Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Sententiae Patristicae: Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading Ezekiel 2:2–5
Second Reading 2 Corinthians 12:7–10
Gospel Mark 6:1–6


For the Gospel, see also the parallel passage from Luke at Ordinary Time 4, Year C.

St. Ireneaus--strength is made perfect in weakness:
‎The Apostle Paul has, moreover, in the most lucid manner, pointed out that man has been delivered over to his own infirmity, lest, being uplifted, he might fall away from the truth. Thus he says in the second [Epistle] to the Corinthians: “And lest I should be lifted up by the sublimity of the revelations, there was given unto me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me. And upon this I besought the Lord three times, that it might depart from me. But he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee; for strength is made perfect in weakness. Gladly therefore shall I rather glory in infirmities, that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” (2 Co 12:7-9) What, therefore? (as some may exclaim:) did the Lord wish, in that case, that His apostles should thus undergo buffering, and that he should endure such infirmity? Even so it was; the word says it. For strength is made perfect in weakness, rendering him a better man who by means of his infirmity becomes acquainted with the power of God. For how could a man have learned that he is himself an infirm being, and mortal by nature, but that God is immortal and powerful, unless he had learned by experience what is in both? For there is nothing evil in learning one’s infirmities by endurance; yea, rather, it has even the beneficial effect of preventing him from forming an undue opinion of his own nature (non aberrare in natura sua). But the being lifted up against God, and taking His glory to one’s self, rendering man ungrateful, has brought much evil upon him. [And thus, I say, man must learn both things by experience], that he may not be destitute of truth and love either towards himself or his Creator. But the experience of both confers upon him the true knowledge as to God and man, and increases his love towards God. Now, where there exists an increase of love, there a greater glory is wrought out by the power of God for those who love Him. (Ireneaus, Adv. Haer. 5.3.1, ANF, vol. 1, pg. 529)

St. Augustine--it is known by God what is expedient for us:
‎It is known, then, to God what is expedient for us: let us make this only our endeavor, that our hearts be whole from sins; and when it happens that we are scourged in the body, let us pray to Him for relief. The Apostle Paul besought Him that He would take away the thorn in his flesh, and He would not. Was he disturbed? Was he filled with sadness, and did he speak of himself as deserted? Rather did he say that he was not deserted, because that was not taken away which he desired to be taken away, to the end that infirmity might be cured. For this he found in the voice of the Physician, “My grace is sufficient for thee; for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Co 12:8, 9) Whence knowest thou, then, that God does not wish to heal thee? As yet it is expedient for thee to be scourged. Whence knowest thou how diseased that is which the physician cuts, using his knife on the diseased parts? Does he not know the measure, what he is to do, and how far he is to do it? Does the shrieking of him he cuts restrain the hands of the physician cutting according to his art? The one cries, the other cuts. Is he cruel who does not listen to the man crying out, or is he not rather merciful in following the wound, that he may heal the sick man? These things have I said, my brethren, in order that no one seek any other aid than that of God, when we happen to be under the reproof of God. See that ye perish not; see that ye do not depart from the Lamb, and be devoured by the lion. (Augustine, Tract. in ev. Joan. 7.12, NPNF1, vol. 7, pg. 52)

St. Augustine--the prayers of Christians are heard in all things unto salvation:
‎Lo, he was not heard in his prayer that the “angel of Satan” should be taken from him. But wherefore? Because it was not good for him. He was heard, then, for salvation, when he was not heard according to his wish. Know, my beloved, a great mystery: which we urge upon your consideration on purpose that it may not slip from you in your temptations. The saints are in all things heard unto salvation: they are always heard in that which respects their eternal salvation; it is this that they desire: because in regard of this, their prayers are always heard. (Augustine, Tract in ep. Joan. 6.6, NPNF1, vol. 7, pg. 496)

St. John Chrysostom on the "angel of Satan":
‎What then is the meaning of what is said? An adversary is called in the Hebrew, Satan; and in the third Book of Kings the Scripture has so termed such as were adversaries; and speaking of Solomon, says, ‘In his days there was no Satan,’ that is, no adversary, enemy, or opponent. (1 Kings 5:4) What he says then is this: God would not permit the Preaching to progress, in order to check our high thoughts; but permitted the adversaries to set upon us. For this indeed was enough to pluck down his high thoughts; not so that, pains in the head. And so by the “messenger of Satan,” he means Alexander the coppersmith, the party of Hymenæus and Philetus, all the adversaries of the word; those who contended with and fought against him, those that cast him into a prison, those that beat him, that led him away to death; for they did Satan’s business. As then he calls those Jews children of the devil, who were imitating his deeds, so also he calls a “messenger of Satan” every one that opposeth. He says therefore, “There was given to me a thorn to buffet me;” not as if God putteth arms into such men’s hands, God forbid! not that He doth chastise or punish, but for the time alloweth and permitteth them. (Chrysostom, Hom. 2 Cor. 26.2, NPNF1, vol. 12, pg. 400)

St. John Chrysostom--for when I am weak, then am I strong:
‎“For when I am weak, then am I strong.”
‎‘Why marvellest thou that the power of God is then conspicuous? I too am strong “then;” ’ for then most of all did grace come upon him. “For as His sufferings abound, so doth our consolation abound also.” (Chap. 1:5)
‎[4.] Where affliction is, there is also consolation; where consolation, there is grace also. For instance when he was thrown into the prison, then it was he wrought those marvellous things; when he was shipwrecked and cast away upon that barbarous country, then more than ever was he glorified. When he went bound into the judgment-hall, then he overcame even the judge. (Chrysostom, Hom. 2 Cor. 26.3-4, NPNF1, vol. 12, pg. 401)

John Cassian--what can be burdensome for the one who embraces the yoke of Christ?
‎For what can be burdensome, or hard to one who has embraced with his whole heart the yoke of Christ, who is established in true humility and ever fixes his eye on the Lord’s sufferings and rejoices in all the wrongs that are offered to him, saying: “For which cause I please myself in my infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ: for when I am weak, then am I strong”? (2 Co 12:10) By what loss of any common thing, I ask, will he be injured, who boasts of perfect renunciation, and voluntarily rejects for Christ’s sake all the pomp of this world, and considers all and every of its desires as dung, so that he may gain Christ, and by continual meditation on this command of the gospel, scorns and gets rid of agitation at every loss? (Cassian, Collat. 3.24.23, NPNF2, vol. 11, pg. 541)

St. Augustine--"the carpenter" or "the carpenter's son"?
Now Mark, indeed, gives this passage in terms almost precisely identical with those which meet us in Matthew; with the one exception, that what he says the Lord was called by His fellow-townsmen is, "the carpenter, and the son of Mary," (Mk 6:1-6) and not, as Matthew tells us, the "carpenter’s son." Neither is there anything to marvel at in this, since He might quite fairly have have been designated by both these names. For in taking Him to be the son of a carpenter, they naturally also took Him to be a carpenter. (Augustine, De consens. Ev. 2.42.90, NPNF1, vol. 6, pg. 144)

John Cassian--the bounty of God is shaped according to the capacity of man's faith:
‎Among some so richly did He pour forth the mighty works of His cures that of them the Evangelist says: “And He healed all their sick.” (Mt 14:14) But among others the unfathomable depth of Christ’s beneficence was so stopped up, that it was said: “And Jesus could do there no mighty works because of their unbelief.” (Mk 6:5, 6) And so the bounty of God is actually shaped according to the capacity of man’s faith, so that to one it is said: “According to thy faith be it unto thee:” (Mt 9:29) and to another: “Go thy way, and as thou hast believed so be it unto thee;” (Mt 8:13) to another “Be it unto thee according as thou wilt,” (Mt 15:28) and again to another: “Thy faith hath made thee whole.” (Lk 18:42) (Cassian, Collat. 2.13.15, NPNF2, vol. 11, pg. 432-433)

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