Anthony_Sermons - (FIRST CLAUSE)
(The theme for a sermon on the last judgement: The fingers of a hand.)
10. There follows, secondly:
But when that servant was gone out, he found one of his fellow servants that owed him an hundred pence: and laying hold of him, he throttled him, saying: Pay what thou owest. (Mt 18,28)
When the wicked servant had gone out from the remembrance of the divine mercy, which had forgiven him his debt, he would not have mercy on his fellow servant. The
servant would have done well to have mercy on his fellow servant, seeing that the Lord had had pity on him. As great as the difference there is between ten thousand talents and a hundred pence, so great (and far greater) is the difference between the sin whereby we offend God, and the sin whereby our neighbour offends us. If God, then, the Lord of all creation, forgives you so much, why can you not forgive so little to your neighbour? He who forgets the mercy he shown to him, will have mercy on no-one else. Thus the going out of the servant indicates his forgetfulness. Whence, in Genesis:
And Cain said to Abel his brother: Let us go forth abroad. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and slew him. (Gn 4,8)
Cain means ‘possession’. Eve said ‘I have gotten a man by the Lord.’ He represents the avaricious man who, when he goes out from the presence of the divine mercy, seizes Abel (‘strife’) and chokes him, the poor man afflicted by the struggle of poverty.
Morally. Cain kills Abel, the possession of riches kills the struggle of penitence; and the strife of eternal death follows that possession, which like Cain is born first. Whence Daniel said to Balthassar:
Thou hast not humbled thy heart, but hast lifted thyself up against the Lord of heaven... and the God who hath thy breath in his hand and all thy ways thou hast not glorified. Wherefore he hath sent the part of a hand which hath written all that is set down: Mane: that is, he hath numbered; Thecel: that is, he hath weighed; Phares: that is, he hath divided. (Da 5,22-28)
In the judgement there will be these three things: the destruction of sins, the censure of good deeds not done, the carrying out of the sentence. Then the Babylonian kingdom will be divided, the synagogue of sinners cut off from the kingdom of the just, and it will be given to the Medes and Persians, the demons who will utterly choke it: He laid hold and throttled him. ‘Throttle’ is related to ‘throat’, the channel whereby we emit our voice. Whoever constricts the throat seeks to take away both voice and life. The life of the poor is his means of life, as the blood is the life of the living creature. When you take away a poor man’s livelihood, you draw his blood, you squeeze his throat: and so you in turn will be throttled by the devil.
(A theme on the furnace of Babylon and its meaning.)
11. There follows:
And his fellow servant falling down, besought him, saying: Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he paid the debt. (Mt 18,29-30)
O wicked servant! Using the very same words with which you begged the Lord, and he forgave you, your fellow servant besought you: and you refused to forgive, but cast him
in prison! Believe me: the time will come when Solomon’s proverb will be fulfilled:
He that stoppeth his ear against the cry of the poor shall also cry himself and shall not be heard. (Pr 21,13)
The prison is this world, the Babylonian furnace. So there is a concordance in Daniel, where the servants of Nabuchodonosor
ceased not to heat the furnace with brimstone and tow and pitch and dry sticks. (Da 3,46)
Brimstone is the bone of olive-trees; tow is used to seal up the cracks in ships; pitch comes from the pine-tree; and the dry sticks are the prunings of the vine. Brimstone represents avarice, which lacks the oil of mercy, containing only the dregs of money. When you extract the oil, you leave the dregs. Take the oil of mercy from money, and what remains goes in the fire of eternal death. The tow is vain-glory, which swiftly turns to ashes. The pitch, which emits a foul smoke, is lust which soils the soul and destroys reputation. The dry sticks are pride, since the proud are cut off from the true vine, Jesus Christ.
With these four kinds of tinder the furnace of Babylon is enkindled, and all this world is burnt up, wherein are the three children, Sidrach, Misach and Abdenago.
But, the angel of the Lord... drove the flame of fire out of the furnace, and made the midst of the furnace like the blowings of a wind bringing dew. And the fire touched them not at all (Da 3,49-50).
Three virtues are represented by these three children, and whoever has them will come unscathed out of the world’s furnace. Sidrach (‘my beautiful one’) is chastity; whence in Canticles:
Thou art beautiful, with inward and outward chastity, daughter of Jerusalem. (cf. Ct 6,3) And in Genesis:
Joseph is a growing son and comely to behold. (Gn 49,22)
Rachel was well favoured, and of a beautiful countenance. (Gn 29,17)
Misach (‘laughter’) is patience, which laughs in tribulation. Abdenago (‘silent servant’) is obedience, which serves whole-heartedly, and remains silent as to the word of self-will.
Whoever has these three virtues will be set free from the fiery furnace, the burning vices of this world, by the Angel of great counsel and the wind of dew, the grace of the Holy Spirit.
Now his fellow servants seeing what was done, were very much grieved, and they came and told their lord what was done. (Mt 18,31)
The fellow servants, according to the Interlinear Gloss, are preachers of the Gospel, or the angels who bear back to God the deeds of men. Whence the Angel said to Daniel:
From the first day that thou didst set thy heart to understand, to afflict thyself in the sight of thy God, thy words have been heard: and I am come for thy words. (Da 10,12)
The Gloss says, "After you began to invoke God’s mercy with tears, fasting and prayer, I took occasion to enter the presence of God to pray for you."
(On the nature of those four who live only of the four elements: God is my witness.)
12. The second part of the Epistle is concordant to this second clause:
For God is my witness, how I long alter you in the bowels of Jesus Christ,(Ph 1,8)
that is, in the intimate love of Christ, that you may be loved by him; or that by that affection you may love God and neighbour, whereby Christ loved you, giving his life for you. The wicked servant did not long for this, since he throttled his fellow servant. A ‘witness’ sees what is the case. Blessed Paul is a good witness, seeing what has been done by Jesus Christ in himself and in others. ‘Bowels’ means the region surrounding the heart, the seat of life, thus indicating that which contains life and soul. The ‘bowels’ of Jesus Christ means the charity with which he has loved us, and in which our soul lives. Wherever death may be, in the bowels of Jesus Christ there is only life.
Natural History tells us that there are only four creatures which live of (one of) the four elements alone. The alec, a small fish, lives only on water; the chameleon lives only on air; the salamander on fire; and the mole on earth alone. Solinus4 says that "the chameleon takes neither food nor drink, but lives simply on the nourishment it draws in from the air. It is a four-footed animal, slow-moving, almost like the movement of a tortoise, with a rough body and variable colour which changes in a moment, so that it becomes of the same colour as whatever thing it is next to. There are two colours it cannot copy, red and white, but it easily assumes the others. It hides in winter, and comes out in spring. If it is killed by anyone, though destroyed it destroys its conqueror, for if he eat even a little of it, he dies thereof. But if a carrion-crow (or other crow-like bird, which derives its name from its croaking voice) eats of it, it has a protection to heal
it, nature lending a hand. For when it realises that it is afflicted, it eats a laurel leaf and recovers its health." Again, the salamander (as it is called) has power against burning. If it creeps into a tree, it poisons all the fruit; and not only is it unharmed by fire, it extinguishes it. This is the creature called ‘stellio’, of which Solomon says in Proverbs:
The stellio which supporteth itself on hands, and dwelleth in kings’ houses. (Pr 30,28)
It is called ‘stellio’ on account of its colouring, having a body marked with bright spots like stars. Again, the mole is condemned to perpetual blindness. It is without eyes, and always digs in the earth. Because we have undertaken to treat of charity, which is the life of the soul, if we can find in the nature of these creatures anything to build it up, we will set it down here. Of their poison and malice, we will not treat for the present.
Note that charity rests mainly on four things: compunction of heart, contemplation of glory, love of neighbour and remembrance of one’s own lowliness. The alec, the little fish, represents the humble penitent, who lives solely on the water of tears. So he says with the prophet, Every night I will water my couch with my tears (Ps 6,7): that is, for every sin which brings eternal night I will weep and afflict my body with penance, so that it may bring forth the green grass bearing seed, and fruit-trees bearing fruit according to their kind (cf. Gn 1,12). Regarding this, see the sermon: In the beginning God created (Septuagesima).
(For religious or penitents on the weeping of penitence: I Daniel mourned.)
13. And that the humble penitent lives only on the water of tears, there is an obvious concordance where Daniel says:
I, Daniel, mourned the days of three weeks, and I ate no desirable bread, and neither flesh nor wine entered into my mouth; neither was I anointed with ointment till the days of three weeks were accomplished. (Da 10,2-3)
Note that from too much weeping three things happen: the eye is dimmed, the head aches and the face grows haggard. Truly, in this way the penitent’s eye, that used to plunder the soul, is dimmed lest it look on a woman to lust alter her (cf. Mt 5,28), and shut lest death enter at the windows (cf. Jr 9,21). His head ( that is, his mind) aches for the things he has done, so that he says with the Sunamite’s son, in the fourth book of Kings, My head acheth, my head acheth (2R 4,19). The repetition of the words indicates the intensity of the pain. His face grows haggard from the chastisement of the flesh, so that he says, My flesh and my heart hath fainted away (Ps 72,26), meaning, the richness of my flesh and the pride of my heart. These are the three weeks that the penitent mourns; or else: he weeps for the days of three weeks because he has offended the holy Trinity in three ways, in heart, word and deed. I
I ate no desirable bread, he says. The Gloss explains, "He abstained from delicate foods, which we should do all the more in the time of fasting. Those who make use of what is unlawful should abstain even from what is lawful." Alternatively, the ‘desirable bread’ means worldly pomp, which pretends to be something when it is nothing, but afterwards his mouth shall be filled with gravel (Pr 20,17), eternal punishment. Job says: His bread in his belly shall be turned into the gall of asps within him (Jb 20,14). The penitent does not eat this bread, but rather says (as in the Psalm): I did eat ashes like bread (Ps 101,10). The Gloss says, "I used to eat ashes, the left-overs of sin, like bread: that is, I consumed them in being sorry, because even the least traces of sin should be consumed by penitence. And I mingled my drink with weeping."
So he adds, Neither flesh nor wine entered my mouth, meaning the concupiscence of the flesh and the glory of the world. The flesh is dearly loved, and the vine swiftly fills the veins with blood. Neither was I anointed with ointment. There is a concordance to this in the prophet Amos, where he says:
Woe to you... that eat the lambs out of the flock and the calves out of the midst of the herd;
that drink wine in bowls and are anointed with the best ointments. (Am 6,4 Am 6,6)
The penitent does all these things, until he fulfils the days of three weeks; that is, until he makes complete satisfaction for his sins, and receives forgiveness from the holy Trinity.
(On humility: Under the Lord’s feet; and: Over the head of the Cherubim; and on the same subject, concerning the claws of birds.)
14. The chameleon represents the contemplative man, who lives on air alone- that is, on the sweetness of contemplation. He says with the Apostle, Our conversation is in heaven (Ph 3,20); and with Job, My soul rather chooseth hanging (Jb 7,15). ‘Hanging’ means raising one’s vision to the Lord. The just man is lifted from earthly things by the thread of divine love, and hangs in the air by the sweetness of contemplation. He as it were becomes wholly air, having nothing of the flesh, of carnality. So it was said of John the Baptist that he was a voice crying in the desert (Mt 3,3 Jn 1,23). A voice is air, and John was air, not flesh, because what he savoured was entirely heavenly, not fleshly. So it says in Exodus that: Under the Lord’s feet as it were a work of sapphire stone (Ex 24,10). The minds of the just are placed like a footstool beneath the feet (that is, the humanity) of Jesus Christ. So it is said that Mary sat at the Lord’s feet (cf. Lc 10,39); and again, the women came up and took hold of his feet (Mt 28,9); and in Deuteronomy,
They that approach to his feet shall receive of his doctrine (Dt 33,3). Sapphire is the colour of air. The minds of the just, subject in faith and humility to the humanity of Jesus Christ, are like the work of sapphire stone.
Note these three: work, stone and sapphire. ‘Work’ refers to the labour of penance, of which Solomon says in Proverbs:
Prepare thy work without, and diligently till thy ground:
that afterwards thou mayest build thy house. (Pr 24,27)
Your ‘ground’ is your life, your ‘house’ is your conscience. ‘Stone’ refers to constancy of mind, so that Zechariah says: In one stone there are seven eyes (cf. Za 3,9), the gifts of seven-fold grace in the constant man. ‘Sapphire’ refers to the sweetness of contemplation.
Whence it says in Ezekiel:
over the heads of the cherubims as it were the sapphire stone. (Ez 10,1)
"Over the heads of the cherubim" means over the mind of the just, which are full of that knowledge which alone deserves the name, and makes us knowledgeable. Note that what Ezekiel in the beginning calls ‘living creatures’, he here calls ‘cherubim’, thus referring to the living creatures by the name of angels, because they were winged. By this we are to know that they are not described as having the feet or beaks of birds, but only their wings. Just men do not have curved claws, like birds, to seize and tear; but only the wings of divine contemplation. To indicate this, nature has given man flat nails, not curved.
15. Natural History says that birds with hooked claws, when they see that their chicks are able to fly, strike them and throw them out of their nests; and when their chicks are fully grown they have no care for them. That is how avaricious and pitiless folk behave, who see the poor and weak grow a little stronger (and, far worse, when they are still in their weakness) and cast them out of their own house. But upon the head of the cherubim is a sapphire stone, because the blessedness of contemplation adorns and enlightens the minds of the just.
The salamander represents the charitable man, who lives on the fire of charity alone. Whence Ecclesiasticus says:
Elias the prophet stood up, as a fire: and his words burnt like a torch. (Si 48,1)
The words and works of the just man burn with charity; so that he is rightly called a ‘stellio’, being bright with stars, shining with good works. So Solomon says of him that he supporteth himself on hands, (on his works, as to his neighbour) and dwelleth in kings’ houses (by contemplation, as to God).
The mole represents the despised and solitary man, who lives only on earth, because he knows himself to be earth, and a sinner, not unmindful of the curse: "You are earth, and to earth you will return." He is content in the blindness of this exile with earth alone, because he does not eat the flesh of other creatures, that is, he does not condemn or judge sinners, but considers only his own sins, in the bitterness of his soul, "longing that all should be in the bowels of Jesus Christ."
Let us humbly pray him, then, dearest brothers, to gather us up in the bowels of his charity, and to make us live on the water of compunction, the air of contemplation, the fire of charity and the earth of humility; whereby we may be able to attain him who is Life. May he grant this, who is blessed for ever. Amen.
(On the question whether sins forgiven return or not: Then he called.)
16. There follows, thirdly:
Then his lord called him; and said to him: Thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all the debt, because thou besoughtest me: shouldst thou not then have had compassion also on thy fellow servant, even as I had compassion on thee? And his lord being angry, delivered him to the torturers until he paid all the debt. (Mt 18,32-33)
From this Gospel reading it is clear that forgiven sins can return. On this matter, I want to set down what I have found in the ‘Sentences’.5
"The question is, whether forgiven sins return. The solution of this question is obscure and perplexing, some asserting and others denying that sins once forgiven can afterwards be subject again to penalty. Those who say that forgiven sins can return rely upon the following testimonies:
AMBROSE: Forgive one another, if one has sinned against another, otherwise God will find again what he has forgiven. If anyone shall be despised in these matters, assuredly the penitence by which mercy is declared will be recalled; as is read in the Gospel of the wicked servant who was caught acting unmercifully to his fellow servant.
RABANUS: God gave the wicked servant up to the torturers until he should repay all he owed, because not only the sins a man commits after Baptism are reckoned as punishable, but even original sins which are forgiven him in Baptism.
GREGORY: It is established from the Gospel teaching that if we do not forgive from our hearts what has been done against us, there will be demanded of us again even what we rejoiced to have had forgiven us by penitence.
AUGUSTINE: God says: Forgive, and you will be forgiven. But I forgave first. Forgive, or afterwards if you do not forgive I will call you back, and return to you what I had forgiven.
And: Those who forget the divine kindness and want to avenge their injuries, not only will they not deserve pardon for future sins, but even those past, which they believed forgiven, will return to demand vengeance.
BEDE: I will return to my house, etc. This verse is to be feared, not explained, lest the guilt we believed extinguished in us, by our idle carelessness return to oppress us.
And: Whoever after Baptism is beset either by heretical wickedness or worldly cupidity, will soon be cast down into the depths of vice.
AUGUSTINE: The Lord most clearly teaches that forgiven sins return, where fraternal charity is lacking, in the Gospel of the servant who sought the forgiveness of his debt, yet would not forgive the debt of his fellow servant.
These authorities support those who say forgiven sins return, if they are repeated.
On the other hand we have these arguments: If anyone is punished again for a sin he has repented of and received pardon, it does not seem just. If he is punished for what he did wrong, and did not correct, it is clearly just. But if what was remitted is required of him, it is unjust, or at least the justice is not clear. It seems that God judges him twice in the same matter, and he is ‘tried twice for the same offence’, which is against Scripture. Yet it can be replied that he is not tried twice, and God does not judge him twice, for the same thing. This would be the case only if after appropriate satisfaction, and sufficient punishment, he were to be punished again. But he has not made appropriate and sufficient satisfaction, if he has not persevered in it. He ought to remember the yoke of sin, not so as to do it again, but so as to beware of it. He should not forget all God’s retributions, which are as many as the sins forgiven. He should reckon God’s gifts as numerous as his sins, and give thanks for them even to the end. But because the ungrateful man returned like a dog to his vomit, he destroyed the good he had done and recalled his forgiven sin, so that God would impute to him the sin he previously forgave when he humbled himself, now that he has shown himself proud and ungrateful.
Yet because it seems inappropriate that sins once forgiven should be imputed again, it seems to some people that no-one should be punished by God for sins that have once been forgiven. The reason for saying that what has been forgiven returns and is imputed, is that because of his ingratitude the man is once again made guilty and a sinner, as he was before. What was forgiven is required again of him, because being ungrateful for the forgiveness he has received, he becomes as guilty as he was before.
Approved teachers favour both sides of the question; I therefore do not take either side, but leave it to the judgement of the careful reader, adding that it seems to me a safe and salutary principle to eat the crumbs under the masters’ table."
17. The third part of the Epistle is concordant to this third clause:
And this I pray, that your charity may more and more abound in knowledge and in all understanding. (Ph 1,9)
Charity abounds, and grows into knowledge, so that a man may know how to prove and discern not only between evil and good, but also between good and better. So he adds, That you may approve the better things, that you may be sincere (without any corruption as to yourselves) and without offence (as to others) unto the day of Christ: that is, to the day of death or of judgement. The wicked servant did not keep to this, because he was not sincere before God, who had forgiven his debt, nor without offence towards his fellow servant, whom he throttled and put in prison; therefore in the day of Christ he himself will be throttled by the torturers, the demons. Filled with the fruit of Justice (works which are the fruit of justice), through Jesus Christ (not through your own strength), unto the glory and praise of God (Ph 1,9), that is, as going to pass thereby into eternal glory, wherein you will praise God; or, that you may be the glory and praise of God, that it may be said of you: God is wonderful in his saints (Ps 67,36), wonderfully working and making to work.
Dearest brothers, let us humbly beg him to forgive us our past sins, and give us grace not to fall back again; to grant that we may forgive men from our hearts, so that we may fitly come to his glory, in which he is glorious and to be praised for ever and ever. Amen. Alleluia.
1 AMBROSE, Hexaemeron, ii,4,16; PL 14.165
2 cf. GLOSSA ORDINARIA on Dan 7.9 (ref. there is to GREGORY)
3 cf. GLOSSA ORDINARIA on Dan 7.10
4 SOLINUS, Polyhistor, 4
5 PETER LOMBARD, Sententiae IV, dist 22.1
The copyright in this translation belongs to the author, Revd Dr S.R.P. Spilsbury
(The Gospel for the twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost: The Pharisees going, which is divided into two clauses.)
(First, the theme for a sermon on the preacher or prelate of the Church, and of the riches of sinners, and the threefold trumpet of gathering: Let there be a trumpet in thy throat.)
1. At that time: The Pharisees going, consulted among themselves how to ensnare Jesus in his speech. (Mt 22,15)
Let there be a trumpet in thy throat, like an eagle upon the house of the Lord: because they have transgressed my covenant and have violated my law. (Os 8,1)
Let us see the meaning of these four: the throat, the trumpet, the eagle and the house. Note that (as the book of Numbers says (cf. Num f.9-10)) the trumpet summons to three things: war, a banquet, and a festival. The trumpet is preaching, so that the prophet Amos asks:
Shall the trumpet sound in a city and the people not be afraid? (Am 3,6)
It is a sign of great obstinacy if the people hear the trumpet of preaching, warning of eternal death, and are unafraid. They are like the deaf asp, putting one ear to earthly things, and blocking the other with the tail of carnal desire, lest they hear the voice of the wondrous-sounding trumpet (cf Ps 57 Ps 5-6).
Of people like this the prophet Micah says to preachers:
Declare ye it not in Geth, weep ye not with tears:
in the house of dust sprinkle yourselves with dust. (Mi 1,10)
Geth means ‘wine-press’, and it stands for the proud and avaricious of this world, who like wine-presses squeeze and oppress the poor and needy. The same prophet says of them:
You that violently pluck off their skins from them and their flesh from their bones: who have eaten the flesh of my people and have flayed their skin from off them: and have broken their bones. (Mi 3,2-3)
We should not sound the trumpet of preaching for these, nor shed tears for them: no trumpet can soften the hardness of their hearts, no tears put out the fire of avarice. The same prophet says of them:
As yet there is a fire in the house of the wicked,
the treasures of iniquity and a scant measure full of wrath.
Shall I (no!) justify wicked balances and the deceitful weights of the bag? (Mi 6,10-11)
This refers to the malice of misers, who use one scale for selling and another for buying.
There follows: In the house of dust sprinkle yourselves with dust: that is, you preachers, in the house of the poor penitent and contrite in spirit, who knows he is dust, show the example of your own humility. The Lord says that the poor have the Gospel preached to them (cf. Mt 11,5), not the rich; the humble, not the proud. Water runs off a swelling.
The trumpet, then, is preaching, summoning to war against wickedness; of which the prophet Joel says:
I the Lord have spoken: Proclaim ye this among the nations:
prepare war, rouse up the strong:
let them come, let all men of war come up.
Cut your ploughshares into swords and your spades into spears.
Let the weak say: I am strong. (Jl 3,8-10)
When the Lord, by inward inspiration, speaks in his preachers, then they proclaim among the Gentiles (those who live gently!): Prepare war, etc. We prepare war by putting away our vices first, and then taking up the struggle against the spirits of
wickedness who are against what is heavenly. Whoever opposes, feels this. He rouses the strong, those who firmly intend not to fall back. The men of war go up when the five bodily senses, formerly weak and enfeebling the soul, but now like strong warriors, rise up in chaste and chastened behaviour, who used to go down into the depths of vice. He turns ploughshares into swords, and spades into spears, who turns the tongue of detraction (which used to cut the lives of others like a plough) into the swords of confession and self-accusation; and turns the spades of earthly care and self-love into the spears of charity. Then he who was weak and feeble can say: I am strong, and have the power to go up against the foe and stand in battle in the day of the Lord.
(For penitents or religious, on the way of doing penance, and the restoration of the lost: Fear not, ye beasts of the fields.)
2. Again, the trumpet of preaching summons to the banquet of penitence, of which the Lord says through Joel:
Fear not, ye beasts of the fields: for the beautiful places of the wilderness are sprung,
for the tree hath brought forth its fruit:
the fig tree and the vine have yielded their strength.
And you, O children of Sion, rejoice and be joyful in the Lord your God: because he hath given you a teacher of justice,
and he will make the early and the latter rain to come down to you as in the beginning. And the floors shall be filled with wheat, and the presses shall overflow with wine and oil. And I will restore to you the years which the locust and the bruchus and the mildew and the palmer-worm have eaten.(Jl 2,22-25)
The beasts of the fields are converted sinners, who return from the far-off fields of estrangement to the mercy of God the Father. The Psalm says of them: In it shall thy animals dwell (Ps 67,11), that is, in Holy Church, the region of reconciliation.
To these, lest they despair over the greatness of their sins, there is said: Fear not: for the beautiful places of the wilderness are sprung. The wilderness is a wild place, uncultivated; it stands for penitence, which nowadays is rarely truly cultivated and dwelt in. The beautiful places of the wilderness are penitent folk, who spring up in contrition. Just as the bud is the beginning of the flower, so these are always starting again, and renewing themselves day by day. Fear not, you beasts of the field: you will be as
beautiful as they are.
So there follows: For the tree hath brought forth its fruit. Note these three: the tree, the fig, and the vine. There are three organs in a man from which action proceeds, whether inwardly or outwardly. These are the heart, the tongue and the hand. The heart of the penitent is like a tree that brings forth the fruit of contrition, of which Isaiah says: This is all the fruit, that the sin thereof should be taken away (Is 27,9). Contrition is called ‘all the fruit’, because it takes away all sin, as long as one has the firm intention of confessing. So it immediately goes on:
When he shall have made all the stones of the altar as burnt stones broken in pieces. The groves and temples shall not stand. (Is 27,9)
The ‘high altar’ is where victims are burnt. On the altar of pride, lust and avarice (which set themselves up high), the unhappy soul is burnt. This is the altar of Baal (meaning ‘master’ or ‘devourer’), well in accord with the etymology of ‘altar’. The stones of the altar are sins of pride, lust and avarice; which the one confessing should lay before the priest like burnt stones broken in pieces; he should confess them clearly and distinctly, sin and circumstance alike. Then the groves of imagination and the temples of sinful pleasure will not stand. Thus the tree brings forth its fruit.
There follows: The fig tree and the vine have yielded their strength. The fruitful fig represents the tongue, fruitful in words. Round this fig-tree we should put the dung of confession of sin, so that it may give it its strength (confession). The vine is the hand, which stretches out its fingers like branches. The ten fingers should be properly joined together. The penitent should stretch out the hand of action to the ten commandments, which are fittingly joined. On the first table the commandments regarding the love of God are written; on the second, those regarding our neighbour. When they are joined together, they are very right and proper indeed.
Therefore, you sinners (who are children of Sion, the Church) rejoice in heart and be joyful in work, in the Lord your God and not in other things, because he has given you a teacher of justice, the Spirit of grace who teaches you to do justice to yourselves, and will make the early and the latter rain to come down to you. The Gloss says, "The early rain is faith, and the latter is perfection of work. Alternatively, the early rain is the knowledge of God which is given after faith, and the latter rain is the fulness of that knowledge."
And the floors shall be filled with wheat, etc. The ‘floors’ mean minds, where the chaff of sin is separated, and so the wheat of good works abounds; and through the pressure they sustain, the oil of mercy and the wine of consolation also abound.
And I will restore to you the years, etc. The locust has long spear-like legs; the bruchus is all mouth; the mildew destroys the sheaves and the palmer-worm eats the leaves; its
bite causes itching in the flesh. The locust stands for pride, the bruchus for gluttony, the mildew for anger and envy, and the palmer-worm for lust. These are what devour our good works; but when we turn back to penitence, the Lord restores to us the years, the richness of good works, because the good works we did in charity (but which died through subsequent sin) are brought back to life in penitence, to whose banquet the trumpet calls us.
3. Again, it summons to the festival of glory. Whence the prophet Nahum says:
Behold upon the mountains the feet of him that bringeth good tidings and that preacheth peace.
O Juda, keep thy festivals and pay thy vows to the Lord,
for Belial shall no more pass through thee again: he is utterly cut off. (Na 1,15)
He who brings the good tidings of the festival of heavenly glory, preaches peace indeed. He who preaches it is not in the vale of sensual pleasure, into which the dregs drain down, but upon the mountains of an exalted life, where stand the Lord’s feet. He says, O Juda, keep thy festivals, etc. Juda means ‘confessing’, and he represents the penitent who, having here celebrated the banquet of penitence, passes to the celebration of the festival of heavenly glory, in which he safely pays his vows to the Lord, singing with the angels, and not fearing that ‘Belial’ (the sting of the flesh, or the devil’s temptation) will trouble him further, for he is utterly cut off. Whence Joel says:
Jerusalem shall be holy and strangers shall pass through it no more. (Jl 3,17)
The Gloss says: "After the day of Judgement, Jerusalem will consist of angels and men, and will be without any contamination (which it previously contracted from the mingling of the wicked). The ‘stranger’ (the devil, or any evil thought) will have no way in the just, who have God’s peace."
Let us say, then: Let there be a trumpet in thy throat. O preacher, let there be a trumpet of preaching in your ‘throat’- that is, in your mind and not just in your mouth, so that you may be like an eagle over the house of the Lord, the holy Church or the faithful soul. (Regarding the eagle, see the Gospel: When Jesus went into Jerusalem (Pentecost XIV, first clause)).
There follows: Because they have transgressed my covenant and have violated my law. This is why the preacher should have the trumpet in his throat, and fly like an eagle over the Lord’s house: because sinners have broken the covenant they made with the Lord in Baptism, and violated the law, as to the letter and as to grace. They are worse than the Pharisees, who broke the written law, in which it says: You shall not tempt the Lord your God. These quite intentionally tempted the Lord of the law. Whence the Gospel says:
The Pharisees going, etc.
4. There are two things to note in this Gospel, namely the wicked cunning of the Pharisees, and the wisdom of Jesus Christ. The first: The pharisees going; the second: Jesus knowing their wickedness, etc.
On this and the following Sunday the twelve prophets are read, and we sing in the Introit of the Mass: All ye nations. The Epistle of blessed Paul to the Philippians is read: Be followers of me, which we will divide into two parts and concord with the aforesaid clauses of the Gospel. The first: Be followers; the second: Our conversation is in heaven. This Epistle is read with this Gospel because in the Gospel Matthew speaks of the pharisees and the Herodians (which means, ‘glory of the skin’), and of the denarius imprinted with Caesar’s likeness; and the Apostle speaks in the Epistle of the enemies of Christ’s cross, whose glory is their shame, and of our body, which will be imprinted with the glory of the supreme king.
Anthony_Sermons - (FIRST CLAUSE)