10 Sep Fourteenth Sunday After Pentecost
Today is the Fourteenth Sunday After Pentocost.
by Fr. Francis Xavier Weninger, 1882
“No man can serve two masters.”–Matt. 6.
No one can serve two masters, as Christ Himself assures us. And yet what a number of those who believe in Christ, although they dare not, of course, contradict the Word of Christ in explicit terms, yet do so by their lives! They live as if they would like to serve both God and the world; they do not want to be at variance with God or the world.
These are the people who do things by halves; who can not choose between two ways, and resemble the children of Israel at the time of the prophet Elias. Men who conduct themselves differently in Church and out of it; who behave differently in company of priests, and of those who scoff at religion and her ministers; men who sin and confess, confess and sin; who live in habitual sins, and whatever they do, as children of the Church, do it by habit ; and as to their business matters and worldly affairs, they follow the same principles as the heathens and worldlings.
And who is not aware what a contagious and seducing influence their example has on the lives of others! How important, therefore, is it that we reflect earnestly upon the words of Christ: “No one can serve two masters.” “He who is not with Me is against Me;” “He who gathereth not with Me, scattereth.”
We shall today consider one of these two masters, namely: God and His service, and we shall reflect what kind of a master God is, and how meet it is to serve Him earnestly, joyfully, and perseveringly.
Mary, who hast called thyself a handmaid of the Lord, pray for us, that we may live in such a manner, as to be justified in saying: I am a servant, a handmaid of the Lord! I speak in the holy name of Jesus, to the greater honor of God!
O my God, my Lord! This is an ejaculation which we very frequently utter. We justly call God also our Lord. He is our Creator, from Whom we have received everything, by the power of Whose will all nature came into existence and continues in it. And, therefore, it is our duty to serve God willingly, and to serve Him as perfectly as possible.
Would it not be a disgrace if we, as reasonable beings, who know God, and call Him our Father, would in this respect allow ourselves to be excelled by irrational creatures? But in order that this desire, this resolution, be renewed and strengthened within us, let us consider frequently, yes, daily and hourly, in what an infinitely higher degree all those qualities, which in ordinary life induce us to serve a person, are combined in God.
The first quality which distinguishes a person whom we would wish to serve and own as master, is his respectability, his dignity, that he is of high rank, perhaps a governor, a king, or even an emperor.
An office at court, even if very insignificant, is nevertheless highly valued, because of the social position of the person whom we serve. It is for the sake of honor and distinction that even counts and princes sue for offices at a kingly court. Yes, even an ordinary valet or cook of a king or emperor, deems himself superior to his less fortunate brethren.
Now, then, let us reflect upon the meaning of these words: “God! I serve God.” Have we not weighty reasons for exclaiming with St. Michael: “Who is like to God?” God, I serve Thee! Thee Whom all the angels and saints, all the heavenly chiefs serve, and whose glory and magnificence heaven and earth proclaim.
But what still more determines us to serve a person, to acknowledge him as master, is his personality, the nobility and uprightness of his character, which cause us to feel that he would never demand anything of us save what is good and praiseworthy.
If in spirit we listen to the Sanctus, which all the Seraphim repeat continually before the throne of God, with what determination will we exclaim: “Thou three times holy God, my Lord; I serve Thee! What wouldst Thou have me do?”
The third quality which would induce us to enter the service of another, and acknowledge him our master, is his goodness. We would gladly serve one whose greatest delight is to make all his dependents happy, and to bestow favors upon them, especially if we ourselves have already received benefits from him. How frequently we hear one person saying to another: Oh, if I could always be with you! Oh, how can I ever repay you for all you have done for me!
Let us apply this to God and His service. God is in Himself infinite, perfect goodness. And this goodness He desires to impart to all human beings whom He has created. Just as it is in the nature of the sun to impart light and heat, so it is also peculiar to the goodness of God to continually bestow favors upon a creature, as far as it is susceptible of them, and does not on its part oppose any barrier. He rewards our service, even on this earth, by the joys of a good conscience, by the possession and enjoyment of many created objects, and by His communication with us in prayer. What an inducement for us to serve God, even if we had not received from Him any special promise of reward!
I said that if we had received numerous and precious gifts and favors from another, our gratitude would prompt us to serve him. The animals are ready to serve their masters for the food they obtain from him; they accompany him every-where, and at times even sacrifice their lives for their benefactor.
Let us apply this also to God, our Creator and Preserver and Redeemer. Oh, how many important, precious graces and treasures have we not already received from God, from the moment of our birth until the present day! Body and soul, the use of our senses, every ray of light, every breath we draw, every morsel of food, every refreshing draught, every thread of our garments, also the talents which we possess, all that we enjoy in this life we owe to God. And when we remember the grace of redemption, our calling to the true Church, and all the gifts and graces which, as children of the Church, we possess and receive at every moment, have we not motives for the deepest gratitude? Should we not exclaim: Merciful God, my Lord and Benefactor, I thank Thee; I will serve Thee gratefully?
The fourth quality which induces us to enter the service of a person is the compensation. If the reward is considerably greater than that given by other masters, and if at the same time we are aware that in the service of this person, we will be provided for and made happy, then we will not only be willing and anxious to serve such a master, but deem ourselves most fortunate in being received into his service.
What an inducement for us to exclaim joyfully: O God, my Lord and Renumerator, I will serve Thee! Even on this earth we enjoy the hundred-fold that consolation and joy which Christ has promised all followers in the service of the Lord. And furthermore, for every good work which we perform, we have the promise of an eternal reward. For every good deed there awaits us a recompense, of which it is written: “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, what things God hath prepared for them that love Him.” Whosoever shall glorify Me, him will I glorify.” “Enter into the joys of thy Lord.” Who would not be willing to serve a prince, or king, or emperor, who, as a reward, would permit his servant to share his power and glory; and still more if he would give him the promise of a throne, and enable him to rule as a king?
This is the case in the service of the Lord, and it should encourage us in the divine service. “I myself,” says the Lord, “will be thy great reward.” “Thou hast made us kings, that we might reign eternally,” so rejoice the saints in heaven, as St. John affirms.
We gladly serve another if he is united to us by ties of kindred. And this can be said with regard to the service of God. He is not only our God, but at the same time our Father. Even in this world we call ourselves His children, and it is not yet known what we shall enjoy when once we shall enter His glory.
And when the fire of divine love inflames our heart, and we have even on earth a foretaste of the eternal union with God, in what transports of joy does not then the soul break forth: “O my God! my love, I am Thine! Lord, I serve Thee, because I love Thee. Lord! what dost Thou wish me to do?” Amen!
“No man can serve two masters.” Matt. 9.
Either to the right or to the left. This shall one day be the sentence of the divine Judge. The one or other will befall every one of us; and the decision will depend upon the life we have led on earth, whether we have served God or the world; that is, whether we were replenished with the Spirit of God, and by Him enlightened and strengthened to know and accomplish the Divine will, and to provide for that which is to come after death, and which will endure for all eternity; or whether, on the contrary, the spirit of the world had taken possession of our hearts and inflamed us with the desire to live as honored and as happy as possible during our brief sojourn on this earth, unconcerned whether we were accomplishing the will of God or not.
Either the Spirit of the Holy Ghost enkindles our hearts, and urges us to walk in the way of the Lord, with determination, strength and fidelity, or the spirit of the world possesses our hearts, and we serve the world; that is to say, we seek that which the world displays and promises; we let it persuade us that the service of man is of greater importance than the service of God, that we ought to feel greater dread of offending man than God; we live, so that we expose ourselves to its dangers, and, as the Apostle threatens, of perishing with the world.
I will prove to you today what a disgrace and folly it is to serve the world and her maxims, instead of serving God.
Mary, mother of God, spouse of the Holy Ghost, pray for us, that the Holy Spirit may destroy in us the spirit of the world, and that, as thy children, we may serve God and be saved! I speak in the holy name of Jesus, to the greater honor of God!
I said, it is either the Spirit of God which reigns in our hearts, and induces us to enter the service of God, strengthening and encouraging us therein; or it is the spirit of the world, which impels us to serve the world and live in compliance with its principles. But woe to us, if we serve it and acknowledge it as our master!
What I understand by the world, and the spirit of the world, I have intimated in my introduction.
The world, taken in this sense, is that portion of mankind whose desires are all concentrated on the possessions, honors and enjoyments of this life. These children, servants, slaves of the world, look upon religion as a secondary matter; they do not trouble themselves about it in the least, but imagine and say that all religions are one and the same; the first and most important care is happiness in this life, come what may in the next!
To the world, in this sense, belong those also who, with their lips, profess the doctrines of faith, but by their lives deny them and side with the scoffers of religion, and infidels who do not believe in a life to come, and will not admit of any other than the one here below.
In this signification did Christ say of the world: “The world is full of wickedness.” In this sense did Christ speak of the world when He said: “Father, I pray Thee, but not for the world.” Of this world it is written: “Who sides with it, shall perish!”
And yet what a number, even of the children of the Church, follow the world, and labor in her service, instead of the service of God. How foolish and deluded these worldlings are is apparent, when we reflect, on the one hand, upon the qualities of God, which particularly induce us, and encourage and strengthen us in serving Him as our Lord and Master; and, on the other hand, compare them with the opposite qualities which characterize the world and its service.
I say: Let us serve God; He is of Himself an infinite and most glorious Being the Creator, Preserver, and Ruler of the earth.
What is the world? The world in itself, taken in its broadest sense, includes all things in nature; it is nothing of itself; was nothing from all eternity; and does not exist of itself, but through God, without whose support it would at any moment fall back into its original nonentity.
And what are all those, of whom I have before spoken, who are living in this world and for this world? What are they, all these sinners, even if every one of them be adorned with a royal diadem? They are all nothing of themselves; they have come into existence in disgrace with God, owing to the fall of our first parents. And in what a miserable state are they, owing to the countless actual sins which they have committed during their life ! They are beings whose souls were created according to the image of God, but who, by their willful, actual sins, have stamped it with the likeness of Satan, the father of sin. As to their bodies, they may justly be compared to a mass of putrid matter.
And what is all their exterior power and glory and possessions? vanishing smoke,–a bauble, which glitters today and disappears tomorrow! They are beings who, with us, will soon appear at the judgment seat of God, and, as slaves of Satan, will be condemned to eternal perdition! And is it possible that we could resolve to serve the world in preference to God? What an ignominy!
But God in His glory is, at the same time, infinite holiness and goodness. Let us serve Him. What is the world which, on the other hand, seeks to draw us away from God, and advises us to follow her? The world, whose banner bears the inscription: Concupiscence of the eyes, concupiscence of the flesh, and pride of life–she is a sink, a filth, and a rankness!
Could we but view the frightful sins which the worldling commits daily and hourly! Could we but see the loathsomeness of the vices of pride, vanity, covetousness, envy, anger, gluttony, and lust to which the worldling is addicted, we would blush with same!
And how frequently does it not happen that persons, whom we have considered just and virtuous, are stripped of their mask by some unexpected occurrence, and they appear steeped in abominable vices! And should we serve such a world? No; if we look upon her, covered with the filth of sin, we will answer her with determination and indignation: Filthy world, depart!– I will follow my God; for He is perfect holiness, and His true servants and children are noble and holy.
God is, moreover, infinite goodness; He is our constant Benefactor, bestowing His benefits from the moment of our conception. He grants a reward, even on this earth; for He requites even a good thought with that feeling of peace and love which gives us a foretaste of the sweetness of the Lord's service even in this world; He will finally reward us in the life to come, when we will receive an eternal, incalculable recompense for every good thought and desire, for every good work performed in His service.
The world, on the contrary, is naught but selfishness and egotism; she loves but self, and all other things merely for the sake of self. She does not possess that goodness which loves to share with others; on the contrary, she seeks to accumulate all she can for herself, and those who serve her are requited poorly and wretchedly. “The world's reward is ingratitude,” says an old proverb.
A proof of this are the cares and difficulties which harass a person whilst endeavoring to earn his daily bread. How often he is at a loss! How frequently he is disappointed in his expectations, defrauded of his rights, injured in his possessions, or deprived of them altogether, just because he served the world and her followers!
And suppose this were not the case, but that the sinner could possess and enjoy all in this world,– the wounded conscience would not permit him to enjoy it peacefully. Holy Scripture and experience teach us that “there is no rest for the wicked.”
Oh, how dreadful the pangs of a guilty conscience! But even if this were not the case, still what a void the human heart experiences amid the possessions and enjoyment of all created objects and pleasures! This caused Solomon to exclaim: “Vanity of vanities!” And why? St. Augustine replies: “Thou hast, O Lord, created this heart for Thee, and it rests not until it rests in Thee.”
And if the worldling would really feel happy and contented in his possession, how soon–how very soon– will death deprive him of all, and then what awaits him in eternity?
For the little which the world has given him for his fidelity in her service, if thereby he has grievously offended God, she will prepare for him, for every sin ful thought, every desire, and every deed,–for every sinful enjoyment in her service,–eternal sufferings!
Beloved in Christ, when we reflect upon the character of the world, and upon the consequences of serving her, her persuasions lose their power of drawing us away from God; and yet we can scarcely comprehend how it is possible that, nevertheless, so many persons, even children of the Church, do not live in the service of God, but in that of the world,–the vain, wretched, sinful, selfish, deceptive, and transitory world, and in this manner expose themselves to the danger of perishing with her!
Therefore, children of the Church, reflect continually upon that, of which my sermon of today reminds you; examine your conscience daily in regard to it, and say to yourself: Should I serve such a deceitful world, and prefer her to my God? No–never!–Amen !
“You can not serve God and mammon.”–Matt. 9.
Christ speaks of two masters who demand our services, namely: God and the world. He declares, at the same time, that it is impossible to serve both. We can easily comprehend why Christ declares this twofold service impossible. The consideration of God and His nature, and of the world and her doings, will prove that to serve both is utterly impossible. God is infinite perfection and holiness; the world is full of wickedness.
The service of God has relation to our life in the next world; the service of the world regards only that which is temporal, that which exists at present, but will one day pass away. The service which God requires of us is inseparably united with the fulfillment of the duties of our holy religion. The world cares not for religion, nor for the sanctification of our lives. The service of God is incompatible with sin; the service of the world is inseparable from sin.
These are contrasts which are evidently not compatible. This opposition shows itself particularly in the wrong aim which the world pursues in her doings and movements, and which stamp the children of the world as worldlings, namely: The inordinate desire for money, covetousness and avarice.
The Gospel applies the word “blessed” to the poor; the world, on the contrary, applies it to the rich. This is even proven by an old saying: Money is the god of the world. The worldling is prepared to do anything for the sake of money.
Let us consider today how despicable, foolish and dangerous is covetousness and the inordinate desire for money. In other words: We will notice the contrast between the service of mammon and the service of God.
Mary, thou poor virgin of Nazareth, mother of the poor infant Jesus, pray for us, that our hearts may be freed from covetousness and avarice. I speak in the holy name of Jesus, to the greater honor of God!
Love of money, covetousness, avarice–the religion of the world! What is avarice? It is that pernicious tendency of the human heart to have and to possess, for the sake of having and possessing.
What does Scripture say of this disposition which prompts a man to attach himself to money, and to temporal possessions? Holy Scripture, through the mouth of St. Paul, calls it: Idolatry. This appellation is not an oratorical exaggeration, but it literally marks the character and the nature of covetousness; yes, it is truly idolatry, for idolatry consists in transferring to a creature the worship which we owe to God alone. And in what does this worship consist? Christ gives the answer: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole strength.” But it is thus exactly the avaricious person is disposed in regard to money and worldly possessions.
You, who love money, am I correct? Ask your heart. Christ says: “Where your treasure is, there is also your heart.” That is, there your thoughts, desires, resolutions and endeavors will center. Now, then, what is your first thought on awaking in the morning? Not God, but your business–your probable gain or loss. Of what do you think during the day? Your whole attention is given to your occupation, to gaining wealth. And this also is your last thought at night! Not what you have won or lost for heaven, during the course of the day; but what you have profited or lost in your business!
I believe there are persons of this kind even now before me, who, during their lives, have endeavored their utmost to gain every cent they possibly could. And what is the consequence? Your money is your god; the excessive care, the money-question, is your religion!
I therefore justly remark, in the first place: What an abominable vice is avarice, both in the sight of God and your own! No, you can not serve God and mammon at the same time.
I say, secondly: It is a degrading and absurd disposition of mind. Degrading, without doubt! Remember the words which St. Paul addressed to the heathens: “You are of a godly race, and you adore gold, your idols of gold!” Are you not ashamed to adore gold? The man of money, if he is a Christian, would not, of course, adore a statue of gold, as did the heathens, nor a golden calf, as did the faithless Israelites. But still the nature of their worship is precisely the same, as I have before shown you; and, in our times, this gold and money-service is still more degrading, since paper is the representative of gold at present. And what is paper? Rags and tatters are the materials of which it is made, and yet with what an eager eye the man of money regards such a rag when the worth of a hundred or a thousand dollars is stamped upon it; for its possession he sacrifices time and opportunity of doing good, and of laboring for the salvation of souls.
Deluded and foolish man! The more so when we reflect upon the words of the Holy Ghost, which affirms that: “Every sin shall in itself be punished.” These words may be justly applied to avarice.
For the covetous person, instead of being free from care, and using his accumulated wealth for the procuring of comforts which might render his life more pleasant and enjoyable, is every day more and more disturbed by the care of his money and possessions. And it frequently happens that the wealthier a person becomes, the less he imagines he possesses, and he strives with still greater anxiety to acquire more, and to secure what he has.
Christ speaks of the thorns which choke the good seed, and He Himself explains that the thorns signify the cares of man for the goods of this world.
And experience proves how disastrous temporal cares are to the spirit of piety. It is owing to our extreme anxiety about the goods of this world that in many cases the good resolutions which we form during a sermon, or in the confessional, are stifled and rendered fruitless.
What a dangerous disposition of mind is the inordinate desire of money! If we are in earnest, to serve God and be saved, it is necessary to begin even in our youth to raise our hearts heavenward. It is necessary that we not only earnestly and zealously strive to know our duties, but also to perform them. It is likewise necessary to use faithfully the means which God in His mercy has given us as children of the Church; namely: prayer, divine service, and the Holy Sacraments, and to seek carefully the means and opportunities of performing as many corporal and spiritual works of mercy as possible. The craving for money prevents all this.
Even in early youth, when there is question of choosing a path for life, the thought: whether such is the state to which God has called us, and which will offer the best opportunities for serving Him, does not enter our minds. We only take care to see whether it is a state which offers us prospects of becoming rich, of providing for ourselves. And this is our aim during all successive years; we thereby neglect the duties of our religion, excusing ourselves by saying: We have no time for prayer! And why? I must attend to my business. And how very often this could be postponed for a half hour or an hour; we could even hear a Mass; but for this we no longer find it worth the while to devote a few minutes.
Thus we begin the day without morning-prayer, and pass it without one thought of God; neglect spiritual reading and the reception of the Holy Sacraments, and thus become careless as to gathering treasures for the life to come; and, by committing mortal sins, we become traitors to Christ. Could our Lord have allowed a more heinous crime for the warning of the children of the Church than the base treachery of Judas!
He, as an Apostle, was chosen from among the whole race of mankind to come in daily contact with Christ. He was with our Lord during three years, conversed with Him, and listened to all His sermons, witnessed His miracles, even the resurrection of Lazarus; and, despite all these favors, his love for money caused him to become a traitor, and to sell his Lord and Master for an ignominious price . Take a look at him, suspended by the neck,–at him, the Apostle and suicide!
Christians! let this example be a warning to you! Woe to you, if your heart is more attached to mammon than to God, and if you labor more earnestly for money than in the service of God! I fear you are one of those souls in whom the threat of our Lord will be verified: “Woe to the rich!” Amen! (2)
by Fr. Johann Evangelist Zollner, 1883
In the Epistle of last Sunday, St. Paul brought before us the important truth that men are not justified by the observance of the Mosaic Law, but by the belief in Jesus Christ. But the faith which justifies us and leads to salvation is not an inactive, dead faith, but a living faith, which consists in this, that we not only believe all that God has revealed and proposes to our belief by the Catholic Church, but also that we live according to the precepts of faith; that therefore we keep the commandments, mortify all inordinate desires and passions, shun sin and vice and diligently practice the Christian virtues. St. Paul speaks in the Epistle of this day on that living, active faith. He treats,
I. Of the struggle between the flesh and the spirit,
II. Of the works of the flesh,
III. Of the fruits of the spirit.
1. In the very beginning of the Epistle, he tells us what must be done in order not to succumb in the struggle with the flesh; he says: “Walk in the spirit and you shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh.” To walk in the spirit means to live according to the will of God, according to the doctrine of Jesus and the maxims of the Gospel, to obey the inspirations and impulses of the Holy Ghost. He who lives thus “shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh,” that is, he will not permit himself to be led into evil by concupiscence and the motions of corrupt nature, therefore he will not sin. By Baptism we have been made members of the Church of Christ, and the Holy Ghost has taken up his abode within our hearts; we are, therefore, in the happy condition of walking always in the spirit; for the Church teaches us what we must do and what avoid, and the indwelling Holy Ghost gives us His grace to overcome the lusts of the flesh and to live piously. We have therefore no excuse when we allow ourselves to be governed by the lusts of the flesh and thereby fall into sin. “The lust (of sin) shall be under thee, and thou shalt have dominion over it.”–Gen. 4: 7. These words, which God spoke to Cain, apply to us.
2. Now the Apostle describes the struggle between the flesh and the spirit, in these words: “The flesh lusteth against the spirit; and the spirit against the flesh; for these are contrary one to another, so that you do not the things that you would.”
(a) By flesh we understand that inclination to evil, which is a consequence of original sin, and is therefore found in all men. Of it God says in the Old Testament: “The imagination and thought of man's heart are prone to evil from his youth.”–Gen. 8: 21. And St. James writes: “Every man is tempted, being drawn away by his own concupiscence, and allured:”–I: 14. By spirit we understand the better disposition in man, which has its spring in God, who through the conscience and his Church and in many other ways operates upon us, that we know what is right and good, are pleased with what is good, and strive for it and practise it.
(b) The most perfect harmony existed between the spirit and the flesh in that state of innocence in which man came forth from the hand of God; man, indeed, had concupiscence, not to evil, but to good–a concupiscence which was perfectly subject to the spirit, and desired only what was right and comformable to the will of God. In consequence of original sin, a great change took place in our concupiscence; it often resists the spirit and will not obey, but desires to rule; it always desires what seems agreeable, without caring whether it be good or evil, it sets everything in motion in order to obtain the object of its desires. It allures man to impurity, revenge, envy, avarice and injustice; in short, to all sins and vices. It operates upon the senses of the body, upon the eyes and ears, and upon the faculties of the soul, upon the understanding, will and memory, and seeks to make them subservient to sin. Now when the spirit resists and rejects its demands, a struggle ensues; for concupiscence is not easily silenced, but insists upon its demand and makes vehement attacks to obtain its own way. If the spirit were depending on its natural powers, it would often yield in the combat with concupiscence; but, assisted by God's grace, it is able to come forth victorious even from the most desperate struggle. Hence the Apostle says: “I can do all things in Him who strengtheneth me.”–Phil. 4: 13.
(c) This struggle between the spirit and the flesh lasts to the end of our lives. The concupiscence which dwells in us is never entirely subdued; it causes countless temptations, and renders all good actions difficult. For instance, you are patiently to bear a humiliation, to forgive an enemy, to suppress an unchaste desire, to renounce something agreeable. Concupiscence at once arises and tries to prevent these good actions. Thus our life upon earth is “a continual warfare.”–Job, 7: 1. The concupiscence within us will die only with our last breath.
(d) Because concupiscence operates upon our will and seeks to lead it into evil, the Apostle says that we must not do all things that we would. We must not yield to the allurements of concupiscence. If it entices to any sin and with vehemence demands its will, we must say with courage and determination: I must not, and I will not do it. A king once asked two clergymen at his court, who on account of their modesty were very highly esteemed, whether it was true that they carried with them a certain herb which had the virtue of driving away bad thoughts and desires. When they answered in the affirmative, he asked further, what kind of an herb it was. They replied, that the herb was the fear of God, that this banishes all sinful thoughts and desires. Thus the fear of God will be to us a shield from which all the arrows of concupiscence rebound.
3. But the Apostle shows us a still more effectual means to gain the victory over concupiscence, when he writes: “But if you are led by the spirit, you are not under the law.” He intends to say: Christians who have reached a higher degree of perfection and are filled altogether with the love of God, avoid evil and do good without being compelled to it by the law and its threats. Christians who love God do not ask whether something is commanded or forbidden under pain of sin; on the contrary, they esteem themselves happy and find their pleasure in doing whatever they know to be pleasing to God. They stand, therefore, above and outside of the law; it is as if they had no law at all, just because it is love that urges them everywhere and always to do the will of God. Therefore St. Augustine says: “Love, and do what you please.” He who loves God above all things, will not succumb in the combat with concupiscence, but will courageously fight against it and overcome it and serve God with fidelity all the days of his life. Love is strong as death. Many waters cannot quench charity.–Canticle 8: 6, 7.
The Apostle now enumerates the works of the flesh: “Now the works of the flesh are manifest; which are fornication, uncleanness, immodesty, luxury, idolatry, witchcraft, enmities, contentions, emulations, wrath, quarrels, dissensions, sects, envy, murders, drunkenness, retellings, and such like. Of which I foretell you, us I have foretold to you, that they who do such things shall not obtain the kingdom of God.”
1. First in order appears the vice of voluptuousness in all its kinds. This vice is disgraceful for every man, because it degrades him to the low rank of the irrational beast, but especially for the Christian, whose body is a temple of the Holy Ghost (I. Cor. 6: 18-20), and which becomes most intimately united with Jesus in holy Communion. Hence the Apostle elsewhere says: “Fornication and all uncleaness, let it not so much as be named among you, as it becometh saints.”–Eph. 5: 3. The vice of voluptuousness robs man of innocence, that precious jewel which makes him even in this life equal to the Angels of heaven, but which once lost, can never be recovered. The vice of voluptuousness denies man and degrades all the senses, powers and faculties of man: the eyes by unchaste looks, the ears by the wanton hearing of immodest words, the tongue by immodest conversation, the imagination by thousands of shameful representations, the will by complacency in abominable things; the vice of voluptuousness leads to all other sins and vices, especially to unbelief, to despair, and to suicide. How much God hates this vice history shows us in terrible examples. This vice caused the deluge to drown the whole human race, with the exception of Noe and his family (Gen. 6: 12); that five and twenty thousand Israelites perished in the desert (Numb. 25: 9); that the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah with all their inhabitants were destroyed from the face of the earth.–Gen. 19. The lot of the voluptuous in the next world is eternal damnation. “Their portion shall be in the pool burning with fire and brimstone.”–Apoc. 21: 8. Ah! shun the vice of impurity, which in our time is so prevalent in the world, and on account of which countless men will be damned forever. Be modest and reserved and take no indecent liberties with yourselves or others. Take an example from the Emperor Maximilian I., who had such a tender modesty, that going to bed or getting up from bed he did not allow himself to be assisted either in taking off or putting on his clothes. Even in death, he gave a splendid proof of this beautiful virtue. When he felt his end approach, he ordered a shirt and a pair of pantaloons; he put them on himself, and gave directions that he should be buried in these clothes.
2. The second class comprises the sins against the love of our neighbor; enmities, contentions, emulations, wrath, quarrels, dissensions, sects, envy, murders. These sins also deserve all our hatred and detestation, because they break the bond of peace and concord, and cause great mischief. Was it not hatred that made Cain a fratricide? Was it not envy that made Jacob's sons persecutors of their innocent brother Joseph? Was it not anger that made King Asa the tyrant of his subjects?–II. Paralip. 16: 14. These sins are especially damnable among us Christians, because they are directly opposed to our principal law, the love of God, which Christ has given us. “This is my commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you.”–John, 15: 12. “Love your enemies; do good to them that hate you; and pray for them that persecute and calumniate you.”–Matt. 5: 44. Shun all sins against the love of your neighbor, especially hatred, envy, contentions and quarrels. Do not forget that you are all brothers in Christ Jesus, and are called to be admitted into heaven, where only heart-felt love and friendship reign among the elect.
3. The third class comprises the sins against temperance, viz., drunkenness and gluttony. Those who use intoxicating drink to excess and often come to such a pass that they lose reason and no longer know what they are saying or doing, are guilty of drunkenness. One can see drunken men reel and stagger, fall down, roll in the mire, and do things of which they are ashamed when they become sober. Those sin by gluttony who in eating transgress the right measure, who find their happiness in the gratification of the palate, and make their belly their god. Drunkenness and gluttony are vices which disgrace man and lower him below the level of the brute, for the dumb animal ceases to eat and drink when it has enough. These vices are particularly dangerous for Christians, who ought to lead a sober, mortified life. Having enumerated these works of the flesh, the Apostle says: “They who do such things, shall not obtain the kingdom of God.” Therefore, the unchaste, the uncharitable, and the intemperate shall be excluded from the kingdom of God and shall be condemned to everlasting fire. Who should not carefully guard against these vices? Who should not, if he be contaminated with one or the other of them, tear himself from it at once and do penance? Reflect on the words of St. Augustine: “Short is what rejoices; but eternal what burns.”
The Apostle contrasts the fruits of the spirit with the works of the flesh, in these words: “The fruit of the Spirit is charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, longanimity, mildness, faith, modesty, continency, chastity.” St. Paul does not say the fruits, but the fruit of the Spirit, because these virtues have their origin in charity; all come forth from it, like branches from the trunk, and are properly nothing else than effects of charity. He calls them the fruit “of the Spirit,” that is, of the Christian enlightened and governed by the Holy Ghost; for as a good tree yields good fruit, so also Christians in whom the Holy Ghost abides, bring forth virtues and good works. The fruits of the Spirit then are:
1. Charity; that is, the love of God and of our neighbor; the love of God, which manifests itself especially by a conscientious fulfilment of his commandments; the love of our neighbor, which requires that we wish well to our fellow-men, and help them in their necessities according to our ability. Where charity is, there God is; and he that remains in charity remains in God, and God in him. Joy: It is a pure pleasure in God's grace, in His wise and merciful providence, in the purity of conscience, and in all that is truly good and pleasing to God. This joy is a hidden manna, of which worldlings have no idea, and in comparison with which all earthly and sensual joys are a mere nothing. He who carries this joy in his heart is rich even in poverty, and rejoices in persecutions and sufferings. Peace: Peace with God, with our neighbor and with ourselves. A result of this peace is the quietude of conscience and the sweet conviction that we possess the grace and friendship of God. He who possesses this fruit of the Spirit possesses the most desirable good of life, contentedness; he lives quietly, dies quietly, and enters into the house of eternal rest.
2. Other fruits of the Spirit are: Patience, which renders everything easy. He who possesses this virtue, remains composed under the severest hardships and trials; he murmurs not, complains not, but is perfectly resigned to the will of God, and says: “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away: as it hath pleased the Lord, so it is done; blessed be the name of the Lord.”–Job, 1: 21. Benignity, a lovely virtue, which causes us to meet all men, even the lowliest, affably and kindly, and carefully avoid in our conduct what could irritate or repulse any one. Goodness: Christians who possess this virtue do good to their fellow-men according to their ability. They are not satisfied with doing to them what they owe them from justice, but they are also ready everywhere to help, without having any other obligation than that of charity, and without expecting any reward in this world.
3. Other fruits of the Spirit are: Longanimity, which bears the weaknesses and frailties of our fellow-men with patience, which defers reprimand and chastisement as long as possible, and never despairs of the amendment of the erring. It is a principal virtue for parents, teachers, and educators, and all spiritual and temporal superiors. Mildness: He who possesses this virtue is always quiet and calm; his speech is mild; his admonitions affectionate; even when reproving he is gentle and sparing. He bears everything with a quiet mind, is not irritated by anything; he keeps silence when wrong is done him, and defends himself calmly; he smothers every motion of indignation in his heart, forgives those who offend him, and does them good, when he can. Oh, that we all would learn of our divine Saviour to be meek and humble of heart! Faith, which refers to God and man. We are faithful to God when we conscientiously keep our promises and resolutions and cling to Him in good and in evil days. We are faithful to our neighbor when we keep our word in all our dealings with him, and do not allow ourselves to be induced by any temptation of ambition, avarice or self-interest to commit an act of injustice.
4. Lastly, the Apostle designates moderation as a fruit of the Spirit. He who is moderate eats and drinks only as much as is necessary for the preservation of his life, health and strength; he is content with clothes corresponding with his state, and enjoys innocent pleasures only for his recreation; and, consequently, sparingly, and at the right time. Continency: Those Christians practice this virtue who manfully deny themselves everything that is against the will of God, no matter how agreeable it may be to sensuality, and who lead a mortified life. Chastity: Those have this virtue who detest every unchaste thought and every impure desire, who shun even the shadow of impurity, and keep body and soul undefiled.
Research by Ed Masters, REGINA Staff