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Memorial of Saint Augustine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

Sunday, August 27, 2017

 

1Thes 1:1-5,8-10; Ps 149:1-9; Mt 23:13-22
“For the LORD loves his people.”

Saint Augustine was baptized at the age of 33; he was ordained priest at 36 and became a bishop at 41. Even after his conversion, his searching continued. The LORD is the unsearchable one in the sense that no matter how we search we cannot fully find because the mystery of God is still mystery, even after we find him or he finds us. What matters most is that God finds us, not that we find God. Saint Augustine confesses both his sin and his sanctity in his book, Confessions. He comes to a moment of great conversion in his writings when he states, “Too late have I loved you, O Beauty of ancient days, yet ever new! Too late have I loved you!” What does he mean by “too late?” Certainly, Saint Augustine does not mean that it was too late for him to be converted or grow in holiness that somehow God had given up on him. No, what he means is that the only regret that a saint has is that conversion and holiness did not come earlier.

Anyone who has come to know and love the Lord has a burning desire that all come to know and love the Lord. Such a missionary desire flows out of a life filled with the gifts of the Holy Spirit and overflowing with the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Indeed these kind of prayerful and loving believers could never fully enjoy the abundant life in Christ until they could share that life with all. Saints have but one regret that is really two regrets, that growth in prayer didn’t happen earlier and that this new life could not be shared among all people. Those who love the LORD hope to live long enough to sing a new song of praise and join with new converts to rejoice in their king. They are adorned with victory because all have come to know the love that God has for his people. Now all the saints exult in glory and the high praises of God are in their throats. Saint Paul rejoices with the same kind of gladness because the Thessalonians turned from idols to serve the living and true God. The Lord Jesus, however, is caught up in the sadness of all who resist the Kingdom, and he proclaims a final warning of three “woes” to the Scribes, Pharisees, and indeed all hypocrites.

After much struggle and persecution Saint Paul can now give thanks to God the Father that his missionary preaching has found a reception in the hearts of the Thessalonians. This kind of heartfelt joy in the Holy Spirit we can share with Saint Paul and with all missionaries of the Lord Jesus Christ. This greeting followed by thanksgiving is the tradition of epistles at the time of Saint Paul. He “baptized” this literary form to reveal the new kinds of relationships that are born in a conversion to Christ and his Church. First of all one knows from whence comes grace and peace. It’s not the reward of a virtuous life. Grace and peace are a heartfelt gift from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Saint Paul also makes clear that in the divine gift of new life they are brothers and sisters to all the saints who are already in the church. Then Saint Paul reveals that the conversion of the Thessalonians has had a personal impact on him as well. The memory of their work of faith, their labor of love and their endurance in hope brings true delight to the heart of this Apostle. It is their growth in the spiritual life that gives him every reason to continue growing himself so that he with them will be delivered from the coming wrath.

The Lord Jesus has the same desire for his enemies; he wants all hypocrites to wake up and grow up. In commanding us to love our enemies the Lord Jesus does not demand anything of us that he is not willing to do himself. He loves the scribes and Pharisees and that is why he is so severe with them in today’s gospel. The Lord Jesus wants them to be converted, to change the course of their lives, to come back to the truth of God’s revelation. Until their conversion, their life is full of woe because they lock out those trying to enter the Kingdom of heaven. These leaders, to symbolize their power to welcome or reject others, wore keys. They too seek converts, but only those who are far away and who don’t see how they live out their own teaching. Finally, they are blind guides because they get caught up in the popular attempt to evaluate holy places and holy things. The true worth of offerings and oaths comes from the relationship one has with the living God. Without conversion, these men endanger all who come to them for wisdom and knowledge. Out of the same love, we join with the Lord Jesus to challenge our relatives, friends and enemies to come to know the truth that can alone set us free!

 

 

 

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