In the homilies we hear at Mass, says St. John Chrysostom, the priest usually praises virtue and condemns vice, but doesn’t talk about individuals. That gives all of us the chance to apply the lesson to ourselves.
You heard yesterday how I extolled the power of prayer, and how I reproached those who pray lazily, without exposing any of them publicly. So those who knew in themselves that they prayed earnestly accepted that commendation of prayer, and became even more earnest by those praises. On the other hand, those who knew that they were lazy accepted the rebuke, and set aside their carelessness.
But we don’t know which either one of these is, and this ignorance helps both of them. I’ll show you how.
The one who heard the commendation of prayer and knew that he prayed earnestly would have lapsed toward pride if he knew he had many witnesses of the commendations. But, as it is, by having accepted the praise in secret, he is safe from all arrogance.
On the other hand, the one who knew he was lazy heard the accusation and has become better for it because there was no one to witness the rebuke. And this was of considerable profit to him. When we worry about what the crowd thinks of us, then as long as we think our wickedness may escape their notice, we try hard to become better. But when everyone knows how wicked we are, and we have lost the consolation of escaping their notice, we become more shameless and negligent. –St. John Chrysostom, Homily Against Publishing the Errors of the Brethren, 4
Can I remember what the last homily I heard was about?
What lesson was there in it for me personally?
Father, send your Spirit to enlighten my sinful soul, so that I may understand the things I hear spoken in church.
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