From “Homily XLVII” (on “The Gospel of John” chapter six,
verses fifty-three and fifty-four) by John Chrysostom.
God is not wont to make men good by compulsion and force, neither is his election and choice compulsory on those who are called, but persuasive. And that you may learn that the calling does not compel, consider how many of these who have been called have come to perdition, so that it is clear that it lies in our own will also to be saved, or to perish.
Therefore, on hearing these things, let us learn to be always sober and to watch. For if when he who was reckoned among that holy band, who had enjoyed so great a gift, who had wrought miracles (for he too was with the others who were sent to raise the dead and to heal lepers), if when he was seized by the dreadful disease of covetousness, and betrayed his master, neither the favours, nor the gifts, nor the being with Christ, nor the attendance on him, nor the washing the feet, nor the sharing his table, nor the bearing the bag, availed him, if these things rather served to help on his punishment, let us also fear lest we ever through covetousness imitate Judas. You do not betray Christ. But when you neglect the poor man wasting with hunger, or perishing with cold, that man draws upon you the same condemnation. When we partake of the mysteries unworthily, we perish equally with the Christ-slayers. When we plunder, when we oppress those weaker than ourselves, we shall draw down upon us severest punishment. And with reason; for how long shall the love of things present so occupy us, superfluous as they are and unprofitable? Wealth consists in superfluities, in which no advantage is. How long shall we be nailed to vanities? How long shall we not look through and away into heaven, not be sober, not be satiated with these fleeting things of earth, not learn by experience their worthlessness? Let us think of those who before us have been wealthy; are not all those things a dream, are they not a shadow, a flower, are they not a stream which flows by, a story and a tale? Such a man has been rich, and where now is his wealth? It has gone, has perished, but the sins done by reason of it stay by him, and the punishment which is because of the sins. Yes, surely if there were no punishment, if no kingdom were set before us, it would still be a duty to show regard for those of like descent and family, to respect those who have like feelings with ourselves. But now we feed dogs, and many of us wild asses, and bears, and different beasts, while we care not for a man perishing with hunger; and a thing alien to us is more valued than that which is of our kin, and our own family less honoured than creatures which are not so, nor related to us.
Is it a fine thing to build one’s self splendid houses, to have many servants, to lie and gaze at a gilded roof? Why then, assuredly, it is superfluous and unprofitable. For other buildings there are, far brighter and more majestic than these; on such we must gladden our eyes, for there is none to hinder us. Will you see the fairest of roofs? At eventide look upon the starred heaven.
“But,” someone says, “this roof is not mine.”
Yet in truth this is more yours than that other. For you it was made, and is common to you and to your brethren; the other is not yours, but theirs who after your death inherit it. The one may do you the greatest service, guiding you by its beauty to its creator; the other the greatest harm, becoming your greatest accuser at the Day of Judgment, inasmuch as it is covered with gold, while Christ has not even needful raiment. Let us not, I entreat you, be subject to such folly, let us not pursue things which flee away, and flee those which endure; let us not betray our own salvation, but hold fast to our hope of what shall be hereafter; the aged, as certainly knowing that but a little space of life is left us; the young, as well persuaded that what is left is not much. For that day comes like a thief in the night. Knowing this, let wives exhort their husbands, and husbands admonish their wives; let us teach youths and maidens, and all instruct one another, to care not for present things, but to desire those which are to come, that we may be able also to obtain them; through the grace and loving-kindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom and with whom, to the Father and the Holy Ghost be glory, now and ever and world without end. Amen.