Memorial of St. Augustine, bishop and doctor of the Church
(I Thessalonians 2:9-13; Matthew 23:27-32)
It may pain a pastor to insist that their people diverge from cultural norms to live in conformity with the gospel. The issue of artificial contraception quickly comes to mind in contemporary times. Priests have a hard time preaching about it. In previous generations there were others like the requirement to forgive one’s enemies or the evil of slavery. St. Augustine echoed St. Paul in today’s first reading about the need to preach hard truths. Paul says he did not waiver to insist that Christians “walk in a manner worthy of God.”
Augustine gave a famous sermon to priests about the ways of a true pastor. He told them that they are not to court the favor of the people by preaching only what the people like to hear. Rather they are to set their sights on Christ who suffered to live without sin. In another sermon Augustine said how terrified he was as a bishop and how comforted he was as a Christian. His reasoning was that as a Christian, he experienced God’s grace; but as a pastor, he was accountable for people’s souls.
On this feast day of St. Augustine we might say a word to God on behalf of our pastors. We should want God to inspire them to know His will and to provide them the strength to preach it.