Monday, January 30, 2012

Sententiae Patristicae: Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading Job 7:1–4, 6–7
Second Reading 1 Corinthians 9:16–19, 22–23
Gospel Mark 1:29–39


St. Augustine--life on earth is a trial:
‎Quite exceptional are those who are not punished in this life, but only afterwards. Yet that there have been some who have reached the decrepitude of age without experiencing even the slightest sickness, and who have had uninterrupted enjoyment of life, I know both from report and from my own observation. However, the very life we mortals lead is itself all punishment, for it is all temptation, as the Scriptures declare, where it is written, “Is not the life of man upon earth a temptation?” (Job 7:1) For ignorance is itself no slight punishment, or want of culture, which it is with justice thought so necessary to escape, that boys are compelled, under pain of severe punishment, to learn trades or letters; and the learning to which they are driven by punishment is itself so much of a punishment to them, that they sometimes prefer the pain that drives them to the pain to which they are driven by it. And who would not shrink from the alternative, and elect to die, if it were proposed to him either to suffer death or to be again an infant? Our infancy, indeed, introducing us to this life not with laughter but with tears, seems unconsciously to predict the ills we are to encounter. (Augustine, De civ. Dei 21.14.1, NPNF1, vol. 2, pg. 464)

St. Jerome--we risk our lives in the trials of this life that we may be crowned in the world to come:
‎We read in the book of Job how, while the first messenger of evil was yet speaking, there came also another; (Job 1:16) and in the same book it is written: “is there not a temptation”—or as the Hebrew better gives it—“a warfare to man upon earth?” (Job 7:1) It is for this end that we labour, it is for this end that we risk our lives in the warfare of this world, that we may be crowned in the world to come. That we should believe this to be true of men is nothing wonderful, for even the Lord Himself was tempted, (Mt 4:1 sq.) and of Abraham the scripture bears witness that God tempted him. (Ge 22:1) It is for this reason also that the apostle says: “we glory in tribulations … knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience experience; and experience hope; and hope maketh not ashamed.” (Ro 5:3-5) (Jerome, Ep. 130.7, NPNF2, vol. 6, pg. 264)

St. Augustine--St. Paul became all things to all men in compassion, not in deceit:
‎Why was it that, in becoming as a Gentile to the Gentiles, his teaching and his conduct are in harmony with his real sentiments; but that, in becoming as a Jew to the Jews, he shuts up one thing in his heart, and declares something wholly different in his words, deeds, and writings? But far be it from us to entertain such thoughts of him. To both Jews and Gentiles he owed “charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned;” (1 Ti 1:5) and therefore he became all things to all men, that he might gain all, (1 Co 9:19-22) not with the subtlety of a deceiver, but with the love of one filled with compassion; that is to say, not by pretending himself to do all the evil things which other men did, but by using the utmost pains to minister with all compassion the remedies required by the evils under which other men laboured, as if their case had been his own. (Augustine, Ep. 82.3.27, NPNF1, vol. 1, pg. 359)

St. Augustine--the Son of God himself made himself weak to the weak:
‎ “[A]lthough He was in the same form, He emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant,”—and so on down to the words “the death of the cross.” (Phil 2:17) What is the explanation of this but that He made Himself “weak to the weak, in order that He might gain the weak?” (1 Co 9:22) (Augustine, De catech. rud. 10.15, NPNF1, vol. 3, pg. 293)

St. Augustine--he who ministers the gospel should do so as a son:
‎“For woe is unto me,” says he, “if I preach not the gospel!” But how ought he to preach the gospel? Evidently in such a way as to place the reward in the gospel itself, and in the kingdom of God: for thus he can preach the gospel, not of constraint, but willingly. “For if I do this thing willingly,” says he, “I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me;” (1 Co 9:13-17) if, constrained by the want of those things which are necessary for temporal life, I preach the gospel, others will have through me the reward of the gospel, who love the gospel itself when I preach it; but I shall not have it, because it is not the gospel itself I love, but its price lying in those temporal things. And this is something sinful, that any one should minister the gospel not as a son, but as a servant to whom a stewardship of it has been committed; that he should, as it were, pay out what belongs to another, but should himself receive nothing from it except victuals, which are given not in consideration of his sharing in the kingdom, but from without, for the support of a miserable bondage. (Augustine, De serm. Dom. in mont. 2.16.54, NPNF1, vol. 6, pg. 51)

St. John Chrysostom--preaching the gospel without charge is not in itself greater than preaching, but only in that goes beyond what is merely commanded:
‎What sayest thou? tell me. “If thou preach the Gospel, it is nothing for thee to glory of, but it is, if thou make the Gospel of Christ without charge?” Is this therefore greater than that? By no means; but in another point of view it hath some advantage, inasmuch as the one is a command, but the other is a good deed of my own free-will: for what things are done beyond the commandment, have a great reward in this respect: but such as are in pursuance of a commandment, not so great: and so in this respect he says, the one is more than the other; not in the very nature of the thing. For what is equal to preaching; since it maketh men vie even with the angels themselves. Nevertheless since the one is a commandment and a debt, the other a forwardness of free-will, in this respect this is more than that. (Chrysostom, Hom. 1 Cor. 22.3, NPNF1, vol. 12, pg. 127)

St. John Chrysostom--St. Paul, in his zeal, shows care for all, even knowing that only some will be saved:
‎Seest thou how far it is carried? “I am become all things to all men,” not expecting, however, to save all, but that I may save though it be but a few. And so great care and service have I undergone, as one naturally would who was about saving all, far however from hoping to gain all: which was truly magnanimous and a proof of burning zeal. Since likewise the sower sowed every where, and saved not all the seed, notwithstanding he did his part. And having mentioned the fewness of those who are saved, again, adding, “by all means,” he consoled those to whom this was a grief. For though it be not possible that all the seed should be saved, nevertheless it cannot be that all should perish. Wherefore he said, “by all means,” because one so ardently zealous must certainly have some success. (Chrysostom, Hom. 1 Cor. 22.5, NPNF1, vol. 12, pg. 128-129)

St. Bede on the meaning of the healing of Simon's mother-in-law:
‎The health which is conferred at the command of the Lord, returns at once entire, accompanied with such strength, that she is able to minister to those, of whose help she had before stood in need. Again, if we suppose that the man delivered from the devil means, in the moral way of interpretation, the soul purged from unclean thoughts, fitly does the woman cured of a fever by the command of God mean the flesh, restrained from the heat of its concupiscence by the precepts of continence. (Bede, in Marc. 1.6, 8, Cat. Aur. 2, pg. 28-29)

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