Sunday, June 17, 2012

Sententiae Patristicae: Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading Ezekiel 17:22–24
Second Reading 2 Corinthians 5:6–10
Gospel Mark 4:26–34


St. Polycarp--knowing that we will be judged, let us serve God in fear and forgive as we hope to be forgiven:
If then we entreat the Lord to forgive us, we ought also ourselves to forgive; (Mt 6:12-14) for we are before the eyes of our Lord and God, and “we must all appear at the judgment-seat of Christ, and must every one give an account of himself.” (Ro 14:10-12; 2 Co 5:10) Let us then serve Him in fear, and with all reverence, even as He Himself has commanded us, and as the apostles who preached the Gospel unto us, and the prophets who proclaimed beforehand the coming of the Lord [have alike taught us]. Let us be zealous in the pursuit of that which is good, keeping ourselves from causes of offence, from false brethren, and from those who in hypocrisy bear the name of the Lord, and draw away vain men into error. (Polycarp 6, ANF, vol. 1, pg. 34)

Tertullian--2 Corinthians 5:6 implies no disparagement of the flesh:
‎In the same way, when he says, “Therefore we are always confident, and fully aware, that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord; for we walk by faith, not be sight,” (2 Co 5:6, 7) it is manifest that in this statement there is no design of disparaging the flesh, as if it separated us from the Lord. For there is here pointedly addressed to us an exhortation to disregard this present life, since we are absent from the Lord as long as we are passing through it—walking by faith, not by sight; in other words, in hope, not in reality. Accordingly he adds: “We are indeed confident and deem it good rather to be absent from the body, and present with the Lord;” (2 Co 5:8) in order, that is, that we may walk by sight rather than by faith, in realization rather than in hope. Observe how he here also ascribes to the excellence of martyrdom a contempt for the body. For no one, on becoming absent from the body, is at once a dweller in the presence of the Lord, except by the prerogative of martyrdom, he gains a lodging in Paradise, not in the lower regions. Now, had the apostle been at a loss for words to describe the departure from the body? Or does he purposely use a novel phraseology? For, wanting to express our temporary absence from the body, he says that we are strangers, absent from it, because a man who goes abroad returns after a while to his home. Then he says even to all: “We therefore earnestly desire to be acceptable unto God, whether absent or present; for we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ Jesus.”1 If all of us, then all of us wholly; if wholly, then our inward man and outward too—that is, our bodies no less than our souls. “That every one,” as he goes on to say, “may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” (2 Co 5:10) Now I ask, how do you read this passage? Do you take it to be confusedly constructed, with a transposition of ideas? Is the question about what things will have to be received by the body, or the things which have been already done in the body? Well, if the things which are to be borne by the body are meant, then undoubtedly a resurrection of the body is implied; and if the things which have been already done in the body are referred to, (the same conclusion follows): for of course the retribution will have to be paid by the body, since it was by the body that the actions were performed. Thus the apostle’s whole argument from the beginning is unravelled in this concluding clause, wherein the resurrection of the flesh is set forth; and it ought to be understood in a sense which is strictly in accordance with this conclusion. (Tertullian, De res. 43, ANF, vol. 3, pg. 576)

St. Augustine--walk by faith that you may attain to sight:
‎So then before thou seest what thou canst not now see, believe what as yet thou seest not. “Walk by faith,” that thou mayest attain to sight. Sight will not gladden him in his home whom faith consoleth not by the way. For so says the Apostle, “As long as we are in the body, we are in pilgrimage from the Lord.” (2 Co 5:6) And he subjoins immediately why we are still “in pilgrimage,” though we have now believed; “For we walk by faith,” He says, “not by sight.” (Augustine, Serm. 88.4.4, NPNF1, vol. 6, pg. 380)

St. John Chrysostom--to be pleasing to God is what makes departing or remaining good:
‎‘For what we seek for is this,’ saith he, ‘whether we be there or here, to live according to His will; for this is the principal thing. So that by this thou hast the kingdom already in possession without a probation.’ For lest when they had arrived at so great a desire of being there, they should again be disquieted at its being so long first, in this he gives them already the chief of those good things. And what is this? To be well “pleasing.” For as to depart is not absolutely good, but to do so in [God’s] favor, which is what makes departing also become a good; so to remain here is not absolutely grievous, but to remain offending Him. Deem not then that departure from the body is enough; for virtue is always necessary. For as when he spoke of a Resurrection, he allowed [them] not by it alone to be of good courage, saying, “If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked;” so also having showed a departure, lest thou shouldest think that this is enough to save thee, he added that it is needful that we be well pleasing. (Chrysostom, Hom. 2 Cor. 10.4, NPNF1, vol. 12, pg. 328)

Tertullian--the Lord ordained the apostles to be teachers, explaining all things to them:
‎But inasmuch as the proof is so near at hand, that if it were at once produced there would be nothing left to be dealt with, let us give way for a while to the opposite side, if they think that they can find some means of invalidating this rule [the rule of faith], just as if no proof were forthcoming from us. They usually tell us that the apostles did not know all things: (but herein) they are impelled by the same madness, whereby they turn round to the very opposite point, and declare that the apostles certainly knew all things, but did not deliver all things to all persons,—in either case exposing Christ to blame for having sent forth apostles who had either too much ignorance, or too little simplicity. What man, then, of sound mind can possibly suppose that they were ignorant of anything, whom the Lord ordained to be masters (or teachers), keeping them, as He did, inseparable (from Himself) in their attendance, in their discipleship, in their society, to whom, “when they were alone, He used to expound” (Mk 4:34) all things which were obscure, telling them that “to them it was given to know those mysteries,” (Mt 13:11) which it was not permitted the people to understand? (Tertullian, De praesc. adv. haer. 22, ANF, vol. 3, pg. 253)

Origen on the difference between parable and similitude:
‎Now a similitude differs from a parable; for it is written in Mark, “To what shall we compare the kingdom of God, or in what parable shall we set it forth?” (Mk 4:30) From this it is plain that there is a difference between a similitude and a parable. The similitude seems to be generic, and the parable specific. And perhaps also as the similitude, which is the highest genus of the parable, contains the parable as one of its species, so it contains that particular form of similitude which has the same name as the genus. (Origen, Comm. Matt. 10.4, ANF, vol. 9, pg. 416)

Origen on the explanation of parables:
‎But we ought to think in a general way about every parable, the interpretation of which has not been recorded by the evangelists, even though Jesus explained all things to His own disciples privately; (Mk 4:34) and for this reason the writers of the Gospels have concealed the clear exposition of the parables, because the things signified by them were beyond the power of the nature of words to express, and every solution and exposition of such parables was of such a kind that not even the whole world itself could contain the books that should be written (Jn 21:25) in relation to such parables. But it may happen that a fitting heart be found, and, because of its purity, able to receive the letters of the exposition of the parable, so that they could be written in it by the Spirit of the living God. (Origen, Comm. Matt. 14.12, ANF, vol. 9, pg. 502)

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