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IT IS NOT THE VIRTUE, BUT THE MOTIVE FOR VIRTUE, WHICH GOD REWARDS

IT IS NOT THE VIRTUE, BUT THE MOTIVE FOR VIRTUE, WHICH GOD REWARDS

Commentary onĀ Matthew 5:43-48

At that time: Jesus said to his disciples: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour, and shall hate your enemy.'” And so forth.

But I say to you: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.” Many people, measuring the precepts of God by their own weakness rather than by the strength of his Saints, think it is impossible to perform what they command. They say it is enough if the virtuous do not hate their enemies. To love them is to command more than human nature can bear. We ought to realise that Christ did not command impossible things, although he did command perfect things: David did it to Saul and Absalom; Stephen the Martyr prayed for his enemies who stoned him; Paul wished to be anathema for the sake of his persecutors. This, too, Jesus taught and did when he said: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

That you may be the children of your Father who is in heaven. If observing the commandments of God makes man a son of God, then is man a son of God not from his nature but from his will. “Therefore when you do an almsdeed, sound not a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets that they may be honoured by men.” The man giving an alms and sounding a trumpet is a hypocrite. He who fasts that he may disfigure his face, and that its emaciation may show the emptiness of his stomach – he, too, is a hypocrite. So, too, is he a hypocrite who prays in the synagogues and on the corners of streets, for the sole purpose of being seen by men.

The danger of vain-glory

From all this we may conclude that hypocrites do what they do that they may be glorified by men. It seems to me that, he, too, is a hypocrite who says to his brother, “Let me cast the speck out of your eye,” for he does this through vain-glory, that he may seem just. Wherefore, the Lord says to him: “Hypocrite, first cast out the beam from your own eye.” It is not the act of virtue, but the motive for virtue, which has the reward from God. And if you swerve even but a little from the straight way, it matters not whether you stray to the right or to the left, since you have lost the true way.

– From: St Jerome, Book 1, Commentary on Matthew, Ch. 5-6

(see also: Examination of Conscience, Spiritual Direction, Confession)

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Posted by on April 6, 2017 in Words of Wisdom

 

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A BRIEF EXPLANATION OF WHY WE BECOME MORE HOLY AND VIRTUOUS BY DELIBERATELY DOING THINGS WE FIND UNPLEASANT

If you wish always to press forward on the path of virtue without stopping, you should pay great attention to things which may serve as chances for acquiring virtue, and never let them slip out of your hands.

Therefore those are ill-advised who do everything in their power to avoid any kind of obstacles in their path of virtue, in spite of the fact that these might have helped towards success in their progress. For example, if you wish to gain the habit of patience, you should not avoid the people, things and circumstances which particularly try your patience.

Meet them with a good will and the resolve to submit to their unpleasant effect on you, but at the same time prepare yourself to suffer them with unshakeable calmness of spirit. If you do not act thus, you will never learn patience.

You should adopt the same attitude towards any work which displeases you, either in itself or because it is imposed on you by a man you dislike, or because it interferes with the work you do like. In other words, you must not avoid it but, on the contrary, must undertake it without digging in your toes, and must do and finish it through, as though it were the most welcome work, never letting your heart be troubled by it, especially by the thought that, were it not for this business, you would be completely at peace.

Otherwise you will never learn to bear the afflictions you will meet; nor will you find the true peace you seek by running away from such things, obviously through self-indulgence; for peace does not dwell in self-indulgent hearts.

I advise you to do the same in relation to the thoughts, which at times invade you and trouble your mind with memories of human injustices and other inappropriate things. Do not stifle them or drive them away, but let them leave you of their own accord, not through your opposition, but through the patience with which you endure them.
– Fr Lorenzo Scupoli, 16th century

 
 

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PAX VOBIS – HOW TO OBTAIN TRUE PEACE

BY ST FRANCIS DE SALES

HOW TO OBTAIN PEACE

If we do three things we will obtain peace: we are to have a pure intention of desire, in all things, honour God and His glory; do the little we can for this end…; and leave to God the care of all the rest.

For he who has God as the object of his intentions, and does what he is able to do, why should he be disturbed? What could he fear?

No, I repeat no, God is not so terrible with those whom he loves. He is content with little, since He well knows that we have but little. Know that Our Lord is called “Prince of Peace” in the Scriptures and that, notwithstanding that He is Father of all, He maintains everything in peace. Nonetheless, it is true that before establishing peace in a place He procures there a war, separating the soul from that which is most dear and customary to it, which means to say from an unmeasured love for oneself, from self-complacency and the like.

Therefore, when Our Lord separates us from these passions which are so agreeable and dear to us, it seems that He flays our heart alive. We experience sentiments which are extremely bitter. We cannot avoid struggling with all our soul, because this separation is very painful. But all this battling leaves us in peace if at the end we do not fail to keep our will resigned to that of Our Lord, letting Him nail it to His good pleasure: in this way we will not omit our duties or their fulfilment at all, but will carry them out courageously.

DO ALL IN PEACE

Since love only dwells in peace, I recommend that you take care always to conserve well holy tranquillity of heart. All the thoughts that procure anxiety and agitation of spirit do not come from God at all, since He is the Prince of Peace. They are temptations of the enemy and therefore it is necessary to get rid of and make no account of them. It is necessary to live tranquilly in all and for all. If a suffering, interior or exterior comes, we must accept it calmly. If we receive a joy, we should welcome it with the same tranquillity, without being startled. Must we fly from evil? It is necessary to do this calmly, without preoccupation, since otherwise in the flight we would fall and give opportunity to the enemy to kill us. Must we do good? We should do it serenely, otherwise we could commit many errors by our agitation. It is necessary to do even penance calmly.

PEACE AND HUMILITY

Peace is born of humility. Nothing disturbs us as much as self-love and the esteem we have for ourselves… How is it that when we fall into imperfections and sin, we are surprised, disturbed and impatient? Without doubt we believed ourselves to be strong, resolute and stable. Consequently, when we see that we are nothing of the kind, we find ourselves with our face to the ground and realise that we have been mistaken and are disturbed, offended and anxious. If we would be truly conscious of what we are, instead of being amazed at seeing ourselves humbled, we would rather be astounded as to how we could still remain standing.

THE GREAT DOCTOR

See this great and merciful doctor: He converts our miseries into graces and gives to our souls the salutary medicine against the viper of our iniquities. Tell me, I beseech you, what will He do with our afflictions, our weariness, and the persecutions received? If, therefore, it happens that you are caused some displeasure, of whatsoever kind it may be, rest assured, since you love God very much, that all will be turned to good. If you do not see the ways by which these will come to you, you can at least be sure that they will come. If God throws the mud of ignominy in your eyes, it is to give you good sight and make you assist at a spectacle of honour. If God permits you to fall, as in the case of St Paul – thrown by Him to the ground – it is to raise you up to glory.

AVOID HASTE

It is necessary to deal carefully with one’s labours, but with neither haste nor worry. Do not rush, since every kind of haste disturbs the reason and the ability to judge and it also impedes us from doing well what we are about to do with frenzy… When Our Lord reproached St Martha He said to her: “Martha, Martha, you are troubled and disturbed by many things.” Notice well, if she had only been diligent, she would not have been disturbed at all; since in her preoccupation and anxiousness, she was doing things with haste and was troubled. For this reason Our Lord reproached her… A duty done with impetuosity and haste was never well done… Therefore accept what happens to you in peace and strive to do the things with order, one after another.

PEACE IN THE FACE OF OUR DEFECTS

It is necessary to detest our defects, but with a calm and tranquil aversion, without disappointment and disturbance. We must accept our defects patiently and draw from them the profit of a holy humiliation of ourselves. Otherwise the imperfections which you see subtly within you, will disturb you still more subtly and thus they will remain, there being nothing which retains our faults more than anxiety and haste which need to be eliminated…
Avoid as far as possible being disturbed when you are not able to immediately placate the variety of sentiments in the changes of your moods.

 

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