Anthony_Sermons - (FIRST CLAUSE)
(A sermon on Naaman the leper, who washed seven times in the Jordan, and the meaning of this: Eliseus said to Naaman.)
9. There follows, secondly:
And his disciples answered him: From whence can anyone fill them here with bread in the wilderness? And he asked them: How many loaves have ye? Who said: Seven. And he commanded the people to sit down on the ground. And taking the seven loaves, giving thanks, he broke and gave to his disciples for to set before them; and they set
them before the people. And they had a few little fishes; and he blessed them and commended them to be set them before them. And they did eat and were filled. (Mc 8,48)
There is a concordance to this in the fourth book of Kings, where Elisha tells Naaman the leper:
Go, and wash seven times in the Jordan, and thy flesh shall recover health; and thou shalt be clean... And Naaman went down and washed in the Jordan seven times, according to the word of the man of God. And his flesh was restored, like the flesh of a little child; and he was made clean. (2R 5,10 2R 5,14)
The seven loaves and the seven washings in Jordan have the same meaning. Naaman means ‘handsome’, and he represents the man who used to be beautiful with grace, but then becomes a leper in the stench of sin. Leprosy is marked by scabs and much itching. That man is a leper, for whom the poison of evil thoughts, in the broken skin of divine fear, breaks out into the leprosy of evil deeds; and the more he scratches with the hand of evil habit, the more the irritation becomes inflamed with burning pain. Elisha (that is, Jesus Christ) tells this leper: Go, and wash seven times in the Jordan. Jordan means ‘stream of judgement’, and it stands for confession, wherein a man washes himself as in a stream, while he judges and condemns himself.
He should wash himself seven times in this Jordan, if he wants to deserve healing. The Apostle says of these in the second Epistle to the Corinthians:
Behold, this selfsame thing, that you were made sorrowful according to God, how great carefulness it worketh in you; yea defence, yea indignation, yea fear, yea desire, yea zeal, yea revenge. (2Co 7,11)
This sorrow, divided into three parts, stands for penitence: which consists in heartfelt contrition, oral confession, and satisfaction in deed. This sorrow is according to God, and so it works salvation, that is to say, those things that lead to salvation; namely carefulness to put right what we have done wrong. As the Lord said:
Martha, Martha, thou art careful and art troubled about many things. (Lc 10,41)
Yea defence. To defend is to protect. When we are stripped bare in confession, we are protected. St Augustine says4 , "If you uncover yourself, God will cover you." When we accuse ourselves, we are defending ourselves.
Yea indignation, against ourselves, because of the evil we have done. Ezekiel says: I went away in bitterness in the indignation of my sp/'r/'t.(Ez 3,14)
Yea fear, lest such a thing befall in the future. Fear makes us leave nothing undone that
should be done. A ‘timid’ person fears too much. Fear is a sorrow accidental to the mind, extrinsic to what occasions it. Fear is chaste when the soul is afraid of losing the grace that enables it not to take pleasure in sin. And it fears to lose it, even apart from any punishment that might follow.
Yea desire, to do better. To desire is to seek avidly. We desire what we do not have, that we have not yet received. So it says in the second book of Kings that:
David said: O that some man would get me a drink of the water out of the cistern, that is in Bethlehem, by the gate. (2S 23,15)
Just so, penitents should desire the water of that river John speaks of in the Apocalypse:
The angel showed me a river of water of life, clear as crystal. (Ap 22,1)
This water is in Bethlehem (meaning ‘house of bread’), the refreshment of eternal life; and it is by the gate, Jesus Christ, because no-one can enter to draw water except by him. No-one can come to the Father, but by me (Jn 14,6).
Yea zeal, to imitate the life of the saints. Be zealous for the better gifts, he says (1Co 12,31)
Yea revenge. Luke says that the widow besought the judge every day, Avenge me of my adversary (Lc 18,3). The widow is the soul, which appeals to the judge, reason, to avenge her against her adversary, the carnal appetite which is always contrary to the soul. This is the judge who does not carry the sword in vain (cf. Rm 13,4), to the praise of good affections and vengeance on evildoers, (carnal ones) (cf. 1P 2,14). He who washes seven times in the Jordan is cleansed of all the leprosy of sin, and is fed with the loaves of sevenfold grace, as is told in today’s Gospel: And taking the seven loaves, giving thanks, he broke.
But note: before they are fed with the seven loaves, they are told to sit down on the ground. Anyone who wants to be fed with these seven loaves, must needs first sit down on the ground, his flesh which he must chastise. So it says in the fourth book of Kings that Naaman took with him some of the soil of Israel, so that he might stand on it to adore the God whose land it was (cf. 2R 5,17-18). In this way the just man stands on the earth of his body and treads it down by the virtue of discretion, worshipping God in spirit and in truth (Jn 4,23). Note that with the seven loaves he blessed a few small fishes and ordered them to be set before those that sat. The little fishes are poverty, humility, patience, obedience, and the remembrance of Jesus Christ’s Passion; with which we season the seven loaves, to make them more tasty.
10. The second part of the Epistle is concordant to this second clause of the Gospel:
For when you were the servants of sin, you were free men to justice. What fruit therefore had you then in those things of which you are now ashamed? (Rm 6,20-21)
In this part of the Epistle the Apostle speaks to converted sinners, who before they sat on the ground, before they washed seven times in Jordan, and before they were fed with the seven loaves, were servants of sin and free from justice- that is, lacking the dominion of justice. He who serves sin withdraws himself from the liberty of justice. What fruit therefore had you? he asks. St Augustine5 says, "Shame is the greatest part of penitence." Penitents are ashamed that they were lepers, ashamed that they did such things as brought forth death, not fruit.
We ask you then, Lord Jesus, to cleanse us from the leprosy of sin, to feed us with the bread of your grace, and to set us in the banquet of heavenly blessedness. Grant this, you who are blessed for ever and ever. Amen.
(An allegorical and a moral sermon on Elisha and the raising of the Sunamite’s son, and the meaning of times.)
11. There follows, thirdly:
And they took up that which was left of the fragments, seven baskets. And they that had eaten were about four thousand; and he sent them away. (Mc 8,8-9)
The seven baskets represent just men, full of the sevenfold grace of the Holy Spirit. Baskets are made from rushes and palm-leaves. The rush grows by the waterside, and it clings there with dense roots. The palm crowns the victor. The saints root themselves in the very well-spring of life, so as not to be parched of the water of eternity, and wait for the palm of their eternal reward. Alternatively, the seven baskets are the seven first- founded Churches, which the Lord filled with the inspiration of sevenfold grace. This is signified by the child whom Elisha raised.
There is, then, a concordance to this in the fourth book of Kings, where it says that:
Eliseus arose and followed the Sunamite. But Giezi was gone before them, and laid the staff upon the face of the child: and there was no voice nor sense... Eliseus therefore went into the house... and shut the door upon him, and upon the child, and prayed to the Lord. And he went up, and lay upon the child: and he put his mouth upon his mouth, and his eyes upon his eyes, and his hands upon his hands: and he bowed himself upon him. And the child’s flesh grew warm. Then he returned and walked in the house, once to and fro. And he went up and lay upon him: and he gaped upon the child seven times, and he opened his eyes. (2R 4,30-35)
When the Lord gave the Law through Moses, he was, as it were, sending his servant with his staff; but the servant could not raise the dead with the staff, the terror of the Law, because the Law brings no-one to perfection (cf. He 7,19). Coming himself, he prostrated himself upon the corpse, because he,
being in the form of God... emptied himself, taking the form of a servant.(Ph 2,6-7)
He walked to and fro, calling both the Jews and the Gentiles to eternal things by faith. He breathed seven times upon the dead, because he opened the divine treasury and breathed out the grace of the Sevenfold Spirit upon those lying in the death of sin. And soon, the child whom the rod of terror could not raise was brought back to life by the spirit of love.
12. Morally. Elisha is the prelate who raises the dead, the soul entrusted to him, not by the rod of harsh discipline but rather by prayer and bowing down in kindness. St Augustine6 says: "A prelate should rather want to be loved by you, than feared." Love makes what is hard pleasant, what is unbearable light; while fear makes even light things unbearable.
He put his mouth upon his mouth. The prelate puts his mouth upon the sinner’s mouth when he preaches to him, so that he in turn tells his sins in confession. So Isaiah says:
The Lord hath given me a learned tongue,
that I should know how to uphold by word him that is weary. (Is 50,4)
He puts his eyes upon his eyes, when he sheds tears for his blindness, as Samuel did, when the Lord said in the first book of Kings:
How long wilt thou mourn for Saul, whom I have rejected? (1S 16,1)
He puts his hands upon his hands, when he himself performs good works, for the other’s evil work; so that if he cannot be raised either by the rod or by prayer, may be recalled to life at least by the example of good works.
There follows: and he gaped upon the child seven times, and the child opened his eyes. To gape is to open the mouth. The prelate ‘gapes’ upon the face of the child when he instructs the people committed to him in the faith of Holy Church, which consists in seven articles; and in this way the people open their eyes. They see by faith the one they will see in his beauty. And in doing this, the prelate feeds the people committed to him, as it were four thousand men, with seven loaves; he instructs them in the seven articles of faith, and the teaching of the four Evangelists.
13. The third part of the Epistle is concordant to this third clause:
But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, you have fruit unto sanctification, and the end life everlasting. For the wages of sin is death. But the grace of God, life everlasting, in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rm 6,22-23)
Jeremiah says: Break up anew your fallow ground, and sow not upon thorns (Jr 4,3), and this is what the Apostle means here by being made free from sin, and become servants to God. The going out from sin brings about the entrance to virtue. Note that the Apostle touches on four things: freedom from sin, service to God, sanctification of life, and eternal life. This is the pattern to live by, this is the way that leads to life. He who does not walk in it is like one blind and groping (cf. 2P 1,9). Freedom from sin brings about service to God, God’s service brings about sanctification of life, and sanctification attains eternal life. He who is supported by these four pillars will be satisfied (along with the four thousand men whom the Lord fed with the seven loaves) in eternal blessedness, when the glory of the Lord shall appear (cf. Ps 16,15). Christ will give this reward to those who serve him.
But what does the devil give to his soldiers? The Apostle says, the wages of sin is death. Your wage is what is weighed out to you. The ancients used to weigh out money, rather than count it. The word used, ‘stipend’, referred to soldiers. This then is the ‘stipend’ of the slaves of sin: death. But to those freed from sin, the servants of God, it is his grace, because of which there will be life everlasting, in Christ Jesus our Lord, to whom be honour and glory.
Let us humbly implore him, then, dearest brothers, that he, who deigned to feed the four thousand men with seven loaves, will strengthen us with the four virtues and enliven us with the inspiration of sevenfold grace, so that we may be able to attain to him, who is the life and the bread of angels. May he grant this, who is to be praised and glorified, magnified and exalted, for ever and ever. Let every spirit say: Amen. Alleluia.
1 GREGORY, Regula Pastoralis III, 9; PL 77.60
2 GREGORY, Moralia XXVI, 18,35; PL 76.368
3 GLOSSA ORDINARIA, Rom 6.19
4 AUGUSTINE, Enarrationes in psalmos, Ps 31,II,15; PL 36.267
5 ps-AUGUSTINE, De vera et falsa poenitentia, 10.25; PL 40.1122
6 AUGUSTINE, Regula ad servos Dei, 11; PL 32.1384
Copyright in this translation belongs to the author, Revd Dr S.R.P.Spilsbury
(The Gospel for the eighth Sunday after Pentecost: Beware of false prophets, which is divided into three clauses.)
(First, a sermon on the guest-chamber the faithful soul prepares for Jesus Christ: The Sunamite woman said.)
1. At that time, Jesus said to his disciples; Beware of false prophets, who come to you in the clothing of sheep, etc. (Mt 7,15)
It says in the fourth book of Kings that the Sunamite woman said to her husband, concerning Elisha:
I perceive that this is a holy man of God, who often passeth by us. Let us therefore make him a little chamber, and put a little bed in it for him, and a table, and a stool, and a candlestick, that when he cometh to us, he may abide there. (2R 4,9-10)
Let us see what is meant by Elisha, the Sunamite and her husband, the chamber, the bed, the table, the stool and the candlestick. Elisha means ‘salvation of my God’, and he represents Jesus Christ, who is sent by God the Father for the salvation of his people.
He comes to the Sunamite (meaning ‘captive’, or ‘scarlet’), the soul which Christ redeems from captivity to the devil with his blood, whom he stays with when he gives her life, and whom he ‘passes by’ when he withdraws his grace to humble her, because she thinks too highly of herself. The Sunamite’s husband is the rational intellect, which should rule over the soul with the strength and insight native to it, or given by grace; and which should counsel and guide her, and engender in her a progeny of virtue and good works. The soul takes counsel with this husband, saying, I perceive that this is a holy man of God, etc.
The chamber stands for unity, the bed for chastity, the table for the delight of contemplation, the stool for contempt of self, and the candlestick for the light of good example. The word used for the room means strictly a common dining room, where many sit down to eat. That is why it signifies the unity of the faithful, of which the Bridegroom says in Canticles:
Thou hast wounded my heart, my sister, my spouse:
with one of thy eyes, and with one hair of thy head. (Ct 4,9)
The one-ness of the eyes is the harmony of prelates, who should enlighten the whole Church as the eye does in the whole body. The hair that hangs from the head represents all the faithful, who hold to Christ their Head. The Bridegroom is wounded by the wound of love, so as to love the Church, when he sees in her the unity of prelates in accord with those under them. The chamber of unity should be ‘a little one’, by humility, which is the cement holding subjects and prelates together.
The little bed denotes chastity; whence Canticles says: Our bed is flowery (Ct 1,15). The bed of conscience should be flowery with the lilies of purity. The table is the sweetness of contemplation, of which the psalm says: Thou hast prepared a table before me (Ps 22,5). When the mind is raised up to taste that sweetness, every trial borne is reckoned cheap. That sweetness so affects the mind, that it does not know how to grieve for pain. The stool, for sitting on, is self contempt. Jeremiah says in Lamentations: He shall sit solitary and hold his peace (Lm 3,28). He shall ‘sit’ in self-abasement, ‘solitary’ from the tumult of worldly people and the remembrance of them. He ‘holds his peace’ from poisonous words. The candlestick (which we should not hide under a bushel, but put on a mountain, to light everyone in the house (cf. Mt 5,15)) stands for the light of good example. The soul should prepare this chamber, furnished like this by the advice of her husband, for the true Elisha; not for the false prophets, heretics or hypocrites, of whom the Lord says in today’s Gospel: Beware of false prophets, etc.
2. There are three things to note in this Gospel. First, the pretence of hypocrites, as it begins: Beware of false prophets. Second, the fruitfulness of the good tree and the cutting down of the unfruitful, as it continues: Even so every good tree. Third, the expulsion from the kingdom of those who talk but fail to do; and the reception of those who do the will of God, as it concludes: Not everyone that saith to me, Lord, Lord, etc. We will concord with these clauses some stories from the fourth book of Kings.
In the Introit of this Sunday’s Mass we sing: Behold, God is my protector, and the Epistle of blessed Paul to the Romans is read: We are debtors not to the flesh, which we will divide into three parts and concord with the three clauses of the Gospel. The first part is: We are debtors. The second: Whosoever are led by the Spirit of God. The third: For the Spirit himself giveth testimony to our spirit.
(A sermon against false prophets: From the prophets of Jerusalem.)
3. Let us say, then:
Beware of false prophets, who come to you in the clothing of sheep, but inwardly they
are ravening wolves. By their fruits you shall know them. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? (Mt 7,15-16)
Note these three: the false prophets, the sheep’s clothing, and the ravening wolves. The false prophets are hypocrites, of whom Jeremiah says:
From the prophets of Jerusalem corruption is gone forth into all the land. (Jr 23,15)
They are the prophets of Jezebel (meaning, ‘dungheap’). While they love salutations in the market-place, and chairs in the synagogues (cf. Mt 23,6), they prophecy a heap of dung, being as dung for the earth (Ps 82,11). The prophet Micah says of these prophets:
Thus saith the Lord concerning the prophets that make my people err, that bite with their teeth and preach peace: and if a man give not something into their mouth, they sanctify war against him. (Mi 3,5)
Note the four phrases: ‘make err’, ‘bite’, preach’, ‘sanctify’. The false prophets lead astray innocents by their persuasive words. They bite with detraction, infecting and causing death with their bite. Detraction is deadly, and is like a road by which death enters the soul. They preach peace, so as to appear men of peace, but the way of peace they have not known (Ps 13,3). They are robber priests, who bite with curses those who do not give to them, while to those who do give they preach peace and promise mercy. They declare a ‘holy war’ on those who will not give. They reckon it holy and just to persecute those who do not give, and they wield the sword of excommunication. They bestow a solemn blessing on those who do give, though they themselves are cursed by the Lord, and he curses their blessings (cf. Ml 2,2). They say to those who give, ‘You are children of the Church, who honour your mother and relieve her poverty, and so you are blessed for giving to her.’ Tell me, you false prophets, you thieves and murderers, what is the Church but the faithful soul for whom the Lord gave up his own dear life to death, to make her without spot or wrinkle? The Lord will bless whoever gives this Church what is her own. But alas, alas! "Today a donkey stumbles, and someone will lift it up; but if a soul perishes, there is no-one to help."1 If they were true prophets, they would be saying with the true prophet Jeremiah:
Woe is me, for my soul hath fainted because of them that are slain. (Jr 4,31)
Woe is me for the sorrow of my people...
Who will give water to my head and a fountain of tears to my eyes,
and I will weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people. (Jr 9,1)
There is a concordance to this in the fourth book of Kings, where Elisha
was troubled, and the man of God wept. And Hazael said to him: Why doth my lord weep? And he said: Because I know the evil that thou wilt do to the children of Israel. Their strong cities thou wilt burn with fire, and their young men thou wilt kill with the sword: and thou wilt dash their children, and rip up their pregnant women. (2R 8,11-12)
Elisha represents the good prelate of the Church, who should weep till he is red-eyed because Hazael (the devil) sets fire to the cities (the souls of the faithful) with the fire of avarice; he kills their young men (virtues) with the sword of temptation; he dashes their children (good works still not fully-formed); and rips up their pregnant women (the intentions of their good will). Who would not weep for such evils? But the false prophets do not care; they get as much as they can grab. Well does the Lord say, Beware, be very wary indeed, of false prophets. They are false, because they say what is not true. They say: Peace, peace. And there is no peace (Jr 6,14).
So it says in the third book of Kings that Ahab,
the king of Israel, assembled the prophets, about four hundred men, and he said to them: Shall I go to Ramoth Galaad to fight, or shall I forbear? They answered: Go up, and the Lord will deliver it into the hands of the king. (1R 22,6)
A little later on, Michaeas the true prophet of the Lord said of them:
Behold, the Lord hath given a lying spirit in the mouth of all thy prophets that are here: and the Lord hath spoken evil against thee. (1R 22,23)
Ahab represents the lover of this world, who wants to go up to Ramoth Galaad to do battle against the Lord. Ramoth is ‘vision of death’, and Galaad is ‘mound of witness’. They stand for the honours and riches of this world, in which is the vision of eternal death, and heaped-up testimony of damnation against those lovers. When he wants to go up there, he consult false prophets as to whether he ought to. The modern priests give their advice: "Go up; there is no sin in having riches, getting honours. You can still be saved in such circumstances." Would that a Michaeas would arise, a prophet of the Lord! He would convict those diviners and ventriloquists of telling lies, and stop the mouth of them that speak wicked things (Ps 62,12), by the authority of Jesus Christ, who says in Luke:
Woe to you that are rich; for you have your consolation. Woe to you that are filled; for you shall hunger. Woe to you that now laugh; for you shall mourn and weep. Woe to you when men shall bless you. (Lc 6,24-26)
The Lord says: Woe! whereas you false prophets say: Go up. Beware of false prophets, then. Do not believe them, and go up to Ramoth Galaad; because there you will find woe.
(A sermon against false religious: Jeroboam said to his wife. Here is something about the hyena, its nature and significance.)
4. There follows: Who come to you in the clothing of sheep, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. What has Christ in common with Belial (2Co 6,15)? What has the sheep in common with the wolf? A sheep in clothing, but a wolf in mind. ‘A pretended equity is no equity at all- it is just a double iniquity.’2 False religious are ravening wolves coming in sheep’s clothing. There is something similar in the third book of Kings, where:
Jeroboam said to his wife: Arise, and change thy dress, that thou be not known to be the wife of Jeroboam. And go to Silo, where Ahias the prophet is... So when she was coming in, and made as if she were another woman, Ahias heard the sound of her feet coming in at the door, and said: Come in, thou wife of Jeroboam. Why dost thou feign thyself to be another. (1R 14,2 1R 14,5-6)
Jeroboam means ‘division of the people’. He is the false religious who, divided between sheep and wolf, sows division and discord in cloisters and chapters. He is like Satan among the sons of God (Jb 1,6). He is what the psalm calls, the business that walketh about in the dark (Ps 90,6). His ‘wife’ is wolfish pleasure, which would like to change its dress to sheep-skin. But Ahias, the prophet of the Lord, knows her and says: Come in, etc. Ahias means ‘seeking life’, and he stands for the human conscience which ever cries out, and recognises every deceit. So the Apostle says to the Romans:
Their conscience bearing witness to them; and their thoughts between themselves accusing or also defending one another. (Rm 2,15)
And Solomon in Proverbs: An evil man always seeketh quarrels: but a cruel angel shall be sent against him, (Pr 17,11) that is, his conscience reproaching him.
Note that the hypocrite who hides under a sheep-skin is like the hyaena, of which many strange things are told. The hyaena is a small animal, living wild, digging up graves at night and eating the bodies of the dead. It can imitate the human voice, lurking around the shepherds’ huts and, by careful listening, learning to make sounds that imitate the human voice, so as to savage at night someone who has let it in by mistake. It can counterfeit human vomiting, too, and by false gurglings it attracts dogs and then eats them. If they are hunting it, and come across its shadow in the chase, they lose their voice and cannot bark. The eyes of the hyaena are multi-coloured and changing, and they never blink, but maintain a fixed and unwavering gaze. There is no gum in their mouths, just a single, lasting tooth; which is naturally enclosed in the manner of little boxes, so that it is never blunted. If this hyaena goes round any animal three times, it cannot move itself. The Lord says of it through Jeremiah (in an alternative translation):
My inheritance is become to me as an hyaena’s den. (Jr 12,8)
The hypocrite is an animal of this sort, living like a beast, small by his pretence, wild in the deformity of his action, digging up graves in the night of deceit. He creeps into the
house of women, as the Apostle says (2Tm 3,6), by pleasing speeches and good words seducing the hearts of the innocent (Rm 16,18), and so eats the corpses of sinners. He affects a human voice (that is, praise), lurking round the shepherds’ huts, the places of preaching, so as to listen carefully and learn how to preach; then in the night he deceives men who associate with him by his preaching.
He counterfeits human vomit (the confession of sins). He accuses himself of being a sinner, but does not think he is. He draws men with false gurglings and groanings, so that they think he is a saint, seeing him groan like this! Sometimes he even deceives just men, too ready to believe in his false devotion. If his shadow touches anyone, they are unable to bark against him- they even defend him! In particular, this happens today with those who trust heretics. They really do not heed the Lord’s advice: Beware of false prophets, etc.
The heretic’s eyes are very shifty. Sometimes he raises his eyes to heaven and sighs, sometimes he casts them down and weeps. His colour is always changing: now he is pale, now he is dark, now he has ragged clothing, now well-ordered. Now abstinence pleases him, now it displeases. This constant change of colour indicates his inner instability.
Any animal that the hyaena (the heretic or hypocrite) goes round three times- encircling it with the word of preaching, with the example of a pretended holiness, and the appearance of attractive promise- remains immovable as regards good. Beware, then, I pray you, of false prophets. By their fruits you shall know them. The Gloss says, ‘You can best tell them by their impatience in time of adversity.’ When prosperity smiles, the wolfish mind is hidden beneath the sheep-skin; but when adversity gives a jaundiced look, the sheep-skin is torn by the wolf’s teeth.
There follows: Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Thorns pierce, sharp as spears; thistles choke. The thorns and thistles are heretics and hypocrites, from whom none of the wise can find holiness or truth; but they tear and wound those who go near them.
(A moral sermon against false prophets, that is, the carnal affections: Beware; and: Now all the prophets of Baal, and the rest that follows.)
5. Beware of false prophets, etc. The false prophets are the carnal affections which, to seduce the soul, set forth the frailty and weakness of nature, display the abundance of material things, and prophesy peace, preaching that God’s mercy is great. They go on like this in order to soothe the soul. The just man says of them (weeping, in Jeremiah):
Ah, ah, ah, O Lord God, the prophets say to them: You shall not see the sword, and there shall be no famine among you, but he will give you true peace in this place. (Jr 14,13)
When the carnal affections talk like this, there is nothing left to do but groan and say: Ah, ah, ah, O Lord God. That threefold ‘Ah’ suggests a threefold sorrow, in the heart, in the mouth, and in the body. The Lord says of this to Ezekiel:
Thou therefore, O son of man, prophesy and strike thy hands together:
and let the sword be doubled, and let the sword of the slain be tripled.
This is the sword of the great slaughter that maketh them stand amazed. (Ez 21,14)
When the just man hears the voice of the prophets, the bleating of the flocks and the muttering of carnal desires, he should clap his hands together at once, and double or triple the sword of sorrow, to slay the false prophets and amaze their appetite. Well does the Lord say: Beware of false prophets.
There is a concordance to this in the fourth book of Kings, where Jehu says:
Now therefore call to me all the prophets of Baal, and all his servants and all his priests. Let none be wanting. (2R 10,19)
When they were gathered,
Jehu commanded his soldiers and captains, saying: Go in, and kill them. Let none escape. And the soldiers and captains slew them with the edge of the sword... And brought the statue out of Baal’s temple, and burnt it, and broke it in pieces. They destroyed also the temple of Baal, and made a jakes in its place unto this day. So Jehu destroyed Baal out of Israel. (2R 10,25-28)
Jehu means ‘commotion’, and he stands for the just man who should be stirred up against himself in a fury of anger, when he sees himself put into temptation. He should gather together all the prophets of Baal, etc. Baal (‘the devourer’) is the belly, that devours everything and whose ‘prophets’ are carnal affections. The just man should gather them all together and kill them with the sword of penance.
And they brought the statue out of the temple, etc. Heathen error built temples (fanes) as places for spirits; and displayed the images of demons there. They are called ‘fanes’, from the Greek phania, meaning apparitions, that men spoke to. The ‘fane’ of Baal is gluttony, and images of fish and flesh are commonly exhibited in it. The just man should bring out the statue, the idol of concupiscence, burn it with hunger and thirst, and break it in pieces with all kinds of abstinence.
They destroyed also the temple of Baal. Such temples were places of eating and feasting. Eating means inordinate and uncontrolled greed, which should be destroyed altogether and made into a latrine. This ‘privy place’, set apart, represents the stink of
the belly, which we must provide for from necessity, not for pleasure. We reckon it a receptacle for dung that we must carry with us always, unhappy wretches that we are. When we remember this, it should make us humble. Micah says: Thy humiliation shall be in the midst of thee (Mi 6,14). Our ‘midst’ is our belly, receptacle of dung, the thought of which is a reason for humility. Well said, then, Beware of false prophets.
6. The just man pleads to be freed from these prophets in the Introit of today’s Mass: Behold, God is my helper: and the Lord is the protector of my soul.
Turn back the evils upon my enemies: and cut them off in thy truth;
O Lord my protector. (Ps 53,6-7 Ps 58 Ps 12)
God helps the just man when he gives him the grace to kill the prophets of Baal. He protects him when he brings the statue of concupiscence out of the temple of gluttony.
He turns back evils on his enemies when he burns and breaks that statue with fasts and vigils. He cuts them off in truth when he entirely demolishes the temple of bad habit.
The first part of today’s Epistle is concordant with this first clause:
We are debtors not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh, you shall die: but if by the Spirit you mortify the deeds of the flesh, you shall live. (Rm 8,12-13)
See how the Apostle here shows clearly how the false prophets of Baal are to be mortified. We are debtors not to the flesh, he says, but to the Holy Spirit who makes us live; not to the flesh from which comes death. We are strictly bound by duty to the Spirit, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh, according to fleshly pleasure, even though we must give it what is necessary. If we live according to the flesh, we are trusting in false prophets, and we shall die, because the ravening wolves will tear us to pieces. But if, by the Spirit, we mortify the deeds of the flesh, putting the prophets of Baal to the sword of penance, burning the statue and destroying the temple of Baal: without a doubt we shall live, by the life of grace now, and of glory in the future. May he graciously bring us there, who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.
Anthony_Sermons - (FIRST CLAUSE)