John Chrysostom, Against the Jews. Homily 8
(1) Gone is the fasting of the Jews, or rather, the drunkenness of the Jews. Yes, it is possible to be drunk without wine; it is possible for a sober man to act as if he is drunk and to revel like a prodigal. If a man could not get drunk without wine, the prophet would never have said: 'Woe to those who are drunk not from wine;' if a man could not get drunk without wine, Paul would never have said: 'Do not be drunk with wine.' For he said this as if there were a possibility of getting drunk some other way. And it is possible. A man can be drunk with anger, with unseemly desire, with greed, with vainglory, with ten thousand other passions. For drunkenness is nothing other than a loss of right reason, a derangement, and depriving the soul of its health.
(2) Therefore, I would not be making too strong a statement if I should say that we find a drunkard not only in the man who is a heavy drinker of strong wine but we also find one in the man who nurtures some other passion in his soul. For the man in love with a woman who is not his wife, the man who spends his time with prostitutes, is a drunkard. The heavy drinker cannot walk straight, his speech is rude, his eyes cannot see things as they really are. In the same way, the drunkard who is filled with the strong wine of his undisciplined passion is also unsound of speech; everything he utters is disgraceful, corrupt, crude, and ridiculous; he, too, cannot see things as they really are because he is blind to what he sees. Like a deranged man or one who is out of his wits, he imagines he sees everywhere the woman he yearns to ravish. No matter how many people speak to him at gatherings or banquets, at any time or place, he seem not to hear them; he strains after her and dreams of his sin; he is suspicious of everything and afraid of everything; he is no better off than some trap-shay animal.
(3) Again, the man in the grip of anger is drunk. In the same way as other drunkards, his face became swollen, his voice grows rough, his eyes are bloodshot, his mind is darkened, his reason is submerged, his tongue trembles, his eyes are out of focus, and he does not hear what is really said. His anger affects his brain worse that strong wine; it stirs up a storm and causes a distress that cannot be calmed.
(4) But if the man in the grip of passion or anger is drunk, this is all more true of the impious man who blasphemes God, who goes against his laws and never is willing to renounce his untimely obstinacy. This man is drunk, mad, and much worse of than insane revelers, even if he does not seem aware of his condition. And this is the characteristic which most marks a drunkard: he has no awareness of his unseemly behavior. This, in fact, is the special danger of madness: those who suffer from it do not know they are sick. So, too, the Jews are drunk but do not know they are drunk.
(5) Indeed, The fasting of the Jews, which is more disgraceful than any drunkenness, is over and gone. But let us not stop thinking ahead for our brothers, let us not consider that our concern for them is now no longer timely. See what soldiers do. Suppose they have met the enemy and routed them. As they return from pursuing the foe, they do not immediately rush back to camp. First they go back to the battlefield to pick up their fallen comrades. They bury the dead but, if they see among the corpses men who are not mortally wounded but are still breathing, they give them as much first aid as they can, they pick them up, and carry them back to their camp. Then they extract the dart, call the physicians, wash away the blood, apply remedies to the wounds, and by giving them every care, they bring the wounded back to health.
(6) Therefore, we must do the same. By God's grace, we made the prophets our warriors against the Jews and routed them. As we return from pursuing out foes, let us look all around to see if any of our brothers have fallen, if the fast has swept some of them off, if any of them have shared in the festival of the Jews. Let us bury no one; let us, however, pick up every fallen man and give him the treatment he needs. In battles between armies of this world, a soldier cannot bring back life or recover for further service a comrade who has fallen once and for all and died. But in a battle of this war of ours, even if a man has been mortally wounded, if we have good will and the help of God's grace, we can take him by the hand and lead him back to life. Unlike a casualty in war, here is not a man's body that dies, but his will and his resolution. And it is possible to restore to life a will that has died; it is possible to persuade a dead soul to come back to its own proper life and to acknowledge again its Master.
(1) We must not grow weary, my brothers, we must not became exhausted, we must not lose heart. Let no one say: 'We should have done all we could to put them on their guard before the fast. Now that they have fasted, now that they have sinned, now that their transgression is complete, what use is there in helping them now?'
(2) If anyone knows what it means to look out for his brothers, he also knows that he must look for them and show this concern now more than ever. We must not only put them on their guard before they sin but we must also extend a helping hand after they have fallen. Suppose God had done that from the beginning; suppose he had put us on guard only before we sinned; suppose, after we had sinned, he had given us up and let us lie where we had fallen from one end of our life to the other. Then no one of us would ever have been saved.
(3) But God does not act that way. He loves men, he is kind to them, he desires their salvation above all things. And so he looks out for them even after they have sinned. He said to Adam: 'From every tree in the garden you will eat; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil do not eat; for on the day you eat of it; you will surely die.' God put Adam on his guard by giving him every warning he would need: he showed him the ease of fulfilling the Law, the liberality of what it permitted, the harshness of the future punishment, and the speed with which it would come. For God did not say: 'After one, two, or three days, but, 'on the very day you eat of it, you will surely die.'
(4) God looked out for Adam very carefully; he instructed him, exhorted him, and gave him many blessings. But even so, Adam disregarded his commands and fell into sin. Still God did not say: 'What good will it do now? What is the use of helping now? He ate the fruit, he fell into sin, he transgressed the law, he believed the devil, he dishonored my commandment, he was wounded, he became subject to death and died, he came under the judgment. What need have I to speak to him now?
(5) But God said none of these things. Rather, he came immediately to Adam, spoke to him, and consoled him. Again God gave Adam another remedy-the remedy of toil and sweat. God kept right on doing everything and exerting himself until he raised up fallen nature, rescued it from dead, led it by the hand to heaven, and gave it greater blessings than it had lost. By the things God himself did, he taught the devil that he would reap no profit from his plot. Satan had succeeded in driving men from Paradise but he would soon see them in heaven mingling with the angels.
(6) In the case of Cain, God did the same thing. Before Cain's great sin, God spoke plainly to him, warned him, and said: 'You sinned; stop it. His (Abel's) refuge is in you and you will rule over him.' See God's wisdom and understanding. He said: 'Because I have honored Abel, you are afraid he will take from you the privilege of the first-born; you are afraid he will take the first place, which is due to you.' For the first-born necessarily had a more honored position than the second-born. So God said: 'Take courage, do not be afraid, feel no anguish over this. His refuge is in you, and you will rule over him.' This is what God meant: 'Stay in the honored position of the first-born; be a refuge, a shelter, and a protection for your brother. But do not jump to bloodshed; do not come to that impious act of murder.' Even so, Cain did not listen, he did not stop, he did commit that murder, he did bathe his hands in blood from his brother's throat.
(7) But then what happened? God did not say: 'Let him go now. What further use is there in helping him? He did commit the murder, he did slay his brother. He scorned my advice; he dared to do that mad and unforgivable deed of slaughter. Even though I was looking out for him, instructing him, even though he enjoyed such benefice from me, he drove all these from his mind and paid them no heed. Let him go, then, and be hereafter cast from my sight. He has deserved no consideration from me.'
(8) God neither said nor did anything like that. Instead, he came again to him, corrected him, and said: 'Where is your brother Abel? When Cain said he did not know, God still did not desert him but he brought him, in spite of himself, to admit what he had done. After Cain said: 'I do not know, 'God said: 'The voice of your brother's blood cries to me.' What God was telling Cain was that the very deed proclaimed who the murderer was. And what did Cain say? 'My guilt is too great to be forgiven. If you drive me from the land, I shall also be hidden from your face.'
(9) What Cain meant was this. 'I have committed a sin too great for pardon, defense, or forgiveness; if it is your will to punish my crime, I shall lie exposed to every harm because your helping hand has abandoned me.' And what did God do then? He said: 'Not so! Whoever kills Cain shall be punished sevenfold.' What God said was this: 'Do not fear that. You will live a long life. If any man does kill you, he will be subject to many punishment.' For the number seven in the Scriptures means an indefinitely large number. So, then, Cain was stricken with many punishments-with torment and trembling, with grief and discouragement, with paralysis of his body. After he had undergone these penalties, as God put it: 'Whoever kills you and frees you from these punishments will draw the same vengeance upon himself.'
(10) The punishment of which God spoke seems to be excessively harsh but it does give us a glimpse of his great solicitude. God wanted men of later times to exercise self-control; therefore, he designed the kind of punishment which was capable of setting Cain free from his sin. If God had immediately destroyed him, Cain would have disappeared, his sin would have stayed concealed, and he would have remained unknown to men of after days. But as it is, God let him live a long time with that bodily tremor of his. The sight of Cain's palsied limbs was a lesson for all he met; it served to teach all men and exhort them never to dare do what he had done, so that they might not suffer the same punishment. And Cain himself became a better man again. His trembling, his fear, the mental torment which never left him, his physical paralysis kept him, as it were, shackled. They kept him from leaping again to any other like deed of boldness; they constantly reminded him of his former crime; through them he achieved greater self-control in his soul.
(1) As I was speaking, it occurred to me to bring up a further question. Cain confessed his sin and condemned what he had done; he said his crime was too great to be forgiven and that he deserved no defense. Why, then, could he not wash away his sins? The prophet Isaiah said: 'Be the first to tell your iniquities, that you may be justified.' Why, then, was Cain condemned? Because he did not tell his sins as the prophet commanded. Isaiah did not simply say: 'Tell your iniquities.' What did he say? He said: 'Be the first to tell your iniquities.'
(2) The question here is this. It is not simply a matter of telling, but of being the first to tell and not waiting for an accuser to convict you. But Cain did not tell first; he waited for God to accuse him. And then, when God did accuse him, he denied it. After God had once and for all given clear proof of what he had done, Cain then told his sin. But this is no longer a confession.
(3) Therefore, beloved, when you commit sin, do not wait for another man to accuse you but, before you are accused and indicted, do you yourself condemn what you have done. Then, if someone accuses you later on, it is no longer a matter of your doing the right thing in confessing, but of your correcting the accusation which he makes. And so it is that someone else has said: 'The just man begins his speech by accusing himself.' So it is not a question of accusing but of being the first to accuse yourself and not waiting for others to accuse you.
(4) Peter certainly sinned gravely in denying Christ. But he was quick to remind himself of his sin and, before anyone accused him, he told of his error and wept bitterly. He so effectively washed away his sin of denial that he became the chief of the apostles and the whole world was entrusted to him.
(5) But I must get back to my main topic. What I said has given us sufficient proof that we must not neglect or scorn our brothers who fall into sin. We must put them on their guard before they sin and we must show great concern for them after they have fallen. This is what physicians do. They tell people in good health what can preserve their health and what can ward off every disease. But if people have disregarded their instructions and have fallen sick, physicians do not neglect them but, especially at that time, they look out for the patients so that they may free them from their ailments.
(6) And Paul certainly did this too. Incest is a sin and serious transgression which is not even found among the pagans. But Paul did not scorn the man who had committed incest. Even though this man rebelled and refused to be cured, even though he kicked about and was unmanageable, Paul led him back to health and he did it in such a way as to unite him again to the body of the Church. Paul did not say to himself: 'What good would it do? What would be the use? He committed incest, he has sinned; he does not want to give up his licentious ways; he is puffed up and boastful and has made his wound incurable. So let us be done with him and leave him in the lurch.'
(7) Paul said none of these things. The very reason why he showed great concern for this sinner was that he saw the man had slipped into unspeakable wickedness. So Paul never gave up frightening him, threatening him, punishing him both through his own efforts and with the help of others. Paul left nothing undone, nothing untried until he brought the man to acknowledge his sin, to see his transgression. And, at last, Paul freed the man from every stain of sin.
(8) Now you do the same thing Paul did. Imitate the Samaritan in the gospel who showed such concern for the man who had been wounded. For a Levite passed that way, a Pharisee passed by, but neither of them turned to the man lying there. They just went their way and, like the cruel, pitiless men they were, they left him there. But a Samaritan, who was in no way related to this man, did not hurry past but stopped, took pity on him, poured oil and wine on his wounds, put him on his own animal, and brought him to an inn. There he gave some money to the innkeeper and promised him more for taking care of a man who was in no way related to him.
(9) He did not say to himself: 'What do I care about him? I am a Samaritan. I have nothing in common with him. We are far from the city and he cannot even walk. What about this? Suppose he is not strong enough to make the long journey. Am I going to bring in a corpse, will I be arrested for murder, will I be held accountable for his death?' Many a time people go along a road and see men who have been wounded but are still breathing. But they pass them by not because they are stingy with their money, but because they are afraid that they themselves may be dragged into court and held accountable for the murder.
(10) That gentle and benevolent Samaritan feared none of these things. He scorned all such fears, put the man on his own beast, and brought him to an inn. He did not think of any of these things-neither the danger, nor the expense, nor anything else. If the Samaritan was so kind and gentle to a stranger, what excuse would we have for neglecting our brothers when they are in deeper trouble? For those who have just observed the fast have fallen among robbers, the Jews. And the Jews are more savage than any highwaymen; they do greater harm to those who have fallen among them. They did not strip off their victim's clothes nor inflict wounds on his body as did those robbers on the road to Jericho. The Jews have mortally hurt their victim's soul, inflicted on it ten thousand wounds, and left it lying in the pit of ungodliness.
(1) Let us not overlook such a tragedy as that. Let us not hurry past so pitiable a sight without taking pity. Even if others do so, you must not. Do not say to yourself: 'I am no priest or monk; I have a wife and children. This is a work for the priests; this is work for the monks.' The Samaritan did not say: 'Where are the priests now? Where are the Pharisees now? Where are the teachers of the Jews?' But the Samaritan is like a man who found some great store of booty and got the profit.
(2) Therefore, when you see someone in need of treatment for some ailment of the body or soul, do not say to yourself: 'Why did so-and-so or so-and-so not take care of him?' You free him from his sickness; do not demand an accounting from others for their negligence. Tell me this. If you find a gold coin lying on the ground, do you say to yourself: 'Why didn't so-and-so pick it up?' Do you not rush to snatch it up before somebody else does?
(3) Think the same way about your fallen brothers; consider that tending his wounds is like finding a treasure. If you pour the word of instruction on his wounds like oil, if you bind them up with your mildness, and cure them with your patience, your wounded brother has made you a richer man that any treasure could. Jeremiah said: 'He who has brought forth the precious from the vile will be as my mouth.' What could we compare to that? No fasting, no sleeping on the ground, no watching and praying all night, nor anything else can do as much for you as saving your brother can accomplish.
(4) Consider how frequent and numerous are the sins you commit with your mouth. How many obscene things has it said? How many blasphemies, how many abuses has it uttered? If you give some thoughts to this, you will surely never hesitate to look out for your fallen brother. By this one good deed can cleanse every stain from your mouth. Why do I say cleanse? Because you will make your mouth as the mouth of God. And what honor could be equal to that? It is not I who make this promise to you. God himself said it. If you bring back one person, he said, your mouth will be cleansed and holy, as my mouth is.
(5) So let us not neglect our brothers, let us not go around saying: 'How many kept the fast? How many were filched away from us?' Rather, let us show our concern for them. Even if those who observed the fast are many, you my beloved, must not make a show and a parade of this calamity in the Church; you must cure it. If someone tells you that many have observed the fast, stop him from talking so the rumor may not get around and become public knowledge. You say to him: 'For my part, I don't know of anyone who observed it. You are mistaken, sir, and deceived. If you see two or three filched away, you say that these few are many.' So stop this accuser from talking. But you must also see to it that you show your concern for those who were snatched away. Then you will keep the Church safe from a double hurt: first, by preventing the rumor from making the rounds and, secondly, by bringing back to the sacred fold the sheep who were snatched away.
(6) Therefore, let us not go around asking: 'Who fell into sin?' Let our only zeal be to set straight those who have sinned. It is a dangerous practice and a terrible thing only to accuse your brothers and not to come to their aid, to parade in public the sins of the sick and not cure them. Let us, then get rid of this wicked practice, my beloved, for it leads to no small harm.
(7) Let me tell you how it does this. Somebody hears you say that there were many who observed the fast with the Jews and, without any further investigation, he spreads the story to somebody else. And the second man, without inquiring into the truth of the rumor, again tells it to still another. Then, as the evil rumor little by little grows greater, it spreads a great disgrace over the Church. And this does no good for those who have fallen away; in fact, it causes considerable harm both to them and to many others.
(8) Even is those who did fall are in number, we make them a multitude by the multitude of our rumors; we weaken those who resisted and we give a push to those on the point of falling. If one of our brothers hears the rumor that a large number joined in keeping the fast, he will be more inclined to be careless himself; again, if it is one of weak ones who hears the story, he will rush to join the strong of those who have fallen. Even if many have sinned, let us not join with those who rejoice at this or any other evil. If we do, we make a parade of the sinners and say that their name is legion. Rather, let us stop the rumormongers and keep them from spreading the story.
(9) Do not tell me that those who observed the fast are many. Even if they are many, you must set them straight. I did not expend all these words for you to accuse many, but for you to make the many few and to save even these few. Therefore, do not put their sins on parade, but treat their wounds. Some people parade rumors and have time only for that. They see to it that the number of those who have sinned is judged to be large even if only a few have fallen. In the same way, if people reprove the rumormongers and shut their mouths, if they show concern for those who have fallen, no matter how many they be, it is no hard task for them to set the sinner straight. And furthermore, they keep those rumors from doing harm to anyone else.
(10) You have heard David's lament for Saul when he said: 'How the mighty have fallen. Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the street of Ashkelon so that the daughters of foreign tribes may not rejoice, so that the daughters of the uncircumcised may not exult in arrogance.' If David did not wish the matter paraded in public so that it might not be a source of joy to his foes, so much the more must we avoid spreading the story to alien ears. Rather, we must not spread it even among ourselves for fear that our enemies may hear it and rejoice, for fear that our own may learn of it and fall. We must hush it up and keep it guarded on every side. Do not say to me, 'I told so-and-so.' Keep the story to yourself. If you did not manage to keep quiet, neither will he manage to keep his tongue from wagging.
(1) What I say applies not only to the actual observance of the fast but also to ten thousand other sins. Let us not only ask if many were filched away; let us ask how we may bring them back. Let us not exalt our enemies' side and destroy our own. Let us not show that they are strong and that our side is weak. Let us do quite the opposite. Rumor can often destroy a soul but, just as often, it can lift it up; it can put zeal in a soul where was none and, again, it can destroy the zeal that was there.
(2) So I urge you to increase the rumors which exalt our cause and show its greatness, but not the rumors which spread shame on the community of our brothers. If we hear something good, let us broadcast it to all; if we hear something bad or evil, let us keep that hidden among ourselves and do everything we can to get rid of the evil. Therefore, let us now go forth, let us get busy and search for the sinner, let us not shrink back even if we must go into his home. If you do not know him, if you have no connection with him, get busy and find some friend or relative of his, someone to whom he pays particular attention. Take this man with you and go into his home.
(3) Do not blush or feel ashamed. If you were going there to ask for money or to get some favor from him, you have reason to feeling ashamed. If you hurry to save the man, no one can find fault with your motive for entering his home. Sit down and talk with him. But start your conversation on other topics so that he does not suspect that the real purpose of your visit is to set him straight.
(4) Say to him: 'Tell me, do you approve of the Jews for crucifying Christ, for blaspheming him as they do, and for calling him a lawbreaker?' If the man is a Christian, he will never put up with this; even he be a Judaizer times without number, he will never bring himself to say: 'I do approve.' Rather, he will stop up his ears and say to you: 'Heaven forbid! Be quite, man.' Next, after you find that he agrees with you, take the matter again and say: 'How is it that you attend their services, how is it you participate in the festival, how is it you join them in observing the fast?' Then accuse the Jews of being obstinate. Tell him about their every transgression which I recounted to your loving assembly in the days just past. Tell him of their transgressions connected with the place, the time and the temple, and how the prophets gave proof of these in their predictions. Show him how the whole ritual of the Jews is useless and unavailing. Show him that they will never return to their old commonwealth and way of life and that they are forbidden to fulfill, except in Jerusalem, what the old life demanded.
(5) Furthermore, remind him of Gehenna. Remind him of the test he will undergo before the Lord's dread tribunal of judgment. Remind him that we will give an accounting for all these things and that no small punishment awaits those who dare to do what he is doing. Remind him that Paul said: 'You who are justified in the Law have fallen away from grace.' Remind him of Paul's threat: 'If you be circumcised, Christ will be no advantage to you.' Tell him that, as is the case with circumcision, so, too, the fasting of the Jews drives from heaven the man who observes the fast, even if he has ten thousand other good works to his credit. Tell him that we have the name of Christians because we believe in Christ and not because we run to those who are His foes.
(6) Suppose he uses the cures which the Jews effect as his excuse; suppose he says: 'They promise to make me well, and so I go to them.' Then you must reveal the tricks they use, their incantations, their amulets, their charms and spells. This is the only way in which they have a reputation for healing; they do not effect genuine cures. Heaven forbid they should! Let me go so far as to say that even if they really do cure you, it is better to die than to run to God's enemies and be cured that way. What use is it to have your body cured if you lose your soul? What profit is there that you find some relief from your pain in this world if you are going to be consigned to eternal fire?
(7) So that no Jew may say will cure you, listen to what God said: 'If there arise among you a prophet or dreamer of dreams who gives you a sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder of which he spoke come to pass, and if he says: 'Let us go and worship other gods,' do not listen to that prophet; for the Lord, your God, is testing you to see if you love the Lord, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul.'
(8) What God means is this. Suppose some prophet says to you: 'I can raise a dead man to life or cure a blind man. But you must obey me when I say:
'Let us worship demons, or let us offer sacrifice to idols.' Then, suppose the man who said this can cure a blind man or raise a dead man to life. God said that you must not heed him because of these sign and wonders which he works. Why? Because God is testing you, he permitted that man to have this power. It is not that God does not know your thoughts but that he is giving you a chance to prove if you really love him. And there are men who are eager to drag us away from our Beloved. Even if they show dead men brought back to life, the man who truly loves God will not stand apart from God because he has seen such signs and wonders.
(9) If God said this to the Jews, he says it all the more to us. We are the ones he led to a greater life of virtue. He opened the door for us to rise again. He gave the command to us not to love our dwelling here on earth but to keep all our hopes aimed at the life to come.
(1) But what are you saying? Is it that a bodily ailment is afflicting you and crushing you? You have not suffered as many ills as did blessed Job. You have not endured even the slightest part of his pain. Fist, he lost the whole throng of his flocks, his herds, and every other possession. Then the whole chorus of his children was snatched off. And all this happened on a single day, so that not only the nature of his calamities but also the unbroken succession of his losses might crush this athlete down to earth.
(2) After all that, he received a lethal blow on his body, he saw worms swarming forth from his flesh, he sat naked on a dung hill, a public spectacle of disaster for all men there to see, Job the just, truthful, God-fearing man who kept himself aloof from every evil deed. And his troubles did not stop there. All day, all night, he suffered distress, and a strange and unusual hunger assailed him. He said: 'I see my food is a stench.' Each day he was reproached, scoffed at, mocked, and ridiculed. He said: 'My servants and the children of my concubines have risen up against me, my dreams are filled with terror, my thoughts are tossed with constant storms.'
(3) But his wife promised him freedom from all these things when she said: 'Speak some word against the Lord and die.' What she meant was: 'Curse God and you will be free from the troubles which oppress you.' Did her advice change the mind of that holy man? It did just the opposite; it gave him great strength so that he even reproached his wife. He chose to feel pain, to endure hardship, and to suffer ten thousand terrible things rather than curse God and so find release from his terrible troubles.
(4) The man who had been thirty-eight years in the grip of his infirmity used to rush each year to the pool and each year he was driven back and found no cure. Each year he would see others cured because they had many to take of them. But he had no one to put him in the water ahead of the others and so remained in the constant grip of his paralysis. Even so, he did not run to the soothsayers, he did not go to the charm-users, he did not tie an amulet around his neck, but he waited for God to help him. That is why he finally found a wonderful and unexpected cure.
(5) Lazarus wrestled all his days with hunger, disease, and poverty, not only for thirty-eight years but for his whole life. At any rate, he died while he was lying at the gateway of the rich man, scorned, scoffed at, famished, laid out before the dogs for food. For his body had grown to weak to scare away the dogs who came and licked his wounds. Yet he did not search for a soothsayer, he did not tie tokens around his neck, and he did not resort to the charm-users, he did not call in those skilled in witchcraft, nor did he do anything he was forbidden to do. He chose to die from these troubles of his rather than betray in any small way his life of godliness.
(6) Look at the torments and sufferings those men endured! What excuse will we have if for our fevers and hurts we run to the synagogues, if we summon into our own house these sorcerers, these dealers in witchcraft?
Hear what the Scripture says: 'My son, if you com to serve the Lord, prepare your soul for trial, put straight your heart, and be steadfast. Be obedient to him in sickness and in poverty. As gold is tested in the fire, so the chosen man is tested in the furnace of humiliation.'
(7) Suppose you flog your servant. Suppose, that, after you have dealt him thirty or fifty lashes, he then loudly demands his freedom, or that he flees from your control to take refuge with men who hate you. Suppose that he then incites them against you. Tell me this. Can he get you to forgive him? Can anyone offer a defense in his behalf? Of course not.
(8) But why? Because it is a master's duty to punish his servant. And this is not the only reason. If the slave had to run away, he should not gone to the enemies who hated his master; he should have gone to his master's true friends. You must do the same. When you see that God is punishing you, do not flee to his enemies, the Jews, so that you may not rouse his anger against you still further. Run instead to martyrs, to the saints, to those in whom he is well pleased and who can speak to him with great confidence and freedom.
(9) But why talk about slaves and masters? If a father flogs his son, the son cannot do what the slave did, nor can he deny his relationship to his father. Suppose the father flogs his son, suppose he keeps him from his table, suppose he drives him from his house, and punishes him every way he can. Both the laws of nature and those established by man command the son to be brave and endure all this. No one ever excuses the son if he refuses to obey his father and put up with the punishment. Even if the boy who was flogged lifts his voice in ten thousand bitter laments, everybody tell him that it was his father who flogged him, that his father is the master and the power to do whatever he wants, that the son must meekly endure it all.
(10) So, then, slaves put up with their masters and sons put up with their fathers even though the punishments they get often do not fit the fault. Will you refuse to put up with God when He corrects you? Is he not more your master than your master is? Does he not love you more than any father? When he interferes and does something, it is not done from anger. He does everything for you own good. If you get some slight illness, will you reject him as your master and rush off to the demons and desert over to the synagogues? What pardon will you find after that? How can you call on Him for help again? Who else will be able to plead your cause even if he could speak with the freedom and confidence of a Moses? There is no one.
(11) Do you not hear what God said to Jeremiah about the Jews? 'Do not intercede for this people because even Moses and Samuel shall stand (before my face), I will not listen to them.' That is how far some sins go beyond forgiveness and how incapable of defense they are. Therefore, let us not draw down such anger on ourselves. Even if the Jews seem to relieve your fever with their incantations, they are not relieving it. They are bringing down on your conscience another more dangerous fever. Every day you will feel the sting of remorse; every day your conscience will flog you. And what will your conscience say? 'You sinned against God, you transgressed his Law, you violated your covenant with Christ. For an insignificant ailment you betrayed your faith. You are not the only one who has suffered this ailment, are you? Have not others been much more seriously ill that you? Still no one of them dared commit such a sin. But you were so soft and weak that you sacrificed your soul. What defense will you make to Christ? How will you ask for his help in your prayers? With what conscience will you set foot in the church? With what eyes will you look at the priest? With what hands will you touch the sacred banquet? With what ears will you listen to the reading of the scriptures there?'
(1) Every day your reason will sting you and your conscience will flog you with these words. What kind of health is this when we have such thoughts in our minds to accuse us? But if you put up with your fever for a little while, if you scorn those who want to chant over you an incantation or tie an amulet to your body, if you insult them roundly and drive them from your house, your conscience will immediately bring you relief like a drink of water. Even if the fever recurs time and time again, even if it is burning up your body, your soul bring you a solace that is better and more profitable than any relief from water or perspiration.
(2) Even if you recover your health after the incantation, the thought of the sin you committed leaves you worse off than those who are tossed with fever. And if you are the one who has the fever now, if you are the one who suffers ten thousand torments, you will be better off than any healthy man, because you have gotten rid of those foul sorcerers. You reason will exult, you soul will rejoice and be glad, you conscience will praise you and voice its approval.
(3) And what will your conscience say? 'Well done, well done, good man. You are the servant of Christ, you are the man of faith, the athlete of the godly life. You chose to die in torment rather than betray the life of godliness entrusted to your care. You will stand with the martyrs on that day. The martyrs chose to be flogged and torn on the rack that God might hold them in honor. So you chose this day to be flogged and racked with fever and wounds rather than submit to profane incantations and amulets. Because you nurture yourself with these hopes, you will not feel the torments which assail you.'
(4) If this fever does not carry you off, another one surely will; if we do not die now, we are sure to die later. It is our lot to have a body doomed to die. But we do not have this body so that we may heed its passions and take to ourselves a life of godlessness, but that we may use its passions for the godly life. If we live the sober life, this corruption, this same mortal body will become the basis for our honor and will give us great confidence not only on that day but also in the present life.
(5) So, go ahead and insult those sorcerers roundly and drive them from your house. Everybody who hears of it will praise you and marvel at you. People will say one to the other: 'So and so was sick and in pain. Time and time again people came to him and urged him, and advised him to subject himself to magic incantations. He did not give in but said: 'It is better to die the way I am than to betray my faith and the godly life.' 'Those who hear these words will applaud him long and loud; they will be astounded and give glory to God.
(6) Do you not think this will be more rich in honor than many statues, more brilliant in its magnificence than many portraits, more remarkable in its distinction than many dignities? Everyone will praise you, everyone will count you happy, everyone will crown you with the victor's wreath. And they will be better themselves, they will experience a return to zeal, they will imitate your courage. If somebody else does what you did, you will carry off the reward because it was you who gave him his start, it is you whom he emulates.
(7) Your good deeds will not only bring praise to you but also rapid release from your sickness. The nobility of your choice will win God to even greater good will; all the saints will rejoice at what you have done; they will pray for you from the bottom of their hearts. If such courage brings these rewards in this life, consider what reward you will receive in heaven. In the presence of all the angels and archangels, Christ will come forward, take you by the hand, and lead you to the middle of that stage. Everyone will listen when he says:
(8) 'This man was once gripped by fever. Many people urged him to be rid of his ailment, but, for my name's sake and because he feared he might offend me in some way, he scorned these people and thrust aside those who were promising to cure him in that fashion. He chose to die of his illness rather than betray his love for me.'
(9) If Christ leads to the center of this stage those who gave him to drink, who clothed and fed him, he will do this all the more for those who endured fevers for his sake. Giving food and clothing is not the same thing as submitting to a long continuing disease. To submit to the disease is a much greater thing. And the greater the suffering, the more glorious will be the reward.
(10) In sickness and in health, let us rehearse for this day and talk about it one to the other. If we find ourselves in the grip of a fever we cannot endure, let us say to ourselves: 'What about this? If someone brought a charge against me and I was dragged into court, if I were tied to the whipping post and my sides were torn with lashes, would I not have to put up with it at any rate, even though I would get no profit or reward?'
(11) Now let us ponder on this. Suppose there is set before you a reward for your patience and endurance; suppose the reward is large enough to encourage your fallen spirit. 'But my fever is severe,' you say, 'and hard to bear.' Then compare you fever to the fire of Gehenna. You will surely escape that fire if you show great endurance in putting up with your fever.
(12) Remember how many sufferings the apostles endured. Remember that the just were constantly afflicted. Remember that blessed Timothy had not rest from his illness, but lived with his disease from one end of his life to the other. Paul made this clear when he said: 'Use a little wine for your stomach's sake and your frequent infirmities.' That just and holy man took in hand the superintendence of the world, brought the dead back to life, drove out demons, and cured ten thousand ailments in others. If he experienced such terrible suffering, what defense will you have for groaning and grieving over ailments with will last only for a time?
(13) Did you not listen to the Scripture? It says: 'Whom the Lord loves he chastises; and he scourges every son whom he receives.' How many times and how many men have yearned to receive the crown of martyrdom? In this you have a perfect martyr's crown. A martyr is made not only when someone is ordered to offer sacrifices to die rather than offer the sacrifice. If a man shuns any practice, and to shun it can only bring on death, he is certainly a martyr.
(1) So that you may know that this is true, remember how John (the Baptist) died, from what motive and why. Remember, too, how Abel died. Neither John nor Abel saw an altar with its fire, nor a statue standing before them. They heard no voice commanding them to offer sacrifice. John only reproached Herod and had his head cut off; Abel merely honored God with a more excellent sacrifice than his brother did, and Cain slew him. They were not deprived of martyr's crowns, were they? Who would dare to say that? The very way they died is enough to make everyone agree that they belong in the front ranks of the martyrs.
(2) If you are looking for some divine proclamation about these two men, listen to what Paul said. He made it clear that his words are the words of the Holy Spirit when he said: 'I think that I also have the Spirit of God.' What then, did Paul say? He began with Abel and told how Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, and through his faith, through he is dead, he yet speaks.
(3) Then Paul continued his account down through the prophets and came to John. After he said: 'They were put to death by the sword, and other were tortured,' after he recounted many and different modes of martyrdom, he went on to say: 'Therefore, let us also, having such a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, put away every encumbrance and run with patience.' Do you see that he also called Abel a martyr, along with Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? For some of these died for God's sake in the same way that Paul spoke of when he said: 'I die Daily', they died not by dying but only by their willingness to endure death.
(4) If you do this, if you reject the incantations, the spells, and the charms, and if you then die of your disease, you will be a perfect martyr. Even though others promised your relief along with an ungodly life, you chose death with godliness. And I have spoken these words to those boastful talkers who say that the demons do effect cures. To learn how false this is, listen to what Christ said about the devil: 'He was a murderer from the beginning.' God says he is a murderer; do you rush to him as you would to a physician?
(5) Tell me this. When you stand indicted before God's tribunal, what reason will you be able for considering the Jews' witchcraft more worthy of your belief than what Christ has said? God said that the devil is a murderer; they say that he can cure diseases, in contradiction to God's word. When you accept their charms and incantations, you actions show that you consider the Jews more worthy of your belief than God, even if you do not say it in so many words.
(6) If the devil is a murderer, it is clear that the demons who serve him are murderers, too. What Christ did has taught you this lesson. At any rate, he gave the demons leave to enter into the herd of swine and the demons drove the whole herd down the cliff and drowned them. He did this so that you might know that the demons would have done the same thing to human beings and would have drowned them if God had allowed them to do so. But he restrained the demons, stopped them, and permitted them to do no such thing. Once they had gotten power over the swine, the demons made quite clear what they would have done to us. If they did not spare the swine, it is all the more sure they would not have kept their hands off us. Therefore, beloved, do not be swept off by the deceits of the demons but stand firm in your fear of God.
(7) But how will you go into the synagogue? If you make the sign of the cross on your forehead, the evil power that dwells in the synagogue immediately takes to flight. If you fail to sign your forehead, you have immediately thrown away your weapon at the doors. Then the devil will lay hold of you, naked and unarmed as you are, and he will overwhelm you with ten thousand terrible wounds.
(8) What need is there for me to say this? The way you act when you get to the synagogue makes it clear that you consider it a very serious sin to go to that wicked place. You are anxious that no one notice your arrival there; you urge your household, friends, and neighbors not to report you to the priests. If someone does report you, you fly into a rage. Would it not be height of folly to try to hide from men your bold and shameless when God, who is present everywhere see it?
(9) Are you not afraid of God? Then, at least, stand in some awe and fear of the Jews. How will you look them in the eye? How will you speak to them? You profess you are a Christian, but you rush off to their synagogues and beg them to help you. Do not realize how they laugh at you, scoff at you, jeer at you, dishonor you, and reproach you? Even if they do not do it openly, do you not understand that they are doing this deep down in their hearts?
(1) Tell me, then. Will you put up with their jibes? Will you tolerate them? Suppose you had to suffer incurable ills; suppose you had to die ten thousand deaths. Would it not be much better to endure all that rather than have those abominable people laugh and scoff at you, rather than live with a bad conscience?
(2) My purpose in speaking is not to have you hear this for yourselves; I want you also to work to cure those who have this sickness. They are feeble in their faith, and for this I blame them. I also blame you for your unwillingness to set the sick ones straight. It is not in question that, when you come here to the church, you listen to what is said; you leave yourself open to condemnation when you fail to follow through with action the words you hear.
(3) Why are you a Christian? Is it not that you may imitate Christ and obey his Laws? What did Christ do? He did not sit in Jerusalem and call the sick to come to him. He went around to cities and towns and cured sickness of both body and soul. He could have stayed sitting in the same place and still have drawn all men to himself. But he did not do this. Why? So that he might give us the example of going around in search of those who are perishing.
(4) He gave us another glimpse of this example in the parable of the shepherd. The shepherd did not sit down with the ninety-nine sheep and wait for the lost one to come to him. He went out himself and found it. And after he found the lost sheep, he lifted it to his shoulders and brought it back. Do you not see that a physician does this same thing? He does not force patients who are confined to bed to be brought to his home. The physician himself hurries to the homes of the sick.
(5) You must do this, too, beloved. You know that the present life is short; if we do not earn our profits here, we will have no salvation hereafter. Gaining a single soul can often erase the burden of countless sins and be the price which buys us life on that day. Ponder on this question. Why were we sent prophets, apostles, just men, and often even angels? Why did the only-begotten Son of God come among us himself? Was it not to save men? Was it not to bring back those who had strayed?
(6) You must do this with all the strength you have. You must devote all your zeal and concern to bringing back those who have strayed. At every religious service let me keep exhorting you to do this; whether you pay attention or not, I will not stop saying it. Whether you listen or not, it is God's law that I fulfill this ministry. If you listen to me and do what I say, I will keep on doing this and feel great joy. If you disregard it and become indifferent to what I say, I will keep on saying it but I will great fear instead of joy.
(7) If you disobey, it will involve no risk for me hereafter. I have fulfilled my part. Even if there will be no danger for me because I have carried out my full fair share, I will feel sorrow for you when you are accused on that day. Even listening to me will be fraught with danger, when you fail to follow up my words with your deeds.
(8) Hear, at any rate, how Christ both reproved the teachers who buried the meaning of his message but how he also terrified those whom they taught. For after he said: 'You should have deposited my money with the bankers,' he went on to add: 'And on my return I should have demanded it back with interest.'
(9) What Christ showed by the parable was this. After hearing a sermon (for this is depositing the money), those who have received the instruction must make it produce interest. The interest from the teaching is nothing other than proving through deeds what you have been taught through words. Since I have deposited my money in your ears, you must now pay your teacher back the interest, that is, you must save your brothers. So, if you should just keep holding on to what I said and produce no interest by action on your own part, I am afraid that you will pay the same penalty as the servant who buried his talent in the ground. And for this he was bound hand and foot and cast into the darkness outside, because the words he heard brought no profit to others.
(10) So that we may not have this happen to us, let us imitate the servant who received five talents and the one who received two. Whatever you will be asked to spend to save your neighbor, be it words, money, bodily pain, or anything else whatsoever, we must not shrink back or hesitate. Then each of us, in every way, will multiply proportionately the talent given him by God. Then each of us will be able to hear those happy words: 'Well done, good and faithful servant; because you have been faithful over a few things I will set you over many; enter into the joy of your Master.' My we all gain this by the grace and loving-kindness of our Lord Jesus Christ through whom and with whom be glory and power to the Father together with the Holy Spirit, world without end. Amen.
This material was uploaded by Roger Pearse, 2011, and derives from a translation of unknown origin formerly hosted at the Medieval Sourcebook. This file and all material on this page is believed to be in the public domain. For more details see the preface to the online edition.
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