"And I beheld, and heard the voice of one eagle flying through the midst of heaven,
saying with a loud voice: Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth....
[Apocalypse (Revelation) 8:13]

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Sermons of the Saints: St. Augustine "If I Wanted to Please Men"

Sermons of the Saints: St. Augustine
                  "If I Wanted to Please Men"

From a Sermon by Saint Augustine, Bishop (354-430)

If I Wanted to Please Men, I Would Not Be a Servant of Christ

This is our glory: the witness of our conscience. There are men who rashly judge, who slander, whisper and murmur, who are eager to suspect what they do not see, and eager to spread abroad things they have not even a suspicion of. Against men of this sort, what defense is there save the witness of our own conscience?
My brothers, we do not seek, nor should we seek, our own glory even among those who approval we desire. What we should seek is their salvation, so that if we walk as we should they will not go astray in following us. They should imitate us if we are imitators of Christ; and if we are not, they should still imitate him. He cares for his flock, and he alone is to be found with those who care for their flocks, because they are all in him.
And so we seek no advantage for ourselves when we aim to please men. We want to take our joy in men – and we rejoice when they take pleasure in what is good, not because this exalts us, but because it benefits them.
It is clear who is intended by the apostle Paul: If I wanted to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ. And similarly when he says: Be pleasing to all men in all things, even as I in all things please all men. Yet his words are as clear as water, limpid, undisturbed, unclouded. And so you should, as sheep, feed on and drink of his message; do not trample on it or stir it up.
You have listened to our Lord Jesus Christ as he taught his apostles: Let your actions shine before men so that they may see you good deeds, and give glory to your Father who is in heaven, for it is the Father who made you thus. We are the people of his pasture, the sheep of his hands. If then you are good, praise is due to him who made you so; it is no credit to you, for if you were left to yourself, you could only be wicked. Why then do you try to pervert the truth, in wishing to be praised when you do good, and blaming God when you do evil? For though he said: Let your works shine before men, in the same Sermon on the Mount he also said: Do not parade your good deeds before men. So if you think there are contradictions in Saint Paul, you will find the same in the Gospels; but if you refrain from troubling the waters of your heart, you will recognize here the peace of the Scriptures and with it you will have peace.
And so, my brothers, our concern should be not only to live as we ought, but also to do so in the sight of men; not only to have a good conscience but also, so far as we can in our weakness, so far as we can govern our frailty, to do nothing which might lead our weak brother into thinking evil of us. Otherwise, as we feed on the good pasture and drink the pure water, we may trample on God’s meadow, and weaker sheep will have to feed on trampled grass and drink from troubled waters.

Source: The Liturgy of the Hours – Office of Readings

 Saint Augustine (354-430) was born at Tagaste in northern Africa, the son of Patricius, a pagan Roman official and Monica, a Christian. At 17, he went to the university at Carthage to study rhetoric and literary pursuits. He became interested in philosophy and accepted the heresy of Manichaeism. He taught at Tagaste and Carthage for ten years then left for Rome in 373 and opened a school of rhetoric but left the following year to teach in Milan. His mother, St. Monica, had prayed relentlessly for his conversion for seventeen years. Then, in Milan, Augustine was so impressed by the Sermons of St. Ambrose, bishop of Milan, he embraced the Christian faith with zeal. He was baptized by Ambrose on Easter Eve in 387.
He abandoned his secular interests and began a community life of prayer and meditation pouring over the Scriptures and completely reformed his life. Later in 387, he started back to Africa, and on the way, his mother Monica died at Ostia. The following year he established a religious community at Tagaste and began to preach with phenomenal success. He was made Bishop of Hippo in 396. During the next thirty four years Augustine wrote profusely, completing some two hundred treatises, three hundred letters, four hundred sermons and major works in theology and philosophy evidencing a towering intellect which molded the thought of Western Christianity for a thousand years after his death.
Saint Augustine died on August 28 during Genseric’s siege of Hippo in 430. Among his best known works are his Confessions, one of the great spiritual classics of all time; City of God, another classic presentation of Christian philosophy and history. He is one of the greatest of the Early Church Fathers and Doctors of the Church. He is considered one of the greatest single intellects the Catholic Church has ever produced.

Saint Augustine, ora pro nobis!

No comments:

Post a Comment