Chosen for the service of the Lord

santambrogio_mosaicosacello1Tuesday in the IV Week of AugustFrom the Treatise on the Duties of the Clergy by St Ambrose, Bishop & Doctor of the Church

We do not reckon usefulness by the value of any gain in money, but in acquiring godliness, as the Apostle says: “But godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.”  Thus in the holy Scriptures, if we look carefully we shall often find that what is virtuous is called useful: “All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not profitable.”  Before that he was speaking of vices, and so means: It is lawful to sin, but it is not seemly.  Sins rest in one's own power, but they are not virtuous.  To live wantonly is easy, but it is not right.  For food serves not God but the belly.

Therefore, because what is useful is also just, it is just to serve Christ, who redeemed us.  They too are just who for his Name's sake have given themselves up to death, they are unjust who have avoided it.  Of them it says: “What profit is there in my blood?” that is: what advance has my justice made?  Wherefore they also say: “Let us bind the just, for he is useless to us”, that is: he is unjust, for he complains of us, condemns and rebukes us.  This could also be referred to the greed of impious men, which closely resembles treachery; as we read in the case of the traitor Judas, who in his longing for gain and his desire for money put his head into the noose of treachery and fell.

We have then to speak of that usefulness which is full of what is virtuous, as the Apostle himself has laid it down in so many words, saying: “And this I speak for your own profit, not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely.”  It is plain, then, that what is virtuous is useful, and what is useful is virtuous; also that what is useful is just, and what is just is useful.  I can say this, for I am speaking, not to merchants who are covetous from a desire to make gain, but to my children.  And I am speaking of the duties which I wish to impress upon and impart to you, whom I have chosen for the service of the Lord; so that those things which have been already implanted and fixed in your minds and characters by habit and training may now be further unfolded to you by explanation and instruction.

Responsory.  Exercise thyself || unto godliness: for * Godliness is profitable to all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.  V. Godliness with contentment is great gain. * Godliness is profitable … Glory be … Godliness is profitable …