Homily of St Ambrose on Luke 4:23-30
No mean degree of envy was that which led these men to turn what should have been a reason for love into an occasion of bitter hatred, unmindful of the charity due to a fellow-citizen.
In this passage it is shown both by example and by word that, if you envy the fruits of virtue in other men, you will look in vain for the assistance of heavenly mercy. For the Lord is a despiser of the envious; and from those who persecute other men for possessing divine benefits, he turns away the wonders of his power. For the works of the Lord in his human nature are a manifestation of his divinity; and the invisible things of them are shown to us by means of those that are visible.
Envy of another’s spiritual benefits
Not without reason, therefore, does the Saviour excuse himself, that he worked miracles of his power in his own country; lest perchance anyone should consider that we ought to think lightly of affection for one’s own country. Indeed it was impossible for him not to love his fellow-citizens, since he loved all men; but it was they themselves who, in giving way to envy, forfeited the love due to fellow-citizens.
In truth I say to you: there were many widows in the days of Elia. Not that the days belonged to Elia, but that they were the days in which Elia worked; or that Elia made day appear to them who saw in his works the light of spiritual grace, and were converted to the Lord. And, therefore, heaven was opened to those who saw eternal and divine mysteries; it was shut and there was a famine when there was no longer an abundance of the knowledge of God. But of this we spoke more fully when we wrote concerning widows.
Heaven was opened to those who saw eternal and divine mysteries
“And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Eliseus, the Prophet; and none of them was cleansed but only Naaman, the Syrian.” By these words the Lord and Saviour clearly teaches and exhorts us to be zealous in our reverence for divine things: because no one is shown to be made whole and have his body freed from the defilements of disease, except the man who seeks to be healed through the performance of religious duties.
For, God does not bestow his blessings on the slothful, but on those who observe his commandments. In another book we said of that widow to whom Elia was sent, that she was set as a type that prefigured the Church. The people gathered together and formed the Church, that other people might follow what had been gathered together out of strange nations.
The people that before were leprous, the people that before were defiled, as soon as they had been baptised with the mystic waters, as soon as they had been washed from the stains of body and mind, were now no longer like a leper but became a spotless virgin without wrinkle.
– St Ambrose, Bishop, Bk. 4, on Luke, Ch. 4; from: An Approved English Translation of the Breviarium Romanum, Burns & Oates, London, 1964