INSTRUCTION ON THE FIFTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST
From Rev. Fr. Leonard Goffine’s
THE CHURCH’S YEAR
At the Introit implore God’s assistance and say, with the priest:
INTROIT. Hear, O Lord, my voice with which I have cried to thee: be thou my
helper, forsake me not, nor do Thou despise me, O God, my Savior. (Ps.
XXVI.) The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? Glory be
to the Father, etc.
COLLECT. O God, who hast prepared invisible good things for those that love
Thee: pour into our hearts such a sense of Thy love, that we, loving Thee
in all, and above all, may obtain Thy promises, which exceed all out
desire: Through etc.
EPISTLE (I Peter III. 8-15.) Dearly beloved, Be ye all of one mind, having
compassion one of another, being lovers of the brotherhood, merciful,
modest, humble: not rendering evil for evil, nor railing for railing, but
contrariwise, blessing: for unto this you are called; that you may inherit
a blessing. For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain
his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile. Let him
decline from evil, and do good: let him seek after peace, and, pursue it:
because the eyes of the Lord are upon the just, and his ears unto their
prayers: but the countenance of the Lord upon them that do evil, things.
And, who is he that can hurt you, if you be zealous of good? But if also
you suffer any thing for justice’ sake, blessed are ye. And be not afraid
of their fear, and be not troubled: but sanctify the Lord Christ, in your
How can and how should we sanctify the Lord in our hearts?
By practising those virtues which Peter here recommends, and which he so
exactly describes; for thereby we become true disciples of Christ, honor
Him and edify others, who by our good example are led to admire
Christianity, and to become His followers. Moreover, we thus render
ourselves more worthy of God’s grace and protection, so that if for
justice’ sake we are persecuted by wicked men, we need not fear, because
God is for us and will reward us with eternal happiness.
ASPIRATION. O good Saviour, Jesus Christ, grant that I may make Thy virtues
my own; especially Thy humility, patience, mercy, and love; grant that I
may practise them diligently, that I may glorify Thee, sanctify myself, and
thus become worthy of Thy protection.
GOSPEL (Matt. V. 20-24.) At that time, Jesus said to his disciples: Except
your justice abound more than that of the Scribes and Pharisees, you shall
not enter into the kingdom of heaven. You have heard that it was said to
them of old: Thou shalt not kill: and whosoever shall kill, shall be in
danger of the judgment. But I say to you, that whosoever is angry with his
brother, shall be in danger of the judgment. And whosoever shall say to his
brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council. And whosoever shall say,
Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. If therefore, thou bring thy
gift at the altar, and there thou remember that thy brother hath anything
against thee, leave there thy offering before the altar, and go first to be
reconciled to thy brother: and then coming, thou shaft offer thy gift.
In what did the justice of the Pharisees consist?
In external works of piety, in the avoidance of such gross vices as could
not be concealed, and would have brought them to shame and disgrace. But in
their hearts these Pharisees cherished evil, corrupt inclinations and
desires, pride, envy, avarice, and studied malice and vengeance. Jesus,
therefore, called them hypocrites, whitened sepulchres, and St. John calls
them a brood of vipers. True Justice consists not only in external works of
piety, that is, devotional works, but especially in a pure, sincere,
self-sacrificing feeling towards God and man; without this all works,
however good, are only a shell without a kernel.
How are we to understand that which Christ here says of anger and abusive
The meaning of Christ’s words are: You have heard that murder was forbidden
to your fathers in the desert, and that the murderer had to be given up to
justice: but I say to you, whoever becomes angry with his neighbor, shall
be in danger of divine judgment, and he who with abusive words, such as
Raca, Villain, gives vent to his anger, using expressions of contempt and
insult, as fool, scoundrel, profligate, wretch, is more liable to
punishment. These degrees of anger are punished in different ways by God.
Is anger always sinful?
No, anger is sinful only when we wish or actually inflict some evil to the
body, property, or honor of our neighbor; when we make use of such
insulting and abusive words as injure his character, provoke and irritate
him. If we become angry at the vices and crimes of others, when our office
or the duties of our station demand that we watch over the conduct of those
under our care, to punish and correct them, (as in the case of parents,
teachers, and superiors) then anger is no sin. When one through pure love
of God, becomes irritated at the sins and vices of his fellowmen, like King
David, or if one urged to wrong, repels the tempter with indignation, this
is even a holy anger. Thus St. Gregory Says; “It is to be understood that
anger created by impatience is a very different thing from anger produced
by a zeal for justice. The one is caused by vice, the other by virtue.” He,
then, who becomes angry for justice’ sake, commits no sin, but his conduct
is holy and praiseworthy, for even our Lord was angry at those who bought
and sold in the temple, (John II. 15.) Paul at the magician Elymas, (Acts
XIII. 8.) and Peter at the deceit of Ananias and Saphira. (Acts V. 3.)
Anger, then, to be without sin, must proceed from true zeal for God’s honor
and the salvation of souls, by which we seek to prevent others from sin,
and to make them better. Even in this respect, we must be careful to allow
our anger no control over our reason, but to use it merely as a means of
doing good, for we are often apt to take the sting of anger for holy zeal,
when it is really nothing but egotism and ambition.
Why must we first be reconciled with our neighbor before bringing an
offering to God, or undertaking any good work?
Because no offering or other good work can be pleasing to God, while we
live in enmity, hatred, and strife with our neighbor; for by living thus we
act altogether contrary to God’s will. This should be remembered by all
Christians, who go to confession and holy Communion, without forgiving
those who have offended them, and asking pardon of those whom they have
injured. These must know that instead of receiving absolution for their
sins, they by an invalid confession are guilty of another sin, and eat
their own judgment in holy Communion.
How should reconciliation be made with our neighbor?
With promptness, because the apostle says: Let not the sun go down upon
your anger. (Eph. IV. 26.) But if the person you have offended is absent,
says St. Augustine, and you cannot easily meet him, you are bound to be
reconciled to him interiorly, that is, to humble yourself before God, and
ask His forgiveness, making the firm resolution to be reconciled to your
enemy as soon as possible. If he is accessible, go to him, and ask his
forgiveness; if he has offended you, forgive him from your heart. The
reconciliation should be sincere, for God sees into the heart; it should
also be permanent, for if it is not lasting, it may be questioned if it was
ever sincere. On account of this command of Christ to be reconciled to our
enemies before bringing sacrifice, it was the custom in ancient times that
the faithful gave. the kiss of peace to one another at the sacrifice of
Mass, before Communion, as even to this day do the priests and deacons, by
which those who are present, are admonished to love one another with holy
love, and to be perfectly reconciled with their enemies, before Communion.
ASPIRATION O God, strike me not with the blindness of the Pharisees that,
like them, I may seek to please man by my works, and thus be deprived of
eternal reward. Banish from my heart all sinful anger, and give me a holy
zeal in charity that I may be anxious only for Thy honor and for the
salvation of my neighbor. Grant me also that I may offend no one, and
willingly forgive those who have offended me, thus practicing true
Christian justice, and become agreeable to Thee.
MEANS OF PREVENTING ANGER
The first and most effectual preventive is humility; for as among the proud
there are always quarrels and contentions, (Prov. XIII. 10.) so among the
humble reign peace, meekness and patience. To be humble, meek, and patient,
we must frequently bring before our minds the example of Christ who did not
sin, neither was guile found in His mouth, (I Peter II. 22.) yet suffered
great contradictions, many persecutions, scoffs and sneers from sinners,
without threatening vengeance to any one for all He suffered; He says to us
in truth: Learn of me, because I am meek and humble of heart. (Matt. XI.
Z9.) A very good preventive of anger is to think over in the morning what
causes will be likely to draw us into anger at any time during the day, and
to arm ourselves against it by a firm resolution to bear all with patience
and silence; and when afterwards anything unpleasant occurs, let us think,
“What will I effect by my anger? Can I thereby make things better? Will I
not even make myself ridiculous and injure my health?” (for experience as
well as holy Scripture teaches, that anger shortens life.) (Eccles. XXX.
26.) Finally, the most necessary preventive of anger is fervent prayer to
God for the grace of meekness and patience, for although it seems difficult
and almost impossible to our nature to be patient, by the grace of God it
becomes not only possible, but even easy.
INSTRUCTION ON SACRIFICE
Offer thy gift. (Matt. V. 24.)
In its wider and more universal sense sacrifice comprehends all religious
actions by which a rational being; presents himself to God, to be united
with Him; and in this sense prayer, praising God, a contrite heart, charity
to others, every good work, and observance of God’s commandments is a
sacrifice. Thus the Holy Scriptures say: Offer up the sacrifice of justice
and trust in the Lord. (Fs. IV. 6.) Offer to God the sacrifice of praise.
(Ps. XLIX. iq..) Sacrifice to God is an afflicted spirit; a contrite and
humble heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. (Ps. 1. 19.) It is a wholesome
sacrifice to take heed to the commandments, and to depart from, all
iniquity. (Ecclus. XXXV. 2.) “Therefore,” says St. Augustine, “every good
work which is united in sanctity with God, is a true sacrifice, because it
refers to the end of all good, to God, by whom we can be truly happy.” As
often, then, as you humble yourself in prayer before the majesty of God,
when you give yourself up to God, and when you make your will subject to
His divine will, you bring a sacrifice to God; as often as you punish your
body by continency, and your senses by mortification, you bring a sacrifice
to God, because you offer them as instruments of justice; (Rom. VI. 13.) as
often as you subdue the evil concupiscence of the flesh, the perverted
inclinations of your soul, deny yourself any worldly pleasure for the love
of God, you bring a sacrifice to God. Such sacrifices you should daily
offer to God; without which all others have no value and do not please God,
such as these you can make every moment, when you think, speak, and act all
for the love, of God.
Strive then, Christian soul, to offer these pleasing sacrifices to God, the
supreme Lord, and as you thus glorify Him, so will He one day reward you
with unutterable glory.