Homilette for Friday, August 28, 2009

Memorial of St. Augustine, bishop and doctor of the Church

(I Thessalonians 4:1-8; Matthew 25:1-13)

In the 1920s the University of Chicago pioneered a course of studies in humanities called the “Great Books.” Students of the program pore over the classics of western civilization like Plato’s Dialogues and the New Testament. Criteria for the list of great books include relevance to the modern era, value in being reread numerous times, and treatment of questions humans continually ask themselves. It should not surprise us to learn St. Augustine’s works will be found on every list of “Great Books.”

After Augustine converted to Christianity and became a priest and later a bishop, he settled in the city of Hippo for the rest of his life. There he studied, preached, and wrote prodigiously so that his collected works could easily fill any bookshelf. He did not seek fame or fortune from his efforts but gave his life as God’s servant to the people he shepherded.

Today’s gospel speaks of the necessity of having lamps burning brightly when the master returns. As in the Sermon on the Mount when Jesus tells his disciples that they are “the light of the world,” the reference here to lamps means that Jesus’ disciples are to perform good deeds in God’s name so that the world might glorify Him. Augustine in his extraordinarily gifted way did just that by humbly contributing to the wisdom of the ages with writings intended for the Christians of Africa but destined to the whole world.