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1064 Judas, warned in vain, a warning to the covetous. HOMIL. and I will deliver him unto you.
And they covenanted with LXXX. him for thirty pieces of silver. And from that time he sought opportunity to betray Him. For indeed he was afraid of the multitude, and desired to seize him alone. Oh madness! how did covetousness altogether blind him! For he that had often seen Him when He went through the midst, and was not seized, and when He afforded many demonstrations of His Godhead and Power, looked to lay hold on Him; and this while He was using like a charm for him so many, both awful and soothing words, to put an end to this evil thought. For not even at the supper did He forbear from this care of him, but unto the last day discoursed to him of these things. But he profited nothing. Yet not for that did the Lord cease to do His part.
Knowing this, then, let us also not intermit to do all things unto them that sin and are remiss, warning, teaching, exhorting, admonishing, advising, though we profit nothing. For Christ indeed foreknew that the traitor was incorrigible, yet nevertheless He ceased not to supply what could be done by Himself, as well admonishing as threatening and bewailing over him, and no where plainly, nor openly, but in a concealed way. And at the very time of the betrayal, He allowed him even to kiss Him, but this benefited him nothing. So great an evil is covetousness, this made him both a traitor, and a sacrilegious robber.
Hearken, all ye covetous, ye that have the disease of Judas; hearken, and beware of the calamity. For if he that was with Christ, and wrought signs, and had the benefit of so much instruction, because he was not freed from the disease, was sunk into such a gulf; how much more shall ye, who do not so much as listen to the Scripture, who are constantly riveted to the things present, become an easy prey to this calamity, unless ye have the advantage of constant care. Every day was that man with Him, Who had not where to lay His head, and every day was he instructed by deeds, and by words, not to have gold, nor silver, nor two coats; and yet he was not taught self restraint; and how dost thou expect to escape the disease, if thou hast not the benefit of earnest attention, and dost not use much diligence? For terrible, terrible is the monster,
Covetousness unnatural. How it comes on. 1065
yet nevertheless, if thou be willing, thou wilt easily get the Matt. better of him. For the desire is not natural; and this is manifest from them that are free from it. For natural things are common to all; but this desire has its origin from remissness alone; hence it takes its birth, hence it derives its increase, and when it has seized upon those who look greedily after it, it makes them live contrary to nature. For when they regard not their fellow countrymen, their friends, their brethren, in a word all men, and with these even themselves, this is to live against nature. Whence it is evident that the vice and disease of covetousness, wherein Judas, being entangled, became a traitor, is contrary to nature. And how did he become such a one, you may say, having been called by Christ? Because God's call is not compulsory, neither does it force the will of them who are not minded to choose virtue, but admonishes indeed, and advises, and does and manages all things, so as to persuade men to become good; but if some endure not, it does not compel. But if thou wouldest learn from what cause he became such as he was, thou wilt find him to have been ruined by covetousness.
And how was he taken by this calamity? one may say. Because he grew remiss. For hence arise such changes, as on the other hand, those for the better from diligence. How many for instance that were violent, are now more gentle than lambs? how many lascivious persons have become afterwards continent? how many, heretofore covetous, yet now have cast away even their own possessions? And the contrary again has been the result of remissness. For Gehazi also lived with a holy man, and he too became depraved from the same disease. For this calamity is the most grievous of all. Hence come robbers of tombs, hence menslayers, hence wars and fightings, and whatsoever evil thou mayest mention, it cometh hence. And in every respect is such a one useless, whether it be requisite to lead an army or to guide a people; or rather not in public matters only, but also in private. If he is to marry a wife, he will not take the virtuous woman, but the vilest of all; if he have to buy a house, not that which becomes a free man, but
The covetous man never contented.
HOMIL. What can bring much rent; if he is to buy slaves, or what LXXX. else it may be, he will take the worst.
And why do I speak of leading an army, and guiding a people, and managing households; for should he be a king, he is the most wretched of all men, and a pest to the world, and the poorest of all men. For he will feel like one of the common sort, not accounting all men's possessions to be his, but himself to be one of all; and when spoiling all men's goods, thinks himself to have less than any. For measuring the things present by his desire for those whereof he is not yet possessed, he will account the former nothing compared Ecclus. to the latter. Wherefore also one saith, There' is not a more 10, 9. wicked thing than a covetous man; for such a one both setteth himself to sale, and goeth about, a common enemy of the world, grieving that the earth doth not bear gold instead of the corn, and the fountains instead of streams, and the mountains instead of stones; vexed at the fruitfulness of the seasons, troubled at common benefits; shunning every means whence one cannot obtain money; undergoing all things whence one can scrape together so much as two farthings; hating all men, the poor, and the rich; the poor, lest they should come and beg of him; the rich, because he hath not their possessions. All men he accounts to be possessed of what is his, and as though he had been injured by all, so is he displeased with all. He knows not plenty, he has no experience of satiety, he is more wretched than any, even as, on the other hand, he that is freed from these things, and practises self-restraint, is the most enviable. For the virtuous man, though he be a servant, though a prisoner, is the most happy of all men. For no one shall do him ill, no not though all men should come together out of the world, setting in motion arms and camps, and warring with him. But he that is depraved and vile, and such as we have described, though he be a king, though he have on a thousand diadems, will suffer the utmost extremities, even from a common hand. So feeble is vice, so strong is virtue.
Why then dost thou mourn, being in a state of poverty. Why wailest thou keeping a feast, for indeed it is an
The soul richest in outward poverty.
occasion of feasting. Why weepest thou, for poverty is MATT. a festival, if thou be wise. Why lamentest thou, thou little 14-16. child; for such a one we should call a little child. Did such a person strike thee? What is this, he made thee more able to endure? But did he take away thy money? He hath removed the greater part of thy burden. But hath he cut off thine honour? Again thou tellest me of another kind of freedom. Hear even those without teaching wisdom touching these things, and saying, "Thou hast suffered no ill, if thou shew no regard to it." But hath he taken away that great house of thine, which hath enclosures about it? But behold the whole earth is before thee, the public buildings, whether thou wouldest have them for delight, or for use. And what is more pleasing or more beautiful than the firmament of Heaven.
How long are ye poor and needy? It is not possible for him to be rich, who is not wealthy in his soul; like as it is not possible for him to be poor, who hath not the poverty in his mind. For if the soul is a nobler thing than the body, the less noble parts have not power to affect it after themselves; but the noble part draws over unto herself, and changes those that are not so noble. For so the heart, when it has received any hurt, affects the whole body accordingly; if its temperament be disordered, it mars all, if it be rightly tempered, it profits all. And if any of the remaining parts should have become corrupt, while this remains sound, it easily shakes off what is evil in them also.
And that I may further make what I say more plain, what is the use, I pray thee, of verdant branches, when the root is withering? and what is the harm of the leaves being withered above, while this is sound? So also here there is no use of money, while the soul is poor; neither harm from poverty, when the soul is rich. And how can a soul, one may say, be rich, being in want of money? Then above all times might this be; for then also is it wont to be rich.
For if, as we have often shewn, this is a sure proof of being rich, to despise wealth, and to want nothing; and of poverty again, to want, and any one would more easily despise money in poverty than in wealth, it is quite evident
Riches feed the flame of vain desire.
HOMIL. that to be in poverty rather makes one to be rich. For LXXX. indeed that the rich man sets his heart on money more
than the poor man, is surely plain to every one; like as the drunken man is thirsty, rather than he that hath partaken of drink sufficiently. For neither is his desire such as to be quenched by too much; but, on the contrary, it is its nature to be inflamed by this. For fire likewise, when it has received more food, then most of all waxes fierce; and the tyranny of wealth, when thou hast cast into it more gold, then most especially is increased.
If then the desiring more be a mark of poverty; and he that is in the possession of riches is like this; he is especially in poverty. Seest thou that the soul then most of all is poor, when it is rich; and then is rich, when it is in poverty?
And if thou wilt, let us exercise our reasoning in persons also, and let there be two, the one having ten thousand talents, the other ten, and from both let us take away these things. Who then will grieve the most? He that hath lost the ten thousand. But he would not have grieved more, unless he had loved it more; but if he loves more, he desires more; but if he desires more, he is more in poverty. For this do we most desire, of which we are most in want, for desire is from want. For where there is satiety, there cannot be desire. For then are we most thirsty, when we have most need of drink.
And all these things have I said, to shew that if we be vigilant, no one shall harm us; and that the harm arises not from poverty, but from ourselves. Wherefore I beseech you with all diligence to put away the pest of covetousness, that we may both be wealthy here, and enjoy the good things. eternal, unto which God grant we may all attain, by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom be glory world without end. Amen.