Monday, November 5, 2012

Sententiae Patristicae: Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading 1 Kings 17:10–16
Second Reading Hebrews 9:24–28
Gospel Mark 12:38–44 or Mark 12:41–44

For the second reading, see also Ascension, Year C.
For the Gospel, see also the parallel in Matthew at Ordinary Time 31, Year A.

St. Cyprian--the widow of Zerephath is an exemplar of generosity in almsgiving, and Elijah a type of Christ:
‎Thus that widow in the third book of Kings, when in the drought and famine, having consumed everything, she had made of the little meal and oil which was left, a cake upon the ashes, and, having used this, was about to die with her children, Elias came and asked that something should first be given him to eat, and then of what remained that she and her children should eat. Nor did she hesitate to obey; nor did the mother prefer her children to Elias in her hunger and poverty. Yea, there is done in God’s sight a thing that pleases God: promptly and liberally is presented what is asked for. Neither is it a portion out of abundance, but the whole out of a little, that is given, and another is fed before her hungry children; nor in penury and want is food thought of before mercy; so that while in a saving work the life according to the flesh is contemned, the soul according to the spirit is preserved. Therefore Elias, being the type of Christ, and showing that according to His mercy He returns to each their reward, answered and said: “Thus saith the Lord, The vessel of meal shall not fail, and the cruse of oil shall not be diminished, until the day that the Lord giveth rain upon the earth.” (1 Ki 17:14) According to her faith in the divine promise, those things which she gave were multiplied and heaped up to the widow; and her righteous works and deserts of mercy taking augmentations and increase, the vessels of meal and oil were filled. Nor did the mother take away from her children what she gave to Elias, but rather she conferred upon her children what she did kindly and piously. And she did not as yet know Christ; she had not yet heard His precepts; she did not, as redeemed by His cross and passion, repay meat and drink for His blood. So that from this it may appear how much he sins in the Church, who, preferring himself and his children to Christ, preserves his wealth, and does not share an abundant estate with the poverty of the needy. (Cyprian, De op et eleem. 17, ANF, vol. 6, pg. 480)

St. Ambrose--it is better to be rich for others than for oneself:
‎Bread for food also failed Elijah, that holy man, had he sought for it; but it seemed not to fail him because he sought it not. Thus by the daily service of the ravens bread was brought to him in the morning, meat in the evening. (1 Ki 17:6) Was he any the less blessed because he was poor to himself? Certainly not. Nay, he was the more blessed, for he was rich toward God. It is better to be rich for others than for oneself. He was so, for in the time of famine he asked a widow for food, intending to repay it, so that the barrel of meal failed not for three years and six months, and the oil jar sufficed and served the needy widow for her daily use all that time also. (1 Ki 17:14) (Ambrose, De offic. 2.4.12, NPNF2, vol. 10, pg. 46)

St. Leo the Great--he that shows mercy on others will never want for mercy himself:
‎For the measure of our charitableness is fixed by the sincerity of our feelings, and he that shows mercy on others will never want for mercy himself. The holy widow of Sarepta discovered this, who offered the blessed Elias in the time of famine one day’s food, which was all she had, and putting the prophet’s hunger before her own needs, ungrudgingly gave up a handful of corn and a little oil (1 Ki 17:11). But she did not lose what she gave in all faith, and in the vessels emptied by her godly bounty a source of new plenty arose, that the fulness of her substance might not be diminished by the holy purpose to which she had put it, because she had never dreaded being brought to want. (Leo, Serm. 42.2, NPNF2, vol. 12, pg. 156-157)

St. John Chrysostom--Christ is both victim, Priest and sacrifice:
‎“Nor yet that He should offer Himself often, as the High Priest entereth into the Holy place every year with blood of others.” Seest Thou how many are the differences? The “often” for the “once”; “the blood of others,” for “His own.” (He 9:12) Great is the distance. He is Himself then both victim and Priest and sacrifice. For if it had not been so, and it had been necessary to offer many sacrifices, He must have been many times crucified. “For then,” he says, “He must often have suffered since the foundation of the world.” (Chrysostom, Hom. Heb. 17.3, NPNF1, vol. 14, pg, 447)

St. John Chrysostom--by Christ's death, the tyrrany of death is broken:
‎(Ver. 27) “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this, the Judgment.” He next says also why He died once [only]: because He became a ransom by one death. “It had been appointed” (he says) “unto men once to die.” This then is [the meaning of] “He died once,” for all. (What then? Do we no longer die that death? We do indeed die, but we do not continue in it: which is not to die at all. For the tyranny of death, and death indeed, is when he who dies is never more allowed to return to life. But when after dying is living, and that a better life, this is not death, but sleep.) Since then death was to have possession of all, therefore He died that He might deliver us. (Chrysostom, Hom. Heb. 17.4, NPNF1, vol. 14, pg. 446)

St. John Chrysostom--in almsgiving the proper disposition is more important than the amount:
‎But when alms is to be given, we want nothing else, but the disposition only is required. And if thou say that money is needed, and houses and clothes and shoes; read those words of Christ, which He spake concerning the widow, (Mk 12:43; Lk 21:3, 4) and cease from this anxiety. For though thou be exceedingly poor, and of them that beg, if thou cast in two mites, thou hast effected all; though thou give but a barley cake, having only this, thou art arrived at the end of the art. (Chrysostom, Hom. Mt. 52.5, NPNF1, vol. 10, pg. 324)

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