The following words of St. Jude and St. Augustine bring into clear focus why we follow Christ and try every day to be more like Him (that is, to imitate His virtues – His unity with God the Father and the Holy Spirit).
Are Jude’s words inviting us to point the finger at “those other sinners”? Only to the extent that we recognize our own faults, realize we are only one poor decision away from grave sin ourselves, sorrowfully pray for our conversion and that of others, and make the effort to shake off our disfiguring sins by receiving the transforming mercy of God.
As we end one Church year and begin another, let’s contemplate the speck in our own eye and pray for the grace not to stray from the healing shadow of Christ’s mercy.
With this end-of-year meditation, I wish you a blessed beginning of Advent!
From Jude, servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James; to those who are called, to those who are dear to God the Father and kept safe for Jesus Christ, wishing you all mercy and peace and love.
My dear friends, at a time when I was eagerly looking forward to writing to you about the salvation that we all share, I have been forced to write to you now and appeal to you to fight hard for the faith which has been once and for all entrusted to the saints.
Certain people have infiltrated among you, and they are the ones you had a warning about, in writing, long ago, when they were condemned for denying all religion, turning the grace of our God into immorality, and rejecting our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
I should like to remind you – though you have already learned it once and for all – how the Lord rescued the nation from Egypt, but afterwards he still destroyed the men who did not trust him. Next let me remind you of the angels who had supreme authority but did not keep it and left their appointed sphere; he has kept them down in the dark, in spiritual chains, to be judged on the great day. The fornication of Sodom and Gomorrah and the other nearby towns was equally unnatural, and it is a warning to us that they are paying for their crimes in eternal fire.
Nevertheless, these people are doing the same: in their delusions they not only defile their bodies and disregard authority, but abuse the glorious angels as well. They are a dangerous obstacle to your community meals, coming for the food and quite shamelessly only looking after themselves. They are like clouds blown about by the winds and bringing no rain, or like barren trees which are then uprooted in the winter and so are twice dead; like wild sea waves capped with shame as if with foam; or like shooting stars bound for an eternity of black darkness.
But remember, my dear friends, what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ told you to expect. “At the end of time,’” they told you, “there are going to be people who sneer at religion and follow nothing but their own desires for wickedness.” These unspiritual and selfish people are nothing but mischief-makers.
But you, my dear friends, must use your most holy faith as your foundation and build on that, praying in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves within the love of God and wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to give you eternal life.
When there are some who have doubts, reassure them; when there are some to be saved from the fire, pull them out; but there are others to whom you must be kind with great caution, keeping your distance even from outside clothing which is contaminated by vice.
Glory be to him who can keep you from falling and bring you safe to his glorious presence, innocent and happy. To God, the only God, who saves us through Jesus Christ our Lord, be the glory, majesty, authority and power, which he had before time began, now and forever. Amen.
(Jude 1:1-8, 12-13, 17-25; Jerusalem Bible.)
From a sermon by Saint Augustine of Hippo (354-430)
Let us sing alleluia here on earth, while we are still anxious and worrying, so that we may one day be able to sing it there in heaven, without any worry or care. Why anxious and worrying here? You must want me to be anxious, Lord, when I read, Is not man’s life on earth a trial and a temptation? You must want me to worry when temptation is so plentiful that the Prayer itself tells us to worry, when we say, Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us.
Every day we are petitioners, every day we are trespassers. Do you want me to throw care to the winds, Lord, when every day I am requesting pardon for sins and assistance against dangers?
After all, when I have said, because of past sins, Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us, I must immediately go on to add, because of future dangers, Lead us not into temptation. And how can a people be in a good way, when they cry out with me, Deliver us from evil? And yet, my brethren, in this time that is still evil, let us sing alleluia to the good God, who does deliver us from evil.
Even here, among the dangers, among the trials and temptations of this life, both by others and by ourselves let alleluia be sung. God is faithful, he says, and he will not permit you to be tempted beyond what you are able to endure. So even here let us sing alleluia.
Man is still a defendant on trial, but God is faithful. He did not say “he will not permit you to be tempted” but he will not permit you to be tempted beyond what you are able to endure; and with the temptation he will also make a way out, so that you may be able to endure it.
Furthermore, when this body has become immortal and imperishable, when all temptation has been done away with; because the body is dead – why is it dead? – Because of sin. But the spirit is life, because of justice. So do we leave the body dead, then? No, but listen: But if the Spirit of him who raised Christ from the dead dwells within you, then he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies. So you see: now the body receives its life from the soul, but then it will receive it from the Spirit.
O! what a happy alleluia there, how carefree, how safe from all opposition, where nobody will be an enemy, where no-one will ever cease to be a friend! God’s praises sung there, sung here – here, by the anxious; there, by the carefree – here, by those who will die; there, by those who will live forever – here, in hope; there, in reality – here, on our journey; there, in our homeland.
So now, my brethren, let us sing, not to delight our leisure, but to ease our toil. In the way that travelers are in the habit of singing, sing, but keep on walking.
What does it mean, “keep on walking”? Go onward always – but go onward in goodness, for there are, according to the Apostle, some people who go ever onward from bad to worse. If you are going onward, you are walking; but always go onward in goodness, onward in the right faith, onward in good habits and behavior. Sing, and walk onward.
How true it is that what goes around comes around!
In an institution as old as the Church, we see this constantly. Each generation and individual has to respond to the call of Christ and commit to him. It is a wonderful invitation and opportunity for life and love.
Maybe that’s one reason we describe God as “ever ancient, ever new” — the very same invitation He gave the ancients can surprise us as a “wonderful opportunity” right this moment. Thanks for your comments!
Thank you so much, Rose, for republishing from the Office of Readings! I didn’t get to this one yesterday, and I would have missed such a powerful message. The Holy Spirit is always guiding you! Have a joyful Advent!
Yes, I felt He really was insisting on this. Now I know why — for YOU! :)
Advent; it seems to come upon me suddenly every year, bringing a welcome time of anticipation. When I’m at Mass I have the peaceful experience of not shopping. I remember to this day the Christmas Eve Mass in Covington, KY that changed the way I approach life and it’s priorities.