Augustine on today’s Gospel: Luke 10:38-42

TintorettoLet’s start off with the Collect for today, briefly.

Omnipotens sempiterne Deus,
cuius Filius in domo beatae Marthae dignatus est hospitari,
da, quaesumus, ut, eiusdem intercessione,
Christo in fratribus nostris fideliter ministrantes,
in aede caelesti a te recepi mereamur.

Almighty eternal God,
whose Son deigned to be received as a guest in the house of blessed Martha,
grant, we beg, that, by her intercession,
faithfully ministering to Christ in our brethren
we may be worthy to be received by You in the heavenly mansion.

Take note that God is right away identified as eternal. Note also that it is Martha’s home and not Martha and Mary’s home. Note as well that there is a strong connection of service to others which leads to heavenly reward.

Let’s now move quickly to Augustine, who strove all his life to find that balance of service to others in busy tasks and, on the other hand, quiet contemplation. Remember: "service" to others (e.g., "social justice" is not everything… or even the most important in all cases).

Augustine commented often on Mary of Bethany and her busy sister Martha. Let’s listen to what he says about what Mary was gaining from the Lord as she sat at His feet. Here he is in s. 179 which he probably preached in another diocese, and maybe even in his own home town of Tagaste where his good friend Alypius was bishop.

This sermon gives you a sense of how Augustine really spoke to people and how dynamic his sessions of preaching were. There were obviously moments when he had to stop, because of applause, and then start back up again, with repetitions of what went just before. And there were stenographers there to record eveything he said, as he spoke. Enjoy!

6. And so, would your graces please think hard? Look, we’re talking about ministering to the saints, preparing food, serving drink, washing feet, making beds, welcoming under a roof; isn’t this all going to pass away? But has anyone the nerve to say that we are now being fed on truth, but won’t be fed on it when we attain to immortality? If we are now being fed on crumbs, won’t we then have a full table? It was about that spiritual food, you see, that the Lord was talking, when praised the centurion’s faith and said, "Amen, I tell you, I have not found such great faith in Israel. And therefore tell you, that many shall come from the east and the west, and shall sit at the table with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven (Mt 8:10-11) …


This, after all, is the reward he is promising his saints when he says, Ämen, I tell you, that he will make them sit down; and he will pass along and wait upon them (Lk 12:37). What can "he will make them sit down" mean, but he will make them rest, make them take their ease? After this passing along of his he will wait upon them. Here, you see, Christ made a passing along, or a passing over. We will come to him where he has passed over to; there he is no longer passing over. …

So what Mary chose was growing, not passing along and away. The human heart’s delight, you see, in the light of truth, in the wealth of wisdom, the delight of a human heart, a faithful heart, a holy heart – no pleasure can be found to compare with it in any respect at all, not even to be called less than this. I mean, if you call anything less, it can imply that by growing it will become equal. I don’t want to say "less"; I’m not making any comparison, it’s of a different kind altogether, it’s quite, quite different. Why is it, after all, that you are all paying attention, all listening, all excited, and when something true is said you are delighted? What have you see, what have you grasped? What color has appeared before your eyes, what form, what shape, what figure, what lines and limbs, what beauty of body? None of these things. And yet you love it. I mean, when would you have applauded like that, if you didn’t love it? When would you have loved it, if you hadn’t see anything? and so, though I am not showing you any form of a body, and lines, color, beautiful movements, though I’m showing you nothing, you all the same are seeing, loving, applauding. If this delight in the truth is lovely now, it will be much lovelier then. "Mary has chosen the better part, which shall not be taken away from her" (Lk 10:42).

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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