Sermon 193

 St. Augustine

(1) When the Gospel was read today, we heard the words of the angels through which the birth of Jesus Christ of the Virgin Mary was announced to the shepherds; 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men of good will.'[1] It was a jubilant and congratulatory message, not only for the one woman whose womb had given us this offspring, but for the whole human race for which the Virgin had brought forth a Saviour. For it was fitting and proper that, instead of insignificant women with kindly services, angels with divine praises should do honor to the parturition of her who had brought forth the Lord of heaven and earth and who had remained inviolate after childbirth. Let us, then, who do not announce His birth to shepherds of flocks, but who celebrate it with His sheep, sing with as much jubilation as possible, with faithful heart and devoted voice: 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men of good will' Let us consider in faith and hope and love these divine words, these praises of God, this angelic jubilation, this whole scene viewed with all possible profundity of thought. For, in proportion as we believe and hope and desire, we, too, shall be a source of additional glory to God in the highest when, after the resurrection of our spiritual body, we shall be lifted up in the clouds to meet Christ,[2] on condition, of course, that we work for peace with good will while we are here on earth. This life is in the heavens because that is the abode of the living, and, wherever the Lord Himself is, there are good days and years without end. If any person desires this life and longs to see these good days, let him restrain his tongue from evil and his lips from deceit; let him turn from evil and do good; let him thus be a man of good will. Let him 'seek after peace and pursue it,'[3] because 'peace on earth [is] among men of good will.'


(2) But, O man, if you say: 'Behold, to wish is within my power, but I do not find the strength to accomplish what is good'; if you are delighted 'with the law of God according to the inner man, but [you] see another law in [your] members, warring against the law of [your] mind and making [you] prisoner to the law of sin that is in [your] members,' hold fast to your good will and cry out in the following words of the Apostle: 'Unhappy man that I am! Who will deliver me from the body of this death? The grace of God through Jesus Christ our Lord.'[4] For He is 'peace on earth among men of good will,' coming after the war in which 'the flesh lusts against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh; . . . so that you do not do what you would,' since 'he himself is our peace, he it is who has made both one.'[5] Therefore, let your good will hold fast against evil desires and, in its faithful endurance, let it beg for the help of the grace of God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Though the law of its carnal members resists it and even overcomes it, let your good will implore this help; let it not trust in its own strength; let it, even in its weariness, not refuse to give praise. For He will be at hand to say to those whom He has seen trusting in Him: 'If you abide in my word, you shall be my disciples indeed, and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.'[6] He will be at hand, and His truth will free you from the body of this death. It is on that account that Truth, whose birthday we are celebrating, 'sprang forth from the earth'[7] that peace might be on earth among men of good will. For, who is capable of wishing and of accomplishing what he wishes unless helped in the accomplishment by the inspiration of Him who, in calling us into being, gave us the power to wish? Everywhere His mercy anticipates our need so that we, who did not wish it, were called and now have the power of being able to do what we desire. Therefore, let us say to Him: 'I have sworn and am determined to keep the judgments of thy justice.'[8] I am determined, indeed, and because Thou hast commanded it, I have promised to obey. However, since I 'see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind and making me prisoner to the law of sin that is in my members,'[9] 'on that account I have been humbled, O Lord, exceedingly: quicken thou me according to thy word.' For 'to wish is within my power'; therefore, 'the free offerings of my mouth make acceptable, O Lord,'[10] so that peace may be produced on earth among men of good will. Let us voice these words and any others which piety instructed by good reading may suggest, so that we may worthily celebrate the feast of the Lord who was born of the Virgin, beginning with good will and accomplishing it with the utmost charity poured forth in our hearts, not through our own efforts, but by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.'[11]


[1] Luke 2.14.

[2] Cf. 1 Thess. 4.17.

[3] Cf. Ps. 33.15; 1 Peter 3.10.

[4] Cf. Rom. 7.18-25.

[5] Gal. 5.17-19; Eph. 2.14.

[6] John 8.31-33.

[7] Cf, Ps. 84.12.

[8] Ps. 118.106.

[9] Rom. 7,23; Ps. 118.107.

[10] Rom. 7.18; Ps. 118.108.

[11] Rom. 5.5.



Adoration of the Shepherds


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