Saturday, February 27, 2010

Friday, February 5, 2010

St. Caesarius of Arles - Sermon 18

St. Caesarius of Arles

468/470–27 August 542

Sermon 18


( 1 ) While we admonish you rather frequently concerning good works, we know that some of us are disinclined to justice and almsgiving, but are disposed to dissipation or avarice. We almost suspect that such people do not have any fear of a future judgment. Truly, brethren, when we see careless, tepid Christians neither avoiding sin nor providing eternal rewards for themselves by good works, what remains but to suppose that they do not believe rewards will be repaid to the good and punishments meted out to the wicked by the just judgment of God? Indeed, brethren, we realize that a man in truth fears His judgment, if we see him engaged in good works. However, if men do not try to perform good works and if they pretend not to have time for reading or prayer, what advantage is it to them that they claim faith in words, when they are proved to destroy the truth by their deeds? The Apostle James says: ‘What will it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but does not have works? Can the faith save him? And if a brother or a sister be naked and in want of daily food, and one of you say to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” yet you do not give them what is necessary for the body, what will it profit? So faith too, unless it has works, is dead in itself.’1 Now, the Lord speaks to such men, rebuking all their infidelity: O incredulous men, if you do not believe what I have promised, consider what I have done. Heaven and earth did not exist; I spoke, and they were made. You, to whom I have given promises, did not exist, and you were created. Did I make you when you did not exist, only to deceive you now that you live? Therefore, listen to what I say, and believe you will receive what I have promised.

(2) It is a weak, sickly, perfidious, cowardly, disconnected, paralyzing, mean, disagreeable thought that closes the gates of the mind when daily sins are thought to be passing. One passes away today, another will pass tomorrow, and again another the next day. You keep on adding to tomorrow and another tomorrow but neglect to be converted, and do you not fear that sudden death may overtake you? Are not men suddenly carried off in death? Why do you see to it that you put off doing penance and neglect to seek divine mercy? In truth, you say: Conversion is a good thing. If it is good, let it be done at once. If it is a good thing to accept quickly, is it bad to accept now? Tell me, why do you admit it is a good thing but do not hasten to receive it? Perhaps you will tell me: God has made me secure. How did He do that? Because it is written: ‘On what day so ever the sinner and the unjust is converted, all his iniquities I shall forget.’2 Behold when God made me secure. Yesterday I had ten sins, today fifteen, perhaps twenty tomorrow. Since what the Lord said is true, whenever I am converted He will forget all my past sins and all my iniquities. Why do you frighten me? God has promised me pardon, and will you make me despair? I cannot deny that God promised this; why, then, will you not be converted today? Because, if I am converted later, He has promised to forgive me more then just as He would less today. O your security! Certainly you made me secure. I see that by God’s word pardon is indeed promised to you; but who promised you tomorrow? Therefore, let each one be converted to God as He says: ‘Be ye converted, seek God; and when you have found him, let the wicked forsake his way.’3 Be converted, you who hope presumptuously.

(3) There are two vices of the human race, whereby some men perish through hope and others through despair. Now, it is no wonder that a man perishes through despair, but it is more marvelous that he does so by hope. For this reason let us see and briefly consider who is lost by hope, who through despair, and what remedy God offers to them both. A man perishes from despair when he says: I know my evil deeds, I realize my crimes; how can it be that God will forgive me for what I have done? He perishes by despair when he says: What is the good of what you say? I will do now whatever I can: I will lose whatever I fail to do. God will condemn me for one sin just as well as for many; so, if I will not have that life, I do not want to lose this one. So, why should I not follow my wishes? Why not fulfill my passions? This man is lost through despair. Another man fears the abyss of despair and begins to perish through hope. How? In the way I mentioned a little while ago. Whenever I am converted, he says, God promises to forgive me everything; I hope in His mercy, because He will pardon me all. He postpones it from day to day, and suddenly the final day of his death comes; the deferring is gone, and damnation remains.

(4) The Scriptures speak4 to both classes. You would perish through despair? Listen to the Lord say: ‘I desire not the death of the wicked, as much as that he be converted and live.’ You wished to die? Return and live. If God wanted you to perish, He would take you away when you were sinning. Since you have sinned so much and still live, you are invited to repentance. These words God speaks to you if you despair: ‘I desire not the death of the wicked.’ Even if you want your death, I do not. You did not make yourself, but by despair you have perished, God, however, created you when you did not exist, afterwards sought you when you were lost, found you through the Blood of His Son, and redeemed you. He Himself exclaims to you: Return from the abyss of despair. Return, because ‘I desire not the death of the wicked, as much as that he be converted and live.’ You have begun to return from the abyss of despair, but now stand as though in the middle path; I do not want you to go in the opposite direction. Do not lose confidence through despair over your sins, but do not trust in a longer life. Therefore, be converted. Tomorrow I shall be converted, he says. Why not today? What is the matter with tomorrow? Rather, what is wrong with today? I know that my life will be a long one. I am sure God did not promise that to you. Did an astrologer perhaps promise you a long life, looking for someone to perish with him?

(5) Finally, then, I say: I grant your life will be long. If it is long, let it be a good one; if it be short, let it also be good. Now, who would tolerate a long bad lunch? You do not want one, nor do you want to have a long bad dinner; do you want to have a long bad life? However, men have so little regard for their life that they refuse to have anything bad but it. Our life is our business; our reputation belongs to others. If you buy a country estate, you look for a good one. You want to marry, so you choose a good wife. When you wish sons to be born to you, you desire good ones. Lastly, to speak of the commonest things, if you buy shoes, you do not want bad ones. Yet you love a bad life? Why does your life, which is the only thing you want to be bad, offend you, with the result that among everything good you alone are bad?

(6) However, tell me, brother, do you know how long you are going to live? Or, when you read that you will receive pardon if you amend your life, do you also read anywhere there that a long life is promised to you? Did you, perchance, make an agreement with death? I grant that you will live a hundred years, and even add ten times a hundred. What will it profit? Adam himself, if he were still living today, would have lived few years, because they all had to come to an end. Therefore, be corrected, be ready, and you will not fear the last day as a thief who will enter your house when you are asleep. Therefore, listen, you who wanted to perish through despair. Listen to Scripture whenever you want to do so again. For it says: ‘l desire not the death of the wicked, as much as that he be converted and live.’ If you have been converted from despair, listen in such a way that you may return from perverse hope and be established in good hope. Hear what the Lord says5 to you if you hope wrongly and procrastinate from day to day: ‘Delay not to be converted to God, and defer it not from day to day.’ These are God’s words, not mine. You have not heard them from me, but along with you I hear: ‘Delay not to be converted to God.’ You, however, reply: Tomorrow, tomorrow. O crow-like word! Just as the raven sent out from the ark did not return, and has now grown old and says: Cras, cras. It is a crow-like voice: a white head, but a black heart. Cras, cras, is the voice of the crow. The raven did not return to the ark; the dove did. Therefore, let the noise of the crow perish, let the sigh of the dove be present. The one who advises you exclaims: ‘Delay not to be converted to God, and defer it not from day to day. For his wrath shall come on a sudden, and in the time of vengeance he will destroy thee.’

(7) Now, if we reflect upon these truths with great fear and solicitude, dearly beloved, and with God’s help turn our souls to the healing of repentance and the remedies of almsgiving, we will happily come before the tribunal of Christ to be crowned, not condemned: with the help of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom is glory and might for ever and ever. Amen.

1 James 2.14-17.

2 Cf. Ezech. 18.21,22.

3 Isa. 55.6,7.

4 Ezech. 18.32.

5 Eccli. 5.8,9.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Franciscan Quote of the Day

I just ran across an interesting site that you may enjoy and frequently visit. It is Franciscan Quote of the Day. The host posts an entry each day (more or less) from Franciscan writings or writers. Hope you will enjoy.

You can find it here.