Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading Isaiah 55:6–9
Second Reading Philippians 1:20c–24, 27a
Gospel Matthew 20:1–16a


St. Augustine--the perfect in charity desire to meed Christ in judgment as did St. Paul:
‎‎When a person still desires this life, that person, when the day of death comes, patiently endures death: he struggles against himself that he may follow the will of God, and in his mind desires that which God chooseth, not what man’s will chooseth: from desire of the present life there comes a reluctance against death, but yet he takes to him patience and fortitude, that he may with an even mind meet death; he dies patiently. But when a man desires, as the apostle saith, “to be dissolved and to be with Christ,” (Phil 1:23, 24) that person, not patiently dies, but patiently lives, delightedly dies. See the apostle patiently living, i.e. how with patience he here, not loves life, but endures it. “To be dissolved,” saith be, “and to be with Christ, is far better: but to continue in the flesh is necessary for your sakes.” Therefore, brethren, do your endeavor, settle it inwardly with yourselves to make this your concern, that ye may desire the day of judgment. No otherwise is charity proved to be perfect, but only when one has begun to desire that day. But that man desires it, who hath boldness in it, whose conscience feels no alarm in perfect and sincere charity. (Augustine, Tract. in ep. Joan. 9.2-3, NPNF1, vol. 7. pg. 514-515)

St. John Chrysostom--death itself is neither good nor ill, but what follows it is:
‎“It is good for me to depart and be with Christ,” for even death is a thing indifferent; since death itself is no ill, but to be punished after death is an ill. Nor is death a good, but it is good after our departure “to be with Christ.” What follows death is either good or ill.
‎Let us then not simply grieve for the dead, nor joy for the living simply. But how? Let us grieve for sinners, not only when dying, but also while living. Let us joy for the just, not only while living, but also when dead. For those though living are dead, while these although dead, yet live: those even while here are to be pitied of all, because they are at enmity with God; the other even when they have departed Thither, are blessed, because they are gone to Christ. (Chrysostom, Hom. Phil. 3, NPNF1, vol. 13, pg. 196)
St. Basil on the meaning of "to me live is Christ":
‎‎For if, to me, “to live is Christ,” (Phil 1:21) truly my words ought to be about Christ, my every thought and deed ought to depend upon His commandments, and my soul to be fashioned after His. (Basil, Ep. 159.1, NPNF2, vol. 8, pg. 212)

St. Ambrose on "to live is Christ and to die is gain":
‎‎We see, then, that this death is a gain and life a penalty, so that Paul says: “To me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Phil. 1:21) What is Christ but the death of the body, the breath of life? And so let us die with Him, that we may live with Him. Let there then be in us as it were a daily practice and inclination to dying, that by this separation from bodily desires, of which we have spoken, our soul may learn to withdraw itself, and, as it were placed on high, when earthly lusts cannot approach and attach it to themselves, may take upon herself the likeness of death, that she incur not the penalty of death. (Ambrose, De excessu fratris 2.40, NPNF2, vol. 10, pg. 180)

St. Augustine on equality and difference in eternal life:
‎‎What then, say they, is the meaning of that penny, which is given in payment to all alike when the work of the vineyard is ended? whether it be to those who have labored from the first hour, or to those who have labored one hour? (Mt 20:9, 10) What assuredly doth it signify, but something, which all shall have in common, such as is life eternal itself, the kingdom of heaven itself, where shall be all, whom God hath predestinated, called, justified, glorified? “For it behoveth that this corruptible put on incorruption, and this mortal put on immortality.” (1 Co 15:53) This is that penny, wages for all. Yet “star differeth from star in glory; so also the resurrection of the dead.” (1 Co 15:41, 42) These are the different merits of the Saints. For, if by that penny the heaven were signified, have not all the stars in common to be in the heaven? And yet, “There is one glory of the sun, another glory of the moon, another of the stars.” If that penny were taken for health of body, have not all the members, when we are well, health in common; and, should this health continue even unto death, is it not in all alike and equally? And yet, “God hath set the members, each one of them, in the body, as He would;” (1 Co 12:18) that neither the whole be an eye, nor the whole hearing, nor the whole smelling: and, whatever else there is, it hath its own property, although it have health equally with all. Thus because life eternal itself shall be alike to all, an equal penny was assigned to all; but, because in that life eternal itself the lights of merits shall shine with a distinction, there are “many mansions” in the house of the Father: (Jn 14:2) and, by this means, in the penny not unlike, one lives not longer than another; but in the many mansions, one is honored with greater brightness than another. (Augustine, De sancta virgin. 26.26, NPNF1, vol. 3, pg. 426)

St. Augustine on how those called late seem to recieve their reward earlier:
‎So then though they all received at the same hour, yet because some received after one hour, others after twelve hours, they who received after so short a time are said to have received first. The first righteous men, as Abel, and Noe, called as it were at the first hour, will receive together with us the blessedness of the resurrection. Other righteous men after them, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all of their age, called as it were at the third hour, will receive together with us the blessedness of the resurrection. Other righteous men, as Moses, and Aaron, and whosoever with them were called as it were at the sixth hour, will receive together with us the blessedness of the resurrection. After them the Holy Prophets, called as it were at the ninth hour, will receive together with us the same blessedness. In the end of the world all Christians, called as it were at the eleventh hour, will receive with the rest the blessedness of that resurrection. All will receive together; but consider those first men, after how long a time do they receive it? If then those first receive after a long time, we after a short time; though we all receive together, yet we seem to have received first, because our hire will not tarry long in coming. (Augustine, Serm. 87.4.5, NPNF1, vol. 6, pg. 374-375)

St. Augustine--the equality of the reward promised to those called later in the day not an excuse to delay turning to the Lord:
‎But, Brethren, hearken ye and understand, lest any put off to come into the vineyard, because he is sure, that, come when he will, he shall receive this denarius. And sure indeed he is that the denarius is promised him; but this is no injunction to put off. For did they who were hired into the vineyard, when the householder came out to them to hire whom he might find, at the third hour for instance, and did hire them, did they say to him, “Wait, we are not going thither till the sixth hour”? or they whom he found at the sixth hour, did they say, “We are not going till the ninth hour”? or they whom he found at the ninth hour, did they say, “We are not going till the eleventh? For he will give to all alike; why should we fatigue ourselves more than we need?” What He was to give, and what He was to do, was in the secret of His own counsel: do thou come when thou art called. For an equal reward is promised to all; but as to this appointed hour of working, there is an important question. For if, for instance, they who are called at the sixth hour, at that age of life that is, in which as in the full heat of noon, is felt the glow of manhood’s years; if they, called thus in manhood, were to say, “Wait, for we have heard in the Gospel that all are to receive the same reward, we will come at the eleventh hour, when we shall have grown old, and shall still receive the same. Why should we add to our labour?” it would be answered them thus, “Art not thou willing to labour now, who dost not know whether thou shalt live to old age? Thou art called at the sixth hour; come. The Householder hath it is true promised thee a denarius, if thou come at the eleventh hour, but whether thou shalt live even to the seventh, no one hath promised thee. I say not to the eleventh, but even to the seventh hour. Why then dost thou put off him that calleth thee, certain as thou art of the reward, but uncertain of the day? Take heed then lest peradventure what he is to give thee by promise, thou take from thyself by delay.” Now if this may rightly be said of infants as belonging to the first hour, if it may be rightly said of boys as belonging to the third, if it may be rightly said of men in the vigour of life, as in the full-day heat of the sixth hour; how much more rightly may it be said of the decrepit? Lo, already is it the eleventh hour, and dost thou yet stand still, and art thou yet slow to come? (Augustine, Serm. 87.6.8, NPNF1, vol. 6, pg. 375)

St. John Chrysostom on the intent of the parable of the workers in the vineyard:
‎From everything then it is manifest to us, that the parable is spoken with reference to them who from earliest youth, and those who in old age and more tardily, lay hold on virtue; to the former, that they may not be proud, neither reproach those called at the eleventh hour; to the latter, that they may learn that it is possible even in a short time to recover all.
‎For since He had been speaking about earnestness, and the casting away of riches, and contempt of all one’s possessions, but this needed much vigor of mind and youthful ardor; in order to kindle in them a fire of love, and to give vigor to their will, He shows that it is possible even for men coming later to receive the hire of the whole day.
‎But He doth not say it thus, lest again He should make them proud, but he shows that the whole is of His love to man, and because of this they shall not fail, but shall themselves enjoy the unspeakable blessings. (Chrysostom, Hom. Mt. 64.4, NPNF1, vol. 10, pg. 395)

No comments: