3rd Sunday of Advent - Gospel Reading

Third Sunday of Advent [A]
December 12, 2010

Reflection on the Gospel Reading
Matthew 11:2-11

When John the Baptist heard in prison of the works of the Christ, he sent his disciples to Jesus with this question, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” 

Jesus said to them in reply, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.  And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.” 

As they were going off, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John, “What did you go out to the desert to see?  A reed swayed by the wind?  Then what did you go out to see?  Someone dressed in fine clothing?  Those who wear fine clothing are in royal palaces.  Then why did you go out?  To see a prophet? 

Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.  This is the one about whom it is written:  Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way before you.  Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”

Jesus sends a message with John’s disciples:  that there have been miracles such as that the blind regain their sight, and the lame walk.  These signs, like the Baptizer, point to the divinity of Jesus.  But then Jesus speaks to the crowds about the imprisoned John.  John himself becomes the focus of today’s Gospel passage.

In a rare occurrence, Matthew reveals how Jesus uses humor in order to sharpen the crowd’s focus on the true significance and meaning of John.  Beyond the gruff personality and ragged appearance is a prophet par excellence.  Yet John’s greatness ultimately comes from the one to whom he points the attention of others:  Jesus.

It’s likely that the crowds became fascinated by, or at least had their attention arrested by, the extraordinary persona of John the Baptizer.  But using humor and then more direct proclamation, Jesus is putting John in his proper perspective.  We might say that John the Baptizer is Advent, as Jesus is Christmas.  John prepares us for something greater than himself:  the Kingdom of God, which we can enter into only when we orient our own lives as directly towards Jesus as was the life of John the Baptizer.

3rd Sunday of Advent - Second Reading

Third Sunday of Advent [A]
December 12, 2010

Reflection on the Second Reading
James 5:7-10

Be patient, brothers and sisters, until the coming of the Lord.  See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. 

You too must be patient.  Make your hearts firm, because the coming of the Lord is at hand.  Do not complain, brothers and sisters, about one another, that you may not be judged.  Behold, the Judge is standing before the gates. 

Take as an example of hardship and patience, brothers and sisters, the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.

Saint James gives two examples of patience:  the farmer, and the prophet of the Old Testament.  As examples of patience, how are these two persons similar or dissimilar?  And how do these traits relate to you as a Christian during Advent?

First, consider the farmer.  See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains.  His patience has an objectthe precious fruit of the earth.  But for this object to come to fulfillment, the farmer must also wait for what it needs:  he is patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains.  What the object needs—the early and the late rains—is a secondary object of his patience.  This patience is a hopeful patience, waiting for fulfillment.

Next, consider the prophet.  Saint James here only mentions two things about him:  first, that he is an example of both hardship and patience; and second, that he spoke in the name of the Lord.  These two are related:  we know that it was because the Jewish prophets spoke in the Name of the Lord that they faced hardships demanding patience.  This patience is a forbearing patience, waiting for relief.

Finally, consider yourself as a Christian during Advent.  Like the farmer, you are hopeful, waiting for the fulfillment of the archangel’s message at the Annunciation.  Is there a secondary object of this patience?  As the fruit of the earth needs water, what does the birth of the Messiah need?  His birth demands a soul which is open to the divine Will and the divine Word.  Our Blessed Mother is your model here.

Like the prophet, you are forbearing, waiting for relief from the sin that our first parents brought into the world, and that each of us has made his own.  In the modern world, we dare to say that sin exists, and that it brings suffering to the world:  we are prophets of sin.  Yet we are also prophets of the coming of the Lord.  His birth demands that we call ourselves and others to repentance:  to prepare a path for the Lord.  Saint John the Baptizer is your model here.

Pray a rosary today, and ask Mary that through her intercession, the Lord will help you grow in patience.  This patience will make you more hopeful, and more forbearing.

3rd Sunday of Advent - First Reading

Third Sunday of Advent [A]
December 12, 2010

Reflection on the First Reading
Isaiah 35:1-6a,10

Most of the sentences of this passage are in the future tense:  “the steppe will rejoice and bloom”; “then the tongue of the mute will sing”.  These references to the future beg the question:  exactly when is it that all these future events will occur?  What event will occasion the fulfillment of all these prophecies of Isaiah?

The context of this section of Isaiah reveals that these prophecies are about the historical return of Israel to its homeland, after many years of exile and captivity.  The seeming paradoxes mentioned by Isaiah—arid land blooming with abundant flowers, the eyes of the blind being opened—are signs of God’s power, and assurances that His power is strong enough to lead them out of exile, and back into the Promised Land.

Understanding this context, we see more clearly why the Church proclaims this passage during Advent.  First, Advent is also a time when we are looking forward to a future event.  This event—the entrance of God into our world in the person of Jesus—is also about the restoration of God’s People.  It’s not about returning to an earthly homeland, but rather, it’s about Christ preparing a path that we can follow to Heaven.

The paradoxes of growth and healing prophesied by Isaiah foreshadow the growth and healing of the spiritual life, made possible only by the God-man Jesus Christ.  The soul that is cut off from God is more dry than the parched land.  It is more blind than one without sight.  It is more mute than one with no voice.  Yet in Christ, the soul ransomed by Him on the Cross bears grace:  a more abundant fruit than any growth of the earth, because it bears us to eternal life.

3rd Sunday of Advent - Catena Aurea

Third Sunday of Advent [A]
Isaiah 35:1-6a,10  —  James 5:7-10  —  Matthew 11:2-11
December 12, 2010

Saint Thomas Aquinas’ Catena Aurea
on Matthew 11:11

11. “Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”

Chrysostom: Having first delivered the Prophet’s testimony in praise of John, He rested not there, but added His own decision respecting him, saying, “Among them that are born of women there has not arisen a greater than John the Baptist.”
Rabanus: As much as to say; What need to recount one by one the praises of John the Baptist; “I say verily unto you, Among them that are born of women, &c.” He says women, not virgins. If the same word, mulier, which denotes a married person, is any where in the Gospels applied to Mary, it should be known that the translator has there used ‘ mulier’ for ‘femina;” as in that, “Woman, behold thy son!” [John 19:26]
Jerome: He is then set before all those that are born in wedlock, and not before Him who was born of the Virgin and the Holy Spirit; yet these words, “there has not arisen a greater than John the Baptist,” do not imply that John is to be set above the Prophets and Patriarchs and all others, but only makes him equal to the rest; for it does not follow that because others are not greater than him, that therefore he is greater than others.
Pseudo-Chrysostom: But seeing that righteousness has so great deepness that none can be perfect therein but God only, I suppose that all the saints tried by the keenness of the divine judgment, rank in a fixed order, some lower, some before other. Whence we understand that He that hath none greater than Himself, is greater than all.
Chrysostom: That the abundance of this praise might not beget a wrong inclination in the Jews to set John above Christ, he corrects this, saying, “He that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”
Augustine, Cont. Adv. Leg. et Proph., ii, 5: The heretic [margin note: Manichee or Marcionite] argues from this verse to prove that since John did not belong to the kingdom of heaven, therefore much less did the other Prophets of that people, than whom John is greater. But these words of the Lord may be understood in two ways. Either the kingdom of heaven is something which we have not yet received, that, namely, of which He speaks, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, receive the kingdom,” [Matt 25:34] because they in it are Angels, therefore the least among them is greater than a righteous man who has a corruptible body. Or if we must understand the kingdom of heaven of the Church, whose children are all the righteous men from the beginning of the world until now, then the Lord speaks this of Himself, who was after John in the time of His birth, but greater in respect of His divine nature and supreme power. According then to the first interpretation it will be pointed, “He who is least in the kingdom of heaven, is greater than he;” according to the second, “He who is less than he, is in the kingdom of heaven greater than he.”
Chrysostom: The kingdom of heaven, that is, in the spiritual world, and all relating thereto. But some say that Christ spoke this of the Apostles.
Jerome: We understand it simply, that every saint who is already with the Lord is greater than he who yet stands in the battle; for it is one thing to have gained the crown of victory, another to be yet fighting in the field.

3rd Sunday of Advent - Pope Benedict XVI

Third Sunday of Advent [A]
Isaiah 35:1-6a,10  —  James 5:7-10  —  Matthew 11:2-11
December 12, 2010

St Peter’s Square
Third Sunday of Advent, 16 December 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
“Gaudete in Domino semper” “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4: 4).  Holy Mass of the Third Sunday of Advent opens with these words of St Paul and is therefore called “gaudete” Sunday. The Apostle urges Christians to rejoice because the Lord’s coming, that is, his glorious return, is certain and will not be delayed. The Church makes this invitation her own while she prepares to celebrate Christmas and her gaze is focused ever more intently on Bethlehem. Indeed, we wait with hope, certain of Christ’s second coming because we have experienced his first. The mystery of Bethlehem reveals to us God-with-us, the God close to us and not merely in the spatial and temporal sense; he is close to us because he has, as it were, “espoused” our humanity; he has taken our condition upon himself, choosing to be like us in all things save sin in order to make us become like him. Christian joy thus springs from this certainty: God is close, he is with me, he is with us, in joy and in sorrow, in sickness and in health, as a friend and faithful spouse. And this joy endures, even in trials, in suffering itself. It does not remain only on the surface; it dwells in the depths of the person who entrusts himself to God and trusts in him.

Some people ask: but is this joy still possible today? Men and women of every age and social condition, happy to dedicate their existence to others, give us the answer with their lives! Was not Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta an unforgettable witness of true Gospel joy in our time? She lived in touch daily with wretchedness, human degradation and death. Her soul knew the trials of the dark night of faith, yet she gave everyone God’s smile. In one of her writings, we read: “We wait impatiently for paradise, where God is, but it is in our power to be in paradise even here on earth and from this moment. Being happy with God means loving like him, helping like him, giving like him, serving like him” (The Joy of Giving to Others, 1987, p. 143). Yes, joy enters the hearts of those who put themselves at the service of the lowly and poor. God abides in those who love like this and their souls rejoice. If, instead, people make an idol of happiness, they lose their way and it is truly hard for them to find the joy of which Jesus speaks. Unfortunately, this is what is proposed by cultures that replace God by individual happiness, mindsets that find their emblematic effect in seeking pleasure at all costs, in spreading drug use as an escape, a refuge in artificial paradises that later prove to be entirely deceptive.

Dear brothers and sisters, one can lose the way even at Christmas, one can exchange the true celebration for one that does not open the heart to Christ’s joy. May the Virgin Mary help all Christians and people in search of God to reach Bethlehem, to encounter the Child who was born for us, for salvation and for the happiness of all humanity.

3rd Sunday of Advent - Office of Readings

Third Sunday of Advent [A]
Isaiah 35:1-6a,10  —  James 5:7-10  —  Matthew 11:2-11
December 12, 2010

Office of Readings
From a sermon by Saint Augustine
John is the voice, and Christ is the Word

John is the voice, but the Lord is the Word who was in the beginning. John is the voice that lasts for a time; from the beginning Christ is the Word who lives for ever.

Take away the word, the meaning, and what is the voice? Where there is no understanding, there is only a meaningless sound. The voice without the word strikes the ear but does not build up the heart.

However, let us observe what happens when we first seek to build up our hearts. When I think about what I am going to say, the word or message is already in my heart. When I want to speak to you, I look for a way to share with your heart what is already in mine.

In my search for a way to let this message reach you, so that the word already in my heart may find place also in yours, I use my voice to speak to you. The sound of my voice brings the meaning of the word to you and then passes away. The word which the sound has brought to you is now in your heart, and yet it is still also in mine.

When the word has been conveyed to you, does not the sound seem to say: The word ought to grow, and I should diminish? The sound of the voice has made itself heard in the service of the word, and has gone away, as though it were saying: My joy is complete. Let us hold on to the word; we must not lose the word conceived inwardly in our hearts.

  Do you need proof that the voice passes away but the divine Word remains? Where is John’s baptism today? It served its purpose, and it went away. Now it is Christ’s baptism that we celebrate. It is in Christ that we all believe; we hope for salvation in him. This is the message the voice cried out.

Because it is hard to distinguish word from voice, even John himself was thought to be the Christ. The voice was thought to be the word. But the voice acknowledged what it was, anxious not to give offence to the word. I am not the Christ, he said, nor Elijah, nor the prophet. And the question came: Who are you, then? He replied: I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way for the Lord. The voice of one crying in the wilderness is the voice of one breaking the silence. Prepare the way for the Lord, he says, as though he were saying: “I speak out in order to lead him into your hearts, but he does not choose to come where I lead him unless you prepare the way for him.”

What does prepare the way mean, if not “pray well”? What does prepare the way mean, if not “be humble in your thoughts”? We should take our lesson from John the Baptist. He is thought to be the Christ; he declares he is not what they think. He does not take advantage of their mistake to further his own glory.

If he had said, “I am the Christ,” you can imagine how readily he would have been believed, since they believed he was the Christ even before he spoke. But he did not say it; he acknowledged what he was. He pointed out clearly who he was; he humbled himself.

He saw where his salvation lay. He understood that he was a lamp, and his fear was that it might be blown out by the wind of pride.

2nd Sunday of Advent - Sunday Reflection

Second Sunday of Advent [A]
Isaiah 11:1-10  ―  Romans 15:4-9  ―  Matthew 3:1-12
December 5, 2010


“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”  John the Baptizer is not the sort of person you’d want to meet in a blind alley.  It’s not that he would do you harm, but rather that he would frighten you to death.  With what would he frighten you?  He would frighten you to death with two things:  your sins, and the consequences of your sins.

Of course, he does this in the Name of God.  He does this in accord with the vocation God gave him.  On the second and third Sundays of Advent, St. John the Baptist is at the center of Advent.  He makes clear that Advent is a penitential season.  He preaches in accord with the prophets of the Old Testament:  “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.”  John the Baptizer echoes the words of the Prophet Isaiah [40:3].  These words John makes his own when he cries, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”  Repentance is the way in which we prepare a straight path for the Lord.

It is we who have chosen sin and death.  We have chosen the crooked path that leads away from the Lord and all He wants for us.  But the Lord has chosen life, and He will go beyond the ends of the earth to build a Kingdom of life.  This Kingdom begins in earnest with the birth of the King of Kings.  It’s for this birth that we are preparing by means of our hopeful penitence.  This birth took place 2000 years ago in Bethlehem.  But this year, the same birth is due to take place within your soul.  To prepare, you must put to death all sins and vices.

Through the grace that overflows from our souls into our minds and bodies, God calls us to live in fidelity to the vocation He gives us.  Each of us Christians has a different vocation, but all of us Christians form the one Body of Christ’s Church.  As one Body we live in His Kingdom, and extend His Kingdom to the ends of the earth.  This openness to others is part of every Christian’s vocation, and likely the setting in which many of our sins take place.  God calls us to imitate Him.  In the face of man’s sin, He sent His Son to take away the sins of the world.  It’s this sort of openness to divine love to which God calls each of us.  This is the call that Saint Paul proclaims in the Second Reading:  “I say that Christ became a minister of the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, to confirm the promises to the patriarchs, but so that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy.” 

Open your heart to the love of the Triune God:  God the Father, who sent His divine Son to be conceived within Mary through the power of God the Holy Spirit.  Open your heart to this divine love, so that you will in your daily life open the eyes of others to the love God always has for them, no matter their sins.  Open your heart to the divine love that is the source and well-spring of every Christian vocation.  The spirit of this love blossoms through the divine Gifts that the Lord promises in the First Reading:  “a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the Lord.”

This spirit of love is the perfect love that casts out all servile fear [see 1 John 4:18], and casts out all sin.  Live the penitence of Advent with joyful hope, confident of the vocation that God has for you.  Through this vocation, God will lead others into the joy of His Kingdom.

2nd Sunday of Advent - Gospel Reading

Second Sunday of Advent [A]
December 5, 2010

Reflection on the Gospel Reading
Matthew 3:1-12

The theme of openness to others challenges us in the Gospel, because we are confronted by the person of John the Baptizer.  As if his message weren’t already challenging enough—“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”—the messenger himself challenges us.  He challenges us both by his appearance and his method.  John the Baptizer, whose clothing and food repel most others, does not hesitate to criticize in harsh tones.  He’s not likely to win any Toastmasters awards…

In Sunday’s Gospel passage, his harshest words are for the Pharisees and Sadducees.  John makes two demands of them.  First, he demands that they produce good fruit as evidence of their repentance.  Second, he demands that they not presume that being children of Abraham give them a “free pass”.  Their status as children of Abraham does not exempt them from the need for repentance and good works. 

We can apply these same insights to ourselves as Christians.  Through our baptism, we are not merely children of Abraham, but children of God the Father!  Yet this free gift of adoption does not exempt us from working hard at the spiritual life.  On the contrary, the gift of adoption by God makes the work of the spiritual life possible, and gives us hope.  The spiritual life is at its heart a relationship, and every relationship requires nurturing and purification to grow.  The season of Advent is a season of penitence, through which our repentance and good works open our hearts to our relationship with the newborn Christ.

2nd Sunday of Advent - Second Reading

Second Sunday of Advent [A]
December 5, 2010

Reflection on the Second Reading
Romans 15:4-9

Openness to others is a constant theme of the Sacred Liturgy throughout Advent and Christmas.  This is easiest to see by considering the very different forms of welcome that Jesus received.  At one extreme is the Annunciation.  The Blessed Virgin Mary gave her “Yes” to God the Father with complete openness.  For her, being open to God the Father’s divine will meant being open to God the Son dwelling within her, through the power of God the Holy Spirit.  Each of us is called to be just as open to the divine Will, no matter what God the Father may ask.

At the other extreme, we hear in the narratives from the first chapters of Matthew and Luke that there were many others who were not open to the Son of God:  for example, the innkeepers in Bethlehem, and King Herod.  Every sin and every vice that we admit within ourselves imitates their rejection of God’s divine Will.

But if we switch this theme completely around, we can reflect on Advent and Christmas not from the perspective of varying human responses to Christ, but from God’s response to human sin.  God the Father wanted to send Christ into our world, so that, through the Cross, each human person could be welcomed into Heaven.  God’s openness to man, in spite of our sinfulness, is the model for all human generosity and hospitality.

Sunday’s Second Reading from Romans contains a phrase that’s easy to overlook:  Welcome one another, then, as Christ welcomed you, for the glory of God.”  Be open in your life not only to God, but to others.  And model your openness to others on the openness of God’s divine will.  Love others with the same love that God the Father had for us in sending us His divine Son.

2nd Sunday of Advent - First Reading

Second Sunday of Advent [A]
December 5, 2010

Reflection on the First Reading
Isaiah 11:1-10

All three readings this Sunday distinguish the “children of Abraham” from the Gentiles.  In the First Reading, Isaiah’s prophecy about “the root of Jesse” refers specifically to the Gentiles.  We hear that “the root of Jesse, set up as a signal for the nations, the Gentiles shall seek out….”  We know that the Church celebrates the fulfillment of this prophecy at Epiphany, in the magi from the east who present gifts to the infant Jesus.  But how else can Isaiah’s prophecy be understood?

The magi themselves, as Gentiles bearing gifts for Christ, symbolize half of the Church.  Through His “new and everlasting covenant”, Jesus extends the membership of the People of God to all the peoples of the world, Jew and Gentile alike.  Jesus calls them into one body:  His Church.  Yet we know that Jesus, in His public ministry, was rejected by His own people because of His openness to others.  Jesus was open to the poor, the blind, the outcast, and even the pagan.  For this, His own people put Him to death.

During this Season of Advent, we are waiting for Jesus.  But if we wait for Jesus according to our own pre-conceived ideas about who He is, and why He’s coming, we won’t be ready for Him.  Nor will we be ready for what He asks of us.  Each of us risks rejecting Jesus, and even putting Him to death, within our own person, where He wants to become Flesh.  He wants to incorporate our lives into His Body, the Church.  That’s why—although many have never heard this—Advent is a penitential season.  Advent is not only a season of preparation, but also of purification.  We turn to the Lord in prayer, fasting and works of penitence to purify our minds and hearts of our merely personal expectations.  We seek during Advent to prepare ourselves for Jesus as He is, and for all He wants to ask of us.

2nd Sunday of Advent - Catena Aurea

Second Sunday of Advent [A]
Isaiah 11:1-10  ―  Romans 15:4-9  ―  Matthew 3:1-12
December 5, 2010

Saint Thomas Aquinas’ Catena Aurea
on Matthew 3:7-10

7. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, “O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
8. Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:
9. And think not to say within yourselves, ‘We have Abraham to our father:’ for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.
10. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.”

Gregory the Great, De Cur. Past., iii, prologue: The words of the teachers should be fitted to the quality of the hearers, that in each particular it should agree with itself and yet never depart from the fortress of general edification.
Gloss: It was necessary that after the teaching which he used to the common people, the Evangelist should give an example of the doctrine he delivered to the more advanced; therefore he says, “Seeing many of the Pharisees, &c.”
Isidore, Hisp. Orig. 8. 4: The Pharisees and Sadducees opposed to one another; Pharisee in the Hebrew signifies, ‘divided;’ because choosing the justification of traditions and observances they were ‘divided’ or ‘separated’ from the people by this righteousness.
Sadducee in the Hebrew means ‘just;’ for these laid claim to be what they were not, denied the resurrection of the body, and taught that the soul perished with the body; they only received the Pentateuch, and rejected the Prophets.
Gloss: When John saw those who seemed to be of great consideration among the Jews come to his baptism, he said [p. 99] to them, “O generation of vipers, &c.”
Remigius: The manner of Scripture is to give names from the imitation of deeds, according to that of Ezekiel, “Thy father was an Amorite;” [Ezek 16:3] so these from following vipers are called “generation of vipers.”
Pseudo-Chrysostom: As a skilful physician from the colour of the skin infers the sick man’s disease, so John understood the evil thoughts of the Pharisees who came to him. They thought perhaps, We go, and confess our sins; he imposes no burden on us, we will be baptized, and get indulgence for sin. Fools! if ye have eaten of impurity, must ye not needs take physic? So after confession and baptism, a man needs much diligence to heal the wound of sin; therefore he says, “Generation of vipers.”
It is the nature of the viper as soon as it has bit a man to fly to the water, which, if it cannot find it, straightway dies; so this “progeny of vipers,” after having committed deadly sin, ran to baptism, that, like vipers, they might escape death by means of water.
Moreover it is the nature of vipers to burst the insides of their mothers, and so to be born. The Jews then are therefore called “progeny of vipers,” because by continual persecution of the prophets they had corrupted their mother the Synagogue. Also vipers have a beautiful and speckled outside, but are filled with poison within. So these men’s countenances wore a holy appearance.
Remigius: When then he asks, “who will shew you to flee from the wrath to come,” - ‘except God’ must be understood.
Pseudo-Chrysostom: Or “who hath shewed you?” Was it Esaias? Surely no; had he taught you, you would not put your trust in water only, but also in good works; he thus speaks, “Wash you, and be clean; put your wickedness away from your souls, learn to do well.” [Isa 1:16]
Was it then David? who says, “Thou shalt wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow;” [Ps 51:7] surely not, for he adds immediately, “The sacrifice of God is a broken spirit.” If then ye had been the disciple of David, ye would have come to baptism with mournings.
Remigius: But if we read, “shall shew,” in the future, this is the meaning, ‘What teacher, what preacher, shall be able to give you such counsel, as that ye may escape the wrath of everlasting damnation?’
Augustine, City of God, book 9, ch. 5: God is described in Scripture, from some likeness of effects, not from being subject to such weakness, as being angry, and yet is He never moved by any passion. [p. 100] The word, ‘wrath,’ is applied to the effects of his vengeance, not that god suffers any disturbing affection.
Gloss: If they ye would escape this wrath, “Bring forth fruits meet for repentance.”
Gregory the Great, Hom. in Ev. 20. 8: Observe, he says not merely “fruits of repentance,” but “fruits meet for repentance.” For he who has never fallen into things unlawful, is of right allowed the use of all thing lawful; but if any hath fallen into sin, he ought so far to put away from him even things lawful, as far as he is conscious of having used unlawful things. It is left then to such man’s conscience to seek so much the greater gains of good works by repentance, the greater loss he has brought on himself by sin.
The Jews who gloried in their race, would not own themselves sinners because they were Abraham’s seed. “Say not among yourselves we are Abraham’s seed.”
Chrysostom, Hom. 11: He does not forbid them to “say” they are his, but to trust in that, neglecting virtues of the soul.
Pseudo-Chrysostom: What avails noble birth to him whose life is disgraceful? Or, on the other hand, what hurt is a low origin to him who has the lustre of virtue? It is fitter that the parents of such a son should rejoice over him, than he over his parents. So do not you pride yourselves on having Abraham for your father, rather blush that you inherit his blood, but not his holiness. He who has no resemblance to his father is possibly the offspring of adultery. These words then only exclude boasting on account of birth.
Rabanus: Because as a preacher of truth he wished to stir them up, to “bring forth fruit meet for repentance,” he invites them to humility, without which no one can repent.
Remigius: There is a tradition, that John preached at that place of the Jordan, where the twelve stones taken from the bed of the river had been set up by command of God. He might then be pointing to these, when he said, “Of these stones.”
Jerome: He intimates God’s great power, who, as he made all things out of nothing, can make men out of the hardest stone.
Gloss. ord.: It is faith’s first lesson to believe that God is able to do whatever He will.
Chrysostom: That men should be made out of stones, is like Isaac coming from Sarah’s womb; “Look into the rock,” says Isaiah, “whence ye were hewn.” Reminding them thus of this prophecy, he shews that it is possible that the like might even how happen.
Rabanus: Otherwise; the Gentiles may be meant who worshipped stones.
Pseudo-Chrysostom: Stone is hard to work, but when wrought to some shape, it loses it not; so the Gentiles were hardly brought to the faith, but once brought they abide in it for ever.
Jerome: “These stones” signify the Gentiles because of their hardness of heart. See Ezekiel, “I will take away from you the heart of stone, and give you the heart of flesh.” Stone is emblematic of hardness, flesh of softness.
Rabanus: Of stones there were sons raised up to Abraham; forasmuch as the Gentiles by believing in Christ, who is Abraham’s seed, because his sons to whose seed they were united.
Pseudo-Chrysostom: The axe is that most sharp fury of the consummation of all things, that is to hew down the whole world. But if it be already laid, how hath it not yet cut down? Because these trees have reason and free power to do good, or leave undone; so that when they see the axe laid to their root, they may fear and bring forth fruit.
This denunciation of wrath then, which is meant by the laying of the axe to the root, though it have no effect on the bad, yet will sever the good from the bad.
Jerome: Or, the preaching of the Gospel is meant, as the Prophet Jeremiah also compares the Word of the Lord to an axe cleaving the rock. [Jer 23:29]
Gregory the Great, Hom. in Ev., 20. 9: Or, the axe signifies the Redeemer, who as an axe of halt and blade, so consisting of the Divine and human nature, is held by His human, but cuts by His Divine nature. And though this axe be laid at the root of the tree waiting in patience, it is yet seen what it will do; for each obstinate sinner who here neglects the fruit of good works, finds the fire of hell ready for him. Observe, the axe is laid to the root, not to the branches; for that when the children of wickedness are removed, the branches only of the unfruitful tree are cut away. But when the whole offspring with their parent is carried off, the unfruitful tree is cut down by the root, that there remain not whence the evil shoots should spring up again.
Chrysostom: By saying, “Every,” he cuts off all privilege of nobility: as much as to say, Though thou be the son of Abraham, if thou abide fruitless thou shalt suffer the punishment.
Rabanus: There are four sorts of tree; the first totally withered, to which the Pagans may be likened; [p. 102] the second, green but unfruitful, as the hypocrites; the third, green and fruitful, but poisonous, such are heretics; the fourth, green and bringing forth good fruit, to which are like the good Catholics.
Gregory the Great: “Therefore every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit shall be cut down, and cast into the fire,” because he who here neglects to bring forth the fruit of good works finds a fire in hell prepared for him.

The parish I serve

<b>The parish I serve</b>
St. Mark the Evangelist Parish in Colwich, Kansas (Diocese of Wichita)