SEARCH
  About Ignatius Insight
  Who We Are
  Author Pages
  Pope Benedict XVI/Cardinal Ratzinger
  Pope John Paul II/ Karol Wojtyla
  Rev. Louis Bouyer
  G.K. Chesterton
  Fr. Thomas Dubay
  Mother Mary Francis
  Fr. Benedict Groeschel
  Thomas Howard
  Karl Keating
  Msgr Ronald Knox
  Peter Kreeft
  Fr. Henri de Lubac, SJ
  Michael O'Brien
  Joseph Pearce
  Josef Pieper
  Richard Purtill
  Steve Ray
  Christoph Cardinal Schönborn, OP
  Fr. James V. Schall, SJ
  Frank Sheed
  Fr. Hans Urs von Balthasar
  Adrienne von Speyr
  Louis de Wohl
  Books
  Magazines
  Catholic World Report
  H&P Review
Article Archives
  Jan 2006-Present
  July-Dec 2005
  Apr-Jun 2005
  Jan-Mar 2005
  Nov-Dec 2004
  June-Oct 2004
Interviews
  Press Room
  Music
  Videos
  Software
  Sacred Art
  Religious Ed
Resources
  Request Catalog
  Web Specials
   
  Ignatius Press
  History
  Staff
  Specials
  Contact
   
  Noteworthy News
  Catholic World News
  EWTN News
  Vatican News
  Catholic News Agency
  ZENIT
  Catholic News
   
 
   
 
   
 
   
 
   
 
   
 
   
 
   
 
 

Faith and Deeds: An Augustinian Sermon | Fr. James V. Schall, S.J. | August 30, 2010 | Ignatius Insight

Print-friendly version

In the Breviary for Sunday of 22d Week is found a sermon of Augustine entitled, "The Lord Has Pity on Us." The title is a statement, not a plea. Many of the Reformation themes of faith and works are found in this sermon, with the right emphasis on both. Today, I suppose, fewer people will acknowledge our doing anything that might deserve the divine pity. We are autonomous. We make our own laws. We plan our own lives.

The sermon begins: "Happy are we if we do the deeds of which we have heard and sung" Not either words or deeds, but we are to do the deeds of which we have heard and sung. If we hear of such deeds, we know about them. If we do them, the word now heard becomes a seed eventually to bear fruit. Augustine cautions us, however, "not to enter the Church fruitlessly."

Faith and knowledge are necessary, but they are not enough if nothing happens because of them. Augustine then cites Paul who tells us that "We have been saved by His grace, not by our works." If we do not know this fact, we will be tempted to boast of our own power.

In what might be called a classic anti-Pelagian passage, Augustine tells us that "It is not as if a good life of some sort came first, and that thereupon God showed his love and esteem for it from on high." In that sense, we would, in effect, save ourselves. We do not possess this power. Are we to do nothing good then? Not that either. We are to do good works all right, but not as if we are ourselves original sources of everything. What can this mean?

We must be conscious that what good we do first flows from God who gives us the power to be what we are. He teaches us what we ought to do. "He will save what He Himself has done in us." The Pelagian heresy of Augustine's time denied the Fall and the need for grace; it held that we can basically save ourselves. Many people today think they are saving the world by doing whatever they do.







"We were not good, but God had pity on us and sent his Son to die, not for good men but for bad ones, not for the just but for the unjust." Augustine is struck by the fact that someone would die for bad men. "Who would be willing to die except Christ alone who is so just that he justifies even the unjust?"

Augustine continues bluntly: "And so, my brothers, we had no good works, for all our works were evil." This is a hard saying. Augustine does not mean here that no unbeliever could do anything in any sense good. He means that nothing he did would lead to the salvation promised to man unless he saw that all his works stemmed from God. God in His mercy did not "abandon" men. The redeemer was sent not to buy us back with "silver and gold" but with His "blood."

So with Christ's sacrifice, we have received a great grace. This is where our deeds now return. We are to live "to be worthy of this great grace." If we decide to live other than as we ought, the responsibility is ours. The grace has been given to us. We are to take the path of "humility" not of autonomy. The "precepts" show the path. When Christ Himself followed them, He suffered for us. But He could not die for us as God. He first had to become man. "The immortal One took on mortality that he might die for us, and by dying put to death our death."

Our death is to be put to death, both our soul's death because of our sins and our bodily death in the resurrection. So the Lord acted and gave us a "gift." He did not "intend to leave us dead in hell, but to exalt in himself at the resurrection of the dead those whom he had already exalted and made just by the faith and praise they gave him."

It is at this point that Augustine returns to his singing. "Happy are we if we do the deeds of which we have heard and sung." One of the most famous phrases in Augustine—and there are many such—is: cantare amantis est—"only the lover sings".

The deeds we do, and we are to do them, we know of them because of what we have heard and sung. The road of humility means that we did not make up what we hear. Rather we listen to what the Lord has told us. "If we keep to (the path of humility) we shall confess our belief in the Lord and have good reason to sing: 'We shall praise you, God, we shall praise you and call upon your name.'"



Related Ignatius Insight/Insight Scoop Articles and Excerpts:

St. Augustine and Pelagianism | Stephen N. Filippo
The Scriptural Roots of St. Augustine's Spirituality | Stephen N. Filippo
The Source of Certitude | Epilogue to Faith and Certitude | Thomas Dubay, S.M.
Eternal Security? A Trinitarian Apologetic for Perseverance | Freddie Stewart, Jr.
Benedict and Augustine | Carl E. Olson



Fr. James V. Schall, S.J., is Professor of Political Philosophy at Georgetown University.

He is the author of numerous books on social issues, spirituality, culture, and literature including Another Sort of Learning, Idylls and Rambles, A Student's Guide to Liberal Learning, The Life of the Mind (ISI, 2006), The Sum Total of Human Happiness (St. Augustine's Press, 2007), The Regensburg Lecture (St. Augustine's Press, 2007), and The Mind That Is Catholic: Philosophical and Political Essays (CUA, 2008). His most recent book from Ignatius Press is The Order of Things (Ignatius Press, 2007). His new book, The Modern Age, is available from St. Augustine's Press. Read more of his essays on his website.



Visit the Insight Scoop Blog and read the latest posts and comments by IgnatiusInsight.com staff and readers about current events, controversies, and news in the Church!





   




www.ignatiusinsight.com
World Wide Web






















 
IgnatiusInsight.com

Place your order toll-free at 1-800-651-1531

Ignatius Press | P.O. Box 1339 | Ft. Collins, CO 80522
Web design under direction of Ignatius Press.
Send your comments or web problems to:

Copyright 2013 by Ignatius Press

IgnatiusInsight.com catholic blog books insight scoop weblog ignatius