Mat 9:35 And Jesus went about all the cities and towns, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every disease, and every infirmity.
Our Lord, regardless of the calumnies with which He was assailed, went about all the towns and villages of Galilee, of which Capharnaum, where He fixed His abode, was the metropolis, “teaching in their synagogues,” which were established in all the cities and populous towns of Judea—nay, in large cities, there were more than one synagogue, “and preaching the Gospel of the kingdom,” the glad tidings regarding the near approach of redemption, which was to throw open the gates of heaven, so long closed against the human race, and, confirming his teaching, by curing all their ailments, whether inveterate and confirmed “disease” (νοσος), or, in an incipient stage, “infirmity” (μαλακιαν). The one form of expression (νοσος), disease, denotes a more advanced step of illness than infirmity (μαλαχιαν). The former signifies, a confirmed, inveterate disorder; the latter, incipient, temporary infirmity. Thus, our Blessed Lord cured, not only their minds, but their bodies also. (See c. 4:23, where, in the Vulgate and Greek, the words are the same as here.)
Mat 10:1 And having called his twelve disciples together, he gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of diseases, and all manner of infirmities.
“And having called His twelve disciples together.” This is connected with (c. 9:37, 38), and has immediate reference to the subject there treated of. Our Redeemer Himself, does by anticipation, what He told His disciples to pray for, viz., He of Himself sends labourers to gather in the harvest, “His twelve disciples,” afterwards called “Apostles” (v. 2), thus showing, that He Himself was “Lord of the harvest.” The other Evangelists (Mark 3:13; Luke 6:13), inform us, that our Lord had chosen His twelve Apostles before He delivered the Sermon on the Mount, in order that they might be constantly in His society, as witnesses of His doctrine and miracles, to be sent in due time to preach, vested with miraculous powers and authority required for the efficacious discharge of their exalted functions. St. Matthew, in recording the Sermon on the Mount (c. 5, &c.), omits all allusion to the election of the twelve Apostles from among His disciples, or, the circumstances of the time and place in which this first occurred, as is circumstantially narrated by St. Luke. (6:13, &c.) He merely briefly alludes to it here immediately in connexion with the first public mission on which they were sent as Apostles, with miraculous powers to confirm their teaching. The mission referred to here is recorded (Mark 6:7; Luke 9:2).
Most likely, the account of this mission should be inserted between chapters 13 and 14 of St. Matthew. For, St. Mark interposes the account of the mission recorded here, between the history of our Lord’s arrival in Nazareth, and that of the Baptist’s death; and both Mark (6) and Luke (9) relate, that the Apostles returned to our Lord to render an account of their mission, after Herod had expressed his belief that John had been resuscitated in the person of our Lord, and, that then, our Lord and the Apostles retired into a desert place. The order, then, in which things occurred, is this: The Apostles are sent to teach the Jews; John is beheaded; Herod hearing of Jesus, is perplexed who He is; the Apostles return from their mission; our Redeemer retires with them beyond the lake to a desert place; He satiates, with five loaves and two fishes, the vast multitude, who, on the near approach of the Pasch, flocked around Him, &c.
“He gave them power over unclean spirits.” The devils, or evil spirits, are called “unclean,” because, they delight in unclean, sinful acts, and impel men to the commission of such acts. Before the coming of Christ, the devil had greater power over the world than he has at present. His power, which he so much abused, was crippled by the death of Christ (Heb. 2:14), and by the benign influence and spread of the Gospel. The power given to the Apostles over devils, was, “to cast them out,” and expel them from the bodies of the possessed.
“All manner of diseases,” i.e., of a chronic description; “and infirmities,” of an incipient, less aggravated kind (see c. 9:35; c. 4:23). These miraculous powers were to be the seal of their Divine mission, “the fruits by which they were to be known” and they were to be acknowledged as vested with such. (c. 7) He gives these powers, lest the Scribes and Pharisees should be preferred to them. Moreover, as Messiah sending His legates, it was but fitting He should give them the credentials of their authorized commission. Our Redeemer shows how far He surpassed the Prophets of old. These possessed and themselves exercised miraculous powers in several instances, but in no case could they (nor indeed did they ever attempt it), communicate them permanently, as is done here, to others.
Mat 10:5 These twelve Jesus sent: commanding them, saying: Go ye not into the way of the Gentiles, and into the city of the Samaritans enter ye not.
Mat 10:6 But go ye rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
“These twelve Jesus sent,” as His legates, vested with His power; probably “two and two” (Mark 6:7), in the order in which they are joined together here, by St. Matthew and Mark (3:16), for mutual consolation and support, and to show the blessing of fraternal concord. “A brother that is helped by a brother is like a strong city.” Proverbs (18:19).
“Go ye not into the way of the Gentiles,” for the purpose of preaching. This is our Lord’s first precept to them, which was only of a temporary nature, to cease after His death, which broke down the middle wall of separation between Jews and Gentiles, and made them one fold under one shepherd. “The way of the Gentiles,” a Hebrew form of expression, denoting “among the Gentiles,” like the phrase, “What hast thou to do IN THE WAY OF EGYPT?” (Jer. 2:18), i.e., what brings thee into Egypt?
“And into the cities of the Samaritans enter ye not,” i.e., into any of their cities to preach the Gospel. In order to know who these Samaritans were, it is to be borne in mind, that after the ten tribes of Israel seceded from Juda and Benjamin, under Jeroboam, Amri, one of Jeroboam’s successors, built Samaria, which was to be the capital of the kingdom of Israel (1 Kings 16:24). Salmanasar, king of Assyria, carried the ten tribes captive into Assyria (2 Kings 17), and sent in their place, to colonize the country, people from Babylon and Cutha, &c. On the arrival of these latter, who carried with them their idolatrous worship, Samaria was infested with lions, which destroyed the country, and killed its inhabitants. This scourge was attributed to their neglect of the worship of the Deity of the land. Hence, in order to appease him, the king of Assyria had one of the captive priests sent back from Babylon, to instruct the new colonists in the ordinances and worship of the God of Israel.
After this, they united the worship of God with that of idols. (2 Kings 17) In this state did the Samaritans live under the kings of Assyria, having little or no intercourse with the Jews. When the Jews were permitted to rebuild the city and temple of Jerusalem, the Samaritans offered to assist them in their undertaking (Ezra 4:2). The rejection of this offer by the Jews, sowed the seeds of the undying hostility which ever after existed between both peoples. The breach was rendered irreparable, when, after the return of the Jews from captivity, and the rebuilding of the temple, the Samaritans had a rival temple built on Mount Garazim, near Samaria, where victims were offered up, as at Jerusalem, and served as a place also of resort for some malcontent Jews. From this period, the Samaritans, forgetful of their Pagan origin, wished to be considered as true Israelites, who preserved in all its purity the observance of the law, with an unbroken succession of high priests, who now ministered on Mount Garazim, the seat of their religion. For a long period, before the time of our Redeemer, they gave up the worship of idols; otherwise, they could have no pretensions to be considered true Israelites, rivals of the Jews, in regard to the observance of the law, and the purity of Divine worship.
The temple of Garazim and city of Samaria were demolished by John Hyrcanus, 120 years before the time of our Redeemer. Lest the Apostles might suppose that the Samaritans, who held a sort of intermediate place between the Jews and Gentiles, were to be confounded with the Jews, our Lord specially mentions them in connexion with the Gentiles. His object in prohibiting the Apostles from preaching to the Gentiles on this first mission was, to take away all excuse from the Jews, who might justify their incredulity and resistance on the ground, that, according to the ordination of God, and His promises through the predictions of the Prophets, the message of salvation was first promised to the Jews, “the children of the kingdom,” “the sons of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,” to whom these promises were specially made (Acts 13:46). To the Jews the Gospel was given, according to promise and mercy; to the Gentiles, out of pure mercy, without a promise. (Rom. 15)
“Lost sheep.” The Jews were “the sheep of His pasture.” (Psa. 73) They belonged specially to His fold; the objects of His special care and predilection. They were spiritually “lost,” having gone astray from God. (Rom. 3) Hence, compared, in the preceding chapter, to “sheep without a shepherd.” This first precept was to be observed only during our Redeemer’s mortal life. For, after His glorious resurrection, He gave the Apostles an unlimited, universal commission. “Euntes docete OMNES gentes.” (Matthew 28) “Eritis mihi testes … usque ad ultimum terræ” (Acts 1:8).
Mat 10:7 And going, preach, saying: The kingdom of heaven is at hand.
(The second Precept.) “The kingdom of heaven” (see c. 3:2), i.e., the Church of Christ is shortly to be established, which is the threshold or entrance into the kingdom of God’s glory. This kingdom of bliss, so long closed against mankind, is soon to be thrown open by the blood of Christ. Prepare, by penance, faith, and good works, to obtain admission into it. The theme of the preaching of the Apostles was the same as His own (Matt. 4:17); of the Baptist (3:2). It is clear, the preaching of penance, was also included and inculcated in the commission given the Apostles. For, the Apostles preached penance (Mark 6:12). Notice the close association here between the Church and the Kingdom. Lumen Gentium, art. 3: To carry out the will of the Father, Christ inaugurated the Kingdom of heaven on earth and revealed to us the mystery of that kingdom. By His obedience He brought about redemption. The Church, or, in other words, the kingdom of Christ now present in mystery, grows visibly through the power of God [Catholic Church. (2011). Dogmatic Constitution on the Church: Lumen Gentium. Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana].
The form, “kingdom of heaven,” is peculiar to St. Matthew. The other Evangelists for it use the form, “the kingdom of God,” “heavenly kingdom,” “the kingdom of Christ.” The words, “the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” is a summary of the things preached; and convey an exhortation to perform the good works that may lead to it, and avoid the evils, that may prove an obstacle to our admittance, into that kingdom of everlasting bliss; in a word, “to avoid evil and do good.” St. Luke informs us (10:9), that this precept of “preaching the kingdom of God,” was given to the seventy-two disciples. He insinuates that it was also given to the twelve Apostles (9:2).
Mat 10:8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out devils: freely have you received, freely give.
(The third Precept). “Heal the sick,” &c. The operation of mighty and stupendous miracles was to form the credentials of their Divine mission, necessary to beget belief in a new and unheard of doctrine; otherwise, the proud and haughty would pay no attention to the teaching of ignorant, illiterate fishermen, “these weak and foolish things of the world,” whom God employed “to confound the wise and the strong.” (1 Cor. 1) He gave the like power to Moses, so that the opposing magicians exclaimed, “Digitus Dei est hic” (Exod. 8:19). The miracles they were to perform were works of beneficence, calculated to win the people to embrace the faith. Doubtless, this power was not allowed to be idle or inoperative, although we have hardly any record of its exercise left us in the Gospels.
(Fourth Precept.) “Freely have you received,” i.e., these powers they received without labour, and irrespective of merit, solely from God’s gratuitous concession. This represses every feeling of pride, and begets humility. All they have is “received.” “Freely give,” gratuitously, and generously bestow it on the people, without price or payment; since, it is priceless. Thus is repressed every feeling of simony and sordid avarice. This may refer to the two preceding powers—of preaching (v. 7), and of working miracles (v. 8); or, rather, to the one immediately preceding, viz., the working of cures, &c. The injunction is put in so general a form, that it will apply to the selling of all kinds of spiritual gifts, which, being far beyond all price, would be undervalued, were they sold for money. What is given gratuitously by God, should not be made the subject of traffic, but be made subservient to God’s glory alone. Moreover, they are not the masters of them; but only the dispensers. There are three reasons generally assigned why spiritual things cannot be sold—1st. Because a spiritual thing is above all earthly price. It is “more precious than all riches” (Prov. 3:15). St. Peter tells Simon Magus, “thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money” (Acts 8:20). 2ndly. Because no one is master of such gifts; but only the dispenser (1 Cor. 3). 3rdly. Because, as they come gratuitously from God, one acts irreverently towards God, whenever he exacts a price for what God wishes to be dispensed gratuitously. These two latter reasons are involved in the words, “freely, or gratis, give.” A. Lapide observes here, that the reason why spiritual gifts cannot be sold, is not precisely because they are gratuitously given by God; for, God may bestow a gratuitous gift, as He bestowed science and all knowledge of art on Beseleel, the builder of the Tabernacle (Exodus 31); and this he could sell and teach others for price, like any other master of an art—but, because, spiritual gifts are so exalted and sublime, so incomparably exceeding all human skill and exertions, that to self them for money, would be treating the Author of them, God, with indignity, and would constitute the crime of sacrilege and simony.