Soldiers don’t arm themselves partially, leaving the rest of their bodies unprotected. For if they received their death wounds in the unprotected area, what would be the point of their partial armor? Again, who would consider some feature flawless when in an accident it lost something essential to beauty? The disfigurement of the mutilated part destroys the grace of the untouched part. The gospel implies that those who try to build a tower, but spend all their time on the foundation and never finish, are ridiculous. From the Parable of the Tower, we also learn to work hard and finish every lofty goal, to complete the work of God through the varied structures of His commandments. Of course, one stone doesn’t make an entire tower any more than obeying one commandment lifts the soul to the required height of perfection. By all means, the foundation must be laid first. But, as the Apostle Paul says, the structure of gold and precious gems must be built over it. For the psalmist cries, “I have loved Thy commandment above gold and many a precious stone.”
How does Paul say, “Rejoice in the Lord always”? The joy he is speaking of springs from tears of mourning. For just as worldly joy comes with sorrow, godly tears produce never-ending, unfading joy. The harlot, who obtained more honor than virgins, experienced joy when seized by this fire. Thoroughly warmed by repentance, she was moved by her longing desire for Christ. She loosened her hair, drenched His holy feet with her tears, wiped them with her tresses, and poured out all the ointment. But these were only outward expressions. Those emotions in her mind were much more fervent—things only God could see. Therefore, everyone who hears of this woman rejoices with her, delights in her good works, and acquits her of every sin. If we, who are evil, judge her this way, imagine what sentence she obtained from God, who loves mankind. Consider how much, even before she received God’s gifts, she was blessed by her repentance…. For I seek those tears shed, not for display, but in repentance; I want those that trickle down secretly and in closets, out of sight, softly and noiselessly. I desire those that rise from depth of mind, those shed in anguish and sorrow, those which are for God alone.
I long to say truthfully of you, “Lord, Thou gavest me five talents, behold I have gained five other talents.” Then, I could show the precious talents of your righteousness! “For we have a treasure in earthen vessels.” These are the talents which the Lord begs us to trade with spiritually: the two coins of the New and the Old Testament that the Samaritan left for the robbed man to get his wounds healed. . . . Therefore, we must not keep the Lord’s money buried and hidden in the flesh. Don’t hide your one talent in a napkin, but like a good business person, always work with your mind, body, and a steady, ready will to distribute it. Then the Word will be near you, in your mouth and heart. The Word of the Lord is the precious talent that redeems you. Such money must often be seen on people’s tables so that, by constantly trading the good coins, they can go into every land and purchase eternal life. “This is eternal life,” which You, Almighty Father, give freely: that we may know “Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent.”
The true temple of Christ is the believer’s soul. Decorate it, dress it, offer gifts to it, welcome Christ in it. For what use are walls that blaze with jewels when Christ, in His poor people, is in danger of starving to death? Your possessions aren’t yours anymore, but they have been entrusted to your stewardship. Remember Ananias and Sapphira—because they were afraid of the future, they kept what they owned. Be careful not to rashly waste what is Christ’s. That is, don’t foolishly give the poor’s property to those who aren’t poor. Otherwise, as a wise man once told us, charity would actually destroy charity. . . . For to be a Christian and not merely seem like one is the greatest thing. But, somehow or other, those who please the world most please Christ the least. . . . I am warning you as a friend warns a friend before you embark on your new lifestyle. I would rather fail by my ability than by my will in serving you. For I want you to keep your footing where I have fallen.
How is it possible to be a child of God? By being free from all passions and showing gentleness to those who offend and wrong us. . . . There is nothing that brings us as near to God and makes us so much like Him as doing these good things. Therefore, when Paul says, “Be ye followers of God,” he means that they become followers by doing these things. For we need to do all good deeds, but above all we must love others and show gentleness. Since we sin many times each day, we need much of His love ourselves. Therefore, we also need to show much mercy. Much and little aren’t measured by the quantity of things given, but by the givers’ means. . . . And if you don’t have anything but have a compassionate soul, this will prepare a reward for you. . . . So then, let us then be inclined to show mercy and all other blessings will follow. For those who have a spirit of love and mercy will give money away if they have it. If they see anyone in distress, they will weep. If they encounter people who have been wronged, they will stand up for them. If they see others treated maliciously, they will reach out their hand to them. For those that have a treasure house of blessings, a loving and merciful soul will make it overflow to meet all of their neighbors’ needs. Such people will enjoy all the rewards God has prepared.
No matter what knowledge of God we can gain by observing or reflecting on Him, He is far better than how we perceive Him. Say we wanted to acquaint someone who couldn’t bear a spark of light or the flame of a very small lamp with the brightness and splendor of the sun. Wouldn’t it be necessary to tell him that the sun’s splendor was unspeakably and incalculably more glorious than all the light he had already seen? In the same way, our knowledge of God is restrained by flesh and blood. Due to our participation in material things, our minds are dull in their attempts to understand spiritual things, although our understanding hardly compares to a spark or lamp. However, among all intelligent, spiritual beings, God is superior to all others—so unspeakably and incalculably superior. Even the purest and brightest human understanding can’t comprehend His nature.
He who knows what we need before we ask Him has urged us to pray by saying: “Men ought always to pray and not to faint.” The Lord told the story of a widow who wanted justice done to her enemy. By her unceasing requests, she persuaded an evil judge to listen to her. The judge wasn’t moved because of justice or mercy but because he was overcome by her wearisome pleas. The story encourages us that the Lord God, who is merciful and just, pays attention to our continual prayers more than when this widow won over the indifferent, unjust, and wicked judge by her unceasing requests. . . . The Lord gives a similar lesson in the parable of the man who had nothing to give to a traveling friend. He tried to borrow three loaves . . . from another friend who was already asleep. By his very urgent and insistent requests, he succeeded in waking the friend, who gave him as many loaves as he needed. But this friend was motivated by his wish to avoid further annoyances, not by generosity. Through this story, the Lord taught that those who are asleep are compelled to give to the person who disturbs them, but those who never sleep will give with much more kindness. In fact, He even rouses us from sleep so that we can ask from Him.
Among those with worldly wealth, one man did not submit his name for the contest because he was not confident of his ability to win and receive the prize. Another, inspired by the hope of victory, but who did not work, diet, and exercise appropriately, remained unrewarded and frustrated. Therefore, don’t let the wealthy consider themselves excluded from the Savior’s lists at the outset, provided they are believers and contemplate the greatness of God’s generosity. Don’t let them expect to gain the crowns of eternal life without struggle and effort, training or challenge. Instead, let them put themselves under the Word as their trainer and Christ as the official of the contest. For their prescribed food and drink, let them have the New Testament of the Lord; for exercises, the commandments; and for elegance and adornment, the beauty of love, faith, hope, knowledge of the truth, gentleness, humility, compassion, and dignity. Then, when the last trumpet signals the race and departure from the stadium of life, they may, with good consciences, present themselves victorious to the Judge who gives the rewards. They will be worthy of their heavenly Fatherland, to which they will return with crowns and the praise of angels.
Let not the sun go down upon your wrath.” Antony believed this verse applied not only to all the commandments. The sun shouldn’t go down on any of our sins. For it is important that neither the sun nor the moon can condemn our evil acts or thoughts. In order to be pure, it is good to hear the apostle Paul and keep his words. For he says, “Try your own selves and prove your own selves.” Therefore, every day we should consider what we have done that day and night. If we have sinned, we must stop. But if we haven’t, we must not be proud. Instead, we must live in goodness without being negligent. We must not condemn our neighbors or justify ourselves “until the Lord come who searcheth out hidden things.” For we often ignorantly do things. The Lord, however, sees everything. Therefore, leaving judgment to Him, we must have sympathy for one another. We must bear each other’s burdens. But we must also examine ourselves quickly to improve the areas in which we are lacking.
The God of all things and of His holy angels was made known beforehand through the prophets. . . . As a result, all the Jewish people hung in expectation of His coming. After Jesus’ arrival, however, they fell into a keen dispute with each other. A large number acknowledged Christ and believed Him to be the object of prophecy, while others didn’t believe in Him. . . . Instead, they dared to inflict upon Jesus cruelties His disciples truthfully and candidly recorded. But both Jesus and His disciples desired that His followers wouldn’t believe merely in His Godhead and miracles (as if He hadn’t also taken on human nature and assumed the human flesh which “lusteth against the Spirit”), but that they would also see that He had descended into human nature and into the midst of human miseries. He assumed a human soul and body. From Him there began the union of the divine with the human nature, in order that the human, by communion with the divine, might rise to be divine. . . . Everyone who lives according to Jesus’ teaching rises to a friendship with God and communion with Him.