Sunday, March 21, 2010
Homily For Passion Sunday by Bishop Antoine Godeau

A Homily of the Bishop of Vence, Antoine Godeau (1605-1672) on Passion Sunday.

Which of you shall convince Me of sin? (John 8)

At that time Jesus said to the multitudes of the Jews: Which of you shall convince Me of sin? If I say the truth to you, why do you not believe me? He that is of God, heareth the words of God. Therefore you hear them not because you are not of God. The Jews therefore answered, and said to Him: Do not we say well, that Thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil? Jesus answered: I have not a devil: but I honor My Father, and you have dishonored Me. But I seek not My own glory: there is One that seeketh and judgeth. Amen, amen, I say to you: If any man keep My word, he shall not see death for ever. The Jews therefore said: Now we know that Thou hast a devil. Abraham is dead, and the prophets: and Thou sayest: if any man keep My word, he shall not taste death for ever. Art Thou greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? And the Prophets are dead. Whom dost Thou make Thyself? Jesus answered: If I glorify Myself, My glory is nothing: it is My Father that glorifieth Me, of Whom you say that He is your God, and you have not known Him: but I know Him: and if I shall say that I know Him not, I shall be like to you, a liar. But I do know Him, and do keep His word. Abraham your father rejoiced that he might see My day: he saw it and was glad. The Jews therefore said to Him: Thou are not yet fifty years old: and hast Thou seen Abraham? Jesus said to them: Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham was made, I am. They took up stones therefore to cast at Him: but Jesus hid Himself, and went out of the temple.

Thus are the words of today's Holy Gospel

Not a single person on the Earth can be found who can not be accused of sin. Jesus is the only one who is without sin, and who for several reasons is not capable of sin. First because of His supernatural union, in which His humanity was united with the deity in the person of the Word. He was the son of God, and therefore the Holy One of God, as even the devil named Him in the first chapter of Mark. I know that thou art the Holy One of God. Second because of the beatific vision of God, which His soul enjoyed from the first moment of His conception: for it is impossible to enjoy God, to see Him from face to face, and thereafter sin. Saint Augustine asserts that the first freedom was granted man, so that he may sin, the second freedom will consist thereof, that man can sin no more. Third because of the fullness of the actual grace that was in him. We, says John in the first chapter, saw Him full of grace and truth. Fourth, as the Head of the Church, He must be incapable of sin. Jesus Christ was the head of His mystical body, namely the Church, thus was He also provided with all graces necessary worthily to fulfill this office: since, as head, He must sanctify His Church, so could He not be subject to the least sin. So also are we instructed by the apostle in the seventh chapter to the Hebrews. For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners. The life of our Savior on Earth was irreproachable, that he could not be accused of a single rash word or dubious deed. Boldly, He can say: Which of you shall convince Me of sin? But we, my brothers, we do not wish to wait until we are charged with sin and given over to judgment; let us in advance accuse ourselves of our sins before God and man. If this our confession is without guile, then are we assured by Saint John, that we have an advocate before God, namely Our Lord Jesus Christ, who can plead before God for the forgiveness of our sins and for the cleansing therefrom. Nothing can be more useful to us, than this consideration and this insight; we deceive ourselves, and generally rely too much on our imagined virtue, our supposedly good qualities, and never think of the uncountable sins with which we are stained, we are not even willing to examine ourselves when they are brought to our attention: we fly instead into a fury, as if we had been slandered. And how is it possible, my brothers, that you regard yourselves as anything other than great sinners? Examine your life, which is nothing more than a chain of sins and vices. Observe how men live in this city: one finds nothing other than blasphemers, fornicators, extortioners, slanderers, freethinkers, drunkards, and godless men. (Ps. 54:12)

 Dead Christ Mourned by the Angels, Boston Museum

And nevertheless for some time already, the preachers in their pulpits have cried: stop sinning, do penance, the day of the Lord is near. This day will be a dreadful day, where the good works, and thus all the more the sinful works, will be most carefully examined and judged. But what is that? The preachers are wasting their time and their words? They are telling the truth, but you do not believe them. Or is it perhaps not true that you are sinners? That God hates vice? That will not leave it unpunished? That through sin you separate yourselves from God, who is the highest good? That you bring down eternal death onto yourselves? is perhaps this sort of talk a fable or a hoax? a bunch of hot air or empty threats meant to scare you? Are these perhaps unimportant or irrelevant truths? or do they concern only a minimal advantage or a insignificant punishment? What? This is about the loss of God, the loss of Heaven, the loss of your souls; it is about deserving Hell, deserving eternal fire, while your only desire is to enjoy yourselves. If you should hear news from India, you believe it, regardless of its improbability. And why do you not believe me? If you hear gossip from the palaces of royalty, you accept it without question: and you hear these things from men, men who can deceive, and who even intentionally abuse your gullibility. And Jesus Christ, who is the eternal truth, and his servants, who preach the Gospel in His name, you refuse to believe. If only these things had not already so long been presented to you, if only you had not been sufficiently instructed. John, in chapter 15: If I had not come, and spoken to them, they would not have sin. But these things have been presented to you, you have been warned, judged, punished; no effort has been spared in your instruction, and still you refuse to believe. You have opened your ears but closed your hearts; With greatest justice you will be damned. I will accuse you before the judgement seat of God, that my hands are innocent of your blood, that I neglected no opportunity to instruct you, or to teach you what was necessary for your salvation. I myself will demand vengeance for your neglect and disobediance of the commandments of God.

Do you then know my brothers, why you do not listen to the Word of God? Because you are not children of God. Children listen to the voice of their father, and in the same way nature has established a link between the voice of the father and the ear of the son. God is not your father, therefore you do not hear his voice; the devil is your father, and he is the one you follow by your hatred, by your envy, by your lust for revenge, by your unchaste lives; and therefore you obey him the instant he calls: but with respect to the voice of the Lord, you are stubbornly deaf, because you are not of God. Could you possibly encounter a greater misfortune than this, that you are not children of God? You call yourselves by His Name, He adopted you as children in baptism; but you have lost this glorious characteristic through sin, and you have nothing left but the name, the reputation, and still a bit of the appearance of piety, in all of which, however, Christianity does not consist. You may not pride yourself, therefore, in your going to church, hearing holy Mass, receiving the sacraments; instead ask your heart, consider whether it obeys God's Word, which obligates us to deny ourselves. (Mt. 16:24). Observe whether you aren't full of self love. God's Word commands you to mortify your members to the Colossians in the third chapter. How do you mortify yourselves? tame your fleshly desires? God's Word obligates you to strive for eternal life: do you ever think about that? It requires you to love your neighbor as yourself. Do you love him truly, and with your whole heart? Each one of you examine yourselves, whether you have taken to heart the voice of God, and then you will know whether you are of God, are the words of one Saint Gregory. But it is not enough to listen to this voice for a few days, and afterwords to close your heart. You must listen continuously, since this voice speaks the truth for all eternity. One may not listen only occasionally, as that would be just the same as not listening at all. Furthermore, continues the previously named father of the Church, to listen, and yet refuse to practice what is commanded, is just the same as not listening.

But what should I say about those who mock the preachers who are declaring the truth to them; who falsely accuse them of imperfections that they do not possess, or blow out of proportion those they actually do possess? They follow the example of the Jews, who said that Jesus was possessed by the devil. You yourselves have the devil on your tongues and in your hearts: through him your hearts have been hardened, that you cannot hear the Word of God. He entices you to such defamatory words. The preacher brings you God's Word: he is a Samaritan, I would say, the true shepherd of your soul. Though he wants to protect them against the attacks of the devil, wants to raise their defenses against the assaults of the devil, yet in defiance of his care and support, you deliver your heart and soul to the dominion of the devil.

Therefore my brothers, grant your ear to the one who speaks through my mouth, and know, that he who listens to Him will never die. If any man keep my word, he shall not taste death for ever. However one must not merely hear, but also live by His words, and digest them. Then at the beginning it seems to us that God's word is bitter, unplesant, and very hard to follow. You you hear it said: Render not evil for evil, but good; Bless them that curse you, and pray for them that persecute you, and it seems impossible to you: yet when you understand this with the light of faith, when you practice it, then you find it to be pleasant, sweet, and easy. You will then be astonished by the your original perception and you will curse the error in which you had been immersed, and afterwards you will find only allure where you previously expected only bitterness and difficulty. From that time you will lead a true life, and not a half-dead life as you now do. A true life consists not of seeing, hearing, moving, eating, and drinking, or in any other animalistic activities. No, it consists of love and service of God, longing for Heaven, and doing good works: and those who lead such a life, shall not taste death, and shall not taste its bitterness, for them shall death be sweet. They shall have a happy and holy death, which is the passage to that eternal happiness and eternal life, which God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost desires to give. Amen.

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