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Thus says the LORD, your redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: I, the LORD, your God, teach you what is for your good, and lead you on the way you should go. If you would hearken to my commandments, your prosperity would be like a river, and your vindication like the waves of the sea; Your descendants would be like the sand, and those born of your stock like its grains, Their name never cut off or blotted out from my presence.
Blessed the man who follows not the counsel of the wicked Nor walks in the way of sinners, nor sits in the company of the insolent, But delights in the law of the LORD and meditates on his law day and night. He is like a tree planted near running water, that yields its fruit in due season, and whose leaves never fade. Whatever he does, prospers. Not so, the wicked, not so; they are like chaff which the wind drives away. For the LORD watches over the way of the just, but the way of the wicked vanishes.
Jesus said to the crowds: “To what shall I compare this generation? It is like children who sit in marketplaces and call to one another, 'We played the flute for you, but you did not dance, we sang a dirge but you did not mourn.' For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they said, 'He is possessed by a demon.' The Son of Man came eating and drinking and they said, 'Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.' But wisdom is vindicated by her works."
Saint John the Baptist was separated from the world. He was a Nazarite (Lk 1:15; Nb 6:2). He went out from the world, and placed himself over against it... and called it to repentance. Then went out all Jerusalem to him into the desert (Mk 3:5), and he confronted it face to face. But in his teaching he spoke of One who should come to them and speak to them in a far different way. He should not separate Himself from them, He should not display Himself as some higher being, but as their brother, as of their flesh and of their bones, as one among many brethren, as one of the multitude and amidst them; nay, He was among them already: "There hath stood in the midst of you, whom you know not" (Jn 1:26)... At length Jesus begins to disclose Himself and to manifest His glory in miracles; but where? At a marriage feast... And how? in adding to the wine... Now compare this with what He says in St. Matthew's Gospel of Himself: "John came neither eating nor drinking—The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say: Behold a man that is a glutton and wine-drinker." John might be hated, but he was respected; Jesus was despised... This was, O dear Lord, because Thou so lovest this human nature which Thou hast created. Thou didst not love us merely as Thy creatures, the work of Thy hands, but as men. Thou lovest all, for Thou hast created all; but Thou lovest man more than all. How is it, Lord, that this should be? What is there in man, above others? "What is man, that Thou art mindful of him?" (Ps 8,5)... Thou didst not take on Thee an angelic nature when Thou didst manifest Thyself for our salvation, so too Thou wouldest not come in any shape or capacity or office which was above the course of ordinary human life—not as a Nazarene, not as a Levitical priest, not as a monk, not as a hermit, but in the fulness and exactness of that human nature which so much Thou lovest... in that very flesh which had fallen in Adam, and with all our infirmities, all our feelings and sympathies, sin excepted.
How can we overcome the sinfulness that is already firmly established within us? We must use force. "A man snatches himself from perdition by self-discipline" (cf. Prv 16:26 LXX), always striving to raise his thoughts to holiness. We are not forbidden to resist force with force. If in any ascetic task we exert force, however slight, then "remaining in Jerusalem" we can wait for the "power from on high" (cf. Lk 24:49) which will come down on us. In other words, if we persevere in unceasing prayer and the other virtues, there will come upon us a mighty force, infinitely stronger than any we ourselves can exert. This force cannot be described in human language; in its great strength it overcomes our worst faults of character and the malice of the demons, conquering both the sinful inclinations of our soul and the disordered impulses of our body. "There came a sound from heaven as of a rushing, mighty wind" (Acts 2:2) and this force from heaven drives out the evil that is always forcing us into sin. Let the fire of your prayer, ascending upwards as you meditate on the oracles of the Spirit, burn always on the altar of your soul.
To whom can you liken me as an equal? says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high and see who has created these: He leads out their army and numbers them, calling them all by name. By his great might and the strength of his power not one of them is missing! Why, O Jacob, do you say, and declare, O Israel, "My way is hidden from the LORD, and my right is disregarded by my God"? Do you not know or have you not heard? The LORD is the eternal God, creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint nor grow weary, and his knowledge is beyond scrutiny. He gives strength to the fainting; for the weak he makes vigor abound. Though young men faint and grow weary, and youths stagger and fall, They that hope in the LORD will renew their strength, they will soar as with eagles' wings; They will run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint.
Bless the LORD, O my soul; and all my being, bless his holy name. Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits. He pardons all your iniquities, he heals all your ills. He redeems your life from destruction, he crowns you with kindness and compassion. Merciful and gracious is the LORD, slow to anger and abounding in kindness. Not according to our sins does he deal with us, nor does he requite us according to our crimes.
Jesus said to the crowds: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light."
Peculiar to a star is the light that surrounds it. And peculiar to those who worship and fear God are poverty and humility. For there is nothing so distinctive nor is there so plain a sign of the disciples of Christ as a humble spirit and an unpretentious appearance. All four gospels speak of this. Those who do not live humbly in this way lose their portion in him who humbled himself even to the cross and to death (cf. Phil 2:8), he who was also the lawgiver and has out into practice the commandments of the holy gospels. It is said: "Come to the waters, you who are thirsty" (Is 55:1). You who are thirsty for God, come to purity of thought. For there is none higher than the humble. As when there is no light all things are obscure and dark, so when there is no humility all our acts are foolish, vain and barren. (…) The soul that is benefited and sweetened by Jesus repays its benefactor, acknowledging him with exultation and love. And it render thanks and with sweetness of heart calls upon him who gives peace. For it sees him, within itself, disperse the fantasies of evil spirits. (…) So let us practice prayer and humility, those two weapons with which, together with sobriety, spiritual warriors arm themselves against the demons as with a flaming sword. If we live thus we shall be able to hold in our hearts a secret feast of rejoicing every day and every hour. (…) The Lord has said: "Learn from me for I am meek and humble of heart, and you shall find rest for your souls." (Mt 11:29).