Anthony_Sermons - (SECOND CLAUSE)
(A sermon against the lover of the world, who when he is left despised by the world, is taken up by Christ: A young man of Egypt, the servant of a man.)
11. There follows, thirdly:
Then the master of the house, being angry, said to his servant: Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the feeble, and the blind, and the lame. (Lc 14,21)
When the first three refuse to come to the Lord’s supper, the servant is sent to bring in the poor, the weak, the blind and the lame. They rarely fall away, who lack the delights of sin; and those who have nothing in the world to delight in are more quickly converted to grace. Happy the misery, then, that leads to better things! And happy darkness, that brings forth light! Those destitute of worldly abundance, like poor people; or of bodily health, like the sick, the blind and the lame- who lack the pleasures of sin- are all the more readily brought into the Lord’s supper.
So there is a concordance in the first book of Kings, where it says that
A young man of Egypt, the servant of an Amalecite, despised and abandoned by his master because he began to be sick... David found and fed, and made the guide for his journey. (cf. 1S 30,11-15)
The Egyptian boy represents the lover of this world, covered with the darkness of sin. When he cannot keep up with the world in its worldly pursuits, he is despised by it and left sick. Christ finds him, because he himself converts to his love those whom the world
despises and abandons, and he feeds them with the food of God’s word, and makes them a guide for his journey when, from time to time, he makes such a one his preacher.
The four kinds of person are not distinguished without reason: the poor, the feeble, the blind and the lame. The poor controls little and possesses little. The ‘feeble’ literally refers to one suffering a disorder of the liver, which weakens the body, though here it has a more general sense of weakness. The blind man lacks sight in both his eyes, and the lame man has difficulty in walking. These four physical disabilities represent four groups of people, ensnared by four vices: avarice, wrath, lust and pride. The avaricious man is ‘poor’, because he controls money, but not himself: he is possessed, rather than possessing. Even when he has much, he regards it as inadequate. The Philosopher2 says: "Though a man be master of the whole world, he is wretched if what he has does not seem enough;" and: ‘I do not reckon poor the man who is satisfied with what he has, however little it may be.’ The feeble man is the angry, ‘liverish’, man. >From bitterness he burns with wrath, and in this state is unable to work God’s justice. Job says: Anger killeth the foolish (Jb 5,2). The blind man is the lustful man, lacking the sight of grace in either eye, reason and understanding. The lame man is the proud man, unable to go sure-footed by the way of humility. Of these and like vices the Philosopher3 says: "Shun in every way, destroy with fire and sword, and separate by every artifice: laziness from the body, ignorance from the mind, lust from the belly, sedition from the state and discord from men." These four sinners, held in the streets and lanes of carnal pleasure and worldly vanity, the merciful Lord calls to the heavenly banquet by means of the preacher of Holy Church.
The third thing he says to the servant is:
Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. (Lc 14,23)
Those compelled to come in represent those who, scourged by adversity, are forced to come to the Lord’s supper. Hosea says:
Behold, I will hedge up thy way with thorns and I will stop it up with a wall: and she shall not find her paths. And she shall follow alter her lovers and shall not overtake them: and she shall seek them and shall not find. And she shall say: I will go and return to my first husband, because it was better with me then, than now. (Os 2,6-7)
The Lord closes up the ways of the sinful soul, her crooked deeds whereby she follows her demon lovers, with the hedge of adversity and the wall of sickness; so that she will return to himself, her first husband. Once she has experienced the sweetness of God’s love, and is filled with joy in contemplating him, she says that she is far, far better off than when she was abused by the pleasures of her wretched flesh.
12. The third part of the Epistle is concordant with this third clause of the Gospel, which refers to the poor:
He that hath the substance of this world, and shall see his brother in need, and shall shut up his bowels from him: how doth the charity of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word, nor in tongue, but in deed, and in truth. (1Jn 3,17-18)
The Lord says in Luke:
Yet that which remaineth, give alms; and behold, all things are clean to you. (Lc 11,41)
The Gloss says: "Give to the poor what is left over after meeting the need for food and clothing." He who has the substance of this world, and has set aside what he needs for food and clothing, and sees his brother in need, for whom Christ died: he should give him what remains. If he does not give, if he shuts his heart against his poor brother, I maintain that he commits mortal sin; for God’s love is not in him. If it were in him, he would gladly give to his poor brother. Woe to those who have cellars full of wine and corn, and two or three changes of clothing, and have the poor of Christ, hungry and naked, crying at their doors. Even when they give something, it is only a little, and of the worst rather than the best quality. The time will come, it will surely come, when they themselves will be standing outside the door and crying: Lord, Lord, open to us! And they who would not listen before will hear these words: Amen, amen, I say to you, I know you not. Depart, ye cursed, into eternal fire (Mt 25,11-12,41). Solomon says:
He that stoppeth his ear against the cry of the poor shall also cry himself and shall not be heard. (Pr 21,13)
Let us then, dearest brothers, ask our Lord Jesus Christ, who has called us by his preaching, to graciously call us by the inspiration of his grace to the supper of heavenly glory; where we shall be satisfied as we contemplate how sweet the Lord is. May God, One and Three, make us sharers of this sweetness. He is blessed, to be praised, and glorious throughout eternal ages. May every faithful soul who is brought into this supper say: Amen. Alleluia.
1 BERNARD, De consideratione, 111,1,2; PL 182.759
2 SENECA, Epistola 9; Epistola 1
3 The source of this saying is unknown.
The copyright in this translation belongs to the author, Revd Dr S.R.P. Spilsbury
(The Gospel for the third Sunday after Pentecost: The publicans drew near unto Jesus; which is divided into three clauses.)
(First, a sermon for the preacher or prelate of the Church, who should build the wall of the Church and kill the lion in the pit: Banaias the son of Joiada.)
1. At that time: The publicans and sinners drew near unto Jesus to hear him, etc. (Lc 15,1)
It says in the second book of Kings that
Banaias the son of Joiada went down and slew a lion in the midst of a pit, in the time of snow. (2S 23,20)
Banaias means ‘the Lord’s mason’, and he represents the preacher who, with the mortar of the divine word, joins together the living stones, the faithful of the Church, in the unity of the Spirit. Of this mason, the Lord says to Amos:
What seest thou, Amos? And I said: A mason’s trowel. And the Lord said: Behold, I will lay down the trowel in the midst of my people. (Am 7,8)
A trowel is a flat piece of iron, with which the walls are cemented, fixing the stones together with chalk or clay. This trowel is preaching, which the Lord lays down in the midst of the Christian people, so that it may be common to all; and so that it may spread itself widely over just and sinner alike, joining together those who believe in Christ with the cement of charity. The mason is ‘son of Joiada’, a name that means ‘one who knows or understands’.
The preacher must be a son of knowledge and learning. He must first know what, to whom, and when to preach; and then he must know in himself how to live in accordance with what he preaches. Balaam lacked this knowledge. He said of himself, in the book of Numbers:
The man whose eye is stopped up hath said: The hearer of the words of God hath said, who knoweth the doctrine of the Highest, and seeth the visions of the Almighty, who falling hath his eyes opened. (Nb 24,15-16)
This is how, in the perverse preacher, the eye of reason is stopped up. Even though by his knowledge he sees the doctrine of the Highest, and the visions of the Almighty, he does not know them by experience. He falls, lacking insight, even though his eyes are open in terms of knowledge. But Banaias the son of Joiada went down from the contemplation of God in order to instruct his neighbour and kill the lion (the devil, or mortal sin) which is in the pit, the frozen soul of the sinner. He does this ‘in the time of snow’, when the cold of malice and wickedness freezes the minds of sinners, those who in today’s Gospel are spoken of as drawing near to Jesus.
2. There are three things to note in this Gospel. First, the sinners drawing near to Jesus, while the Pharisees murmured. Second, the finding of the lost sheep. Third, the recovery of the lost coin. Note also that on this Sunday and next, we shall concord with the clauses of the Gospel some stories from the second book of Kings.
In the Introit of the Mass we sing: Look upon me and have mercy, O Lord. The Epistle of St Peter is read: Be you humbled under the mighty hand of God; which we will divide into three parts and concord with the three clauses of the Gospel. The first part is: Be you humbled. The second is: Be sober. The third is: But the God of all grace.
(A sermon on converted sinners: There gathered unto David; and on the nature of bees.)
3. Let us say, then:
The publicans and sinners drew near unto Jesus to hear him. And the pharisees and the scribes murmured, saying: This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them. (Lc 15,1-2)
Regarding this, it says in the first book of Kings that:
All that were in distress and oppressed with debt, and under affliction of mind, gathered themselves unto David. And he became their prince. (1S 22,2)
Note these three: in distress, oppressed with debt, under affliction of mind. David is Christ, to whom sinners must draw near when they are in distress from the devil’s temptation or from carnal desire; or when they are oppressed by the debt of mortal sin they owe to the devil. When they are afflicted in mind, having bitter sorrow for their sins, Christ himself will be their prince. A prince is one who takes first place. Christ forestalls the devil in regard to the death of sinners, rescuing their souls and bearing them away to
heaven. It is right, then, that publicans and sinners drew near unto Jesus . etc.
Note these four: ‘drew near’, ‘to hear’, ‘receiveth’, ‘eateth’. These refer, respectively, to contrition of heart, to full and entire confession and satisfaction, to the reconciliation of the sinner with the divine mercy, and to the refreshment of eternal glory. Someone draws near to Jesus when he is sorry for his sins; as Genesis says:
Then Juda coming nearer said boldly: I beseech thee, my lord, let thy servant speak a word in thy ears, and be not angry with thy servant. (Gn 44,18)
Juda (‘confessing’) stands for the penitent who draws near in contrition of heart, and trusting in the mercy of God confidently makes his confession into the ears of his confessor. He hears Jesus, when he tries in every way to make amends. Job says:
With the hearing of the ear I have heard thee: but now my eye seeth thee.
Therefore I reprehend myself, and do penance in dust and ashes. (Jb 42,5-6)
Jesus receives sinners when he pours upon them the grace of reconciliation. Luke says:
His father running to him fell upon his son’s neck and kissed him. (Lc 15,20)
The father’s kiss signifies the grace of divine reconciliation. Again, Jesus eats with penitents, and he will satisfy them with his glory in rest and riches.
4. There is a concordance to these four in the second book of Kings:
Then came all the tribes of Israel to David in Hebron, saying: Behold, we are thy bone and thy flesh. (2S 5,1)
‘Tribe’ suggests ‘tribute’, or it may derive from the fact that Romulus originally made a three-fold division of the people into senators, soldiers and common people. ‘All the tribes of Israel’ represent the gathering of all penitents, who every day offer the Lord their tribute of duty and service. They are divided into three classes: the ‘senators’ are the contemplatives; the ‘soldiers’ are the preachers; and the ‘common people’ are those who are active in the world. All these should turn with one mind to David, Jesus Christ, in Hebron (which means, ‘my marriage’); that is to say, in contrition of heart wherein the grace of the Holy Spirit is joined to the soul that is sorry for sin, as bridegroom to bride. From this marriage is born the heir of eternal life.
Behold, we are thy bone and thy flesh, they say. That is how penitents should speak to Christ: "Have mercy on us, forgive our sins, for we are your flesh and bone. It was for us men that you became man, to redeem us. You learned to be merciful by the things which you suffered (cf. He 5,8). We cannot say to an angel, Behold, we are thy bone and thy flesh; only to you, O God, O Son of God, who took not hold of angels, but of the seed of Abraham (He 2,16), can we say, Behold, we are thy bone and thy flesh. Have mercy, then, upon your bone and your flesh. Whoever hated his own flesh? (Ep 5,29). You are our brother and our flesh (Gn 37,27), and so you are bound to have pity, and feel for the miseries of your brothers. You and we have the same Father, you by nature and we by grace. You who are powerful in our Father’s house, do not deprive us of that holy heritage, because we are thy bone and thy flesh. The children of Israel carried Joseph’s bones from Egypt into the land of promise (cf. Jos 24,32), so do you carry us, your bones, from this Egyptian shadowland into the land of blessedness, for we are thy bone and thy flesh." Good words, then: The publicans and sinners drew near unto Jesus.
Penitents must behave like the bees. Natural History1 says that when their king flies out of the hive, the other bees accompany him with a great retinue, he in the middle and they all around. When their king cannot fly, the swarm of bees carries him; and when he dies, they die too. Jesus Christ our king flew from the hive, the Father’s side. Like good bees, we should follow him, and fly with him, and set him in our midst; that is, we should have his faith in our hearts, and we should reinforce it with a great retinue of virtues. If, in any of his members, he falls into sin, we should raise him up again by prayer and preaching. We should die with him who died upon the cross, crucifying our flesh with its vices and concupiscences (cf. Ga 5,24). It says rightly that the publicans and sinners drew near to Jesus.
(A sermon on the Annunciation of holy Mary: King David arose and sat in the gate.)
5. There follows: To hear him. There is a concordance to this in the second book of Kings, where it says that:
King David arose and sat in the gate: and it was told to all the people that the king sat in the gate. And all the people came before the king. (2S 19,8)
Jesus Christ, the King of kings, our David, ‘arose’ when he went out from the Father’s side, and ‘sat in the gate’ when he humbled himself in the blessed Virgin Mary. Of her Ezekiel says:
This gate shall be shut. It shall not be opened and no one shall pass through it: because the Lord the God of Israel hath entered in by it; and it shall be shut for the prince. The prince himself shall sit in it, to eat bread before the Lord. (Ez 44,2-3)
Note that it is shut for the prince; and the prince shall sit in it. She was closed to the prince of this world, the devil, because her mind was not open to any temptation of his; and only Christ the prince sat in her, by his humility in taking her flesh, so as to eat bread before the Lord, that is, to do the Lord’s will: My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, he said (Jn 4,34). And it was told to all the people by the apostles that the king sat in the gate, that is, that he had taken flesh of blessed Mary. And so the whole multitude of penitents and faithful comes before the king, ready to obey his commands in and through everything.
(On the reconciliation of the sinner with God: Absalom was called for; and he went in to the king.)
6. There follows: And the pharisees and the scribes murmured, saying, etc. They make two mistakes. They think themselves just, although they are proud; and they think others guilty, although they are already penitent. This man receiveth sinners. There is a concordance to this in the second book of Kings, where it says:
And Absalom was called for; and he went in to the king, and prostrated himself on the ground before him: and the king kissed Absalom. (2S 14,33)
Absalom (‘the father’s peace’) stands in this passage for the penitent, who by penitence makes peace with God the Father, whom he has offended by sinning. Called by contrition of heart, he goes in to the king by confession, and prostrates himself on the ground before him by satisfaction, afflicting his mortal clay and reckoning himself vile and unworthy. He does this before the king, not before men; and so the king receives the penitent as his son, by the kiss of reconciliation.
The converted sinner speaks of this reception in the Introit of today’s Mass:
Look thou upon me, O Lord, and have mercy on me: for I am alone and poor.
See my abjection and labour: and forgive me all my sins, O my God. (Ps 24,16 Ps 24,18)
Look upon me with the merciful eye that looked on Peter; and have mercy on my by forgiving my sins. I am alone, and you are my one and only friend. I am poor and empty, that you may fill my emptiness. See my abjection in my confession, and my labour in satisfaction; and forgive all my sins, my God.
(On the same: Mephiboseth ate at David’s table.)
7. There follows: And eateth with them. There is a concordance to this in the second book of Kings, where it says that:
Mephiboseth ate at David’s table, as one of the sons of the king... and he dwelt in Jerusalem, because he ate always of the king’s table. (2S 9,11 2S 9,13)
Mephiboseth means ‘man of shame’, and he here represents the penitent, who is ashamed of his sins. His shame brings him glory, since he will dwell in the heavenly Jerusalem and eat at the king’s table, as one of the holy apostles to whom the Lord says in the Gospel:
I dispose to you, as my Father hath disposed to me, a kingdom: that you may eat and drink at my table, in the kingdom of heaven. (Lc 22,29-30)
The first part of today’s Epistle is concordant to this clause of the holy Gospel, wherein Peter speaks to converted sinners:
Be you humbled under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in the time of visitation; casting all your care on him, for he hath care for you. (1P 5,6-7)
Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, who puts down the mighty and exalts the humble (cf. Lc 1,52), so that he may exalt you to that heavenly table in the time of his visitation, that is, of death or of the final judgement. Cast all your care on him, because he cares more about your salvation than you do yourself: he made us, and not we ourselves (Ps 99,3).
Let us ask, then, dearest brothers, our Lord Jesus Christ to make us sinners draw near to him and hear him; graciously to receive us, and feed us with him at the table of eternal life. May he grant this, who is blessed for ever and ever. Amen.
(A sermon on baptismal innocence: What man of you.)
8. There follows, secondly:
And he spoke to them this parable, saying: What man of you that hath a hundred sheep, and if he shall lose one of them, doth he not leave the ninety-nine in the desert, and go alter that which was lost, until he find it? etc. (Lc 15,3-4)
In the two parables of this Gospel, our Lord Jesus Christ taught the sinners who drew near him how what was lost might be restored, how what was restored might be kept safe, and how they might do penance for what they had done. We must now see what is the moral significance of the man, and the lost sheep carried upon the shoulders.
The man represents any penitent who walks according to the new man, and who considers himself as dust. He has a hundred sheep, a hundred being the number of perfection. The hundred sheep stand for the gifts of grace and nature which perfect a man, to the measure of perfection this life allows. The gifts of grace and nature may well be called ‘sheep’, because just as sheep are simple, innocent and quiet animals, so the gifts of grace and nature make a man simple and straightforward towards his neighbour, innocent as regards himself, and quiet before God.
If he shall lose one of them, doth he not leave, etc. The lost sheep stands for a man’s first innocence, which was conferred in Baptism. This innocence is represented by the two things given to the baptized by the priest, the white robe and the lighted candle. The white robe stands for innocence, the light for the example of a good life. In these two, every man’s innocence consists; this is the simple, harmless sheep. A man loses this sheep when he soils his baptismal robe and blows out the light of his candle. A man should grieve greatly, then, when he loses this sheep.
(On grief and sorrow for its loss and restoration: David made this lamentation.)
9. There is a concordance to the loss of this sheep, and the sorrow for its loss, in the second book of Kings:
David made this kind of lamentation over Saul, and over Jonathan, his son:
Ye mountains of Gelboe, let neither dew, nor rain come upon you: neither be they fields of first-fruits.
For there was cast away the shield of the valiant, the shield of Saul,
as though he had not been anointed with oil. (2S 1,17 2S 1,21)
Like the man, David stands for the penitent, who should weep for Saul and Jonathan, for the little lost sheep, for first innocence lost. Saul means ‘anointed’, and he represents baptismal innocence, given with the anointing with chrism. Jonathan means ‘gift of the dove’, and he stands for the grace of the Holy Spirit, conferred in Baptism. Because the man has lost these two, he should make this kind of lamentation: Ye mountains of Gelboe, etc. Gelboe means ‘fall, or flood, of rain’, and it represents pride, which ‘falls’ because ‘pride has a fall’; and the flood of riches which heap up like stones in God’s orchard. No dew, no rain, no first-fruits are found on these mountains. Dew, rain and first- fruits stand for contrition, confession and satisfaction.
(A sermon on contrition: If there be dew on the fleece only.)
The dew of contrition is referred to in the book of Judges, where Gideon says:
If there be dew on the fleece only, and it be dry on all the ground beside, I shall know that by my hand thou wilt deliver Israel. And it was so. And rising before day, wringing the fleece, he filled a vessel with the dew. (Jg 6,37-38)
It is a sign of Israel’s deliverance (our soul’s), if the dew (the grace of compunction) is on the fleece (our heart); while on the ground beside (our body) there is a drying up of vices. We should rise up in the night of this our exile, spirit and body together, to do works of penance. We should wring out the fleece of our heart with love of glory and fear of hell, as with two hands, and fill the bowl of our eyes with the water of compunction, springing up to eternal life (cf. Jn 4,14).
(On confession: I will give you rain.)
The Lord speaks of the rain of confession in Leviticus:
I will give you rain in due seasons, and the ground shall bring forth its increase: and the trees shall be filled with fruit. The threshing of your harvest shall reach unto the vintage, and the vintage shall reach unto the sowing time; and you shall eat your bread to the full. (Lv 26,3-5)
When the Lord gives the penitent rain, that is, a full confession, he will bring for an increase that is his own, not another’s. This increase is the beginning of good works, which he brings forth by the rain of confession. And the trees shall be filled with fruit. Strong and fruitful, the trees are the minds of penitents, strong with the firm intention of not falling again. They are fertile and full of virtues. The threshing of you harvest, when you afflict your flesh, shall reach unto the vintage, heartfelt joy, and the vintage shall reach unto the sowing time, eternal life, in which we shall eat bread to the full, according to the words: I shall be satisfied when thy glory shall appear (Ps 16,15). See how much good confession does!
(On satisfaction: Abraham planted a grove.)
Regarding the field of satisfaction, Genesis says:
Abraham planted a grove in Bersabee, and there called upon the name of the Lord God eternal. And he was a sojourner in the land of the Philistines many days. (Gn 21,33-34)
Note these three things: he planted, he called, he sojourned. Abraham is the just man, who plants in his mind (Bersabee, ‘well of fullness’) the mysterious grove of charity, whereby we love God and our neighbour. The just man’s mind is called a ‘well’ on account of its humility, and ‘of fullness’ because of the sweetness of contemplation. And there he called upon the name of the Lord God eternal. The name of the eternal God is Jesus, which means ‘Saviour’. The just man calls on the name of the Saviour, that he may bestow salvation and keep it for ever. And he was a sojourner in the land of the Philistines. ‘Philistines’, as has often been said, means ‘falling from drink’. They stand for the five senses of the body which, when drunk with worldly vanity, fall into sin. The land of these Philistines is the body, which is ruled by the five senses. The just man must be a sojourner in this land, tilling it with vigils and fastings, with sorrow and labour, so that it produces the first-fruits.
So these words are apt: Ye mountains of Gelboe, let neither dew, nor rain come upon you:
neither be they fields of first-fruits. Upon the heights of pride, and in the abundance of temporal things, there is not found the dew of compunction, nor the rain of confession, nor the fields of first-fruits of satisfaction. Rather, there is cast away the shield of the mighty, the shield of Saul.
The shield is faith, as the Apostle says:
Taking the shield of faith, wherewith you may be able to extinguish all the fiery darts of the most wicked one.(Ep 6,16)
Faith casts away temporal things, because it utterly perishes in their abundance. Just men are always able to fight bravely with this shield; as it says in the book of Josue, where the Lord says to Josue:
Lift up the shield that is in thy hand towards the city of Hai, for I will deliver it to thee. And when he had lifted up his shield towards the city, the ambush that lay hid rose up immediately, and going to the city, took it and set it on fire. (Jos 8,18-19)
The shield in the hand is faith shown in deeds, and when we lift it up from earthly things, ‘Hai’ (‘heap of stones’, the abundance of temporal things) is taken and set on fire. It is taken, so as to be scattered to the poor; it is set on fire, when in fervour of spirit it is reckoned as dust and ashes. A man lifts up the shield in his hand against Hai, when he reinforces faith with deeds, whereby he destroys the pride and wealth of the world by despising them.
So it is well said: For there was cast away the shield of the valiant, the shield of Saul, as though he had not been anointed with oil. The proud and the avaricious cast away the faith of Jesus Christ and the grace of Baptism, with which they have been anointed, onto the rubbish-tip of riches, as they seek those temporal things. It is well said: Doth he not leave the ninety-nine in the desert, and go alter that which was lost, until he find it? He should leave everything, put away everything, weep over the mountains of Gelboe, lament the pride and wealth of temporal things, wherein he has lost his little sheep, stripped himself of the robe of innocence, put out the candle of good example; and he should persevere in tears, vigils and fasting until he find it.
(A sermon on the penitent: Issachar shall be a strong ass.)
10. And when he hath found it, (doth he not) lay it upon his shoulders, rejoicing, and coming home, call together his friends and neighbours, saying to them: Rejoice with me, because I have found my sheep that was lost? (Lc 15,5-6)
Shoulders represent the labour of penance; as Genesis says:
Issachar shall be a strong ass lying down in the borders. He saw rest that it was good:
and the land that it was excellent. And he bowed his shoulder to carry. (Gn 49,14-15)
Issachar means ‘reward’, the penitent who labours only for the wage of an eternal reward. He is called ‘a strong ass’, who bears great troubles for Christ, ‘lying down in the borders’. The two borders are the beginning and end of life, and the penitent lives between them as he attentively considers his beginning and his end. Carnal folk live not ‘in the borders’, but ‘between the borders’, of which Debora says in the book of Judges: Why dwellest thou between two borders, that thou mayest hear the bleatings of the flocks? (Jg 5,16). He dwells ‘between the borders’ when he pays no attention to his unhappy beginning or his wretched end, but is a slave to the pleasures of his own body. In this way he ‘hears the bleatings of the flock’, the subtle and sweet persuasion of the five senses. Sensuality seems to have the voice of the flock, though its suggestions are more like the hissing of serpents, pretending to the innocence of the flock, though they conceal the cunning of a wolf; and they inject the serpent’s poison into the soul.
This Issachar sees, with the eye of faith and with the insight of contemplation, the rest of eternal blessedness that it is good, and the land of eternal fulfilment that it is excellent. And so, rejoicing, he bows his shoulder to carry the little sheep that he had lost. And coming home, to his own conscience, he calls together his friends and neighbours, the rational affections that are his true friends and neighbours, and rejoices with them, saying: Rejoice with me, etc. When innocence is re-established, grace is restored. No wonder there is joy between a man and his conscience, when there is joy among God and the angels of heaven!
(On the joy of God and the angels over the converted sinner: I say to you that there is joy.)
11. I say to you, that even so there shall be joy in heaven upon one sinner that doth penance, more than upon ninety-nine just who do not need penance. (Lc 15,7)
I, the Word of the Father, say to you that there is joy in heaven over one sinner doing penance and recovering his innocence. In the same Gospel the Lord says of this joy:
Bring forth quickly the first robe and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand and shoes on his feet... It is fit that we should feast and make merry, because this my son was dead and is come to life again, was lost and is found. (Lc 15,22)
The ‘first robe’ is baptismal innocence, the ‘ring’ is a well-formed faith, the signet which enlightens the soul; the ‘shoes’ are mortification of the flesh, abhorrence of sin and contempt of the world. These are given to the penitent son, over whose repentance there is more joy in heaven than over ninety-nine just. This means luke-warm souls who think they are just; hence Ecclesiastes says: Be not over just (Qo 7,17).
The second part of the Epistle is concordant to this second clause:
Be sober and watch in prayer, because your adversary, etc. (1P 5,8)
First he says, Be sober, and then, Watch. Be sober, without drunkenness, because if you are under its influence you cannot keep watch. Soberness and watchfulness are necessary, because our adversary the devil is like a lion going about looking for the little sheep, to eat it. We must resist him in the faith we have received in Baptism; and we must keep our innocence, so as to come with the truly penitent to the joy of the angels.
May he grant this, who rescued that lost sheep Adam, with all his posterity, from the maw of that wolf the devil. He carried it home, rejoicing, on his own shoulders which were fastened to the cross, home to eternal bliss. Even the angels rejoiced over this recovery. They rejoice that man is reconciled with them. May that set us on fire for uprightness, so that we may do what pleases them, whose patronage we should desire and whom we should fear to offend. May he bring us to their fellowship, he to whom be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Anthony_Sermons - (SECOND CLAUSE)