We hear in our world all the time that all religions lead to God. We may get there by different paths, but we are all headed toward the same place. St. Augustine, the great convert and bishop of Hippo back in the 4th Century, would be deemed unacceptably "politically incorrect" because he most vehemently disagreed with this point of view. Below is a reading from today's traditional breviary in which St. Augustine discusses the "Great Physician", Jesus Christ, who came to this world not to condemn man but to save him. The catch is that we can find our salvation only in Christ and no other and we must cooperate with him. Jesus cannot and will not save us against our will. Then St. Augustine makes the incredibly politically incorrect statement that "he that believeth not is condemned already. Though the condemnation be not yet openly pronounced, it hath nonetheless already taken place."
The reading is a response to the Gospel of John 3:16-21, which is as follows:
17 For God sent not his Son into the world, to judge the world, but that the world may be saved by him.
18 He that believeth in him is not judged: but he that doth not believe, is already judged: because he believeth not in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
19 And this is the judgment: *because the light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than the light; for their works were evil.
20 For every one that doth evil hateth the light, and cometh not to the light, that his works may not be reproved.
21 But he that doth truth, cometh to the light, that his works may be made manifest, because they are done in God.
A Homily by St. Augustine the Bishop
The Physician cometh to do all he can towards the healing of the sick. And the sick person who will not attend to the advice of the Physician bringeth on his own death. [Jesus Christ came to save all, but he will not force anyone to accept the salvation he brings. We must make a personal decision to accept Jesus Christ as the Saving Physician.] This Physician is come, as a Saviour, to the world. Why is he called the Saviour of the world, except that he came, not to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved?
Jesus, the Great Physician, healing the blind man
[Christ does not condemn us. He came to save us. It is our action of turning away from him that condemns us] And why do I say, Be thou condemned? Because it is written : He that believeth on him is not condemned. What then dost thou expect will be said to him that believeth not? This shall be said : He is condemned. [Those who refuse to believe Christ, who refuse to accept his saving graces, will be condemned] Indeed he hath already said more than that, to wit : He that believeth not is condemned already. Though the condemnation be not yet openly pronounced, it hath nonetheless already taken place. [A very grave warning to all who refuse to believe Jesus Christ.]
The Lord knoweth them that are his. He knoweth them that will continue unto the crown, and likewise he knoweth them that will continue unto the fire. He knoweth the wheat on his threshing floor, and the chaff. He knoweth the field (which is the world) with its good grain, and its tares. He that believeth not is condemned already. Why? Because he hath not believed in the Name of the only-begotten Son of God. [The only Name under heaven by which men are saved. Acts 4:12]
We condemn ourselves when
we refuse to listen and believe
[Romans 3:10 - "All have turned out of the way; they are become unprofitable together: there is none that doth good, there is not so much as one."] He findeth the works of all men to be in themselves bad. How then do we hear that some there be who do the truth, and come to the light? For it is written : He that doeth truth, cometh to the light.Too many people believe that as long as they are "good" people, and don't try to hurt others, that they will go to heaven. We too often fail to realize that we are spiritually and morally sick, and the only One who can heal us is the Great Physician, Jesus Christ. Someone with AIDS needs to do more than eat well. When we admit our sins and destroy the evil we have created by denouncing it, then and only then will the Great Physician be able to heal us.
[How many of us can admit that we actually love our sins] Also there be many who have confessed their sins. He that confesseth, thereby denounceth his sin, and is working already with God. God denounceth thy sins, and if thou denounce them likewise, then dost thou join thyself with God in his act. [When we confess our sins, we have denounced them and put ourselves on the side of God.] The man and the sinner are, as it were, two different things. God made the man ; man made the sinner. Destroy what thou hast worked in thyself, and God will save what he hath already made. [If we are willing to denounce and turn away from the sinful beings we have become, God will save what we were originally created to be.] Thou art behoven to hate in thyself thine own works, and to love God's work. When thine own works begin to displease thee, then is it that thou beginnest to do well, because thou denouncest thine own evil works. The first thing to do, if thou wouldest do good works, is to acknowledge thine evil ones.