he Second Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians, xi. 19; xii. 9. Brethren: You gladly suffer the foolish: whereas yourselves are wise. For you suffer if a man bring you into bondage, if a man devour you, if a man take from you, if a man be lifted up, if a man strike you on the face. I speak according to dishonour, as if we had been weak in this part. Wherein if any man dare (I speak foolishly), I dare also: they are Hebrews: so am I: they are Israelites: so am I: They are the seed of Abraham: so am I: they are the ministers of Christ (I speak as one less wise), I am more: in many more labours: in prisons more frequently, in stripes above measure, in deaths often. Of the Jews five times did I receive forty stripes, save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once I was stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I was in the depth of the sea. In journeying often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own nation, in perils from the gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils from false brethren: in labour and painfulness, in much watchings, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Besides those things which are without: my daily instance, the solicitude for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is scandalized, and I am not on fire? If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things that concern my infirmity. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who is blessed for ever, knoweth that I lie not. At Damascus, the governor of the nation under Aretas the king, guarded the city of the Damascenes, to apprehend me: and through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and so escaped his hands. If I must glory (it is not expedient indeed), but I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord. I know a man in Christ above fourteen years ago (whether in the body, I know not, or out of the body, I know not; God knoweth), such a one rapt even to the third heaven. And I know such a man (whether in the body, or out of the body, I know not: God knoweth) that he was caught up into paradise: and heard secret words, which it is not granted to man to utter. For such an one I will glory: but for myself I will glory nothing, but in my infirmities. For though I should have a mind to glory, I shall not be foolish: for I will say the truth: but I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth in me, or anything he heareth from me. And lest the greatness of the revelations should exalt me, there was given me a sting of my flesh, an angel of Satan, to buffet me. For which thing thrice I besought the Lord, that it might depart from me: and He said to me: My grace is sufficient for thee: for power is made perfect in infirmity. Gladly therefore will I glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may dwell in me.
Grant me, O God, Thy grace, that I may in these evil days keep steadily to Thy holy doctrine, and never be seduced from obeying it, eother by the allurements of the world, or the reproaches of the wicked. Amen.
he Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ, According to St. Luke, viii. 4-15. At that time: When a very great multitude was gathered together, and hastened out of the cities unto Him, He spoke by a similitude: The sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed, some fell by the way side, and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it. And other some fell upon a rock: and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. And other some fell among thorns, and the thorns growing up with it, choked it. And other some fell upon good ground: and being sprung up, yielded fruit a hundredfold. Saying these things, he cried out: He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. And His disciples asked him what this parable might be. To whom he said: To you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God, but to the rest in parables, that seeing they may not see, and hearing may not understand. Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. And they by the way side are they that hear; then the devil cometh, and taketh the word out of their heart, lest believing they should be saved. Now they upon the rock, are they who when they hear, receive the word with joy: and these have no roots: for they believe for a while, and in time of temptation, they fall away. And that which fell among thorns, are they who have heard, and going their way, are choked with the cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and yield no fruit. But that on the good ground: are they who in a good and perfect heart, hearing the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit in patience.
Why is the word of God here compared to seed?
Because as good fruits spring from good seed, so do good works frommthe word of God; and as it is impossible for any soil not sown to produce good fruits, so neither can men produce the fruits of the Spirit without the seed of the divine Word.
Why did Our Saviour cry out, "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear"?
To declare the necessity of heeding the word of God, since without the instruction in our holy religion which we derive from that word we cannot know what we must do to please God, and save our souls.
How, then, does it happen that, notwithstanding the excellence of the divine word, there are so many bad Christians?
The fault is with men, who, though they hear the word of God, hear, read, and meditate superficially. The divine seed finds no moisture or root in their hearts; they are overgrown with the piercing thorns of cares, riches, and sensual lusts, so that the seed of the divine word is choked up, and can neither grow nor bear fruit.
What is the effect of the word of God when heeded?
To wash away sin, implant virtue, and create the world anew. Jeremias says: "Are not My words fire" (Jer. xxiii. 29) which bursts out from within, consuming the vapors of sin, drying up the marshes of vice, and killing the deep roots of bad habits? Again, it is "a hanner," breaking in pieces the rocks of hardened hearts. St. Paul says: "It is living and effectual, and more piercing than any two-edged sword: reaching into the division of the soul and spirit, of the joints also and the marrow" (Heb. iv. 12) - that is, cutting away from the spirit sensual lusts. St. James calls it a mirror, in which a man beholding himself and his sins becomes ashamed, and tries to get free from them (James i. 23). It is, finally, the good seed, which, falling upon good ground, yields fruit a hundredfold.
What must we do before a sermon?
St. Chrysostom asks, "Who pours a precious liquid into an unclean vessel, before he has washed it?" We should, therefore, cleanse our hearts before a sermon by contrition, "for wisdom will not enter into a malicious soul" (Wis. i. 4). As the ground to be sown must first be prepared, so must our hearts be cleansed, and made ready by a holy desire of learning what is good.
What must we do during a sermon?
We must listen attentively and respectfully, for it is God Who speaks to us through the preacher: "He that heareth you, heareth Me" (Luke x. 16). If an ambassador reading the letters of his king is listened to with great attention, quiet, and respect, says St. Chrysostom, how much greater veneration should we not pay to the minister of God announcing His holy will? Be careful, therefore, not to show contempt for the preacher, for that will reach back to God, Who has said, "He that despiseth you, despiseth Me" (Luke x. 16). Be careful not to apply what is said in the sermon to others, but rather, "take heed to thyself" (I. Tim. iv. 16). If you are free from those sins which the sermon points at, thank God, and pray that you may not fall into them.
What must we do after a sermon?
We must endeavor to practice what we have heard; for God justifies, not the hearers of the law, but only the doers (Rom. ii. 13) of it. In order to practise what we hear in the sermon it is necessary, in the first place, to keep it in our minds, to ponder it carefully and remember it. Christ, therefore, blesses those who hear the word of God and keep it (Luke xi. 28). The seed cannot bring forth fruit if not well covered with good ground, warmed by the sun, moistened by the rain and dew, and cared for in other ways. Finally, pray often to God, that He may keep alive in you the divine truths which you have heard.
Oh my God, I am coveed with shame, because the seed of Thy divine word, which Thou hast so abundantly sown in my heart, has brought forth so little fruit. Have mercy, O Lord, and change my heart, that it may become good ground, in which Thy word may take root, thrive, grow, and finally bring forthe the fruit of salvation, which Thou requirest of me. Amen.