Thoughts from the Early Church

Commentary by John Chrysostom

I am gentle and humble in heart (Matthew 11:29)

Our Master is always the same, gentle and benevolent. In his constant concern for our salvation, he says explicitly in the gospel just read to us: “Come, learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart.”

What great condescension on the part of the Creator! And yet the creature feels no shame! “Come, learn from me.” The Master came to console his fallen servants.

This is how Christ treats us. He shows pity when a sinner deserves punishment. When the race that angers him deserves to be annihilated, he addresses the guilty ones in the kindly words: “Come, learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart.”

God is humble, and we are proud! The judge is gentle; the criminal arrogant! The potter speaks in lowered voice; the clay discourses in the tones of a king! “Come, learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart.” Our master carries a whip not to wound, but to heal us.

Reflect upon his indescribable kindness. Who could fail to love a master who never strikes his servants? Who would not marvel at a judge who beseeches a condemned criminal? Surely the self-abasement of these words must astound you.
I am the Creator and I love my work. I am the sculptor and I care for what I have made.

If I thought of my dignity, I should not rescue fallen humankind. If I failed to treat its incurable sickness with fitting remedies, it would never recover its strength. If I did not console it, it would die. If I did nothing but threaten it, it would perish. This is why I apply the salve of kindness to it where it lies.

Compassionately I bend down very low in order to raise it up. No one standing erect can lift a fallen man without putting a hand down to him.
  “Come, learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart.” I do not make a show of words; I have left you the proof of my deeds. You can see that I am gentle and humble in heart from what I have become.
Consider my nature, reflect upon my dignity, and marvel at the condescension I have shown you. Think of where I came from, and of where I am as I speak to you.

Heaven is my throne, yet I talk to you standing on the earth! I am glorified on high, but because I am long-suffering I am not angry with you, “for I am gentle and humble in heart.”

Homily on Saint Bassus: Bareille, t. 4, 509-510

John Chrysostom (c. 347-407) was born at Antioch and studied under Diodore of Tarsus, the leader of the Antiochene school of theology. After a period of great austerity as a hermit, he returned to Antioch where he was ordained deacon in 381 and priest in 386. From 386 to 397 it was his duty to preach in the principal church of the city, and his best homilies, which earned him the title “Chrysostomos” or “the golden-mouthed,” were preached at this time. In 397 Chrysostom became patriarch of Constantinople, where his efforts to reform the court, clergy, and people led to his exile in 404 and finally to his death from the hardships imposed on him. Chrysostom stressed the divinity of Christ against the Arians and his full humanity against the Apollinarians, but he had no speculative bent. He was above all a pastor of souls, and was one of the most attractive personalities of the early Church.

 

**From Saint Louis University

Kristin Clauson