustine, Tract. in ev. Joan. 17.8, NPNF1, vol. 7, pg. 114)

Origen--the preaching of the Gospel, unlike the writings of the philosophers, is made effectual by the power of God rather than human wisdom:
‎‎It is easy, indeed, to observe that Plato is found only in the hands of those who profess to be literary men; while Epictetus is admired by persons of ordinary capacity, who have a desire to be benefited, and who perceive the improvement which may be derived from his writings. Now we make these remarks, not to disparage Plato (for the great world of men has found even him useful), but to point out the aim of those who said: “And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that our faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” (1 Co 2:4, 5) For the word of God declares that the preaching (although in itself true and most worthy of belief) is not sufficient to reach the human heart, unless a certain power be imparted to the speaker from God, and a grace appear upon his words; and it is only by the divine agency that this takes place in those who speak effectually. (Origen, Cont. Cels. 6.2, ANF , vol. 4, pg. 573)

St. John Chrysostom on Paul's perseverence in the face of fear and trembling:
‎“How sayest thou? Did Paul also fear dangers?” He did fear, and dreaded them excessively; for though he was Paul, yet he was a man. But this is no charge against Paul, but infirmity of human nature; and it is to the praise of his fixed purpose of mind that when he even dreaded death and stripes, he did nothing wrong because of this fear. So that they who assert that he feared not stripes, not only do not honor him, but rather abridge greatly his praises. For if he feared not, what endurance or what self-restraint was there in bearing the dangers? I, for my part, on this account admire him; because being in fear, and not simply in “fear,” but even in “trembling” at his perils, he so ran as ever to keep his crown; and gave not in for any danger, in his task of purging out the world, and everywhere both by sea and land sowing the Gospel. (Chrysostom, Hom. 1 Cor. 6.2, NPNF1, vol. 12, pg. 30)

St. Augustine--the Christian's works should shine before men not for his own glory but for God's:
‎‎But again, lest, understanding this wrongly, they should, through fear of pleasing men, be less useful through concealing their goodness, showing for what end they ought to make it known, He says, “Let your works shine before men, that they may see your good deeds, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Mt 5:16) Not, observe, “that ye may be seen by them, that is, in order that their eyes may be directed upon you,”—for of yourselves ye are, nothing,—but “that they may glorify your Father who is in heaven,” by fixing their regards on whom they may become such as ye are. (Augustine, De civ. Dei 5.14.1, NPNF1, vol. 2, pg. 97)

St. John Chrysostom--Christ does not command us to live for display but to let our virtue be so great that it cannot lie hid:
‎What then? Dost thou command us to live for display and vain glory? Far from it; I say not this; for I did not say, “Give ye diligence to bring forward your own good deeds,” neither did I say, “Show them;” but “Let your light shine.” That is, “Let your virtue be great, and the fire abundant, and the light unspeakable.” For when virtue is so great, it cannot lie hid, though its pursuer shade it over ten thousand fold. Present unto them an irreprehensible life, and let them have no true occasion of evil speaking; and then, though there be thousands of evil-speakers, no man shall be able to cast any shade upon you. And well did He say, “your light,” for nothing makes a man so illustrious, how manifold soever his will to be concealed, as the manifestation of virtue. For as if he were clad with the very sunbeam, so he shines, yet brighter than it; not spending his rays on earth, but surmounting also Heaven itself. (Chrysostom, Hom. Matt. 15.11, NPNF1, vol. 10, pg. 98-99)

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