Aquinas/Advent Homilies/Homily VI
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HOMILY VI: THE TRUE MINISTRY OF CHRIST.
THIRD SUNDAY IN ADVENT. (FROM THE EPISTLE.)
"Let a man so account of us as the ministers of Christ." — I Cor. iv. 1.
IN the preceding Epistle the Apostle has taught us that Christ was a Minister for us. "But I say that Christ was the Minister of the Circumcision," so, therefore, in this Epistle he teaches us that we ought to be the ministers of Christ, and six matters are treated of concerning this ministry. First, that we ought to make ministers of Christ; second, that we ought to avoid a thoughtless choice; third, to despise human discernment; fourth, not to trust to individual conscience; fifth, to submit all choice to Christ as the Judge; sixth, to seek praises from God alone. Of the first, "Let a man so account of us as of the ministers of Christ ;" of the second, "to judge nothing before the time;" of the third, that "it is a very small thing to me that I should be judged of you;" of the fourth, "I know nothing by myself;" of the fifth, "until the Lord come;" of the sixth, "then shall every man have praise of God." It ought to be known about the first point that there are three chief reasons why we ought to be ministers of Christ and to serve Him — (1) Because whatever we are able to do He gave us the power to do when He created us; (2) because He served us by redeeming us; (3) because He will further preserve us to glory. Of the first, S. Bernard, "Who ought we more rightly to serve than Him Who need not have created us unless He willed." "It is He that hath made us" (Ps. xcv. 7). Of the second, S. Luke xxii. 27, "I am among you as He that serveth," for He temporally served them by washing their feet, in cleansing by His own blood the wounds of sinners, and in ministering to His own flesh — (1) S. John xiii. 5, "And began to wash the disciples' feet." (2) Rev. i. 5, "Him that loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood." Isa. xliii. 24, "Thou hast made me to serve with thy sins." (3) S. Matt. xxvi. 26, "Jesus took bread and brake and gave it to His disciples." S. Bernard, "The good Minister Who gave His Flesh for food, His Blood for drink, and His Soul for a ransom, He will likewise serve in glory." S. Mark xii. 57, "That He will gird Himself and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth to serve them." Rightly, therefore, we are said to be His ministers. But there are these things which He chiefly hates in His ministers want of compassion, disobedience, and uselessness. Of the first, S. Matt, xviii. 32, 33, "O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellow-servant, even as I had pity on thee?" S. Matt. xxiv. 48, 49, "But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to smite his fellow-servants, and to eat and drink with the drunken, the lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, and shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." Of the second, S. Luke xii. 47, "And that servant which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes." Of the third, S. Matt. xxv. 30, "And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." There are three things which the Lord requires in His servants — the first, that they should be cleansed from every defilement of sin; the second, that they should be ornamented with every virtue; the third, that they should be decorated with honesty of maners. Of the first, Ps. ci. 6, "He that walketh in a perfect way he shall serve Me." 1 Tim. iii. 10 (Vulg.), "Let them minister having no crime." Of the second, 2 Cor. vi. 4, "In all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God." Of the third, 1 Peter ii. 12, "Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles." Of these three things, Exo. xl. 12, 13, "And thou shalt bring Aaron and his sons unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation and wash them with water;" (v. 15), "and thou shalt anoint them as thou didst anoint their father," &c. 2 Cor. ii. 15, "We are unto God a sweet savour of Christ." But the Lord requires that we should serve Him in three ways first, by imitating Him; second, by delighting in His service; thirdly, by fearing Him. Of the first, S. John xii. 26, "If any man serve Me, let him follow Me." Of the second, Ps.c. 2, "Serve the Lord with gladness." Of the third, Ps. ii. 11, "Serve the Lord with fear." The first makes the service acceptable to the Lord; the second makes us ready in serving; the third preserves us in His service. But the Lord promises three rewards to His servants, viz., happiness, dignity, and eternity. Of the first reward, 1 Tim. iii. 13, "For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree." Of the second reward, S. Matt. xxv. 23, "Well done, good and faithful servant, thou hast been faithful over a few things," &c. Of the third reward, Rev. vii. 15, "And serve Him day and night in His Temple;" and afterwards He "shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters." Eternity is a fountain of life. As Dionysius says, "Eternity is endless, and at the same time the whole and perfect possession of life." Of these three attributes, S. John vii. 26, "Where I am, there also shall My servant be." Where Christ is, there is joyful exultation and eternal delightfulness, to which for His sake may the Lord God bring us.