Third Sunday After Pentecost The Gospel Luc.15.v.1. Saturday Meditation: A Plaine Path-way To Heaven Thomas Hill 1634
Christ Accused by the Pharisees (detail)
GOSPEL Luke 15: 1-10At that time, the publicans and sinners drew near unto Jesus to hear Him: and the Pharisees and Scribes murmured, saying: This man receiveth sinners and eateth with them. And He spoke to them this parable, saying: What man is there of you that hath a hundred sheep, and if he shall lose one of them, doth he not leave the ninety-nine in the desert, and go after that which was lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, lay it upon his shoulders rejoicing an coming home, call together his friends and neighbors, saying to them: Rejoice with me because I have found my sheep that was lost? I say to you that even so there shall be more joy in heaven upon one sinner that doth penance, more than upon ninety-nine just who need no penance. Or what woman having ten groats, if she lose one groat doth not light a candle and sweep the house, and seek diligently until she find it? And when she hath found it, call together her friends and neighbors, saying: Rejoice with me because I have found the groat which I had lost? So I say to you, there shall be joy before the Angels of God upon one sinner doing penance.
One more concerning the love of God towards a sinner because there is no end thereof. The Love of Christ is so excessive great towards a sinner that hath lost himself by going astray, and is so over tender, that he seemeth here to propose this example of a shepherd, that having one sheep strayed away, leaveth ninety nine in the desert or wilderness at hazard to the wolf, or other annoyance, rather to excuse his over tenderness of love, as if he should say, to the ninety nine just ones that might seem justly to tax him for leaving them at hazard, for seeking one sinner; why, do no more then shepherds use to do, towards their sheep, for indeed that man that should leave ninety nine sheep in the wilderness at hazard as aforesaid, to seek one that is gone astray, can hardly be excused of an immoderate & impudent desire to keep up his number, with danger of far greater loss.
Likewise,that Christ leaving his Angels in heaven, & the just his Angels in heaven, & the just ones here on earth, to seek sinners that were lost, which in themselves are no more worth in comparison of the Angels and just ones, then one to ninety nine , nor so much neither, and yet to esteem his being with the Angels in heaven, and the just here on earth with the loss of one sinner,to be but as if he were in a wilderness,is a sign of greater love towards sinners, then the heart of man can imagine, Oh that sinners could hereby learn, and would endeavor to love Christ again in some reasonable proportion! If not him, yet their own souls, unto salvation as he did, and paid so dearly for them! Oh,that they would think,all the world and the delights thereof, to be but a wilderness without Christ, as he did heaven without them, saying, he left his flock of ninety nine sheep in the wilderness, that is his Angels in heaven, to come down from thence to seek sinners, which in respect of their number and dignity are but as one to ninety nine.
Having said thus much of the love of God, towards sinners; we will now say somewhat of sinners and sins. The Scribes and Pharisees murmured at Christ, saying: He receiveth Publicans & sinners and eateth with them,as if they would infer thereof,he had been a fellow and favorer of sinners, yet not saying so in plain terms, but by way of muttering, or murmuration; neither did they speak it to Christ that he might hear it, and answer them, but to the people, as appeareth,in that they said not (thou) receiveth sinners, as they must have said if they had spoken to him, but (he) receiveeth sinners speaking secretly to the people behind his back, by reason whereof, as also by misconstruing his doing to an ill sense which he did to a good end, to wit not as a fellow or favorer of them, as they were dinners, but to convert them: they committed also manifest and foul detraction, whose nature is to misconstrue men words and deeds, to the worst sense, and to shun the light of plain telling men their faults to their face,but to do what they do in darkness,and secretly behind mens backs,being therefore called backbiters, that is to say, biters of mens fame and reputation secretly behind their backs, their intention being not to cure, by private admonition (an act of charity) but to wound and kill, of whom the very philosophers could say, That of all cruel beasts they were the worst, for all other beasts devour men but when they were dead, but detractors, alive: and St. Paul alluding hereunto, sayth unto the Galathians: Is it any marvel if yee be consumed,when ye eat one another? &c. meaning by detraction.
Such were these Scribs and Pharisees,and yet thought themselves just, as commonly Detractors do,because they blame other men for their faults as if they were free themselves, and therefore such Christ in the Gospel called hypocrites: but what shall be given at last to the guileful tongues of detractors, whereby they secretly shoot at others behind their backs,as it were with arrows,to wound their fame and reputation? Even the sharp arrows, sayeth the Prophet David, of the almighty, with burning coals of desolation: but what did Christ here? He repected more their offence to God,then his own wrong,he did not revenge himself with ill language again, but meekly proposes this parable to instruct them, and make them see their sin, as plainly as in a glass,leaving us a fair lesson to do the like.
Finally there be certain trades or professions, which men do seldom exercise without sin, as Customs,Tole-takers, Money-changes, Bankers,and the like; such were these publicans, and sinners here mentioned.Likewise the Scribes & Pharisees, though Clergymen, or rather a kind of religious Order, yet they so carried themselves that they were generally noted for certain sins, to wit vainglory, and hypocrisy,or feigned sanctity,which St.Jerome sayth is double iniquity: and our Savior Christ called them to their faces,hypocrites,& painted sepulchers, fair without,& stinking, within taxing them with divers other sins in particular, as is worth the reading. Although the Scribs and Pharisees were noted for such,under the old Law, when was a state of imperfection: yet God forbid that any religious Order now in the new law ( which is a state of perfection,and they professing extraordinary Perfection) should so carry themselves, as that the whole Order should be generally noted of any vice, corporal or spiritual, or any emulation of one Order towards another, as if they would have no other Order but their own; which kind of emulation,or zeal begetteth contention, the bane of that brotherly, and fraternal love which St.Peter much commendeth unto all men, but especially to Religious persons, whereof they bear a particular mark, or profession in their foreheads, that is to say, in their name, of (Brother,) and setting it before their own proper name, to wit, Brother I.B. or the like, to put them in mind of that brotherly love they should bear to all men, especially to them that are Religious, as well as themselves.
And although a man would think the name of (Father) were fitter for that purpose, to signify the Fatherly love they should bear to all: yet Christ for bad the Scribs and Pharisees, being Religious men of the old Law, & in them much more all Religious men of the new law, for avoiding of pride, ambition, and emulation not be called (Fathers) but (Brothers) and he himself called his disciples his brethren, & consequently himself Brother unto them.
But if they will needs emulate one another, let it be emulation in virtue & goodness,let them emulate (as St.Paul termeth it, and exhort the Corinthians thereunto) the better gifts of grace , striving who shall excel therein,knowing that by how much the light of their example doth shine to the honor of God, if it be good, they being set in the high and eminent Candle-stick of a Religious estate, that all the house of Gods Church may see; so much doth it shine to the dishonor of God,if it be bad. And for the Laity, to zeal so much for one Religious Order, as to neglect, or contemn the other, doth breed the like effect of contention and scandal: and therefore St.Paul blaming the Corinthians for it, one saying he held of Paul,another of Apollo, another of Cephas (out of an indiscreet,and turbulent zeal they bare to the particular men though all one in their doctrine) joineth such zeal and contention together, as inseparable companions, and sayth: While there is zeal and contention between you, are yee not carnal? do ye not walk according to man?