Augustine on today’s Gospel: Christ the Physician

The Gospel reading for today’s Mass (with the Novus Ordo) is from Matthew 17:14-20. Let us have a taste of St. Augustine’s comment on this passage. The bishop uses the image of Christus Medicus, Christ the Physician quite often. This is taken from a sermon preached probably around A.D. 410 (s. 80.3). Remember: in the ancient world, there were no anaesthetics.

3. So then, seeing that in this chapter of the Gospel the Lord exorts us to prayer after saying "It was becaus of your unbelief that you could not cast out this demon," he exhorted them to prayer, you see, by concluding like this: "This kind is only cast out by fasting and prayers". If a person is to pray in order to cast out someone else’s demon, how much more to cast out his own avarice? How much more to cast out his own habit of drunkenness? How much more to cast out his own loose living? How much more to cast out his own uncleanness?

How many things there are in us which, if they persist, bar our entry into the kingdom of heaven! Just think, brothers and sisters, how urgently people beg doctors for merely temporary health, how if someone is desperately ill he’s neither slow nor shy about cling to the man’s feet, about washing the expert surgeon’s feet with his tears. And what if the doctor tells him, "The only way you can be cured is if I tie you down, cauterize, wield the knife?" He will answer, "Do what you like, only cure me!" How keenly he must long for a few day’s volatile health, as fleeting as the morning mist, if for its sake he is willing to be tied down (ligo), and cut open and burnt, and kept from eating what he likes and drinking what he likes and when he likes! He endures all this, just to die a little later; and he is reluctant to put up with a little suffering in order not to die ever! If God, the heavenly doctor in charge of us, said to you, "Do you want to be cured?" wouldn’t you say, "O yes! I do!" Or perhaps you wouldn’t say it, because you think you are perfectly well, and that means your illness is worse than ever.

Don’t forget to make a good examination of conscience and go to confession even during the summer months! We are never on vacation from keeping our souls healthy.

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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One Response to Augustine on today’s Gospel: Christ the Physician

  1. CaesarMagnus says:

    During the summer, our pastor likes to note:
    “If you don’t want God to take a vacation from you, then make sure you don’t take a vaction from God. You still need to go to Mass on Sundays and Holy Days, even if you are on vacation.”