"It is...Our will that Catholics should abstain from certain appellations which have recently been brought into use to distinguish one group of Catholics from another. They are to be avoided not only as 'profane novelties of words,' out of harmony with both truth and justice, but also because they give rise to great trouble and confusion among Catholics. Such is the nature of Catholicism that it does not admit of more or less, but must be held as a whole or as a whole rejected: 'This is the Catholic faith, which unless a man believe faithfully and firmly; he cannot be saved' (Athanasian Creed). There is no need of adding any qualifying terms to the profession of Catholicism: it is quite enough for each one to proclaim 'Christian is my name and Catholic my surname,' only let him endeavour to be in reality what he calls himself." -- Pope Benedict XV, Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum 24 (1914)

Sunday, September 2, 2012

St Augustine’s Homily On God And Mammon

Jesus and the Rich Young Ruler 
Jesus And The Rich Young Ruler by Heinrich Hofmann 

Posted by Dim Bulb on August 28, 2010

A). These words of our Lord, No man can serve two masters, are explained by the following: For either he will hate the one, and love the other; or he will sustain the one, and despise the other. We ought carefully to weigh these words, for our Lord shows who the two masters are, saying: You cannot serve God and mammon. Mammon is a term which the Hebrews are said to use forriches. It is also a Carthaginian word, for the Punic word for gain is mammon. He that serves mammon that is, loves riches serves that evil one who has perversely chosen to be the lord of these earthly things, and is called by the Lord the prince of this world (John xiv. 30). Of these two masters man will either hate the one, and love the other that is, God or he will sustain the one, and despise the other. He that serves mammon sustains a hard and pernicious master; for, led captive by his lust, he is a slave of the devil, though he love him not. Is there any one who loves the devil? Yet there are those who sustain him.

B). Our Lord does not say that a man serving two masters that is, God and mammon will hate God; he will despise Him. For there is no one reproached by his conscience for hating God. Yet God is despised, because, His goodness being abused, He is not feared. We are warned by the Holy Ghost not to give ourselves up to such carelessness and pernicious security, for the prophet says: My son, add not sin upon sin; and say not : The mercy of the Lord is great (Ecclus. v. 5, 6). These words are con firmed by the Apostle: Knowest thou not that the benignity of God leadeth thee to penance? (Rom. ii. 4). Indeed, what greater mercy can there be imagined than that of God forgiving sins, however great, to a converted and penitent sinner, and giving the fertility of a good olive-tree to a sterile oleaster? And has God not revealed the severity of His justice by not sparing the natural branches that is, the Jews but cutting them off, on account of their infidelity? If we wish to be pleasing to God, let us not think that we can serve two masters, and divide our heart; for God must be thought of in goodness and sought in the simplicity of our heart.

C). And our Lord said: Therefore I say to you, Be not solicitous for your life, what ye shall eat, nor for your body, what you shall put on, lest, perhaps, though such things are not superfluous, but necessary, our heart should be divided by the seeking of needful things, and that our intention should be corrupted when doing something, as it were, from compassion that is, lest, when we seem to be seeking another s good, it should be a profit to ourselves rather than a benefit to him that we are seeking. Thus we do not seem to ourselves to sin, because we wish to obtain, not superfluities, but necessaries. And our Lord, by His teaching, admonishes us to understand that we may be guilty, if we are too solicitous in seeking needful things. He also reminds us that, when God created man, He gave him not only a body and a soul, but also life, more preferable than raiment and meat, so much coveted. Is not the life more than the meat, and the body more than the raiment? Why should He, Who gave us life, not also give us that which is necessary to sustain life? And since the body is more than the raiment, why should He, after creating our body, refuse to give us wherewithal to cover it?

D). And should anyone ask, why the soul spoken of by our Lord, and being incorporeal, is in need of this corporeal food, I answer that the soul mentioned in this Gospel is meant for the life of man, and that the meat is to keep up that life, according to the words: He that loveth his life shall lose it (John xii. 25). Indeed, were not the soul taken here for the life which we are bound to lose for the kingdom of God, as the martyrs were able to do, then this command would be contradictory to the sentence in which it is said: What doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his own soul? (Matt. xvi. 26).

E). Behold, He said, the birds of the air, for they neither sow, nor do they reap, nor gather into barns; and your Heavenly Father feedeth them. Are not you of much more value than they? Indeed, the rational being that is, man possesses a higher rank in creation than irrational beings like birds, and is, moreover, destined to a super natural end. Which of you, He added, by taking thought, can add to his stature one cubit? And for raiment, why are you solicitous? These words clearly tell us that, since our body, without the help and protection of God, cannot attain its present stature, we ought to leave to His power and providence the care to cover it with raiment.

F). After speaking about the food for the body, our Lord also mentions the clothing: Andfor raiment, why are you solicitous? Consider the lilies of the field how they grow; they labour not, neither do they spin. But I say to you, that not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed as one of these. And if the grass of the field, which is to-day, and to-morrow is cast into the oven, God doth so clothe, how much more you, ye of little faith? Let us not imagine that, under the figure of the birds of the air and the lilies of the field, our Lord
wished to hide mysteries. He made use of these common and ordinary things to teach us more important truths. For on another occasion He made use of the parable of a certain judge who feared not God, nor regarded man (Luke xviii. 2); yet, because the widow was troublesome, he avenged her, lest, continually coming, she weary him. We cannot say that, under the figure or allegory of this unjust judge, the person of God is meant; yet our Lord wished to convey the lesson that, when even an unjust man yields to the impetuous prayers of petitioners, God, this infinitely good and just Lord, will not refuse to be merciful to those who beseech Him.

G). Then He says: Be not solicitous, therefore, saying: What shall we eat, or what shall we drink, or wherewith shall we be clothed? For after all these things do the heathens seek. For your Father knoweth that you have need of all these things. Seek ye, therefore, first the kingdom of God, and His justice, and all these things shall be added unto you. By these words we are admonished that those things we desire, as necessary to life, must not be considered as our aim, when we exert ourselves to attain virtues. For the difference between blessings, which are to be sought, and the necessaries, that are to be taken for our use, is made plain by this sentence, when He said: Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His justice, and all these things shall be added unto you. The kingdom of God, therefore, and His justice are to be our principal aim and object, to which our efforts must be directed, since our eternal felicity will depend on them. This life is given to man to fight on earth as a soldier for the kingdom of heaven. But, since man cannot live without the necessary means, God promises to give them to him: All these things shall be added unto you. Yet He warns him to work first for the obtaining of the immortal glory prepared for him: Seek ye first the kingdom of God. The needful things for our corporal maintenance are to be considered as means only to obtain the everlasting goods, our final aim and object.

St Augustine by Philippe de Champaigne, 17th century

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