SERMON ON THE SECOND EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS FOR THE FIFTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER HOLY PENTECOST (II Cor. 4:6-15)
“I am come a Light into the World, that whosoever Believeth
on me shall not Abide in Darkness.” (John 12:46)
Brethren, “God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the person of Jesus Christ” (II Cor. 4:6).
By “darkness” is meant the spirit of the Devil together with all the beliefs and tenets inspired by him both as respects the origin of the world and of man and of the lower animals, and as respects the question how man ought to live here, on the earth, and all their deeds of darkness and of sin, to which their deluded ideas lead them. But inasmuch as the Devil himself is transformed into an angel of light (II Cor. 11: 14), as St. Paul says, it is no wonder if those inspired by him, while deluding others as well as themselves, succeed in representing the fantasies of their imagination as lights, and their villainous deeds as civilization, and themselves, moreover, as men of letters and of science, and as men of learning and of education. When, as a matter of fact, they are darkness incarnate, and so are their words and their works, as well as those of their imitators and followers. All those wretches who live in this darkness and are influenced by the spirit of error and of sin are being led to perdition after this brief span of life without their knowing it. But, being the “Light of Light,” the Logos (or Word) comes as a kindly light to those who are situated in the darkness of death.
In order, therefore, to get rid of the darkness, one must believe in Christ. Faith will grow in darkness. That is to say, in other words, a man situated in darkness will come to have faith. Hence it is plain that a man who is just beginning to believe cannot have full knowledge of what he believes: he will believe without understanding. This is required in the beginning, in order that the man in question may be led out of darkness and death. But would-be wise men who find men that believe without understanding are wont to make fun of them as ignoramuses and to hold them up to ridicule. Those of them who can neither stand the ridicule nor feel like following what is believed in order to arrive at the full knowledge which succeeds mere faith and to remain thereafter unshakable in their knowledge and faith, are unfortunate enough to spurn the diamond of faith, on account of their ignorance and at the same time of their wickedness, and, accordingly, they go to perdition in the midst of the darkness. He that is in darkness must first believe in Christ. Sufficient evidence and sufficient testimonies and proofs are available to those who are situated in darkness to convince them of the trustworthiness of the One who calls Himself the “Light of the world.”
But once he has come to believe, he must not remain stagnant, lest his faith be shaken. Anyhow, it is not a question of his being enabled to come out of darkness at once, but rather, just as one follows a guide after becoming convinced of his reliability, and, upon arriving at his goal becomes sure because of having attained to a state of full knowledge and conviction as a result of the fact that the faith in him has been converted to full knowledge and conviction, so and in like manner must he that is situated in darkness follow Christ as soon as he comes to believe in Him. This was more clearly stated by Christ through John the Evangelist when He said: “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8: 12).
He that follows Christ is the one who unceasingly listens to and meditates His word and does it, taking Christ as his model and example in life. He that does so feels at once in the very beginning that he has come out of the darkness of death, that he has passed out of darkness into light, out of death into life, and, indeed, into the blissful life of God, traveling on his way blissfully and safely. That is what the Lord meant in the passage I have just quoted, too. “I am come a light,” He says, “into the world sitting in the region and shadow of death. I am not come for this one alone and not for that, for this class of men alone and not for that, for this nation alone and not for that. I have come as a light for the whole world, for all mankind. So far as I am concerned I belong to all men, and offer myself to all men equally, to be shared by all alike.”
“Nevertheless, I leave the freedom of each person inviolate. Being a light, I have works of light to fulfill. I point out to those who are in darkness the danger of perdition wherein they are involved. I promise them, if they follow me, that they shall enjoy light and life. But everyone that disbelieves in me is left free to remain in darkness, and everyone that believes in me is free to follow me.”
The fact is that neither have all men believed nor do all men believe, and, likewise, that neither all men have disbelieved nor do an men disbelieve. “For all men have not faith,” says St. Paul (II Thess. 3:2). But neither have all men faithlessness. Faith, in, fact, is granted in accordance with the law of righteousness to those who are in darkness, to whom it is furnished on the basis of the worthiness of each of them. Those who so far remove themselves from God as to render themselves, as we have seen, blind of intellect and hard of heart, are never at any time, and never were at any time, worthy to believe, that is to say, able by reason of their own merit to have faith. But those, on the other hand, who have not been entirely corrupted, and whose heart, not being bent on vain pursuits, is looking for the Creator of all things, and who are living not without some fear of God in the midst of this darkness-as for such men, I say, they are all judged worthy of faith. By believing and following Christ, they leave behind them the darkness of death and come out into the light of life.
Many men have believed and do believe in Christ, and upon coming out of the darkness they receive full knowledge of the truth of what they have merely been believing, and rejoicingly go on their way traveling down the road of bliss to final blissfulness with God. Having gained the boon themselves and being inclined to sympathize with those with whom they had formerly been living in darkness, and desiring to have them share in the boons, they keep preaching about all that they have received full knowledge of, and in confirmation exhibiting their change of life, and the profuseness of this transitory life in general, as having acquired the true life, in imitation of their leader who sacrificed His own life for the world’s sake, and who not only was not lost but actually rose from the dead with glory. Among those who listen and see, some believe and are thus enabled to share in the same boons, and are grateful to those who have led them to do so; others, on the contrary, who have a cunning frame of mind inclined to wickedness and who do not care to leave their beloved darkness in order to be convinced, flout as inexistent what they cannot, of course, see and understand while remaining in darkness. As for what consequences follow the unbelief and faithlessness of those unfortunates, that too is told expressly by the Lord just as He stated the consequences that accrue to those who believe, enlightening as a true light everything.
SERMON FOR THE SECOND SUNDAY OF LUKE AFTER THE SUNDAY FOLLOWING THE EXALTATION OF THE CROSS (Luke 6:31-36)
The Catholic and Universal Law of Righteousness and of Justice- A Christian Ought not only to be Righteous and Just, but also Good and Benevolent and Compassionate, or, in other words, He Ought to Show His Love to and for All Men.
What does every man want for himself? What rights has he which he wishes to have other men respect and refrain from violating? Every man wants for himself what is good, and what is beneficial, and does not want what is evil and what is injurious and harmful. His right to life, to honor, to property he wishes to be unassailable and inviolable; he wants to have it respected by others. Accordingly, he rises up and stands up against anyone who attempts to violate it. He does not wish to be killed, to be dishonored, to be deprived of what he owns. In fact, because he loves his own life, he hates murder and a murderer; because he loves his own honor, he hates slander and a traducer, an adulterer and adultery; because he loves his own property, on account of the fact that he thereby is able to support himself and maintain his substance and existence, he hates theft and a thief. In case of need he seeks protection of a stronger power as against a murderer, a slanderer, an adulterer, a thief, a usurper of his rights; and he appoints watchmen and guards and defenders thereof, and establishes courts of justice to try and to punish malefactors and criminals of all kinds. That is what every man wants, what every man seeks after, for himself; and he cries aloud and says, “I am being wronged” or “I am being done an injustice” when his right is being assailed by another, and he then invokes the protection of the authorities as against the wrongdoers. For it is truly a wrong and an act of injustice to take the life of a human being.
In fact, it can just as truly be said that calumny and slander, adultery and any other assault against the honor of a human being, robbery and theft-or the felonious taking away of another’s property, whether by force or by stealth, and whether it be through fraud or deception-is equally an injustice. When roused against such an act of injustice, the public conscience voices its protest, because if such a condition be allowed to spread it will spell the overthrow of society and will result in man’s destruction and ruin. So everybody wants his rights to be inviolable, wants his rights respected, because it is but just that a man should have what he has earned or received through his own efforts or as a result of the operation of any natural agency, and that no one else should be permitted to take it away from him arbitrarily and without due process of law.
But, precisely because I want for myself the inviolability of my rights and demand it of others, I ought and must likewise want the same inviolability to be applied to the rights of others. If I want to have others respect the right to life, to honor, and to property, I must treat other men in the same way as I would have them treat me. Jesus also pointed out this law of righteousness and of justice by saying:
“And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise” (Luke 6:31).
But what if I should treat others as I do not want to have others treat me? if I do not want to be wronged, but yet, in spite of this, I wrong others, murder, steal, slander, insult, commit adultery, dishonor my fellow man, rob him, deprive him of his belongings? If in spite of the fact that I hate to have injustice done me, I like to have it perpetrated against others? If while I protest and cry out against injustice and wrong being done to me I nevertheless abet and concur in the doing of injustice and wrong to others, allow myself to wrong others for this or that reason or another, it is plainly obvious that I am not measuring myself with the same yardstick as I use to measure others, that, in fact, I have two different yardsticks of opposite varieties, and that I do wrong notwithstanding that I am averse to having wrong done to me. This proves me to be double, and not single. It is not justice that I like, but myself. I like my own selfish advantage and my own interest, and not justice and righteousness. For if I really loved or liked what is right, I would not be disposed to allow myself to wrong others, seeing that I myself do not care to be wronged by others and dislike to have others treat me unjustly. So I am guilty in the eyes of justice, and am forced to condemn myself because what I hated for myself I liked for others, what I wanted for myself I did not want for others.
Justice is negative and positive. I do not want to be wronged. Therefore, I must not wrong others. But I want to have benefits conferred upon me, and to be helped by my fellow men in case of need; I want to be judged leniently if I happen to be at fault. To be pardoned when I repent and admit my fault, I must therefore also confer benefits upon others, help them in case of need in proportion to my ability, judge leniently those who sin against me, and forgive them their sin when they repent. If I do not do this, why, I am guilty of doing wrong and am unjust, and must be judged to be such. I am a conceited egoist, because I do not want to be wronged myself but want to wrong others. I want to be helped but do not want to help others.
Injustice, wrong, and unrighteousness of every description is a matter of selfishness, and therefore of egoism and self-conceit. I want what is good for myself and what is evil for others. If I did not want what is evil for others, it is plain that I would not be disposed to wrong them, but, on the contrary, I would confer a benefaction upon them since I wish to have a benefaction conferred upon me. According to this catholic and universal law of negative and of positive justice we shall all be judged by God. Then and in that event what will we wrong-doers have to say in our own defense? We who failed to repay what we received from others, or what we should like to receive? So let every man learn justice and righteousness, and treat his fellow men as he wants others to treat him.
But the Christian must do something more and higher than justice and righteousness. Even non-Christians may do justice and righteousness who are unacquainted with God’s love, benevolence, goodness, and benignity, and who see in justice and righteousness merely the self-interest of society at large and their own self-interest – who prudently consider that without justice society will be overthrown. The Christian, however, must be not only a guardian of justice but also of benevolence and of goodness as a manifestation thereof. Even when ill treated he must confer benefactions and be beneficent; and even when wronged he must do no wrong or injustice of any kind, but, on the contrary, must do good to those who treat him ill, must deem it better for him to be wronged and to suffer injustice than it would be for him to do wrong and perpetrate an injustice, must treat the ungrateful and unthankful and cunning and crafty and wicked benignly and kindly, must have mercy and save, must be compassionate like God and lenient, contributing to the repentance and correction of evil-doers. A Christian must supply his hungry enemy with food and give him to drink in case he is thirsty, confer benefactions upon him and treat him with love. For if he loves only them that love him, what more is he doing that the non-Christian is wont to do?
Non-Christians and sinners in general are wont to love one another and to bestow benefactions upon one another; they lend to those from whom they expect to receive repayment, and they treat each other in accordance with the law of negative and positive justice. But, notwithstanding the fact that they assist one another and in return they themselves are assisted, rendering justice to each other, they are, nevertheless, at fault and lacking in respect of goodness and of benevolence, and in respect of benignity and kindness, because they fail to do good for the sake of doing good, but also do evil to those who do evil to them. They do not treat their enemies ·with beneficence so as to promote their welfare, but, on the contrary, they attempt to take their life or to destroy them.
It is on this account that the Lord says:
“If ye love them who love you, what grace have ye? For sinners also love those who love them. And if ye do good to them who do good to you, what grace have ye? For sinners also do even the same. And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what grace have ye? For sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend without hope of receiving anything back; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be children of the Most High: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the wicked. Be ye therefore compassionate, just as your Father is also compassionate” (Luke 6: 32-36).
The enemies of the Christians are the heathen, who hate them and who seek in every way to injure them. We must treat the heathen, however, in such a manner as to promote their welfare by conferring benefactions upon them. Notwithstanding the fact that they admittedly hate us, it is our duty to love them and we must do so. They wrong us, it is true, and do us much injustice. But we must confer benefactions upon them. They wish evils against us. But we must ·wish them good things. They treat us ill. But we must treat them well and do good to them. We must conquer evil in and by means of what is good, and not in and by means of what is evil or bad. Thus, this tolerance and leniency and forbearance on our part is sure to do away with the spirit of revenge, and to ward off the dire consequences of revengeful quarreling and fighting; and it will disarm ill will, which can be expected to repent and to lose its enmity. God shows such leniency and benignness to the wicked, “for,” says Christ, “he maketh his sun to rise on the wicked and on the good, and raineth upon the just and on the unjust” (Matt. 5:45). He demands of us who believe in Him and who accept His Gospel that we treat our enemies likewise by bestowing benefactions upon them and doing them good.
The Christian is righteous and just and good and benevolent. He is compassionate and lenient and kind and benign, a worker of righteousness and a doer of justice and a performer of kindnesses. “Love ye one another,” says Christ. But He also says, “Love your enemies. Bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who revile you and who persecute you” (Matt. 5:44). Love forestalls evils, leniency wipes out wrath, kindness turns enemies into friends. Not evil for evil, but good for evil is what Christianity proposes as a means of averting evil; and it is in and by means of what is good that evil is to be conquered and defeated. Love even for enemies is the weapon wielded by Christianity, and it is by means of love that Christianity has made and is making conquests of hearts, has succeeded and is succeeding in changing men’s minds for good, and converts its enemies into friends.
If we reprove and censure the vices of our enemies it is because we love them, for we are merely seeking to enlighten them in order to prevent them from kicking against the goad in fighting us, who are invincible because we believe in the Truth. Love for enemies is not assimilation to them. It is not Battery of them for the sake of our own self-interest; it is not an obligation due to weakness or to fear; nor is it an acceptance of their mistaken views and agreement of minds, but is a hatred for such things. Our love for our enemies is an endeavor after their salvation through censure of their error and delusion; it is the constant doing of good and conferring of benefactions. All those who attempt to injure those who injure them by taking revenge upon them and all those who repay evil with evil are ignorant of God’s kindness, benignness, feelings of compassion, leniency, and love; and they are destitute of the superb Christian virtue of kindness to be shown even to their enemies.