The blameless and upright man who fears God

Bishop of Rome and Great Western Father of the Church

An excerpt from his Moral Reflections on Job, Book 1.

ORDINARY TIME, Week 8: The Lord’s Day

Some men are so guileless that they do not recognize what righteousness is. But the more they forsake the innocence of true simplicity, the more they fail to rise to moral rectitude; for in not knowing how to guide their actions by right living, they are too simple to remain innocent.

Hence Paul warns his disciples, saying: I want you to be wise in what is good but guileless in evil. And again, do not be like boys in your thinking, but be like infants in evil. Thus the Truth himself bids his disciples: Be wise as serpents and simple as doves. In this command he has deliberately joined the two ideas together: the serpent’s cunning complements the dove’s simplicity, and the dove’s simplicity moderates the serpent’s cunning. This is why the Holy Spirit reveals his presence to men not only as a dove but also as fire. For the dove symbolizes simplicity, and the fire, intense dedication. Thus the dove and the fire, taken together, have a special significance: whoever is filled with the Spirit becomes so dedicated to this gentle simplicity that he is also aflame with the zeal of righteousness against the faults of sinners.

A blameless and upright man is one who fears God and turns away from evil. Whoever seeks our eternal country surely lives a blameless and upright life. He is blameless in his deeds, upright in his faith; blameless in the good actions he performs here on earth, upright in the lofty ideals he perceives deep within himself. Now there are some who are not simple in this good action, for they seek not an inner reward, but outward approval. Thus the wise man rightly said: Woe to the sinner who walks the earth along two paths. The sinner indeed walks the face of the earth in two directions: externally, his actions seem to be holy, but inwardly his thoughts are worldly.

This is well said, then: He fears God and turns away from evil, because the holy Church of the elect sets out along the path of simplicity and righteousness in fear, but finishes in love. For it is the Church’s task to turn completely away from evil; once she has begun by love of God, she rejects sin. If she still does good only out of fear, then inwardly she has not withdrawn from evil; for she commits sin by desiring to sin, if only she could sin without punishment.

Rightly therefore Job was said to fear God because he turned away from evil. For love is moved by fear when the mind rejects the thought of sin.

Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen