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Offline Jitpring

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Are You a Bee or a Wasp?
« on: April 03, 2012, 09:08:46 PM »
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  • From his sermon for Palm Sunday, March 20, 1622:

    [T]rue Christians and true religious ought to be like bees who fly among all the various flowers to gather honey to nourish themselves. The great St. Antony did this when, having left the world, he went throughout the deserts and grottos of the anchorites-not only, like a holy honey bee, to note and gather the honey of their virtues on which to feed himself, but also to avoid and to guard against any evil or imperfections in them. In doing that he became, in the end, a great saint.
    There are some souls who do just the opposite. They are like wasps, not bees. Wasps are nasty little insects that fly among the flowers-not to extract honey, but poison, from them. Although they cull honey, it is only to convert it into bitterness. There are certainly some Christians who take after wasps. They too fly among the flowers, that is, the works and actions of their neighbors, not to gather the honey of a holy edification from a consideration of their virtues, but to extract poison {6} by taking note of their faults and imperfections -- either those of the saints whose faults have been recounted in their biographies, or the faults of those with whom they live. They end by committing these same faults.
    For example: they read in St. Jerome's {7} life of St. Paula of this imperfection: she so grieved over the death of her husband and children that she became sick and almost died. "Well, now," they say, "St. Paula, a great saint, grieved so excessively on being separated from her loved ones-is there, then, any reason to be astonished that I, who am in no way a saint, am unable to resign myself to the many hardships in my life, even though they are offered by Divine Providence for my good?" With such a mindset we refuse to accept any correction for a failing or imperfection, promptly objecting: "Why, such and such a saint did that too! Surely, I am no better or more perfect than he"; or, "If such a one did this, can I not do it too?" Fine reasoning, this! We are a sorry lot indeed! AS if we did not have enough work to do in ourselves to correct and unravel our own imperfections and bad habits without trying to clothe ourselves as well with those we see in others!

    We are so weak that instead of avoiding the failings we see in our neighbor, we use them either to add to our own or to deepen those we already have. Reading of the sharp disagreement between St. Paul and St. Barnabas [Acts 15: 37-40], we excuse our own contentious and quarrelsome behavior with one another! "St. Peter was brusque and precipitous. Is it any wonder that I am so too? That temperament often made him commit faults; can I not be expected to do the same?" 0 God, what insane logic! What foolishness! Is it not clear that such people are making excuses to nourish their own imperfections and to stagnate in their bad habits?

    If wasps do not find poison in flowers, they gather the honey but convert it into poison. Such is their nature. There are people like that-so malign that, not content with observing other's faults so as to deepen themselves in their own malice, they go much further and so dwell on and interpret their neighbor's deeds that they actually change honey into poison, drawing evil from his actions. Not only this, but they prompt and provoke others to do the same, like wasps whose buzzing attracts others to the flower where he has found poison. For instance, a young man enters religion, or another does a good work. You can be sure there will be those who censure both and, by their machinations and gossip, cause many others to do so too. What St. Basil says of dogs can certainly be applied to such people: as soon as one barks and yelps, all the others bark and yelp, whether there is reason to or not, but simply because they are prompted and provoked.

    But the holy Fathers teach us to continue to persevere in good despite all the barkings of such dogs. Let the world cry out as much as it wants; let human prudence censure and condemn our actions as much as it desires; we may have to listen to and suffer from all this, but let us not be frightened or give up; let us rather pursue our course firmly and faithfully. Let worldly wisdom go on constituting what it considers excellency in worldly glory if it wants to. The true Christian, or, to use the term appropriate for you, the true religious, who is tending toward Christian perfection, should, contrary to all the reasonings of human prudence, place all his perfection in the folly of the Cross [1 Co!: 1:18, 23], because it was in this folly of the Cross that Our Lord was made perfect. So all the saints have endeavored to become wise in this folly and, for this, suffered all the contempt, censures and humiliations which came to them from the worldly wise. Perfection of the Cross requires that we endure labors, persecutions and reprehensions for justice' sake. Blessed are those who are persecuted for justice' sake. [Matt. 5:10].

    This wisdom is wholly contrary to that of the world. Even though Our Lord cried out again and again: Blessed are the poor in spirit, the peacemakers, the meek, they who hunger and thirst for justice8 [Matt. 5:3-6], the world cannot embrace this wisdom. It cries out: "Oh! How blessed are the wealthy, the oppressors, those who take vengeance on their enemies, and those whom one dares not offend." See how the perfection of the Cross is folly in the eyes of the world precisely because it embraces what is abhorrent to human nature. It loves correction and submits to it; it not only takes pleasure in being corrected, but it has no greater pleasure than in being reproved and corrected for faults and failings. Oh, blessed are they who speak only to give fraternal correction in a spirit of charity and profound humility! But more blessed are those who are always ready to receive it with a gentle, peaceful and tranquil heart! In this, they have already made great progress. Let them be humble and faithful, and let them have good courage, because in spite of all the trickeries of human prudence, they will arrive at the highest degree of Christian perfection.

    The whole sermon is here:
    Age, thou art shamed.*
    O shame, where is thy blush?**

    -Shakespeare, Julius Caesar,* Hamlet**


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