THOUGHT FOR TODAY BY
ST. ANTHONY ZACCARIA

If through perfect humility you will be able to know objec tively yourself, only then will you be.

4301 Hecktown Rd
Bethlehem, PA 18020

Sermon 3

"Santification means to love God above all things
and everything else for His sake. It means
to love our friends in Him, and our enemies for Him."
[Anthony Mary Zaccaria, Sermon III]

 


 

 

 

 INTRODUCTION* 

 

Introductory Overview

Sermon III is divided into two parts: Part One deals with what we owe to God and Part Two deals with the Third Commandment.
Part One is subdivided into two sections: The first section deals with God's right to be gratefully acknowledged by us and correspondingly, with our duty to do so. The second section treats of our unfaithfulness to God. Part One brims with scriptural quotations.

Part One: What we owe to God

[I] God deserves to be gratefully acknowledged by us.
[I.A] There are three reasons for us to gratefully acknowledge God, namely,
[I.A.1] He is our Creator
[I.A.2]
 He is our Governing Lord
[I.A.3]
 He is our Liberating Savior
Notice the many equivalent terms Anthony Mary uses to hammer home the central principle of this section which is: "for any work done by anyone a remuneration is due." Equivalent terms: homage, recognition, remuneration, reward, recompense, acknowledgment, tribute, fruit, salary, tithe, promise.
Anthony Mary illustrates and buttresses his points with scriptural passages:
1. God our Creator: Joseph in Egypt (Gen 47:13-26); the parable of the silver pieces (Matt 25:19), of the murderous tenants (Matt 21:33-41), of the sums of money (Luke 19:12-27) and the judgment of all nations (Isa 66:18).
2. God our Governing Lord: the divine mercy parables of the lost sheep and the lost silver pieces (Mark 15:4-10), the multiplication of bread (Mark 8:2-7); Jesus the Good Shepherd (John 10:1-5), the Priestly prayer (John 17:11) and Christ's final assurance: "And know that I am with you always until the end of the world" (Matt18:20). These words perfectly cap Anthony Mary's beautiful description of Christ's earthly ministry: "To bring you back to the fold, He walked through deserts and hills for thirty three years."
3. God our Liberator-Savior: exodus from Egypt (Exod 4); return from Exile (Exod 1:1); rescue of Lot (Gen 19:1-26); of Abraham (Gen 20); of Jacob (Gen 33); of David (1 Kgs 19); Israel's rescue from Sennacherib, King of Assyria (2 Kgs 19:32-36); rescue of the Jews in Esther's time (Esth 6:1-8) and in Maccabees' time (1 Macc 2-16).
This presentation is based on two convictions, namely: "Everything is kept safe as long as God holds out his Hands," and "God makes all good things come into being."
[I.B] Object of our grateful recognition: what we already have and what we desire to have according to our potential, which is based on what we have already received.
[II] Our unfaithfulness.
[II.A] Anthony Mary is realistically well aware that, despite our clear duty to give God his due, we fail to do so.
[II.B] This is the reason we are excluded from perfection, a state of profound intimacy with God classically enunciated in the Fourth Gospel: "Anyone who loves me will be true to my word and my Father will love him; we will come to him and make our dwelling place with him" (John 14:20). Everything else God gives indiscriminately, "in spite of us - his unfaithful and insincere servants, even his enemies": life, providential care, justification and faith.
[II.C] However, "he is unwilling to grant the gift of perfection, the tasting of his sweetness and the knowledge of his secrets except to his friends and faithful disciples." This profound teaching is actually the basis of all Anthony Mary's sermons. Let us not forget that he is addressing an audience of married men, albeit members of a special Friendship Group. They have the real possibility of belonging to a class of people described by Jesus Christ himself: "Father, Lord of heaven and earth, to you I offer praise for what you have hidden from the learned and the clever you have revealed to the merest children" (Matt 11:25). Who are God's special friends? In the words of Jesus, "You are my friends if you do what I command you" (John 15:14).
As a matter of fact, concludes Anthony Mary, "the first commandment will help you give God the tribute of your heart; the second one, the tribute of your lips; the third one, the tribute of your actions. Thus, once you are tied up with this threefold rope, you will... reach the utmost heights of holiness..."
This is the dynamic of Anthony Mary's central insight of the "due order of the spiritual life."

Part Two: The Third Commandment

[I]
 Anthony Mary begins [I.A] by quoting the scriptural text of the Commandment (Exod 20:8-11), then offers [I.B] a brief exegesis of its content where the distinction between the moral and cultic aspect of the commandment is taken from Aquinas.
[II] An elaborate practical application, in order to sanctify the Lord's Day, follows, catechetical style:
[II.A] First, negatively, the moral duty of avoiding sins, including those of others which we facilitate by not practicing fraternal correction, and the cultic duty of avoiding all works and activities which hinder the worship owed to God.
[II.B] Second, positively, the moral duty of sanctifying oneself and the cultic duty of sanctifying the Lord's Day
Self-sanctification implies: purity, spiritual renewal, love of God and neighbor, interior betterment through meditation, and external practices through Bible reading, penance, study and teaching of Christian doctrine, and the performance of works of mercy.
Anthony Mary's 16th century program for the Sunday celebration of the Lord's Day compares favorably with the 20th century Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2168-2188.

Doctrinal Outline

Part One: WHAT WE OWE TO GOD

  • I. God deserves to be gratefully acknowledged by us
    • [A] Reasons for us to gratefully acknowledge God
      • [1] He is our Creator
      • [2] He is our Governing Lord
      • [3] He is our Liberating Savior
        Conclusion
    • [B] Object of our grateful recognition
  • II. Our unfaithfulness
    • [A] The fact
    • [B] The consequence
    • [C] The reason

Conclusion of Part One

Part two: THE THIRD COMMANDMENT

  • I. Exposition of the commandment
    • [A] Biblical text
    • [B] Exegesis
  • II. Practice of the commandment
    • [A] Negatively, the duty of avoiding sin (moral duty) and work (cultic duty)
    • [B] Positively, the duty of sanctifying oneself (moral duty) and the Lord's Day (cultic duty)
      • [1] Purity
      • [2] Renewal
      • [3] Charity
      • [4] Conversion
        • [a] Internal
        • [b] External

General conclusion

 

 

 

The Third Commandment

 

Part One: What we owe to God

  • [I] God deserves to be gratefully acknowledged by us
    • [I.A] Reasons for us to gratefully acknowledge God
      • [I.A.1] He is our Creator

     Dear friends,

     It would certainly be foolish of anyone to think that God did not make the heaven, the earth, and all that is in them [Ps 146:6]; and, no doubt, it would even be unjust to refuse to pay Him homage, not recognizing Him from the very things He created. In fact, for any work done by anyone a remuneration is due, and to no workman, however unskilled and only a maker of humble things, is his reward ever denied. Why! Only to God, the supreme artificer, should His recompense -- some kind of acknowledgment -- be refused? No, not so!
     As an illustration of what I have just said, we read that Joseph, when all the land of Egypt was famished, sold wheat and oats to the people on behalf of the Pharaoh, accepting fields and lands in exchange. Afterwards, giving those lands and fields back to their owners, he made them the Pharaoh's tributaries. Thus it happened that from then on the whole of Egypt became its lord's tributary. The Pharaoh gave his people the wheat that had been stored in warehouses during the great plenty -- the wheat that he had collected from the Egyptians themselves -- and made them his tributaries. God, on the contrary, gives what is His own; He gives it abundantly to all creatures, and above all without asking anything back since He has no need of our things [Ps 16:2]. Is it not, therefore, our duty to pay him our tribute? Yes, of course, it is.
     That is why our Savior presents His Father as that master who settles accounts with his servants and, finding them to be faithful, rewards them; but finding them by surprise to be unfaithful, he punishes them severely, especially by taking away from them the things and the property he had entrusted to them for their business [Matt 25:19]. And [as in the parable of the tenants] the owner took his vineyard away from the tenants because they failed to give him its fruit in due time [Matt 21:33-41]. And, again, Jesus presents His Father as that noble man who, setting out for an expedition, gave his citizens the government of the city with a warning to do justice and to be faithful. No sooner had he left than those wicked people sent a delegation after him to tell him that they did not want him to be their lord. On his return from a victorious expedition, enraged, he took the government away from them and killed them all. He then brought in new inhabitants [Luke 19:12]. And believe firmly that, as Scripture says, God will gather all nations of the earth and, knowing their thoughts, will judge them [Isa 66:18]. Imagine, my friends, how uncomfortable will we be, then!

  •  
    •  
      • [I.A.2] He is our Governing Lord

     Well, my friends, God governs the whole world, doesn't He? Yes, He does. What reason, then, can you think of for not believing that we must pay him our tribute? None, indeed. Nurses and teachers receive their salaries. But God is more than a nurse, more than a teacher, more than a father and a mother. He cares for you so lovingly that to save you He willed to give His life for you [John 10:15]; to bring you back to the fold He walked through deserts and hills for thirty three years [Luke 15:4]; to find you He lit a lamp and turned the house upside-down [Luke 15:8].
     Think of your father and guide and master, Jesus Christ, who said to Philip: "I have compassion on the crowd because they have been following me now three days and have nothing to eat. And they are so far from where they can get some bread that they would faint on the way before reaching the place" [Mark 8:2-7]. That was when, having at hand those few loaves of bread, He blessed them and gave them to the crowd to eat their fill. Think of what He said while praying to His Father: "So far I have kept them safe; now, Father, you do keep them in your care" [John 17:11]. "And not only for these I pray, but also for those who through their word will believe in me" [John 17:20]. Think of what He said to his disciples: "I will be with you to the end of the age" [Matt 28:20]. O sweet and blessed providence!

  •  
    •  
      • [I.A.3] He is our Liberating Savior

     But if all this is not enough to convince you, consider, dear friends, from how many dangers God has rescued you; in what abundance of things He has kept you; and in how many ways He has enriched you. He delivered His people, Israel, from the slavery of Egypt [Exod 14:1ff.] and again from the slavery of Nebuchadnezzar [Ezra 2:1]. He took particular care of Lot by saving him from the hands of his enemies [Gen 14:16] and from the fire that engulfed the five cities [Gen 19:14]. He rescued Abraham from King Abimelech [Gen 20:1ff.] and Jacob from his brother, by making his traveling safe and threatening his brother Esau in a dream [Gen 33:1ff.]. And He rescued David from King Saul so many times and in so many ways [1 Kgs 18:11; 19:10ff.].
     And not to prolong these reflections any further, consider yourselves how marvelously God has helped you in this or that occurrence. Consider also: who worked things out so that the people of Israel were not deprived of their kingdom in Sennacherib's time [2 Kgs 19:35], and many other times as well? Who worked things out so that the entire people were not destroyed in Esther's time [Esth 9:1ff.]? Who worked things out so that the remnant of Israel was not brought to ruin in Maccabees' time [1 Macc 1:57]? [It is] "because of the Lord's great love [that] we are not consumed" [Lam 3:22].
     This is to say that everything is kept safe as long as God holds out His hands; otherwise everything would wither away. In short, God makes all good things come into being; and, granted that Paul plants, and Apollo waters, it is God who makes them flourish [1 Cor 3:6].

Conclusion

     Conclude, then, that God has bound every single creature, especially man, with a duty. In fact, it is He who has made them, governs them, defends them from adversities and dangers, guards them and makes them prosper. Of course, the more excellent and noble a creature, the greater its duty to pay God greater homage [Luke 12:48].

  •  
    • [I.B] Object of our grateful recognition

     If you, dear friends, asked me for which things homage is due Him, I would answer: for all that is in you because "every perfect gift is from above"[ Jas 1:17]; for all that you do not have yet, but wish to have because "God is at work in you both to will and to work for His good pleasure" [Phil 2:13], and He gives you even more than you may desire. And as, of course, all things owe Him something according to their nature, so you too owe Him the homage of a special acknowledgment according to your nature.
     As a figure of this duty, in fact, the people of Israel were bound to give tithes of all fruits and animals [Lev 27:30ff.].

  • [II] Our unfaithfulness
    • [II.A] The fact

     But if you, my friends, are unfaithful in very little things, will you be faithful in greater ones [Luke 16:10]? God, of course, will not give you anything at all. And if you do not keep your promises with His Majesty, how can you expect Him to keep His with you? Forget it!
     Call to your mind that lord and father of family who had a servant who owed him ten thousand talents. When he began the reckoning, as the servant declared himself unable to pay the debt and implored for patience, the lord forgave him the debt. As he came out of his lord's presence, the servant came upon one of his fellow servants that owed him a hundred danarii and compelled him to pay the debt. While his fellow servant was beseeching him for mercy, for patience, and for a delay of payment, he seized him by the throat demanding that he pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw his cruel behavior, they reported everything to their lord. In anger the lord said to him: "You wicked servant! I forgave you all your debt; should you not have had pity on your brother and patience with him as well? Therefore you, my servants, seize him and throw him in jail. I have decided that he must not get out of jail until he pays all the debt to the last penny" [Matt 18:23ff.]. Do you understand the gravity of this sentence? God will act in the same way with you.

  •  
    • [II.B] The consequence

     You do not want to acknowledge Him: you do not want to pay Him the promised tribute; you do not want to give Him the due honor of keeping the Sabbath holy, as the third commandment enjoins. Neither, then, will He give you what He has promised you, nor will He grant you perfection, and that particular knowledge of both His goodness and your own wretchedness, nor the capacity for accepting and fulfilling the evangelical counsels.

  •  
    • [II.C] The reason

     Do you know the reason [why God deals with us this way]? It is because, though in His goodness and in spite of us -- His unfaithful and insincere servants, even His enemies -- He gives us so many good things; nevertheless, He is unwilling to give the gift of perfection, the tasting of His sweetness, and the knowledge of His secrets except to His friends and faithful disciples. As a proof of this, Jesus, the incarnate Truth, said to His apostles: "I no longer call you servants, but friends, since I have made known to you all that I have heard from my Father" [John 15:15]. And in fact, Paul, that true friend of God, said of himself and of other faithful ministers, "To us God revealed things that no ruler of this age, that is, no philosopher or clever man of this age, has ever known" [1 Cor 2:6]. And for this [privilege] Christ gave thanks to His Father when He said: "Father, to you I offer praise; for you have hidden your secrets from the clever and the learned and have revealed them to the merest children"[ Matt 11:25], "to whom you give words and wisdom which none of their adversaries can contradict" [Luke 21:15].

Conclusion of Part One

     Tell me, then, my friends: if God, on the one hand, deserves to be duly recognized by men because He has created them, governs them, delivers them from evil, keeps them alive, and blesses them with good things, should men, on the other hand, not be deprived of God's special favors, kept in darkness of His secrets, and left in endless wretchedness and meanness of soul for their being unfaithful, liars, and enemies?
     Rise up, rise up and strive to pay your debt to God, so that He may receive you back as He received the prodigal son [Luke 15:20]. This is something you can do if you reject your past life and keep your promises. You will be able to do this easily if from now on you observe the third commandment. As a matter of fact, the first commandment will help you give God the tribute of your heart; the second one, the tribute of your lips; the third one, the tribute of your actions. Thus, once you are tied up with this threefold rope, you will get out of the cistern of wretchedness and imperfection with ease -- as Jeremiah got out of the muddy cistern [Jer 38:13] -- and reach the utmost heights of holiness, which alone makes your hearts worthy temples of God.
     Pay attention, then, to the explanation of the third commandment, so that afterwards you in turn may discuss it with others.

Part two: The third commandment

  • [I] Exposition of the commandment
    • [I.A] Biblical text

     Speaking of it, Moses said: "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work; but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your manservant, or your maidservant, or your cattle, or the sojourner who is within your gates; for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it" [Exod 20:8-11].

  •  
    • [I.B] Exegesis

     By these words God allows you to work six days, orders you to turn yourselves to Him on the seventh day, and forbids you to work on that day.
     This commandment is moral inasmuch as it enjoins you to sanctify yourselves and direct your minds to God. It is ceremonial inasmuch as it charges you to keep the seventh day as a symbol of the death and rest of Christ in the tomb and the rest of souls in paradise. It is partly ceremonial and partly moral inasmuch as it forbids working in general: by forbidding all kinds of works, in fact, it is meant to forbid all sins against it; but, by forbidding only some of them (namely the so-called servile or bodily works not necessary for a living), by allowing only the necessary ones and the servile ones that may be necessary, and tolerating those meant for a wholesome recreation, it is partly moral.

  • [II] Practice of the commandment
    • [II.A] Negatively, the duty of avoiding sin (moral duty) and work (cultic duty)

     With this commandment, dear friends, God forbids all sins, yours as well as those of others, which you defend, excuse, and even neglect to correct. I wish you knew how necessary fraternal correction is. You would not sin in this matter. You may object: what have we to do with the sins of others? Fools! God will indeed make you fully responsible for them. But let us leave aside this subject of fraternal correction for another time [See Sermon IV].
     God also forbids the servile works.

  •  
    • [II.B] Positively, the duty of sanctifying oneself (moral duty) and the Lord's Day (cultic duty)
      • [II.B.1] Purity

     He commands you to observe and sanctify the holidays which up to now you have not observed at all. Understand, then, what sanctification means.
     Sanctification means purity of heart and a steady cleansing of one's self. "This is the will of God," says Paul, "your sanctification: that you abstain from unchastity, etc." [1 Thess 4:3].

  •  
    •  
      • [II.B.2] Renewal

     Sanctification means putting off the old self -- namely, the things of the lower nature and all vices -- and putting on the new self according to the spirit [Col 3:9], so as to walk toward the reward of the heavenly homeland. As David said, "the just shall go from virtue to virtue; they shall see the God of gods in Zion" [Ps 84:8].

  •  
    •  
      • [II.B.3] Charity

     Sanctification means to love God above all things and everything else for His sake. It means to love our friends in Him, and our enemies for Him. By doing this you will be pure, peaceful, and free from anxiety.

  •  
    •  
      • [II.B.4] Conversion
        • [II.B.4.a] Internal

     Sanctification means turning oneself to God both internally and externally. You turn to God internally, dear friends, when you reflect on your sins or on God's blessings. Yes, you keep holy the Lord's day when you meditate within your heart on His blessings and on your faults, especially those of previous days. Alas, how many are there who neglect to do this on the Lord's day and on the other days too! On the other days, of course, you are somewhat excused on account of your jobs; but who can excuse you on the day of rest when you are free from working? No one. O wretched Christians! This practice seems nowadays to be no longer common; nonetheless you must keep it alive; for , if you do not, you fail to keep holy the Lord's day. And if you do not want to glorify God by openly admitting your faults, at least meditate on them by yourselves. But just meditating is not enough; it is necessary to unite ourselves with God by lifting up our hearts, praying and even contemplating . Actually, if you do not strive for this goal, I will not be surprised if you do not understand what prayer is, let alone contemplation.

  •  [II.B.4.b] External

     Externally, you turn to God by means of some Scripture reading, by reciting or singing psalms, and, besides, by offering Him sacrifices: the sacrifice, of your bodies kept under control by penance for the love of God, the sacrifice of your souls eager to unite themselves with Him, but above all the sacrifice par excellence, the most holy Eucharist. No wonder that people have grown lukewarm and turned into beasts, as it were. It is because they do not receive this sacrament. The surest proof, then, of your return to God is that you go back to receive this food. Go back, my friends, go back to receive this sacrament. Nothing can make you holier than this sacrament, for in it is the Holy of Holies. Remember that Augustine exhorts you to receive Holy Communion at least once a week [Serm. 227 = PL 38,1099-1101]. Man turns externally to God also by obeying His commandments, and above all by coming to know the One who is the truth, Jesus Christ, and His Gospel, and by preaching them both to others.
     Do you want, dear friends, to become holy? Imitate Christ, imitate God: be merciful, particularly on holidays, feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, visit the sick, set the prisoners free [Matt 25:35], plan your deeds ahead of time and perform them for God's sake; have the right intention; choose the best, fulfill what is good. In all things let love impel you.
     Dear friends, let the matters we have just considered sink into your minds; then digest them thoroughly, for this is what a perfect celebration and sanctification of the Lord's day demands of you.

General conclusion

     If you fulfill all this, you give God the tribute due to Him; you keep your promise; you acknowledge His graciousness; you give Him thanks. You are therefore His friends and true servants, and so where He is, you too shall be: while on earth, as citizens of heaven [Phil 3:20] by hope; when in heaven, as full fledged citizens enjoying God's glory.
     May God in His mercy grant us this grace. Amen.



 

 

 



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