Wednesday of the Seventh Week of Easter

Christian faith is not just a set of opinions or doctrines that we have come to espouse because they were originally taught – or at least implied – by Jesus Himself.  Faith is a new power of the soul that we receive at Baptism.  Having faith is one thing – using our faith is another thing altogether.  We use our faith the same way we use our mind to think or use our heart to love.  Putting faith in Christ unites us with Him – it unites us with the Truth.  That unity sanctifies us as it inspires our heart to prayer and works of Charity.  The Word of God – the Word of the Father – is Truth, and it is the second person of the Trinity: Jesus.  When we use our faith on the Word and in the Word we are released from the slavery of this world and the enemy of our souls.  When we band together as a community of believers with our sights set on Christ beyond this present life, we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to liberate the world from evil.


Do you see how [Paul] gives two orders here? Success with others alone does not bring any benefit—for I fear, he says, “lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” Equally, caring only for oneself brings no benefit. For such a one is selfish and seeks only his own good, like the man who has buried his gold. He says this not because our own salvation is more precious than that of the flock but because when we attend to ourselves, the flock also benefits.1

“You were ordained by the Spirit,” he says, for this is what “the Holy Spirit has made you overseers” means.2


If you touch “what is seized by a wild beast,” you will be unclean. Which wild beast? Is it a lion or a wolf that ravishes persons or animals? I believe that beast is the one about whom the apostle Peter says, “your adversary, the devil, goes around like a roaring lion seeking whom he can devour. Resist him, strong in the faith.” And again, the apostle Paul says concerning these, “For after my departure, fierce wolves will come in, not sparing the flock.” If you see one made captive by these beasts, do not follow him, do not touch him, lest you also be made unclean. Furthermore, there are also other unclean animals whose carcass it is forbidden to touch. Unclean animals are people who are without Christ, in whom there is neither reason nor anything religious. Therefore, if you see the “carcasses,” that is, the sins of all these, the lawgiver tells you not to take hold, not to touch, not to handle.3


Accordingly, whenever all the teachers strive for the same goal of proclaiming the true faith, of profiting the students while suppressing their own names, they are called, by the same name, Christians. If, however, the teachers pervert any of the teachings of the church, then the title of Catholic is denied, and they are called after the name of the teacher.4


The first step is to cast off one’s own possessions; the second, to be sufficient for oneself; the third, to provide for others as well; the fourth, for him who is preaching and therefore has a right to take or not to take. Therefore, Paul is far better than those who have merely given up their possessions.5


For neither ought we, for example, to preach the gospel with this object, that we may eat; but to eat with this object, that we may preach the gospel: for if we preach the gospel for this cause, that we may eat, we reckon the gospel of less value than food; and in that case our good will be in eating, but that which is necessary for us is preaching the gospel. And this the apostle also forbids, when he says it is lawful for himself even, and permitted by the Lord, that they who preach the gospel should live of the gospel, that is, should have from the gospel the necessaries of this life; but yet that he has not made use of this power.6


He does not value the rich, even if they give alms, more highly than those who have left all things and followed the Lord. Rather, he extols most highly those who have given up at once everything they had and who nevertheless labor, “working with their hands at what is good in order to have something to give to one who is suffering need.”7


In a word, what the soul is to the body, Christians are to the world. The soul is dispersed through all the members of the body, and Christians throughout the cities of the world. The soul dwells in the body but is not of the body. Likewise, Christians dwell in the world but are not of the world. The soul, which is invisible, is confined in the body, which is visible. In the same way, Christians are recognized as being in the world, and yet their religion remains invisible. The flesh hates the soul and wages war against it, even though it has suffered no wrong, because it is hindered from indulging in its pleasures. Similarly, the world also hates the Christians, even though it has suffered no wrong, because they set themselves against its pleasures. The soul loves the flesh that hates it and its members, and Christians love those who hate them. The soul is enclosed in the body, but it holds the body together. And though Christians are detained in the world as if in a prison, they in fact hold the world together. The soul, which is immortal, lives in a mortal dwelling. In a similar way, Christians live as strangers amid perishable things, while waiting for the imperishable in heaven. The soul, when poorly treated with respect to food and drink, becomes all the better. And so Christians when punished daily increase more and more. Such is the important position to which God has appointed them, and it is not right for them to decline it.8


If two or ten are of one mind, the one is no longer one, but each one is multiplied tenfold, and you will find the one in the ten and the ten in the one. And if they have an enemy, he who attacks the one (as having attacked the ten) is defeated, for he is the target of ten opponents instead of one. Is someone in need? No, he is not in need, for he is wealthy in his greater part, that is, in the nine. And the needy part, the lesser, is concealed by the wealthy part, the greater. Each of these has twenty hands, twenty eyes and as many feet. For he does not see with his own eyes alone but with those of the others as well. He does not walk with his own feet alone but with those of the others. He does not work with his own hands alone but with theirs. He has ten souls, for not only does he think about himself, but those souls also think about him. And if they are made into a hundred, it will still be the same, and their power will be extended even more. Don’t you see how the excess of love makes the one both irresistible and multiplied? See how one can even be in many places, the same both in Persia and in Rome? Don’t you see that what nature cannot do, love can?… See what a multiplier love is when it can even make one a thousand. Why then do we not acquire this power and place ourselves in safety? This is better than all power or riches. This is more than health, than light itself. It is the groundwork for courage.9


In another place he says, “Of all that you gave me, I will surely lose nothing.” Yet not only was [Judas] lost, but also many afterward were lost too. So how then can he say, “I will not lose any?” [He means], “At least for my part, I will not lose them.” So in another place, declaring the matter more clearly, he said, “I will not reject anyone who comes to me.” In other words, [Jesus is saying], it is not through any fault on my part. They will not be lost at my instigation or because I abandon them. But if they start going away on their own, I will not force them back.10


“And the world hated them, because they are not of the world,” for it hated us from the time when we no longer looked “at the things that are seen but at the things that are not seen,” because of the teaching of Jesus.11


In openness of speech toward my God and in confidence I truly say that the moment the mind strips off the world, it puts on Christ. The moment it departs from thinking about the affairs of the world, it encounters God. The moment the soul cuts off from itself associating with the world, the Spirit starts singing within it of its ineffable mysteries. It is a “mystery for me” here, and a cause for fear. But to the true, truth is revealed.12


Let us hate ourselves and love Christ as he loved us and gave himself up for our sakes. Let us honor the spirit of Christ that we may receive grace from him. Let us be strangers to the world, even as Christ was not of it. Let us be humble and mild that we may inherit the land of life. Let us be unflagging in his service that he may cause us to serve in the abode of the saints. Let us pray his prayer in purity that it may have access to the Lord of majesty. Let us be partakers in his suffering so that we may also rise up in his resurrection. Let us bear his sign on our bodies that we may be delivered from the wrath to come.13


Christ does not wish for the apostles to be set free of human affairs or to be rid of life in the body when they have not yet finished the course of their apostleship or distinguished themselves by the virtues of a godly life. Rather, his desire is so see them live their lives in the company of people in the world and guide the footsteps of those who are his to a state of life well pleasing to God. After they have done this, then at last, with the glory they have achieved, they will be carried into the heavenly city and dwell with the company of the holy angels.14


And so, if we are anxious to attain true perfection, we ought to ensure that we have outwardly with the body made light of parents, home, the riches and pleasures of the world, so that we may also inwardly with the heart forsake all these things and never be drawn back by any desires to what we have forsaken.15


There are two cities, dearest brothers.… The first is the city of this world, the second, the city of paradise. The first city is full of labor, the second is restful. The first is full of misery, the second is blessed. If a person lives sinfully in the first, he cannot arrive in the second. We must be pilgrims in this world in order to be citizens of heaven. If one wants to love this world and remain a citizen of it, he has no place in heaven, for we prove our pilgrim status by our longing for our true country. Let no one deceive himself, beloved brothers. The true country of Christians is in heaven, not here.… The angels are our fellow citizens. Our parents are the patriarchs, prophets, apostles and martyrs. Our King is Christ. May we live, therefore, in this earthly sojourn in a manner that will enable us to long for such a country during our stay here.16


Do you want Christ to appear to you in prayer as he would to his friend? Let love for him be within you without a moment’s break. Do you want this love to be continually inflamed in your soul? Then remove from your soul love for the world. Do you want your home to be in that place which is without place, being in God? Leave the world, as a baby leaves the womb. Then you will have seen reality. For Christ cannot live with the world. I beg you, listen to him as he demonstrates to you with his own words, “I am not of the world.” This is why it chases me away from where I would live, and also why I cannot live with it, “because it hates me.” But he is continuously overshadowing the soul and visiting it, so that if it empties itself of the things of the world he can dwell in it.17


  1. HOMILIES ON THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES 44. Martin, F., & Smith, E. (Eds.). (2006). Acts (p. 254). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  2. HOMILIES ON THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES 44. Martin, F., & Smith, E. (Eds.). (2006). Acts (p. 254). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  3. HOMILIES ON LEVITICUS 3.3.5. Martin, F., & Smith, E. (Eds.). (2006). Acts (p. 255). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  4. CATENA ON THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES 20.29–30. Martin, F., & Smith, E. (Eds.). (2006). Acts (p. 255). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  5. HOMILIES ON THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES 45. Martin, F., & Smith, E. (Eds.). (2006). Acts (p. 256). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  6. SERMON ON THE MOUNT 2.16.54. Martin, F., & Smith, E. (Eds.). (2006). Acts (pp. 256–257). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  7. COMMENTARY ON THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES 20.35b. Martin, F., & Smith, E. (Eds.). (2006). Acts (pp. 257–258). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  8. LETTER TO DIOGNETUS 6. Elowsky, J. C. (Ed.). (2007). John 11–21 (p. 244). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  9. HOMILIES ON THE GOSPEL OF JOHN 78.3–4. Elowsky, J. C. (Ed.). (2007). John 11–21 (pp. 245–246). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  10. HOMILIES ON THE GOSPEL OF JOHN 81.2.  Elowsky, J. C. (Ed.). (2007). John 11–21 (p. 248). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  11. COMMENTARY ON MATTHEW 13.20.  Elowsky, J. C. (Ed.). (2007). John 11–21 (p. 249). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  12. LETTER 5.2. Elowsky, J. C. (Ed.). (2007). John 11–21 (p. 250). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  13. DEMONSTRATION 6. Elowsky, J. C. (Ed.). (2007). John 11–21 (p. 250). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  14. COMMENTARY ON THE GOSPEL OF JOHN 11.9.  Elowsky, J. C. (Ed.). (2007). John 11–21 (p. 250). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  15. CONFERENCE 1.7.2, 4–5.  Elowsky, J. C. (Ed.). (2007). John 11–21 (p. 251). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  16. SERMON 151.2.  Elowsky, J. C. (Ed.). (2007). John 11–21 (p. 251). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  17. LETTER 5.1. Elowsky, J. C. (Ed.). (2007). John 11–21 (p. 252). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
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