THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH
Her Doctrine and Morals
23 April 2017
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The Sunday Sermon Archive
Today we present some passages from a sermon by St. John Chrysostom.
Let us then do all things that we may have the Spirit of God within us. And let us treat with reverence those to whose hands the work of the Spirit has been entrusted. For great is the dignity of the priesthood. Whose sins you shall forgive, He says, they are forgiven; and because of this Paul says: Obey your prelates, and be subject to them (Heb. xiii. 7), and hold them in great reverence. For you have but the care of what concerns yourself; and if you look well after that you will not be held accountable for what others do. But the priest, even should he order his own life in a fitting manner, yet does not scrupulously have due care for both your life, and the lives of those about him, shall go with the wicked into everlasting fire; and so he often times while not failing in his own conduct will perish because of yours, if he has not done all that belonged to him to do.
Knowing then the greatness of their danger, treat them with much consideration, for as Paul goes on to say: They watch for your souls; and not simply this, but as having to render an account of them. Because of this you must treat them with honor. And should you join with others to insult them, then neither will your own affairs prosper. For as long as the helmsman is in good heart those on board are safe. But if he is grieved by their abuse, and by their hostile behavior, he can neither keep a good watch, nor perform his task properly, and unwillingly involves them in many disasters. And so likewise the priest. If he is held in honor by you, he will be able to take care of what relates to yourselves. But if you throw them into despondency, weakening their hands, and making them easily overcome, you expose both them and yourselves to the waves, however courageous they may be. Remember what Christ said of the Jews: The Scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses (Mt. xxiii. 2, 3). Now we can say that the priests are seated, not upon the chair of Moses, but upon the chair of Christ. For it is from Him they have received their teaching. Because of this, Paul says: For Christ therefore we are ambassadors, God as it were exhorting by us (II Cor. v. 20). ... And shall we despise his authority, and abuse him, and humiliate him with constant faultfinding? And though forbidden to judge our brethren, we sharpen our tongues against the priests. And how can this be pardoned; when paying no attention to the beam in your own eye, you are very concerned with the speck of dust in another's eye? Do you not understand that judging others in this manner you are preparing a more difficult judgment for yourself? And I am saying this to you, not as excusing those who may exercise the priesthood unworthily: for such as these I weep and sorrow exceedingly: nevertheless I declare that it is not fitting that they be judged by those they rule; especially by the ruder kind. And though their conduct may be greatly criticized, you, if you pay heed to yourself, will suffer no harm from them in regard to the things entrusted to them by God. For if He made use of the voice of an ass to speak, and bestowed spiritual blessings by means of a soothsayer; because of the Jews, working by the mouth of a dumb beast, and by the unclean tongue of Balaam how much more for you who are worthy, even though the priests be wholly unworthy, will He do all things, and send His Holy Spirit upon you?
And neither does a mind that is pure draw down grace because of its purity; it is the divine favor that does all: For all things, it says, are yours, whether it be Paul, or Apollo, or Cephas (I Cor. iii. 22). For what the priest has had entrusted to him it is God alone Who bestows; and however much human wisdom may help us, it will ever appear less than grace. And I say this, not that you may be careless with regard to your own life, but so that should those who have the spiritual care of you be neglectful of their conduct, you whom they guide may not heap up evils for yourselves. But why do I say priests? For neither an angel, nor an archangel, can do anything in regard to what is given us by God. It is the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost Who disposes of all things: the priest but lends his tongue, and puts forth his hand. For it would not be just that, because of the wickedness of another, they should suffer injury who draw near in faith to the symbols of our salvation. Keeping all these things before our mind, let us both fear God, and hold His priests in reverence; showing them every respect, to the end that, through our own worthy manner of living, and because of our obedience to them, we may receive from God a great reward, by the grace and kindness of Our Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom with the Father and the Holy Ghost be there honor, glory, and empire, now and forever, world without end. Amen.
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