Without Humility Prayer Degenerates Into Arrogance

Lectio Divina: 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

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1) Prayer must be humble

     Last Sunday’s Liturgy of the Word has taught us that prayer to be true must be pure, confident, vigilant and constant.  Today’s Liturgy completes the teaching underlining that prayer is true when it is humble.

      In the introduction to the commentary to the Our Father Saint Thomas of Aquinas writes: “Prayer must be humble because God “heeds the plea of the lowly not scorning their prayer” (Ps 102:18). Consider also the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector (Lk 18:10-14) and the prayer of Judith “You are God of the lowly, helper of those of little account” (Jud9:11). This humility can be observed in the Our Father. In fact there is true humility when one doesn’t count on his own but awaits everything from the divine power to whom like a beggar he turns to”.

To pray we need the humility that makes the heart contrite and takes God closer, as in the Psalm:  “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted, saves those whose spirit is crushed. The Lord is the redeemer of the souls of his servants and none are condemned who take refuge in him” ( Ps 34: 18-23) The psalm can also help us to better understand the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector ( Lk 18:9-11)  proposed this Sunday,  that speaks about  humble prayer. It is a humility expressed not only by the words spoken, but also by the behavior of the tax collector who recognizes his sins. When we pray it is not important what we say to the Lord, but also how we say it. The “how” we live our relationship with God is at stake.

       What must be improved or corrected in our prayer are not the words we use, but the way we live our relationship with God saying at the beginning of our meditation: “Lord before you speak to me, forgive me” (“Antequam discutias mecum, Domine, miserere Mei” Ambrosian antiphon).

       Let’s now look at the main characters of the Gospel’s narration.

       The Pharisee is considered by standards the true observant one. He follows meticulously the practices of his religion and has a spirit of sacrifice. He is not satisfied with what are the minimum requirements but does more.  He doesn’t fast one day per week as prescribed by law, but he does it two times per week.

     However Christ says that he is not justified and not saved. Why? He abides by law and cannot be judged a hypocrite, but he makes the mistake to be too sure of his justice. He believes that he can claim credit by God, doesn’t wait for His mercy, and doesn’t expect salvation as a free and underserved gift but as a reward for having done his duty. He says “Lord I thank you” and makes a list of what he does as an observant person and shows to God his concept of justice.  In reality he has lost the original and free dependence from God, who is a Father to us because he loves us, not because He must “pay us back” for what we have done. The Pharisee besides having said “Thank you” at the beginning, doesn’t pray, doesn’t look up to God, doesn’t ask God for advice doesn’t expect anything from Him and doesn’t ask anything. He is concentrated on himself and compares himself with the others judging them severely. In his behavior there is no prayer. He doesn’t ask for anything and God doesn’t give anything to him.

    Let’s now consider the second person in the parable, a tax collector who goes to the temple to pray and whose behavior is the opposite of the one of the Pharisee. He stops afar, beats his chest and says: “O God, be merciful to me a sinner” (Lk 18:13). In recognizing himself as a sinner he speaks the truth: he works for the Romans, invaders and pagan, and demands exorbitant taxes. He certainly is a sinner but knows it, feels in need of a change and above all knows that he cannot exact anything from God. He doesn’t have anything to be proud of and nothing to exact. He can only ask. He counts on God, not on himself. This man had his head bent, but his heart is outstretched toward the High by whom he awaits mercy.

     The conclusion is clear and simple: the only right way to put oneself in front of God in prayer and before that, in life, is to feel always the need of His forgiveness and of His love. We must do good deeds but we must not brag about it. And we must not compare ourselves with others.

      The tax collector “went home justified”. He had been forgiven not because he was better or humbler than the Pharisee (we don’t earn God even with humility) but because he opens himself- like a door that opens to the sun- to a God bigger that his sin, to a God that is not earned but welcomed, to a forgiving God that regenerates and makes the tax collector’s heart innocent like the one of a child.

       As God has made “just” the sinful tax collector, so he is “good” to us penitent sinners and will make us “just,” readmitted to divine friendship, saints, pure and reinstated in the life of faith. 

       The Pharisee is condemned. Why? Because he said” I’m not like the rest of humanity, greedy, dishonest, adulterous” – and up to this point he didn’t offend anybody – but he added “or even like this tax collector” (Lk 18:11). Doing so he went against his neighbor, did wrong towards him and consequently towards God who had said: “For it is loyalty that I desire, not sacrifice and knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings”. (Hosea 6:6)  He had confirmed it through His Son’s words “Go and learn the meaning of the words ”I desire mercy, not sacrifice”. (Mt 9:13) and had reasserted: “If you knew what this meant, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice»;you would not have condemned these innocent men”. (Mt 12:7). The sin of the Pharisee consists formally in the condemnation of the brother but above all in the cause of this condemnation “for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted”. (Lk 18:14). It is the same sentence used for the conceited guests that wanted the best seats at the banquet (see Lk 14:11)

     Let’s imitate Christ that didn’t exalt himself but “emptied” his Divinity into the most wretched humiliation, the one of the cross. For that God has exalted him above every other name (see Phil 2:6-11).

     The consecrated Virgins are called to live in a special way this humility of Christ in prayer and in life. These women have welcomed the invitation of the Savior “learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves”. (Mt 11:29). This humility makes them spiritually fruitful. “If you want to know the name of this virtue, that is how it is called by the philosophers, you should know that the humility upon which God put His eyes is the same virtue that the philosophers call atyphia or metriotes. We can define it with this sentence: humility is the condition of a man that doesn’t elevate himself but lowers him. The one that swells will fall, as the Apostle says “into the devil’s behavior” who began to swell with pride. The Apostle writes “so that he may not become conceited and thus incur the devil’s punishment”. (1 Tim 3:6) “Because he hath regarded the humility of his handmaid”: God has looked at me, says Mary, because I’m humble and because I search the virtue of mildness and hiding” (see Origen, Homilies on Luke, VIII 5-6).They live the spirit of Mary: “if according to the flesh, one was the mother of Christ, according to faith all the souls generate Christ: every one of them welcomes the Word of God” (Saint Ambrose of Milan, Exposition on the Gospel of Luke, 2:26-27). In the final prayer the Bishop says:” May Jesus our Lord, faithful spouse of the ones that are consecrated to Him, give you a happy and fruitful
life” (see Rite of the Consecration of the Virgins). Doing so, he invites them and, through their example, us to act so that in our heart and in our life the Lord finds his home. We must not only carry him in our heart, we must “generate” Him and carry him in our time and in the entire world.

Roman Rite

XXX Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year C – October 27, 2013

Sir 35:15-17 20-22; Ps 34; 2Tim 4:608 16018; Lk 18:9-14

Ambrosian Rite

I Sunday after the dedication on Milan’s Dom

Act 13:1-5a; Ps 95; Rm 15:15-20; Mt 28:16-20

                                                                Spiritual Reading

                                                        Cardinal John Henry Newman

 Sermon 2. The Religion of the Pharisee, the Religion of Mankind

«O God, be merciful to me, a sinner.» Luke xviii. 13.

{15} THESE words set before us what may be called the characteristic mark of the Christian Religion, as contrasted with the various forms of worship and schools of belief, which in early or in later times have spread over the earth. They are a confession of sin and a prayer for mercy. Not indeed that the notion of transgression and of forgiveness was introduced by Christianity, and is unknown beyond its pale; on the contrary, most observable it is, the symbols of guilt and pollution, and rites of deprecation and expiation, are more or less common to them all; but what is peculiar to our divine faith, as to Judaism before it, is this, that confession of sin enters into the idea of its highest saintliness, and that its pattern worshippers and the very heroes of its {16} history are only, and can only be, and cherish in their hearts the everlasting memory that they are, and carry with them into heaven the rapturous avowal of their being, redeemed, restored transgressors. Such an avowal is not simply wrung from the lips of the neophyte, or of the lapsed; it is not the cry of the common run of men alone, who are buffeting with the surge of temptation in the wide world; it is the hymn of saints, it is the triumphant ode sounding from the heavenly harps of the Blessed before the Throne, who sing to their Divine Redeemer, «Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God in Thy blood, out of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation.»

And what is to the Saints above a theme of never-ending thankfulness, is, while they are yet on earth, the matter of their perpetual humiliation. Whatever be their advance in the spiritual life, they never rise from their knees, they never cease to beat their breasts, as if sin could possibly be strange to them while they were in the flesh. Even our Lord Himself, the very Son of God in human nature, and infinitely separate from sin,—even His Immaculate Mother, encompassed by His grace from the first beginnings of her existence, and without any part of the original stain,—even they, as descended from Adam, were subjected at least to death, the direct, emphatic punishment of sin. And much more, even the most favoured of that glorious company, whom He has washed clean in His Blood; they never forget what they were by birth; they confess, one and all, that they are children of Adam, and of the same nature as their brethren, and compassed with infirmities {17} while in the flesh, whatever may be the grace given them and their own improvement of it. Others may look up to them, but they ever look up to God; others may speak of their merits, but they only speak of their defects. The young and unspotted, the aged and most mature, he who has sinned least, he who has repented most, the fresh innocent brow, and the hoary head, they unite in this one litany, «O God, be merciful to me, a sinner.» So it was with St. Aloysius; so, on the other hand, was it with St. Ignatius; so was it with St. Rose, the youngest of the saints, who, as a child, submitted her tender frame to the most amazing penances; so was it with St. Philip Neri, one of the most aged, who, when some one praised him, cried out, «Begone! I am a devil, and not a saint;» and when going to communicate, would protest before his Lord, that he «was good for nothing, but to do evil.» Such utter self-prostration, I say, is the very badge and token of the servant of Christ;—and this indeed is conveyed in His own words, when He says, «I am not come to call the just, but sinners;» and it is solemnly recognized and inculcated by Him, in the words which follow the text, «Every one that exalteth himself, shall be humbled, and he that humbleth himself, shall be exalted.»

This, you see, my Brethren, is very different from that merely general acknowledgment of human guilt, and of the need of expiation, contained in those old and popular religions, which have before now occupied, or still occupy, the world. In them, guilt is an attribute of individuals, or of particular places, or of particular acts of nations, of bodies politic or their rulers, for whom, {18} in consequence, purification is necessary. Or it is the purification of the worshipper, not so much personal as ritual, before he makes his offering, and an act of introduction to his religious service. All such practices indeed are remnants of true religion, and tokens and witnesses of it, useful both in themselves and in their import; but they do not rise to the explicitness and the fulness of the Christian doctrine. «There is not any man just.» «All have sinned, and do need the glory of God.» «Not by the works of justice, which we have done, but according to His mercy.» The disciples of other worships and other philosophies thought and think, that the many indeed are bad, but the few are good. As their thoughts passed on from the ignorant and erring multitude to the select specimens of mankind, they left the notion of guilt behind, and they pictured for themselves an idea of truth and wisdom, perfect, indefectible, and self-sufficient. It was a sort of virtue without imperfection, which took pleasure in contemplating itself, which needed nothing, and which was, from its own internal excellence, sure of a reward. Their descriptions, their stories of good and religious men, are often beautiful, and admit of an instructive interpretation; but in themselves they have this great blot, that they make no mention of sin, and that they speak as if shame and humiliation were no properties of the virtuous. I will remind you, my Brethren, of a very beautiful story, which you have read in a writer of antiquity; and the more beautiful it is, the more it is fitted for my present purpose, for the defect in it will come out the more strongly by the very contrast, viz., {19} the defect that, though in some sense it teaches piety, humility it does not teach. I say, when the Psalmist would describe the happy man, he says, «Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man to whom the Lord hath not imputed sin.» Such is the blessedness of the Gospel; but what is the blessedness of the religions of the world? A celebrated Greek sage once paid a visit to a prosperous king of Lydia, who, after showing him all his greatness and his glory, asked him whom he considered to have the happiest lot, of all men whom he had known. On this, the philosopher, passing by the monarch himself, named a countryman of his own, as fulfilling his typical idea of human perfection. The most blessed of men, he said, was Tellus of Athens, for he lived in a flourishing city, and was prospered in his children, and in their families; and then at length when war ensued with a border state, he took his place in the battle, repelled the enemy, and died gloriously, being buried at the public expense where he fell, and receiving public honours. When the king asked who came next to him in Solon’s judgment, the sage went on to name two brothers, conquerors at the games, who, when the oxen were not forthcoming, drew their mother, who was priestess, to the temple, to the great admiration of the assembled multitude; and who, on her praying for them the best of poss
ible rewards, after sacrificing and feasting, lay down to sleep in the temple, and never rose again. No one can deny the beauty of these pictures; but it is for that reason I select them; they are the pictures of men who were not supposed to have any grave account to settle {20} with heaven, who had easy duties, as they thought, and who fulfilled them.

Now perhaps you will ask me, my Brethren, whether this heathen idea of religion be not really higher than that which I have called pre-eminently Christian; for surely to obey in simple tranquillity and unsolicitous confidence, is the noblest conceivable state of the creature, and the most acceptable worship he can pay to the Creator. Doubtless it is the noblest and most acceptable worship; such has ever been the worship of the angels; such is the worship now of the spirits of the just made perfect; such will be the worship of the whole company of the glorified after the general resurrection. But we are engaged in considering the actual state of man, as found in this world; and I say, considering what he is, any standard of duty, which does not convict him of real and multiplied sins, and of incapacity to please God of his own strength, is untrue; and any rule of life, which leaves him contented with himself, without fear, without anxiety, without humiliation, is deceptive; it is the blind leading the blind: yet such, in one shape or other, is the religion of the whole earth, beyond the pale of the Church.

The natural conscience of man, if cultivated from within, if enlightened by those external aids which in varying degrees are given him in every place and time, would teach him much of his duty to God and man, and would lead him on, by the guidance both of Providence and grace, into the fulness of religious knowledge; but, generally speaking, he is contented that it should tell him very little, and he makes no efforts to gain any {21} juster views than he has at first, of his relations to the world around him and to his Creator. Thus he apprehends part, and part only, of the moral law; has scarcely any idea at all of sanctity; and, instead of tracing actions to their source, which is the motive, and judging them thereby, he measures them for the most part by their effects and their outward aspect. Such is the way with the multitude of men everywhere and at all times; they do not see the Image of Almighty God before them, and ask themselves what He wishes: if once they did this, they would begin to see how much He requires, and they would earnestly come to Him, both to be pardoned for what they do wrong, and for the power to do better. And, for the same reason that they do not please Him, they succeed in pleasing themselves. For that contracted, defective range of duties, which falls so short of God’s law, is just what they can fulfil; or rather they choose it, and keep to it, because they can fulfil it. Hence, they become both self-satisfied and self-sufficient;—they think they know just what they ought to do, and that they do it all; and in consequence they are very well content with themselves, and rate their merit very high, and have no fear at all of any future scrutiny into their conduct, which may befall them, though their religion mainly lies in certain outward observances, and not a great number even of them.

So it was with the Pharisee in this day’s gospel. He looked upon himself with great complacency, for the very reason that the standard was so low, and the range so narrow, which he assigned to his duties towards God and man. He used, or misused, the traditions in which he {22} had been brought up, to the purpose of persuading himself that perfection lay in merely answering the demands of society. He professed, indeed, to pay thanks to God, but he hardly apprehended the existence of any direct duties on his part towards his Maker. He thought he did all that God required, if he satisfied public opinion. To be religious, in the Pharisee’s sense, was to keep the peace towards others, to take his share in the burdens of the poor, to abstain from gross vice, and to set a good example. His alms and fastings were not done in penance, but because the world asked for them; penance would have implied the consciousness of sin; whereas it was only Publicans, and such as they, who had anything to be forgiven. And these indeed were the outcasts of society, and despicable; but no account lay against men of well-regulated minds such as his: men who were well-behaved, decorous, consistent, and respectable. He thanked God he was a Pharisee, and not a penitent.

Such was the Jew in our Lord’s day; and such the heathen was, and had been. Alas! I do not mean to affirm that it was common for the poor heathen to observe even any religious rule at all; but I am speaking of the few and of the better sort: and these, I say, commonly took up with a religion like the Pharisee’s, more beautiful perhaps and more poetical, but not at all deeper or truer than his. They did not indeed fast, or give alms, or observe the ordinances of Judaism; they threw over their meagre observances a philosophical garb, and embellished them with the refinements of a cultivated intellect; still their notion of moral and religious {23} duty was as shallow as that of the Pharisee, and the sense of sin, the habit of self-abasement, and the desire of contrition, just as absent from their minds as from his. They framed a code of morals which they could without trouble obey; and then they were content with it and with themselves. Virtue, according to Xenophon, one of the best principled and most religious of their writers, and one who had seen a great deal of the world, and had the opportunity of bringing together in one the highest thoughts of many schools and countries,—virtue, according to him, consists mainly in command of the appetites and passions, and in serving others in order that they may serve us. He says, in the well known Fable, called the choice of Hercules, that Vice has no real enjoyment even of those pleasures which it aims at; that it eats before it is hungry, and drinks before it is thirsty, and slumbers before it is wearied. It never hears, he says, that sweetest of voices, its own praise; it never sees that greatest luxury among sights, its own good deeds. It enfeebles the bodily frame of the young, and the intellect of the old. Virtue, on the other hand, rewards young men with the praise of their elders, and it rewards the aged with the reverence of youth; it supplies them pleasant memories and present peace; it secures the favour of heaven, the love of friends, a country’s thanks, and, when death comes, an everlasting renown. In all such descriptions, virtue is something external; it is not concerned with motives or intentions; it is occupied in deeds which bear upon society, and which gain the praise of men; it has little to do with conscience and the Lord of conscience; and {24} knows nothing of shame, humiliation, and penance. It is in substance the Pharisee’s religion, though it be more graceful and more interesting.

Now this age is as removed in distance, as in character, from that of the Greek philosopher; yet who will say that the religion which it acts upon is very different from the religion of the heathen? Of course I understand well, that it might know, and that it will say, a great many things foreign and contrary to heathenism. I am well aware that the theology of this age is very different from what it was two thousand years ago. I know men profess a great deal, and boast that they are Christians, and speak of Christianity as being a religion of the heart; but, when we put aside words and professions, and try to discover what their religion is, we shall find, I fear, that the great mass of men in fact get rid of all religion that is inward; that they lay no stress on acts of faith, hope, and charity, on simplicity of intention, purity of motive, or mortification of the thoughts; that they confine themselves to two or three virtues, superficially practised; that they know not the words contrition, penance, and pardon; and that they think and argue
that, after all, if a man does his duty in the world, according to his vocation, he cannot fail to go to heaven, however little he may do besides, nay, however much, in other matters, he may do that is undeniably unlawful. Thus a soldier’s duty is loyalty, obedience, and valour, and he may let other matters take their chance; a trader’s duty is honesty; an artisan’s duty is industry and contentment; of a gentleman are required veracity, courteousness, {25} and self-respect; of a public man, high-principled ambition; of a woman, the domestic virtues; of a minister of religion, decorum, benevolence, and some activity. Now, all these are instances of mere Pharisaical excellence; because there is no apprehension of Almighty God, no insight into His claims on us, no sense of the creature’s shortcomings, no self-condemnation, confession, and deprecation, nothing of those deep and sacred feelings which ever characterize the religion of a Christian, and more and more, not less and less, as he mounts up from mere ordinary obedience to the perfection of a saint.

And such, I say, is the religion of the natural man in every age and place;—often very beautiful on the surface, but worthless in God’s sight; good, as far as it goes, but worthless and hopeless, because it does not go further, because it is based on self-sufficiency, and results in self-satisfaction. I grant, it may be beautiful to look at, as in the instance of the young ruler whom our Lord looked at and loved, yet sent away sad; it may have all the delicacy, the amiableness, the tenderness, the religious sentiment, the kindness, which is actually seen in many a father of a family, many a mother, many a daughter, in the length and breadth of these kingdoms, in a refined and polished age like this; but still it is rejected by the heart-searching God, because all such persons walk by their own light, not by the True Light of men, because self is their supreme teacher, and because they pace round and round in the small circle of their own thoughts and of their own judgments, careless to know what God says to them, and fearless of being condemned by Him, {26} if only they stand approved in their own sight. And thus they incur the force of those terrible words, spoken not to a Jewish Ruler, nor to a heathen philosopher, but to a fallen Christian community, to the Christian Pharisees of Laodicea,—»Because thou sayest I am rich, and made wealthy, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked; I counsel thee to buy of Me gold fire-tried, that thou mayest be made rich, and be clothed in white garments, that thy shame may not appear, and anoint thine eyes with eye-salve, that thou mayest see. Such as I love, I rebuke and chastise; be zealous, therefore, and do penance.»

Yes, my Brethren, it is the ignorance of our understanding, it is our spiritual blindness, it is our banishment from the presence of Him who is the source and the standard of all Truth, which is the cause of this meagre, heartless religion of which men are commonly so proud. Had we any proper insight into things as they are, had we any real apprehension of God as He is, of ourselves as we are, we should never dare to serve Him without fear, or to rejoice unto Him without trembling. And it is the removal of this veil which is spread between our eyes and heaven, it is the pouring in upon the soul of the illuminating grace of the New Covenant, which makes the religion of the Christian so different from that of the various human rites and philosophies, which are spread over the earth. The Catholic saints alone confess sin, because the Catholic saints alone see God. That awful Creator Spirit, of whom the Epistle of this day speaks so much, He it is who brings into {27} religion the true devotion, the true worship, and changes the self-satisfied Pharisee into the broken-hearted, self-abased Publican. It is the sight of God, revealed to the eye of faith, that makes us hideous to ourselves, from the contrast which we find ourselves to present to that great God at whom we look. It is the vision of Him in His infinite gloriousness, the All-holy, the All-beautiful, the All-perfect, which makes us sink into the earth with self-contempt and self-abhorrence. We are contented with ourselves till we contemplate Him. Why is it, I say, that the moral code of the world is so precise and well-defined? Why is the worship of reason so calm? Why was the religion of classic heathenism so joyous? Why is the framework of civilized society all so graceful and so correct? Why, on the other hand, is there so much of emotion, so much of conflicting and alternating feeling, so much that is high, so much that is abased, in the devotion of Christianity? It is because the Christian, and the Christian alone, has a revelation of God; it is because he has upon his mind, in his heart, on his conscience, the idea of one who is Self-dependent, who is from Everlasting, who is Incommunicable. He knows that One alone is holy, and that His own creatures are so frail in comparison of Him, that they would dwindle and melt away in His presence, did He not uphold them by His power. He knows that there is One whose greatness and whose blessedness are not affected, the centre of whose stability is not moved, by the presence or the absence of the whole creation with its innumerable beings and portions; whom nothing can touch, nothing can increase or diminish; who was as mighty before He {28} made the worlds as since, and as serene and blissful since He made them as before. He knows that there is just One Being, in whose hand lies his own happiness, his own sanctity, his own life, and hope, and salvation. He knows that there is One to whom he owes every thing, and against whom he can have no plea or remedy. All things are nothing before Him; the highest beings do but worship Him the more; the holiest beings are such, only because they have a greater portion of Him.

Ah! what has he to pride in now, when he looks back upon himself? Where has fled all that comeliness which heretofore he thought embellished him? What is he but some vile reptile, which ought to shrink aside out of the light of day? This was the feeling of St. Peter, when he first gained a glimpse of the greatness of his Master, and cried out, almost beside himself, «Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!» It was the feeling of holy Job, though he had served God for so many years, and had been so perfected in virtue, when the Almighty answered him from the whirlwind: «With the hearing of the ear I have heard Thee,» he said; «but now my eye seeth Thee; therefore I reprove myself, and do penance in dust and ashes.» So was it with Isaias, when he saw the vision of the Seraphim, and said, «Woe is me … I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people that hath unclean lips, and I have seen with my eyes the King, the Lord of Hosts.» So was it with Daniel, when, even at the sight of an Angel, sent from God, «there remained no strength in him, but the appearance of his countenance was changed in him, and {29} he fainted away, and retained no strength.» This then, my Brethren, is the reason why every son of man, whatever be his degree of holiness, whether a returning prodigal or a matured saint, says with the Publican, «O God, be merciful to me;» it is because created natures, high and low, are all on a level in the sight and in comparison of the Creator, and so all of them have one speech, and one only, whether it be the thief on the cross, Magdalen at the feast, or St. Paul before his martyrdom:—not that one of them may not have, what another has not, but that one and all have nothing but what comes from Him, and are as nothing before Him, who is all in all.

For us, my dear Brethren, whose duties lie in this seat of learning and science, may we never be carried away by any undue fondness for any human branch of study, so as to be forgetful that our true wisdom, and nobility, and strength, consist in the knowledge of Almighty God. Nature and man are our studies, but God is higher than all. It is easy to
lose Him in His works. It is easy to become over-attached to our own pursuit, to substitute it for religion, and to make it the fuel of pride. Our secular attainments will avail us nothing, if they be not subordinate to religion. The knowledge of the sun, moon, and stars, of the earth and its three kingdoms, of the classics, or of history, will never bring us to heaven. We may «thank God,» that we are not as the illiterate and the dull; and those whom we despise, if they do but know how to ask mercy of Him, know what is very much more to the purpose of getting {30} to heaven, than all our letters and all our science. Let this be the spirit in which we end our session. Let us thank Him for all that He has done for us, for what He is doing by us; but let nothing that we know or that we can do, keep us from a personal, individual adoption of the great Apostle’s words, «Christ Jesus came into this world to save sinners, of whom I am the chief.» 

(10th Sunday after Pentecost, 1856. Preached in the University Church, Dublin.)

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Archbishop Francesco Follo

Monsignor Francesco Follo è osservatore permanente della Santa Sede presso l'UNESCO a Parigi.

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