Readings & Reflections: Memorial of Saint Augustine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church August 28,2014
Saint Augustine was born in Tagaste, North Africa in 354 A.D. and entered the Church at the age of thirty-two. After his baptism by St. Ambrose in 386, he was ordained, and in 395 elected bishop of Hippo. His over one thousand seven hundred writings include sermons, treaties, scriptural commentaries, the spiritual classic Confessions, and the magisterial City of God. His biographer Possidius wondered how anyone could have produced such a volume of work. At the end of his life, Augustine requested that the penitential psalms, copied in large print, be hung in his room. He recited them to himself for the ten days leading to his death on August 28,430 A.D.
Paul, called to be an Apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
and Sosthenes our brother,
to the Church of God that is in Corinth,
to you who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be holy,
with all those everywhere who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I give thanks to my God always on your account
for the grace of God bestowed on you in Christ Jesus,
that in him you were enriched in every way,
with all discourse and all knowledge,
as the testimony to Christ was confirmed among you,
so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift
as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
He will keep you firm to the end,
irreproachable on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
God is faithful,
and by him you were called to fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
The word of the Lord.
R. (1) I will praise your name for ever, Lord.
Every day will I bless you,
and I will praise your name forever and ever.
Great is the LORD and highly to be praised;
his greatness is unsearchable.
R. I will praise your name for ever, Lord.
Generation after generation praises your works
and proclaims your might.
They speak of the splendor of your glorious majesty
and tell of your wondrous works.
R. I will praise your name for ever, Lord.
They discourse of the power of your terrible deeds
and declare your greatness.
They publish the fame of your abundant goodness
and joyfully sing of your justice.
R. I will praise your name for ever, Lord.
Jesus said to his disciples:
For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.
Be sure of this:
if the master of the house
had known the hour of night when the thief was coming,
he would have stayed awake
and not let his house be broken into.
So too, you also must be prepared,
for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.
“Who, then, is the faithful and prudent servant,
whom the master has put in charge of his household
to distribute to them their food at the proper time?
Blessed is that servant whom his master on his arrival finds doing so.
Amen, I say to you, he will put him in charge of all his property.
But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is long delayed,’
and begins to beat his fellow servants,
and eat and drink with drunkards,
the servant’s master will come on an unexpected day
and at an unknown hour and will punish him severely
and assign him a place with the hypocrites,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.”
The Gospel of the Lord.
Reflection 1 – Always be ready
The coming of our Lord will be the day when the rewards and the punishment will be manifested to all. It is the time when our Lord Jesus returns to earth as King of Kings and Lord of all. This will be the time when all those who have been in heaven together with every believer considered in good standing with the Lord will be glorified. But this will also be the shameful and pitiful time for all those who did not make it to the narrow gate, for there will be wailing and grinding of teeth as one finds himself cast out.
Today’s gospel sets forth that we should always be ready for our Lord’s return. But the question that surfaces is how do we ready ourselves for God’s return. Discipline is the process of endurance which enables one to attain the character of our Lord Jesus. It is one difficult route everyone has to take if one hopes to behold our Lord face to face.
Another way we could ready ourselves is by having true and authentic love in our hearts as seen from the love that prevailed in the hearts of the Thessalonians. Just like them, our love should be able to embrace fellow believers and all men, including those who are not one with us and those who cannot seem to accept us as their equal in Christ. Such was the model we have in the people of Thessalonica and as such it should be the kind of love we should have in our hearts.
If we have the same Christian love in our hearts in this life, we will certainly be blameless in the next. This implies the need for us to train ourselves to love all men without any reservation. We have to be able to spend our lives for the interests of others. When we have love in our hearts, we fulfill God’s foremost command to love Him above all and our neighbor as ourselves. In time, we will be blameless in holiness before our Heavenly Father.
As believers we should be faithful and far-sighted servants who care for God’s people. We should avoid being considered nominal servants whose lives are not affected by the prospect of God’s return. Such servants are complacent and are not yet ready for God’s kingdom. They will be pitifully judged and be given their rightful portion with the hypocrites and the sinners.
Today the call is for every believer to be a “man for others” who regards self always as second and last in the distribution of benefits, who sacrifices self for another and forgets himself all for love of God and neighbor, whose servanthood knows no limits, whose deeds are congruent with his heart’s yearnings. All these are possible because the grace of God which has been bestowed on all of us in Christ Jesus has enriched us in every way. We are not lacking in any spiritual gift as we await for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ. God will keep us firm to the end, irreproachable on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, and by Him we are all called to fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Living a life of love and by standing firm (endurance/discipline) for Him are two ways to prepare for the return of Jesus.
Heavenly Father, fill us with your love, O Lord so that we may, at anytime, be able to share your love with everyone. In Jesus, I pray. Amen.
Reflection 2 – Are you ready to meet the Lord?
In 1998 Kurt Warner was a backup quarterback for the Rams football team. The only way he was going to play during that season was if the first-string quarterback got hurt, a remote possibility. But, in August, in the pre-season, the Rams’ first string quarterback went down with an injury. Kurt was ready from years of practice. He played quarterback brilliantly, leading the Rams to the Super Bowl – and winning. All his preparation paid off.
Kurt Warner is a wonderful football player, but more importantly he is a religious man. He learned to be ready, not by playing football, but from reading the Bible. As a Christian he read often from Matthew’s Gospel, the same passage we heard proclaimed today.
Jesus’ parable invites his listeners to be prepared to meet the Lord when he returns. As remote as it seems for us today, the Master, our God, will indeed return. The ones who are ready will be invited to the eternal banquet. Those who aren’t will miss out on the extraordinary event. A painful thought!
As Catholics we ready ourselves every time we come to Mass and receive Communion. We prepare ourselves when we say our prayers and partake in our spiritual devotions. Our hearts are opened when we partake in the sacrament of reconciliation. We become aware of God’s love when we read and study the Bible. These simple actions help us to be prepared.
The line “Blessed is that servant whom the master finds prepared when he comes,” is meant for us. It is a challenged and an invitation to be vigilant. It is a reminder of the serious nature of our faith. If the Lord comes today, would you be blessed? Remember, if we are not prepared, the consequences are far worse than missing a football game! (Source: Steven R. Thoma. Weeday Homily Helps. Ohio: St. Anthony Messenger Press, August 26, 2010).
Reflection 3 – To the Church of God that is in Corinth
Jesus’ last major discourse in the Gospel of Matthew foretells the destruction of the Temple (24:1-2), announces the signs of his coming and of the Great Tribulation (24:3-28), reveals the second coming of the Son of Man in power and glory (24:29-35), states that the day and the hour of his return is unknown (24:36-44), offers three parables about his return and the need for watchfulness (24:45-25:30), and concludes with the judgment of all nations (25:31-46).
The three parables “stress the need for watchfulness and preparedness in the time leading up to the coming of the Son of Man, who will call his disciples to account for their actions at his return. The day of reckoning will reveal that works of charity and compassion determine the Lord’s final verdict on our lives” (C. Mitch and E. Sri, The Gospel of Matthew, Baker Academic, 316).
Today’s parable contrasts the faithful and prudent servant with the wicked servant. The master of the house is Jesus, the household is the Church, the servants are his disciples. The good servant distributes food to the household; the wicked servant neglects his duty, harms his fellow servants and spends his day with gluttons and drunkards.
The distribution of food refers not only to earthly bread and to charity toward those in need, but also refers to the heavenly bread of the Eucharist. Man does not live on bread alone, but on every Word that comes from the mouth of God. The Apostles distributed bread at the miracle of the loaves and fishes and will be commanded by Jesus to celebrate the memorial of his Passover – Do this in memory of me – and to continue distributing the Bread of Life to the Church.
Paul shows himself to be a faithful and prudent servant who cares for the household of the Church in Corinth. He is concerned that they do not lack any spiritual gift during the time leading up to Jesus’ return in glory. He prays that they will be firm to the end and irreproachable on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul speaks about the essence of our vocation – we are called to be holy in Christ Jesus and to live in communion with him. We become God’s children through the gift of divine grace; we are enriched by this spiritual gift and, through it, are introduced into the knowledge and love of God, who is faithful to his covenant of peace. As sons and daughters, we praise God and joyfully sing of his justice.
If Jesus were to return right now, how will he find me? Am I like the wicked servant, focused entirely on myself? Or am I striving to be like the faithful and prudent servant, focused on the needs of my brothers and sisters? Do I sing my own praises and seek earthly glory or do I sing God’s praises and seek to glorify God by my words and actions?
Read the source text: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/daily-homily-to-the-church-of-god-that-is-in-corinth
Reflection 4 – St. Augustine of Hippo(354-430 A.D.)
A Christian at 33, a priest at 36, a bishop at 41: Many people are familiar with the biographical sketch of Augustine of Hippo, sinner turned saint. But really to get to know the man is a rewarding experience.
There quickly surfaces the intensity with which he lived his life, whether his path led away from or toward God. The tears of his mother (August 27), the instructions of Ambrose (December 7) and, most of all, God himself speaking to him in the Scriptures redirected Augustine’s love of life to a life of love.
Having been so deeply immersed in creature-pride of life in his early days and having drunk deeply of its bitter dregs, it is not surprising that Augustine should have turned, with a holy fierceness, against the many demon-thrusts rampant in his day. His times were truly decadent—politically, socially, morally. He was both feared and loved, like the Master. The perennial criticism leveled against him: a fundamental rigorism.
In his day, he providentially fulfilled the office of prophet. Like Jeremiah and other greats, he was hard-pressed but could not keep quiet. “I say to myself, I will not mention him,/I will speak in his name no more./But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart,/imprisoned in my bones;/I grow weary holding it in,/I cannot endure it” (Jeremiah 20:9).
Augustine is still acclaimed and condemned in our day. He is a prophet for today, trumpeting the need to scrap escapisms and stand face-to-face with personal responsibility and dignity.
“Too late have I loved you, O Beauty of ancient days, yet ever new! Too late I loved you! And behold, you were within, and I abroad, and there I searched for you; I was deformed, plunging amid those fair forms, which you had made. You were with me, but I was not with you. Things held me far from you—things which, if they were not in you, were not at all. You called, and shouted, and burst my deafness. You flashed and shone, and scattered my blindness. You breathed odors and I drew in breath—and I pant for you. I tasted, and I hunger and thirst. You touched me, and I burned for your peace” (St. Augustine, Confessions).
Read the source text: http://www.americancatholic.org/features/saints/saint.aspx?id=1121
Patron Saint of: Printers
Reflection 5 – It’s not the end of the world – St. Augustine
George Carlin once punctuated a series of comedy stories with a simple observation. “Out there in the world,” he said, “is the worst doctor in the world: the one who got the lowest grades in med school and barely passed.” Then he looked at the audience and said, “And the scary thing is: someone has an appointment with him tomorrow.” Jesus’ call to vigilance is similarly meant to shake people into reality. Vigilance for “Jesus’ coming” is even harder 2000 years after this message was written. It’s tough to be all that intense about it when he hasn’t come for all this time. You can only stay awake for so long before your eyelids give out.
St. Augustine is the ideal saint for today’s changing world. He didn’t see the end of the world, but he saw the end of the world as he knew it. Before he died, he saw the fruits of the so-called “barbarian invasions” as the Roman Empire disintegrated and a new, non-Christian power was coming to be. What would happen to the schools where he learned philosophy? What would happen to civilization? St. Augustine had enough faith not to despair. Although he’d never see it, things turned out pretty well even without a Roman Empire. All Augustine knew was that the future was in God’s hands.
St. Augustine lived a reflective life. His faith and the reality of Jesus Christ was the absolute center of his existence. Maybe “vigilance” is about sticking to the faith and to the Jesus we know even when the whole world is falling apart. Living our lives in the perspective of faith is so urgent, especially when there are voices who want to see the devil behind every new reality. We may not be facing our death tomorrow, but things do die around us – how will we handle it? The death of a family member? The act of fanatical terrorism? The sickness of the child? The foreclosure of the mortgage? If we are vigilant in our faith, keeping Jesus and his compassionate love before our eyes, living the reflective life, maybe we won’t fall to pieces. Maybe, instead, we’ll be able to face the future – and the worst doctor in the world – with the knowledge that even that wouldn’t be the end of the world.
Reflection 6 – Let us lead good lives
“Let us lead good lives, and while we lead good lives let us on no account take it for granted that we are without sin. Living a life that is praiseworthy includes begging pardon for things that are blameworthy. But people who are beyond hope pay all the less attention to their own sins, the more interested they are in those of others. They are looking for a chance to tear others to bits, not to put them right. Unable to excuse themselves, they are only too ready to accuse others.
“Sin cannot possibly go unpunished. If a sin remains unpunished it is unjust, and so undoubtedly it must be punished. This is what your God says to you: “Your sin must be punished, either by you or by me.” So sin is punished either by man repenting or by God judging. So either it, without you, is punished by you or else together with you it is punished by God. What is repentance, after all, but being angry with oneself? What’s the idea of beating your breast if you aren’t just pretending? Why beat it if you aren’t angry with it? So you beat your breast you are being angry with your heart in order to make amends to your Lord. This is also how we can understand the text Be angry and do not sin. Be angry because you have sinned, and by punishing yourself stop sinning. Give your heart a shaking by repentance, and this will be a sacrifice to God.” – St. Augustine of Hippo (+430 A.D.)