The Third Sunday in Lent
Homily of Augustine on Psalm CXIX JOD Home of Third Sunday in Lent
WE beseech thee, Almighty God, look upon the hearty desires of thy humble servants, and stretch forth the right hand of thy Majesty, to be our defence against all our enemies; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.Source: Saramentary of Gregory, Bishop of Rome [600 AD] In the Gospel today Jesus heals a man possesed, stretching forth his hand
ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who hatest nothing that thou hast made, and dost forgive the sins of all those who are penitent; Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Jer 20:11 Psalm 56, 86 | 119:73–104 , Ephesians v. 1. St. Luke xi. 14.
Thy hands have made me, and fashioned me
Jeremiah xx. 11.
The LORD is with me as a mighty terrible one: therefore my persecutors shall stumble, and they shall not prevail: they shall be greatly ashamed; for they shall not prosper: their everlasting confusion shall never be forgotten. But, O LORD of hosts, that triest the righteous, and seest the reins and the heart, let me see thy vengeance on them: for unto thee have I opened my cause. Sing unto the LORD, praise ye the LORD: for he hath delivered the soul of the poor from the hand of evildoers.
Psalm for Morning and Evening 56, 86 | 119:73–104 (Jod - Mem)
The Epistle. Ephesians v. 1.
BE ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour. But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them. For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret. But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make man-ifest is light. Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.
The Gospel. St. Luke xi. 14.
JESUS was casting out a devil, and it was dumb. And it came to pass, when the devil was gone out, the dumb spake; and the people wondered. But some of them said, He casteth out devils through Beelzebub the chief of the devils. And others, tempting him, sought of him a sign from heaven. But he, knowing their thoughts, said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and a house divided against a house falleth. If Satan also be divided against himself, how shall his kingdom stand? because ye say that I cast out devils through Beelzebub. And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your sons cast them out? therefore shall they be your judges. But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you. When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace: but when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils. He that is not with me is against me: and he that gathereth not with me scattereth. When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out. And when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. And it came to pass, as he spake these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said unto him, Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked. But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.
72. …“Thy hands have made me, and fashioned me” (ver. 73). The hands of God are the power of God. Or if the plural number moveth them, since it is not said, Thy hand, but, “Thy hands;” let them understand by the hands of God the power and wisdom of God, both of which titles are given to one Christ, who is also understood under the figure, Arm of the Lord. “Where it is read, ‘And unto whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed?’” Or let them understand by the hands of God, the Son and the Holy Spirit; since the Holy Spirit worketh conjointly with the Father and the Son: whence saith the Apostle, “But all these worketh that one and the self-same Spirit:” he said, “one and the self-same;” lest as many spirits as works might be imagined, not that the Spirit worketh without the Father and the Son. It is easy therefore to see how the hands of God are to be understood: provided, at the same time, that He be not denied to do those things through His Word which He doth by His hands: nor be considered not to do those things with His hands, which He doth through His word.…But is this said in respect of Adam? from whom since all men were propagated, what man, since Adam was made, may not say that he himself also was made by reason of procreation and generation from Adam? Or may it rightly be said, in this sense, “Thy hands have made me, and fashioned me,” namely, that every man is born even of his parents not without the work of God, God creating, they generating? Since, if the creative Operatoria. power of God be withdrawn from things, they perish: nor is anything at all, either of the world’s elements, or of parents, or of seeds, produced, if God doth not create it.…
73. The Greek version hath a more concise expression for our, “Give me understanding,” συν™τισον με, expressing “give understanding” by the single word συν™τισον, which the Latin cannot do; as if one could not say, Heal me; and it were necessary to say, Give me health, as it is here said, “Give me understanding;” or, make me whole, as here it may be said, make me intelligent. This indeed an Angel could do: for he said to Daniel, “I am come to give thee understanding;” and this word is in the Greek, as it is here also, συν™τισαί σε; as if the Latin translator were to render θεραπεῦσαί σε by sanitatem dare tibi. For the Latin interpreter would not make a circumlocution by saying, to give thee understanding, if, as we say from health, “to heal thee,” so one could say from intellect, “to intellectuate thee.” But if an Angel could do this, what reason is there that this man should pray that this be done for him by God? Is it because God had commanded the Angel to do it? Just so: for Christ is understood to have given this command to the Angel.…
74. “That I may learn Thy commandments.” Since Thou, saith he, hast formed me, do Thou new form me; that that may be done in Christ’s Body, which the Apostle speaks of, “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
75. “They that fear Thee,” he saith, “will see me, and be glad” (ver. 74): or, as other copies have it, “will be joyful: because I have hoped in Thy word:” that is, in the things which Thou hast promised, that they may be the sons of promise, the seed of Abraham, in whom all nations are blessed. Who are they who fear God, and whom will they see and be glad, because he hath put his trust in the word of God? Whether it be the body of Christ, that is, the Church, whose words these are through Christ, or within it, and concerning it, these are as it were the words of Christ concerning Himself; are not they themselves among those who fear God?…The same persons, who see the Church and are glad, are the Church. But why said he not, They who fear Thee see me, and are glad: whereas he hath written, “fear Thee,” in the present tense; while the verbs “shall see,” and shall “be glad,” are futures? Is it because in the present state there is fear, as long as “man’s life is a temptation upon earth;” [Here our author reasons against the idea of unconditional election to eternal life.—C.] but the gladness which he desired to be understood, will be then, when “the righteous shall shine in the kingdom of their Father like the sun.” …
76. “I know,” she saith, “O Lord, that Thy judgments are righteous, and that in Thy truth Thou hast humbled me” (ver. 75). “O let Thy merciful kindness be my comfort, according to Thy word unto Thy servant” (ver. 76). Mercy and truth are so spoken of in the Divine Word, that, while they are found in many passages, especially in the Psalms, it is also so read in one place, “All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth.” And here indeed he hath placed truth first, whereby we are humbled unto death, by the judgment of Him whose judgments are righteousness: next mercy, whereby we are renewed unto life, by the promise of Him whose blessing is His grace. For this reason he saith, “according to Thy Word unto Thy servant:” that is, according to that which Thou hast promised unto Thy servant. Whether therefore it be regeneration whereby we are here adopted among the sons of God, or faith and hope and charity, which three are built up in us, although they come from the mercy of God; nevertheless, in this stormy and troublesome life they are the consolations of the miserable, not the joys of the blessed.
77. But since those things are destined to happen after and through these, he next saith, “O let Thy loving mercies come upon me, and I shall live” (ver. 77). For then indeed I shall truly live, when I shall not be able to fear lest I die. This is styled life absolutely and without any addition; nor is any life save that which is everlasting and blessed understood, as though it alone were to be called life, compared with which that which we now lead ought rather to be called death than life: according to those words in the Gospel, “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.”
78. He then goeth on as follows: “Let the proud be confounded, for they have unrighteously practised iniquity against me: but I will be occupied in Thy commandments” (ver. 78). Behold, what he saith, the meditation of the law of God, or rather, his meditation the law of God.
79. “Let such as fear Thee,” he saith, “and have known Thy testimonies, be turned unto me” (ver. 79). But who is he who saith this? For no mortal will venture to say this, or if he say it, should be listened to. Indeed, it is He who above also hath interposed His own words, saying, “I am a partaker with all them that fear Thee.” Because He was made sharer in our mortal state, that we might also become partakers in His Divine Nature, we became sharers in One unto life, He a sharer in many unto death. He it is unto whom they that fear God turn, and who know the testimonies of God, so long before predicted of Him through the Prophets, a little before displayed in His presence through miracles.
80. “O let my heart,” he saith, “be unspotted in Thy righteousnesses, that I be not ashamed” (ver. 80). He returneth to the words of His body, that is, His holy people, and now prayeth that his heart may be made unspotted, that is, the heart of His members; “in the righteousnesses of God,” not in their own strength: for He hath prayed for this, not presumed upon it. In the words he hath added, “that I be not ashamed,” there is a resemblance to some of the earlier verses of this Psalm. Whereas there, in the words, “O that,” he signifieth a wish, he hath here expressed himself in the more open words of one praying: “O let my heart be sound:” so that in neither of these two sentences, each of which is one and the same, there is found the boldness of one who trusteth in his own free will against grace. While he saith there, “so shall I not be confounded:” he saith here, “that I be not ashamed.” The heart then of the members and the body of Christ is made unspotted, through the grace of God, by means of the very Head of that Body, that is, through Jesus Christ our Lord, by the “laver of regeneration,”wherein all our past sins have been blotted out; through the aid of the Spirit, whereby we lust against the flesh, that we be not overcome in our fight; through the efficacy of the Lord’s Prayer, wherein we say, “Forgive us our trespasses.” Thus regeneration having been given to us, our conflict having been aided, prayer having been poured forth, our heart is made unspotted, so that we be not ashamed.
Let us pray in the words of Augustine.
Turn we to the Lord God, the Father Almighty, and with pure hearts offer to him, so far as our meanness can, great and true thanks, with all our hearts praying his exceeding kindness, that of his good pleasure he would deign to hear our prayers, that by his Power he would drive out the enemy from our deeds and thoughts, that he would increase our faith, guide our understandings, give us spiritual thoughts, and lead us to his bliss, through Jesus Christ his Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with him, in the Unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
[A prayer which he was wont to use after his Sermons and Lectures.]
CCEL-- St. Augustine