It is important to recall from time to time the importance of our baptism. Baptism removes spiritual blindness – if we’ve been baptized, we have received the gift of faith. Having blindness removed is one thing, using the eyes of our heart requires the willingness to see God, to see things from his perspective, and to look at reality with wisdom. Sometimes, especially at the beginning of our journey of faith, we may doubt that our Baptism actually did anything – we could have the impression that we are still blind. It is quite possible and even normal to go through periods of dryness and/or confusion. Sometimes the clarity we want is not the clarity we need. Sometimes the key to spiritual growth is not learning something new or gaining some new insight – sometimes it is simply continuing to trust God even when we can’t see that he’s doing anything or that our trust is paying off. We are always looking for results, something to measure, some kind of discernible progress. The spiritual life is not something we can measure, it is a relationship with someone who is invisible and loves us beyond measure. Friendship is like that: we don’t become friends with people in order to become better or progress in life, although that certainly can happen. Friendship deepens with the sharing of life – God would like us to share life with Him and listen to what He has to say.
Consider by how many testimonies the Word of the Lord urges us to recite the Holy Scriptures in order that we may possess through faith what we have repeated with our mouth.… And elsewhere it is written, I remembered the mercy of your youth.1
God has also entrusted a deposit to us: the brothers’ way of life. While laboring on their behalf, we look forward to future rewards, lest this be said of us as well, “Let this people go,” and lest, if we forsake the traditions of our ancestors, this be hurled at us: “Those who have my law do not know me; the shepherds have rebelled against me.”2
EPISTLE OF BARNABAS:
Let us inquire whether the Lord took care to foreshadow the water and the cross. Now concerning the water, it is written with reference to Israel that they would never accept the baptism that brings forgiveness of sins but would create a substitute for themselves. For the prophet says, “Be astonished, heaven, and let the earth shudder greatly at this, because this people has done two evil things: they have abandoned me, the fountain of life, and they have dug for themselves a pit of death.”3
Our hearts are thus circumcised from evil so that we are happy to die for the name of the good Rock that causes living water to burst forth for the hearts of those who by him have loved the Father of all and that allows those who are willing to drink of the water of life.4
Iniquity lies to itself either by corrupting the nature you have made and ordained or by perverting it. It lies to itself when it practices an immoderate use of things permitted or when it burns for things forbidden to that use which is against nature. It lies to itself when convicted, raging with heart and voice against you as it kicks against the goads, or when—breaking through the pale of human society—they audaciously rejoice in private cliques or divisions on the basis of whether they have been pleased or offended. These things happen whenever you are abandoned and whenever, from a self-willed pride, they choose to align themselves instead with something false that they cherish instead of you, O Fountain of life, the one, true Creator and Ruler of the universe.5
The arrogance of pride, the pleasure of lust and the poison of curiosity are the motions of a dead soul. It is not that it is dead in such a way as to lack all movement; rather, it dies by “abandoning the fountain of life” and thus is taken up by the transitory world and is conformed to it.6
Although the saying is quite obscure, it indicates unspeakable justice. For what Christ is saying is something like this: When anyone has zeal and eagerness, there will be given to him on God’s part all things sufficient for his needs. But if he lacks any responsiveness and is not ready to contribute his own share, neither are God’s gifts bestowed. In that case even “what he seems to have,” so Jesus says, “shall be taken away from him.” Here it is not so much God taking something away from him as it is his own unreadiness to receive these gifts.
We ourselves do this all the time. When we see someone listening carelessly and when with much effort we cannot persuade him to listen at all, then it remains for us to be silent. For if we continue, even his carelessness is aggravated. But for someone who is striving to learn, we lead on and pour in much.7
It is certainly possible for something to be added to someone who has. But it is impossible to take away from him who does not have. How are we to understand this? If something is taken away from him who does not have and yet he does not have anything to begin with, what is taken away from him? Here is how we should understand this. He who has a mind and does not do justice with it pertaining to God’s glory but rather occupies it with earthly things, of him we say: having he does not have. For though he has a mind and can see, he is said to be blind. That person does not have who brings nothing to God.8
THEODORE OF MOPSUESTIA:
It was frequently his habit to make use of parables for at least two reasons: either because he would be speaking about things unseen, so as, by the parable, to make invisible things seen, so far as this was possible. Or it was because of the unworthiness of the hearers, when nothing beneficial would come to them from the things that were said. But there was another, third cause for parables. Frequently, when he was saying something by way of refutation, he would by means of a parable temper the harshness of the refutations for the sake of the hearers, as when he tells the parable of the vineyard and says that “he will miserably destroy those evil men” and “will rent out his vineyard to others.” In saying these things to the Pharisees, Jesus clearly avoided harsh language.9
He gives reasons why seeing they do not see and hearing they do not hear. He says, “The heart of this people has been hardened … and with their ears they have been hard of hearing.” And lest we think that their hardness of heart and hearing are natural and not voluntary, Jesus alludes to the fault of the will and says, “They have closed their eyes, lest at any time they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their mind, and be converted, and I heal them.” Therefore with closed eyes they who are unwilling to perceive the truth hear in parables and in riddles.10
- THE TESTAMENT OF HORSIESI 52. Wenthe, D. O. (Ed.). (2009). Jeremiah, Lamentations (p. 12). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- THE TESTAMENT OF HORSIESI 11. Wenthe, D. O. (Ed.). (2009). Jeremiah, Lamentations (pp. 12–13). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- EPISTLE OF BARNABAS 11.1–2. Wenthe, D. O. (Ed.). (2009). Jeremiah, Lamentations (p. 16). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- DIALOGUE WITH TRYPHO 114. Wenthe, D. O. (Ed.). (2009). Jeremiah, Lamentations (pp. 16–17). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- CONFESSIONS 3.8.16. Wenthe, D. O. (Ed.). (2009). Jeremiah, Lamentations (pp. 18–19). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- CONFESSIONS 13.21.30. Wenthe, D. O. (Ed.). (2009). Jeremiah, Lamentations (p. 19). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW, HOMILY 45.1. Simonetti, M. (Ed.). (2001). Matthew 1–13 (p. 270). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- INCOMPLETE WORK ON MATTHEW, HOMILY 31. Simonetti, M. (Ed.). (2001). Matthew 1–13 (p. 270). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- FRAGMENT 73. Simonetti, M. (Ed.). (2001). Matthew 1–13 (p. 271). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- COMMENTARY ON MATTHEW 2.13–15. Simonetti, M. (Ed.). (2001). Matthew 1–13 (p. 272). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.