Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on Luke 12:39-48
Posted by Dim Bulb on October 20, 2012
Text in red are my additions.
Luk 12:39 But this know ye, that if the householder did know at what hour the thief would come, he would surely watch and would not suffer his house to be broken open.
Luk 12:40 Be you then also ready: for at what hour you think not the Son of man will come. No commentary is provided by Lapide for these verses. I’ve posted a few notes of my own.
In chapter nine our Blessed Lord set fast (literally, “hardened”) his face towards Jerusalem (Luke 9:51). The phrase indicates a prophetic judgment (see Jer 21:10; Ezekiel 21:2, for Jerusalem’s judgement see Luke 13:31-35; Luke 19:41-44). It may also indicate his resolve to commit himself to the Passion (see the Suffering Servant Song of Isaiah 50:7). The theme of judgement and the Passion are both highlighted in Luke’s “Journey to Jerusalem” narrative (Luke 9:51-19:44). The aged Simeon had predicted that Jesus would be a sign of contradiction who would cause the rise and fall of many in Israel (Luke 2:34). His coming was one of judgement, a judgement determined by how you respond. Will you be a faithful or unfaithful servant (Luke 12:41-48)? Can you handle the opposition of those family members who will not respond favorably (Luke 12:49-53)? Can you see the impending crisis and respond (Luke 12:54-59), i.e., will you repent (Luke 13:1-5) while the time of grace and favor remains (Luke 13:6-10)? Or will you be overtaken by the thief for you lack of vigilance (Luke 12:39-40)?
Luk 12:41 And Peter said to him: Lord, dost thou speak this parable to us, or likewise to all?
To all men, especially the faithful, as well to those who are now living as to those who shall live hereafter. Peter doubted of this, because Christ was accustomed to give some doctrines to the Apostles alone, others to all the faithful, and He had here said some things which seemed fitted only to the Apostles and men of perfect lives, as verses 32-37. The rest about watching and waiting for the coming of the Lord seemed to apply to all the faithful.
Luk 12:42 And the Lord said: Who thinkest thou is the faithful and wise steward, whom his lord setteth over his family, to give them their measure of wheat in due season?
Christ replied to Peter that He spoke indeed to all the faithful, but especially to him and the Apostles. For upon them were incumbent greater watching and care, that they might save not only themselves but others of the faithful as well. And Peter was the steward whom Christ set over His household, that is, His Church, as also the other Apostles, according to the words of S. Paul, “Let a man so account of us as of ministers of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.”
To give them their measure of wheat in due season. (The Vulgate has mensuram tritici, on which Cornelius comments). Our, Lord alludes to the custom of the ancients, with whom slavery was common and severe. For servants had in abundance many things that Christians have now need of. They put one of the slaves over the mancipii, to distribute, every month, a measure (hence called demensus) of provisions and corn, wheat perhaps, or barley, if they were of inferior degree, as I have shown on Hos 3:2.
Secondly, wheat (tritici) may refer to time. For it is the duty of a good steward, like Joseph, when it is the season of wheat harvest, to dispense it frugally by measure to each head of a family, that it may not be sold or expended on the poor, and so there be an insufficiency for the household. I have explained the rest on Matt 24:45.
Observe the words “steward” and “portion.” For a just steward does not give the same measure to all, but to each his own and according to his age, rank, and desert. It is the proper task of a steward to distribute what is appropriate to each. One kind and proportion of food is proper for an infant, and another for a youth, a third, for a full grown man, a fourth, for the aged—one for a man, another for a woman—one for a daughter, another for a servant—one for sons, another for slaves.
From this Christ moraliter, teaches, Bishops, Pastors, Confessors, Preachers, that they ought not to set forth the same food of doctrine to all the faithful, nor (in general) speak of virtues to all only in a general way, but in particular they should instil into them such as are fit and proper to their age and position. S. Paul, by his own example, taught the praxis of this parable and sentence when he gave one kind of monition and precept to sons, another to fathers, another to servants, Eph 6:1 and following, and when he wrote to Timothy, 1Tim 5:1-4; so to Titus 2:2, and following.
S. Gregory Thaumaturgus, Bishop of New Cæsarea, followed Christ and S. Paul, as Gregory of Nyssa writes in his life: “A mourner would bear from him what would comfort him; youth were corrected and taught moderation—medicine in fitting conversation was offered to the aged, servants were taught to be well affected to their masters, masters to be kind and gentle to those under their rule; the poor were taught to hold grace the only true riches, the possession of which was in the power of every one; he who boasted himself of his wealth was aptly reminded that he was the steward and not the lord of what he had. Profitable words were given to women, suitable ones to children, and befitting ones to fathers.” And S. Cyprian, as Pontius the deacon wrote in his life, used to urge maidens to a becoming rule of modesty and a manner of dress which was adapted to sanctity. He taught the lapsed penitence, heretics truth, schismatics unity, the sons of God peace and the law of evangelical prayer. He comforted Christians under the loss of their relatives with the hope of the future. He checked the bitterness of envy by the sweetness of befitting remedies. He incited martyrs by exhortation from the divine discourses. Confessors who were signed with the mark on their foreheads he animated by the incentive of the heavenly host. The same, especially, and before all others.
Luk 12:43 Blessed is that servant whom, when his lord shall come, he shall find so doing.
Luk 12:44 Verily I say to you, he will set him over all that he possesseth.
Luk 12:45 But if that servant shall say in his heart: My Lord is long a coming; and shall begin to strike the men-servants and maid-servants, and to eat and to drink and be drunk. No commentary is given on these verses.
Luk 12:46 The lord of that servant will come in the day that he hopeth not, and at the hour that he knoweth not: and shall separate him and shall appoint him his portion with unbelievers.
Shall separate him (see note at end of paragraph). That is, shall separate him from Himself, and His household, the Church triumphant; from the society of the Blessed and from the Beatitude promised to the faithful servants. See St. Jerome on Matt 24: “Shall cut him asunder, that is, shall separate him from the Communion of Saints.” St. Hilary: “Shall separate him from the good promises;” Origen: “Shall cut him off from the gift of the Holy Spirit and from the society and guardianship of the Angels, for Christ will deprive him of all grace, all virtue, all help, and all hope of salvation.”
The Greek dichotomein means literally “to cut in two.” Some see here a reference to the ancient practice of covenant making, wherein an animal would be split in two and the covenant parties would pass between the parts of the carcass while declaring that they would suffer the animal’s fate if they broke the pact. Some see such a practice alluded to in Gen 15:7-18.
Contextually, the word should be taken in relation to what preceded (vs 42): “And the Lord said: Who thinkest thou is the faithful and wise steward, whom his lord setteth over his family, to give them their measure (Gr. sitometron) follows in the present verse: “Shall appoint him his portion (meros) with unbelievers.” Dichotomein, sitometron, and meros all have tha basic meaning of portion, division, etc. If the steward does not portion out the masters food fairly to the other servants (vs 42) he will not have a portion in the master house, but will be assigned a portion with unbelievers (vs 46). Seen in this way the term “cut in two” has the sense of “being halved off, separated, hence the interpretation given by Lapide.
Shall appoint his position with the unbelievers. That is, shall punish him with the other servants who were unfaithful to him, although they pretended to be the contrary. Hence Mat_24:51 has “with the hypocrites.” These unfaithful are perhaps the unbelieving—they who would not believe in Christ, and of whom it is said, “He that believeth not hath been judged already.” John 3:18.
Luk 12:47 And that servant, who knew the will of his lord and prepared not himself and did not according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.
And that servant, who knew the will of his lord and prepared not himself. Did not prepare for the coming of his lord by distributing to his fellow-servants their portions of food in season, but by ill-treating them, and by debauchery, squandered the goods of his master, “shall be beaten with many stripes.”
Luk 12:48 But he that knew not and did things worthy of stripes shall be beaten with few stripes. And unto whomsoever much is given, of him much shall be required: and to whom they have committed much, of him they will demand the more.
But he that knew not and did things worthy of stripes shall be beaten with few stripes. That is, with fewer than he who knew his lord’s will, according to the measure as well of his ignorance as of his act and fault. There are four degrees of ignorance, the first invincible, which is without blame; the second vincible, but hardly so, which has some fault and is subject to punishment; the third crass, which has more blame; the fourth wilful, which has the most blame and the heaviest punishment. Of this the Ps 36:4 speaks, “He deviseth mischief upon his bed; he setteth himself in a way that is not good, he abhorreth not evil.” “This man,” says Euthymius, “despised everything; that one was slothful. But contempt is worse than sloth.” For the slothful man knew not when he might have known, and, as Titus says, he neglected to learn and despised, and derided contemptuously. Hence it is plain against Jovinian and modern heretics that there are degrees even of mortal sin, and some are worse than others, and will therefore meet with more heavy punishment in hell, but one of a milder the other of a more severe punishment.
And unto whomsoever much is given. And to whomsoever much is given—a greater knowledge that is, and recognition of his master’s will—of him shall much be required, by Christ the judge, and in the particular as well as general judgment. For, as S. Gregory (Hom. 9) says, “When gifts are increased the responsibility is increased also,” and to whom they commit much (that is, the care and superintendence of souls), of him will they ask the more. “Many things,” says Bede, “are entrusted to him, to whom is committed, with his own salvation, the salvation also of the flock of God. From such will Christ, His assessors the Apostles, and the other judges, require the more, not only their own safety and salvation as far as lies in them, but those also of the faithful committed to them. “In the pastor,” says S. Bernard, “is required the care of souls, not the cure (cura requiritur, non curatio). The latter may be impossible from the virulence or pertinacity either of the disease or of the patient.” “These things,” says Titus “clearly show the judgment of the surgeons and pastors, whilst that of the rest is not less grave and perilous. Let them not therefore show pride because of their degree and office, but discharge their duties and feed their flocks with the greater humility, zeal, and diligence.” “Each one, therefore,” says S. Gregory, “ought to be the more humble and prompt to serve God, from the office given to him, as he knows himself to be under the greater obligation of giving account.”
Again, S. Bernard (Lib. iv. de Consid.), lays down forcibly, and point by point, to Pope Eugenius III. what, and how much, God requires from Pontiffs, Bishops, and Prelates. “Consider thyself,” he says, “as the form of justice, the mirror of holiness—the exemplar of piety—the assertor of the truth, the defender of the faith, the doctor of the Gentiles, the leader of Christians, the friend of the bridegroom, the ordainer of the clergy, the pastor of the people, the governor of the unwise, the refuge of the oppressed, the advocate of the poor, the hope of the wretched, the tutor of the young, the judge of widows, the eyes of the blind, the tongue of the dumb, the staff of the aged, the avenger of crimes, the dread of the wicked, the glory of the good, the rod of the powerful, the hammer of tyrants, the father of kings, the judge of the laws, the dispenser of canonries, the salt of the earth, the light of the world, the priest of the Most High, the Vicar of Christ. Who would not be struck with fear, and tremble, when he heard this, all of which is required of your see?” Thus S. Paul to the Heb. xiii. 17, on which, says S. Chrysostom, “I wonder if any guardian of souls can be saved.” Cardinal Bellarmine said the same of Pontiffs. Hence wise and holy men have avoided prelacies, and have only accepted them by compulsion. S. Cyprian, in his Epist. 2, lib. iv., wrote thus of Cornelius the Pontiff. “He did not demand the popedom for himself, nor seize it by force, as others puffed up by their arrogance and pride have done, but quietly and modestly, and like others who have been divinely called to this office, he endured force lest he should be compelled to accept it.” In like manner, as far as they could, SS. Gregory, Chrysostom, Ambrose, Basil, Nazianzen, Nicholas, Athanasius, shunned the office of Bishops; and in our own times Pius V., when chosen Pontiff, turned pale and almost fell into a faint. When asked the reason he frankly answered, “When I was a Religious of the Order of Benedict, I had very good hope of my salvation; when I was afterwards made a Bishop I began to have a dread about it: now that I am chosen Pontiff I almost despair of it, for how am I to give account to God for so many thousands of souls as are in this whole city, when I can scarcely answer for my own soul?” So it is in his life. Finally, the Council of Trent declares the burthen of a Bishop’s office to be one formidable to the shoulders of angels.