Twenty-Second Sunday of the Year (Year A): Preacher’s Sketchbook

August 25, 2011

St. Iranaeus, from Fragments 37

The Lord instituted a new oblation in the new covenant, according to [the declaration of] Malachi the prophet. For, from the rising of the sun even to the setting my name has been glorified among the Gentiles, and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure sacrifice (Malachi 1:11); as John also declares in the Apocalypse: The incense is the prayers of the saints. Then again, Paul exhorts us to present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service (Romans 12:1). And again, Let us offer the sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of the lips (Hebrews 13:15). Now those oblations are not according to the law, the handwriting of which the Lord took away from the midst by cancelling it (Colossians 2:14) but they are according to the Spirit, for we must worship God in spirit and in truth (John 4:24) And therefore the oblation of the Eucharist is not a carnal one, but a spiritual; and in this respect it is pure. For we make an oblation to God of the bread and the cup of blessing, giving Him thanks in that He has commanded the earth to bring forth these fruits for our nourishment. And then, when we have perfected the oblation, we invoke the Holy Spirit, that He may exhibit this sacrifice, both the bread the body of Christ, and the cup the blood of Christ, in order that the receivers of these antitypes may obtain remission of sins and life eternal. Those persons, then, who perform these oblations in remembrance of the Lord, do not fall in with Jewish views, but, performing the service after a spiritual manner, they shall be called sons of wisdom.

St. Hilary of Poitiers

The Lord, knowing the suggestion of the craft of the devil, says to Peter, “Get thee behind me;” that is, that he should follow the example of His passion; but to him by whom this expression was suggested, He turns and says, “Satan, thou art an offence unto me.” For we cannot suppose that the name of Satan, and the sin of being an offence, would be imputed to Peter after those so great declarations of blessedness and power that had been granted him.

St. Augustine, from his Commentary on St. Matthew

Whatever is hard in [Our Savior’s] commands is made easy by love. We know what great things love can accomplish, even though it is often base and sensual. We know what hardships people have endured, what intolerable indignities they have borne to attain the object of their love. What we love indicates the sort of people we are, and therefore making a decision about this should be our one concern in choosing a way of life.

St. Thomas Aquinas, from his Commentary on Romans

A person can present his body to God as a sacrifice in three ways. First, when he exposes his body to suffering and death for God’s sake, as it is said of Christ: “He gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Eph 5.2). And as the Apostle says of himself, “Even if I am to be poured as a libation upon sacrificial offering of your faith, I rejoice” (Phil 2.17). Secondly, when he weakens his body by fasts and watchings in the service of God: “I pummel my body and subdue it” (1 Cor 9.27). Thirdly, when he uses his body to perform acts of righteousness and of divine worship: “Present your members to serve righteousness for sanctification” (Rom 6.19).
Moreover, one should recall that the offering sacrificed to God … was to be sound and unimpaired; hence Malachi 1.14, “Cursed be the cheat who has a male in his flock and vows it, and yet sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished. And this is why St. Paul says “living,” i.e., that the offering we make to God of our body be living by faith formed by love: “The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God” (Gal 2.20). Note here that a natural sacrificial offering previously alive was killed and immolated to show that death as yet ruled the human race as long as sin reigned (cf. Rom 5.12 ff). But this spiritual sacrificial offering is always alive and increasing in vigor, in accord with John 10.10: “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly,” because sin has now been removed through Christ, unless we say that the sacrificial offering of our body is something alive to God through the righteousness but is dead to the desires of the flesh: “Put to death, therefore, what is earthly in you” (Col 3.5).

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