From a sermon
by Saint Augustine, bishop
A sacrifice to God is a contrite spirit
transgression, says David. If I admit my fault, then you will pardon it. Let us never
assume that if we live good lives we will be without sin; our lives should be praised only
when we continue to beg for pardon. But men are hopeless creatures, and the less they
concentrate on their own sins, the more interested they become in the sins of others. They
seek to criticize, not to correct. Unable to excuse themselves, they are ready to accuse others.
This was not the way that David showed us how to pray and make amends to God, when he said:
I acknowledge my transgression, and my sin is ever before me. He did not concentrate on
others sins; he turned his thoughts upon himself. He did not merely stroke the surface,
but he plunged inside and went deep down within himself. He did not spare himself, and therefore
was not impudent in asking to be spared.
want God to be appeased? Learn what you are to do that God may be pleased with you. Consider
the psalm again: If You wanted sacrifice, I would indeed have given it; in burnt offerings
You will take no delight. Are you then to be without sacrifice? Are you to offer nothing?
Will you please God without an offering? Consider what you read in the same psalm: If You
wanted sacrifice, I would indeed have given it, in burnt offerings You will take no delight.
But continue to listen, and say with David: A sacrifice to God is a contrite spirit; God
does not despise a contrite and humble heart. Cast aside your former offerings, for now you
have found out what you are to offer. In the days of your fathers, you would have made
offerings of cattle - these were the sacrifices. If You wanted sacrifice, I would indeed
have given it. These then, Lord, You do not want, and yet You do want sacrifice.
You will take no delight in burnt offerings,
David says. If You will not take delight in burnt offerings, will You remain without
sacrifice? Not at all. A sacrifice to God is a contrite spirit; God does not despise a
contrite and humble heart.
You now have the offering you are to make. No
need to examine the herd, no need to outfit ships and travel to the most remote provinces
in search of incense. Search within your heart for what is pleasing to God. Your heart must
be crushed. Are you afraid that it might perish so? You have the reply: Create a clean heart
in me, O God. For a clean heart to be created, the unclean one must be crushed.
We should be displeased with ourselves when we
commit sin, for sin is displeasing to God. Sinful though we are, let us at least be like
God in this, that we are displeased at what displeases Him. In some measure then you will
be in harmony with Gods will, because you find displeasing in yourself what is abhorrent
to your Creator.
Saint Augustine, bishop
Office of Readings,
Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time