The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Commentaries for Weekdays (Years I and II) and Sundays (Years A, B and C) and Solemnities

Posted by Dim Bulb on October 22, 2018

NOTE: Solemnities and feasts are listed at the end of this post. This part is not yet complete.

ADVENT

First Week of Advent.
Second Week of Advent.
Third Week of Advent.
Fourth Week of Advent.

CHRISTMAS SEASON TO EPIPHANY
Note: Traditionally Epiphany is celebrated on January 6. In the USA it is celebrated on the Sunday following January 6.

Dec. 25. Vigil Mass for the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord (Dec 24).
Dec. 25. Mass During the Night: The Nativity of the Lord (Midnight Mass).
Dec. 25. Mass at Dawn: The Nativity of the Lord.
Dec. 25. Mass During the Day: The Nativity of the Lord.

Sunday Within the Octave of Christmas (Feast of the Holy Family). If a Sunday does not fall between Dec. 26 and Dec 31 then the Feast of the Holy Family is celebrated on Dec. 30.

Dec. 26. The Feast of St Stephen, the Church’s First Martyr.
Dec. 27. The Feast of St John, Apostle and Evangelist.
Dec 28. Feast of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs.
Dec. 29. Fifth Day in the Octave of Christmas.
Dec. 30. Sixth Day in the Octave of Christmas. See next note.
!!! Dec 30. Feast of the Holy Family (Non-Sunday). If a Sunday does not fall between Dec 26-31 then the Feast of the Holy Family is celebrated on this date.
Jan 1. Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God.
Jan. 2. Memorial of St Basil the Great and St Gregory Nanzianzen, Bishops and Doctors of the Church.
Jan. 3. Christmas Weekday.
Jan . 4. Memorial St Elizabeth Ann Seton, Religious.
Jan. 5. Memorial of St John Nuemann, Bishop.
Jan. 6. Christmas Weekday. Traditionally this is Epiphany. In the USA the Epiphany is celebrated on the first Sunday after Jan 6. For commentary on the Epiphany readings see below, following Jan 8.
Jan. 7. Christmas Weekday. NOTE: in 2018 this date falls on the Sunday after Jan 6. IN the USA this Sunday is celebrated as the Epiphany. See the link for the Epiphany below, following Jan 8.
Jan 8.

!!! The Epiphany of the Lord.
Epiphany to the Baptism of the Lord.

ORDINARY TIME
Each week contains the beginning and ending Sundays (e.g., the 4th week contains Sundays 4 and 5). We are currently in daily cycle 2 and Sunday cycle B. The new Sunday cycle always begins on the First Sunday of Advent; and the daily cycle on the next day.

1st WEEK:  Year 1Year 2.
2nd WEEK: Year 1Year 2.
3rd WEEK:  Year 1Year 2.
4th WEEK:  Year 1Year 2.
5th WEEK: Year 1Year 2.
6th WEEK:  Year 1Year 2.
7th WEEK:  Year 1Year 2.
8th WEEK:  Year 1Year 2.
9th WEEK:  Year 1Year 2.
10th WEEK:  Year 1Year 2.
11th WEEK:  Year 1Year 2.
12th WEEK:  Year 1Year 2.
13th WEEK:  Year 1Year 2.
14th WEEK:  Year 1Year 2.
15th WEEK:  Year 1Year 2.
16th WEEK:  Year 1Year 2.
17th WEEK:  Year 1Year 2.
18th WEEK:  Year 1Year 2.
19th WEEK:  Year 1Year 2.
20th WEEK:  Year 1Year 2.
21st WEEK:  Year 1Year 2.
22nd WEEK:  Year1Year 2.
23rd WEEK:  Year 1Year 2.
24th WEEK:  Year 1Year 2.
25th WEEK:  Year 1Year 2.
26th WEEK:  Year 1Year 2.
27th WEEK:  Year 1Year 2.
28th WEEK:  Year 1Year 2.
29th WEEK:  Year 1Year 2.
30th WEEK:  Year 1Year 2.
31st WEEK:  Year 1Year 2.
32nd WEEK:  Year 1Year 2.
33rd WEEK:  Year 1Year 2.
34th WEEK:  Year 1Year 2.

LENTEN SEASON

Ash Wednesday Through Second Sunday of Lent.
Second Week of Lent.
Third Week of Lent.
Fourth Week of Lent.
Fifth Week of Lent.
!!! Holy Week.

EASTER SEASON

Easter Sunday to Divine Mercy Sunday (Second Sunday of Easter).
Second Week of Easter.
Third Week of Easter.
Fourth Week of Easter.
Fifth Week of Easter.
Sixth Week of Easter. Includes Ascension Thursday.
Seventh Week of Easter. Includes Pentecost.

SOLEMNITIES AND FEASTS
Some of these are also listed above (e.g., during the Christmas season).

December 8. Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

Dec 12. Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Dec 24-25. Christmas: Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord. 4 Masses below.

Dec 26. Feast of St Stephen the Proto-Martyr.

Dec 27. Feast of St John the Evangelist.

Dec 28. Feast of the Holy Innocents.

Jan 1. Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, The Mother of God (Octave of Christmas).

Jan 6. Solemnity of the Epiphany.

Jan 25. Feast of the Conversion of St Paul.

Feb 2. Feast of the Presentation of the Lord.

Feb 22. Feast of the Chair of St Peter.

Mar 19. Feast of St Joseph, Husband of Mary.

Mar 25. Feast of the Annunciation.

Apr. 25. Feast of St Mark the Evangelist.

May 1. Feast of St Joseph the Worker.

May 3. Feast of Saints Philip and James, Apostles.

May 14. Feast of St Matthias, Apostle.

May 31. Feast of the Visitation.

Second Friday After Pentecost: Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Year A.  Year B.  Year C.

Jun 24. Vigil and Mass of the Day. Feast of the Birth of St John the Baptist.

Jun 29. Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles.

Jul 3. Feast of St Thomas the Apostle.

Jul 22. Feast of St Mary Magdalene.

Jul 25. Feast of St James the Elder, Apostle.

Aug 6. Feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord, Year A.

Aug 10. Feast of St Lawrence the Deacon.

Aug 15. Vigil and Mass of the Day. Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Aug 24. Feast of St Bartholomew, Apostle.

Sept 8. Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Sept 14. Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.

Sept 21. Feast of St Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist.

Sept 29. Feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, Archangels.

Oct 18. Feast of St Luke the Evangelist.

Oct 28. Feast of Saints Simon and Jude, Apostles.

Nov 1. Solemnity of All Saints.

Nov 2. The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed.

Nov 9. Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica.

Nov 30. The Feast of St Andrew, Apostle.

Last Sunday of the Year: Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. Always falls on last Sunday of the Year.

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Commentaries for Lectionary Year II (Includes Commentaries for Sundays A, B, and C)

Posted by Dim Bulb on November 4, 2017

The new  Liturgical Year and Letionary Cycle began on Dec. 3, 2017 and ends on Dec. 1, 2018.

ADVENT SEASON

First Week of Advent.
Second Week of Advent.
Third Week of Advent.
Fourth Week of Advent.

CHRISTMAS SEASON TO EPIPHANY
Note: Traditionally Epiphany is celebrated on January 6. In the USA it is celebrated on the Sunday following January 6.

Dec. 25. Vigil Mass for the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord (Dec 24).
Dec. 25. Mass During the Night: The Nativity of the Lord (Midnight Mass).
Dec. 25. Mass at Dawn: The Nativity of the Lord.
Dec. 25. Mass During the Day: The Nativity of the Lord.

Sunday Within the Octave of Christmas (Feast of the Holy Family). If a Sunday does not fall between Dec. 26 and Dec 31 then the Feast of the Holy Family is celebrated on Dec. 30.

Dec. 26. The Feast of St Stephen, the Church’s First Martyr.
Dec. 27. The Feast of St John, Apostle and Evangelist.
Dec 28. Feast of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs.
Dec. 29. Fifth Day in the Octave of Christmas.
Dec. 30. Sixth Day in the Octave of Christmas. See next note.
!!! Dec 30. Feast of the Holy Family (Non-Sunday). If a Sunday does not fall between Dec 26-31 then the Feast of the Holy Family is celebrated on this date.
Jan 1. Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God.
Jan. 2. Memorial of St Basil the Great and St Gregory Nanzianzen, Bishops and Doctors of the Church.
Jan. 3. Christmas Weekday.
Jan . 4. Memorial St Elizabeth Ann Seton, Religious.
Jan. 5. Memorial of St John Nuemann, Bishop.
Jan. 6. Christmas Weekday. Traditionally this is Epiphany. In the USA the Epiphany is celebrated on the first Sunday after Jan 6. For commentary on the Epiphany readings see below, following Jan 8.
Jan. 7. Christmas Weekday. NOTE: in 2018 this date falls on the Sunday after Jan 6. IN the USA this Sunday is celebrated as the Epiphany. See the link for the Epiphany below, following Jan 8.
Jan 8.

!!! The Epiphany of the Lord.

ORDINARY TIME, INCLUDING THE BAPTISM OF THE LORD
Note: Scroll down for the seasons that interrupt Ordinary Time.

First Week in Ordinary Time, Year II. Includes the Baptism of the Lord.
Second Week in Ordinary Time, Year II.
Third Week in Ordinary Time, Year II.
Fourth Week in Ordinary Time, Year II.
Fifth Week in Ordinary Time, Year II.
Sixth Week in Ordinary Time, Year II. In 2018 the Lenten season begins during this week. See LENTEN SEASON below.
Seventh Week in Ordinary Time.
Eighth Week in Ordinary Time.
Ninth Week in Ordinary Time.
Tenth Week in Ordinary Time.
Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time.
Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time.
Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time.
Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time.
Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time.
Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time.
Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time.
Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time.
Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time.
Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time.
Twenty-First Week in Ordinary Time.
Twenty-Second Week in Ordinary Time.
Twenty-Third Week in Ordinary Time.
Twenty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time.
Twenty-Fifth Week in Ordinary Time.
Twenty-Sixth Week in Ordinary Time.
Twenty-Seventh Week in Ordinary Time.
Twenty-Eighth Week in Ordinary Time.
Twenty-Ninth Week in Ordinary Time.
Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time.
Thirty-First Week in Ordinary Time.
Thirty-Second Week in Ordinary Time.
Thirty-Third Week in Ordinary Time.
FINAL WEEK! Thirty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time. (Includes First Sunday of Advent).

NEXT YEARS POSTS. The new lectionary year will begin December 2, 2018. At that time this new list will replace the current static post.

LENTEN SEASON

Ash Wednesday.
Thursday After Ash Wednesday.
Friday After Ash Wednesday.
Saturday After Ash Wednesday.
First Week of Lent.
Second Week of Lent.
Third Week of Lent.
Fourth Week of Lent.
Fifth Week of Lent.
Holy Week.

EASTER SEASON

Easter Sunday to Divine Mercy Sunday (Octave Week of Easter).
Second Week of Easter.
Third Week of Easter.
Fourth Week of Easter.
Fifth Week of Easter.
Sixth Week of Easter.
Seventh Week of Easter.

 

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Matthew Chapter 18

Posted by Dim Bulb on November 16, 2018

ANALYSIS OF MATHEW CHAPTER 18

In this chapter, our Lord rebukes the ambitious aspirations of the Apostles, and shows the means of attaining true greatness hereafter, viz., humility (Mt 18:1–4). He next shows how dear the humble are to Him—also the crime of scandalizing them, and the dreadful punishment awaiting the scandalous sinner—and the sacrifices which, therefore, should be made sooner than he guilty of it (Mt 18:5–9). He adduces other reasons to dissuade us from giving scandal to our brethren—their angels will be witnesses against us (Mt 18:10). The Son of God Himself died to save those whom we destroy (Mt 18:11), and by the touching parable of the lost sheep, He shows how the scandalous sinner opposes the earnest will of God to save sinners (Mt 18:12–14). Our Lord next points out the mode of administering correction (Mt 18:15–20); and, in reply to Peter. He points out the duty of pardoning an offending brother, be his offences ever so numerous (Mt 18:21–22). By a very interesting and moving example, He points out the necessity of our pardoning our offending brethren, from our very hearts, their trifling offences against us, after the example of God, who has so often pardoned our most grievous offences against His Divine Majesty (Mt 18:23–35).

Mt 18:1. “At that hour,” &c. On His way to Capharnaum (Mt 17:23), we are informed by the other Evangelists (Mark 9:33; Luke 9:46), that the thought entered the minds of His Apostles—a thought to which they gave expression by disputing among themselves—who among them was destined to occupy the first place in His kingdom. When they arrived at His house in Capharnaum, our Redeemer, knowing their thoughts and disputations, questioned them about their disputations in the way. They, probably, from a feeling of shame, were silent (Mark 9:33). Then our Redeemer sat down, and, called together the twelve. They then took courage, knowing that their inmost thoughts and disputations in the way were known to Him, and proposed the question here recorded by St. Matthew. This they proposed in a general way, out of a feeling of modesty, without any particular reference to themselves. “Who, thinkest Thou, is the greater?” &c. From the above account, the apparent contradiction between the Evangelists is easily reconciled. The three Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, record the entire transaction, each recording a part. Luke records the commencement of the dispute; Mark, what occurred next, viz., when our Redeemer questioned them regarding it; and St. Matthew, the last part of it, when the Apostles wished to have the question solved by our Redeemer Himself.

“That hour,” refers to the time they were at Capharnaum, when the occurrence regarding the payment of the tribute money took place. “Hour,” frequently denotes time in SS. Scripture; thus, “the last hour,” denotes the “last time.”

What it is that occasioned this dispute about priority is uncertain. Some say, it was occasioned by the privilege conferred on Peter, of paying the tribute money. But, this dispute occurred on the way, before Peter was thus honoured. Others assign different reasons. The most probable opinion seems to be, that it was occasioned by the reference made by our Redeemer to His resurrection, which they regarded as the commencement of His glorious reign, when He was to distribute the chief places in His new kingdom to His followers. On other occasions, when reference is made by Him to His resurrection, we find similar disputes about precedency to arise, (20:20, &c.; Luke 22:24, &c.) Not unlikely, different claims to precedency were put forward in behalf of several candidates. In behalf of some, priority of call to the Apostleship; of others, blood relationship with the future king, as in the case of the sons of Zebedee; of others, the communication of more intimate secrets by our Blessed Lord, as in the case of James the Greater and John; and, in John’s case, the manifestation of greater affection by our Lord; while, in behalf of Peter, might be alleged, besides some of the foregoing claims, the special promise made by our Divine Redeemer not long before, (Mt 16:17, &c.)

“In the kingdom of heaven.” This is understood by Maldonatus of the Church militant—1st. Because our Lord clearly rebukes them for affecting precedence in this kingdom; now, he says, it would be no fault whatever in them, to desire the highest place in heaven. Again, the occasion of the dispute was, according to him, the preference shown to Peter, which had reference to the Church on earth. Others hold, that it refers to heaven; since it is of this our Redeemer treats in His reply (Mt 18:3). The most probable opinion is, that the Apostles refer to the kingdom of the Messiah after His resurrection. While still imbued with the gross and carnal notions of their race, regarding His future reign, they imagined, that our Redeemer would found on earth, a glorious kingdom, a temporal rule far exceeding in splendour and external show the reign of Solomon, or any other of their most magnificent princes, and would assign different posts and places of honour and pre-eminence, like earthly potentates, who liberally dispense places of preferment, to the princes of their kingdom. But, our Redeemer in His reply, transfers the question regarding His temporal reign to the enjoyment of heavenly bliss and pre-eminence.

Mt 18:2. “And Jesus calling,” &c. St. Mark (Mk 9:34) informs us, that before doing this, He said, “If any man desire to be first, he shall be,” that is, let him be, “the last of all, and the servant of all,” which may mean, that whosoever desires “to be first,” in merit in the sight of God, must become the humblest of all, and exhibit this humility in his dealings with others; so that his future glory in heaven shall be proportioned to his humility at present. And this is borne out by verse 4 (Mt 18:4), and by St. Luke, “he that is lesser among you all, he is the greater;” or, the words may mean, whosoever aspires to the highest post amongst you, should act towards the others with the greatest humility, unlike those who aspire to places of pre-eminence among the Gentiles. This derives probability from what is said (Matt. 20:25), where our Lord contrasts the conduct which should distinguish the chiefs of His kingdom with that which is exhibited by those placed in power among the Gentiles. Both meanings may be intended, viz., to inform us, how one becomes truly great before God, and how the ecclesiastical superior ought to demean himself towards his inferiors. He should be the servant of all, exercising his authority for the benefit of others, and not for his own profit or advancement. After uttering the words above recited, our Redeemer, calling unto Him a little child, took him in His arms, and having embraced him (Mark 9:35), to show His love for innocence, He “set him in the midst of them,” near Himself (Luke 9:47). Probably, He Himself, was seated in the midst of the twelve. The more forcibly to impress them with the truth He meant to inculcate, our Redeemer employs the powerful medium of instruction by example, a mode of instruction well suited to the genius of the oriental people, and frequently in use among them, as may be seen from several places of the Old Testament. Nothing was more usual with the Prophets than to employ symbolical actions for the expression of ideas. Isaias walks naked and without shoes, to convey a warning to the Jews (Isa. 20:2). Jeremias carries chains on his neck (Jer. 27:2); the same may be also seen in Ezechiel (Ezek 12:17, &c.) Our Redeemer sometimes also employs the same in the New Testament, for the purpose of conveying, and more forcibly impressing His heavenly doctrine. Thus, He washes His disciples’ feet, “exemplum dedi vobis,” &c. He breathes on the Apostles in giving the Holy Ghost, &c. The same method is employed here; because nothing leaves so distinct an impression on the mind as that conveyed directly through the senses, “sequins irritant animos demissa per aures quam quæ sunt oculis subjecta fidelibus” (Horace, Ars Poetica). Our Redeemer wishes, by this example, to cure in His Apostles the wound caused in them by the false love of glory and jealousy, by desiring them to substitute in place thereof a holy contention of humility, “vult desiderium gloriæ, humilitatis contentione sanare” (St. Jerome), and, therefore, He places a little child in the midst of them.

Mt 18:3. And He tells them, that “unless they be converted,” in case such dispositions of humility were wanting; for, the word does not imply, that the Apostles really wanted these dispositions; but, the words are hypothetical and general for all others. Others understand it, unless you be converted, and give up the ambitious feelings which now animate you (Jansenius). It is better, however, to take it in the former sense, and not imply, as is done in this latter interpretation, that the Apostles were in the state of mortal sin, excluding them from the kingdom of heaven.

“And become as little children,” that is, become, by an act of the will, by merit, what the little child is by age, viz., small in their own estimation, and by virtue, as the child is by age, and in person. In this sense, our Redeemer desires its to become like children, but not like them in puerilities, or want of judgment, &c. We should imitate their innocence, sincerity, exemption from malice, from envy and duplicity. This the Apostle recommends (1 Cor. 14), “nolite fieri pueri sensibus; sed malitia parvuli estate,” &c., also (1 Peter 2:2); and in reference to the subject proposed, He wishes us to become like children in our contempt of honours, &c. In order to understand the force of the comparison, St. Hilary (in hunc locum) tells us, we must represent the state of infancy as a state of simplicity, in which one is attached merely to his father and mother, incapable of hating any one, desires neither riches nor honours, wholly innocent and free from vices, and from pride—of all vices, the greatest. If there he little children, addicted to anger, jealous, lying, &c., it is not of such our Redeemer speaks here.

Mt 18:4. Having deterred them from the pursuit of ambition, and shown the necessity of humility, our Redeemer next points out the merit of humility, and replies to the question (Mt 18:1), “Whosoever, therefore, … he is the greatest.” Our Redeemer does not confine Himself to saying, “he shall enter into the kingdom of heaven,” as in the preceding; but, “he is the greatest” (ὅ μειζων). The article imparts to the comparison greater strength of meaning. He shall be the greatest, because more conformable to Me. And here He does not speak of “little children” in general (as in Mt 18:3), but, “as this little child,” to show that He refers to a greater, a more perfect degree of humility, the child in question being, probably, a very small, young, little child. While the virtue of humility is absolutely necessary for entering the kingdom of heaven, a more perfect degree of this virtue is necessary for being the greatest in that kingdom. How different are the means employed for attaining greatness in an earthly kingdom.

Mt 18:5. “Shall receive,” that is, perform towards Him the several offices of charity, such as hospitality, &c. The word, “receives,” embraces all the duties of charity.

“One such little child,” that is, a person truly humble, resembling a little child For, it is of such He speaks (v. 6), when treating of scandal.

“Receiveth Me,” to which St. Mark adds (Mk 9:36), “and whosoever shall receive Me, receiveth not me, but Him that sent Me,” to convey, that such a man shall receive a great reward, not such as is given by Christ as man, but as God. By receiving such a person, we receive Christ, whom he resembles, and as it is through the grace of God, he becomes such; hence, by receiving Him, we receive the head, who communicates His own Holy Spirit to His members. The more humble we are, the more we become assimilated to Christ, who annihilated Himself at His Incarnation, and became a little one for our sakes. “For, a child is born to us, and a son is given to us,” &c. (Isa. 9:6), and the more we become like unto Christ, the more exalted shall we be in His kingdom.

Mt 18:6. Having shown in the preceding verses how much He values and esteems the humble, from the reward in store for those who honour and bestow benefits on them, our Redeemer now shows the same, by pointing out the heavy penalty He will inflict on those who shall dishonour and cause them the greatest of injuries, by proving the occasion of spiritual ruin to them. “He that shall scandalize,” that is, shall be the occasion of spiritual ruin, in whatever way this may be effected, whether directly intended, or indirectly, by false doctrine, bad example, persuasion, contempt, or any other means, to “one of those little ones that believe in Me.” This shows, He refers to His humble followers, who by grace and merit, become like to little children. Nothing can be more criminal than to cause the spiritual ruin of those for whom Christ died. “It were better for him that a mill-stone should be hanged,” &c., that is, rather than be guilty of such a crime, one should submit to any punishment or torture, however painful or ignominious, since the punishment of being drowned in the depth of the sea, or any other corporal punishment whatsoever, is nothing, in comparison with the eternal punishment in the depth of hell, which is the assured lot of him who causes the spiritual ruin of his neighbour. The sentence, as it stands, is elliptical. The words, “rather than scandalize one of these little ones,” should be added, as follows: “it were better … and drowned in the depth of the sea, rather than scandalize one of these little ones,” as it is read in Luke (Lk 17:2). The word, “scandalize,” is to be taken in its usual acceptation, of causing or occasioning the spiritual ruin of our neighbour, as is clear from the following verses (Mt 18:8-9). Our Divine Redeemer uses this term, rather than the word, injure, or dishonour, as the opposition to the preceding word, “receive,” (Mt 18:5), would seem to demand, because this is a more general term—a term, also, of a more spiritual signification, embracing that spiritual injury which is to be deprecated most, as most grievous in the sight of God, and which He detests most, viz., the spiritual injury entailing the eternal loss of the soul. In every sin of scandal there is involved, in a certain measure, that contempt of our neighbour, against which our Redeemer cautions us (Mt 18:10).

“One.” How great the crime of him who ruins and scandalizes many.

“Of those little ones.” The humble, who become as little children. “Who believe in Me,” shows, He refers to adults, represented by the little child, whom He, probably, still held in His arms. Although our Redeemer peculiarly cautions us against giving scandal to the faithful, still we are bound to avoid giving offence to all men, as St. Paul repeatedly inculcates (1 Cor. 10:32; 2 Cor. 6:3), “giving no offence to any one,” &c.

“It were better for him” (Mark 9:41; Luke 17:2). “That a mill-stone” (μυλος ονικος). The Vulgate has “mola asinaria,” referring to a heavy mill-stone, such as was turned by an ass, as contradistinguished from that turned by a man’s hand; or, it may refer to the lower grinding stone, which, like the ass, bore the entire weight of the grinding work, and was termed in Greek, ὅνος. At all events, it refers to a very heavy stone. “And drowned,” &c. St. Jerome tells us, this was the punishment inflicted, as well among the Jews as among the Syrians, on noted criminals; among the Greeks it was the punishment of sacrilege (Diodorus Siculus), and by its magnitude our Blessed Lord wishes to give the Jews a sensible idea of the grievous punishment reserved in hell for the sinner of scandal. The weight of the stone suspended from the neck, joined to the depth into which the criminal was flung, shows the certainty of his destruction. St. Jerome remarks, that although a general assertion, this, in a special way, applied to the Apostles, whose contention about pre-eminence might scendalize and turn aside those whom they might have been instrumental in calling to the faith. “Si in hoc vitio permansissent, poterant eos quos ad fidem revocabant per suum scandalum perdere, dum Apostolos viderent inter se de honore pugnare” In St. Luke (Lk 17:3) are added the words, “take heed to yourselves,” cautioning them against such a dreadful crime, entailing such fearful punishment.

Mt 18:7. Having shown the enormity of the sin of scandal from the magnitude of the punishment which awaits it, our Redeemer now points out, in general, its inevitable necessity.

“Wo to the world,” &c., that is, a dreadful malediction is in store for “the world,” including just and sinners, on account of the prevalence of scandals. The just are in danger of being carried away by the torrent, and made to deflect from the straight paths of virtue; the wicked, of becoming irrevocably immersed in vice. Hence, the caution with which it should be avoided, in consequence of the evils resulting from it, which our Lord so bitterly deplores.

“For it must be that scandals come,” which is more forcibly expressed by St. Luke (Lk 17:1), “It is impossible that scandals should not come.” This expresses not an absolute, but only a consequent, or hypothetical necessity, that scandals, in general, should sometimes exist in the world, considering the malice of wicked men, the weakness of good men, the occasions of sin, and man’s fatal proneness to evil. He does not say, that scandal must come in this or that case, as if it were independent of the free will of men in any particular instance; but, he expresses it in a general way, in the sense already explained, just as St. Paul tells us in a general way, and as a matter of consequent necessity, that heresies must be. (1 Cor. 11) This is permitted by God to test His faithful servants, to render them more diligent and watchful, and to perfect their virtue, as in the case of Job, Joseph, &c., “that they also who are approved may be made manifest among you” (1 Cor. 11:19). God thus draws good out of evil; He deems it better to educe good from evil, than to prevent evil from existing, “melius judicat ex malis benefacere, quam mala nulla permittere” (St. Augustine).

The necessity in regard to scandals taking place, referred to, by no means interferes with human liberty. The prevision of future contingent events by our Redeemer induces no necessity whatever. He foresees them in the way they are to take place; that is, freely. It is not His prescience, or prediction of evils, that causes them to exist; He foresees and predicts them, because they are infallibly to take place, and He foresees them as they are actually to take place, by the voluntary action of free agents; just, in the same way, as what we see taking place freely at present before our eyes, certainly and infallibly takes place, not because we witness it; but, we witness it, because it takes place. Our seeing it take place, by no means interferes with the perfect liberty of the free agent. So it is with God in regard to the future. With Him there is no succession of time; no past, no future. All is present. “I am who am” (Ex 3:14). It is not, says St. Chrysostom, because Christ foretold it, that scandals exist; but Christ foretold it, because He foresaw they were to exist.

Mt 18:8-9. Scandal being such a dreadful evil, both in regard to him who gives it, as well as in regard to him who receives or suffers it; hence, it is, our Redeemer having pointed out the punishment which awaits the giver of scandal, now points out the punishment of him who suffers from it, or yields to it. And He earnestly exhorts us to avoid, at any cost or sacrifice, yielding to scandal. He thereby implies, that as no one is under the necessity of giving, so, neither, is there any necessity of yielding to scandal. The words of these verses cannot be understood literally, so as to warrant the destroying of any of our members, as Origen erroneously interpreted them, whose acts of self-mutilation, in order to avoid lust, the Church condemned. In no case is this allowed, since in no case is it necessary. Several meanings are given to “hand,” “eye,” “foot,” here, as well as in Mark (Mk 9:42–44). But, however piously and appropriately meant these interpretations may be, the most probable and commonly received interpretation is, that which understands them of the objects dearest and nearest to us—pursuits most necessary and useful for us—the hand, foot, eye, being the dearest and most necessary members of our body. If these objects or pursuits, ever so dear, useful, or necessary, prove a “scandal,” or an occasion of sin to us, we must generously and courageously give them up, no matter what pain, sacrifice, or loss such separation may cost us; and pain and violent shock to our feelings are evidently supposed to arise sometimes from such separation in the words, “cut it off,” “pluck it out.” What operation more painful than the cutting off of our “right hand?” What more torturing than plucking out “our right eye?” and yet this is a duty of the most imperative necessity, enjoined by our merciful Redeemer, to save us from the horrors of the damned. And not only are we to submit to the torture of plucking out, the dearest and most necessary member, our right hand or our right eye; but, we must remove it altogether out of our sight, “and cast it from thee.”

“It is better,” &c. One evil or misfortune is infinitely less than the other; and if the patient submits to the knife of the surgeon, and when necessary, to the loss of one or more of his members, however painful the operation, and however great the loss it may partially entail, in order to preserve the entire body, how much more incumbent is it not on us to submit to any temporal loss, even of life itself, sooner than become, for all eternity, fuel for “hell’s unquenchable fire?” (Mark 9:44.) It is a much lesser evil to forfeit the advantage which the enjoyment of the object or occasion of sin may bring us, than after enjoying it for a time, “having two hands or two feet … or two eyes, to be,” afterwards on account of it, consigned for ever to hell (see Mt 5:30).

In St. Mark (Mk 9:42, &c.), after the words, “the unquenchable fire of hell,” are added the words (Mk 9:43–47), “where their worm dieth not and the fire is not extinguished.” These words are taken from the Prophet Isaias, in their spiritual sense, in which sense they had reference to the eternal punishment of the reprobate in hell. The words of the Prophet primarily and literally refer to the punishment to be inflicted on the Jews on account of their many prevarications against God. “Their conquerors shall go out and see the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against Me” (Isa 66:24). This is allusive to victors who, after satisfying their rage, go out to see the ruin of the vanquished. And to show their final and irreparable ruin, he says, “their worm shall not die,” &c.

Instead of the worms which are generated in the bodies of the vanquished dead, and the fire which reduces them to ashes being extinguished, the Prophet says, the punishment destined by God for the Jews is of a different kind. It shall continue without ceasing. The words are transferred by our Redeemer, in a spiritual sense, to express the torments of the reprobate. The “fire,” is understood to be undoubtedly real fire, which, by the omnipotence of God, acts upon pure spirits. And the “worm,” is commonly understood metaphorically, to refer to the worm of conscience, the gnawing remorses of which, coupled with a clear recollection of past sins, of graces despised, and opportunities of merit neglected, and of the nothingness of the beastly pleasures which caused their damnation, shall be the greatest torture of the damned. St. Augustine and others say, that the word may be understood literally, since the power of God could preserve these worms in fire without being ever consumed, and this is corroborated by a passage in the Book of Judith (16), “dabit ignem et vermes in carnes eorum” (see Mark 9:47).

St. Mark continues (Mk 9:48), “For every one shall be salted with fire.” As the property of salt is twofold—to burn and preserve; so, the fire of hell shall possess the quality of preserving the victims committed to it for ever. The words of this verse are allusive to the salting of victims offered to God, in accordance with His own ordinance (Lev. 9:13), “And every victim,” &c. “And,” has the force of, “as.” They shall be salted with fire, being victims of God’s eternal justice; as, according to the Divine ordinance, every victim offered to Him in the Old Law, should be first seasoned with salt.

Mt 18:10. Our Divine Redeemer continues to exhort us to avoid scandal. The chief cause of scandal arises from either the want of respect, or from the contempt with which men practically treat the souls of their poor, humble brethren. Hence, our Redeemer cautions us against undervaluing or despising any of our brethren.

“Take heed that you despise not one of these little ones,” viz., those humble followers of Me, who have become like little children, as I inculcate. For, although despised and humble here, they are highly esteemed and honoured with God, since He has been pleased to appoint His Angels, the princes of His court, who ever enjoy His presence, to be their guardians during life, and at death. This shows their great dignity with God, which man should respect, and, therefore, no one should undervalue them. Moreover, if we injure, or, by scandal despise these little ones, and ruin their souls, they have powerful defenders, or, rather, avengers, who will be accusers for them against us at the throne of God. This is the first reason assigned by our Divine Redeemer why we should not despise or scandalize our humble brethren.

From this passage, as well from several other passages of the SS. Scriptures, it is inferred, that every one among the just, every one in the state of grace, has an Angel guardian, specially appointed by God’s sweet providence, to guard him during life. Indeed, as regards the just, it has never been denied by any Catholic writer, and it is so clearly laid down in SS. Scripture, and is so thoroughly in accordance with the common belief of the Church, that, although it be not defined as a point of faith, it may be regarded as one of the truths of Christian doctrine, winch could not be denied by any sound Catholic. It seems also to be the more probable opinion, that an Angel guardian is appointed to watch over every human being, including unbelievers of every description. St. Bernard extols the goodness and liberality of God, in thus according us, such heavenly protectors. “O wonderful condescension! O excess of goodness and love! ‘He hath given His angels charge over thee.’ Who gave them charge? The Lord of Angels, whom they obey. To whom was it given? Upon His Angels, His own Angels, hath the supreme Majesty of God laid a command—upon those sublime, those happy spirits, who approach so near His Divinity—His own domestics. Of whom does He give this charge? ‘Over thee.’ What art thou? Is not man rottenness, corruption, the food of worms? What does He charge? ‘That they guard thee, that they keep thee in all thy ways.’ They even ‘bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.’ ” (Serm. 12, in Psa. 90) The Saint (ibidem), points out the duty we owe our Angels guardian: “Great reverence, devotion, and confidence. Reverence for his presence; devotion, for his benevolence; confidence, for his custody … in every apartment, in every closet, in every corner, pay a respect to your Angel. Dare you do before him what thou durst not commit, if I saw you?” &c. “Their Angels in heaven always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.” This shows, that wherever sent, in whatever occupation engaged, the blessed Angels enjoy the beatific vision of God, and the delights of Paradise. There are some who hold, that each of us has a wicked angel, appointed by Lucifer, the chief of demons, who imitates the providence of God in this respect, to lead us astray, and compass our ruin. This, however, is not an opinion generally received (see “Butler’s Saints,” 2nd October).

Mt 18:11. “For the Son of man,” &c. This is the second reason adduced to dissuade us from giving scandal, and destroying our brethren. Not only did God so value the souls of His people, as to appoint His Angels to guard them; He even so valued them as to send His eternal Son to die for them. Who, then, can be so daring as to destroy the soul for which Christ died? Similar is the reasoning of the Apostle (Rom. 16:14; 1 Cor. 8:8, 9). “That which was lost,” refers to the entire human race, lost by sin, and doomed to everlasting punishment due to sin, had not the Son of God mercifully vouchsafed, at the sacrifice of His precious blood and life, to substitute Himself in our stead. Blessed be His eternal goodness for ever. The words convey, that it was for sinners, and on account of sinners, the Son of God came down from heaven, so that if there were no sinners, He, most probably, would not have some. “Non est opus valentibus medicus,” &c. (See Mt 9:13).

Mt 18:12. Our Redeemer here adduces the parable of the lost sheep, which He more fully and more circumstantially details (Luke 15:2, &c.), to show the great concern and love God has for the souls of every one of His elect, and the consequent guilt of the scandalous sinner, who opposes the earnest will of the Heavenly Father, that they should be saved, the conclusion He wishes to derive from the parable (Mt 18:14), “Even so it is not the will,” &c. In this we find a third reason to dissuade us from giving scandal, by which, we despise our brethren, and ruin their souls. The reasons adduced by our Redeemer become stronger as He proceeds. The first is derived from the charge the Angels have of them (Mt 18:10); the second, from the love which the Son of man manifested (Mt 18:11); the third, from the will of the Eternal Father, to whom the lost sheep is an object of singular care, when wandering, and of singular and exceeding great joy, when found and brought back. It is not necessary to attempt to accommodate the several parts of the parable to the subject which it is intended to illustrate and enforce. It is the nature of all parables and comparisons in general, that of them some portions are intended rather for ornament and for completing the figurative allusion, in the way in which the subject of the parable commonly takes place, rather than for illustration. The scope of the writer, and his object in employing the parable or comparison, as seen from the context, is the safest criterion for ascertaining the extent of the application of the parable, and the parts of it meant for illustration. The present parable is variously interpreted. By “the ninety-nine sheep” some understand the Angels of heaven; and by “the one that went astray,” the human race, which our Redeemer came down from heaven to redeem. Others understand, and, more probably, “the ninety-nine,” of the just, and the straying “one,” of the sinner, who strays from the paths of virtue. Our Redeemer appeals to their own judgment, in favour of what He says, as a thing common among men. “What think you?” As if He said: I appeal to yourselves for the truth of what I am saying.

Mt 18:13. Our Redeemer does not say, of the shepherd or the man in question, that he loves or esteems one more than ninety-nine; but, that he feels greater actual, present, sensible joy, on finding the lost “one,” than he felt for the remaining “ninety-nine,” that were not lost, both, because of the pain the loss caused him, and the suddenness of the pleasure, arising from finding it. Great joy is preceded by great affliction. The greater the storm on sea, the greater our joy on safely reaching land; the greater the peril of the patient, the greater the joy of his friends on his restoration and recovery. A loving father rejoices more for the recovery of his son, who was on the point of death, than for the rest of his sons who enjoyed sound health, although he loves all equally well. Men are apt to rejoice more for some new and unexpected advantage, than for all their former acquisitions, although of greater value. Our Redeemer (Luke 15:10), speaks of the joy which “the Angels of God” feel on the conversion of a sinner. God Himself being immutable in His nature, is incapable of such affections.

Mt 18:14. The conclusion of the parable shows, the great crime of the man who gives scandal, since he opposes the will of God the Father. Our Redeemer uses not the words, “My will,” but, “the will of your Father,” to show, that such a man has the Father and the Son as his enemies, and that His will, and that of the Father, who sent Him, is one. “Your Father.” Hence, you sin against your brethren, the children of your common Father, by giving scandal, and causing him to perish whom your Father wishes not to perish. He wishes all men to be saved, and none to perish, and supplies all with the necessary graces for salvation. This He wishes, by a sincere, antecedent wish, considering the matter absolutely and in itself, just as a prince antecedently wishes all his subjects to live, inasmuch as they are his subjects. But, by a consequent wish, founded on the consideration of their resisting His law, and despising His graces and friendship, God does not wish all to be saved, just as the prince referred to wishes that some of his subjects should die, if they turn traitors, and wish to subvert order in his kingdom (see St. John Damascen, Lib. 2, de Orthodoxa fide, c. 29).

The whole drift of the parable is to show, that God the Father has the greatest solicitude and concern for His children, whom He wishes to gain heaven, and feels the greatest joy at their return, just as a man diligently searches for one of his lost sheep, and rejoices on finding it.

Mt 18:15. “But if thy brother,” &c. Having cautioned us not to sin against our brother by scandal, our Redeemer now points out our duty in regard to our brother, who may sin against us, viz., to manifest the greatest care for his salvation. He shows, that those to whom others have given scandal and offence, are bound not to wait till reparation is made, but to go and see after the spiritual wants of their erring brother, by timely correction. Among the precepts delivered on the Mount, He prescribed, that the party who did an injury to another, should at once, when convenient, make atonement; and the party injured should pardon him from his heart; but, here, He prescribes something greater, viz., that the injured party should, under due circumstances and with proper limitations, go and seek to “gain” his offending brother, by timely correction.

“If thy brother shall offend against thee.” “Against thee,” is understood by some to mean, before thee, in thy presence, with thy knowledge. This, they say, must be the meaning; because, we are bound to administer correction to all who sin against God, which we ought to regard as committed against ourselves. Nor is the duty of correction to be confined to sins injurious to ourselves. It may be also said in truth, that whosoever sins in our presence, scandalizes, and so sins against us and injures us. However, the common interpretation, which understands it of offences against us, seems the more probable. This is the meaning evidently of the words in St. Luke (Lk 17:3-4), “if he do penance, forgive him.” Hence, St. Peter subjoins the question, “if my brother … and I forgive him” (Mt 18:21). Our Redeemer, therefore, speaks not of him who sins in our presence, but of him, who sins against us, and requires our forgiveness. And without excluding the private sins of our neighbour in general—since these, too, under due circumstances, entail the obligation of correction—He expressly treats only of the private sins injurious to ourselves; because, such sins are better known to us, affect us the more; and our mild correction is, therefore, the best remedy against vindictive or private retaliation. Moreover, the mild, gentle correction administered by him who received an injury, is more apt to be efficacious; since, such a man is but heaping coals upon the head of his enemy, which shall warm him into charity and repentance. Our Redeemer prescribes two things to be observed in reference to our brother who offends us—1st. To correct him, in order to procure his amendment; and 2ndly, to do that privately, “between thee and him alone,” that thus, while he perceives that we are consulting for his character, and anxious for his salvation, he may be the more readily moved to repentance, while, had he lost all feelings of shame and self-respect, he might remain obdurate in his sin.

“If he shall hear thee.” If, attending to your admonition and correction, he shall do penance. “Thou shalt gain thy brother.” This shows the grievous nature of the offence which calls for fraternal correction. It also points out the end of fraternal correction—the salvation of our brother. Hence, whenever this end cannot be reasonably calculated upon, the means, viz., correction, is not of obligation. From this, our Redeemer wishes us to see the union of souls, which should exist among Christians; since, every one should regard the salvation of his brother as a gain to himself—the party correcting gains his brother; and this latter gains his own soul—and hence, the loss resulting from the enmity was common, in a certain measure, to both.

Mt 18:16. But should your private correction prove unavailing, still, desist not. Nothing should be left undone to recover our lost brother. After the example of the kind physician, whose individual skill may prove unavailing to his patient, we must call in others. “Take with thee one or two more,” both for the purpose of aiding thee to induce him to enter into sentiments of true repentance, so that their joint authority may prevail upon him, the more effectually, to amend his life, which is implied in the words, “if he will not hear thee;” and also, that there might be a sufficient number of witnesses to give evidence to the Church of our charity and his obstinacy, which is referred to in the following words from Deuteronomy (17:6; 19:15), “that in the mouth of two or three witnesses,” &c.

Mt 18:17. If the preceding course fail to correct him, we must not give over still. “If he will not hear them: tell the Church.” By this, some understand, the entire of the particular congregation of the faithful—joined to their pastors—among whom the delinquent party resides, or to which he belongs. The mode of correcting a scandalous sinner adopted in the primitive Church, in accordance with this precept of our Lord, was, after private admonitions, to denounce him to the entire Church of the place; and, if he continued obstinate and contumacious, the bishop and pastors excommunicated him in presence of the entire multitude (1 Cor. 5:3–5). In course of time, it came to pass that this denunciation was only made to the bishops, who alone, from the beginning, had the power of inflicting punishment in presence of the multitude. Others, more probably, understand by “the Church,” the rulers and pastors of the Church. For, it is of the Church, He says, immediately afterwards (Mt 18:18), “whatsoever you shall bind,” &c.; and this applies only to the Apostles and their successors, and they alone are entitled to the obedience here required, in the words, “If he hear not the Church.” Moreover, the perpetual usage of the Church was, to have such matters referred to the bishops and pastors only, who, whether alone or in council, represent either the particular Churches confided to them, or the universal Church. Besides, it would be against charity, and a grievous injury to our neighbour, to denounce him publicly before the multitude, for a crime which is supposed to be private and occult, in the supposition here made by our Redeemer.

“If he will not hear the Church,” that is, if he will not obey the prelate placed over the Church to guide and govern it, and who alone has a right to be “heard” and obeyed; then, this Bishop, divesting himself of the character of a Father, must exercise the function of a Judge; and by the sentence of excommunication, separate this incurable and incorrigible sinner from the body of the faithful, by whom he is no longer to be regarded in the light of a brother. This line of conduct is to be observed, in order that smarting under this correction, he may repent, “spiritus salvus fiat” (1 Cor. 5, &c.); and not infect the flock over whom the pastor has charge.

“Let him be to thee as the heathen,” &c., that is, be regarded in the same light and treated in the same way, as the classes of persons referred to, were regarded and treated by the Jews, viz., shunned and avoided, and considered as outside the pale of salvation. The “publicans,” on account of their extortions, rapines, injustice, and oppression of the poor, were looked upon as infamous by the Jews (St. Jerome), who altogether abstained from intercourse with the idolatrous Gentiles.

It is to be observed, with regard to the injunctions here delivered by our Divine Redeemer, regarding fraternal correction and the mode of administering it—1st. That this being a positive precept, does not bind, under all circumstances. It only binds when and where there is a well grounded hope, that it will attain the end of such correction, viz., the amendment of the sinner. Hence, when this cannot be reasonably expected, but rather the contrary is to be apprehended, either from the dispositions of the party administering correction, or of the party to whom it is administered, correction in such circumstances is to be omitted; as then, we would be only “casting pearls before swine.”

2ndly. There is question here, of occult or private sins, which are injurious only to the sinner himself, or to a private individual, but tends not to the injury of the community in general. Sins of the latter description should be at once put a stop to by all legitimate means.

3rdly. It contemplates only the correction of the delinquent; it, by no means, interferes with the course of public justice in regard to criminals, at the demands of society.

4thly. We are not bound to go in search of brethren to be corrected, but only to do so when we know of it—“against thee”—and we should be sincerely disposed to carry out these rules prescribed by our Divine Redeemer, whenever the circumstances of time, place, persons, as well as the order of charity and prudence would require it, joined to a well-grounded hope, that our correction would prove of any avail. Nay, as the mind and intention of our Redeemer is to be attended to, rather than His words, His mind and the end He had in view being, “thou shalt gain thy brother,” if circumstances would warrant us in concluding, that by departing from the letter of this rule, in a particular instance, we would better attain the end of the precept, which is, to “gain our brother,” we could depart from it; since, the best rule for the employment of the means, is to see how far it would enable us to gain the desired end, and thus employ the means, either wholly or partially, accordingly. It is, indeed, a subject of the deepest regret, that this precept of fraternal correction, so imperatively enjoined by our Divine Redeemer, as a branch of the charity we owe our neighbour, is rarely attended to as it should, and this on the part of many on whom this precept is, in a special manner, obligatory. How many do we find neglect it from indolence and sloth—others, from a false feeling of tenderness, as if it were tenderness, and not cruelty, to abstain from pointing out to our brethren, the inextinguishable fires over which they are standing day and night, while in the state of sin—others, it is to be feared, omit it from a cowardly dread of the countenance of the mighty, or, perhaps, from a false prudence, which is but folly with God—a selfish desire of gaining the favour of the sinner, and of thus advancing their own selfish ends and interests.

Mt 18:18. Some commentators, Origen, Theophylact, &c., understand this verse, of the man offended by his brother, who is called upon to administer correction, thus: if you whom he has offended, shall regard him here as a “heathen” or a “publican,” he shall be regarded so, and bound as such in heaven. If you loose him, that is, pardon him after this third admonition and sentence of the Church, he shall be loosed and pardoned in heaven. But, the context clearly proves the falsity of this interpretation. For, our Redeemer, after pointing out the threefold tribunal before which our offending brother is to be brought, says, if he disobey the last, viz., the Church, or the prelate presiding over and representing the Church; then, the consequence is, that he is to be altogether excluded from civil and religious intercourse, as the result of the sentence of the Ecclesiastical authority; and He carefully distinguishes the offended party, who is bound to lay the matter before the Ecclesiastical authority from this latter authority, and says of the offender, if he obey not the Church binding him, let him be regarded by you, “as the heathen and the publican.” Hence, it is one party, viz., the offended party, that referred the matter to the proper tribunal; another, that binds or looses. Speaking of the one, He uses the singular, “shall be to thee;” speaking of the other, the plural, “whatsoever ye shall bind,” &c. The words are, then, to be understood of the prelates of the Church, to whom the obstinate sinner is to be denounced, and by whom, in case of further disobedience, he is to be excommunicated. The connexion is thus quite clear. Having appointed the pastors of His Church as the last tribunal on earth, before which this contumacious sinner was to be brought, and in case of further contumacy, to be excluded by them from the society of the faithful, He adds still greater weight to their sentence, against which the obdurate sinner may be still disposed to rebel, and which he may still undervalue, by declaring, that their sentence of binding or of loosing on earth is ratified and confirmed in the high Court of heaven. He calls attention to the importance of this declaration, by prefacing it with “Amen”—a solemn form of asseveration employed by Him when treating of important subjects. The power of binding here, regards the binding in the external court of Church polity, by excommunication, to which our Redeemer directly here refers, and, also, the power of binding in the Court of Conscience and the Tribunal of Penance, where the pastors of the Church sometimes leave the sinner still unabsolved, and still bound in the chains of sin. He also adds, for the purpose of consoling the repentant, and of strengthening the timid, that whatsoever they loosed on earth, would be loosed also in heaven. The words here, in their full acceptation, embrace the power of binding and loosing in their widest extent, both in foro externo and in foro interno or the Tribunal of Penance, the same, to a certain extent, as that given to St. Peter (Mt 16:19), except that the power given to Peter extends to the entire Church, including the other Apostles; whereas, the latter received no jurisdiction over Peter or over one another. In like manner, the successors of St. Peter have jurisdiction over the entire Church, including the Bishops, being appointed by our Lord to “confirm their brethren;” whereas, the power of binding and loosing given to each Bishop who succeeds the Apostles, is confined to the particular Church over which each may be placed, by him who has charge of the entire flock, “lambs and sheep,” pastors and people.

Mt 18:19. “Again,” that is, I promise you something still greater; not only will the sentence of the chiefs of My Church, the depositaries of My power, be ratified by Me, but even, “if two of you”—either of the Apostles, or of the faithful, who, like the Apostles, would agree from some principle of Divine charity, and with due dispositions, ask only what is good—“shall agree upon earth concerning anything whatsoever they shall ask, it shall be done,” &c. The connexion with the preceding, according to some, is this: if two of you, agreeing among yourselves, shall obtain whatsoever you may ask, by mutual consent, how much more shall the judgment of My Church be ratified?

Others, with St. Chrysostom, St. Jerome, &c., connect those words, not precisely with verse 18 (Mt 18:18), immediately preceding, but with verses 15 and 16 (Mt 18:15-16). These say, our Redeemer here refers to the blessing of concord. Having, in the preceding verses, dissuaded them from contention and disunion, by pointing out the punishment of disunion and disobedience, the source of discord, He now points out the reward of concord, so as to stimulate them, in both instances, to its practice, by threats of punishment and hopes of reward.

“If two of you,” is understood by some, of the Apostles; by others, of the faithful whom the Apostles represented. “Upon earth,” on which we live here below, contrasted with heaven, the abode of God. The blessing of concord causes God in heaven to approve of what happens on earth. “Concerning anything whatsoever,” be it great or small, easy or difficult. From the very nature of the subject, and the dispositions of those whom He addresses, our Redeemer supposes they would not petition for anything evil, but only for things conformable to His will; that they ask through His Spirit, or rather, that His Spirit asks through them. (Rom. 8) Of course, our Redeemer’s words of promise here suppose prayer vested with the necessary conditions for infallible efficacy, both as to the matter of petition, and manner of asking for it.

Mt 18:20. He assigns here a reason for the efficacy of the prayers of those who agree upon earth, derived from His own special presence amongst them, by His grace and assistance, on which account He renders their prayers acceptable to His Father, as if they proceeded from Himself; or, on this account, He Himself accepts their prayers, assists their efforts, and ratifies them. So that He here attributes to Himself what, in the preceding, He attributes to His Father. Others connect this with Mt 18:18, as if it meant to prove, that whatever they shall bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven, &c., because, He is in the midst of them, binding and loosing, as if He said: since the aid of heavenly light is necessary for the right government of the Church; therefore, if two of those, charged with the government of the Church, agree upon anything appertaining to the exercise of the keys, they shall obtain it of His Father. “For, where there are two or three gathered together in My name,” &c., representing His name and power for governing the Church, “there He is in the midst of them,” hearing their prayers, judging, decreeing with them, governing the Church with them.

By, “in My name,” some understand, seeking My glory; others, after invoking Me in prayer. The words more probably mean, as above, gathered together with His authority, representing His person. From these words, some divines derive an argument, a minori ad majus, in favour of the infallibility of General Councils. If, where a few are assembled in the name and by the authority of Christ, He promises that special assistance, necessary for the due effect of their prayers and deliberations, how much more will He not be present in the midst of the rulers of His Church, assembled by His authority, deliberating on matters of the vastest moment, to grant them that special assistance necessary for their deliberations, which, in reference to General Councils representing the entire Church—“the pillar and ground of truth”—must imply infallibility in decreeing matters appertaining to faith and morals. (See Bellarmine Controver., Lib. 2 de Concil c. ii.)

Mt 18:21. What moved St. Peter to ask this question is variously accounted for. Some say, he was moved to do so, owing to our Redeemer having inculcated fraternal charity, in regard to our sinning brethren, to whom, after having done penance, He wished that pardon should be given (Luke 17:3). Our Redeemer, however, did not say, how often his offences were to be pardoned him; hence, St. Peter proposes this question, “How often shall my brother offend against me?” &c.

Others hold, that St. Peter’s question was occasioned by our Redeemer’s words (Luke 17:4), where He tells us, that if our brother sins against us seven times in a day and repent, we should forgive him. These words, being subjoined by St. Luke to the question regarding fraternal correction, it is likely they were used on this occasion, although omitted by St. Matthew. Our Redeemer meant by “seven,” an indefinite number; and hence, He meant to say, as often as thy brother offends thee, and repents of it, so often oughtest thou to forgive him. Peter, not well understanding what our Redeemer meant by “seven,” whether to be used definitely or indefinitely, asks, “how often?” &c. “Till seven times?” and wishes our Redeemer to explain what precise number of times he should forgive his offending brother. Or, it might be, that these words are expressive of astonishment, on the part of Peter, at the number of times our Redeemer wished our brother’s offences to be pardoned, as it would seem he was unworthy of being pardoned so often. Moreover, such excessive lenity might only seem as a further incitement to sin.

Mt 18:22. Our Redeemer, in the clearest possible terms, conveys what He meant, by telling us to forgive our repentant brother, not only “seven times, but seventy times seven,” or 490 times, which is meant to express an indefinite number; so that, no matter how often our brother may sin against us, if he repents of it, we are bound to pardon him, and we should be always sincerely disposed to pardon him from our heart. But this does not imply that we are bound to forego our just rights, either in the injuries done our character or property, or, that the order of justice, or the claims of society should be set aside. It only inculcates the obligation of pardoning our brother from our heart, and of laying aside every feeling of vindictiveness and malice. The words of our Redeemer imply, that we should set no bounds to our charity towards our neighbour. To this the following parable has reference.

Mt 18:23–28. “Therefore,” is interpreted by some thus, because; as if assigning a reason for the foregoing declaration, made to St. Peter, that we should forgive our offending brother, every time he repents. The word may, however, retain its usual meaning, thus: In order that you may understand how just and necessary it is for you always to forgive your repentant brother, know you, “therefore,” that “the kingdom of heaven is likened”—rendered like by Me—“to a king” &c. It has been already observed, that this form of expression only means, that something occurs in the kingdom of heaven similar to what is expressed in the parable; for, it is not the kingdom of heaven that is likened to the king, &c., but it is the King of heaven that is strictly compared to the “king,” referred to in the parable.

By “the kingdom of heaven,” here, is understood, the Church, embracing the Church, militant and triumphant. In truth, it may be said to regard the entire economy or supernatural dealings of God with man. It has been already more than once observed, that in the interpretation of parables, and their application to the subject they are intended to illustrate, there are certain parts of these parables necessarily and directly intended for illustration; there are other parts that are merely ornamental, and introduced solely with a view of rendering the parabolical narrative complete, and in harmony with what usually occurs, without any reference to the principal subject. The ornamental parts and necessary parts can be easily seen from the context and the scope of the parable. There is no difficulty in perceiving what the scope or object of the present parable is. Our Redeemer Himself applies it in the clearest terms, “So shall My Heavenly Father,” &c. (Mt 18:35.) The scope of the parable, and the intention of our Blessed Lord, are, to show, that the Almighty is most merciful towards all repentant sinners; but most severe towards those who refuse to forgive their brethren their offences. Then, the necessary parts of this parable are—

First. The king, who entered into an account, and forgave the immense sum of ten thousand talents. This illustrates the infinite malice of sin, as being committed against a person of infinite dignity; and the infinite mercy of God, freely and generously, out of His infinite mercy and compassion, remitting His offending creature, this immense debt of mortal sin. A part connected with this is merely ornamental, wherein it is said that the master ordered, “his wife” &c. (Mt 18:25), “to be sold.” This is allusive to the permission among the Romans, and even among the Jews (2 Kings 4:1), given to creditors, of selling all the effects of their debtors, even their wife and children, in discharge of the debt. In the parable, they have hardly any application, unless it be, perhaps, to show the severity of the punishment inflicted for mortal sin. But they, by no means, imply that the Almighty eternally punishes a man’s wife or children, for his sins, or that any one is condemned to eternal tortures, save for his own sins. The amount contained in the “ten thousand talents,” is disputed. However, here it is sufficient to know that it is put for a sum of indefinite magnitude, compared with the sum of “a hundred pence” (Mt 18:28).

The second necessary part regards the servant, who after receiving the remission of an immense sum—“ten thousand talents”—goes forth, and throttling his follow-servant, who owed him a mere trifle, compared with the sum remitted to himself, inexorably casts him into prison, without giving him a moment’s respite or delay. This sets forth, in the clearest light, the cruelty and inhumanity of the sinner, who, after being gratuitously and mercifully forgiven his mortal sins, by his Lord and Master, and Creator, refuses forgiveness to his “fellow-servant,” his fellow-creature, with whom he shares the same common nature, whose weakness he knows, on whom he is often dependent for mutual aid and assistance.

Mt 18:31. The third part of the parable refers to the grievous sin, of which the man who refuses to forgive his neighbour, and harbours feelings of vindictiveness towards him, becomes guilty, and to the eternal punishment, which God has in store for such a sinner. The ornamental part, attached to this portion, is, when his fellow-servants complain of the cruel conduct of this servant to their master. This has hardly any application in the parable. It does not imply that the Angels or Saints of heaven accuse the unforgiving man; it is merely added for ornament sake, because this usually happens among men. It may, perhaps be intended to convey, that the Angels and just, and God Himself, are so offended at the ingratitude and cruelty of the sinner, who refuses to forgive his brother, that the most severe judgment is exercised upon him. The part wherein it is insinuated, that the former debt, remitted by God, revives (v. 34), may be also regarded as ornamental, it being natural that such would occur in cases like this, among men; but, it does not imply that sins, once remitted, ever again revive—the common opinion being, that, although our past merits revive, by penance, the guilt of sin being removed; our sins, once forgiven, do not revive, “for the gifts of God are without repentance” (Rom. 11:29), unless, perhaps, it may be said, that the circumstance of receiving the remission of our former sins against God, so aggravates the sin of refusing to forgive our fellow-creature, owing to the ingratitude it contains, that it is virtually equivalent to the former sins, and shall entail as severe a punishment, as the former sins would, if still unremitted; or, at least, that the subsequent sins would be less severely punished, had the former not been forgiven. Besides the ingratitude involved in every sin of relapse, there is a special ingratitude in that of refusing to pardon our neighbour, owing to its opposition to the benefit of forgiveness, already received from God.

The first part of the parable shows us the infinite mercy and clemency of our good God towards repentant sinners. “Being moved with compassion, he forgave him the debt” (Mt 18:27), viz., the immense debt of mortal sin, represented by the ten thousand talents.

The second part shows us the execrable inhumanity of some men towards their fellow-creatures.

The third, the severity of God’s judgment against such, viz., “judgment without mercy,” &c. (St. James 2)

Mt 18:35. This is the application of the parable, by our Redeemer Himself. “So shall My heavenly,” &c., that is, He shall “deliver us to the torturers till we pay all the debt” (Mt 18:34); that is to say, punish us eternally, since, for eternity, we can make no atonement whatever, even by the most excruciating tortures, for the infinite evil of mortal sin.

It is observed, that our Redeemer says, “My” (not your) “Heavenly Father,” to convey, that the man of vengeance cannot properly call God his Father, whose children he persecutes and injures.

“Every one his brother.” The circumstance of our neighbour being our brother, destined for the same common inheritance of glory, should move us to extend forgiveness to him.

“From your hearts.” It will not do to affect forgiveness externally. It must come from the “heart,” under pain of our being refused forgiveness by God. For the gall of hatred, our Lord wishes us to substitute the honey of charity.

This parable shows us how grievous a sin, and how hateful before God it is, to cherish rancour or hatred in our hearts, against our neighbour, who may chance to have given us offence; and how agreeable an act of sacrifice before God it is, to lay aside all such feelings, and forget all past injuries done us, as if they never took place. We have but little to forgive our neighbour, compared with what God has remitted to us. He forgave ten thousand talents; we forgive, at most, but two hundred pence. What a powerful stimulus, therefore, the consideration of all God has forgiven us, and that repeatedly, should be for us to remit from our hearts all personal insults, comparatively trifling, offered us by our neighbour.

Besides the reasons already adduced in the foregoing, to aid us in forgiving our enemies, who may have gratuitously and ungratefully injured, and are still bent on injuring us, from which our corrupt nature so strongly recoils, there are several considerations to aid us still more.

First. There is no precept more emphatically inculcated by our Lord than this (see Sermon on the Mount). We should, therefore, make every sacrifice to show our gratitude to Him, by obeying His commandments, be they ever so opposed to flesh and blood. Our enemy may not be entitled to our forgiveness. But God, our Sovereign Benefactor, for whose sake only we pardon, is.

Secondly. The prayer we every day repeat, “forgive us … as we forgive,” &c., points out our duty in this respect. We tell a lie to God, whenever, with rancour and hatred in our hearts, we address to Him, this, His own prayer.

Thirdly. The example of the Saints of old. Consider the unprovoked hostility of Saul, and his bitter, persistent, unmitigated persecutions of David, and how David, when he had him in his power, spared him. He publicly bewails his death on the mountains of Gilboe. Consider the example of Joseph—his treatment of his unnatural brethren.

Fourthly. The peace of soul, and tranquillity of conscience, produced by this victory over one’s self, illustrated in the life of St. John Gualbert (July 12).

Fifthly. The dreadful consequences of harbouring feelings of vengeance. See this illustrated in the History of Sapricius, who lost the crown of martyrdom, and denied the faith, by not pardoning Nicephorus, while the latter, owing to his spirit of forgiveness, merited the martyr’s crown (Lives of Saints, 9th February).

Sixthly. Consider all God pardoned us, and how often; His countless benefits, general and particular, in consideration of which, He asks us to pardon His delinquent children. How often do we not see in the world, worthless, undeserving children pardoned, on account of their good parents?

Seventhly. The most important consideration of all—our Lord’s example, pardoning His enemies, during life, and at death. He, the God of heaven, pardons offences He could not deserve. We, sinful creatures, cannot pardon our fellow-creatures, offences we richly deserved, and which we should lovingly accept from God’s hands, as a trifling commutation for the eternal torments of hell, we so often merited. “Why is earth and ashes proud?” (Sir 10:9).

Eighthly. The chief means for achieving this victory over corrupt nature, is God’s grace, which is to be obtained only by fervent and persevering prayer.

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Matthew Chapter 17

Posted by Dim Bulb on November 15, 2018

ANALYSIS OF MATTHEW CHAPTER 17

In this chapter, is given an account of our Lord’s glorious Transfiguration on Mount Thabor, of which Peter, James, and John, were chosen to be witnesses (Mt 17:1–8). After cautioning these privileged Apostles against divulging this glorious event till after His resurrection, He, in reply to their question, suggested by their seeing Elias, as well as Moses with Him, distinguishes between His first and second coming. The former has its Elias, too, viz., John the Baptist, whose ministry, already discharged, in reference to our Lord’s first coming, was perfectly similar to that which Elias the Thesbite, is to discharge when he precedes His second and glorious coming (Mt 17:9–13). On reaching the rest of the Apostles and the multitude on the following day, after He came down from the mountain, He found they were unable to cure a lunatic, possessed by a devil of more than ordinary strength. Our Lord cures him, and assigns the reason of the failure of the Apostles, viz., want of the requisite faith, and their omitting to have recourse to prayer and fasting, which are necessary, in order to expel certain kinds of demons (Mt 17:14–20). He again predicts His Passion and Resurrection (Mt 17:21–22). On the requisition of the tax-gatherers, He commissions Peter to pay for both of them, having miraculously provided him with the means of doing so. He instructs him to proceed to the sea, and to take the required sum out of the first fish that came to hand.

Mt 17:1. “And after six days,” St. Mark reckons the same number (Mk 9:1); St. Luke (Lk 9:28) says, “about eight days after these words,” Both Evangelists are thus reconciled, if reconciled they need be; St. Matthew, in his narrative, does not include the the day on which the preceding words were spoken, nor the last day on which the occurrence he is about narrating took place. Whereas, St. Luke includes not only the six intermediate days referred to by St. Matthew, but also two partial days besides, viz., the first and last. However, in any case, there is no contradiction; for, St. Luke says, “about eight days,” not mentioning the precise number.

“Taketh unto Him Peter, James, and John,” whom, as His most attached and confidential friends, and most highly favoured among the twelve, He frequently admitted to more familiar intercourse—Peter, the head of the Apostolic College; James, the greater, put to death by Herod, and the first to seal his testimony with his blood; and John, the beloved disciple, who was to outlive all the rest. These three He took with Him as the number of witnesses required for legal proof, according to the Jewish law, “in ore duorum vel trium testiam stet omne verbum,” and also to correspond with the threefold witnesses on earth, “tres sunt qui testimonium dant in terra,” as the Heavenly Father, Moses, and Elias, corresponded with the three witnesses in heaven, “tres sunt qui testimonium dant in cœlo,” &c. He confined the manifestation of His glory to these three; because, He desired that the glory of His Transfiguration should not be divulged till after His resurrection.

“Into a high mountain apart.” This is commonly supposed to be Mount Thabor, situated in the centre of Galilee, not far from Nazareth. It is in favour of this opinion, that this event would seem to have occurred in Galilee (v. 21), in the centre of which Thabor is situated. Others say, it was Mount Libanus. This opinion derives some probability from the fact, that it was at Cæsarea Philippi, situated at the foot of Mount Libanus, our Redeemer conferred the Primacy on St. Peter; and it would not seem He departed as yet from that district. St. Luke says, He ascended the mountain (Lk 9:28) “to pray,” which was quite in accordance with His custom, and that it was “whilst He prayed,” (Lk 9:29) His Transfiguration took place.

Mt 17:2. “And He was transfigured before them.” This word here does not imply any change of substance, but only a change in His external appearance. He did not assume an ærial spiritual body, but only changed the appearance of, and added brightness to, the body He really had. This is clearly conveyed by St. Luke, “the appearance of His is countenance was altered,” &c. (Lk 9:29); and St. Matthew here explains it, “His face did shine as the sun: and His garments,” &c. He superadded splendour and glory to His former appearance, the substance remaining the same. He exhibited that glory with which He shall appear in His heavenly kingdom, and when He shall come one day to judge the world. He did not show His Divinity as He shows Himself to the saints in heaven. This, mortal eyes could not endure. He only showed the external glory of His body, which represented, in a certain way, the glory of the Divine Majesty.

“And His face,” over which external splendour was diffused. Most probably, this extended to His entire body. “Did shine as the sun;” in this way was the gift of clarity, arising from the glory of the Divinity and the beatitude of the soul of Christ, shown to the Apostles. The other gifts of impassibility, agility, spirituality, were not exhibited. And, although from the moment of His Incarnation, these gifts of a glorified body, were due to the body of Christ, owing to its union with the Divinity; still, by Divine dispensation, and by a continuous miracle, they were concealed; their manifestation was repressed in His body, and prevented from taking effect. Even this gift of clarity showed itself only in a passing way, for the present occasion, but not to be perpetually manifested, as it is now manifested, in His glorified state; and shall be in the glorified bodies of the just after the General Resurrection. It was by a continuous miracle and Divine dispensation, that the body of our Lord did not exhibit the qualities of glorification from His Incarnation; and that He enjoyed the beatitude of the soul without showing itself in the glory of His body; and it was equally a miracle, that it was gifted with clarity only in a transient way, not manifested as a perpetual gift. Others say, our Lord’s glorious Transfiguration, and the passing manifestation of the gift of clarity, far from being a miracle—for, this clarity naturally arose from the beatified soul of Christ—was rather a cessation of the perpetual miracle by which were repressed the qualities of glorification.

“And His garments became white as snow.” Most of the Greek readings have, “white as light.” But, the Vulgate reading is the more probable, and the comparison more natural. Moreover, all copies of St. Mark (Mk 9:2) have, “exceeding white as snow, so as no fuller on earth can make white.” Whether this snowy whiteness and shining brightness were so really impressed on the garments of our Lord, that they assumed these qualities, really and supernaturally on the occasion; and then after the Transfiguration, reassumed their former colour; or, were merely reflected on the garments from the glorified and bright Body of our Redeemer, reflecting its brightness on everything around it, is not easily determined, and forms the subject of dispute among commentators.

There can be no question whatever of the reality of this glorious Transfiguration, no grounds for regarding it as an imaginary scene. For, although the Apostles were before, “heavy with sleep” (Luke 9:32), it was after awaking, they were favoured with the sight of His glory.

Our Redeemer’s object in this glorious manifestation would seem to be, by exhibiting His glory, and by adducing the testimony of Moses and Elias, to prepare His disciples for the scandal of the cross, and to animate them to undergo torments and death, by the prospects of the glory which awaited them in the Resurrection, similar to that witnessed by them on this occasion. The difference between the glory of our Redeemer and that of Moses is, that the glorious effulgence was imparted to Moses from without, from his converse with God; it was, moreover, confined to His face, the effulgence of which, owing to its being veiled, was concealed; whereas, that of our Redeemer was from within, from the glory of the Divinity and the beatitude of His soul, which, by a kind of continuous miracle, was kept from imparting the properties of glorification to His body. And, moreover, it extended to the entire body, to the entire sacred person, of our Redeemer.

Mt 17:3. “And behold,” &c. “And,” denotes, that immediately on His being transfigured, they saw “Moses and Elias talking with Him.” St. Luke (Lk 9:32) says, they “stood with Him.” Hence, it was in a standing posture, and not while elevated from the earth, this Transfiguration took place. St. Luke (9:31) tells us, the subject on which they were speaking was, concerning “His death which He was to accomplish in Jerusalem.” Our Redeemer wished to have Moses and Elias as witnesses of His Transfiguration; the former, the promulgator and representative of the Law; the latter, the representative of all the Prophets, of whom he was the greatest; to show, that far from being opposed to the Law and the Prophets, as the Jews calumniously charged Him, the Law and the Prophets bore testimony to Him, and to His death, the great source of scandal to His followers, about which they were conversing. He, moreover, wished to show, He was the Lord of Moses and all the Prophets; and not himself either Elias or any other of the Prophets, as the multitude falsely imagined. St. Luke says, “Moses and Elias appeared in majesty.” Our Lord, by thus wishing that His attendants on this glorious occasion should be robed like Himself, in glorious apparel, meant to show, that He will one day communicate His glory to His chosen servants in heaven. The presence of these glorified witnesses would servo to heighten His glory; and their testimony would add still greater force to His words in the minds of His Apostles.

“Talking with Him.” The subject of their conversation, as we are informed by St. Luke (Lk 9:31), regarded His “decease, which He was to accomplish in Jerusalem.” The Greek word (εξοδον) shows, there is question of His exit or departure out of this world, which is rendered “excessum ejus,” by the Vulgate. It regards His future Passion. Some spiritual writers dwell on the words, “excessum ejus,” to point out the excessive love for man manifested by our Blessed Lord in His Passion and unparalleled sufferings. This is, no doubt, a pious and edifying exposition, and is included in the words; but the other, as the Greek clearly shows, is the literal meaning.

St. Luke informs us, that whilst our Redeemer was praying, Peter and his companions, “were heavy with sleep.” While they were thus asleep, it would seem our Redeemer was transfigured; and awaking, they saw Him in this state of majesty, and Moses and Elias speaking with Him regarding His future Passion. It was not before they fell asleep, but after awaking, they witnessed His Transfiguration, as St. Luke informs us. From this, it is inferred by some, that the Transfiguration occurred in the night time. In corroboration of this it is said (Luke 9:37), that our Redeemer came down from the mountain on the following day. Others, with St. Chrysostom, say, it took place in the day time. The fact, that a bright cloud overshadowed them, which most likely occurred in the day, favours this opinion, although this might occur on a calm, bright night also.

Mt 17:4. “Then Peter, answering, said.” “Answering,” by a Hebrew idiom, signifies, to commence speaking, without supposing any previous question asked. “Then.” St. Luke tells us, that St. Peter spoke when Moses and Elias were about to depart. Then Peter, transported with joy and almost inebriated with delight, mingled at the same time, with a kind of fear, or rather reverential awe, at the presence of such an unusual exhibition of glory—“For, they were struck with fear” (Mark 9:5)—anxious that this felicity should be perpetual and unalterable, exclaimed, “Lord, it is good (καλον, delightful, very pleasing) for us to be here.” Therefore, do not permit Moses and Elias to depart. “If Thou wilt”—if Thou allow it, with your permission—“let us make here three tabernacles,” i.e., three tents, composed of branches of trees, such as were hastily raised, by travellers, for temporary purposes, and such as were raised on the Feast of Tabernacles. St. Peter wished to raise these as places where our Lord, Moses, and Elias might dwell. St. Mark (Mk 9:5), says, “he knew not what he said,” or, as the Greek has it, “he knew not what to say;” and St. Luke (Lk 9:34), “not knowing what he said.” Like the sons of Zebedee, who know not the consequences nor conditions of what they asked, “nescitis quid petatis.” Peter spoke inconsiderately, not actually attending to the import of his words, nor how inconsistent and irreconcilable what he desired was, with what he saw and witnessed. Our Redeemer had sharply rebuked him, for trying to dissuade Him from suffering death. He heard two glorious witnesses speaking of His future death, in Jerusalem; and yet, Peter tries to detain them on the mountain, and leave the work of redemption unaccomplished. Moreover, it showed inconsiderateness in Peter, to imagine that glorified saints needed tents to protect them. It was thoughtless in him, to wish to have that glory confined to a few, on the mountain, which was destined for countless numbers, by the sovereign liberality of God; and to prefer the glimpse of glory, which He saw emanating from the glorified humanity and divinity of Jesus, to that effulgent, overwhelming, and dazzling glory, which from the sight of the Divinity, “face to face,” shall be exhibited to the saints for all eternity. “Satiabor cum apparuerit gloria tua” (Psa. 17:15).

5. While Peter was speaking thus incoherently, the Heavenly Father interrupted his discourse. “Behold”—to call attention to it as a matter of wonder—“a bright cloud overshadowed them,” that is, enveloped them, diffusing itself around our Redeemer, Moses, Elias, and the Apostles who were near to where our Redeemer was conversing with Moses and Elias. “A bright cloud.” The Almighty is said, frequently in Scripture, to display His Majesty in a cloud (Exodus 16:10; 19:9; 24:15). Hence, the Psalmist says, “qui ponis nubem ascensum tuum,” &c. (Psa. 104) This cloud, which was an indication of the Divine presence, a visible type of the “excellent glory,” as St. Peter terms it (2 Pet1:17), showed that our Redeemer needed no tabernacle, made with hands. It served to temper the brightness of the majesty which struck the Apostles with fear. By it, God partly fulfilled the desires of Peter, by showing, He was Himself the pavilion, under whose shade the blessed shall repose for ever; and by it, He was pleased to sanction the public confession of Peter, regarding the Divinity of His eternal Son, by such a public and explicit declaration, and by a command to others, to hear Him. It is said to be a bright cloud, while that in which He appeared, when giving the Law to Moses, was a “very thick one” (Ex 19:16), to show the difference between the New Law—the covenant of love—and the Old—the covenant of terror. St. Luke (Lk 9:34), says, “they were afraid, when they entered the cloud.” Who entered the cloud is disputed. The most common opinion is, that all entered the cloud, and that the cloud became more dense around Moses and Elias. Seeing them, as if vanishing from their sight, the disciples feared much. The very appearance of the cloud, together with the voice, which immediately after issued from it, was calculated to terrify them. Others say, the cloud enveloped only Moses and Elias, when they were on the point of departing. This bright cloud indicated the presence of the Divine Majesty.

“And, behold,” as a thing still more strange and wonderful, “a voice out of the cloud.” Not only were the eyes of the Apostles favoured with the most convincing proof of the Divinity of our Blessed Lord, but through the organ of hearing, a most conclusive proof was afforded them. “This is My beloved Son,” &c. These words are the same in the Greek, as those uttered on the occasion of our Blessed Lord’s baptism. The article is prefixed to “Son” (ὅ νιος), and to “beloved” (ὅ αγαπητος), to show that He was His natural, only begotten Son, to distinguish Him from His adopted sons, who are many in number, angels and men. The words, literally rendered from the Greek, would run thus: hic est ille filius meus, ille dilectus—this is the Son of mine, the beloved. The word “beloved” (αγαπητος), is frequently used for (μονογενης), only-begotten, because an only-begotten son is singularly beloved. Thus it is used in Genesis (Gen 22:2). The Septuagint interpreters render the Hebrew word, αγαπητος and μονογενης (Jer. 6:26, &c.; Amos 8:10, &c.), and it is used in this sense by Pagan authors also. Homer (II. vi. 401); Hesiod, referred to by Pollux (Lib. iii. c. 2). The word, αγαπητος, used in connexion with ὕιος, is, in every part of the New Testament, used to designate the eternal Son of God, and used to distinguish Him from those, who are sons by the several titles of creation, redemption, adoption, viz., men and angels.

“In whom I am well pleased.” The beloved object of My eternal complacency and love, “in whom,” and on account of whom, created objects please Me; “in whom,” I am reconciled to a sinful world; who, alone, singularly pleases Me, and in whom nothing else displeases Me. The Aorist form (ευδοκησα), conveys the idea of continuous pleasure, past, present, and future. These words point to our Lord, as the reconciler of God with a sinful world.

“Hear ye Him.” St. Chrysostom observes, that it was only after the departure of Moses and Elias (Luke 9:36), this voice was heard, that it might appear beyond all cavil or doubt, that it was to Christ, and Him only, the words referred. “Hear ye Him”—that is, believe in Him, obey His precepts, embrace His law, no longer hear Moses and the Prophets. They have discharged the duty of bearing witness to Him, the Divine Legate. He is now come, the Legislator of the New Law. Their office has now ceased. Their departure need not be regretted. He, alone, is sufficient for you. By obeying Him, you will merit and secure, for yourselves, a share in the heavenly glory, a glimpse of which has been exhibited to you on the mountain. The words, “Hear ye Him,” are, probably, allusive to the prophecy of Moses, regarding Christ (Deut. 18:15), “A Prophet of thy nation … Him thou shalt hear” (see Mt 3:17).

Mt 17:6. “And the disciples hearing,” the terrible voice of God, which some of the holy Fathers say, resembled loud peals of thunder, “Vox Domini in virtute. Vox Domini in magnificentia.” (Psa. 29)

“Fell upon their face,” probably, for the purpose of adoring the Divine Majesty, and of imploring Him to spare them. “And (that is, ‘for’), they were very much afraid.” For, “what is all flesh, that it should hear the voice of the living God?” (Deut. 5:26.) As they were seized with fear on beholding the glory of the Transfiguration, and on entering into the cloud, so they were terrified still more on hearing the tremendous voice of God. “Human weakness could not bear such refulgent beams of glory, and trembling in every limb, they fell prostrate on the ground” (St. Jerome). It may be, they feared that Moses, on departing, would send forth from the clouds, thunder and lightning, as happened at the giving of the Law (Ex 19:16), and that Elias would send forth fires from the clouds as formerly (2 Kings 1:10). The Apostles, however, were not so terrified, as not to clearly perceive what occurred (2 Peter 1:18).

Mt 17:7. The heavenly benignity of our Redeemer, raises them up. With a gentle touch He dispels the fear with which the thundering voice and majesty of God had prostrated them to the earth. As Mediator, He interposes between the tremendous majesty of God and human infirmity. “Arise, and fear not,” intimating to them that this was the voice, not of an angry God, but of a Father, who meant to confirm them in the faith, and to point out the glory in store for His adopted sons, destined to be co-heirs of His well-beloved Son, to whom they were hereafter to bear testimony.

Mt 17:8. Moses and Elias had disappeared, so had the cloud, and Jesus Himself had laid aside the glory which had dazzled them. He, alone, was visible, in His former humble state of mortality. This shows that it was to Him, and to Him only, the voice of His Father was addressed. The disappearance of Moses and Elias pointed out the temporary and transient glory of the Law and the Prophets, and showed that the Gospel alone was permanent, and destined to continue to the end of ages. The history of the Transfiguration, although differently narrated by the Evangelists, may be thus briefly summed up. While our Redeemer prayed on the mountain, the Apostles, probably, tired by the ascent, and owing to the prolonged prayer, fell asleep, during which sleep our Lord was transfigured. Next, Moses and Elias came, and discoursed with our Redeemer, regarding His death in Jerusalem. The Apostles, roused from sleep by this conversation, and by the glory which surrounded them, saw our Lord thus transfigured, and heard Moses and Elias conversing with Him. When these gave signs of departing, Peter, overwhelmed with joy, wished to detain them, and to construct three tabernacles. Next, came the cloud, enveloping Moses and Elias, and the voice, “hic est filius,” &c., which terrified the Apostles, and cast them on the ground. Afterwards, comforted by our Redeemer, they rose up, and saw only our Lord, Moses having returned to Limbo, and Elias to where he is sojourning, till the Day of Judgment.

Mt 17:9. “Tell the vision,” that is, what they had been after witnessing, the glory of the Transfiguration, “to no one,” including, probably, their fellow Apostles, and all others, “until the Son of man be risen again,” &c. St. Luke says (9:36), “they told no man in those days any of these things which they had seen.” The time subsequent to the Resurrection was deemed to be the only fit time for divulging this vision. Several conjectural reasons are assigned for this. Among the rest, it might be, our Redeemer feared, as regarded the other Apostles, that they might be saddened at their not being favoured with this vision, as well as Peter, James, and John; and, as regards the people, He might have feared, they would regard the event as incredible, and seeing afterwards His weakness in His Passion, those who would be induced to believe in Him, might altogether abandon the faith, and thus it would be more difficult to bring them back again. It was only after His resurrection; it was only after He displayed, not only his omniscience, in its prediction, with all its circumstances, but also His Divine power displayed in His own resuscitation—the great proof of His Divinity furnished everywhere in the New Testament—that this vision would not be questioned, and the minds of men would be prepared to believe it. Then it would seem as a confirmatory proof of His Divinity. No danger of scandal from any subsequent manifestation of weakness, and the Apostles would be better able to proclaim it after the descent of the Holy Ghost upon them (see Mt 16:20).

Mt 17:10. “And His disciples asked Him,” that is, Peter, James, and John, on coming down from the mountain, and before they reached the other Apostles, or the crowd (Mt 17:14). “Why then do the Scribes,” that is, those versed in the law, who expounded to the people the contents of the law. St. Mark has (Mk 9:10), “why then do the Scribes and the Pharisees say that Elias must come first?” What their motive in putting this question was, is not easily seen, and is variously accounted for by commentators. Some, with St. Jerome, suppose, that the Apostles regarded our Lord’s Transfiguration as the commencement of His glorious reign; and having heard Him refer to His resurrection as not far distant, after which, His glorious reign was, in their minds, to go on without interruption; and having been informed by those who were the authorized expositors of the Word of God, that Elias was to come beforehand, they ask, how it was that Elias did not precede that reign. Instead of preceding, he only appeared together with Him in glory, and suddenly disappeared. Others, with St. Chrysostom, suppose, that the Apostles, having been now convinced, beyond a doubt, of the Divinity of their Master, could not conceive how the words of the Scribes, assuring them, from the prophecy of Malachias, that Elias should have preceded His coming, could be true. The circumstance of their having seen Elias on Mount Thabor, reminded them of this teaching of the Scribes regarding Him. The Scribes did not sufficiently distinguish, or, perhaps, maliciously confounded, the twofold coming of our Redeemer; and, probably, adduced, as an argument against our Redeemer’s Divinity, that Elias had not preceded Him, as the prophet Malachias (Mal 4:6) had foretold. It is strongly in favour of the former interpretation, that the question would seem to arise out of, and be suggested by, his words, “until the Son of man be risen from the dead.” For, from St. Mark (Mk 9:9), it would seem they were in doubt what these words meant, and asked no questions of our Redeemer regarding it, probably, for fear of hearing some disclosures respecting His death, which would not be altogether palatable to them; or, for fear of drawing on them the rebuke lately administered to Peter in connexion with the same subject. But, whatever might have been their doubts, in other respects, regarding the full import and consequences of the words, there was one idea it seemed to suggest, viz., that His glorious coming was then to be manifested, and that Elias should precede that coming.

Mt 17:11. Our Redeemer, entering into an explanation of the prophecy of Malachias, distinguishes His twofold coming. First, he says, referring to the second coming of Elias, when he is to precede the second and glorious coming of the Son of God in majesty, to judge the world, “Elias indeed shall come, and restore all things.” Mark (Mk 9:11) has, “Elias when he shall come first, shall restore all things.” These latter words are commonly understood of his converting the remnant of the Jews (Sir 48:10), just as it is commonly believed regarding Henoch, that he shall be instrumental in bringing the stray Gentiles into the bosom of the Church (Sir 44:16). The words of Malachias (Mal 4:5-6,) refer to Elias in person; for, according to the Septuagint (Mal. 4:5), he is called “Elias the Thesbite,” and it is to him in person our Lord refers in this verse, in connexion with His second glorious coming, to which alone the words of Malachias (Mal 4:5) could apply, “before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.” Regarding this Elias in person, St. Mark (Mk 9:11), says, “and how it is written of the Son of man,” that is, as it is written of the Son of man, “that He must suffer many things,” &c. So shall Elias also suffer at the end of the world.—Ven. Bede. (See Mark 9:11, Commentary).

Mt 17:12. “But I say to you,” &c. As the Scribes and Pharisees would seem to attach great weight to the non-appearance of Elias, as an argument against our Lord’s Divinity; hence, distinguishing between His first and second coming, our Redeemer says, that the Scribes, even on their own showing, are inexcusable; because, His first coming had its Elias, or precursor, also, in the person of one who acted as precursor, by exhibiting the spirit and power of Elias, and discharging his exalted functions of “converting the hearts of the fathers to the children”—the duty assigned to Elias in person, before the second coming of the Son of God (Mal. 4:6).

“And they knew him not,” they would not recognise or acknowledge him. “But they have done to him whatever they had a mind.” From this it is inferred that the Scribes and Pharisees had a hand in advising the death of John the Baptist.

St. Mark (Mk 9:12), says of John, “Elias also is come (and they have done to him whatsoever they would) as it is written of him.” As there is no vestige of any prophecy regarding John’s death, it is not easily seen how the words, “as it is written of him,” are verified. Hence, some including the words (“and they have done to him,” &c.), within a parenthesis, as it is found in the corrected editions of the Bible, connect the words, “as it is written of him” (Isaias 40, “vox clamantis,” &c.), immediately with, “Elias also is come.” Others say, the sufferings of John, were mystically referred to in the account left us of the future sufferings of Elias, by whom he was prefigured. For, as Elias was persecuted by Jezabel, so was John by Herodias, not to speak of other points of resemblance. Others say, the sufferings of John were predicted in some prophetical book now lost (see Mark 4:12).

“So also the Son of man shall suffer from them,” that is, from the impious and wicked in general.

Mt 17:13. The disciples understood Him to refer to John the Baptist, who was to come in the spirit and power of Elias, to exhort men to repentance (see Mt 11:14).

Mt 17:14. “And when He was come to the multitude,” &c. St. Luke (Lk 9:37) says, this happened “the following day when they had come down from the mountain.” On the day after the Transfiguration—our Redeemer having most likely devoted the night to prayer on the mountain—when they came down from the mountain, He saw a great crowd about His disciples, whom He left at the foot of the mountain, among the rest, “the Scribes disputing with them” (Mark 9:13). The subject about which the Scribes, or those learned in the law, were disputing, probably regarded the unsuccessful attempts of the disciples to expel the demon; and, most likely, the Scribes, in the absence of our Divine Redeemer, availed themselves of this circumstance to lessen their credit, as well as that of their Divine Master, with the crowd, and to charge them with acting on former occasions when they expelled demons, not from Divine, but diabolical agency. We are also informed by St. Mark (ibidem), that the people on seeing our Lord, “were astonished and seized with fear.” probably, either because they regarded His timely and unexpected appearance as extraordinary, as if He knew the embarrassment His disciples were in, and came to their rescue; or, because the brightness of majesty might have been still apparent on His countenance after the Transfiguration, as happened Moses after his long converse with God on Mount Sinai (2 Cor. 3:7).

“Running, they saluted Him,” and reverently welcomed Him. We are told by St. Mark, that our Redeemer asked what the subject of their questioning or controversy was. This He knew already, but He proposed the question with a view of, rescuing His disciples from their embarrassment, that thus He might create an occasion for performing the miracle. Neither party reply, the disciples being, probably, confounded at their unsuccessful attempts at expelling the devil; and the Scribes being afraid to expose their malice to the severe reproaches of our Redeemer; and, moreover, the father of the child whose cure was, probably, the subject of dispute, anticipated every reply, by at once rushing forward, and, casting himself on his knees, besought Him to have pity on his son, “his only son” (Luke 9:38), “who was a lunatic, and suffers much.” Mark (9:16), says, “he hath a dumb devil;” and our Redeemer, in casting him out (Mark 9:24), calls him “a deaf and dumb spirit.” St. Matthew calls him “a lunatic.” Very probably, the evil spirit, knowing the times men are afflicted with lunacy, acted on this boy at those times, with a view of inducing the belief, that the moon was the cause of the sorrows and sufferings of the men thus affected, that he might cause them to blaspheme this great luminary, this remarkable creature of God. From the account given of him by St. Mark (9:17), his illness would seem to be like epilepsy, or the falling sickness. These effects were produced by the devil. The effects mentioned by St. Mark, in v. 17, are, for brevity’ sake, expressed by St. Matthew, “and he suffereth much.”

“For, he falleth often into the fire,” &c. These words were, most probably, used by the father of the boy, in reply to our Redeemer’s question, regarding the length of time he had been thus afflicted (Mark 9:20, 21); and then the father says, “the devil oftentimes cast him into the fire and into waters;” but these circumstances are, for brevity’ sake, mentioned here, by anticipation, by St. Matthew.

Mt 17:15. “And I brought him to Thy disciples,” &c. This, probably, suggested the questioning among the Scribes, respecting the nature and origin of the power successfully exercised by the Apostles, on former occasions, in the expulsion of demons.

Mt 17:16. This has reference to the incredulous Jewish nation, to whose incredulity our Redeemer, in the first instance, and in public, attributes the unsuccessful efforts of His Apostles. Their failure was owing to the incredulity of the Jews, and to their own want of faith, as appears from the following: our Redeemer takes occasion to tax, in the first instance, and in public, the father of the boy, and the Jewish people, in general, with their incredulity. This is prominently referred to here, although, no doubt, the want of faith in the Apostles is also taxed indirectly by Him.

“O unbelieving and perverse,” that is, incorrigible, “generation,” people and nation, “how long shall I be with you?” &c. This simply denotes the indignation of our Redeemer at the incredulity of the Jews; and conveys that He is losing His time and labour, in working so many prodigies among them, to confirm His doctrine, and bring them to the faith; just as a physician, who would find, that all his prescriptions were neglected, by a languishing patient, would exclaim: “How long shall I be coming to this house, this sick bed, when all my labour, and pains, and skill, are lost, undervalued, and become useless?” Others say, these words express a desire of dying, of leaving the Jews, and transferring His graces to the Gentiles.

“Bring him to Me.” Even in His anger, He remembers mercy; whilst He reproves their infidelity, He pities the poor sufferer.

Mt 17:17. St. Mark tells us (Mk 9:19), that when brought before our Lord, the spirit troubled him, and rolling on the ground, he foamed; and that our Redeemer questioned the father how long he was thus suffering. The father said that he had been so from his infancy, and that the devil cast him into the fire and water which is expressed by St. Matthew (v. 14), that “he falleth into the fire,” &c. And our Redeemer having called upon the father to believe, thereby insinuating that it was to his want of faith, the unsuccessful efforts of the disciples, of which he complained, were partly attributable, he exclaimed, “I believe, Lord; help my unbelief,” i.e., my weak, imperfect faith. Then, our Redeemer threatened the unclean spirit, which is expressed here by St. Matthew, “Jesus rebuked him,” as is more circumstantially expressed by St. Mark, “He threatened the unclean spirit, saying to him: Thou deaf and dumb spirit, I command thee go out of him, and enter no more into him” (Mark 9:24).

“And the devil went out of him.” St. Mark (Mk 9:25) describes it thus: “And crying out, and greatly tearing him, he went out of him, and he became as one dead,” &c.

“And the child was cured from that hour.” From this, it is quite clear that St. Matthew regarded, as the effect of diabolical possession and agency, what the father of the boy calls, “lunacy.” And, indeed, in the account left us by St. Mark (Mk 9:17–21), the father himself attributes the convulsive spasms to the evil spirit that possessed him from his infancy.

Mt 17:18. The Apostles, fearing lest they might have incurred the displeasure of their Divine Master, and lest, also, the power of miracles formerly conferred on them might have been withdrawn, in punishment of their sins, “come to Him secretly;” or, as St. Mark more fully expresses it, “when He was come into the house, and ask Him, Why we could not cast him out?” They did not wish to ask in public, lest they should be redargued before the multitude; and, on the other hand, our Blessed Lord did not wish to put to shame in public, those who were destined to be the future teachers of the earth, and the foundations of His Church. He wished to consult for their authority, by not publicly reproaching them before the multitude, who might afterwards undervalue their teaching.

Mt 17:19. He attributes this failure to two causes—the imbecility of their faith, and want of prayer and fasting. “Because of your unbelief.” Their faith was weaker than it should be, considering the length of time they spent in the school of Christ, and the Apostolic office conferred on them.

“As a grain of mustard seed.” This was a proverbial phrase in vogue among the Jews, to designate the smallest quantity; as, on the other hand, the removing of a mountain was an hyperbolical phrase, designating a thing almost impossible of accomplishment. The words may then mean: If the Apostles had possessed the least portion of that active, lively, energetic faith of miracles which they ought to have, and which, although small, relative to them, was in itself very great, they might perform the most arduous and stupendous wonders. The lively, active properties of the faith referred to is clearly expressed by the well-known properties of the mustard seed. This faith of miracles includes theological or Divine faith in the omnipotent power and goodness of God, together with the firmest, unbounded confidence, that He will grant the fruit of our petitions. This faith of miracles could not be regarded, in itself, as very small, since St. Paul calls it, omnem fidem—“all faith” (1 Cor. 13:2); but, whilst very great as regards the rest of the faithful, it might be regarded as very small, comparatively, and in regard to the Apostles. Had they possessed this active, energetic faith of miracles in the smallest degree, relative to them, not only could they have expelled the demon, who resisted them, and whose fierce resistance probably caused them such diffidence; but they would be able to perform the most stupendous wonders. The allusion to the “grain of mustard seed,” regards not alone the smallness of a thing, but also its active, energetic properties. It conveys a reproach to the Apostles for not possessing this faith in the present instance.

“You shall say to this mountain.” Mount Thabor, at the foot of which they were staying. St. Jerome takes the word in a mystical sense, to designate the devil, this fallen angel of pride. Elsewhere allusion is made to this faith of miracles (Mt 21:21).

Of course it is supposed that the glory of God, and our own or neighbour’s good, require the exercise of this great power, and that its exercise would not proceed from vain curiosity or presumption; because, if so, it would not proceed from “faith.” We have not read of the Apostles having transferred mountains. Most likely, no occasion or necessity occurred for their doing so. But, we read of them performing more wonderful and arduous things, such as the raising of the dead to life; and in latter times, we read of this miracle having been performed by St. Gregory Thaumaturgus (Eusebius, Histor. Lib. vii. c. 25). No doubt, the Apostles would have removed mountains if the necessity or some justifying cause for their doing so had arisen; moreover, they may have done so, as all the miracles of the saints are not recorded.

“And nothing shall be impossible to you,” acting under the influence of this faith, whenever the glory of God and the salvation of men shall demand it; but not when it is sought to gratify curiosity, or please men. Hence, our Redeemer refused to work miracles in the presence of Herod, demanding him to do so, from motives of curiosity and vain glory.

Mt 17:20. Besides the want of faith—and faith is a general condition required for working all miracles—a second cause of their failure is here assigned, peculiar to this and like cases. “This kind,” is understood by St. Chrysostom to refer to devils in general, to the whole genus of demons. This, however, is improbable, as we find that the Apostles expelled some evil spirits by the simple invocation of the name of Christ (Luke 10:17), without having recourse to prayer and fasting. Hence, the words refer to a certain description of obstinate and ferocious, powerful devils, whose expulsion requires, not only that the person who undertakes it be gifted with the ordinary faith of miracles, sufficient for the expulsion of ordinary demons; but also that this faith be increased and intensified by fervent “prayer,” extraordinary confidence in God, “and fasting,” which, by subjecting the flesh to the Spirit, by elevating and uniting the soul to God, better fits him for wrestling with the demons, who dread a man of “faith,” of prayer and fasting, as they do the good angels of God. This description of ferocious demons, sometimes for a long time, possess men, so that their possession becomes a kind of second nature for the unfortunate man possessed. Hence, our Redeemer asked (Mark 9:20), “How long is it that this happened to him?”

Fasting wonderfully assists us in rendering our prayers more fervent; in causing our minds to be disengaged from earthly desires, and raising up our thoughts to Heaven. “Qui corporali jejunio, vitia comprimis, mentem elevas, virtutem largiris et præmia” (Preface of the Mass for Lent). Faith expels the demon by believing; prayer, by petitioning; fasting, by tormenting and starving him; as an enemy is driven out of a fortress, not only by force, but by starving him out (Maldonatus). Hence, the merit of fasting, so much decried by the enemies of religion and God’s Church. Can that be true religion that affects to undervalue, and scorns what our Blessed Redeemer recommends? It is on account of the words of our Blessed Lord here, the Church, in her exorcisms, employs, besides the invocation of the name of Christ, much prayer and fasting. As there are certain orders of angels naturally more powerful than others; and, as the demons fell from the several orders of angelic spirits, and, as is commonly believed, are not shorn by their fall, of their natural strength; hence, there are certain demons more powerful than others, in wrestling with whom greater strength and power are required, as in the present instance. The fasting here recommended is, by no means, opposed to what our Redeemer says of not fasting while the Bridegroom was on earth amongst His disciples, as this latter refers to immoderate fasting, such as the disciples of John were practising, and such as they charged the disciples of our Lord, at the instigation of the Pharisees, with not practising. Our Redeemer Himself assigns other reasons (Mt 9:14–17). He fasted forty days and forty nights, and it was in imitation of His forty days fast, which had been long before prefigured in the Law and in the Prophets by the forty days’ fast of Moses (Ex 34:28) and Elias (1 Kings 19:8), these glorious witnesses of His manifestation in Thabor, that the Church instituted and continued from the earliest Apostolic age, the forty days’ fast of Lent, “which has been regarded by the entire Church throughout the globe, among the chief points of Ecclesiastical discipline, consecrated in some measure by Jesus Christ Himself, handed down by the Apostles, prescribed by the sacred canons, retained and observed by the Church from the very beginning. It is the watchword of our warfare, whereby we are distinguished from the enemies of the Cross of Christ, and avert the scourges of Divine vengeance,” &c. (Benedict XIV. Brief, non ambigimus.)

Mt 17:21. “Abode in Galilee.” The Greek will admit of its being rendered, “travelling through Galilee” (Αναστρεφομενων), and this is perfectly in accordance with the words of St. Mark (Mk 9:29): “and they departed from thence, and passed through Galilee.” Our Redeemer left the neighbourhood of Thabor, where, after His Transfiguration, He cured the sick boy; and as this miracle had gained for Him the applause of the multitude (Luke 9:44), He called the attention of His disciples to the prediction He was about to make a second time, as He had formerly done at Cæsarea Philippi, regarding His cross and Passion. This He did with the view of counteracting any feeling of vain glory the Apostles might conceive from the praises bestowed by the crowd. It was to show how voluntarily He suffered, that He uttered this prophecy, on his way from Galilee to Jerusalem; and He wished His journey to be kept secret (Mark 9:29), most likely, lest the people of Galilee, by whom he was revered, should place any obstacle to His proceeding on His journey to Jerusalem.

“The Son of man shall be betrayed” &c. He was delivered up by His Father, who gave Him over to their power; He was delivered up by Himself, who voluntarily underwent death; by Judas, who handed Him over to the Scribes and Chief Priests; these delivered Him to Pilate; and Pilate, to the soldiers.

Mt 17:22. “And they were troubled exceedingly,” at the tidings of His death, and at their being bereaved of one whom they loved so tenderly. SS. Luke and Mark say, “they did not understand the word.” How, then, be grieved? They clearly understood that He was to be put to death, and hence, their grief; but they could not understand how He, whom they believed and professed to be the Son of God, immortal and impassible, could be subjected to death; or, how such a thing could be reconciled with His glorious reign, which they expected.

Mt 17:23. After quitting Thabor, and leaving the small village at its foot, called by some, Cheseleth-Thabor, our Redeemer had all His thoughts directed to another mountain, on which the justice of His Father was waiting for Him for the long period of four thousand years, the bloody Mount of Calvary, whereon He was to undergo another Transfiguration, quite the opposite of that exhibited on Thabor. Thither He was now directing His steps. He reached Capharnaum, where He had fixed His abode for some time, probably, with a view of arranging affairs connected with His abode there, as this was His last visit to that place. On His arrival, those charged with the collection of the tax, referred to here, out of feelings of respect, refrained from personal application to Him, and addressed themselves to Peter, either, because he may have been the only one with Him, or, because, he was supposed to be most intimate with his Divine Master.

They ask him, “Doth not your Master pay the didrachmas?” What this tax refers to, is a subject of much controversy with commentators. Dismissing, for brevity’ sake, the improbable conjectures or opinions hazarded on this subject, it may be said, with truth, that the probable opinions are reduced to two. By some, it is maintained, after St. Jerome, Ven. Bede, &c., that the tribute in question was a sort of capitation tax, imposed on the Jews, either by Pompey, after he took Jerusalem, and made it tributary to the Romans; or, by Cæsar Augustus, after the census taken under Cyrinus (Luke 2), and on the plan, or after the model, of the tribute which each person among the Jews, after having reached his twentieth year and upwards, was bound to pay, for the repairs and service of the Tabernacle, as a price for his soul and to avert a scourge, whenever a census or numbering of the people was made (Ex 30:13-14). This tribute, at the earliest period, was to be paid as often as the census of the people would be made, whether by the order of God, or on account of some public necessity. It appears that afterwards, the wants of the Tabernacle or Temple, at any time, were considered a sufficient reason for demanding this tribute (2 Chron 24:5–9). After their return from the Babylonish captivity, the Jews voluntarily submitted to an annual tribute of one-third of a sicle for the support of the Temple (Neh 10:32). Afterwards, the enactment of Moses (Exod. 30), was regarded by the Jews as of perpetual annual obligation, binding on all Jews, whether residing in Judea, or in foreign countries. Hence, the two drachmæ (equivalent to half a sicle), referred to here. This ancient religious tax was, according to St. Jerome, the model of the Roman tax referred to here. (See Dixon’s “Introduction,” vol. ii., p. 75, &c.)

Others, with St. Hilary, &c., maintain, that there is question here, not of a tax paid unto, or imposed by the Romans, or any civil authorities whatsoever, but of the very tax which the Jews religiously paid, as self imposed, for the repairs and service of the temple, sacrifices, support of priests, and religious ministers, and that it was for this tax application was made here.

Père Mauduit devotes a lengthy and able dissertation, to prove this latter opinion, and to refute that of St. Jerome. He shows, that the words of our Redeemer to St. Peter, “The kings of the earth, of whom do they take tribute?” &c., and the reasoning which they involve, are quite clear and cogent in this latter opinion, since, the tax being paid to God, and for the use of His house, His eternal and consubstantial Son was, according to the usages of the world, naturally exempted from paying the tribute given to His Heavenly Father. Whereas, such reasoning is hardly applicable in the former opinion; for, although our Redeemer was the Son of the King of kings, to whom “belongs the earth and its fulness,” still, by His own free act, He rendered Himself the subject of earthly princes; and not being the son of Augustus, or of any other temporal ruler, He owed it to His condition, as a subject, to pay tribute to the ruling powers, to which every subject is bound (Rom. 13), as He owed it to the nature He voluntarily assumed, to submit to its infirmities (sin and ignorance excepted). He suffered hunger, thirst, lassitude, &c. Mauduit refutes another reason adduced in favour of St. Jerome’s opinion, grounded on the use of the word, κηνσος (census), by St. Matthew, which the advocates of St. Jerome’s opinion assert, refers to a tax imposed by secular authority. According to him, this proves nothing; because, our Lord’s question to St. Peter was very general, comprising all sorts of imposts and tributes levied by sovereigns on their subjects, “tributum vel censum;” all kinds of imposts, from which the children of sovereigns had a claim for exemption by title of birth. Moreover, this tribute was fixed, whilst a tax on property varies, which Augustus had, probably, in view, in ordering the census in Judea, under Quirinus. Mauduit, therefore, concludes, that there is question here of the tribute referred to, (Ex 30:13, &c.) According to the ordinance therein contained, whenever the wants of the temple demanded it, there was a numbering, from time to time, of the children of Israel, who reached their twentieth year and upwards, and all who were registered of this age paid two drachmæ, or half a sicle. But, in course of time, this tribute, which first was only paid occasionally, became annual, owing to the great demands on the temple, in sacrifices and its various services. Collectors for that purpose were established in the several cities and towns of Judea, who conveyed their contributions to Jerusalem each year, on the occasion of the Paschal solemnity; and, as our Redeemer had fixed His abode, at Capharnaum, He was applied to for this tribute. The words addressed to St. Peter, “Doth not your Master pay the didrachmas?” insinuate, that many either refused, or evaded the payment of this tribute, which is greatly in favour of the opinion of Mauduit, as this would not be allowed, if it were a tax imposed by the Romans.

After the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem, and the dispersion of the Jews, Vespasian commanded all the Jews, wherever they happened to reside, to pay into the imperial exchequer, the tribute they formerly paid for the exigencies of the Temple of Jerusalem.

The word, “didrachma,” means, “two drachmæ,” the value of which is supposed to be about 1s. and 3d. (15d.) of our money. The drachma was an Attic coin, one-eighth of an ounce in weight. The “stater,” also (Mt 17:26), was an Attic coin, equal to four drachmas; weight, half an ounce. St. Jerome tells us (Ezekiel4), that a “stater,” is equal in value to a “sicle,” and that the didrachma, to half a stater or sicle. Josephus (Lib. iii. de Antiq. c. 12), explaining the Law of Exodus, regarding the “half sicle,” which each Jew, who was numbered at the age of twenty or upwards, was obliged to pay, tells us that a sicle was a Hebrew coin, equivalent to four Attic drachmæ.

Mt 17:24. Peter, answering in the affirmative, says, his Master was wont to pay the tribute in question. This he said, either because he saw Him pay it before; or because he knew, from our Redeemer’s doctrine and teaching, how disposed He was to obey legitimate authority, and every just law enacted by such authority.

“When he was come into the house,” and about to consult His Divine Master on the matter, our Redeemer “prevented him,” anticipated him, thus showing that He knew his most secret thoughts; and, therefore, as the Searcher of hearts, and diviner of thoughts, He showed, by this very act, that He was not strictly bound to pay the tribute. He still more shows this by reasoning, and by words.

“Of whom do the kings of the earth take tribute or custom?” That is, what is the rule observed, and the usage universally followed in paying tribute or taxes to earthly kings? Do they receive tribute from their own children, or from strangers, that is, from the rest of their subjects, who are not their children, or belong not to their household?

Mt 17:25. St. Peter’s reply is, that kings of the earth do not receive tribute from their own children, since it is partly to provide, in some way, for their children, and their household, they receive tribute, but only from “strangers,” who belong not to their house or family.

“Then the children are free,” as if He said, the rule and usage observed among earthly sovereigns—a rule founded on natural equity and propriety—in regard to the taxing of the children and the members of their family, ought also to be applicable to the King of heaven, the great source and foundation of justice and rectitude among men. Hence, as earthly sovereigns exempt from tribute, their children, for whom they ought to provide and lay up stores (2 Cor. 12:14), I, who am the eternal Son of the King of heaven, may justly claim exemption from the tribute paid to Him for His temple. This reasoning might also apply, in a certain sense, though not so clearly or directly, if we follow the opinion of St. Jerome. If the kings of the earth exempt their children, it is but just that I, who am the Son of the King of kings, should participate in these privileges enjoyed by their children, and be exempt from paying tribute to any man. The force of our Redeemer’s reasoning seems clear, in the opinion of St. Jerome; and the comparison instituted between the kings of the earth, and the King of heaven, and the treatment received by their children from them, and that which the Son of the heavenly King is supposed to receive from Him, viz., exemption from the tribute paid to them, greatly favours this latter opinion. In this opinion, there is no ground for the false teaching, that Christians are not bound to pay tribute to princes, which is so directly at variance with the doctrine of the Apostle—“Let every soul be subject to higher powers,” and this subjection partly consists in paying “tribute to whom tribute is due” (Rom. 13:7).

Mt 17:26. “Scandalize them,” by leading them to suppose or judge, that we are indifferent to the service of the temple, and thus undervalue our ministry, or (if there be question of taxes imposed by the civil authority), that we are opposed to civil authority, and thus incite them to insubordination and rebellion. There is clearly question of “scandalum datum” which would be given, if he, whom the tax gatherer did not recognise as the Son of God—which our Lord did not wish yet publicly to proclaim—would refuse the tribute. Our Redeemer’s mode of acting points out to us our obligation to forego our rights sometimes, when, by enforcing or insisting on them, our neighbour would be scandalized.

“Go to the sea and cast in a hook,” &c. Our Redeemer thus shows He possessed nothing in this world. He also displays His power and majesty, His dominion not only over the land, but (what no earthly power can control), over the sea and its inhabitants. He tells him to take the required sum out of the first fish he would catch. By this miracle, He showed His Apostle, that He was free from paying the tribute. He paid it, solely from the motive of avoiding scandal. He also guards against weakening his faith, or scandalizing him; this He does, by the singular exhibition and manifestation of His prescience and sovereign power.

“You shall find a stater,” in value equal to a sicle, equivalent to four drachmas, that is, about 2s. 6d. of our money.

“For Me and thee.” Why not for the other disciples as well? Various reasons are assigned. Some say, Peter alone was with our Redeemer then. Others, with St. Jerome, say, that Peter was the head of the Apostles, and the representative of Christ and His Church, in whom, as chief, the rest were comprised. It appears, most likely, it was done with a view of specially honouring Peter by this new mark of distinction, and to reward his faith and humility, by appointing him as the medium of executing this commission, with which a miracle was connected.

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Matthew 16

Posted by Dim Bulb on November 15, 2018

ANALYSIS OF MATTHEW CHAPTER 16

In this chapter, our Lord reproaches the Pharisees and Sadducees, who asked Him for some sign from heaven, with their wilful negligence and spiritual blindness in not judging of His Divine mission, from the signs already given them, although quick-witted in judging, from natural causes, of the several phenomena in nature. Hence, as they were influenced by malice and curiosity, our Redeemer refuses giving any other sign, save that of His Resurrection, already referred to (Mt 16:1–5). He cautions His disciples against the perverse doctrines of the Pharisees and Sadducees, and He reproves them for being be slow of understanding, with reference to His teaching on this subject (Mt 16:6–12). Proceeding from Bethsaida to the quarters of Cæsarea Philippi, he there promises St. Peter primacy of jurisdiction over the entire Church, in reward for his prompt and unwavering confession of faith in His Divinity (Mt 16:13–19). After this expression of faith in His Divinity, made with the concurrence of all the Apostles, our Lord foretells His bitter Passion, and sharply rebukes Peter, whose zeal, overleaping the bounds of prudent reserve, stimulated him to dissuade our Lord from undergoing His bitter Passion (Mt 16:21–23). Our Lord points out to all Christians the necessity of taking up the cross after Him, and practising self-denial, if they wish to be saved. He then points out the sovereign importance of salvation, and its irreparability, once forfeited; and this is to be decided by a just Judge, who shall come one day in majesty, of which some of those listening, &c., would in their lifetime witness a splendid specimen (Mt 16:24–28).

Mt 16:1. After arriving at Magedan, “there came to Him the Pharisees and Sadducees tempting.” These two sects were at deadly enmity among themselves. But, like Pilate and Herod, laying aside for a time their differences, they unite against Jesus Christ. Indeed, a melancholy experience, derived from the history of the Church from her very foundation to the present day, has shown this to be true of all heretical sects, who, although at enmity among themselves, are always sure to join in an unholy alliance whenever there is question of the interests of God’s Church, or the persecution of her children. “Tempting,” not for the purpose of believing; but, from the wicked motive of testing His power, lessening His influence, and blackening His reputation among the people. Hence, St. Mark (8:11), says, “they began to question with Him.”

“A sign from Heaven,” to prove His Divine mission, and show that He was the promised Messiah, and derived His authority from Heaven, such as was given by Josue, in making the sun stand still; by Samuel, in scattering thunder; by Isaias, in bringing back the shadow; Elias, in bringing fire from heaven; Moses, in the manna that rained from above. They insinuate that all His miracles hitherto were of an humble, earthly character, and might be the effect of the occult powers of nature. Such, for instance, was the very miracle of the multiplication of bread, which He was after performing. But let Him exhibit some celestial prodigy, like the manna of Moses (John 6:31), who gave bread from heaven to their fathers, if He wished to bring conviction home to the class of men who were placed beyond the prejudices of the vulgar. No doubt, they would find plenty of excuses for evading the force of such a miracle also; if our Redeemer were to gratify them with performing it.

Mt 16:2. Our Redeemer here reproaches the Pharisees, who were well versed in ascertaining the state of the weather, from certain signs, and sharp in judging of natural effects, with not learning from the signs given them in Scripture, that He fulfilled all that had been foretold regarding Him.

From experience, they learned that certain appearances in the sky at morning and evening, prognosticated certain kinds of weather, stormy or calm. It does not belong to us here to discuss or examine the natural or philosophical causes of such phenomena. Our Redeemer here merely refers to the judgments they were in the habit of forming, from certain appearances in the sky, regarding the state of the weather, by which judgment they regulated their actions, staying at home, or going abroad, as the case might be.

Mt 16:3. “And can you not know the signs of the times?” Some commentators read these words affirmatively, without an interrogation, and interpret them thus: “You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you can not know the signs of the times,” which point to My arrival, in the same way as certain natural signs indicate the state of the weather. It is from the prophecies I fulfil, and the miracles I perform, this is to be clearly inferred; for, “the kingdom of God does not come with observation” (Luke 17:20). The signs of My second coming shall be celestial, “signs in the sun and in the moon,” &c. But the signs of My first coming, regarding which you come to “tempt” Me, are the working of miracles, the fulfilment of the prophecies regarding Me—giving sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, &c. (Isa. 35:5). Others, more probably, read the words and interpret them interrogatively, thus: You can judge of the future state of the weather from certain prognostics; and should you not judge, with still greater certainty, “of the times,” for the arrival of the Messiah having been accomplished, from “the signs,” which prove this beyond all doubt? These signs are—besides the passing of the Sceptre from Juda—the accomplishment of the seventy weeks of Daniel, His birth in Bethlehem, predicted by Micheas, &c.—the miraculous wonders He wrought in fulfilment of the oracles of the Prophets. (Matt. 11:5, &c.) This latter reading and interpretation better accords with the words of St. Luke (Lk 12:56), “Ye hypocrites, ye know … but how is it ye do not discern this time?” If they are thus slow in judging of the “signs” of His coming, it is to their wilful negligence and blindness, and their perverse disposition to elude the force of such signs by false interpretations, this is owing. St. Jerome tells us (in hunc locum), that verses 2 and 3 are wanting in most copies, so that the passage ran thus: “But He said to them,” (v. 2), “a wicked and adulterous,” &c. (v. 4). They are still wanting in the Codex Vaticanus.

Mt 16:4. “A wicked and adulterous generation,” &c. This has reference to the Sadducees, who denied the Resurrection. The words are explained (Mt 12:39). These men had already abundant evidence of our Saviour’s Divine mission, and sought further evidence from curiosity and malice, rather than from pure motives. Hence, our Redeemer did not gratify them; but, “deeply sighing in spirit” (Mark 8:12), on account of their perversity, He declares that no such sign as that asked for shall be given to this wicked generation. (See 235.)

Mt 16:5. “Were come,” that is, were crossing “over the water.” For, from St. Mark (8:14), it appears, that what is recorded in the following verses, occurred while they were “in the ship,” although others, with Maldonatus, deny this, relying on the account of the passage in St. Luke (Lk 12:1), where it is said, the words of our Lord, in reference “to the leaven of the Pharisees,” was spoken in presence of a large multitude.

“They had forgotten to take bread.” It was usual with them when going on board, or when passing from a place where provisions might be had, to a place where they might have no opportunity of procuring them, to provide themselves with a proper viaticum for the occasion. Now, however, so engrossed were they with the heavenly doctrine of our Divine Redeemer, that they forgot to provide for their corporal wants. The Evangelist records this, as he wished to narrate the perplexity, which this omission to provide bread caused them, on hearing the words of our Lord about “the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”

Mt 16:6. Having in sorrow left the Pharisees and Sadducees as incurable, our Redeemer takes occasion, from their blind perversity, to instruct His disciples. “Take heed and beware.” The repetition of words conveying the same idea, makes the phrase more emphatic, as if He said: be exceedingly cautious and on your guard, against “the leaven of the Pharisees,” &c. The word, “leaven,” as is afterwards explained (Mt 16:12), signifies doctrine. It is taken in a bad sense here, to denote false doctrine. It is sometimes, however, taken in a good sense (Mt 13:33). It here very appropriately expresses the quality of false doctrine, which pervades and infects, so as to communicate its own nature to any body of doctrine with which it may be mixed. The least admixture of error renders any system of doctrine worthy of reprobation, no matter how much truth it may otherwise contain. By “leaven,” here is not meant all the doctrine of the Pharisees—for, when they sat in the chair of Moses, and taught his doctrine, they were to be heard, though, strictly speaking, the law of Moses, officially propounded by them, could hardly be called, their doctrine (Mt 23:2)—but, the false doctrines and useless commandments of men opposed to the commandments of God, which they ingrafted on the Divine law (Mt 15:3); also glosses and interpretations of the law, which made its observance altogether exterior. These might be truly termed their peculiar teachings and doctrines (23:23–29)—teachings which only had the effect of making men become proud, envious hypocrites. “Attendite a fermento Pharisærum, quod est hypocrisis.” (Luke 12).

“And of the Sadducees.” Their errors were of the most revolting kind. They denied the Resurrection (Mt 22:23); the existence of spirits (Acts 23:8); also the immortality of the soul (Josephus Antiq. Lib. 18, c. 2; de Bel. Jud. Lib. ii. c. 7). St. Mark (Mk 8:15) adds, “and the leaven of Herod,” which in some versions, is, “and of the Herodians.” The Evangelist, it seems, refers to the sect of the Herodians, which existed in the days of our Redeemer. Who they were, What their tenets, Why called Herodians, cannot be easily ascertained (see Dixon, “Introduction to SS. Scriptures,” vol. ii. p. 128).

Mt 16:7. They anxiously thought within themselves—St. Mark (Mk 8:16) tells us, they communicated these thoughts to one another—that He meant this as a reproach, on account of their forgetfulness to bring bread, as usual, for the relief of their wants in desert places, far away from towns and the habitations of men. It also filled them with uneasiness about their future wants, and caused them to fear, He might go to some place where they would have no other bread than that of the Pharisees, against which, taking His words in their literal sense, they supposed our Lord to have cautioned them. They committed a twofold fault—first, they were too anxious about bread; and, secondly, they misunderstood our Redeemer’s words.

Mt 16:8. In virtue of His omniscience, He divined their inmost thoughts. “Of little faith.” Their anxiety proceeded from want of faith in His power, and confidence in His gracious providence, and fatherly care of them.

Mt 16:9-10. From St. Mark (Mk 8:17), as well as from the words of this verse, “Do you not yet understand?” it would seem our Redeemer reproached His Apostles with want of knowledge and penetration. He next rebukes them for want of faith and confidence in Him; and He reminds them of the miracles He wrought, of which they seemed to lose all recollection.

Mt 16:11. Our Redeemer, in explaining His words regarding the leaven of the Pharisees, &c., confines Himself merely to saying, His words were not to be literally understood “of leaven,” which is used in bread; and He leaves themselves to conjecture what His meaning was.

Mt 16:12. They understood Him to speak of the “doctrine,” of these several sects. False doctrine is appropriately represented by “leaven.” For, as a little leaven ferments the entire mass, and imparts to it, its own properties; so, false doctrine, ever so apparently trivial, would infect and destroy any system of doctrine, and would produce in the minds of men effects very similar to those which leaven produces in the leavened mass, viz., sourness and fermentation; in other words, anger, ambition, pride and hypocrisy.

How far our Redeemer’s words here are consistent with His teaching, regarding the public ministerial authority of the Pharisees, as succeeding to the authority of Moses may be seen at Mt 23:2. What St. Luke (Lk 12:1) records, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy,” is perfectly consistent with what is said here, because the doctrine of the Pharisees might be termed “hypocrisy,” its tendency being, to inculcate the performance of mere external actions and the observance of ceremonies, for the purpose of gaining human applause, while destitute of real internal sanctity which it affected, although it did not exist, and what is this but “hypocrisy?”

Mt 16:13. Leaving Bethsaida, “Jesus came into the quarters (St. Mark 8:27, says, ‘into the towns”) “of Cæsarea Philippi.” It was enriched and embellished by Philip, the son of Herod, in honour of Cæsar Augustus. Hence, its name. Before that, it was called Paneas—and continued to be so called by Pagan writers—from the adjoining spring, Panium, the fountain head, or spring of the Jordan. It was situated at the foot of Mount Libanus, at the northern extremity of Judea. There was another Cæsarea in Palestine, built by Herod the Great, in honour of Augustus. This latter was situated on the Mediterranean, not far from Joppe.

“And He asked His disciples, saying,” &c. From St. Mark and Luke we can clearly infer, that our Redeemer, when on His way to Cæsarea, turned aside to some place where He prayed for some time alone; and after prayer, probably, in the place where He prayed, and while resting, before He reached the end of His journey, which is the meaning of, “in the way” (Mark 8:27), He proposed the following question to His disciples, “Whom do men say that the Son of man is?” There were various readings of these words, but the above, which is the common reading, is the best sustained. In St. Luke (Lk 9:18), it is, “Whom do the people say that I am?” This question He thought proper to put, in order to afford His Apostles an opportunity of confessing His Divinity, that thus He would confirm their faith, and they would not be scandalized by the allusion He intended making on this occasion to His ignominious death and passion, which might prove a stumbling block to those who were not sufficiently grounded in the faith of His Divinity.

Mt 16:14. “But they said: Some (say thou art) John the Baptist.” Probably, this refers to those who were of the same opinion with Herod the Tetrarch (Mt 14:2), and might have imbibed the error of the Pharisees, who held, as we are informed by Josephus, that a just man could easily return to life. Whether they held the Pythagorean error of transmigration of souls in general, is disputed. They thought that when prophets returned from the dead, they were endowed with extraordinary power for working miraculous wonders. Hence, Herod says, “it is John returned from the dead, and, therefore, these wonders show forth in Him.”

“Other some, Elias;” because, Elias was, according to the general opinion of the Jewish nation, to precede the Messias, the period of whose coming they believed to be at hand. This they inferred from the prophecy of Malachias (Mal 4:5). But these parties could never imagine, that one presenting the lowly appearance that our Redeemer did, could, notwithstanding His stupendous miracles, be the Messiah.

“And others, Jeremias;” whose freedom and boldness in denouncing the crimes of the Jews, of his own day, was so like the line of conduct pursued by our Redeemer in this respect.

“Or one of the Prophets,” the distinguished prophetical characters of old, such as Moses, Josue, Samuel. It is not likely that any among the multitude, even of those who addressed Him, as the Son of David, believed Him to be anything more than a mere man, anything more than human; and hence, the opinion of such is not quoted, their ideas of Him were mixed up with so many erroneous notions regarding Him. Moreover, such as thought Him to be the Son of God, could not be classed with the people, but with the disciples of our Lord.

Mt 16:15. “But whom do you?” &c. There is here a clear antithesis. “You,” who have been brought up in My school, who have enjoyed so many opportunities, favoured with so many blessings, witnessed so many of My miracles, whom I, therefore, cannot place on a level with the mere crowd, the vulgar herd, that follow Me.

“That I am.” He before asked about “the Son of man” (Mt 16:13), in reference to “men,” those who see nothing more than human in Him; but here it is, “that I am,” as if to say, what think you, who know Me as I am, God and man.

Mt 16:16. “Simon Peter,” the former name, he bore from his birth; “Simon Bar-Jona,” the latter, the name promised him (John 1:32–42), and given since his call to the Apostleship (Mark 3:14; Matt. 10:1; Luke 6:14), expressive of his dignity, as rock and foundation of God’s Church.

“Answering, said.” Peter, whose faith was more ardent than that of all the rest, following the impulses of his natural and supernatural fervour, at once anticipates all the rest; and, fearing lest any one should utter anything beneath the dignity of his beloved Master, he “said: Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God.”

The Greek expresses it more emphatically still, by placing the article before all the words (ὁ Χριστός, ὁ ὑιος τοῦ Θεοῦ τοῦ ζῶντος), “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” In this, Peter professes his faith in the Divinity and Humanity of our Lord. The word, “Christ,” contains the faith of both. He is “the Christ” promised of old in the Law and the Prophets, hitherto anxiously expected by all the saints, anointed Prophet, Priest, and King.

“The Son,” not by adoption, like John the Baptist, Jeremias, &c., who are sons by adoption, with whom Peter here compares, or, rather, contrasts Him; but by nature, that only well-beloved Son, in whom He is always well pleased. “Of the living God,” of the true God, one of whose primary attributes is, necessary self existence, “qui solus habet immortalitatem.” (1 Tim. 6)

“Living,” in opposition to false gods, who, as such, that is to say, as vested with Divinity, have no existence whatever, “omnes Dei Gentium dæmonia.” It also distinguishes, our Redeemer from the adopted sons of God. After recounting the several opinions of the people regarding Him, Peter says: We confess Thee to be the Christ; Thou callest Thyself. “the Son of man;” we proclaim Thee as the eternal Son of God.

Mt 16:17. “Blessed.” They are said to be “blessed” in SS. Scripture, who receive from God some singular privilege and grace, conducing to eternal life. Hence, Peter is said to be “blessed,” because, singularly favoured by God.

“Simon Bar-Jona,” the son of Jona. (Bar, in Chaldaie, means, son.) “Jona,” is, probably, a contraction for “Johanna”—the Hebrew for Johannes, or John. For, Simon is said to be the “son of John” (John 21:15).

“Because flesh and blood,” that is, man. No human tradition or instruction, no information on the part of any human being, no lights derived from any human source whatsoever, could ever have communicated this to you, “but My Father who is in heaven.” It is the result of a supernatural revelation, imparted to you by My Heavenly Father.

How it is Peter is singularly “blessed,” on this occasion, is not easily seen, since he had already, on a former occasion (John 6:70), proclaimed our Lord’s Divinity. Nathanael (John 1) did the same; why not he be equally “blessed?” And here, Peter would seem to have acted merely as the mouthpiece or spokesman of the twelve. For, they were all asked, “who do you say?” &c.; he answers for them. Why, then, should he be singularly “blessed” on this occasion? The reply commonly given is, that on the occasion mentioned (John 6:70), Peter had not the same exalted faith in our Saviour’s Divinity, that He gives expression to here, or that he there expressed unasked, more than was true regarding all the Apostles, since our Redeemer corrects him (v. 71). But here, on this solemn occasion, being called upon by our blessed Lord to declare, what their faith in opposition to the false notions of the crowd regarding Him was, he freely and loudly proclaims Him “the Son of the living God.” As for Nathanael and others, the common opinion regarding them is, that in proclaiming Him to be the Son of God, they did so according to the notions of the Jews regarding the Messiah, viz., that He was the adopted Son of God, but in a measure still far exceeding that of the other saints. Hence, they had not the faith of Peter, who proclaimed Him the Natural, Eternal, Consubstantial Son of God.

As regards the assertion, that Peter answered on behalf of the others, would it not appear from what follows, viz., the special prerogatives bestowed on him, the words addressed to himself personally, that he answered for himself principally? Otherwise, why should not our Redeemer say, “You are all blessed, for flesh and blood … to you.” Why not say, “To you all I give the keys?” &c. When all were asked why did not all answer, as they did severally, when interrogated regarding the opinions of the crowd? Hence, Peter replied on his own behalf. On his own behalf, he was the first to express, with greater ardour, what, no doubt, the others, too, might have said, had not Peter anticipated them; and this is what the holy Fathers mean, who say, that Peter was the mouthpiece of the other Apostles. Moreover, strictly speaking, no one could express the opinions of others, particularly on a point of such vital importance, unless be had the gift of searching their hearts, or, at least, without previous consultation, which did not occur here. Hence, Peter spoke for himself, and, thus merited the eulogium, “Blessed art thou.” “Revealed to thee;” and, probably, his faith on the subject was, in consequence of this revelation, more perfect at the time, than that of the others. What follows refers to Peter individually, so peculiar to him, designating his pre-eminence in the government of the Church, addressed to him in so marked a manner, that it is no more applicable to the other Apostles than the name, Peter itself.

Mt 16:18. “And I say to thee, thou art Peter.” You, a mere man, confess and openly proclaim, under the influence of my Heavenly Father’s revelation, that I am the Natural, Eternal, Consubstantial Son of God; I, on the other hand, who am the Eternal Son of God, and can, therefore, fulfil all My promises; say to you, that although a mere man, “thou art Peter,” or rock—a name long since conferred on thee for mystical reasons. And in reward for your glorious confession, I promise you that, imparting to you a share, in a subordinate degree, in My incomparable privileges, “upon this (Peter, or) rock,” that is, upon thee, “I shall build My Church,” this spiritual edifice, which is to successfully resist every hostile assault, and subsist to the end of time. I being its great architect, on thee shall it rest, as the great centre of unity, its unfailing foundation. It is clear that, “upon this rock,” refers to Peter, according to all the laws of grammatical construction; and this becomes still more evident, if we bear in mind, that in the Syro-Chaldaic language, in which our Redeemer spoke, the words run thus, “thou art Cephas, and upon this Cephas I will build My Church,” which, literally rendered, should run thus: “thou art Peter (that is, a rock), and upon this Peter (or rock) I shall build My Church.” But the Greek interpreter, with some detriment to the clearness of the phrase, rendered Cephas—which means, “rock”—πετρος, in the masculine, in the first instance, as applying to the person of Peter; and πετρα, in the feminine, in the second instance, as more expressive of a quality, or of the exalted dignity conferred on him by our Redeemer.

It is utterly unmeaning to refer, as is done by some, the word, “rock,” to either our Redeemer Himself, or to the faith of Peter, save in the concrete, which is the same as Peter himself, gifted with such great faith, and raised to high dignity on account of it; or, to the faithful, themselves constituting the Church, or superstructure, which could not be built on itself; or, to the other Apostles, since Peter is addressed individually—“thou art,” &c.; “I will give to thee,” &c.; “whatever thou shalt bind,” &c.

“I shall build.” There is question, of course, of a spiritual building. “My Church.” His Church is the universal Church; to Him belongs not merely any one portion, but the whole Church, “which He purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28); “which He sanctified by the laver of water … and rendered glorious, not having spot or wrinkle” (Eph. 5:26, 27).

“And the gates of hell shall not prevail,” &c. By “gates,” is meant, strength, or might. Of this, “gates,” were symbolical. The word has this meaning in several passages of SS. Scripture.

“Of hell” (αδου, of Hades; Hebrew, Scheol). By this word, some understand the sepulchre, or death, which is the gate or entrance to hell. Others, more probably, the hell of the damned, the domains of him who hath the power of death, Satan. (See Murray, de Ecclesia. vol. 1; Fascic 11, Disp. vi.) This latter is the more genera) interpretation of the word. But, whichever of these two meanings be the true one, matters but little, as the words, whether they refer to death or hell—and death is represented as very powerful in SS. Scripture—symbolize a hostile kingdom, the great enemy, of all enemies the most powerful, the chief antagonist, ever warring implacably, but in vain, against the kingdom of Christ. So powerful, that it takes all the firmness of this kingdom, armed with the power of God, and founded on the immovable foundation which He has established, to resist it. In the Scriptures, the world, the flesh, and the devil, are exhibited as the great enemies which the Church of Christ has ever to combat.

“Shall not prevail against it.” The word, “prevail,” may be taken passively or actively. Passively; it means, to withstand, to successfully hold out and resist. The words would mean, in this interpretation, that all the powers of hell, all the strength of persecuting tyrants, all the blandishments of pleasures, all the errors of heretics, or whatever other means of defence Satan may employ, shall not be able to withstand the strength and assaults of the Church, or kingdom founded by Christ.

Taken actively, it will mean, to overcome. The word, “rock,” would favour this latter interpretation, which exhibits the Church as an impregnable fortress, made for resistance and defence, rather than for aggression.

“Against it.” The common interpretation of the holy Fathers and commentators, refers “it,” to the nearest noun, which is, “Church.” Although one must feel naturally reluctant to depart from the common interpretation, still, it seems to me far more probable, on intrinsic grounds, that the word, “it,” which, of itself, and by grammatical construction, may refer to Church or rock, directly and immediately refers to the latter. The context seems to require that it be referred to the primary subject of the discourse, which is also the subject of the promised remuneration spoken of. Now, this subject is “rock;” whereas, “Church,” is but a secondary, and as it were, incidental subject in the discourse (see Bouix, de Papa Tom ii., p. 173). Moreover, in the entire passage, “and” is a connecting link in the gradation of the several privileges, or, rather, in the several images and metaphors expressive of one and the same privilege of supreme authority conferred on Peter, in reward for his glorious confession of faith. 1. “Thou art Peter,” or rock, a name already conferred on you. 2. “And upon this (Peter or) rock I will build My Church.” 3. “And the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” 4. “And I will give thee the keys,” &c. 5. “And whatsoever thou shall bind … and whatsoever thou shalt loose.” Then, in what precedes and follows, the words “prevail against it,” “and,” indicates an additional reward, or rather a new idea or image, symbolical of the same reward and exalted privilege bestowed on Peter, to whom the discourse is directed. Why not, then, refer to him in this, so as to express, that not only is he to be the rock support, but the invincible, ever enduring, conquering and unconquerable support of God’s indefectible Church? It seems to me, that the repetition of “and,” before the several prerogatives conferred on Peter, not on his own behoof, but for the enduring good of the Church, or, rather, before the several images expressive or symbolical of the one and same prerogative of supreme, enduring authority over the entire Church, greatly favours this latter interpretation. To this it may be added, that at all times the attacks of hell against God’s Church were principally levelled at her (as they are at the present day) through her head; and our Lord, by directly referring to the rock of the Church which, co ipso, includes the Church itself, as invincible, would wish to point out the source from which the Church derives her impregnable strength and invincibility, viz., her firm and inseparable union with her head. The meaning, however, of the passage will come to the same, whether “it” refers to the “rock,” or to the “Church.” “The rock is so strong, that the gates if hell cannot prevail against it; therefore, neither can they prevail against the Church built on the rock. The Church is so strong, that the gates of hell cannot prevail against it; therefore, neither can they prevail against the ‘rock,’ on which it is built” (Murray “An. Miscel.,” vol. iii. p. 297).

Peter, therefore, being Divinely appointed, as the impregnable rock on which the Church is built, possesses supreme spiritual authority, with full power to uphold, defend, govern, and consolidate the Church, as long as she exists—that is to say, to the end of time—against all her enemies. He must, therefore, be armed with all the necessary means, that is, with all legislative and executive power, in the spiritual order, to effectually accomplish this. As supreme monarch, acting as Vicar of Christ, he must be vested with all necessary power to uphold integrity of faith and purity of morals, a power extending, in Ecclesiastical matters, to all persons, limited only by the nature of things, and the immutable law of God. If this be not primacy of jurisdiction, it is hard to say what such primacy is. It need hardly be observed, that the interpretation of the words, “prevail against it,” adopted above, sets forth, in a clearer light, the proof, derived from this text, of the infallibility of the successor of St. Peter in the Apostolic See, when addressing the universal Church, and defining subjects of faith and morals; that is to say, when speaking ex Cathedra. The defined Faith of the Church regarding the Infallibility of the Sovereign Pontiff, speaking ex Cathedra, could be proved satisfactorily from other undoubted and independent sources, even though this text never existed.

Mt 16:19. The same supreme power or jurisdiction is granted to him clearly under another symbol and image. “And I will give to thee the keys,” &c. “Keys” were regarded among all nations, ancient and modern, whenever they symbolized anything, as the symbols of power. To kings and conquerors the keys of cities were given, as a symbol of their power and authority. The tradition of the keys of any place, whether city or fortress, was equivalent to handing over the full power and authority over that place. In the SS. Scriptures we have several instances of this. (Isa. 22:19, &c.; Rev 3:7; 9:1, &c.; 21 &c.) Hence, the metaphor of the keys here clearly conveys, that our Lord, on whose shoulders His Father had placed “the key of the house of David” (Isa. 22:22), had transferred to Peter the singular pre-eminence and power He Himself received, and communicated to him, as His vicar and vicegerent, the fulness of His power, over “the kingdom of heaven,” that is to say, the Church, or kingdom of the Messias, a signification the words frequently bear in the Gospels, and the signification they clearly bear here. To Peter, then, it is here promised by our Divine Redeemer, that he will be constituted supreme monarch, in His own place, over His “kingdom,” with universal spiritual power and jurisdiction, for extending, upholding, and consolidating that kingdom. This pre-eminence was actually given to him, after our Lord’s resurrection, “feed My lambs,” &c., in words addressed to him alone, in presence of the other Apostles (John 21:15–17).

“And whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth,” &c. This, according to some commentators, is a clearer explanation of the metaphor of “the keys,” showing the principal effect of their exercise. Others, with greater probability, regard this as a distinct metaphor, conveying, under a different image, the same idea of supreme authority and jurisdiction. The effect attributed in SS. Scripture to “the keys,” is, not to “loose and bind,” but to “open and shut.” Again, the universal term (ὅ) “whatsoever,” extends to more objects than can fall within the exercise of the power of “the keys.” The word, “whatsoever,” embraces, in its widest extent, all things over which the power of binding or loosing can be exercised, in the spiritual order, all places throughout the entire earth, all persons who by baptism, are made subject to the Church, all matters in the spiritual order, not excepted by the nature of things, or, by the Law of God, or the Divine Constitution of the Church. In a word, it involves universal legislative, and executive authority to rule, govern and uphold the entire Church, including pastors and people.

Although each of the preceding metaphors, viz., of the rock, of the keys, or binding and loosing, conveys, of itself, with undoubted clearness, that supreme spiritual jurisdiction and authority was conferred on Peter; still, our Redeemer would impress us with its vast importance, by conveying the same general idea, under different and expressive metaphors.

Mt 16:20. “Then He commanded His disciples,” &c. Mark (Mk 8:30), and Luke (Lk 9:21), both tell us, He strictly charged them, not to tell any one of this. There are several reasons, or motives, assigned for this precept of our Redeemer. Some say, He was actuated by humility, as He was on several other occasions, when He performed miracles (Mt 9:30). Others say, He was influenced by motives of prudence, to avoid irritating His enemies, who might be excited to such a pitch, as to anticipate the hour He Himself had marked out for His death. The most probable reason seems to be, that, although He had already abundantly proved His Divinity by miracles, and His own positive assertions (John 5, &c.), still, the time for openly divulging and proclaiming this was reserved for the period after His resurrection, and the descent of the Holy Ghost, when the Apostles, no longer liable to be scandalized by His Passion, would be able to preach and defend it, and the people sufficiently strengthened in faith to receive it. It may be, too, that He feared, if once the people embraced the faith in His Divinity, the shock resulting from His death would be too great for them at this early stage of their faith, and, if it ended in apostasy, it would render their return more difficult. This is borne out by His reference to His death and Passion, in the following verse. Hence, we find that the great argument in proof of His Divinity everywhere in SS. Scripture, is derived from His resurrection. The injunction given here is by no means opposed to the commission heretofore given to the Apostles to preach in Judea, as they were only to “preach penance” (Mark 6:12), and the near approach “of the kingdom of heaven;” but they were by no means commissioned at the time to preach His Divinity. And although He says (Mt 10:33), He would deny him before His Father in heaven, who would “deny Him before men,” this, however, has reference to the time after His resurrection, when His Divinity would be openly proclaimed.

No doubt, our Lord had Himself, during life, declared His own Divinity (John 5, &c.) This, however, He did more or less obscurely; and He knew when and how He Himself might do so, without interfering with the decrees of His providence, while issuing a prohibition to others on the subject.

Mt 16:21. “From that time,” that is, from the time of the glorious confession of His Divinity, made by Peter, in the presence, and with the concurrence, of the other Apostles, “Jesus began to show to (St. Mark 8:31, has, ‘to teach’) His disciples … must go to Jerusalem,” as preordained by His Father, and predicted by the Prophets, “and suffer many things from (St. Mark adds, ‘and be rejected by’) the ancients,” &c.

“The ancients,” refer to the members of the Great Sanhedrim, called (Luke 22:66). πρεσβυτεριον, who enjoyed supreme authority in the Jewish Republic—“and Scribes,” under whom are also included the Pharisees—“and be put to death,” &c. Our Redeemer did not treat “openly” (Mark 8:32), in presence of His Apostles, of His Passion, before they made a public confession of His Divinity, lest they might be scandalized thereby, so as to desert Him altogether. But, after this public confession of their faith in His Divinity, no such consequences were to be apprehended. And He now forewarns them, that he freely submitted to death, for man’s redemption; thus to prepare them for it, when it should happen (John 16:1). He, probably, also had in view, by referring to His Passion, to prepare them—as may be inferred from verse 24—for the sufferings in store for them, after the example of His own unjust sufferings

Mt 16:22. The vehement ardour of Peter’s affection for his Divine Master overleaping the bounds of prudent reserve on this occasion, could not endure, that He whom he was after proclaiming to be the Son of the Living God, should submit to such ignominious treatment from the Jews. Hence, “taking Him” aside, he began to remonstrate with Him, in the warmth of his ardent affection.

“Far be it from Thee.” This expresses the precise and ordinary meaning of the idiomatic phrase (Ἵλεως σοι), “propitius tibi,” to which, St. Jerome adds, “sis,” “spart Thyself, O Lord.” Others add, “sit Deus; propitius tibi sit Deus”—May God avert such an evil, and cause matters to take a more favourable turn. The phrase is sometimes used in the Old Testament, by the Septuagint; and it has the meaning given it here by the Vulgate, “absit a te,” &c.—May God forbid.

Mt 16:23. Our Lord, turning round to Peter, who was either behind Him, or by His side, when He uttered the foregoing words (St. Mark adds, 8:33, “and seeing His disciples,” in whose presence Peter spoke), “said to Peter” (St. Mark, “threatened Peter”), redargued him, in the presence of all—“Go behind Me, Satan; thou art a scandal to Me.” St. Hilary, understanding “Satan,” of the devil, who is the chief Satan, that is to say, adversary of the human race, says, the first words, “Go behind Me,” were alone addressed to Peter, and the following words, “Satan, thou art a scandal,” &c., were addressed to the devil, who tempts us, and suggests wicked actions. But these latter words, too, are commonly referred to Peter, who had been a Satan, which means, adversary, on this occasion, however, innocently, and unintentionally, opposing the will of God. “Go behind Me,” begone from Me, thou adversary, “thou art a scandal to Me,” so far as thou art concerned, endeavouring to induce Me to commit sin, by resisting the will of God, and to forego the great work of Redemption, by avoiding suffering and death. Others understand, “Go behind Me,” thus: rather follow My counsels and instructions, than anticipate them, by gratuitously tendering advice. But the foregoing is more probable, as our Redeemer manifestly rebukes Peter. It is remarked by some expositors, that the word, “Satan,” frequently signifies (as in 2 Sam 19:22), evil counsellor; and so, perhaps, it may signify the same here, as if He said: under the appearance of attachment, thou givest Me the worst counsel. This sudden change in our Redeemer, now calling Peter, “Satan,” after the eulogium bestowed on him, should cause no surprise, as the primacy was not given, but promised to Peter at this time “I will build; I will give,” &c.

“Because thou savourest not,” &c. In these words is assigned the reason why Peter is become a scandal, or occasion of sin, however unconsciously, by placing an obstacle to the glory of God, because he was actuated by human feelings, which shrink from death and ignominy, rather than by feelings inspired by God, which would dictate to us to undergo any amount of evil, sooner than commit sin, or resist the will of God, however opposed to our own corrupt passions.

From this may be seen the obligation we are under, of trampling under foot all human feelings and natural affections, when duty to God, or a call of a higher order, demands such a sacrifice. St. Jerome observes, with reference to Peter’s primacy, as apparently affected by this rebuke, that the primacy was not yet actually conferred. Moreover, ecclesiastical preferment does not destroy the passions.

Mt 16:24. “Then Jesus said,” &c. St. Mark (Mk 8:34) says, “And calling the multitude together with His disciples, He said,” &c. St. Luke (Lk 9:23) “and He said to all.” Most likely, that, in the presence of the entire multitude, whose salvation was involved in the following words, He addressed Himself principally to His disciples. “If any man will come after Me,” “si quis vult post me venire,” which it is perfectly free for anyone to do. “Come after Me,” to become a true follower, and share in the blessings of the Christian state. “Let him deny himself,” which some interpret to mean, to put aside the old man, and put on the new. But from the following, it is clear the words regard self-abnegation, mortification, trampling under foot all carnal affections, all regard for the goods, pleasures and enjoyments of this life. The meaning of denying oneself can be easily understood from the meaning ordinarily attached to denying some one else, which evidently means, to undervalue him, to despise him, to value his life as nothing. Hence, “to deny oneself,” means, to hold oneself in little or no estimation, to be prepared to sacrifice life (Mt 16:25), to resist the suggestions of self-love, to follow the Divine will in all things, no matter how opposed to our own inclinations. Hence, as self-love wishes for honours, pleasures, a long and easy life; so, self-denial involves the resisting of our natural inclinations in such matters. “To deny oneself” is, to deny that he knows himself, and is prepared to bear, and undertake sufferings, as if they were befalling some one else, whom he knows not, and with whom he has no sympathy in his sufferings; and even, in our good works, that we should seek the good-will and pleasure of God, rather than our own advantage

“And take up his cross.” St. Luke adds (Lk 9:23) “daily,” to show that each one must be prepared to bear his cross perseveringly, at all times, unto the end. The words, “take up,” convey, that we should, with cheerful alacrity, bear whatever crosses it may please God to send us, whether they come directly and immediately from His bountiful hands, or from men; in a word, in whatever shape, or form, He may be pleased to send them.

“And follow Me.” These words are allusive to the cross, which our Redeemer was afterwards to carry on His shoulders for our sake. They hardly add anything to the sense of the preceding. They merely fill up the sentence thus, “If any man will come after Me,” which is the same as, “If any man will follow Me;” and it is by denying himself, cheerfully taking up his cross, that one follows Christ.

Mt 16:25. Having pointed out in the preceding, the duty of self-denial, our Redeemer now refers to the motives, which should stimulate to the performance, with cheerful hearts, of this painful duty, from which corrupt nature so strongly recoils. The principal motive is founded on the necessity of our doing so, in order to secure our eternal salvation, and the great rewards attached to self-denial. “Save his life,” his bodily life; “shall lose,” his spiritual and everlasting life, whenever the occasion arises demanding the sacrifice of life, and every temporal advantage in the cause of God, and in defence of His law. Such occasions do sometimes arise: and, then, after the example of many of the saints, as well of the Old Testament as of the New, we must be prepared to sacrifice everything for God and eternal life. The reward attached to the sacrifice of one’s temporal life for God, is to gain eternal life (see Mt 10:38-39). “He that shall lose his life.” the carrying of one’s cross, inculcated in the preceding verse, sometimes involves the sacrifice of life. The connecting link between this and the preceding verse, may be supplied thus (Mt 16:24), “If any man, &c.” (and, indeed, it is right that each one should take up his cross and follow Me). “For he that shall save,” &c. (v. 25.) The particle, “for,” is a proof of the implied proposition just referred to.

Mt 16:26. “For what doth it profit,” &c. The idea is borrowed from the condition of a man whose life is forfeited, either in judgment, or from being captured in war. Such a man can derive no pleasure, once he loses his life, from the acquisition of all earthly advantages. These are then of no avail to him; and all the wealth and power of this world cannot bring back human life once lost. But, while alluding to the opinions prevailing among men, regarding the value of human life, above every other earthly possession, and its irreparability once forfeited, our Redeemer chietly considers the eternal loss of the soul, which being once condemned, once lost, every other gain is of no avail; every acquisition for which this irreparable misfortune is incurred is but loss. “Or what exchange.” &c., refers to a soul once condemned, once lost; no redeeming, no purchasing it back Before condemnation, it is redeemed by the blood of Christ, and by good works, “peccata tua eleemosynis redime,” &c. (Daniel 4:24.) But, after it is condemned, no redeeming it, “frater non redimit, non redimet homo,” &c. (Psa. 49) The connexion of this with the preceding may be seen, by supplying the following proposition, which is, as it were, a conclusion from the foregoing (wherefore, in order to save our soul for ever, it is better to sacrifice our life for Christ’s sake). And then, in this verse is shown the reasonableness of such sacrifice, considering the inestimable and eternal importance of the interests involved in the loss, or gain, of one’s soul; and the utter worthlessness of everything else in comparison. Did our Redeemer ever utter anything so full of awful import for us all, or so pregnant with matter for such serious and continual reflection, as is conveyed in this adorable, but neglected maxim, “What doth it profit?” &c. In order to see more clearly the import of this sacred truth, the consideration of which sent thousands from the world into cloisters, peopled the desert with saints, stimulated the heroism of martyrs to embrace torments and death, made kings and queens descend from their thrones, and embrace the rigours of a penitential life, let us consider, separately, its two parts—first, one gains the entire world; secondly, after that, he loses his soul. Let us suppose a man to enjoy, for the longest term of human existence—which, be it ever so prolonged, compared with eternity, is but a more point—all the honours, riches, pleasures, of which human nature is capable, and this, without the slightest alloy of bitterness, or discomfort, of any kind, he gains the whole world. Secondly, lot us suppose that, he loses his soul; he is damned now for eternity, and buried in hell. Of what avail are all his past enjoyments, unless it be, from the remembrance of them, to torture him still more? His enjoyment is now past and gone; it lasted but for a moment, while he had “gained the entire world.” Now, he is plunged for ever in a furnace of fire and brimstone, enkindled by the wrath of an angry God, where “the smoke of his torments shall ascend for ever and over; where his worm shall never die, and his fire shall never be extinguished; where his fall shall be without honour, and he shall be a reproach among the dead.” Of what avail were his purple, and fine linen, and hearty cheer to Dives, when he begged of Lazarus for a drop of cold water to cool his tongue tormented in the flames? Should we not constantly pray to God, for the grace ever to keep in mind the nothingness of all passing empty enjoyments, and the never-ending tortures, to which such enjoyments may consign us? We should constantly, and above all, in the hour of temptation, think on the import of these two words, EVER, NEVER. Ever to continue; Never to end.

Mt 16:27. “The Son of man,”—meaning Himself, “shall come in the glory of His Father,” which is the same as the glory of Himself, the Son. Hence, St. Luke (Lk 9:26) has, “when He shall come in His majesty, and that of His Father, and of the holy Angels.”

“With His Angels,” that is, the Angels of the Son of man, who are, no doubt, the Angels of His Father, also, as “the glory of the Father,” is common to Him with the Son.

“And then He shall render to every one,” &c., rewards or punishments, justly and impartially, as he may deserve, “according to his works.” The words of this verse are added, to show, that the loss or salvation of one’s soul, is to be decided by a Judge, who will not be corrupted or intimidated into saving or releasing any one, whose works will not deserve it. His sentence is supreme, eternal, irreversible. Here, too, is conveyed an argument of the necessity of good works. “Shall render to every one according to his works,” according as his works deserved, whether they were good or evil.

Mt 16:28. Having said in the foregoing, that, the Son of man was to come in majesty, accompanied by the holy Angels, a thing calculated to inspire His Apostles with great courage and intrepidity in preaching the humility of the cross, He now corroborates His assertion, by telling them that, although His coming in majesty might be supposed to be very distant, and, consequently, less apt to produce a due impression, even in this life, some among them would be favoured with a view of His glorious majesty. What this refers to is disputed. Some commentators understand it of our Lord’s glorious Ascension, when the Apostles saw Him ascend to heaven in glory. Hence, He says, “some of those present:” because, the crowd who were present, did not witness His ascension. Others understand it, of His glory in His Church, when after His resurrection, ascension, and the sending down of the Holy Ghost, His Gospel was to be wonderfully propagated and confirmed by miracles. Others, with St. Leo the Great (Sermo. de Transfig.)—and this is the more common opinion—understand it of the Transfiguration, which some of those present, Peter, James, and John had witnessed. This was a splendid figure, a remarkable type and manifestation of Christ’s glorious coming to Judgment. This interpretation derives great probability, from the fact of those Evangelists recording the history of our Lord’s Transfiguration, immediately in connexion with the words of this verse; thus pointing to it, as their fulfilment.

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Matthew Chapter 15

Posted by Dim Bulb on November 15, 2018

ANALYSIS OF MATTHEW CHAPTER 15

In this chapter, we have an account of a charge made by the Scribes and Pharisees of Jerusalem, against our Lord, of having violated certain traditions regarding purifications and washings, on the occasion of partaking of food (Mt 15:1–2). He retorts upon them, and shows that they violated, by these boasted traditions, the law of God and nature, with reference to the honour due to parents (Mt 15:4–9), and He explains to the people the true doctrine regarding interior defilement, and whence it comes (Mt 15:11). He tells His disciples to pay no heed to the scandal the Pharisees affected to conceive from His teaching (Mt 15:12–14). He, in reply to the request of His disciples, explains the doctrine of interior purity and defilement (Mt 15:15–20). He next cures the daughter of the Chanaanite woman, at her earnest, persevering, and humble solicitation, and praises her great faith, which, as it were, forced Him to perform the miraculous cure (Mt 15:21–28). He cured great multitudes near the sea of Galilee. He performs a miracle, by the multiplication of bread, to satiate a large multitude (Mt 15:29–38).

Mt 15:1. “Then,” denotes a continuation of the preceding history. It means, about the time our Redeemer was performing so many miracles, and was occupied in the country of “Genesar,” “then” took place the occurrence referred to here; probably, after He had delivered the heavenly discourse regarding the promise of the Adorable Eucharist. (John 6) We are informed by St. John (Jn 7:1), that, although the Passover was at hand (John 6:4), our Redeemer walked in Galilee, keeping away from Judea, for fear of the Jews. From the words of the Evangelist, it is inferred that our Redeemer did not ascend to Jerusalem, to celebrate the Pasch, on this occasion, as His life was in danger. This is the opinion of St. Thomas. Others, on the contrary, hold that He did ascend to Jerusalem on this occasion. At all events, if He did go there, His stay must have been very short.

“Came to Him from Jerusalem Scribes,” &c. Although Scribes and Pharisees were scattered everywhere throughout the Jewish people, still, those belonging to Jerusalem being reputed the most learned among them, and best versed in the law, were as such, entitled to deliver instructions wherever they went. They were also the most arrogant of the sect. Seeing that our Lord did not make His appearance at Jerusalem; or, if He did, that His stay was very short, these Scribes and Pharisees, either of their own accord, or, which is more likely, by the delegation of the Sanhedrim, came down to Galilee, for the purpose of examining narrowly into the teaching of this new Doctor, who everywhere instructed the people without asking any commission from them; that thus they might secure materials for afterwards accusing Him.

Mt 15:2. “Why do Thy disciples,” &c. They durst not directly accuse Himself; but they thus indirectly accuse Him, as if the subject matter of their charge had His sanction and permission. They adopt the same crooked course, on the subject of fasting (Mt 9:14). St. Mark (Mk 7:2) informs us, that these Scribes, &c., “had seen some of our Redeemer’s disciples eat bread with unwashed hands,” and found fault with them. (The words, “eat bread,” is a Hebrew phrase, signifying, “to take food.”) St. Mark next describes the Jewish, or Pharisaical observances in this respect, recommended by the founders of their sect, such as washing their cups, and the couches whereon they reclined, when at meals; washing themselves before meals, and after returning from the market, &c. These observances were founded on two false principles. 1st. That legal defilements were sins reaching the soul; whereas, such were often contracted in the exercise of works of charity, such as burying the dead, assisting those infected with leprosy, &c. 2ndly. That legal external purifications reached the soul, and cleansed it from sin. St. Paul (Heb. 9:13) points out the real effect of legal purifications.

“The tradition of the ancients.” They do not charge them with violating the law; because the law was silent on the multitude of these traditional observances; neither do they say, “our traditions,” but, “of the ancients,” as if, to show they were transmitted from an early date, and thus entitled to the greatest reverence and respect These traditions were explanations of the law made by their forefathers, and called, the Oral Law; because, not given in writing, as was the written law of Moses. The Jews in general, professed for them as much respect as for the law of Moses. These traditions were collected in seventy-two books, and composed the Cabbala. They were kept, it is said, by Gamaliel, and other heads of the Sanhedrim, until the destruction of Jerusalem, &c. It is to these traditions St. Paul refers, when he says (Gal. 1), “abundantius, æmulator fraternarum traditionum.” For, he was, “secundum Legem Pharisæus.” “For, they do not wash their hands, when they eat bread.” This is the point of accusation. This washing of hands was insisted on, not so much as a matter of social decency, of which our Redeemer and His disciples were not, probably, neglectful, as a matter of religious duty. “When they eat bread.” It is disputed, whether this regards washing before sitting down to meals, or the frequent washings which took place during meals (Mark 7:3). That the Jews had usually vessels prepared for the purpose of purification, is clear from John (jn 2:6). Whether this purification took place before or during meals, is not quite certain. It is in favour of the latter, that he says, “when they eat bread,” as if it occurred during the eating of bread. It shows the irreproachable conduct of our Lord, and the malice of the Pharisees, that having nothing serious whereof to accuse Him, they descend to such trifles, no way connected with piety. Their superstition also is betrayed, in insisting on outward observances, not commanded by the law of God, and only emblems of exterior purity. The Pharisees were very observant of external observances, while neglectful of internal purity (Matt. 23:27).

Mt 15:3. Our Redeemer, without excusing the conduct of His disciples, as censurable, or praising it, lest He might incur odium, retorts upon His enemies, whom He knew to be actuated solely by feelings of malice and envy, and shows, that they were not the parties to bring any charge on this subject of traditions, who themselves were guilty of greater transgressions on this score; since they observed traditions which were opposed to the written law of God, and the law of nature itself. Of this violation, He furnishes an example. He repels their frivolous reprehension, by a grave charge to the contrary—“Why do you also transgress the commandment of God,” &c. Instead of this interrogative form which Matthew alone has, and to which he subjoins (Mt 15:6), a positive assertion, that the Pharisees did transgress the commandment of God, and then concludes with the testimony of Isaias; St. Mark commences with the testimony of the Prophet; and then subjoins the declaration (Mk 7:9), which St. Matthew places in the beginning. It is a matter of indifference which order we adopt. It is in favour of the order observed by St. Mark, that, after quoting the prophetic testimony and applying it, he shows, that the Pharisees had transgressed, in a twofold way, against the commandments of God by their traditions—1st. By neglecting the commandments of God, whilst they were scrupulously observant of human traditions, of themselves indifferent. “Leaving the commandments of God, you hold the traditions of men, the washing of pots, of cups,” &c. (Mk 7:8.) 2ndly. They handed down certain constitutions subversive of God’s law (Mk 7:9). The same example is quoted as here (Mt 15:4).

“For, God said.” Mark has, “For, Moses said;” but it is the same. For, God said it through Moses.

Mt 15:4. “Honour thy father and mother.” &c. “Honour,” embraces all the duties which children owe their parents; and, therefore, the duty of supporting them. “Honour” signifies, in many parts of Scripture, to support, to afford sustenance; (1 Tim. 5:3), “Honour widows,” &c.; (1 Tim5:17), “worthy of double honour.” It has the same meaning here, as is clear from our Redeemer regarding as a violation of it, “Whosoever shall say … the gift … and he shall not honour his father,” &c. This is most clearly expressed by St. Mark (Mk 7:12), “And farther, you suffer him not to do anything,” &c. Therefore, to serve one’s parents, and act beneficently towards them, is to honour them. Although the Pharisees had been guilty of violating God’s commandments in many other ways, by their traditions (Mark 7:13); still, our Redeemer quotes this one, about not honouring parents, as being the Divine precept, to which a special promise is attached, “that thou mayest be long-lived upon earth,” &c. and as the precept, which is clearly and strictly enjoined by the natural law. And to show the imperative obligation of this precept, and the impiety of the Pharisees, our Redeemer subjoins another law, inflicting death, without mercy, on such as utter contumelious words against their parents. “He that shall curse his father,” &c., which is not so great a dishonour as that of which the Pharisees were guilty, in act, by withholding from their parents the necessary means of support.

Mt 15:5. Such are the commandments of God. “But, you”—following certain absurd traditions, at variance with the laws of God and nature—“say: Whosoever shall say to his father or mother,” &c., when, in their distress, they apply to him for support, that is to say, for that “honour,” to which the laws of God and nature strictly entitle them.

“The gift whatsoever proceedeth from me,” &c. Of the several interpretations given of this obscure passage, there are two, which seem the most probable. The first interpretation runs thus: “Whosoever shall say to his father or mother, whatsoever gift proceedeth from me”—that is to say, whatsoever gift has been presented by me in God’s honour, and for His service—“shall profit thee,” also; because presented for benefiting you, as well as myself, and for propitiating Him in your favour; and, hence, I have discharged the duty of honouring you, and am no longer bound to assist you; such a person shall have fulfilled his obligations to his parents. These, or words like the following, such a person shall be free from sin, &c., are understood to complete the second member of the sentence, commencing with the words, “whosoever shall say,” &c.

According to this interpretation of the tradition of the Pharisees referred to, the parents received some corporal support, inasmuch as a portion of the things offered in some sacrifices, v.g., peace offerings, &c., went to the benefit of the offerers. Most likely, the Pharisees justified this perverse tradition on the grounds—1st That God was to be honoured rather than one’s parents; as if God would receive honour from the offering of things due to others, by the Divine, as well as by the natural law, which, therefore, could not become the matter of vows So far is this from being the case, that even things consecrated to God may be lawfully applied to the relief of our neighbour’s grievous necessities, as in the case of the loaves of proposition consumed, in his necessity, by David; and we frequently find the holy vessels broken or sold by some of the most eminent saints, to relieve the starving poor. Nay, it is held that a son cannot enter religion, should he be required for his parent’s support, and even that he should in some cases, leave religion, if the necessary support of his parents required it. 2ndly That the gift presented to God, with the intention of benefiting parents, contained the twofold merit of piety towards one’s parents, which alone was involved in the observance of the fourth precept of the Decalogue; and of piety, or rather of religion, towards God; as if they could be truly pious in regard to God, who neglect His precept, commanding them to support their parents, and assuring us that what is done for one of the least ones is done for Him.

The second interpretation runs thus: “Whosoever shall say,” &c. Whatsoever you could expect from me for your own support and benefit; nay, all my possessions, are already vowed to God, as a gift, and I cannot transfer them from God to you, such a person shall have fulfilled his duty. Many among the Pharisees were priests; and their avarice was gratified, or rather, promoted by such a tradition, inasmuch as they profited by the gifts offered in the temple; and hence, in defiance of God’s law, they inculcated this odious tradition, on the subject of honouring, or, rather, dishonouring, parents.

This second interpretation accords well with the words of St. Mark (Mk 7:11), “Corban (which is a gift), whatsoever is from me, shall profit thee.” From this, it is clear, there is question of a gift consecrated and set apart for religious purposes, which is the signification of “Corban.” In the Greek the words run thus: “A gift, whatsoever thou mightest have been profited by me,” as if to say, whatever it is, through which you wished me to confer a benefit on you, is already a gift, and, as Mark has it, a sacred gift, Corban.

Mt 15:6. “And he shall not honour his father,” &c. Some commentators make these words a portion of the Pharisaical tradition, thus: “And so, he may not honour his father or his mother,” or shall be exempted from the precept of honouring them. This is warranted by the Codex Vaticanus, in which “and,” is wanting. According to the reading of the Codex Vaticanus, the whole sentence is complete without any addition, thus: “Whosoever shall say to his father or mother: The gift whatsoever from me shall profit thee, may not honour his father or mother,” that is, shall be exempted from the obligation of honouring them.

Others say, these are the words of our Redeemer, asserting that the son, in the case in question, violates the precept of honouring his parents, while carrying out the Pharisaical traditions.

“And you have made void,” &c. And thus, it follows, that you have made void the precept of God, relative to the honouring of parents, by reason of your tradition. He says, “your tradition,” not, “the tradition of the ancients,” to show that these traditions were of recent introduction, on the part of those who claimed for their absurd traditional ordinances, all the authority of the ancients, whose place they occupied.

Mt 15:7. “Ye hypocrites.” The word, ύποκριτης, in its original signification, denotes an actor in a drama—one who personates a different character. Here, it is applied to the Scribes and Pharisees, who affected a character for piety and religion, which they really did not possess, and were content with mere external observances; and while they affected to be most scrupulous in the observance of the law, violated it in its most important precepts.

“Well did Isaias prophesy of you, saying.” The words which our Redeemer quotes from Isaias had primarily reference to the Jews of the Prophet’s own time; but as his words, by accommodation, apply to the Jews of our Redeemer’s time; or, rather, as Isaias addressed the Jewish people in general, with whom the Jews of our Redeemer’s time were morally identified; hence, He says, “he prophesied of them,” as follows.

Mt 15:8. “This people honoureth,” &c. This quotation from Isaias (Isa 29:13) is according to the Septuagint, in which, the passage runs thus: “This people approaches Me,” i.e., reverences Me, “with their mouth, and honoureth Me with their lips; but their heart is far from Me.” The words, “approaches Me with their mouth,” are read in the ordinary Greek copies, but are wanting in the Codex Vaticanus, and in all Latin copies. In the words of this verse, our Redeemer shows, that the Pharisees were, what He designated them, viz., hypocrites, such as the Jews described by the Psalmist (Psa. 78), “et dilexerunt eum in ore suo, et lingua sua mentiti sunt ei,” &c.

9. “And in vain,” &c. In this verse, He refers to their foolish, superstitious observances. “In vain,” Greek (ματην), may either mean, they vainly worship Me, inasmuch as they do not obtain the fruit of My worship; or, it may denote their foolish, irrational observances, which is rendered, by the interpreter of St. Matthew, “sine causa;” for, that worship is vain which is without a rational cause.

“Teaching doctrines and commandments of men.” In the Septuagint of Isaias, and also in all the Greek copies of the Gospel of St. Matthew and St. Mark, “and” is wanting. It runs thus: “teaching doctrines, commandments of men,” placing the latter word in apposition to the former. From the context, is clearly seen what it is our Redeemer here reprobates as “the doctrines and commandments of men.” They are doctrines and commandments, opposed to the law of God, such as is instanced in the case of honouring or dishonouring parents; or, silly, external, superstitious observances, inculcated as obligatory, which by no means contribute to true, internal piety, such as frequent washing of hands at meals, washing of cups, of couches, &c.; or, erroneous doctrines, such as, that meat defiles the soul (Mark 7:5–8). Are the precepts and ordinances and traditions of the Catholic Church of this character? Surely not. Far from being subversive of the Divine law, they rather enforce and reduce it to practice. As to Apostolical traditions, St. Paul tells the Thessalonians to stand fast by them and hold them (2 Thess. 2:14). As to the rules and constitutions of the Church touching fasts, festivals, and the like, they are by no means opposed to the Divine law; they are, on the contrary, in perfect accordance with it. And, moreover, they emanate from God Himself, who, invested His Church with legislative power, and has commanded all to hear, and obey her, under pain of sharing the fate of the heathen and the publican. In truth, the very ordinances of the civil power cannot be regarded as “commandments of men,” in the sense here contemplated; since their power, too, is from God, at least mediately, and we are commanded to obey them under pain of damnation. (Rom. 13) But, as regards the laws of the Church, they are ordinances enacted under the inspiration, or, at least, superintendence and influence of the Holy Ghost, whom Christ promised to His Church, to teach her all truth, and remain with her for ever, under His own special guidance, who, moreover, promised to remain Himself with His Church all days, even to the consummation of the world.

Mt 15:10. Having redargued the Pharisees, and silenced them, He now calls the multitude, and in their hearing, who were not influenced by feelings of envy, like the Pharisees, and would derive profit from His instructions, He justifies the conduct of His disciples, and shows the error of the Pharisees on the subject.

“Hear ye.” St. Mark has, “Hear ye Me all” (Mk 7:14). These words are intended to arrest attention. “Me,” and not the Pharisees; “and understand,” that is, divesting yourselves of your former errors, attend to My true doctrine.

Mt 15:11. “Not that which goeth into the mouth,” &c., which is read thus in St. Mark, “There is nothing from without a man that entering him can defile him” (Mk 7:15). These words are to be interpreted in reference to the teaching of the Pharisees, which they are intended to refute. The Pharisees maintained, that, by partaking of food with unwashed hands, defilement was imparted to the food, and this food defiled the soul. Our Redeemer refutes this by saying, that no food, of itself, defiles a man. Hence, no food partaken with unwashed hands defiles him (v. 20). The Pharisees held that certain kinds of food, of themselves, defile a man, and render him polluted before God. Hence, we find St. Paul, in refuting these doctrines, held by certain Judaizing heretics, say, “that every creature of God is good,” &c. Then, our Redeemer here says, that, no food, of its own nature, defiles us. In this, He by no means intends to assert that we do not sin by partaking of food, if we do so, contrary to the prohibition of God, as did Adam; or, as the Jews would, by partaking of food forbidden to them; or, the first Christians, had they violated the Apostolical injunction, commanding them to abstain from blood, &c. (Acts 15:20); or, Christians, now-a-days, if they violated the laws of fasting enjoined by the Church, whom all are bound to hear and obey. In like manner, a man by committing excess in drinking wine is defiled, for “drunkards shall not possess the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:10); not by the wine, but, by its excess against the laws of temperance. But in such cases, “it is not what goeth into the mouth that defiles; but what cometh from it,” viz., disobedience and resistance to the law of God and the dictates of right reason. Hence, the words do not furnish even the shadow of an objection against the discipline of the Catholic Church, in regard to fasting, prescribed for the castigation of our rebellious flesh, as a spiritual remedy and antidote against sin, as a necessary means of casting out certain devils, and of overcoming certain passions, particularly those having reference to incontinence. They would equally militate against the precept given by God to Adam; against the law given by Moses to the Jews; against the injunctions given by the Apostles to the first Christians; against the prohibition of St. Paul in regard to Idolothytes, who calls the chalice of those partaking of them, “the chalice of devils,” and against the charitable line of conduct pursued by the same Apostle, and inculcated on others, when he declared they should, in conscience, abstain from certain kinds of meat, to avoid scandalizing their weak and infirm brethren. (1 Cor. 6) Would they not militate also against the prescriptions of physicians, when they interdict their patients certain kinds of food? The error of the Scribes, &c., was occasioned by the prohibition (Lev. 11), to partake of unclean meats, such as swine’s flesh, &c., as unclean, abominable, and defiling the soul. The Scribes understood these words in a gross, material sense, as if these meats immediately, and by contact, defiled the soul, as the touch of an unclean animal caused legal defilement in him who touched it. In this, they were grossly deceived; because, these words referred only to legal or external defilement.

“But what cometh out of the mouth,” &c., that is, the things that come from the mouth and the heart (v. 18), that proceed from the will of man, these are the things that defile him. Our Redeemer does not mean, that everything coming from the mouth defiles a man, such as good words; nor that those things only which come from the mouth defile a man; since, bad thoughts and bad actions have this effect. But He uses this form, as it expresses the contrary of what the Pharisees held. They said, that what enters the mouth defiles; He says, on the contrary, that it was the things that came forth from the mouth—although not these alone, nor all that came—that defile a man. Good words come forth and good thoughts remain in the mind. What our Redeemer wishes to convey is this, that it is from the will of man, the things which defile him, proceed, which is more clearly expressed by St. Mark (Mk 7:20), “The things which come out from a man, they defile a man,” and is also clearly expressed in this chapter (Mt 15:18-19).

Mt 15:12. His disciples, perceiving from the countenance of the Pharisees, and the words of murmur privately uttered, that His doctrine gave them offence; and, moreover, not seeming themselves to understand it, are desirous of further explanations, and inform him that the Pharisees, who, by their influence, might prove formidable enemies, and whom, therefore, it might be prudent to conciliate, were “scandalized,” i.e., offended at His doctrine. They took offence, because the doctrine just enunciated by our Lord, was totally subversive of their traditional customs, regarding frequent washings, &c. The disciples themselves were not wholly at ease, as His doctrine seemed opposed to the law of Moses.

Mt 15:13. Our Redeemer told His disciples not to be disquieted or troubled about the offence of the Pharisees. “Every plant which My Father hath not planted,” &c. Some understand the word, “plant,” of doctrine; every doctrine not proceeding from God, shall come to nought. Similar is the celebrated decision of Gamaliel, “If this counsel he from God,” &c. (Acts 5:8), and thus, our Redeemer wishes to convey, that the doctrine of the Pharisees, which is purely of human invention and introduction, must have an end, and that the system they had instituted, as well as their sect, was fast falling to ruin. This is not opposed to the Jewish law, which was planted only for a time by God—as regarded its legal and ceremonial parts, and it lasted for the the term designed by God—but as to its moral parts, it has lasted, and shall last still to the end of time. He thus quiets their apprehensions about the danger to be apprehended from the power of the Pharisees.

Others understand the word, “plant,” of men themselves, viz., the Scribes and Pharisees. Men are frequently called the planting of God, in SS. Scriptures. Every man was placed and planted by God, in the field of this world; but, by the envy of the devil, this primeval creation was vitiated, and, hence, man must again be, as it were, planted anew, and ingrafted on Christ, the tree of life. In this sense, the Jews are termed, vinea electa, germen plantationis meæ (Isa. 60:21; Matt. 3:10). Those who are not thus ingrafted, remain in their original state of spiritual decay, and shall be lost. Of this class are the Pharisees, who incurably resisted our Redeemer’s gracious calls and teaching; and, hence, could not be ingrafted on Him, and were not, therefore, to be minded, nor their offence cared for.

Mt 15:14. “Let them alone.” Heed not the offence which arises solely from their own malice and perversity. “They are blind.” By their own free will, they perversely continue in their blind state, and they are so presumptuous as to attempt to become the guides of others equally blind and obstinate, in their perverse opinions, as themselves. And the end of such teachers, and of those taught by them, shall be eternal, irreparable ruin—“both fall into the pit.”

These arrogant, haughty men, so wedded to their own opinions—so self-conceited as to become the leaders of others, as obstinate as themselves, cannot be conciliated by any advances made to them. They will only take further offence at every attempt at explanation. They are, therefore, not to be heeded, but to be left to the ruin they are obstinately bringing on themselves. From these words of our Lord we may conclude, that when men conceive offence at our teaching, solely out of malice, and without any cause on our own part, we are not to heed such Pharisaical scandal. “For, it is better that scandal should arise, than that the truth be abandoned” (St. Gregory). It is otherwise, if this proceeds from weakness or ignorance, or, if there be question of scandalum infirmorum. Then, we are by all means, to avert the ruin of our infirm brother. Our Redeemer gives an example of both modes of acting in the different treatment He gave the Pharisees and His own disciples. He minds not the one (Mt 15:14), while He gives a full explanation to the others (Mt 15:17–19).

Mt 15:15. “Peter,” whose faith was always most ardent, “answering”—a Hebrew form of expression, meaning that he commenced to speak (Mt 11:25), “said to Him,” speaking in the name of the other disciples. The disciples are said to have spoken (Mark 7:17), through Peter, as their spokesman, and this is borne out by the words, “expound (not to me, but) to us, this parable.” The word, “parable,” is taken here in its genuine signification, as meaning any obscure form of language. This, as we are informed by St. Mark (Mk 7:17), occurred “when He was come into the house from the multitude.” The disciples could not understand how this language of our Lord, about the promiscuous use of food, could, in its plain, literal meaning, be consistent with the prohibition of the law of Moses; nor, how the use of language, so calculated to scandalize the Pharisees, and, in a certain degree, to scandalize themselves, could be reconciled with His teaching on the subject of avoiding giving scandal to our neighbour. Hence, they call it a “parable,” or an obscure form of speech, bearing a meaning different from what it bore at first sight. This they wished Him to explain to them.

Mt 15:16. Are you also yet without understanding?” You, who have so long walked in the light of My doctrine, and have been familiar and intimate friends, to whom had been already frequently explained, in what real purity of soul consists. While reproving them for slowness of belief, no removes the offence, arising from mental infirmity, and more fully explains His doctrine.

Mt 15:17. “Whatsoever entereth into the mouth.” The greater part of the food we take, “goeth into the belly,” from the stomach, and is discharged or evacuated in the shape of excrement. A portion of it remains in the system, imparting strength and vital vigour. This point, however, our Redeemer does not consider here. He only accommodates His explanation to the gross conceptions of His disciples. He shows that the food which we receive, “entereth not into the heart of man” (Mark 7:19), since the impure portion of it, leaving after it what is clean, “purging all meats” (Mark 7:19), separating what is pure from the impure, far from reaching the heart, and defiling the man, is discharged, like the food taken by all other animals, into the privy. None, therefore, of the unclean part of food reaches the heart, which the Jews believed, and our Redeemer supposes, to be the seat of the soul or of the will of man. Hence, food taken by a man cannot defile him.

Our Redeemer’s reasoning in this verse supposes, as a certain principle, that nothing can defile a man except through the heart of man, as regards what remains in, or proceeds from the heart. Hence, as the food does not proceed from the heart, or remain in it, it cannot defile him.

Mt 15:18. He now explains what it is defiles a man. “But the things which proceed out of the mouth,” i.e., most of the things that proceed “from the mouth,” or, “from man,” as St. Mark expresses it, “come forth from the heart,” i.e., from man’s free will and reason, symbolized by the “heart,” “and those things defile a man.”

Mt 15:19. He elucidates the words, “proceed out of the mouth” (v. 18). “For, from the heart come forth evil thoughts.” Although “thoughts” may not proceed to words or acts; still, they proceed from the heart and mind, and may be sinful, and may pollute the soul. “He who looks after a woman, to lust after her, commits adultery” before God (Mt 5:28). In this, our Redeemer refutes the error of the Jews, who imagined that mere thoughts, as such, although consented to, were not sinful. “Murders, adulteries,” &c. Our deeds of sin are first conceived voluntarily in the heart, before they are externally manifested in act; and it is, because they proceed from the heart, and are wilfully assented to, that they are sinful. The worst actions performed by idiots or fools, devoid of reason or free will, although materially wicked, would not still be imputed to them as sins.

Mt 15:20. “These are the things,” &c. This is our Redeemer’s conclusion from the foregoing. “These things come out of the mouth” (Mt 15:11). “But to eat with unwashed hands,” because such things are among those that go into the mouth (v. 11), “doth not defile a man.”

Mt 15:21. Seeing the obstinate incredulity and ingratitude of the Jews, our Redeemer retires from the land of “Genesar,” or from Capharnaum and the neighbouring places, into the confines of Tyre and Sidon, probably, with the view of pointing out to His Apostles, by this mode of acting, how they were, after His resurrection, to transfer the preaching of the Gospel to the Gentiles, from the Jews, who were obstinately bent on resisting them. He also retired, probably, for the purpose of retreat and rest after His labours. Hence, we are informed by St. Mark (Mk 7:24), that, entering a house, He wished to remain concealed, unknown to any person. He might have wished to remain in this private way, lest, by publicly preaching and performing miracles, He might furnish the Jews with a pretext for rejecting Him, in consequence of His having held intercourse with the Gentiles; and, moreover, He would be acting in opposition to the instructions He gave His Apostles on this subject.

“The coasts,” that is, the country bordering on, and belonging to “Tyre and Sidon.” These were maritime cities of Phœnicia, to the north of Galilee, near Mount Lebanon, which bordered on Judea. Some commentators (Maldonatus and others) are of opinion, that our Redeemer did not enter the territories of the Gentiles, but, that He only came to the extreme confines of Galilee, on the borders of Phœnicia, of which Tyre and Sidon were the principal cities. These expositors derive an argument in favour of their opinion, from the fact, that the “woman came out” of these parts to see Jesus. The words, however, might be explained, that while He was in these parts, she came out of her house, for “she heard of Him” (Mark 7:25)—Franciscus Lucas.

Mt 15:22. “A woman of Chanaan.” She was a Gentile and Phœnician, as we learn from St. Mark (Mk 7:26). She is said to be “of Chanaan,” one of the descendants of Chanaan, the son of Cham, and grandson of Noe. The first-born of Chanaan was Sidon, the founder of the city bearing his name. The Chanaanites were one of the seven nations, that inhabited the land of Chanaan. They inhabited the sea coast, whence they were partly expelled by Josue. A portion, however, remained. The Jews did not subdue Tyre or Sidon. The Phœnicians and Chanaanites were the same people. They were called Chanaanites, by the Hebrews; and Phœnicians, by the Greeks. This woman is called a “Syro-Phœnician,” by St. Mark (Mk 7:26)—for she was a Syrian, as well as a Phœnician, Phœnicia being a part of Syria—to distinguish her from the Phœnicians of Lybia, in Africa; and “a Gentile,” in the original (ἑλληνις), a Greek, which is properly rendered, “a Gentile.” For, in the New Testament, in accordance with Jewish usage, the Gentiles are called Greeks—“Judæis et Græcis debitor sum.” (Rom. 1) The word, Gentile, does not convey that she was an idolater, but only, that she was neither of Hebrew extraction, nor, of the Jewish religion.

“Have mercy on me.” She says, “on me,” to entreat Him the more earnestly, and to show that, her daughter’s affliction was fully shared in, and borne by her, which was a great proof of maternal affection.

“O Lord, thou son of David,” shows her great faith. She believed Him to be the Messiah, promised to the Jews, and to have power over devils, whom she besought Him to expel from her daughter. Hence, she says to Him, as having this power from Himself, “Have mercy on me, O Lord.” “Lord, help me” (Mt 15:25).

Mt 15:23. Our Redeemer made no reply whatever, probably, for the purpose of testing her great virtue, her faith and humility; or, perhaps, He had in view, to avoid giving His enemies a pretext for accusing Him of having violated His own instructions to His Apostles, on the subject of not transferring their ministry to the Gentiles, and to show, that if He preformed a miracle in favour of this woman, He did so from a kind of moral necessity.

“And His disciples came,” &c. From this, it would seem it was on the road this happened. St. Mark says, “she came in and fell at His feet,” in the house. Both accounts are true. She, in the first instance, did as St. Mark describes; and, again, when He paid no heed to her, she followed them on the way, and then He heard her petition. Others say, she, in the first instance, met Him on the road, and after that, following Him into the house, obtained, by her faith and humble perseverance, the fruit of her petition.

Mt 15:24. Our Lord was not sent as an Apostle from His Father to the Gentiles, to favour them with His presence; but, to the Jews, according to the predictions of the Prophets. Hence, although the Redeemer of all, He was the Apostle (“sent”), only of the Jews, “minister circumcisionis” (Rom. 15:8). He was sent by His Father personally, to the Jews only. For them alone, He was to perform His miracles, in proof of His doctrine. Had He preached, and worked miracles indiscriminately among the Gentiles, the Jews might have some pretext for rejecting Him as the promised Messiah (Rom. 15:8, 9); and this is the reason why He refuses working the miracle sought for in favour of the Chanaanite woman. “But to the sheep that are lost,” &c. (See 10:6.) It was predicted by the Prophets, that our Lord was to preach to the Jews; and hence, in order to fulfil these prophecies, He confined His preaching and miracles generally to that people (see Rom. 15:8, 9).

Mt 15:25. Her faith and humility are more and more inflamed and stimulated by the repulse she met with in the first instance. Hence, coming forward and falling down, in prostrate adoration before Him, she urges her petition with still greater earnestness.

Mt 15:26. “Good” (καλον), equitable, fair, or congruous. “To take the bread of children,” that is, the grace of miracles, and, in general, the grace of the Gospel, embracing His own doctrine and miracles, which were promised the Jews, the “children” of God, the seed of Abraham, as their special nourishment—“bread”—“and cast it to dogs.” Such was the estimation in which the Gentiles were held by the Jews; and such the opprobrious epithet with which they were designated, on account of their idolatry and sinful practices. Our Lord, as we are informed by St. Mark (Mt 7:27), replied, “Suffer the children to be filled first;” as if holding out some hope to her, that after the children were satiated, she might then expect the fruit of her petition. Others derive a contrary inference; they say, the harsh comparison instituted between the Gentiles and dogs, was calculated to show the utter hopelessness of the case, and was employed by our Divine Lord in giving utterance, not to His own sentiments—for, He knew the Gentiles were soon to be the favoured sons of God, while the Jews were to become “dogs” (Philip. 3:2; Psalm 22:17)—but speaking after the manner and feelings of the Jews, for the purpose of eliciting a strong proof of her great faith and humility, which no repulse, however apparently harsh and discouraging, could damp. His words come to this: Is it fair for Me who am sent specially to the Jews, the chosen children of God, to transfer My miracles, until the Jews are fully satisfied, to the Gentiles, who hold no other place than that of dogs in the family or household of God?

Mt 15:27. Her humble perseverance was not to be baffled or frustrated in its object. “Yea, Lord.” Granted, that I am but a whelp, a worthless dog; and that to such the bread of children is not to be cast, still, even in this capacity, however mean, I have a claim to be attended to.

“For, the whelps also eat of the crumbs that fall from,” &c. She did not demand abundance of bread. The miraculous cure she sought for was only “a crumb,” compared with the many splendid miracles performed among the Jews, whom she calls not only “children,” but her “Lords,” in the family household of her Sovereign Master. In this, she shows her great faith, which our Redeemer so strongly commends, and also her profound humility. As if she said: You call me a whelp; and so I am; nourish me, therefore, as whelps are nourished, with a crumb of the bread that falls from my master’s table.

Mt 15:28. As if acknowledging Himself to be vanquished by this woman’s faith and perseverance, our Redeemer at once exclaims, “O woman, great is thy faith”—“great,” rare, excellent, in its constancy; great, in its perseverance.

“Great,” in the things you believe regarding Me, and in the confidence it inspires. “Be it done.” He uses an imperative form in restoring his creature, as He did in the original act of creation, “ipse mandavit et creata sunt.”

It is worthy of remark, that in the great encomiums bestowed by our Lord in instances of singularly great faith, the objects of these encomiums were Gentiles.

“And her daughter was cured,” &c. From the history of the Chanaanite woman, we can clearly see how parents should have recourse to our Lord in the necessities of their children; and implore His Divine aid in their favour. We are also taught how frequently our Lord puts off hearing us in the first instance, in order to test our faith and perseverance, and thus in the end, to render His gifts more acceptable. We also see from it, the efficacy of persevering importunity in prayer; of firm, unfaltering, faith, confidence and humility. The prayer of the Chanaanite woman was accompanied with all these conditions; and so, she was heard.

Mt 15:29. “From thence,” that is, the confines of Tyre and Sidon, where the singular faith and humility of the Chanaanite woman, as if, extorted the miracle from Him. He left, lest others from among the Gentiles would apply for the cure of their sundry diseases.

“He came near the Sea of Galilee.” St. Mark (Mk 7:31), says, that leaving the borders of Tyre, “He came by Sidon, to the Sea of Galilee, through the midst of the coasts of Decapolis.” How our Redeemer could have gone from Tyre to Sidon on His way to the Sea of Galilee, when He should, it would seem, on the contrary, have gone from Sidon to Tyre to the Sea of Galilee, is a subject of controversy with commentators. In the common Greek, the words, “by Sidon,” are omitted. They are, however, found in the Codex Vaticanus, and in all the later copies. If the reading now quoted be correct, all we can say is, that our Redeemer had some good reasons for taking the circuitous northerly route by Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, of which the Evangelist makes no mention. “Decapolis,” the country of the ten cities, some on the east, and others on the west of the Jordan. Our Redeemer passed through the midst of this district on His way to the Sea of Galiee. St. Mark (ibidem) states, that on His arrival, He cured a man that “was deaf and dumb,” of which miracle no mention is here made by St. Matthew. The man was, most likely, not deaf by nature, he only stammered (μογγιλαλον), or, had a difficulty of speech. This is inferred from its being said, that after the string of his tongue was loosed, “he spoke right,” in which it is implied, that he had before spoken, not right; but, in a stammering, confused way. The ceremonies employed by our Blessed Lord in the performance of this miracle, are very instructive, and teach us to venerate the ceremonies employed by the Church in the conferring of Sacraments and in her worship, after His Divine example, in opening the ears and loosing the tongue of the deaf and dumb man. (See Mark 7:32, &c.)

“And going up into a mountain, He sat there,” to await the people who flocked round Him, wherever He was known to be.

Mt 15:30. The cures of these multitudes is passed over by St. Mark, who only records the cure above alluded to. St. Matthew and St. Mark both give a full account of all that took place.

Mt 15:31. The people were seized with admiration, seeing the prophecy of Isaias (Isa 35:5), fully verified, “Then shall be opened the eyes of the blind,” &c. “And they glorified the God of Israel,” who sent the Messiah, promised their fathers, and in His mercy visited Israel.

Mt 15:32. Our Redeemer, while administering the spiritual bread of life to the multitude, is not forgetful of their temporal wants. He now, from a kind of necessity, works a miracle, to satiate the cravings and hunger of this immense multitude. He takes pity on them; for, they continue three days in His company, forgetful of their temporal wants.

Mt 15:33. In proposing this question, the disciples seem forgetful of the former miracle of the multiplication of bread (Mt 14:17), or, it should rather be said, they were slow and tardy of belief. For, St. Mark observes, after the former miracle (Mk 6:52), “they understood not concerning the loaves; for, their heart was blinded.”

Mt 15:34. In order to proceed, in an orderly way, so that the greatness and certainty of the miracle might be rendered still more apparent, our Redeemer asks His Apostles, how many loaves they had still remaining of those which they carried with them for their support, and His own. Having to travel and spend some time in desert places, away from the towns and cities, the Apostles were obliged to carry some provisions for such occasions. “Seven loaves and five fishes.”

Mt 15:35. On the former occasion, He commanded them to sit down on the grass. Here it was, “on the ground.”

Mt 15:36. (See Mt 14:19). “Giving thanks,” to God the Father, for the power granted to Him of multiplying these breads in a miraculous way. This is expressed (c. 14), by the words, “looking up to heaven, He blessed.” Here, “giving thanks,” includes looking up to heaven, which is generally done by men, rendering thanks; and the benediction of the bread and fishes is the effect of the act of thanksgiving.

Mt 15:38. In the former miracle, there were only five loaves; here, there are seven. In the former, 5000, a larger number, were satiated with a smaller quantity of loaves, to intimate to us, that with God, it is all the same, to satiate many or few with a greater or lesser quantity of food. In the former, there remained twelve baskets, corresponding with the number of Apostles; here, seven baskets, corresponding with the number of loaves. This difference of circumstances shows, in the clearest way, that the present miracle was quite different from the preceding.

Mt 15:39. He took shipping, to prevent the multitude from following Him. “Magedan.” Some Greek readings have, “Magdala.” St. Mark (Mk 8:10) has, “into the parts of Dalmanutha.” There is no substantial discrepancy, as both places were in the vicinity of the coast on which our Redeemer landed. So, both accounts are correct. In some copies of St. Mark, we have, “Magedan,” instead of, “Dalmanutha.”

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Matthew Chapter 14

Posted by Dim Bulb on November 15, 2018

ANALYSIS OF MATHEW CHAPTER 14

In this chapter, we have an account of Herod’s opinion of our Lord, on hearing of His miracles. He takes Him for the Baptist returned from the dead. The circumstances of the cruel death of the Baptist and the causes that led to it are here recorded (Mt 14:1–11). Our Redeemer retires from Herod’s quarters, and crosses to the Bethsaida side of the lake. There multitudes had arrived before Him, and He miraculously multiplies bread in their favour (Mt 14:12–22). He obliges His disciples to enter a boat and cross before Him over the water, on which occasion, the sea being tossed by the waves, and the disciples in a state of fright, He calms their apprehension, called on Peter to come to Him on the waters, and saves him from drowning. The vessel at once reaches the shore they were going to, which caused the disciples and the rest to fall down and adore Him (Mt 14:22–33). Having again crossed the water and being come to Genesar, He performs many miraculous cures there (Mt 14:34–36).

Mt 14:1. “At that time.” What precise period is here referred to, is a subject of dispute. It happened after the beheading of the Baptist. It is inferred from the Gospel of St. John (6:4), that the Baptist was beheaded some time near the Pasch. For, the departure of our Redeemer on hearing of John’s death (v. 13 of this chapter), is identified with that recorded (John 6:1), when He performed the miracle of the multiplication of the bread.

Which Pasch it is that “was near at hand” (John 6:4) is uncertain. It most likely was the fourth Pasch, after our Lord’s baptism. Before this Pasch, John was beheaded. This occurred after the mission of the Apostles, recorded (c. 10), as is clear from Mark (Mk 6:14), Luke (Lk 9:7), both of whom immediately subjoin John’s decollation to the narrative of the mission of the Apostles; and both say, that it was after the Apostles returned from their mission, our Lord was informed of the Baptist’s death; and then it was, the departure of our Redeemer recorded in verse 13 of this chapter took place. St. Matthew states in this chapter (Mt 14:13), that it was after our Redeemer heard of John’s death while traversing Galilee, teaching and performing miracles, He retired and departed across the water.

“Herod.” Antipas, the son of Herod the Great, who put the Holy Innocents to death.

“The Tetrarch.” This term designates the governor of the fourth part of a province or kingdom. Among the Romans, who divided the conquered kingdoms into Tetrarchites, the term, “Tetrarch,” was applied to all those who exercised supreme power, and enjoyed dignity next to that of king. This Herod Antipas, was Tetrarch of Galilee. He obtained the fourth part of his father’s kingdom. Archelaus, obtained one-half, with the title of Ethnarch, and Philip governed the remaining fourth with the title of Tetrarch. This was in accordance with the will of Herod the Great, which was confirmed by the Romans. This Antipas is styled “king,” verse 9 (Mark 6:14), on account of the similarity between the supreme power he exercised, and that wielded by a king.

“Heard of the fame of Jesus.” The fame of our Redeemer’s wonderful works, reached Herod only at this late hour, either, probably, on account of his absence, occasioned by the war with Aretas, the father of his former wife, divorced to make room for Herodias (Josephus Antiq. xviii. c. 7), and by his having set out for Rome before John’s death, before he espoused the infamous Herodias, whom he met at his brother Philip’s house, on his way to Rome (Josephus, ibidem); or, more probably still, on account of the negligence and indifference of immoral, wicked princes, like him, in regard to all matters appertaining to religion, and owing also to the distractions arising from a multiplicity of business occupations.

Josephus states (Antiq. xviii. 5), that the Jews were firmly persuaded, that Herod’s army was cut to pieces by Aretas, king of the Arabians, as a Divine judgment, in punishment of his having put the Baptist to death.

Mt 14:2. “And he said to his servants,” that is, his domestics and familiar attendants.

“This is John the Baptist: he is risen from the dead.” Herod may have said this, because, he knew that many were, before this time, risen from the dead; such as, the son of the widow of Sarephta (1 Kings 17); the man coming in contact with the bones of Eliseus (2 Kings 13); and the son of the widow of Sunamis (4 Kings 4); or, it may be, that he was imbued partly with the errors of the Greeks, like many others of the Jews, who, confounding the teachings of the SS. Scriptures, regarding the resurrection of the flesh with the errors of Pythagoras, held, that the souls of the good were permitted to enter into other bodies and exist in them. This error, Josephus (Lib. 2, de Bello Jud.), attributes to the Pharisees; and hence, believing John to be raised from the dead, owing to his former virtues, and thinking him now more powerful, he adds, “And, therefore, mighty works show forth themselves,” &c. These words may mean, taking “show forth.” (Vulgate, operantur), passively, that mighty works (δυναμεις)—miraculous wonders were performed by Him, as our English version has it, “show forth themselves.” The Greek for “mighty works” (δυναμεις), signifies miraculous wonders, or, rather, the power or faculty of performing such wonders. The Greek word for “show forth themselves.” (ενεργουσι), signifies, to display active energy.

“And he said.” In some readings it is, “and they said,” as if it were the opinion of others, and not the words of Herod himself that were expressed (see Mauduit, in hunc locum). There seems to be some difference between the account given here by the Evangelists. St. Luke (9:7, &c.), says, that on hearing of our Lord’s miracles, Herod “was in doubt, because it was said by some that John was risen from the dead; but by other some, that Elias had appeared; and by others, that one of the old Prophets had arisen,” and that Herod said, “John I have beheaded; but who is this?.” &c. (Luke 9:7-9.) Here it is stated by St. Matthew, that Herod unhesitatingly said, it was John the Baptist come back from the dead. To reconcile both accounts, some interpreters read the words of St. Matthew interrogatively, “Is this John the Baptist?” “Is he risen from the dead?” Others say, the words are spoken ironically and jeeringly by Herod; others hold that, in public, Herod expressed his doubts, fearing a popular commotion, but in private, speaking to his familiar associates, he gives expression to his real sentiments, regarding the resuscitation of the Baptist. Most likely, both accounts are true, and taken together, they express the real state of the ease. Herod, probably, hesitatingly asserted, as did the others, that it was John the Baptist come back to life. (Luke 9) In other words, on hearing of our Lord’s miracles, and the opinion of others, that it was John come back from the dead, he first hesitated and doubted; and afterwards believing the matter, asserted it, as here.

He asserted the matter in a hesitating manner. The hesitation is expressed by St. Luke; the assertion, without any reference to the hesitation that accompanied it, is expressed here.

Mt 14:3. We are informed by Josephus (Lib. Antiq. xviii. c. 5), that Herod confined John in the fortified castle of Macherus, near the Lake Asphaltites, or Dead Sea, on the borders of Arabia Petrea. That John was delivered over to Herod by the Pharisees, or at least, that they co-operated with Herod in this matter, and, probably, stimulated by envy, strongly urged him to confine John, on grounds of public safety, is, with much probability, inferred from the words of our Lord (Matt. 17:12). Josephus (Lib. Antiq. xviii. c. 5), says, Herod confined John in this strong castle out of jealousy and fear of his influence with the people. This might be one of Herod’s reasons for doing so.

“Because of Herodias, his brother’s wife.” The Greek has, “the wife of Philip, his brother.” as also has the Vulgate (Mark 6:17). There is some difference of opinion as to who this Herodias was. The common opinion seems to be, that she was daughter of Aristobulus, son of Herod the Great, by Mariamne, the last of the Asmonean kingly race. She was sister to Herod Agrippa, and, consequently, she was niece to this very Herod Antipas, who was brother to her father, Aristobulus, both brothers having different mothers. She was married to Herod Philip, brother to this Herod Antipas. Whether this was Philip, the Tetrarch of Iturea and Trachonitis (Luke 3:1), or a different Philip, also son of Herod the Great, of whom there is no mention made in Herod’s will and distribution of his dominions, and who must have, therefore, lived in a private station, is disputed. If the narrative of Josephus (Lib. Antiq. xviii. c. 5), be credited, it could not be Philip the Tetrarch (Luke 3:1). For, he states that Herodias’s daughter, by Philip—before she married Herod Antipas—named Salome, “was married to Philip, the son of Herod, and Tetrarch of Trachonitis.” The Philip, then, whom Herodias married first must be quite a different person. Others, rejecting this testimony of Josephus, who, they say, was deceived in this, assert, that the Philip referred to (Luke 3:1), as Tetrarch, &c., was the first husband of Herodias. Herod Antipas, on his way to Rome (as we are informed by Josephus, ibidem), in the sixteenth year of Tiberius, lodged in the house of his brother Philip, for whose wife Herodias, he conceived a wicked passion; and obtained her consent to leave her husband, and live with him on his return from Rome, on condition of his sending away his wife, who was daughter of Aretas, king of Arabia. This latter, on being informed of Herod’s designs and resolution to espouse Herodias, fled to her father for protection, who, in defence of his daughter’s honour and rights, waged war on Herod, and cut his army to pieces. (Josephus, Lib. Antiq. xviii., &c.) The Baptist sternly rebuked Herod for his incestuous and adulterous connexion with Herodias, her former husband and his own wife being still alive. Even if we suppose Philip, her former husband to be dead, as some assert, though Josephus positively states the contrary; still, Antipas, though not a Jew, any more than his father, Herod the Great, was, however, like him, a Jewish proselyte, bound by the law of Moses, which forbade marriage with a deceased brother’s wife (Lev. 18:16; 20:21), save in the case of the deceased brother dying without issue (Deut. 25:5). In the present instance there was issue, viz., the wicked daughter spoken of in this chapter. The marriage was, therefore, unlawful. Hence, the zeal of the Baptist in reproaching Herod with this scandalous adulterous connexion—scandalous, especially, in one occupying his elevated station.

Mt 14:4. John having no fear of the countenance of the mighty, with Apostolic firmness and freedom of speech, neither deterred by threats, nor allured by blandishments, regardless of the consequences which he probably foresaw would cost him his head, upbraided the royal adulterer with the criminal state he was in. We are informed by St. Luke (Lk 3:19), that the Baptist also reproached Herod with other crimes.

Mt 14:5. However much Herod might have respected the virtue and sanctity of the Baptist (Mark 6:20); still, prompted by passion and stimulated by the wicked Herodias, he was anxious to do away with him. He feared, however, to have recourse to any extreme or unnecessarily harsh measures, lest the people, who regarded John as a prophet, might resent it.

Mt 14:6. “On Herod’s birth-day,” which is called (Mark 6:21) “a convenient day” for carrying out the designs of Herodias, regarding the Baptist—“a convenient day” for banishing the fears and scruples of Herod, touching the sentence of a violent death against the Baptist, when he made a supper for the chief men of Galilee.

“The daughter of Herodias danced before them, and pleased Herod.” The circumstance of permitting dancing during the feast, shows the voluptuousness practised in the court of Herod; for, even amongst the most abandoned of the Roman Emperors, such was not allowed.

Mt 14:7. Heated with wine and blinded by passion, Herod “promised to give her whatsoever she would ask.” St. Mark adds (Mk 6:23), “though it were half his kingdom.” This rash and foolish promise he confirmed with the solemn sanction of an oath.

Mt 14:8. Instructed by her mother, whom she went to consult after receiving the promise (Mark 6:24), she asked to get on the spot, without any delay, the head of John the Baptist, lest, if time for reflection were given him, he might repent of the promise. “Give me here on a dish, the head of John,” &c. She wished for this, to be the more certain of his death; for, her mother dreaded lest, through the influence of the Baptist, Herod would send her away in disgrace.

Mt 14:9. “The king was struck sad.” Some are of opinion, with St. Jerome, that the king was really glad of the pretext this opportunity, as it were, afforded him, of carrying out his designs against the Baptist; and that the whole affair of the request on the part of Salome—the daughter of Herodias—was previously agreed on by common concert between Herod and his adulterous wife. Others, with St. Augustine, consider that Herod was really “sad.” For, besides that the Evangelist says so, in the plainest terms, it is most likely, that, although, Herod, in the beginning, when he cast the Baptist into prison, would have him slain, had he not dreaded a popular commotion (Mt 14:5); still, in the course of his imprisonment, he began to reverence his sanctity, and willingly listened to him (Mark 6:20), and was, therefore, sorry for the rash promise he made. Moreover, all the circumstances under which he was called upon to put him to death, the time, the place, the odium, attached to so unnatural a proceeding, were calculated to cause him real sorrow.

“Yet because of his oath,” &c., that is, to avoid violating his oath, as if he did not add perjury to homicide in keeping so impious and rash a promise. The observance of an oath, having for object the perpetration of evil, is no less sinful and criminal than was its original utterance. It is an insult to God to invoke Him as witness to the perpetration of evil, as if this were pleasing to Him. St. Jerome asks, if it were the head of her mother she asked, would Herod have given it to her?

“And for them that sat with him at table.” He did not wish to incur the reproach of fickleness or inconstancy, before the chief men of Galilee, whom he had assembled around him on the occasion (Mark 6:21).

Mt 14:10. “And he sent” (an executioner—Mark 6:27), “and beheaded John in the prison.” Josephus says, this prison was in the castle of Macherus, near the Sea Asphaltites, or Dead Sea, beyond the Jordan. This castle was in Herod’s dominions; for, he ruled Galilee and the district beyond the Jordan. (Josephus, Lib. 12, Antiq.) Hence, it is inferred by some, that this great banquet was given in the castle of Macherus itself; otherwise, the head of the Baptist could not be called for and given on the spot. Others deny Josephus’ account of the prison of the Baptist. They maintain, that he was imprisoned in Galilee, and that it was there Herod gave this entertainment to his nobles.

Mt 14:11. The mother, the wicked Herodias, was the instigator of the entire barbarous proceeding. St. Jerome (Lib. 3, contra Rufin, c. 11), tells us, that this monster made it her inhuman pastime to prick, with a bodkin, the tongue of the Saint. The same is recorded of Fulvia, in regard to Cicero. This same Herod, four years after he had treated the Redeemer of the world, as a mock king and a fool, in the crowded streets of Jerusalem, was banished, with his wicked wife, after they had been deprived of all their earthly possessions, their kingdom being added to that of Agrippa, by Caius to Lyons, in Gaul, where, we are informed by Josephus (Antiq. xviii. 7), they died in great misery, although it is said by others, and by the same Josephus, that his place of banishment by Caius was Spain, whither his wife followed him (Josephus, de Bel. Jud. ii. 9). Nicephorus (Lib. i., Histor. c. 20), and others state, that Salome, by a just judgment of God, met with a most miserable, but appropriate death. While crossing the ice in winter, it broke; and she was plunged in as far as the shoulders; then, the ice coming again together, severed her head from her body.

Mt 14:12. The disciples of the Baptist, who, it seems, had access to his prison (Matt. 11:2), came, and taking away his body, had it honourably interred. St. Jerome informs us that it was interred in Sebaste, formerly called Samaria.

Mt 14:13. “Which, when Jesus had heard.” This is understood by some, not of what immediately precedes, relative to John’s death, but to Herod’s having heard of Jesus, and to the opinion expressed by him, that our Lord was John come back from the grave. The Greek, ακουσας δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς, will admit of this interpretation (see Mt 14:1, 2). “But Jesus, having heard it,” as if from verse 2 to this verse 13, regarding the Baptist’s death, were parenthetically introduced; and St. Matthew, in this verse, resumed the thread of his history, broken off at verse 3. These expositors say, our Redeemer had, long before this time, heard of the Baptist’s death.

Others understand it, of what immediately precedes, viz., the account of the Baptist’s death. It may refer to both (Mt 14:1, 2), and to the death of John (Mt 14:10–12).

“He retired from thence.” to avoid Herod; for. His “hour had not yet come,” thus giving an example of what He Himself taught. “And when they shall persecute you in this city, flee into another.” (Lk 10:23). St. Luke (9) and Mark (6) assign another reason, also, for His retiring, viz., to give His Apostles, who had returned from their mission, respite and leisure for retreat after their labours, so as to have a befitting opportunity of conversing with God, and of referring to Him alone the glory of all the works, which His grace enabled them to perform.

“By a boat,” so as to be beyond the reach of the multitude, who everywhere followed Him.

“Into a desert place apart,” St. Luke says (Lk 9:10), “which belonged to Bethsaida.” One class of commentators understand this of “Bethsaida,” on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee; and of these, some say, our Redeemer did not cross the Sea of Galilee from east to west, but that, being on the western side, He crossed the different creeks of the western shore, thus rendering His passage shorter than if He were to travel by land along the windings of the creeks. In support of this opinion is adduced the fact, that the people “followed Him on foot.” and “were before Him” (Mark 6:33), which could not be if He crossed the lake from west to cast. Another class say, He crossed the Sea of Galilee (John 6:1); and some of these hold, that the place on the east side of the lake was called the desert of Bethsaida, because the land was opposite Bethsaida, and belonged to it; and, moreover, it is said (John 6:17), He again recrossed the sea to Capharnaum.

Others of this latter class of interpreters say, the Bethsaida in question is not Bethsaida of Galilee, near Corozain, but another place of that name, situated on the north-eastern border of the Sea of Galilee, “Bethsaida of Gaulonitis,” afterwards called Julias, in honour of Julia, Cæsar’s daughter (Josephus, Antiq. Lib. xviii. 2). It was rebuilt and enlarged by Philip the Tetrarch, shortly after the birth of our Lord. Its situation was in Lower Gaulonitis, just above the entrance of the Jordan into the Sea of Galilee. (Josephus, de Bel. Jud. ii. 8) Then, how could the multitude follow on foot? By crossing at the upper end of the Lake or Sea of Galilee, and fording the Jordan at that point, or, possibly, crossing it on a bridge. Their being before Him, may be accounted for in this way; the boat may have been detained by contrary winds, and our Redeemer took His time, as it were, to avoid the multitude (Calmet).

Mt 14:14. “Coming forth,” from the desert place of Bethsaida, to which He had retired, or, from the mountain which He ascended with His disciples (John 6:3). Others say, from the boat in which He sailed. (Maldonatus, Patrizzi, &c.)

“And had compassion on them.” St. Mark adds (6:34), “because they were like sheep without a shepherd.” He cured their sick, and taught them His heavenly doctrines.

Mt 14:15. “When it was evening;” or, as St. Luke expresses it (9:12), when “the day began to decline.” The Hebrews had two evenings, as appears from Exod. 12:6; Lev. 23:5, in which, Hebrew for “evening,” signifies, “between the two evenings.” The first, when the sun began to decline, about three o’clock in the afternoon—to this reference is made here; the second, after sunset, or at night time—to this reference is made (v. 23). His disciples suggested to Him to dismiss the crowd, as it was growing late, and they needed food.

Mt 14:16. St. John (Jn 6:5, &c.) states, that our Redeemer, on seeing the multitude, said to Philip, for the purpose of trying him, “Whence shall we buy bread that these may eat?” Likely, He thus spoke, after the Apostles had suggested to Him to dismiss the crowd, as St. Matthew records it here, so that both accounts contain a full statement of the entire transaction. He, probably, interrogated Philip, either because he was slower of apprehension than the other Apostles, and, by thus questioning him, He meant to impress on him the greatness of the miracle He was about to perform; or, perhaps, He asked him specially, because, being a native of Bethsaida, he was better acquainted with the resources of the district, and the places where food could be had.

It is deserving of remark, that St. John, who usually avoids mentioning what is related by the other Evangelists, especially what happened in Galilee, on this occasion refers to this miracle (c. 6), to introduce the subject of the promised bread of life. He had, moreover, particularly in view, to describe the different Passovers during the term of our Redeemer’s preaching, and, as he remained in Galilee during the third Passover, St. John relates circumstantially His works and miracles performed during that time. What is recorded by one Evangelist is not denied by the other. Both narratives form one perfect account.

Our Redeemer suggested to the Apostles to give the multitude wherewith to satiate their hunger, a thing which they regarded, humanly speaking, as utterly impossible. Mark (Mk 6:37) and John (Jn 6:7) state, that our Lord was told that two hundred pence would be necessary to procure bread, so as to give each a little, and the Apostles well knew this sum was beyond their reach. Hence, the words of Mark (Mk 6:37) are generally supposed to be spoken ironically, as if to say: Yes, indeed, we can give them to eat, but we require two hundred pence worth of bread for the purpose, which you know to be beyond our reach. It was only after He elicited from them an admission of the impossibility, humanly speaking, of what He asked, our Redeemer performed the miracle.

Mt 14:17. In order to show more clearly the utter impossibility, humanly speaking, of satiating so large a crowd in the desert, our Redeemer asks, what resources they had at hand; and the Apostles reply, or rather Andrew replies in their name (John 6:8, &c.), that there were only five barley loaves and two fishes, which some boy in the crowd, who, probably, was attending the Apostles, had with him for their immediate use; “but, what are these among so many?” (John 6:9).

Mt 14:18-19. After commanding them to bring forward the five loaves, &c., He then ordered His disciples to arrange the men in companies, and make them sit down on the grass, with which the place abounded. This they did, arranging them in companies of hundreds and fifties (Mark 6:40; Luke 9:14). By this arrangement the number could be more easily ascertained, and the parties more regularly served.

“And looking up to heaven,” which (John 6) expresses by “giving thanks,” that is, thanking His Heavenly Father, from whom, with His Divinity, He received power of working miracles, for His great goodness in vouchsafing to work so great a miracle, for the temporal and spiritual benefit of His people. It may mean, He invoked the beneficent power of his Father on the loaves, &c.

“He took the five loaves,” &c., to show that He was Himself the author of the great miracle He was about performing.

“He blessed.” St. Mark says (6:41), “He blessed and broke the loaves.” St. Luke (Lk 9:16) says, “He blessed them.” viz., the loaves; and by this benediction, imparted to them the occult efficaciousness of being multiplied.

“And gave the loaves to His disciples, and the disciples to the multitudes.” The miraculous multiplication probably occurred partly, in the hands of our Redeemer; and partly, in the hands of the disciples, when distributing them, and placing them in the hands of the crowd, without any outward show. How this occurred, we cannot say. One thing seems certain, that it was not effected by the creation of new loaves or new fishes. For, from the Evangelists, it is quite clear, “He divided the two fishes among them all,” as also the five barley loaves (Mark 6:41; John 6:11).

Mt 14:20. To place the miracle beyond the reach of cavil or doubt, our Redeemer ordered (John 6:12), that, what remained after the multitude were satiated, should be gathered up. This exceeded in quantity what was originally set before our Lord to be distributed. And to show, that in the exercise of charity, economy and frugality should not be neglected, He did not wish that any of it should be lost.

“Twelve full baskets of fragments,” a basket for each of the Apostles.

These “baskets” were, probably, made of osiers. They were commonly used by the Jews on their journeys in other countries, to save their provisions from heathen contact and pollution. Their size is not known. They must certainly have been of considerable dimensions, to serve the purpose referred to. Juvenal (Satire 3–14), refers to them as badges of the Jewish people: “Judæis, quorum Cophinus fœnumque supellex.” Also, speaking of a fortune-telling Jewess (Satire vi. 541), he says, “Cophino fœnoque relicto.” The use of the hay was, probably, to stop the interstices of these wicker baskets, which carried their provisions and money. It is not likely they carried hay about with them in such quantities, as would serve for beds, as some authors imagine. Grotius remarks (Matt. 16:9; Mark 8:19), “In these baskets or little panniers, they used to carry along with them, bread.”

Mt 14:21. “Five thousand men.” (or, as the Greek has it, ὡσεὶ πεντακισχιλίοι, “about five thousand”). St. John (Jn 6:10), has the same form, “about five thousand.”

“Besides women and children,” who might, probably, amount to an equal number, but whom it was not usual with the Jews to number. Hence, we find in the Book of Numbers, whenever the priests, and Levites, and soldiers, were numbered, the women and children were left unnumbered.

To feed a multitude in the desert was a wonderful miracle in the eyes of the Jews. “Nunquid poterit, parare mensam in deserto.”

Mt 14:22. Our Redeemer, perceiving that the people “would come and make Him king” (John 6:15), forthwith, both from motives of prudence, and to teach us to avoid all vain display, “obliged His disciples to go up into the boat, and to go before Him over the water.” Mark adds (Mk 6:45), “to Bethsaida,” whilst He dismissed the crowd. The word, “obliged,” as St. Jerome remarks, shows the great reluctance of the Apostles to be, even for the shortest period, separated from their dear Lord. Their departure, however, would enable Him to dismiss the crowd the more readily, and prevent them from conspiring with the multitude to make Him king. It would afford Him leisure to be alone, for the purposes of prayer, and would also prepare the way for the miracle of calming the sea, which followed. Perhaps the reluctance on the part of the disciples to depart, arose from seeing the glory which awaited their Master, from the crowd, who wished to make Him king. They were ordered to cross the lake in the direction of Bethsaida, but they came to Capharnaum. (John 6) Capharnaum and Bethsaida of Galilee were both on the western shore of the lake, so there is no contradiction between St. Mark and St. John. They went towards Bethsaida, but they reached Capharnaum, it might be, after having first arrived at Bethsaida, on the west shore of the lake; or, it may be, they sailed first to Capharnaum, and then to Bethsaida, which was not far distant (Patrizzi in Marcum vi. 45).

Mt 14:23. After the disciples set out on the lake, and the multitude was dismissed, our Redeemer went alone up into the mountain to pray; to teach us, that we must, after His Divine example, sometimes retire from the society of men, in order to communicate in prayer with our Heavenly Father; and, in the solemn silence of retreat, lay open to Him our wants, and crave His Divine protection.

“When evening was come.” As the Evangelist had referred already (Mt 14:15) to evening, interpreters infer the Jews reckoned two evenings (see v. 15).

Mt 14:24. The darkness and adverse winds, together with the absence of our Lord, added to their danger, and heightened their terrors. This is more clearly expressed (John 6:17). This storm was purposely caused by our Divine Redeemer, in order to try their faith and confidence in Him during His absence.

Mt 14:25. “And in the fourth watch of the night,” or, about three o’clock in the morning, “He came to them,” &c. Formerly, the Jews divided the night, in their military arrangements, into three watches, of four hours each. The first was called the beginning of the watch (Jeremias Lamentations 2:19). The second, the middle watch, at which those who were on guard, in the first watch, were relieved and succeeded by others (Judg. 7:19). The third, and last watch, was called, the morning watch (Ex 14:24). St. Luke refers to this (Lk 12:38). But the Romans divided the nights into four watches, dividing the night, from sunset to sunrise, according to the season of the year, into four equal parts. The hours were, of course, according to this arrangement, shorter, or longer, according to the season of the year. At the Equinoxes, the first watch was from six in the evening till nine; the second from nine till twelve; the third from twelve till three in the morning, and the fourth from three till six, or sunrise. In the time of our Lord, the Jews had adopted this Roman division of time into four watches. The Apostles were tossed about by the tempest during the entire night. By walking on the sea, our Redeemer showed, in a remarkable way, His Divine power. It is specially said of God, in the Book of Job (Job 9:8–10), “Who alone spreadeth out the heavens and walketh upon the waves of the sea,” making this one of His Divine qualities or attributes. “Walking upon the sea.” “Upon.” (επι), is used with a verb of motion.

Mt 14:26. Unable, owing to the darkness, to distinguish the object they saw walking on the waters, and to recognise our Divine Lord, the Apostles were affrighted, taking Him for a spectre, or, “apparition.” It was the common belief among the Jews, which was also in accordance with Scripture, and asserted by the Pharisees, who maintained the existence of spirits, that these spirits sometimes appeared, clad in human form. Night was commonly believed to be the time for evil spirits, known to injure man, to make their appearance. Hence, the affright of the Apostles, who imagined the apparition, which now presented itself, to be ominous of coming shipwreck.

“And they cried out for fear.” This loud and confused cry indicated their excessive fear.

Mt 14:27. When their fears reached the highest pitch, our Redeemer, at once, allays them, saying: “Be of good heart,” in a tone of voice, which at once assured them, and convinced them of His Divine presence. “Be of good heart,” give up all fears. “It is I,” from whom you have nothing to fear, who heretofore rescued you from so many perils. These words, “It is I,” are allusive to the description the Almighty gave of Himself, in addressing Moses, “SUM QUI SUM.” (Exod. 3)

Mt 14:28. Peter’s faith and love are everywhere conspicuous. With his usual ardour, he believes he can do, at the command of his Master, what by nature was impossible; and in reward for his holy ardour and eagerness to be with his Lord, our Redeemer works a miracle in his favour. The word, “if,” does not argue any want of faith in our Lord, on the part of Peter. It only proves that Peter might doubt His identity, or the fact, whether it was our Lord or not. The words, “Lord,” and “bid me come,” &c., show the great reverence and confidence he had in his Divine Master. “Come to Thee”. He does not say simply, “come;” but, “come to Thee.” to show his eagerness to be with his Lord. Nor does he beg of our Lord to come to him, out of modesty and humility. That Peter was not guilty of arrogance in this request, is clear from our Redeemer’s granting it. And, although an evil spirit or spectre might deceitfully tell him come; still, Peter’s request involved more than simply telling him to come. It involved also a request to be granted the confidence and power to walk upon the waters, and the efficacy of this command Peter felt, when he found the waters bear him up after he received it.

Mt 14:29. Being convinced that it was his Lord that addressed him, both from the confidence he inspired, and the virtue He indued him with, &c., Peter at once leaves the ship to come to his Divine Master.

Mt 14:30-31. But, in order to show Peter that the faith which made him walk upon the waters was still weak, and to give him an opportunity of increasing his faith, and of experiencing the power and goodness of God in regard to those who invoke Him in the hour of tribulation, our Redeemer exposes him to a new temptation. The Evangelist remarks, “seeing the wind strong, he feared,” as if to convey to us, that as long as Peter had his eye fixed on our Lord, the liquid element yielded not to his steps; but the moment he began to view the raging of the waves, the force of the winds, and his own weakness, then he begins to lose all confidence, and to sink; but, his faith again saves him. He cries out, “Lord, save me;” and then, his Lord exercising his office of Saviour, mercifully rescues him; and as Divine teacher, He informs him—“modicæ fidei,” &c.—that it was not the violence of the winds, but his own imperfect faith, that caused the danger he had been in.

Mt 14:32. “And when they were come up into the boat,” &c. St. John (Jn 6:21), says, “they were willing, therefore, to take him into the ship, and presently the ship was at the land, to which they were going.”

This is not opposed to the account given here by St. Matthew. The Apostles were desirous of taking our Redeemer into the ship, as St. John states, and our Redeemer, as St. Matthew tells us here, gratifying their desires, did actually enter the ship.

“They were willing to take Him.” (John 6:21), εθελον λαβειν, is an idiomatic phrase for, εθελοντως ελαβον—“they willingly received Him.” (Bloomfield). A twofold miracle followed, the storm at once abated, and the ship at once reached land. So there were five miracles altogether connected with it—1. Our Lord’s walking on the sea. 2. Peter’s walking on it by His aid. 3. When sinking, Peter is raised 4. The sudden ceasing of the storm. 5. The arrival at land, at once.

Mt 14:33. The sailors who owned the boat, and the Apostles, who were in the boat with them “adored Him;” προσεκυνησαν, means, prostrate adoration (see 2:11). “Indeed, Thou art the Son of God,” that is, the promised Messiah, not merely the adopted, but the natural Son of God, such as He proclaimed Himself, and the Pharisees denied Him to be (John 5:18–33; 19:7). Others say, there is question of the Son of God by excellence, and not by nature; because, according to them, these ignorant sailors, who, with the Apostles, adored our Lord, did not know the mystery of the Trinity, which others answer by saying, they received this knowledge in the boat by revelation.

St. Mark (Mk 6:51), says, that seeing the miracle of His walking on the sea, the cessation of the wind, &c., the Apostles were more and more astonished, and he assigns as a reason (Mk 6:52), “for, they understood not concerning the loaves; for, their heart was blinded.”

They were so stupified by the storm and the danger they were in, that they did not attend to the greater miracle of the multiplication of the loaves which our Lord had performed; otherwise, they would not have been astonished at the greatness of the present miracle. Our Divine Lord permitted them to be sorely tried after He had performed the preceding miracle of the multiplication of the loaves, in order that they would the more readily acknowledge Him in the evils which befell them. For, we are generally more affected by the sense of misfortune, than we are by the enjoyment of blessings—and, indeed, as it is most likely, that among these, “that were in the boat,” were included the Apostles, we can hardly suppose, that they, at least, who having lived so long with our Redeemer, heard His discourses, witnessed His many miracles, and must, therefore, by this time, have believed Him to be the natural Son of God, could have uttered the words, “Indeed, Thou art the Son of God,” in any other sense, save that they professed their faith in His Divinity, which the present miracle tended to strengthen. “And presently the ship was at the land to which they were going” (John 6:21).

Mt 14:34. “Genesar;” or, as Mark has it, “Genesareth” (Mk 6:53), is not to be confounded with Gerasa (Matt. 8:28), whose people besought Him to depart from them, after the herd of swine was drowned.

“Genesareth,” was some distance from Bethsaida, to which our Lord ordered His disciples to repair (Mark 6:45). It was on the same side of the lake—the western side—with Capharnaum and Bethsaida. From Genesareth our Lord went to Capharnaum, where He delivered the discourse on the blessed Eucharist, recorded by St. John, chap. 6. In this way the accounts given by St. Matthew are perfectly reconciled with that given by St. John, chap. 6.

Mt 14:35. As soon as He put to shore at Genesareth (Mark 6:53), early in the morning, after the night’s storm, and had disembarked, He was recognised; and on His way, during the day, to Capharnaum, through towns and villages, the rumour of His arrival having preceded Him, they brought all their sick, &c. (Mark 6:55), all who were diseased and labouring under bodily infirmities, and laid them in the streets through which He passed (Mark 6:56).

Mt 14:36. And besought Him to allow them “to touch but the hem of His garments. And as many as touched, were healed.”

Hence, the reverence paid by Catholics to relics is fully vindicated. Our Redeemer, here, far from condemning, as superstitious, the respect and reverence paid to the clothes which He wore, even directly sanctions it, by working miracles in approval of it. It is on the same principle which influenced the Jews in touching the hem of our Redeemer’s garments, of which our Lord clearly approves, while He worked miracles in sustainment of it, that the Catholic Church sanctions the reverence paid to sacred relics.

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Father Callan’s Commentary on Matthew 2:1-12

Posted by Dim Bulb on November 14, 2018

Mt 2:1. In the days ,of king Herod. It is difficult to determine just when this was, but it was probably about 6 or 4 B.C. This we conjecture from the death of Herod, which was around 4 or 2 B.C. Josephus (Antiq. xvii. 6) tells us that Herod the Great died shortly before the Passover, just after an eclipse of the moon, which eclipse seems to have been the one we know of on March 12-13, 4 B.C. Hence it is evident that our Lord must have been born at the latest in 5 B.C. (749 A.U.C.). Dionysius Exiguus ‘erred, therefore, when he dated the Christian era from 754 A.u.c. It is generally admitted, likewise, that the Nativity cannot be placed earlier than 746, the date of the universal pacification of the world under Augustus.

There are four Herods mentioned in the New Testament: (a) Herod the Great, spoken of here, who was king of Judea, Samaria, Galilee, and part of Peraea, and who died around 4 or 2 B.C. after a reign of 37 years; (b) Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great, who, when his father’s kingdom was divided into the four provinces of Judea, Galilee, Trachonitis, and Abilene, became tetrarch of Galilee ; (c) Herod Agrippa (the elder) , grandson of Herod the Great, and nephew of Herod Antipas; (d) Herod Agrippa (the younger).

Wise men from the east. These wise men, or Magi, were most probably from Persia or Chaldea. They were men of learning, devoted to the study of astrology and to the investigation of the truths of natural philosophy. It is probable also that they belonged to -the sacerdotal class, as would appear from their devout sentiments. St. Augustine and St. Chrysostom, following the Syrian tradition, thought the Magi were twelve in number. The most probable opinion is that of Origen (in Gen. Horn. xiv. 3) and St. Leo the Great (Serm. xxxi), who say they were only three. That they were kings was not believed before the sixth century.

There is a great dispute regarding the time of the Magi’s visit. It is the common opinion of the Church that they arrived before the day of the Presentation and the Purification. Here, however, St. Matthew and St. Luke seem to disagree. According to the former it would appear that the visit of the Magi occurred shortly after the Nativity, and that the Holy Family set out for Egypt before the Presentation and Purification in the Temple; according to the latter, the child was takeft to the Temple for the Presentation on the fortieth day after His birth, as the Law prescribed, and thence the Holy Family retired to Nazareth. According to St. Luke, therefore, it would seem that the visit of the Magi
took place much later than is indicated by St. Matthew. The apparent discrepancy in the narratives of both Evangelists may be reconciled by supposing that shortly after the visit of the Magi our Lord was presented in the Temple; and thence the Holy Family proceeded to Nazareth, and that it was at Nazareth that Joseph was admonished in sleep to flee into Egypt. But if, as seems more natural from the context of St. Matthew, Joseph was admonished by the Angel at Bethlehem, we may explain the Magi’s visit as follows : After the Presentation of the Child in the Temple
the Holy Family made a short visit to Nazareth and then returned to Bethlehem, where a little later took place the visit of the Magi, which in turn was followed by the admonition of the angel and the consequent flight into Egypt. See below, on verse 16.

St. Luke makes no mention of the visit of the wise men, or of the flight into Egypt. There are two very probable reasons for this omission: (a) the stories were not found in the documents used by St. Luke, and were, consequently, most likely unknown to him; or (b) the narration of these facts did not pertain to the end St. Luke had in giving an account of the infancy of Jesus, which end was to show our Lord’s submission and obedience to the Law according to the doctrine of St. Paul (Gal. 4:5; Phil 2:7ff.). St. Matthew, on the contrary, narrates these events, because his
purpose is to show the fulfillment of the ancient prophecies regarding the infancy of Christ.

Mt 1:2. Star. This might have been a natural phenomenon by way of a comet, or, as Kepler and other modern scientists say, by the coinciding of two planets, Jupiter and Saturn, which occurs in May, in September, and in December every eight hundred years. More probably this star was miraculous. It attracted the Magi as something strange and new; it guided them toward Jerusalem; it was not visible while they were being interviewed by Herod, and when they left him it again appeared and guided them to Bethlehem; it traveled from north to south and not from east to west according to the natural course of the sidereal world; and finally when the Magi had arrived at Bethlehem, it again halted and “stood over where the child was ” (verse 9). -From all this it seems beyond doubt that this star, or luminous body, was not natural, but miraculous in its formation, course and purpose.

We are come to adore him, etc. From this it would seem that the Magi were enlightened from on high as to the divine character of our Lord.

Mt 2:4. The chief priests, etc. ; i. e., the Sanhedrim, which was composed of the heads of the twenty-four sacerdotal families, the Scribes, or doctors of the Law, and the elders of the people, or influential laymen. In all there were seventy members in the Sanhedrim, presided over by the High-Priest.

The scribes of the people were a class of men whose office it was to preserve the sacred records, to announce and expound the sacred Scriptures to the people, and to solve doubts.

Mt 2:5. In Bethlehem of Juda. A better reading has, “In Bethlehem of Judea.” Bethlehem formerly belonged to the kingdom of Juda.

Mt 2:6. Art not least among the princes of Juda; i.e., thou art by no means insignificant among the leading cities of Juda. The citation is substantially from Micah 5: 2.

Mt 2:9. Until it came and stood, etc., literally, “till coming it stood.” It is evident from this and the following verse
that the star reappeared at Jerusalem, when the Magi left Herod, and guided them to .the cave at Bethlehem.

Mt 2:11. House; i.e., the stable or cave where our Lord was born; according to Jewish usage every dwelling place was called a house.

Gifts. It was a custom among the Easterns that no one should visit a king or prince for the first time without presenting to him gifts. In the case of the Magi these gifts gold, frankincense and myrrh were the usual presents in Chaldea. They signified the offerings we should present to God: chairity, symbolized by gold; prayer and devotion, symbolized by frankincense; mortification, symbolized by myrrh.

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Father Callan’s Commentary on Matthew 1:18-25

Posted by Dim Bulb on November 14, 2018

Mt 1:18. The generation; i. e., the birth, was in this new manner.

Was espoused; i. e., according to the Fathers commonly, was really married; but, according to Sts. Jerome, Chrysostom, and others, was only promised in marriage. During the time of espousals the future man and wife among the Jews did not live together, and saw each other but rarely; they could, however, have intercourse, and a child conceived during this period was not illegitimate, either in public opinion or before the Law. If any one’ violated another’s spouse he was regarded as an adulterer.

Although Christian art has pictured St. Joseph as an old man, there is no good proof that he was not young when espoused to Mary. Joseph had been chosen by divine Providence to be the chaste support and protector of the Holy Family, and there is no reason to suppose that he was other than a young man when Mary, by her parents, was promised to him in marriage (Le Camus),

Mt 1:18, 25. Before, as in the phrase, “before they came together” (verse 18 ; and till or until (verse 25) refer, according to the Hebrew idiom, to that which precedes the event spoken of, and in no wise relate to what may follow; that is, these expressions simply mean that the Blessed Mother was a virgin in conceiving her divine Son, and that she was a virgin when she gave Him birth; they do not at all imply that she ceased to be a virgin after the birth of our Lord. St. Matthew is telling us what the Blessed Virgin was up to the birth of Christ; about what took place afterwards he says nothing.

Together, therefore, does not mean conjugal relation, but only dwelling together in the same house. The belief that Mary always lived with Joseph, as with a brother, is based on the most ancient and most unanimous Catholic tradition.

Of the Holy Ghost. The conception of Jesus in the womb of the Blessed Virgin is attributed to the Holy Ghost, because it was a work of love. All works external to the Holy Trinity are common to all three Persons, but certain works are attributed to one Person when these works have a peculiar fitness with the relation which that Person bears to the other two. The Holy Ghost is the love of the Father and the Son, and hence works of love are attributed to Him. The doctrine of the Virgin Birth is evident from verses Mt 1:18, 20, 23, 25 of this chapter.

Mt 1:20. Fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife; i. e., to be thy wife in reality, and no longer merely thy betrothed.

Mt 1:21. Jesus means “Salvation of God”; it is the same name as Josue or Josuah.

Mt 1:23. This verse is taken from Isaiah 7:14.

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Father Callan’s Commentary on Matthew 1:1-17

Posted by Dim Bulb on November 14, 2018

Mt 1:1 The first line of this chapter may be considered as a title, or short preface to the chapter.

The book; i.e., the narrative, or record, or catalogue “of the generation,” i. e., of the ancestors of Christ. The Jews attached great importance to their genealogies, and in particular to that of David, from whose seed the Messiah and Saviour was to spring.

The son; i. e., the descendant. The Hebrews used the word son to designate every one descended from another in a direct line, however remotely. Our Lord was commonly called the”son of David ” by the prophets, and Abraham is here mentioned, because it was to these two that a promise had been especially made that the Christ should be born of them, of Abraham as head of the race, of David as head of the family. Cf. Luke 3:31. From the birth of Abraham to that of Christ there intervened a period of about 2000 years; from the death of David to the birth of Christ about 1013 years. St. Matthew traces the ancestors of Christ to Abraham through a succession of forty-two generations,
in order to prove to the Jews that He was the true Messiah. St. Luke, writing for the Gentiles, traces our Lord’s pedigree back to Adam, the father of the human race.

Mt 1:2. Abraham begot Isaac. Isaac alone, of all the sons of Abraham, is mentioned because it was of his seed that Christ was to be born: “But in Isaac shall thy seed be called” (Genesis 21:12; Romans 9:7).

Mt 1:3. Of Thamar. Phares and Zara were twin sons of Thamar. It is remarkable that all the women mentioned in the genealogy of our Lord, with the exception of His Blessed Mother, were publicly subject to reproach as sinners or Gentiles. The most probable reason for this is that our Lord, who came to save sinners, Gentiles as well as Jews, wished to enumerate among His ancestors those who would be expressive types of sinners and Gentiles, who, nevertheless, were to be aggregated to His Church.

Mt 1:4. Aminadab and Naasson are mentioned, because, according to Num. 1:7, the latter was the leader of the tribe of Juda on the egress of the Hebrews from Egypt.

Mt 1:5. Ruth, a native of Moab, another instance showing that our Lord wished to have among His ancestors Gentiles as well as Jews, so that all, Jews and Gentiles, might have hope in His mercy.

Jesse. Reference is here made to the prophecy of Isaias concerning our Redeemer, ” Egredietur virga de radice Jesse” (Isa 11:1).

Mt 1:6. David the king, the first king among the ancestors of Christ. To him was made the promise of a perpetual kingdom.

Mt 1:8. And Joram begot Ozias. Between Joram and Ozias three kings, who reigned in immediate succession, are here passed over, Ochozias, Joas, and Amasias (2 Kings 11-14). The reason for this omission is variously explained, but it does not much affect the design of the Evangelist, which was to show that Christ was a descendant of David.

Mt 1:11. Josias begot Jechonias. Josias was the grandfather of Jechonias (2 Kings 23:34; 24:6).

And his brethren; i. e., the uncles of Jechonias, Joakim, his predecessor, and Sedecias, his successor.

In the transmigration of Babylon; i.e., shortly before they were taken captive to Babylon.

Mt 1:12. After the transmigration of Babylon; i.e., during the seventy years’ captivity at Babylon.

Jechonias begot Salathiel. St. Luke (3:27) says, “Salathiel, who was of Neri.” Answer: Salathiel was the natural son of Neri, and the adopted son of Jechonias. Salathiel was of the royal line of David, through Nathan (Luke 3:31), and Jechonias, who was to die childless (Jer. 22:30), adopted him so as to perpetuate his royal line.

Salathiel begot Zorobabel. According to 1 Chron 3:19, Zorobabel was of Phadaia. Answer: This divergence is due
either to an error of a copyist of Chronicles, or it is to be explained by the Levirate law, according to which a man should marry his brother’s widow and raise up children to his brother. See below, verse 17.

Mt 1:13. Zorobabel begot Abiud. St. Luke (Lk 3:27) says, “Reza, who was of Zorobabel.” Answer: Most likely Abiud was the brother of Reza.

Mt 1:16. Who is called Christ; i. e., according to the Hebrew idiom, who is in reality Christ, the Anointed, the Messiah.

Mt 1:17. Fourteen generations. Only fourteen are given in each of the three epochs ; several others are omitted. The third series has only thirteen, but the name which we do not count is probably Mary, which the Evangelist did count, since the royal descent passes from Joseph to Jesus through Mary.

Here it is important to note that there is a great discrepancy between the genealogies given by St. Matthew and St. Luke; they assign almost entirely different persons as the ancestors of our Lord. To explain this difficulty it may be observed, in a general way, that a strong extrinsic argument for the genuineness of both genealogies is found in the fact that neither of these was objected to by the Jews of their day, whether believers or unbelievers, who had every opportunity of knowing the state of the case, and many of whom would have gladly charged the Evangelists with mistakes, if such had really been the case. This argument is the more convincing since the Jews were always remarkable for paying the greatest attention to genealogies, especially where there was question of direct descent of illustrious persons.

In particular, two quite satisfactory explanations are given of the discrepancy between the two Evangelists. According to the more modern theory, St. Matthew gives the natural genealogy of St. Joseph, St. Luke that of the Blessed Virgin. Thus, in this interpretation, when St. Luke speaks of Joseph as the son of Heli, he means the son-in-law, married to the Blessed Virgin; and hence Heli must be identified with Joachim, whom tradition represents as the father of the Blessed Virgin. It is really possible that Heli is only an abbreviation of Eliachim, and that Eliachim is a synonym for Joachim. This theory was unknown before the fifteenth century, but it has the advantage of establishing between Jesus and the royal line of David a real, natural, and not merely a legal, relation.

According to the most ancient theory, both Matthew and Luke give us the genealogy of St. Joseph ; the former, his legal, the latter his natural genealogy. This legal relationship was the result of a peculiar enactment of the Law of Moses (Deut. 25:5): “When brethren dwell together, and one of them dieth without children, … his brother shall take her, and raise up seed for his brother ; and the first son he shall have of her, he shall call by his name,” etc. In the third century Julius Africanus applied this law to

Joseph, and said that he had the reason for so doing from the relations of our Lord Himself. His statement is this: Estha, the mother of Heli and Jacob, was married successively to Mathan and Melchi; of the former she begot Jacob, of the latter Heli. Jacob and Heli were therefore uterine brothers, of the same mother, but of different fathers. Now Jacob having died childless, Heli married his widow and had for issue, Joseph, who was the natural son of Heli and the legal son of Jacob. As Mathan and Melchi, to whom Estha was successively married, need not have been at all related, it is not wonderful that the two genealogies branch off very divergently without meeting again, save in Zorobabel and Salathiel, till they reach David, through Solomon, on the one side, and Nathan on the other. This interpretation is commonly adopted by the Fathers. As both genealogies, the natural and the legal, were regarded as of the greatest importance among the Jews, it is not strange that the Evangelists give both.

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Matthew Chapter 13

Posted by Dim Bulb on November 14, 2018

ANALYSIS OF MATTHEW CHAPTER 13

In this chapter, our Lord leaving His house, proceeds to the sea shore, where He speaks to the people in parables (Mt 13:1–2). The first is the parable of the sower and the seed (Mt 13:3–8), which parable He Himself explains (Mt 13:18–23). His disciples having asked Him why He spoke in parables to the people, He assigns the cause (Mt 13:9–15), and He also assigns His reason for speaking intelligibly to His disciples, and points out the peculiar blessedness they enjoyed, even beyond the Prophets and just of old (Mt 13:16–18). He then explains the parable of the sower (Mt 13:18–23). He next proposes the parable of the cockle and the good seed (Mt 13:24–31), which He explains, in compliance with the request of His disciples, when alone in the house (Mt 13:36–43). He next proposes the parable of the mustard seed and of the leaven hidden in the baked bread (Mt 13:31–33). In thus discoursing in parables. He fulfilled the ancient prophecies (Mt 13:31–35). He explains the parable of the cockle (Mt 13:36–43). He next speaks of the parables of the hidden treasure, the pearls, and the drag net, and points out the duty of the Apostles, as spiritual teachers, to explain these things hereafter to the people (Mt 13:44–52). We have, next, an account of our Redeemer’s arrival in His native place of Nazareth; of the wonder His teaching and miracles produced among the people; their incredulity, on account of which He did not perform many miracles there.

Mt 13:1. “The same day,” may either mean, the same time, about the period at which the events recorded in the preceding chapter, took place—a sense, in which the word, “day,” is often used in the SS. Scripture—or, taken strictly, the day, or evening of the same day. There being no reason for departing from this strict and literal signification of the word, this latter meaning is preferable.

“Going out of the house,” wherein He lodged at Capharnaum, and in which the message referred to (Mt 12:47), was conveyed to Him.

“Sat by the sea side,” the Sea of Galilee or Lake of Genesareth, near Capharnaum, called “Sea,” par excellence, as being a very large body of water, surrounded, as we are informed, by the most delightful scenery.

Mt 13:2. In consequence of the vast crowds that followed Him from the neighbouring towns and villages to hear His doctrine, our Redeemer retired to the sea coast, and entering a boat, which He used for a pulpit, He addressed the multitudes on the shore.

Mt 13:3. “Many things.” Most likely, He spoke much more than is here recorded. For, if every thing which Jesus did, was written, “the world itself would not be able to contain the books that should be written” (John 21:25).

“In parables.” By a Scripture “parable,” is meant, according to Primate Dixon (“Introduction to SS. Scriptures,” vol 1, Dissert. xii. c. iii), “a continued and well arranged narrative of some possible, but fictitious event, applied to the illustration of some sacred truth.” “Parable” and “Proverb” differ in this: that the former is a continued narrative; the latter is always brief. The former expresses the comparison; in the latter, when a comparison exists, it is only implied. The Greek word for “Parable,” occurs only in the three first Evangelists. St. John, in every instance, terms them, not παραβολαι (parables), but παροιμιαι, (proverbs). Both words are often interchanged and used as convertible terms, and identified. The Hebrew word for both is the same, Marshah. Hence, the Septuagint translators of the Book of Solomon, render it, παροιμιαι, Proverbs; and the same word is afterwards rendered by them, παραβολαι, parables. This latter they did, when there was a comparison expressed, and the narrative longer. “Parable” and “Proverb” are, moreover, identified in this: that both, at least, in their origin, were obscure, and hard to be understood. Again, although a proverb conveys no comparison, it is sometimes, a figurative form of expression. For example, “Desire, when it cometh, is a tree of life.” They resemble each other in this respect also, that, a “proverb” is but a condensed parable; it is the essence and substance, of a parable.

“Of some possible, but fictitious event.” The parables of the New Testament always refer to events, that are in accordance with the laws and ordinary course of Nature; events, that often occurred, and were, probably, in many instances, suggested by what was actually occurring before the eyes of the person who uttered them. Thus, for instance, our Redeemer, in the parable of the “Sower,” might be looking at some sower in an adjoining field.

“Applied to the illustration of some sacred truth.” In this, it differs from a Fable the moral of Which is always intended to illustrate some maxim, of human prudence. The Parable is always intended to illustrate some high spiritual maxims.

The venerable and learned authority already quoted, observes: The Parable appears to bear the same relation to the Simile, that the Allegory bears to the Metaphor; and, hence, in Scripture, the Parable is generally introduced by some such form as, “The kingdom of heaven is like unto,” &c., from which it would appear, that the Parable is but a prolonged Simile.

It was common with the people of the East, and well suited to the natural temperament of Eastern nations, to employ parables for the purpose of conveying and illustrating abstract moral truths. St. Jerome tells us, this was quite usual among the people of Palestine particularly. “Familiare est Syris et maxime Palestinis ad omnem Sermonem suum parabolas jungere” (St. Jerome).

Hence, our Redeemer, accommodating Himself to the prevalent usages and manners of the people, frequently employs parables to convey and illustrate His heavenly doctrines. This method of illustrating moral truths, was attended with many advantages. Besides fixing the attention on the subjects treated of, and of exciting curiosity, it served to impress more vividly on the minds and imaginations of the hearers, the abstract truths illustrated through the medium of sensible images, and of objects familiar to them; and thus served as a most powerful help to memory. It was attended with another advantage—the only one referred to here by our Redeemer—“it protected the sacred Word from the disrespect with which the ill-disposed would have received it, had it been plainly announced” (Dixon, ibidem). “In the explanation of Scripture parables, two things must be principally attended to—1st. That in the parables, persons are not compared with persons, nor the parts of the parable with the parts of the thing signified, but the whole parable is compared with the whole thing which it illustrates. 2ndly. In the interpretation of parables, all things in the parables are not to be applied to the thing signified.… Some things are introduced in the parable, merely for the purpose of rendering the narrative consistent throughout; mere ornaments of the narrative” (loco citato.)

Mt 13:3. (First Parable.) “Saying.” St. Mark (4:3), says, He solicited their attention, saying, “Hear ye; Behold, the sower went forth,” &c. The evident scope of the parable, is to point out the fruit or effect produced by God’s Word—by the same seed, that was scattered on the good and bad soil—according to the different dispositions, whether good or evil, and in several degrees, on the part of the hearers.

Our Redeemer Himself explains the parable, in Mt 13:18-23.

Mt 13:9. As it required great attention to understand this parable; and, moreover, no one could understand it, unless “it was given;” hence, our Lord, as was His wont, in treating of matters of importance, or of obscure and difficult subjects, solicits their attention to whom “it was given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.”

Mt 13:10. “And His disciples came and said to Him.” From St. Mark (4:10), it appears, the disciples did this after our Redeemer had retired to His house, and was alone with them, having sent away the crowds. He had proposed, consecutively, some of the parables recorded here, before He was asked by His disciples to explain the meaning, “Why speakest Thou to them in parables?” and, then, it was He explained them. But, St. Matthew, in his narrative, interrupts the course of the parables, and after narrating that of the sower, he describes, by anticipation, the request of the disciples to have it explained. They, it would seem, proposed a twofold question; 1st. As in this verse, why did He speak to the people in parables? 2nd. What the parable meant. “What this parable might be” (Luke 8:9); “they asked Him the parable” (Mark 4:10). Hence, our Redeemer gives a twofold answer.

Mt 13:11. He answers the first question in this verse. He reserves the answer to the second, for verse 18. It is deserving of remark, that our Redeemer, in His reply, does not assign all His reasons for speaking in parables. There were several reasons of utility for this, not to speak of the peculiar accommodation of parabolic language to the lively and imaginative temperament of the Eastern peoples (Mt 13:3). The reason here assigned by our Redeemer, is simply in reply to the question of His disciples, “Why speakest Thou to them in parables?” Because, to His disciples, and all who believe in Him, “it was given”—which implies, that the knowledge of spiritual truths, and the capacity for understanding them, is the pure gift of God, and comes, not from the strength of nature; but, from God’s holy grace—“to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven;” that is, to have a full knowledge of the hidden kingdom of Christ, and faith in Him. To them were given ears to hear, and holy dispositions to profit by the instructions of our Lord, as their eager inquiries indicated (Mark 4:10).

“But, to them it is not given,” to them who have ears to hear, and hear not, who harden their hearts against the impressions of Divine grace, “it is not given” to know the hidden spiritual truths (“the mysteries”) connected with “the kingdom of heaven;” and, therefore, these truths are not proposed to them in their plain, naked form, as they might and would, reject and spurn them. And so, these pearls are not to be cast before, swine; they must be veiled under the image of parables, to save them from disrespect and profanation. As if He said: To you I speak in plain language; because, to you, who are humble and docile, and glowing with the desire of hearing and understanding, it has been granted, as a singular favour, by the Father of lights, to know, not alone the Evangelical truths, which all should know, and which I, therefore, always expound in the plainest language; but also, “the mysteries,” the secret and admirable dispensations of Providence regarding the progress of the Gospel, as well among Jews as among Gentiles. But to them, most of whom, either disbelieve, or are influenced by idle curiosity, or despise and calumniate My doctrines, this special favour granted to you is not given. It is rather withheld from them by My Father, having proved themselves unworthy of it by their pride, unbelief, and abuse of gifts already bestowed on them.

Mt 13:12. In this verse is conveyed a reason for the foregoing dispensation of giving these gifts to the Apostles, and of withholding them from the others; and, consequently, for His speaking obscurely to the latter class, and plainly to the former (see Mt 25:29).

“That hath,” that makes good use of the gifts he possesses, faithfully corresponds with the graces received, and employs them advantageously, according to the intentions of the original donor. “To him (more, or a further increase of gifts), shall be given, and he shall abound” the more. “But he that hath not,” who neglects to turn to profit or advantage the gifts he has; so that, although possessing them, he might be said, not to have them, as he uses them not, and might as well not have them at all, which is illustrated by “having eyes and seeing not.” “Even that which he hath”—Mt 25:29, it is, “that which he seemeth to have;” and Luke (8:18), “that which he thinketh he hath”—“shall be taken away from him.”

This would seem to be a proverbial form of expression, applied by our Redeemer to His present purpose, as if to convey to us, that what is said commonly to occur, is verified also in regard to the kingdom of heaven.

In this verse is conveyed, that while the knowledge of the mysteries of faith, and assent to them, come from God’s grace, our own free will has a share in meriting, or not meriting, their further increase and extension. “He that hath,” that is, that freely uses and employs. “Hath not,” freely neglects using and properly employing them.

Here, then, the adagial expression means: To you I plainly disclose the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven; because, having faith and a desire of further gifts, you faithfully correspond with God’s designs, and, aided by His grace, you profitably employ the gifts already conferred on you. But to the others, “who are without” (Mark 4:11), who, through their own fault, are devoid of faith, and have no desire of knowing the truth, and of profiting by the grace already bestowed, I speak in an obscure way; for, in punishment of their voluntary abuse of My gifts, they may be classed with those “who have not,” who neglect employing the faculties and gifts bestowed on them. “Hath,” manifestly means, “to use;” and “hath not,” to neglect using, the gifts one possesses; because, there is question here of merited rewards and punishment; and the reward conferred on one, and the punishment inflicted on the other, is founded on the use or neglect of the gifts they respectively possessed.

In the words, “but he that hath not, that also which he bath, shall be taken from him.” “Hath not,” means, uses not. “That also which he hath,” means, actually possesses, viz., the knowledge of Divine things, which he has or seems to have—the preaching of the Gospel—which he has hitherto enjoyed; nay, the very natural light of reason, which he has abused, shall, in punishment of this abuse, be taken from him, so that he shall become blinder and blinder still, and in punishment of his ingratitude, delivered up to a reprobate sense.

Mt 13:13. “Because seeing, they see not,” &c. Because, seeing My miracles, and hearing My heavenly doctrines, they are like men who have not the faculty of seeing or hearing; they have no wish to believe or to understand. “Therefore,” it is, in punishment of their perversity, being unwilling to believe or receive what is clear, they deserve to be addressed in an obscure style of language, which they would not understand.

The words of this verse contain an application to the Jewish multitudes, and an illustration or elucidation, of the general proverbial truths of the preceding verse. The application, in the words, “therefore, I speak to them in parables;” the elucidation, in the words, “because hearing, they hear not, seeing, they see not.”

“Neither do they understand,” is a fuller explanation of “seeing and hearing,” which clearly mean, intellectual seeing and hearing.

In Mark (Mk 4:12), Luke (Lk 8:10), the words are, “that seeing, they may see and not perceive,” &c. This reading is easily explained and reconciled with the reading of St. Matthew here. It is likely, our Redeemer used and meant both forms of expression, so as to intimate that the blindness of this people was partly owing to their own perversity; partly, to the just judgment of God. The word, “that,” expresses, not the end or final cause; but, the consequence or result of their voluntarily closing their eyes. The consequence of their failing and neglecting to profit by God’s grace is, that they are permitted to persevere in the state of blindness and obduracy, in which, we are informed here by St. Matthew, they had been already. In Mark and Luke, is shown how the judgment of taking away is fearfully exercised in the spiritual reprobation of the Jews, who, by Divine permission, are left and abandoned in their blindness and hardness of heart, in punishment of their pride and contempt of grace.

In interpreting this and similar passages, we must utterly abhor the blasphemy of some heretics, who make God the author of sin. In cases of obduracy and impenitence, He, by a just judgment, withdraws His lights and graces, from which the sinner’s obduracy follows as infallibly, as if God had positively blinded and hardened him.

Mt 13:14. “The prophecy of Isaias is fulfilled in them.” The words addressed by Isaias to the men of his own day, have their principal fulfilment in the men of our Redeemer’s time—who were the same people with the Jews who lived in the days of Isaias—and in all others, who at any future period may abuse or neglect the grace of God.

“By hearing, you shall hear,” &c. (Isa 6:9, &c.) The reading is different in Isaias. According to St. Jerome’s version it is: “Go, and thou shalt say to this people: Hearing, hear and understand not; and see the vision, and know it not. Blind the heart of this people, and make their ears heavy,” &c. In this imperative form, found in the original Hebrew, and literally rendered by St. Jerome, the Prophet is commanded to predict the blindness and obduracy of the Jewish people. St. Matthew here follows the Septuagint version, which, for the imperative, employs a future indicative—a thing by no means unusual with the Hebrews—and explains the meaning of the original words of the Prophet. Hence, “by hearing, you shall hear,” the future indicative, properly expresses the meaning of the imperative words, “hearing, hear,” &c., as a prophecy of the blindness and obduracy which would be permitted, by a just judgment of God, to befall the Jewish people, who obstinately refuse to admit our Redeemer’s Divinity, and the truth of His doctrine, in presence of the many splendid miracles He had performed in their midst.

Mt 13:15. “For, the heart of this people is grown gross,” &c., is a clearer expression, according to the Septuagint version, followed by St. Matthew, of the form employed by the Prophet, “blind the heart of this people, and make their ears heavy;” because, the Prophet could not, from himself, blind their hearts any more than he could enlighten them. Hence, he is only told, “Go and say to this people,” &c., that is, to predict that this melancholy result of spiritual blindness was to take place, which the form used by St. Matthew clearly expresses. Such is the force of a command or imprecation addressed by God to a prophet, that it is generally equivalent to a prediction of the event, or of the evil which God, in His anger, permits. Thus we have, “quod facis, fac citius,” “Solvite templum hoc,” &c. The words of this verse, metaphorically refer to the faculties of the soul, viz., the intellect, and the will.

“And with their ears,” &c., is expressed in the imperative, in the original Hebrew.

“And their eyes they have shut,” also expressed imperatively by the Prophet. They merely convey a prophecy of what was to take place.

The Greek word for, “have shut” (εκαμμυσαν), means, to close the eyelids. Hence, according to the reading adopted by St. Matthew, it is the Jews themselves that, by a voluntary act, have closed their eyes, and shut their ears, against the impressions of Divine grace.

“Lest at any time, they should see with their eyes,” &c. Shows their great perversity in refusing the lights and graces of God. They affected ignorance, lest they should give up sin—“noluit intelligere ut bene ageret” (Psa. 35:4). The words, “lest at any time” (μηποτε), signifies, in the Hebrew, lest, perhaps, as they are translated by St. Luke (Acts 28:27).

“And I should heal them.” The Hebrew, is in the third person, “and they should be healed;” or, healing be granted them—“sanatio sit eis.”

Mt 13:16. He pronounces His Apostles happy—in contrast with the wretched men of Capharnaum, the Scribes and Pharisees, cursed with spiritual blindness—because, they not only saw our Redeemer, and His wonderful works, with the eyes of the body, and heard His sacred preaching, as did the incredulous multitude; but, they saw them with the eyes of their mind, by understanding Him. They also believed in His miracles, and the preaching regarding His Divinity, which they heard.

Mt 13:17. He extols the special privileges and happiness enjoyed by His Apostles, by comparing their lot, not only with that of the incredulous Jews; but, with that of the just of old. They were blessed beyond the Jews of their own day; because, they saw, also spiritually, what the others only saw corporally; and beyond the just of old, who only saw by faith, at a distant futurity, what they had the happiness of seeing in person. The Apostles are blessed beyond the Jews, on account of spiritual vision; beyond the Patriarchs, &c., on account of corporal vision. These latter could only salute from afar, the things that were present to the Apostles.

St. Luke (Lk 10:24) has, “Many prophets and kings have desired,” &c.; “Abraham rejoiced that he might see His day” (John 8:56); Jacob “looked for His salvation” (Gen. 49:18). The saints of old yearned for it, and pierced the heavens with their cries—“rorate cœli desuper et nubes pluant justum.” (Isa. 45:8). In this verse, our Redeemer shows the incomparable privilege bestowed on the Apostles; inasmuch, as on them, who were distinguished, neither for exalted rank, nor wisdom, nor justice, were conferred blessings denied to men high in favour with God, remarkable for justice, and clothed with the royal dignity, although anxiously longing to see the Son of God in the flesh.

The words of this verse are by no means opposed to the words, “Blessed are they that have not seen and have believed;” because, in these latter words, the comparison is between those who believe without seeing, and those who, measuring faith by their own vision, believe only the things which they see. The Apostles both saw and believed. Abraham was blessed in believing what he saw not, save at a distant futurity. But the Apostles were still more blessed; because, they clearly saw with the eyes of the body, what he saw only obscurely, at a distance, with the eyes of the mind (Heb. 11:13; 1 Peter 1:10–12).

Mt 13:18. Our Redeemer now answers the second question proposed regarding the meaning of the parable, and points out four different descriptions of hearers. 1. Those hardened in sin. 2. Those who were light-minded, and inconstant in good. 3. Those engrossed with the embarrassments and pleasures of life. 4. Those well disposed to receive the Word. His disciples asked our Lord, “the parable” (Mark 4:10), to whom He replied: “Are you ignorant of this parable? and how shall you know all parables?” (Mark 4:13); that is to say, how shall you be able to understand other and more difficult parables, which it shall be your duty to explain to the people?

Mt 13:19. “When any one heareth the word of the kingdom” of heaven, or of the Gospel, “and understandeth it not,” that is, takes no pains to treasure it up, and by diligent meditation, to bury it deep in his heart, “the wicked one” (ὁ πονηρος) he, who by nature is “wicked”—St. Mark calls him, “Satan;” St. Luke (8:12)—“the devil”—“cometh and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart;” sinners of this description, having been addicted to long and inveterate habits of sin, have their hearts hardened against the impressions of Divine grace. When such sinners hear the Word of God, the devil, this wicked spirit, who dwells in the air, like a foul bird of prey, descends, and waging his fiendish war, by either drawing the attention of this wretched sinner to the objects of former indulgence, and distracting him by presenting a multitude of dissipating thoughts, leaves him no time for reflection on his miserable state; and thus, the fruit which meditation on God’s holy Word might produce, is lost. “This is he that received the seed,” &c., that is, such a person is aptly represented by “the seed” (which fell) “by the way side,” along the hard, beaten path. The seed, which was scattered, “is the Word of God” (Luke 8:11). The soil, or earth on which it fell, is the heart of man. This seed which is, in itself, the same, produces different effects, according to the difference of soil or earth; in other words, according to the difference of dispositions in the hearers. The manifest scope of the parable is to point out that our Lord Himself, is the sower or preacher of His heavenly Word, and that the same Word produces different fruits, according to the dispositions of those who receive it. There are several reasons, or points of analogy, between the Word of God and the seed which is scattered on the earth; and hence the parable is, so far, appropriate. The reading of this verse runs literally thus: “On every one hearing the Word of the kingdom and not understanding it, there cometh,” &c., παντος ακουοντος τον λογον βασιλειας, &c.

“This is he that receiveth the seed,” &c. Literally it is, “this is he that is sown by the way side.” The meaning is well expressed in our version, because “sown” (σπαρεις), means, to receive seed, just as we commonly say of a field, it is sown, or received seed. The meaning is, the seed sown by the road side, and elsewhere, suggests and represents to the mind, such and such hearers of the Word. For, it is not the seed precisely that represents the hearers, but the earth on which the seed, or “Word of God,” falls. This man is represented by the way side or beaten path that received the seed.

Mt 13:2021. “He that receiveth the seed on stony ground,” literally, He that is sown in stony ground (σπαρεις), seminatus (see preceding verse), represented by the stony ground on which the seed was cast. “This is he that heareth the Word, and immediately,” &c. He is delighted with the Word of God, its beauty, its utility, rendering us just here, and happy hereafter. He tastes, to a certain extent, the joy described by the Psalmist, “justitiæ Dominirectæ lætificantes corda,” &c. (Psalm 17:9) This class of men make resolutions without end, and perform acts of fervent devotion; but, they want firm constancy of resolution and perseverance. They are not “firmly rooted and founded in charity” (Ephes. 3:17). But, “it is only for a time,” the Word takes root, or, as Luke has it (Lk 8:13), “they believe for awhile,” just as long as every thing prospers with them, and the shock of tribulation does not reach them; but the moment “tribulation” from within, or from their own household, or “persecution” from public authority, “because of the Word,” that is, in consequence of their having embraced the faith, assails them; the moment their temporal prospects and their earthly enjoyments are affected by their religious professions, and that the cross, which in some shape or other, must be borne by God’s elect, presents itself, then, “he is presently scandalized.” This “tribulation and persecution,” the dread of losing his position, his wealth, his worldly enjoyment, is become for him an occasion of sin, is become a “scandal,” or “stumbling block,” in his way; he deserts the faith, and the course of life which the Word he received pointed out to him. St. Luke (Lk 8:13), expresses it thus: “and in time of temptation they fall away.”

Mt 13:22. He who is represented by the land that received the seed among thorns, is he that not only heard the Word; but, unlike the first class of hearers, understood it; and, like the second class, represented by the stony ground (v. 20), gladly embraced the Word, and was delighted with it. But, as the sight of the cross, tribulation and persecution, turned the second class aside; so, in this third class of hearers, the fruit of the Word, after giving hopes of an abundant return, was destroyed, and prevented from reaching maturity, by the “care of this world;” that is, by excessive anxiety, arising from undue attention to the things of this earth; and by “the deceitfulness of riches.” “Riches” are deceitful; because, instead of conferring the happiness which they seem to promise, they are only the fruitful source of chagrin, bitterness, and sorrow. “They that will become rich, fall into temptations … and many unprofitable and hurtful desires,” &c. (1 Tim. 6:9, &c.)

In St. Mark (Mk 4:19), there are three causes assigned in connexion with “the thorns,” for choking up the Word of God—“cares of the world, deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts after other things.” So, also, in St. Luke (Lk 8:14)—“cares, and riches, and pleasures of life.” To the two causes assigned in this verse by St. Matthew, they add: St. Mark, “the lusts after other things;” St. Luke, “the pleasures of life.” Under these are comprehended, all carnal pleasures and worldly enjoyments prevailing in the world. The same is expressed by St. John, who traces all sin to “the concupiscence of the flesh, the concupiscence of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 John 2:16).

St. Luke has, “and going their way, are choked,” &c., that is, following after riches, &c., they are choked by them, or, “going their way,” might mean, being impelled and driven on by riches, &c.

Mt 13:23. It is remarked, that as there is a threefold class of hearers, who receive the Word of God without fruit; so, there is also a threefold class who derive fruit in different degrees from it, according to the difference of dispositions with which they receive it. St. Luke makes no difference of degree. He only says of the good class, “that in a good, and very good heart, hearing the Word, they keep it, and bring forth fruit in patience;” εν ὑπομονη, in patience, means, the patient expectation of reaping fruit in due time. Similar is the phrase, “in patientia vestra, possidebitis animas vestras,” that is, by their patient endurance of evil, long-suffering, &c.

St. Luke distinguishes this deserving class very pointedly from the three preceding classes. Unlike the first, out of whose hearts the devil takes the word, this class “keep it.” Unlike the second, who receive it on a rock; this class receive it “in a good, and very good heart.” Unlike the third, who, receiving it “in thorns,” “yield no fruit;” this class “bring forth fruit in patience” (Mt 8:15).

“Yieldeth one, an hundred fold; and another, sixty,” &c. This difference of yield corresponds with the perfection, greater or less, of those who receive the Word; for, the fruit shall be proportioned to the dispositions of the hearers, and also to the perfection of the state they may have embraced. Hence, St. Jerome, here and Epistle to Ageruchia; St. Athanasius (Epist. ad Anman), assign the hundredth fruit to virgins; the sixtieth, to continent widows; the thirtieth, to chaste nuptials. St. Augustine assigns the hundredth to martyrs; sixtieth, to virgins; and thirtieth, to the married. By “fruit,” some understand good works, which remain, and are persevered in till the time of harvest—unlike the works of those who fall off, on account of persecution, or, owing to the thorns of care and worldly anxiety. Others understand by it, the fruit of merit, to be reaped in the life to come. Likely, it means both.

Mt 13:24. (Second Parable.) In the foregoing parable, our Lord conveys, that the Gospel seed does not always produce fruit in the hearers; that three-fourths of the seed produced no fruit at all, on account of the soil on which it fell. Only a fourth part, that fell on good soil, was productive. He now proposes another parable, closely connected with the subject of the foregoing. In this parable of “the cockle” He wishes to inform us, that even on the good soil—God’s Church—not all are good or virtuous. The good are sometimes mixed with hypocrites and wicked men; that the good seed which produced such abundant fruit, referred to, in the preceding verse, is not always free from weeds, which are sometimes mixed up with it.

“The kingdom of heaven,” viz., the Church of Christ, “is likened to a man that sowed good seed,” &c. The kingdom of heaven is not precisely like the man who sows seed. The meaning of this and similar forms of expression is: Something happens in regard to the kingdom of heaven, similar to what follows, &c.; and in reference to the present example, this is clearly expressed by St. Mark (Mk 4:26), “So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the earth.” In the application of parables to the principal subject, which they are intended to illustrate, it is neither necessary, nor, sometimes, expedient, to apply all the parts of the parable to the parts of the subject of illustration; but, only the whole subject, or, rather, the principal parts, of the parable, to the whole subject to be illustrated; since, there are several parts of the parable that have no signification or force whatever in the mind of the speaker, and are introduced for ornament’s sake, and for the purpose of rendering the narrative in the parable complete, consistent, and true to nature throughout, in regard to the, literal and original texture of the parable itself. The parts of the parable to be applied can be easily seen from the scope of those who employ it, and from the context. Thus, we see that in the explanation and application of this parable of the cockle, by our Blessed Lord (Mt 13:37), at the earnest prayer of His Apostles, He says nothing whatever of the servants, who wished to pluck up the cockle, and gather it up, nor of the sleep of the husbandman, during which the enemy sowed the cockle, &c.; because, probably, these parts had nothing to do with the main object He had in view in introducing the parable.

Mt 13:25. “But while men were asleep,” simply means, during the darkness of the night, when the world is at rest. Others understand it, of the indolent neglect of the pastors of the Church. “His enemy came.” The sower of the good seed was the first to sow the seed in his field, and this in the light of day; the enemy came furtively in the night, to sow cockle over it, where the good seed had been previously sown.

Mt 13:26. When the good seed was on the point of maturity, the cockle appeared.

Mt 13:27. Who “the servants” are, our Redeemer does not say, in His exposition of the parable; probably, because this did not fall within the general scope of the parable, but was introduced merely to fill up the parabolical narrative.

By “servants,” some understand, the angels (St. Jerome). Others, with St. Augustine, understand by them, good men, zealous in the cause of justice.

Mt 13:28. “Wilt thou?” &c., shows the zeal of the servants of God, who would have no wicked men in the world, nor cockle in the field of the Lord.

Mt 13:29. Our Lord restrains their zeal, lest, in the indiscriminate destruction of the wicked, the good also should suffer. From the words of this verse, it by no means follows, that the disseminators of false doctrines, or of wicked principles, should be permitted, whenever there is power to restrain them, to circulate their false and wicked principles, without hindrance or punishment. All that follows from this passage is, that no persons are warranted, of their own private authority, to punish such men, any more than they are permitted to punish evil-doers, in other respects, of their own authority. But those vested with public authority are not prohibited, for the general good, to visit transgressors, whether against faith or morals, with due punishment. The laws of all civilized and Christian states punish gross violations of the moral law. Moreover, we are not to apply to the subject all the parts of a parable. But, even supposing this part were applied, all that would follow is, that, in general, the wicked of all classes, are to be tolerated and permitted to live among the good. Besides, so far as the reason assigned here, by the father of the family, is concerned, the toleration towards them holds only when there is any doubt about them, and they are not manifestly guilty, and distinguishable from the good; but whenever their guilt is so manifest, that such people have no defenders, and there can be no fear of evil consequences, then, so far as the reason assigned here is concerned, there is nothing against extirpating and punishing the incorrigible and perverse enemies of religion and society; and this particularly holds when the punishment of miscreants, who scatter broadcast principles subversive of all order, of civil society, as well as of religion, is necessary for the preservation of the good seed.

Mt 13:30. This verse is fully explained by our Lord Himself, (Mt 13:39-40, &c.) He explains the parable of the cockle (Mt 13:37–43).

Mt 13:37. The sower is our Redeemer Himself, who, while on earth, preached the Word, and now employs the ministry of His servants for the same end.

Mt 13:38. “The field is the world,” by which some understand, the Church, extended all over the earth; but, as “the children of the wicked one,” most probably include heretics, who are not in the Church, hence, it may be better to understand the word in its strict literal signification, unless it might be said in reply, that it only includes private heretics who are not distinguishable from the true believers.

“The good seed, the children of the kingdom,” viz., those who are destined for eternal life—those who observe the law of faith and morals. “The cockle, the children of the wicked one”—the devil, those who do his works, wicked works whether against faith or morals. Some understand, by “the children of the kingdom,” all believers, whether elect or not;—thus it is said of “the children of the kingdom” elsewhere, that they shall be cast “into outer darkness”—and, by “the children of the wicked one,” heretics.

Mt 13:40. As the cockle is gathered up, so the wicked shall be “bound in bundles”—the heretics with heretics, the unjust with unjust, the unclean with the unclean, &c., and cast into hell fire.

Mt 13:41. “All scandals,” i.e., scandalous sinners, and those who commit every other species of iniquity. The application of the parable is briefly this: The Son of man has, both by Himself and His servants, placed in this world, as in His field, men pre-ordained for eternal life. But, the devil—the sworn enemy of the human race—has sown in their midst, and shall continue to do so, wicked men, placing them in the midst of the just, who, although unworthy of the society of the just, are still to be tolerated, until God, at the end of the world, shall cause the final separation, devoting the one class to eternal misery, rewarding the other with eternal glory.

Mt 13:42. “Weeping and gnashing of teeth,” is explained by some, of the extremes of heat and cold, as if this “gnashing of teeth” were caused by sudden transitions from one extreme to the other. The words are commonly understood to refer to hell. The words may be regarded as expressive of extreme torture of any kind. “Gnashing of teeth,” expressive of rage. Thus (Acts 7:54), the rage of the Jews is expressed in the words, “they gnashed with their teeth at Him.”

Mt 13:43. The incomparable happiness and glory of the Elect is clearly signified by the brightness of the sun. This glory, however, shall vary with the diversity of merits (1 Cor. 15:39–41). Our Redeemer had, probably, in view the words of the Prophet Daniel (Dan 12:3), “they that instruct many unto justice, shall shine as stars,” &c.

“He that hath ears,” &c. Our Redeemer employs this form of words to convey, that the subject treated of intimately concerns His hearers.

Mt 13:31. (Third Parable.) This is the place to explain, in order, the words of St. Mark (Mk 4:26), where the third parable uttered by our Redeemer, is recorded.

“So is the kingdom of heaven,” that is, something happens in regard to “the kingdom of heaven;” or, to the preaching of the Gospel, “as if a man should cast seed into the earth” (Mark 4:26), “and should sleep and rise, night and day,” devoting himself to other matters, whether appertaining to rest or labour, he would sleep at night, and rise to his usual avocations in the day; and the seed would grow up, whilst the sower had no thought or concern about its growth.

“Sleep and rise,” are understood by some, of the “seed,” which would “sleep,” by being committed to the earth, and afterwards “rise,” that is, grow up day and night, whilst the sower never thinks of it. However, the words, more probably, refer to the husbandman, as explained above, the word, “sleep,” having reference to “night,” and “rise” to the “day.” “For the earth itself” (Mark 4:28), without any further culture from the husbandman, but not exclusive of other concurring causes, e.g., sun, rain, and God Himself, “bringeth forth fruit,” &c.

“And when the fruit is brought forth” (Mark 4:29). The Greek for, “is brought forth” (παραδοῖ), means, “brings forth,” in which case, “fruit” may be understood of the grain, itself the fruit of a former sowing; or, if the word, “fruit,” be understood of the present grain springing forth from the seed sown, then, “brings forth,” will have the meaning given in our version, “is brought forth;” or, “brings forth,” manifests and shows itself.

Our Blessed Redeemer does not Himself explain this and the following parables, as He had been graciously pleased to do in regard to the two preceding ones. However, the parable manifestly points out to us, that in the work of preaching the Gospel, we should not be cast down by any apparent want of success in our labours. The labour is ours, but the increase must come from God; and, like the natural fruits of the earth, it is only in time we can expect the spiritual fruit, for which, like the husbandman, we must patiently wait, until God shall be pleased to bestow the fertile influences of “the early and the latter rain” (James 5:7). As the seed committed to the earth imperceptibly springs up, even when the husbandman is not thinking of it; so, does the Word of God, committed to a heart disposed for its reception, imperceptibly shoot forth, whilst the preacher has no thought whatever regarding it. Again, as the seed successively produces the ear, the stalk, &c.; so does the Word of God gradually bring about the full fruit of salvation, in the hearer disposed to profit by it. Holy desires, disrelish for the vanities of the world, feelings of compunction, faith in God, and hope in His promises, may be called the stalk. Good works, victory of the soul over her passions, and over the temptations of the devil, the ear; perseverance in grace and charity, the full corn in ear; and, finally, a happy death, and the enjoyment of bliss, are the putting in of the sickle, and the final gathering in of the harvest (Mauduit and Rutter).

Mt 13:31. (Fourth Parable.) This is the fourth parable, which in St. Mark (4:30), is thus introduced: “To what shall we liken the kingdom of God? or to what parable shall we compare it?”

The spread of the Church, and the Gospel doctrine—the meaning of, “kingdom of heaven”—is, “like to a grain of mustard seed,” &c.

Mt 13:32. “Which is indeed the least of all seeds.” There are some smaller seeds. The words mean, it is one of the least of all seeds. It is quite a common form of expression, when speaking of something small, to speak of it in the superlative, and to say of it, it is the least, or, a very small, thing. “But when it is grown up, it is greater than all herbs.” In hot countries, the mustard seed grows into a small tree, exceeding in height the human stature (Lucas Brugensis), “so that the birds of the air come and dwell,” that is, perch, “in the branches thereof.” The Greek word, κατασκηνοῦν, would convey the idea, of nestling, or fixing their abode. But the word, “dwell,” may mean, to rest, or perch, on the branches.

The parable of the mustard seed, exhibits the great virtue and active efficacy of the Gospel doctrine. It was a proverbial kind of saying among the Jews, when they spoke of anything very small, to compare it to a mustard seed. The parable of the mustard seed is not explained by our Divine Redeemer. We are left to explain it ourselves. The holy Fathers understand it, of the spread of the faith and of the Gospel. It exhibits to us also the great virtue and active efficacy of the Gospel doctrine. This doctrine of the Gospel, whereby the Church was founded, and gathered together, was, from a human point of view, the meanest and most contemptible of all other doctrines, whether we regard the subjects it propounded—the mysterious doctrines of original sin, and the other mysteries impervious to human reason—its maxims so opposed to flesh and blood; or, its original Founder, a crucified Man, the preaching of whose Divinity scandalized the Jews, and made the Gentiles cry, “folly;” or, the instruments employed in its propagation—a few illiterate, ignorant fishermen, without knowledge, station, or influence, who were to combat the wisdom of the philosopher, and the eloquence of the rhetorician; and yet, notwithstanding these obstacles, humanly speaking, insuperable, this small grain of mustard seed, after being some time buried in the earth, extended itself far and wide, encircling the habitable globe, covering, with its ample shade, the great ones of the world; those elevated above their fellows in learning, such as the philosophers; in power and station, such as kings and princes. Or, “birds,” may rather signify those elevated souls, whose aspirations tended aloft towards the happiness of heaven. This Gospel doctrine, after extending itself to the entire earth, produced numberless saints, out of all conditions of life, who exhibited the most striking examples of heroic virtue; so that the Church, propagated by this doctrine, far exceeds, in point of extent, permanency, and splendour, every sect existing in this world (Mauduit).

This parable represents the increase of the Church, by means of the Gospel doctrine. For, the Church—“the kingdom of heaven”—like to a grain of mustard, the least of seeds, which grows into a tree, was first very small when planted by Christ on earth; but, glowing with charity, it became a great tree, like that described by Daniel (4:7).

Mt 13:33. (Fifth Parable.) This parable has the same scope and object as the preceding. It shows the great and active efficacy of the Gospel doctrine, and the wonderful spread of the Church, from very small beginnings. The word, “leaven,” is often taken in a bad sense in Scripture. (Mark 8; Gal. 5; 1 Cor. 5) On account of its different properties of infecting the thing with which it is mixed up, it is susceptible of a good or bad signification. Hence, it is taken sometimes, as here, in a good signification.

“Which a woman took and hid.” It was the women that baked bread among the Jews (Lev. 26:26)

“In three measures”—“in tribus satis.” What quantity each of these measures in question contained, we cannot precisely know, as we have no corresponding measures. It was the seah of the Jews, the third part of an epha, containing, probably, about ten pints, the ordinary quantity baked at a time (Gen. 18:6).

The scope of the parable is to convey, that as the leaven, however small in quantity, affects the entire mass of the flour with which it is mixed, and fermenting the dough by its activity, makes it rise and become more savoury, so as to become wholesome nutriment for man; so, in like manner, the Gospel doctrine, however humble in its accompaniments, preached by a few fishermen, and embraced at first by only the lowly and the humble, shall, by its occult power, change and ferment the entire world, or whole human race, and, imbuing them with its own nature, and filling them with the love of God, shall make them fit subjects for heaven. As the preceding parable denoted the external and visible effects of the Gospel on the hearts of men; so does this, most probably, denote its internal and invisible effects, its fermentation and the active love of God, which it produces in the heart of man.

By the “woman,” referred to here, St. Jerome understands, the Church gathered from all nations. St. Augustine (Lib. 1, quest. Evan.), the power and wisdom of God.

Mt 13:34. “Spoke in parables,” to which Mark adds (Mk 4:33), “according as they were able to hear,” which, by some, is understood to mean, according as they were worthy of instruction. For, as the Scribes and Pharisees listened solely with the view of catching Him in His words; He, therefore, on account of their unworthiness, spoke to them in an obscure way; otherwise, they would have derived detriment, rather than profit, from His words, and would have treated them disrespectfully. This is in accordance with Mt 13:12.

Others give the words a favourable interpretation. He accommodates Himself to the capacity of the simple people, by proposing, under the images of things with which they were conversant in their daily course of life, His abstruse doctrines, which they could not otherwise comprehend; and this form of conveying ideas in parables would stimulate the people to seek, from competent persons, the meaning of what they heard. According to this interpretation, another reason is assigned for the use of parables, quite different from that assigned Mt 13:12.

“And without parables He did not speak to them,” may mean, that, generally speaking, parabolic language was mixed up with all the addresses of our Redeemer to the multitude; or the words may mean, that, on that occasion, at that time, He did not speak to them except in parables. For, on many other occasions, He discoursed to them in the simplest literal language. St. Mark says, “but apart He explained all things to His disciples,” as if to show, that all things our Redeemer then spoke to the multitude were in parables, requiring explanation, which was given to the disciples. In truth, parabolic language was not the mode of instruction ordinarily employed by our Redeemer.

Mt 13:35. The result of our Redeemer’s addressing the people in parables was: that He fulfilled, and verified what was spoken by the Prophet mystically in his sacred Person. The Prophet, while primarily referring to the events recorded in the Psalm, represented Christ, and spoke, in His Person, in a mystical and still more recondite sense—the sense principally intended by the Holy Ghost—of the great blessings bestowed on the human race by the Gospel and the great work of Redemption.

“I will open my mouth,” a Hebrew form, for, “I will speak,” denoting, at the same time, some obscure and important subject, “in parables.” “I will utter things hidden from the foundation,” &c. The Septuagint of Psalm 78, to which reference is made, runs thus: “I shall utter problems from the beginning.” The Hebrew has, “I shall utter enigmata (chidoth) from of old.” The words, problems and enigmata, which the Vulgate renders “propositiones,” have their meaning well conveyed in our version, “things hidden;” for, both problems and enigmata, and parables, agree in this: that they contain and suggest some obscure and latent meaning besides what the words literally express; and, then, “from the beginning,” is well expressed in the words, “from the foundation of the world.” These mysteries of grace and glory, revealed by Christ to His Church, were known to but few from creation. This is well expressed by the Apostle (Rom. 16:25; Eph. 3:1).

The 78th Psalm, whoever was its author, whether spoken, in the first instance, in the person of David himself, or in that of Asaph, in its primary and literal sense, commemorated the benefits of God bestowed on the Hebrew people, “from the beginning,” from the first time He set them apart as His chosen inheritance, and from their egress out of Egypt—which is specially mentioned in this Psalm (Ps 78:12-13)—to the time of David himself. This was done with the view of inspiring them with feelings of love and gratitude to God. But, in their mystical and more recondite sense—the sense principally intended by the Holy Ghost—the Psalm referred to the great benefits conferred by our Blessed Lord—of whom the Prophet exhibited a type—in the New Law, and to the chief features of His providential dealings with the human race. Indeed, it may be said, that, as “all things happened”—that ancient people—“in figure” (1 Cor. 10:6), the events recorded in Psalm 77 and the blessings there commemorated, from their egress out of Egypt, to the days of David, were so many types of the blessings conferred on the spiritual Israel of the New Law; and in recording these, the Prophet or Psalmist announced parables, in the general acceptation of the term.

Mt 13:36. He returned to His house at Capharnaum, which He left that day for the purpose of proceeding to the sea side. “The parable of the cockle in the field,” was the most abstruse, and contained the heaviest menaces. Hence, this is mentioned in particular.

Mt 13:37–43 This passage has been already explained after verso 30 (which see).

Mt 13:44. “The kingdom of heaven,” or, doctrine of the Gospel, “is like unto a treasure hidden in a field,” like unto such valuable effects as men bury in the bowels of the earth in troubled times, for greater security. “He goeth,” that is, cautiously leaves it hidden, as he found it, or hides and conceals the fact of his having found it, “and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath and buyeth that field.”

As the preceding parables point out the force and efficacy of the Gospel doctrine, this parable of “the treasure,” and the following, of “the pearls,” show the priceless value of the same doctrine. In both parables, we are reminded of the great sacrifices we are called upon to make, if necessary, to secure the incomparable advantage of being sharers in the blessing of the Gospel, compared with which all the goods and acquisitions of this transitory world are but dross and ordure (Phil. 3:7–8). “He hideth,” in reference to the Gospel privileges, signifies, that the man in question employs every possible means to guard against the loss of this priceless blessing. “And buys that field.” By the Jewish law, a treasure belonged by right to the actual proprietor of the soil. To this, these words are allusive.

Mt 13:45-46. (Seventh Parable.) Unlike the preceding parable, wherein, a man is supposed, without any exertions of his own, to have unexpectedly fallen in with a treasure, which God in His goodness made known to him, in this parable of the pearls, are insinuated the difficulties, the dangers and the perils which the merchant had to encounter in order to find the Gospel truth. If necessary, everything is to be sacrificed for it. “He sold all that he had and bought it.” Qui non renunciaverit omnibus quæ possidet non potest esse meus discipulus.” We frequently find the truths of God compared to the most valuable of human acquisitions, viz., pearls and precious stones, “desiderabilia super aurum et lapidem pretiosum.” “Dilexi mandata tua super aurum et topazion,” &c.

Mt 13:47. (Eighth Parable.) “The kingdom of heaven,” the Gospel doctrine, or, probably, the Church militant here below, “is like to a net (a drag net) cast into the sea.” The Church is cast into this troubled, boisterous, stormy world, in which men are daily exposed and shipwrecked.

“And gathering together of all kinds of fishes.” In the Church are found every description of persons, whether bond or free, rich or poor, from every quarter of the globe—saints and sinners—not that any are saints before entering the Church, as the fishes are good before caught in the net. The Parable is not, in this respect, to be urged aa vivum; it only is meant, that in the net, after they have entered it, are found good and bad, saints and sinners.

Mt 13:48. “When filled.” When at the end of the world, “the fulness of the Gentiles shall have entered.” This parable exhibits the capacity and amplitude—the Catholicity of the Church—as the net, the whole Church, takes in the entire world. The parable was introduced for the twofold purpose of removing any grounds of surprise at seeing sinners and wicked men in the Church; as even in the best constituted kingdoms we find thieves, murderers, &c.; and of cautioning us against feeling too secure, because we are members of the Church, which includes sinners as well as saints, reprobates as well as elect.

Note.—Of the preceding parables, some are said to be spoken before the crowd (v. 36). Hence, it is inferred by certain commentators, that the others were not; and that they were spoken privately before the disciples. By other commentators, it is supposed that all were spoken in immediate succession and at the same time. There is no satisfactory evidence for supposing, that some were spoken privately, and some publicly before the multitudes.

Mt 13:51. Our Redeemer proposes this question, in order that the answer He was sure to receive would furnish a fitting opportunity of imparting the following points of instruction.

Mt 13:52. “Therefore,” as you understand the things I have spoken, I wish you to bury them up in your hearts and intellects, so that as learned teachers, you may give them utterance in due time, and not keep them within yourselves. I wish, then, to inform you, that “every Scribe,” that is, teacher versed in the law, “instructed in the kingdom of heaven,” or, as the Greek has it, “into the kingdom of heaven” instructed for teaching and preaching the mysteries and truths relating to the kingdom of heaven. He uses the word “scribe,” when speaking of an Evangelical teacher, in accordance with the language of the Jews. “Is like to a householder,” a provident householder, who produces from his stores all kinds of food and viands, new and old, to suit and satisfy the palate and appetite of his several guests.

The preacher of the Gospel must, then, be prepared to employ examples of all sorts, taken both from the Old Testament and the New; and bring to bear varied knowledge, derived from all legitimate sources, cultivated and perfected by daily meditation and spiritual exercises, in instructing the people. He is sure to make an ever-lasting impression, if he elucidate and confirm his teaching, and make abstract truths almost tangible by examples derived from the New Testament, and prefigured by the Old, as also by the judicious selections of examples drawn from the lives of the saints. There is hardly any point so important for preachers, as the judicious use of appropriate examples. Our Redeemer wishes to stimulate His Apostles to follow the example of preaching which He Himself had set them.

Mt 13:53. “From thence,” that is, from His house at Capharnaum, where He resided and delivered the preceding explanations to His disciples.

Mt 13:54. “And coming into His own country.” St. Luke (Lk 4:16) says, it was Nazareth, where He was brought up, and, moreover, it was only at Nazareth the people knew His former occupation, habits of life, family and relatives (v. 55). The order of narrative followed by St. Matthew is preferred by many commentators. Others (among them St. Augustine), follow the order of St. Mark (4), Luke (8), both of whom inform us, that after proposing the preceding parable to the multitude, our Redeemer passed into the country of the Gerasens; and St. Mark (Mk 4:35) says, that “on that day, when evening was come, He said: Let us pass over to the other side.” However, it may be said in reply, by the advocates of the former opinion, that from St. Mark (Mk 4:10) it is clear, the twelve Apostles were with Him, when He spoke the parables. Now, Matthew—one of the twelve—was not called, till after He crossed over to the country of the Gerasens, as appears from Matthew (8 and 9) Hence, the parables were not uttered till after that event, and the words of St. Mark, just quoted, “that day,” will only mean, as St. Luke has it, “on a certain day” (Lk 8:22), or about that time, in illo tempore.

St. Luke (4), according to St. Augustine, narrates, by anticipation, the arrival of our Lord at Nazareth, as is clear from the words, “quanta audivimus facta in Capharnaum” (Mt 4:23), whereas, at this time He performed no miracles at Capharnaum or anywhere else. Hence, St. Luke records this event by anticipation, because the prophecy read by him in the synagogue from Isaias (Luke 4:18), perfectly accorded with the descent of the Holy Ghost upon him, which St. Luke records as having occurred previously (3:22), and indeed, it was a fitting preparation for the work of preaching the Gospel, which St. Luke commences to narrate.

“He taught them in their synagogues.” Luke (Lk 4:17), says He explained the prophecy of Isaias (Isa 41:17). “Synagogues,” the plural for the singular; as it is most likely, there was only one synagogue at Nazareth. Or, it might mean, that He taught each Sabbath at their synagogue meetings.

“Wisdom,” shown in His eloquence and reasoning. “Miracles.” St. Mark says (Mk 6:5), He wrought some miracles among them, but, “not many,” as we are told here (Mt 13:58). “Wisdom,” in what He said. “Power,” in what He did.

Mt 13:55. “Carpenter’s son?” Jesus was reputed to be the son of Joseph. He is Himself called a carpenter. “Is not this the carpenter?” (Mark 6:3) The Greek for “carpenter,” τεκτων, simply means, a craftsman, or workman, whether in wood, iron, gold, &c. But, the common opinion has always been, that St. Joseph was a carpenter, a worker in wood. Hence, Theodoret relates (Lib. iii. c. 8), that on a certain Sophist, Libanius, scornfully asking a pious Christian of his day, “what the carpenter’s son was doing?” he received for answer, “He is making a coffin for Julian.” The wretched imperial apostate wanted it soon after. Transfixed mortally, by an arrow of a flying Parthian, he was obliged to cry out in despair, “Vicisti Galilee.” His coffin was finished. It is likely, our Lord Himself had worked in holy Joseph’s workshop, during the thirty years of His hidden life at Nazareth. Hence, the Nazarites question, “Is not this the carpenter,” and “the carpenter’s son?”

“And His brethren James, and Joseph, and Simon, and Jude.” “His brethren”—the children of Mary of Cleophas, sister of the Blessed Virgin, were, according to the usual style of Scripture, called “brethren,” that is, cousins or near relations, of the Redeemer.

St. Mark has it (Mk 6:3), “Is not this the carpenter, the Son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joseph, and Jude, and Simon?” Now, these brethren of our Lord were not, by any means, the sons of the Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph; but the sons of a certain Cleophas, by another Mary. For James, one of the four, is called James of Alpheus (Matt. 10:3; Mark 3:18); and their mother is called “Mary, the mother of James (the less), and Joseph” (Matt. 27:56; Mark 15:40). The same Mary is called, Mary of Cleophas (John 19:25). Hence, it is clear the “brethren” of our Lord are His cousins or relations. Thus, Lot, Abraham’s nephew, is called “his brother” (Gen. 13:8), and Laban, Jacob’s uncle, is called his brother also (Gen. 29:15).

Mt 13:56. “His sisters,” either on the side of Joseph, His reputed father, or of His mother. That they were poor, and unable to impart any learning or power to our Lord, is here manifestly insinuated. Hence, the question, “Whence therefore hath He all these things?” Mary, the mother of these “brethren,” who was sister, that is, cousin of the Blessed Virgin, is called “Mary of Cleophas” (John 19), by which some understand, the daughter of Cleophas; others, the wife of Cleophas. Of these latter, some maintain, that this Mary was twice married, first to Alpheus, of whom she conceived James and Joseph—hence, James is called, “of Alpheus”—and after his death, to Cleophas, of whom she conceived Simon and Jude (St. Thomas). Others say, that Alpheus and Cleophas referred to the same person, both names being derived from the same common Hebrew root. (Vide Patrizzi, Lib. iii. ix. 13)

Some commentators think that Alpheus was brother of St. Joseph, in which case, these would be “brethren,” or cousins of our Redeemer on His reputed father’s side as well as on His mother’s side. In SS. Scripture, the words, brother and sister, a taken in a very extended sense (as above). The Blessed Virgin, according to tradition, was the only child of Joachim and Anne. Hence, Mary, the mother of these, was not her sister, as some would fain have it. St. John Damascene speaks of St. Anne as having been for a long time barren; and like Anna, the mother of Samuel, of having obtained by prayer the daughter who gave birth to the Son of God. It was by no means customary among the Jews to call two sisters by the same name. Hence, apart from other reasons, the utter improbability, that Mary of Cleophas was sister of the Blessed Virgin by Joachim and Anne. (See Patrizzi, Lib. iii. c. ix)

Mt 13:57. “Scandalized in His regard.” They took occasion of offence and unbelief from the lowness of His extraction, His humble occupation, the poverty of His relatives, &c. They knew He never learned letters. “How can this man know letters, having never learned?” (John 8) Hence, their unbelief, their spiritual ruin, and reprobation, “They were scandalized.”

“A prophet is not without honour,” &c. This was a celebrated adage, common among the Jews. Though generally true, it sometimes admits of exceptions, as in the case of John the Baptist, Isaias, Elias, Daniel, &c., who were honoured by their countrymen. It is, however, generally true, for which various reasons are assigned: such as the jealous feelings of envy among one’s fellow citizens; again, familiarity is apt to beget contempt, both from a close inspection of human imperfections, and also, because what is foreign, and what comes from afar, is more apt to be prized and admired by mankind, than what is domestic and easily procured.

Mt 13:58. “And He wrought not many miracles,” &c. Our Redeemer was wont to work miracles to confirm the faith of those who believed and sought for them, but not to gratify the curiosity of the incredulous. On this account it was, that He wrought so few miracles among the people of Nazareth, on account of their scornful and obstinate unbelief. Hence, St. Mark (Mk 6:5), “He could not do any miracles there, only that He cured a few,” &c., meaning, that He did not wish to work miracles; and, that it was not meet for Him to do so, as they had not faith; and, such miracles would only add to their responsibility, and deepen their damnation. Hence, in His mercy. He refrained from performing wonders among them.

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Matthew Chapter 12

Posted by Dim Bulb on November 14, 2018

ANALYSIS OF MATTHEW CHAPTER 12

In this chapter, we have an account of how our Lord’s disciples, passing through the ripe cornfields, plucked a few ears, to appease hunger, which gives an occasion to the Pharisees to accuse them of violating the Sabbath (Mt 12:1–2). Our Lord vindicates their mode of acting, on several grounds—on the ground of necessity, as illustrated by the conduct of David (Mt 12:4–5); on the ground of their ministering to their Lord, which would justify a material departure from the law, in regard to what would be necessary for that purpose, as in the case of the priests sacrificing on the Sabbath; on the ground of being engaged in acts of the greatest spiritual mercy, which should be preferred to any external observances (Mt 12:6–7); on the ground of being dispensed by Him, the Sovereign Lord of all things (Mt 12:8). He cures a man with a withered hand, and triumphantly vindicates His line of acting, against the malevolence of the Pharisees (Mt 12:9–13). Returning to the sea-side, He performs several cures, and charges the persons cured to say nothing of it; thus, by His meekness and humility, fulfilling the prophecy of Isaias regarding Him (Mt 12:14–21). He cures a deaf and dumb demoniac, and elicits the admiration of the people, which provokes the Pharisees to blasphemy, when charging Him with communication and collusion with Satan (Mt 12:22–24). Our Redeemer, knowing their thoughts on this subject, shows the utter absurdity of charging Him with collusion with Satan. This He shows on several grounds (Mt 12:25–30). He points out the grievous nature of the blasphemy they were guilty of (Mt 12:31–32), the inconsistency of their judgments, their evil dispositions (Mt 12:34–35), and the severe account they were to render one day for their sinful words (Mt 12:36–37). His reply to the Scribes, demanding a still greater proof of His power, and the heavy judgments of condemnation in reserve for them (Mt 12:38–42). He next points out the wretched spiritual condition of the Pharisees, and the misfortunes sure to overtake them. To illustrate this, He applies to them the example of the wretched man, into whom a troop of devils re-enter, after having been before banished from his heart (Mt 12:43–45). We have an account of a message sent Him by His Blessed Mother, and relatives who came from Nazareth to Capharnaum to see Him, and His description of the spiritual relationship, which He most prized, of which His immaculate Mother was the most perfect type and pattern (Mt 12:46–50).

Mt 12:1. “At that time.” This form of words is frequently found in the Gospels, to refer, in merely a general way, to the period of our Redeemer’s preaching and public mission, without specifying any particular time, or marking out any connected order of events. From Mark (2) and Luke (6) it seems quite clear, that the events recorded here by St. Matthew, occurred before the mission of the Apostles (10).

“Went through the corn,” that is, the corn-fields, where the corn was ripe for the sickle.

“On the Sabbath.” The word, “Sabbath,” literally means, rest, in allusion to the rest of God, after perfecting the works of creation. (Heb. 4) It commonly denotes the seventh day, specially appointed, in the Jewish law, to be kept holy, and free from servile works of any kind (Ex 35:3). It also was intended to denote all feasts among the Jews, and was employed, too, to designate the entire week. Hence, the words, first, second, third, &c., days of the Sabbath.

Here, the word would seem to be taken in its strict signification, as denoting the seventh day of the week, which, by a perpetual law, whether from creation, or, at least, from the time of Moses, was appointed to be kept “holy.” That it refers not to the great festivals, or the days of the week, seems very probable, from the fact, that it was allowed, on these festival days, to prepare meat, &c.; and, hence, the Pharisees would have no ground for accusing our Redeemer’s disciples, which, with all their malice, they would hardly do, if the letter of the law was not infringed upon; and, although our Redeemer’s reply does not expressly admit, that the letter of the Jewish law was violated by His disciples.—He does not openly say, that pulling of ears of corn was a servile work,—still, it indicates that His disciples did what was justified only by the necessity of the case. It was only on the Sabbath, strictly so called, such mode of acting was unlawful.

St. Luke lk (6:1), terms it, “the second first Sabbath.” What this “second first” means is much disputed. Some understand by it, a Sabbath on which another great festival had fallen, or with which such a festival concurred. So that it was doubly solemn—doubly a day of rest. “Secundo,” i.e., bis primum (St. Chrysostom). And, as it was a time when the ears of corn were ripe, it must be either the Pasch, or its seventh day (for, the seventh day of the Pasch was a solemn festival), or Pentecost. According to some, it was at the Paschal time; for, then the sheaf of first fruits was usually presented (Lev. 23:10). And at the Feast of Pentecost, that is, full seven weeks after the Pasch (Lev. 23:15), they were to offer two loaves of the first fruits (Lev. 23:17). Hence, it must fall on either Pasch or Pentecost; for, with these only could the season of ripe corn correspond. The feasts of new moons were only festivals in the temple, but not of obligation among the people.

Others say, that the word, “second first” (δευτεροπρώτῳ—secundo-primo), means, the Sabbath that concurred with the Feast of Pentecost, or fell within the week of Pentecost, which had no octave, like the Pasch (which had seven days), or the Feast of Tabernacles (which had eight days), and it was called “second first” or first, in the second place; because, the Sabbath that fell within the week of the Pasch, was first first, or πρωτοπρωτον, or, absolutely, the first of all the great Sabbaths of the year. Hence, St. John says of it, “it was a great Sabbath day” (John 19:31). So that as the Pasch was the greatest of all festivals, the Sabbath that fell within the Pasch was the greatest, or first first, Sabbath; and as Pentecost was the second greatest festival, so the Sabbath that fell within it was next in dignity to the Sabbath within the Pasch. Hence, “second first.” The three great festivals were termed, πρωτα, or first. Pasch had the πρωτοπρωτον, the first first Sabbath, by excellence. Pentecost, δευτεροπρωτον, the second first. Tabernacles, the third, τριτοπρωτον. Others, by second first, understand the octave day of the festival having an octave, which, it was commanded, should be celebrated with solemnity equal to that of the feast itself (Lev. 23; Num. 29:35).

“Sabbath.” St. Mark (Mk 2:23), has the plural, and so has the Greek here, τοις σαββατοις, on the Sabbaths, which, by a Hebrew idiom, is used for the singular, and means, on one of the Sabbath days.

“And His disciples being hungry.” Very likely, owing to the concourse of the multitude, they forgot to make any provision for their corporal wants.

“Began to pluck the ears,” &c. St. Luke says (Lk 6:1), “they rubbed the ears in their hands.” It was allowed the Jews to do this, when passing through their neighbour’s field (Deut. 23:25). This whole passage indicates the austere and mortified life led by our Redeemer and His disciples, who were content with the simplest fare, with what came next to hand, sometimes suffering the pangs of hunger, poor, without scrip or staff. It contains a clear refutation of the implied charge, made against our Lord and His disciples, on the subject of not fasting (9:14; Luke 5:33). Hence, the occurrence recorded here, is narrated by St. Mark (Mk 2:23), after the charge referred to.

Mt 12:2. The Pharisees do not make it a charge, or subject of accusation, against our Lord’s disciples, that they plucked the ears of corn, or were guilty, in any way, of theft. Their charge is confined to the violation of the Sabbath, as if this was a servile work, included in the prohibition of the law.

“Said to Him.” St. Luke, “said to them.” Probably, they charged both Him and them; or, it may be said, that in reproaching our Redeemer with the act of His disciples, they charged Him, at the same time. It was not for walking on the Sabbath, they reproached them. A walk to a certain distance was allowed on the Sabbath. The law permitted “a Sabbath-day’s journey.”

Mt 12:3. Our Redeemer adduces several reasons to exculpate, or justify, the conduct of His disciples; the first is, the plea of necessity. A law of a higher order, and of more binding force, the law of Nature, which prompted them to sustain life and appease the pangs of hunger, predominated over the positive enactment regarding the abstention from servile work on the Sabbath. He quotes the conduct of David—a man according to God’s own heart—which had the sanction and approval of the high priest at the time, as a case in point.

“Have you not read,” in which He reproaches them with their ignorance of the Sacred Scriptures, their knowledge of which they made a subject of boasting.

“What David did.” (See 1 Sam 21:1–6)

“And they that were with him.” From the passage referred to (v. 1), it would seem David was alone. “Why art thou alone,” says Achimelech, “and no one with thee?” The answer is, that David was alone when he went to Achimelech (“and no one with thee”); but that he brought the holy bread to his attendants, whom “he appointed to such and such a place” (1 Sam 21:2).

Mt 12:4. “How he entered into the house of God.” This was at Nobe. It does not mean the temple which was not then built, but the place, or hall, contiguous to the Tabernacle, which was kept at Nobe, a sacerdotal city (1 Sam 22:19). The ark was not there; it was kept at Silo. St. Mark (Mk 2:26) says, this occurred “under Abiathar the high priest.” In the first Book of Samuel (1 Sam 21:1), Achimelech is said to be the high priest in question. Some expositors, with St. Chrysostom (Hom. 40, in Mattheum), Theophylact, Jansenius, &c., undertake to reconcile both accounts by saying, that Achimelech, the father, and Abiathar, his son, had each the two names. So that each was called Achimelech and Abiathar. For (2 Sam 8:17), it is said, that when David mounted the throne, Achimelech, the son of Abiathar, was high priest with Sadoc, the son of Achitob. Now, by Abiathar here, is meant he who is called Achimelech (1 Sam 21:1). For, Achimelech, the father, was slain by Saul (1 Sam 22:18); and his son, Abiathar, was high priest during the whole of David’s reign, and during a part of Solomon’s. Hence, by Achimelech, is meant Abiathar; and so, both had the two names in common.

Others, with Venerable Bede, Cajetan, &c., say, Abiathar was present and sanctioned the act; and, so made it his own. Likely, he was associated with his father in the priestly functions, which old age prevented him from fully exercising.

Others say, the words, “under Abiathar,” should be rendered, “in the chapter called Abiathar;” because, the Jews divided the SS. Scriptures into parts, and called the parts from the principal person spoken of in them. Thus, “in Elias” (Rom. 11:2), means, the part called “Elias.”

“And did eat the loaves of proposition,” called in Hebrew, “bread of the face,” because placed in the Holy, in the Tabernacle, six on each side, before the face or throne of God, which was in Holy of Holies. These breads, corresponding in number with the twelve tribes of Israel, served as a constant memorial, and perpetual recognition, on the part of the Jewish people, that they were continually fed and supported by the Lord.

“Nor for them that were with him.” David, although a king and a prophet—and as such entitled to extraordinary privileges—had no privilege whatever, any more than his attendants had, to partake of this holy bread. The privilege of partaking of it was exclusively reserved for the priests.

The argument from David’s case is very strong. First, not only did David himself partake of these breads, but so did also his followers; and the high priest had no scruple in giving them, under the circumstances of necessity. Secondly, there seems to be greater deordination for laics in partaking of holy bread, which priests alone were allowed to eat, than in working on the Sabbath; and if necessity justified, or excused, the former, how much more the latter.

Mt 12:5. He adduces another, and still clearer, example, to show that His disciples did not act unlawfully, as was alleged.

“Read in the law,” of Moses. (The fact of David might be referred to the Prophets.)

“That on the Sabbath-days, the priests,” &c. This is not expressly said in the law; but, it is substantially contained in several parts of it, v.g., Numbers (Num 28) and elsewhere, where the rite of sacrificing, which necessarily involves great servile labour, in slaying, burning, offering the victims, is sanctioned.

“How that on the Sabbath-days the priests,” &c. Every word is expressive—the time, “Sabbath-days;” the place, “in the temple;” the persons, of all others, who should be most observant, “the priests.”

“Break,” a stronger phrase than, observe not. They did so materially; but, still, they acted, according to the precepts of the law.

“And are without blame.” The law itself allowed, in this case, this apparent departure from its general enactments. The act of sacrificing, &c., was, per se, a servile act. But it was allowed by the law; otherwise, it would be against the general provisions of the law of Moses.

Mt 12:6. They might object, and say: You are no priest; nor is the work done for the service of the temple. He replies, and shows how the alleged example of Sabbath breaking in the temple applies in the present case. If the sanctity of the temple excused those who laboured in its service, how much more will ministering to, and waiting upon, the Lord of the temple, excuse those who are employed in this meritorious office. If the service of the temple justified the priests in violating the letter of the law, how much more can I, who am still greater than the temple, nay, the Lord of the temple, to serve whom is still more meritorious, dispense My disciples from the Sabbatical law, while attending on Me. In this unavoidable attendance on Him, His disciples were excused as much, by so doing, as were the priests of the Old Law, in sacrificing, owing to their unavoidable attendance at the temple, on the Sabbath. This is an argumentum a minori ad majus. The law relating to the observance of the Sabbath, admits of the interpretation, or rather limitation, that it does not extend to the labours of the temple. For, the priests in the temple perform works which, in se, and looking to the mere letter of the law, would seem to be a violation of the Sabbath. And, still, they are excused; because, they perform works prescribed by the Legislator Himself on the Sabbath. How much more ought My disciples be blameless, when, merely plucking a few ears of corn, to appease hunger, while ministering to Me, who am Lord of the temple.

Mt 12:7. Another reason to excuse His disciples. If the Pharisees properly understood the words of God, quoted by the Prophet Hosea (Hos 6:6), I prefer mercy, i.e., the exercise of humanity, and benevolence, and charity towards the poor, to sacrifice, and all other external observances, they would not have condemned the disciples, when in the exercise of mercy to the souls of their brethren, whom they wished to rescue from eternal perdition, they did what seemed to be a mere material violation of the letter of the law. Or, “mercy,” might contain an allusion to the conduct of the Pharisees, who, devoid of all feelings of humanity and benevolence, were accusing the disciples, out of excessive zeal for the law. They were preferring sacrifice to mercy, which they failed to exercise. If the disciples, while suffering from hunger, were prevented from plucking a few ears of corn to appease hunger, this would be against charity and mercy; and if they gave over the sacred ministry, in obedience to ceremonial precepts, they would be preferring sacrifice to mercy. Had the Pharisees attended to this, they “would never have condemned the innocent” disciples.

Mt 12:8. “For the Son of man,” &c. This is the final reason adduced to justify the disciples. They were dispensed by Himself, who, as Man God, “was Lord even of the Sabbath,” and could dispense with its observance; or, could command it to be observed in what way soever He pleased.

“Even of the Sabbath,” that is, of the Sabbath, as well as of everything else. “Even,” is rejected by several MSS. The particle, “for,” shows this to be an additional reason to prove the innocence of the disciples; because, they were dispensed by legitimate authority—viz., by Himself, “the Son of man,” His peculiar designation in the New Testament.

St. Mark (Mk 2:27), adduces an additional reason: “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” The Sabbath rest was instituted for man’s benefit and advantage, in order that he would be free, and obtain a respite from bodily labour, and might thus be at leisure to attend to God’s worship, and meditate on His heavenly law and benefits, “and not man for the Sabbath.” So that if man’s corporal or spiritual necessity or utility required it, man would be free to dispense with the Sabbath observances and obligations. In a word, man’s benefit, his life, his salvation, and whatever serves to forward both, being the end for which the Sabbatical rest was instituted, are, therefore, superior to it. Hence, whenever the end or object of the Sabbatical ordinances becomes incompatible with the observance of the Sabbath, or Sabbatical observances become injurious to man’s corporal or spiritual interests, these latter, as being more important, are to be consulted for in preference. St. Mark seems to make this (Mk 5:8) an inference from the foregoing, “Therefore, the Son of man is Lord of the Sabbath.” St. Luke (Lk 6:5), records them, as does St. Matthew here without making them an inference: “And he said to them: The Son of man is Lord also of the Sabbath.”

Our Redeemer having, in four ways, excused His disciples, assigns four causes for transgressing a law. 1. Its opposition to the law of nature. 2. Its opposition to another particular and superior law. 3. Its opposition to humanity and love of our neighbour. 4. A dispensation from it by legitimate authority. (Jansenius Gandav.)

Mt 12:9. Luke (Lk 6:6) says, this occurred on “another Sabbath.” St. Matthew does not contradict this. The Jews were wont, on Sabbath-days, to assemble in their synagogues; our Redeemer entered their synagogue to teach, and He avails Himself of the occasion supplied by the Sabbath-day, to perform the miracle here recorded, for the purpose of confuting the error of the Pharisees, touching the observance of the Sabbath.

10. “Withered hand,” which St. Luke (6:6) says, was, “his right hand.”

“They asked Him.” St. Mark (3:4), and St. Luke (6:9), say, it was, He asked them. However, there is no contradiction. The questions are not the same. They ask Him, first, “if it was lawful to heal on the Sabbath-days?” and He, in reply, puts the question in a different form, to which they could not give an answer in the negative, viz., “if it was lawful to do good or do evil; to save life, or to destroy, on the Sabbath-days?” In this question of our Redeemer, it is conveyed, that to omit saving our brethren, when in great danger, is the same as destroying them; that such omission was doing evil. Unable to answer Him—for, it could not be denied that it was lawful to do good, also that it was lawful, “to save life”—“they (therefore) held their peace” (Mark 3:4).

They put this question, not with a view of gaining information, but, “that they might accuse Him,” either of a violation of the law of Moses, in case He answered in the affirmative, or of inhumanity and cruelty towards a brother in distress, had He replied in the negative.

Mt 12:11. This is an argument, a fortiori. According to the admission and practice of the Pharisees themselves, it is lawful to rescue a sheep from drowning on the Sabbath-day; a fortiori, it must be lawful to rescue a man from death, or save him from suffering, especially when this latter operation involved no servile external work. For, the stretching forth of his hand by a sick man, was, surely, no servile work, any more than the use of language, the utterance of a few words by our Redeemer.

If it be said, that there is no parity in both cases, as the life of the man, like that of the sheep, was not endangered; it can be said, in reply, that it was not so much saving the life, as preventing the loss of the sheep, the Pharisees looked to. Now, the illness of a human being, for even one day, was a greater evil than the loss of a sheep. Moreover, there was no servile work in the curing of the man’s hand. It was a mere act of God’s will, combined with the mere stretching out or extending of the man’s hand.

Mt 12:12. As a man is far more valuable, far more excellent, than a sheep, it is, therefore, more allowable to cure him from bodily distemper, and rid him of pain, on the-Sabbath day, and, thus, “do good”—which comes to the same in reference to the present case—than to rescue a sheep from drowning or suffocation.

Mt 12:13. St. Mark (Mk 3:3), and St. Luke (Lk 6:8), inform us, that, before performing this miracle, our Redeemer instructed the infirm man to “stand up in the midst,” and that the afflicted man, showing his confidence in our Redeemer’s power, at once complied. This he did, probably, with a view of calling attention to the miracle He was about to perform; and of disarming the Pharisees, and of inspiring them with feelings of mercy, on beholding the misery of the infirm man, and of causing them to change the rash judgment that they had been forming in their minds regarding this miracle.

St. Mark (ibidem) also informs us, that, before performing the miracle, our Redeemer looked round about on them, with anger, doubtless, for the purpose of inspiring them with feelings of shame and repentance, “being grieved for the blindness (or, as the Greek word πωρωσις, means, hardness) of their hearts.” He then told the infirm man to stretch forth his hand, after which our Redeemer, by the sole operation of His almighty power, cures him, without even touching him; thus silencing all the cavils of His enemies, and not affording them the shadow of accusation against Him.

Mt 12:14. The fury of the Pharisees, far from being appeased by this work of mercy, performed by our Redeemer, was, on the contrary, provoked to the highest pitch. Hence, being unable to make any reply, and having no ground of accusation, they go forth from the assembly, “filled with madness” (Luke 6:11), and consult with the Herodians (Mark 3:6)—who they were we shall see hereafter (Mt 22:16)—as to the best means of destroying His reputation, and of taking away His life. Such are the extremes to which envy drives its unhappy victims.

Mt 12:15. Knowing their inmost thoughts, and wicked machinations, our Redeemer retires from thence, not from feelings of fear or weakness, but, “because His hour had not yet come,” as He did on many similar occasions. In this He illustrated, by His own example, the precepts He inculcated on His Apostles (Mt 10:23), that, sometimes we are bound to fly from the urgent persecutions of our enemies, and yield for a time to their obstinate malice. “Retired from thence;” “retired to the sea” (Mark 3:7, 8).

“And many followed Him;” “from Galilee and Judea, from Jerusalem and from Idumea, and from, beyond the Jordan” (Mark 3:7, 8). “And He healed them all,” i.e., all who were afflicted; “and as many as had evils” (Mark 3:10).

Mt 12:16. “And He charged them.” St. Mark says, it was the unclean spirits He strictly charged (Mk 3:12); but, as the demons were in the men possessed, it might be said, as here, that He charged the men whom He cured, “not to make Him known.” This He did for a two-fold object, to avoid the imputation of vain glory, and to avoid further irritating the Pharisees.

Mt 12:17. “That it might be fulfilled.” Our Blessed Redeemer, by thus meekly yielding to the fury of the Pharisees, and not contending with them in strength, fulfilled the prophecy of Isaias. “That,” signifies, the consequence of our Redeemer’s mode of acting to be, that the prophecy of Isaias was fulfilled. The design of the Evangelist, in referring to the prophecy of Isaias, most probably, was to bear witness to the great meekness of Christ, shown in His yielding to the fury of the Pharisees, and in His not wishing to irritate them by having His miraculous works proclaimed by those whom He cured. This proves He had the marks of the Messiah predicted by the Prophet.

Mt 12:18. This prophecy is read (Isa 42:1). The reading of St. Matthew is different from that which obtains in either the Hebrew or the Septuagint. The first part of the quotation approaches nearer to the Hebrew reading, and the latter part, to the Septuagint.

“Behold,” invites attention to the important prophetical oracle. “My servant.” The Greek word, παις, would signify, either son or servant; but, the Hebrew word, Hebed, determines it to the signification of servant, and designates our Redeemer according to His human nature, in which “He took upon Himself the form of a servant” (Phil. 2:7), and discharged in it the ministry of reconciliation.

“Whom I have chosen,” singularly chosen, and loved from all eternity, preferably, to all other beings. The Hebrew for “chosen” is, “I shall receive him”—“suscipiam eum.”

“My beloved,” &c. (ὁ αγαπητος), the object of My eternal complacency, “in whom My soul hath been well pleased” (ευδοκησεν); in other words, in whom all others please Me, and by whom I am reconciled with a sinful world.

The Septuagint reading of the words is, “Behold, My servant Jacob, I shall receive (or, assume) him, Israel, My chosen one: My soul hath received Him,” as if this prophecy had reference to Jacob. But, the Jews themselves, as well as the Chaldaic Paraphrase, understood these words of the Messiah.

“I will put My Spirit upon Him.” The Septuagint and Hebrew have the past tense, “I have put My Spirit,” &c. But the change of tense makes very little difference in prophetic quotations. In these words, reference is made to the manifold gifts of the Holy Ghost promised to Christ, and bestowed on Him: “The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him; the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,” &c. (Isa 11:2) It was the same Spirit that descended on Him in the Jordan (Mt 3:16).

“And, He shall show judgment,” that is, what is just and equitable, and in accordance with the counsels and will of God; in other words, He shall make known the counsel and Gospel of God.

“To the Gentiles,” to the entire world; unlike Moses and the Prophets, whose ministry was confined to the Jewish people only.

Mt 12:19. “He shall not contend.” The Prophet now shows, how, “He shall show judgment to the Gentiles,” not by vociferously contending with His adversaries, nor by boastfully raising His voice abroad in public, like the haughty ones of the earth. This is the part of the prophetic quotation, which is specially referred to, as directly bearing on the subject in hand, viz., the great meekness and clemency of our Divine Redeemer. St. Jerome (Isaias 42), for, “not contend,” has, “non clamabit”—“not cry out;” and the word corresponding with “not cry out,” in the text, he renders, “shall not have respect for persons”—neque accipiet personam. The Hebrew words (lo issa), simply mean, either, “neque accipiet”—“nor shall he receive, or accept, which St. Jerome applies to exception of persons, or, non tollet (he shall not raise”), understood of raising his voice, in which sense the words are here taken by St. Matthew, and by the Chaldaie Paraphrast, a sense, too, of which, St. Jerome in his Commentary tells us, the words are susceptible.

“In the streets,” which is rendered by St. Jerome, “abroad,” “foris.”

Mt 12:20. “The bruised reed—the smoking flax,” &c. Most likely, this is a two-fold proverbial form of expression, conveying to us an idea of the great meekness and goodness of out Redeemer, who, far from crushing, or scornfully rebuking or oppressing those who are weak in virtue and Christian faith, would, on the contrary, meekly sustain, strengthen and encourage them, by His lenity and patience, and inflame them with Divine love. All this directly tends to point out the meekness of Christ, the object for which the entire prophetic quotation was adduced, here by St. Matthew. Others understand the force of the application of the proverbial expressions to have reference to the enemies of our Redeemer, who are as impotent, and as easily crushed as “the bruised reed,” &c., but whom He still mercifully spares giving them full time for repentance. The proverbs of “the bruised reed,” and of “the smoking flax,” are very expressive; the former, conveying that it is only an object fit for trampling upon and throwing away; the latter, that, there is question of an object, which from its offensive smell, is only fit to be extinguished. Both convey very expressive images of great weakness and worthlessness.

“Till He send forth judgment,” &c., is understood by some (St. Chrysostom, Theophylaet, &c.), thus: He shall meekly tolerate the Jews, until He victoriously demonstrates, that His judgment, exercised in their repulse and rejection was justly merited and provoked by their own sins and madness, in refusing to receive Him. St. Jerome understands it, of His enduring sinners during the term of this life, inviting them to penance, until He shall come in triumph to judge the world, when His past treatment of His friends and enemies shall be triumphantly justified, before the assembled nations of the earth.

Others, more probably, understand it thus, “until;” or, so that, by this manner of acting, by thus patiently treating His adversaries, His “judgment,” which. He came to announce to the Gentiles, shall be victoriously propagated and received all over the earth. Hence, it is added next, “and in His name the Gentiles,” &c. The particle, “until,” denotes, not so much limitation of time, as the event, the consequence. In Isaias (IOsa 42:4) it is, “until He set judgment in the earth,” which is, in sense, the same as the reading of the Evangelist. The Evangelist quoted the passage, partly from the Hebrew, partly from the Septuagint, omitting some parts from each, and quoting the sense of others, as suited his purpose.

Mt 12:21. “And in His name the Gentiles,” &c. This is quoted literally from the Septuagint. In the Hebrew, it is different: “For His law the Islands shall wait.” The sense, however, is the same in both; because, by “the Islands,” are meant, not the Jews, but the Gentiles, living beyond the sea, far from Judea. St. Matthew and the Septuagint convey the sense. Some commentators say that, ονοματι, “name,” is read instead of, νομω, law. But the meaning is not affected. For, those who wait for the law of Christ, place their trust in His name.

Mt 12:22. “Then,” that is, about that time. The more probable opinion seems to be, that what is recorded in the remainder of this chapter (12) and c. 13, took place before the mission of the Apostles, recorded (c. 10 of St. Matthew). For, from Mark (Mk 6:14); Luke (Lk 9:7), it would seem, that what Matthew records (c. 14), occurred immediately after the mission of the Apostles, and after the wonderful works they performed while engaged in it (A. Lapide), so that the end of c. 13 should be placed in order, before the mission of the Apostles, (c. 10)

“Possessed with a devil,” &c. It is likely there is question here of the same, recorded in Luke (9), although Maldonatus thinks they are different, and that St. Luke records the miracle mentioned in St. Matthew, (9) St. Luke says, the “devil was dumb.” However, he does not deny that he was “blind” also. Some say that this blindness and dumbness was not natural, but only caused by the demon, who impeded the use of the organs of sight and speech; and hence, when “the devil,” called “blind and dumb,” from his rendering the possessed man “blind and dumb,” was cast out, the man at once “spoke and saw.” Others say, the man was dumb and blind from nature, and was, moreover, possessed by a demon; so that the miracle produced a three-fold effect—restored his sight, his speech, and expelled the demon. This rendered the miracle more remarkable. “So that he spoke,” &c. The ordinary Greek has, “so that the blind and dumb man saw,” &c. The Vatican MS. has, “the dumb man spoke and saw.”

Mt 12:23. “The multitudes were amazed,” that is, transported with astonishment at the wonderful works they saw our Redeemer perform. “And said: Is not this the Son of David?” that is, the Messiah, so long promised to the Jews, under the distinctive character of “the son of David,” to be born of his race.

24. The Pharisees, blinded with envy, and maddened into hatred of Christ, being unable to deny or gainsay the miraculous facts, with fiendish refinement and malignity, ascribe them to diabolical agency.

“In Beelzebub,” &c. (See Mt 10:25).

Mt 12:25. “Knowing their thoughts,” &c., the thoughts they gave utterance to among the people, and the motives and secret springs from which their words and thoughts, regarding Himself, proceeded, viz., envy, and a desire to bring Him into disrepute, and prevent the further extension of His kingdom.

“Said to them,” mildly assigning reasons to prove that He had acted under the influence of no diabolical power, but by the power of God.

“Every kingdom,” torn by intestine factions and discord, must necessarily fall. The same is true even of every city and private family. If the several constituent members of the city or family are engaged in mutual strifes, discord, and quarrelling, that city or family must soon come to an end.

Mt 12:26. “And if Satan,” &c. Our Redeemer proceeds to show, by various arguments, the utter absurdity of the imputation, that His power was derived from Satan. In this verse, He applies to the case of the devil, or “Satan,” the adversary of God and man, the general principle enunciated in the preceding. “And” (which means, “now”) “if Satan cast out Satan,” if one devil, vested with greater power and authority, violently and in a hostile manner eject another devil, as you suppose in the words, “cast out,” and as you see Me do every day, then, “he is divided against himself;” and hence, his kingdom must fall. But, it is not to be supposed that this crafty enemy of God’s kingdom, who exerts all his cunning, and employs all his subtlety for the extension of his own kingdom, and the reign of sin among men, could be betrayed into any course of action, subversive of this so much cherished dominion.

Our Redeemer supposes the ejection of one demon by another to be done violently, and in a hostile manner, which would, therefore, exclude all idea of collusion among the demons, as if one would permit himself to be cast out by another, for the purpose of confirming, by a miracle, some false doctrines. It is said of Apollonius Thyaneus, the notorious impostor, who made such noise in the world, in the first century of the Christian era, that he, among other wonderful things ascribed to him, cast out devils. This, if it occurred, was the result of collusion among the devils themselves. Our Redeemer cast them out violently; and He did so with the express and declared object of extending the reign of virtue, and the kingdom of God.

Mt 12:27. Another argument, to prove not only, that it was not by the power of the devil He cast out demons, as in the preceding, but that it was by the Spirit of God He did so, by whose power “their (own) children” confessedly “cast them out.”

“Your children.” Some expositors, by this understand, the Apostles and disciples of our Redeemer, who cast out devils in His name. But, as our Redeemer spoke these words, very probably, before the Apostles performed miracles, and before their mission; and, moreover, as it was probable they, too, were as likely to be called Beelzebub as He was (Mt 10:25), hence, the words are understood by others of the Jewish exorcists, who, by the invocation of God, expelled devils. Mention is made of these in the New Testament (Mark 9:37; Luke 9:49; Acts 19:13, 14). We are informed by Josephus (Antiq. Lib. viii. c. 2), that Solomon instructed this class, by Divine authority, in the art of expelling demons. Josephus (ibidem) mentions an instance of the successful exercise of this power, by a certain Jewish exorcist, named Eleazar, in presence of the Emperor Vespasian, and his sons, and the entire army.

“Therefore, they shall be your judges.” St. Jerome, who understands, “your children,” of the twelve Apostles, understands these words of the judicial authority of the twelve, sitting on twelve thrones, to judge the tribes of Israel.

Others, more probably, understand them of a judgment of comparison, just as “the Queen of the South shall rise in judgment,” &c. (Mt 12:42.) These exorcists will render it evident, that the Pharisees were influenced solely by inexcusable malignity against our Redeemer, whom they charge with performing His splendid miracles under the influence of diabolical agency, while they regard the same or less brilliant miracles, performed by their own children, as the result of Divine power. There could be no reason for ascribing the same act to God, when performed by their own children; and to the devil, when performed by our Divine Redeemer. This would show they were actuated by personal hatred and malignity. Hence, our Redeemer need not pronounce judgment against them; their own conduct, in regard to the different treatment shown “their own children,” condemns them.

Mt 12:28. This is an inference from the foregoing, the very opposite of what the Pharisees wished to deduce. They wished to infer that He acted under the power of Satan, for the purpose of extending Satan’s kingdom. But our Redeemer infers, that having acted from the power of God, He did so to establish the kingdom of God.

“By the Spirit of God.” St. Luke (Lk 11:20) has, “the finger of God,” or, the power of God. Hence, the Pharisees exceeded the Egyptian magicians in obstinate incredulity; for, these cried out, on witnessing the miracles of Moses, “this is the finger of God” (Ex 8:19). The Holy Ghost is, in ecclesiastical language, sometimes termed, the finger of God; or, the power of the Almighty.

“The kingdom of God is come upon you,” that is to say, by the number and splendour of My miracles, and the ejection of the demons, in a spiritual sense, signified by the visible ejection of them from the bodies of men, it is clear the kingdom of Satan is assailed with unusual violence; and hence, that the kingdom of God is being established among them. Or, the words might mean, that our Redeemer, by these miracles, proved the truth of His own teaching, and that of the Apostles, and of the Baptist, when they announced, at the very outset, “the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” “Is come.” The Greek word, ἔφθασεν, signifies, to come by anticipation, sooner than they expected. The Pharisees madly strove to oppose the extension of this kingdom.

Mt 12:29. This is another reason to prove our Redeemer did not act, from any power derived from Satan, or under his influence. He shows His own superior power, compared with that of Satan, having expelled him forcibly, and having carried his kingdom or citadel by assault. “Or,” else, otherwise, if it is not by the Spirit of God, I cast out devils, and if the kingdom of God has not come to you, how could it be possible for Me to forcibly dispossess Satan? In a war between rival and hostile chieftains, one cannot enter the other’s house and plunder it, unless he first binds his adversary by the exercise of superior force. So, although Satan be “strong,” still, our Redeemer shows Himself to be “stronger” (Luke 11:22), by forcibly expelling him everywhere from the bodies of the possessed; by disseminating His own doctrine, and destroying that of Satan. It is only the power of God that is superior to that of Satan; and hence, our Redeemer proves that He acts in the Spirit and power of God, when overcoming Satan. The devil is called, “a strong man”—“no power on earth to be compared with his” (Job 41:24)—(see Ephes. 6, commentary on). “His house,” is either the world, where he exerted universal dominion, before the coming of Christ, or, his kingdom, which our Redeemer was destroying. “His goods,” or vessels, are, either the arms he employs to propagate and preserve this kingdom, such as pleasures, false maxims, &c.; or, rather, the miserable souls of men whom he held captive, and whom our Blessed Lord rescued from his grasp, and afterwards presented to His Father as so many trophies of victory. Our Redeemer shows in this verse, that He could not have acted in collusion with, or, as the friend of the devil, as they calumniously asserted; hence, He conquered him, and wrested from him his former possessions.

Mt 12:30. In this verse, according to some, is adduced a new reason, to show that our Redeemer did not act from the power of Satan, or in collusion with him, since Satan, far from being neutral, as regarded Him, was His declared adversary. It was a proverbial expression among the Jews, “he that is not with one is against him,” &c.; and our Redeemer declares, that this proverb is fully verified, and more than verified, in regard to Satan and Himself. For, Satan is, surely, not with Him; nay, indeed, he is manifestly against Him. The words of this verse, most likely, conveyed a proverb in vogue among the Jews. But, whether proverbial or not, and as such conveying a general truth, St. Jerome, St. Chrysostom, Bede, St. Thomas, &c., understand the words to refer to Satan, who surely was not for Christ. Beelzebub and He propose opposite and conflicting things. He inculcates, by word and example, humility, poverty, chastity, contempt of the world, and all virtues; Beelzebub, on the other hand, inculcates the opposite. Our Lord gathers men into the unity of faith, morals, religion, and finally into life eternal; Beelzebub, on the other hand, would “scatter” them into various idolatrous and wicked sects, and withdraw them from obedience and from giving glory to God.

Others apply the words to the Pharisees, against whom our Redeemer inveighs in this verse. They affected to be indifferent in regard to our Redeemer’s doctrine and miracles, as if they were neither for nor against Him; and, therefore, qualified to act as impartial judges in His regard. Our Redeemer, then, tells them this affected indifference will not excuse them, or save them from the imputation of being His enemies. Hence, He tells them (Mt 12:33), to be either one thing or the other, “Either make the tree good, and its fruit good; or the tree evil, and its fruit evil.” The Pharisees were not for Him; they were, on the contrary, disposed to scatter to the winds all the fruits of His labours, His miracles, and preaching among the people. Against the probability of this latter interpretation it militates, that this saying, “he that is not with me,” &c., could not apply to the case of the Pharisees, who openly calumniated our Lord, and ascribed all His wonderful miracles to diabolical agency. Hence, the former interpretation would seem more tenable, if, in it, the words be not confined in their application to the devil, but be employed in a general sense to all, whether devils or men, who do not join our Redeemer in His warfare against the powers of hell, just as in a ruinous war, a king would have a right to call on all his subjects to give him active support; whoever would act a neutral part, should be regarded as enemies of their country.

The general assertion made here is not opposed to what is said (Mark 9:39; Luke 9:50), “He that is not against you, is for you.” For, in this latter place, our Lord speaks of external abstention from joining, or external constructive opposition; he that does not externally oppose you in your mission, as in the case of the man of whom the Apostles complain to Him (Mark 9), for having performed miracles, without joining them, such a man not being in direct opposition to you, may be counted on your side. His works and doctrine are not opposed to yours; but, in reality he agrees with you, although, for some reason, he may defer his external profession. St. Ambrose (in Luke 9), cites, as a case in point, Joseph of Arimathea and other occult followers of our Lord. But here (in St. Matthew), there is question of internal heartfelt opposition. Moreover, our Redeemer here speaks of those, who, as subjects, were obliged to help Him, such as the Pharisees and the Jews, who witnessed the proofs of His Divine mission, and, therefore, should receive Him; and by not doing so, they were hostile, just as a king’s subjects, by exhibiting neutrality in certain pressing contingencies, when their active services are urgently demanded, may be fairly regarded, as opposed to him.

Mt 12:31. “Therefore,” is an inference derived from all the foregoing passage; as if He said: Since, then, it is manifest that I expel demons by the power of God, and not from any diabolical agency, as you may clearly have seen; “I say to you,” by ascribing works, so manifestly Divine in their source and principle, to the devil, you are guilty of “blasphemy” against the Holy Ghost, from whose power these works emanated—a most grievous sin, scarcely ever remitted.

By, “blasphemy of the Spirit,” is understood, not every sin against the Holy Ghost. For, there is question here of a sin by words, by language, as in next verse, language attributing works manifestly performed under the influence of God’s Spirit, to the devil. Of course, under words, are included, thoughts and actions of the same specific kind and tendency, “every sin and blasphemy.” Hence, He says here, “shall not be forgiven men.” Whatever interpretation of this passage may be adopted, it cannot, for a moment, be allowed to militate against the plenitude of power left to God’s Church to forgive sins, be their number or enormity what it may. “Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven” (John 20:23). No limitation as to number, or kind, or enormity. It is not said here, that the sin in question is irremissible, cannot be forgiven, but only, “shall not be forgiven,” that is, it is but rarely remitted, and with difficulty; just as it is said that, “every blasphemy shall be forgiven men,” not that every sin of blasphemy is always forgiven; for, sometimes, men do not seek forgiveness, by repentance; but, that it is easily and generally forgiven. Hence, the opposite clause, means: Blasphemy against the Holy Ghost is not easily nor generally remitted, not for want of power in God or in the Church; but, for want of dispositions in the subject, who rarely is blessed with proper dispositions of penance, necessary for the remission of every mortal sin. The reason why those guilty of this sin rarely have the necessary dispositions, is, that they sin against the source of all grace and remission, the Holy Ghost, to whom, as being a work of Divine goodness, the giving of grace necessary for the remission of sin is, by appropriation, ascribed. Such persons are handed over to a reprobate sense, so that they become impenitent. St. Augustine, by “blasphemy against the Holy Ghost,” understands, the heinous crime of final impenitence.

Mt 12:32. “Against the Son of man,” which is generally understood, of speaking against our Lord in His human nature, calumniating Him in His human actions, such as that He was a glutton, the friend of publicans, &c.; or, calumniating the works He did, having the appearance of being violations of the Divine law, such as curing on the Sabbath, remitting sins, &c. Such a “word shall be forgiven him,” i.e., without much difficulty, and generally is remitted. Such a sin is extenuated by ignorance and the absence of malice. Ignorance can be pleaded in such a case, as was done by St. Paul, “ignorans feci.” St. Paul’s ignorance, though culpable, was not directly voluntary.

“But he that shall speak against the Holy Ghost,” by ascribing the known works of God to the devil, cannot plead ignorance in excuse. Although, such a man speaks at the same time against the Father and the Son; still, the insult is said to be specially against the Holy Ghost, because, certain effects of benignity and goodness, are by appropriation, ascribed to Him—although, like all operations, ab extra, common to Him with the two other Persons of the adorable Trinity—such as the works here calumniously spoken of, “in spiritu Dei, ejicio dæmonia.”

“Shall not be forgiven him in this world, or the world to come.” The words, “in the world to come,” according to St. Augustine (De Civ. Lib. c. xxi. 13), and St. Gregory (Dialog, iv., c. 39, &c.), imply, the possibility of the remission of sin in the life to come; and, consequently, the existence of a middle state. For, no man in his senses would say “I shall not marry in this world, or in the world to come,” because, the latter is absurd and impossible. Hence, a proof of Purgatory, where sin is remitted, or rather, satisfied and atoned for, as to the temporal punishment which, faith tells us, sometimes remains to be atoned for after the guilt of sin, and the eternal punishment it deserves are remitted.

Obj. St. Mark says, “shall never have forgiveness, but shall be guilty of an everlasting sin” (Mt 3:29). The meaning of our Redeemer’s words, therefore, is he shall never be forgiven, either in heaven or in hell.

Resp. St. Augustine’s argument is, that the words, “in the world to come,” would not be used in connexion with the words, “in this world,” where sins are, and can be, remitted, unless they could be remitted in the world to come also. St. Mark only expresses briefly, what is more fully enlarged and explained in St. Matthew.

The remission of sin, “in the world to come,” is, of course, not to be understood of the guilt of sin, which can be remitted only in this life; but, of its temporal punishment, as already explained.

Mt 12:33. Some commentators understand “the tree,” of the Pharisees; and they say, the argument bears on Mt 12:31-32. Be consistent with yourselves; if you are good trees, and wish to be regarded as such, let your fruit or works correspond. Be good, not only in appearance, but in reality. He thus inveighs against their hypocrisy (Maldonatus). Then, in the words, “make the tree good,” &c., is contained a precept to be good trees, and to produce good fruit. In the words, “make the tree evil,” is contained a caution not to become such. (Jansenius Gandav.) Others understand it, of the devil.

The more probable interpretation understands, “the good tree “and” good fruit,” of Christ; and the words, according to it, contain a fifth argument against the calumny of the Pharisees, which exposes their inconsistency, as if He said: Be consistent in your judgments and opinions. Say one thing or the other. Say that I am myself good, and my works good and worthy of commendation; and hence, that I cannot act from diabolical influences; or, that I am wicked and my works evil. Now, the best test for judging of any one are his works. “For, by the fruit the tree is known.” As my works, then are manifestly good; it follows, if you are not inconsistent with yourselves, and blinded by passion and envy, that you must pronounce Myself to be good also.

Mt 12:34. This answers either of the above interpretations. The first, thus: But, as you are bad trees, it is no wonder you do not speak good things. The latter, thus: But, as you are naturally bad, how can you speak with consistency? How can you speak otherwise than calumniously of Me? Of course, He only says, they cannot do so naturally. He does not deny the possibility of their doing otherwise, aided by God’s grace. “Generation of vipers,” is allusive to the old serpent; and also in it is contained an allusion to the boast the Jews indulged in, of being “the seed of Abraham.” In reality, they proved themselves to be the seed of the old serpent—this first of calumniators against God. They proved themselves to be “a brood of vipers,” the malignant offspring of the most malignant parents. Their deadly malignity and wickedness were chiefly manifested in calumniating and contradicting holy men. Hence, termed “vipers,” the most noxious of animals, the most poisonous of serpents. Similar are the reproaches uttered, Mt 23:13, &c.

The words, “how can you speak good things?” &c., are similar to those of Jeremias (Jer 13:23), “If the Ethiopian can change his skin, or the leopard, his spots: you also may do well,” &c. The words express, not so much the impossibility, as the great difficulty of speaking or acting well. They also express what usually and commonly happens.

“For, out of the abundance,” &c., a proverbial form of expression.

Mt 12:35. He explains more fully the meaning of the words, “out of the abundance of the heart”—“out of a good treasure,” out of the accumulated treasures of thoughts and affections, with which the heart is filled, a man gives utterance to the same sentiments—be they good or evil.

36. This is generally supposed to be, an argumentum a minori ad majus. If an exact and rigorous account be demanded for an “idle word,” what account is to be rendered for blasphemous, calumnious language, such as the Pharisees were guilty of in the present instance? By “an idle word” is commonly understood, a word that confers no benefit on the man who utters it, or on those to whom it is addressed. “Quod sine utilitate loquentis dicitur aut audientis” (St. Jerome). Obj. How can venial sins be punished “in the day of judgment,” on which mortal sins alone are punished? Resp. We may understand the words of our Redeemer, of the particular judgment which occurs at the death of each one; or, if of the general judgment, then, we may say that the wicked shall be punished in hell, not alone for their mortal sins, but also, the recollection of their idle words and venial sins shall add to their torments; and that the just, who, already satisfied for their venial sins by penance here, or in Purgatory, shall render an account, in this sense, that their beatitude shall be less than it otherwise would be, had they not indulged in idle words and venial sins. (Jansenius Gandav).

Mt 12:37. “For by thy words,” &c. Not that words only are to form the subject of future judgment. Our works, too, shall form a portion of the matter for examination. For, when “manifested before the judgment seat of Christ, each one shall receive … according as he hath done, whether it be good or evil” (2 Cor. 5:10), but that words alone would form ample grounds for declaring us justified, or for condemning us. No doubt, they shall form a considerable portion of the matter of our examination. “Shalt be justified,” that is, declared, or pronounced to be just. This meaning is required by the words, “shalt be condemned,” judged, declared to be condemned.

Mt 12:38. “Then some of the Scribes,” &c. After our Redeemer had, by the most cogent and convincing arguments, refuted the calumnies of those who charged Him with working miracles, under the influence of Satan, others amongst the Scribes and Pharisees, dissembling their rage and disappointment, and veiling their hypocrisy under the appearance of respect—“Master”—affect a desire to see more convincing proofs of His Divine mission, as the miracles He had hitherto performed were still called in question. “We would see a sign from Thee.” St. Luke (Lk 11:16) says, that others, “tempting, asked of Him a sign from heaven,” such as thunder and rain, out of the usual course of things, as exhibited by Samuel (1 Kings 12:18); or, to bring fire from heaven, as was done by Elias, to consume the victims (1 Kings 18:38); or, like the same Elias, be taken up in a fiery chariot (2 Kings 2:11); or cause manna to be rained down from heaven, like Moses; or stop the sun in his midday course, like Josue. As if these wicked hypocrites would not devise means for evading the force of such miracles also. “Quasi,” says St. Jerome, “non possent et illa calumniari.” The men who asked for signs from heaven, are different from those who calumniated Him, as in the preceding (Luke 11:16).

Mt 12:39. “Who answering said to them.” St. Luke conveys (Lk 11:29), that the multitude gathered round, in the hope of seeing some celestial prodigy, and when they were gathered round, then our Redeemer said, “an evil,” a wicked, perverse, “and adulterous”—a faithless—“generation,” race of men or people, who abandoning God, to whom they were espoused by the law, clung to the demon, and followed his suggestions, thus violating their marriage contract, by spiritual adultery and connexion with infidelity; or, “adulterous” may mean, degenerate, who have degenerated from the morals and piety of the Patriarchs, from whom they sprang. The word may also be understood, of adultery, in the literal sense, which was then very prevalent.

“And a sign shall not be given it, but,” &c. Did He not give many signs from heaven—the eclipse of the sun at His death, the voice from heaven? (John 12) Yes; but not to these people who, with perverse minds, demanded it. “Shall not be given it.” Nor was a sign given, at their request, such as they demanded—viz., “a sign from heaven;” and the particle (ειμη), nisi, except, will bear the meaning of but a sign will be given them, not from heaven, but from the very bowels of the earth, a sign which they cannot gainsay or misconstrue, the sign whereby I am proved to be “the Son of God” (Rom. 1:4); or, if the particle, nisi (except), be taken in its strict exceptive sense, then, it will mean, except the sign which I have already given them (John 2:19), a sign prefigured in the prophet Jonas. Our Redeemer refers to the miracle of His resurrection, to remove the occasion of scandal, which the Jews would conceive from His ignominious death and Passion.

Maldonatus explains, “sign,” in the second place; “the sign of Jonas,” differently from the word, sign—“Seeketh a sign”—they seek a sign, for persuasion to induce them to believe, and thus to be saved; but, the sign they shall get, is one that shall be for their condemnation, as is explained (Mt 12:41). However, the following (Mt 12:40) is clearly against this interpretation.

Mt 12:40. In this verse, is shown what is meant by “the sign of Jonas the prophet,” which is given them, and how his condition, in what happened him, was a type of our Lord’s resurrection. As Jonas was a Jesus, or Saviour to the Ninevites, so Jesus shall be a Jonas to the Jews.

“Whale’s belly.” In the prophecy of Jonas, it is called, “a great fish” (Jonah 2:1). It is perfectly idle to speculate to what species of marine monsters it belonged.

“Three days and three nights.” A paraphrase and exposition of three natural days of twenty-four hours, of which the integral parts are, day and night, light and darkness. This is a way of describing natural days, as distinguished from artificial days, during which the sun shines. By synedoche, the parts of three natural days are put for whole natural days. Our Redeemer uses the phrase, “three days and three nights,” to express natural days; because, such is the mode of expression used in reference to Jonas (Jonah 2:1). Then, our Redeemer was three natural days, in this partial sense, in the bosom of the earth, if we adopt the Jewish custom of computing their civil days, viz., from sunrise to sunrise; (they computed their festivals from evening to evening), viz., a part of Friday, the whole of Saturday, and apart of Sunday, from early dawn to sunrise. Or, if we adopt the calculation of the Romans, who probably introduced their civil calendar into Judea—from midnight to midnight—then, the same results; a portion of Friday, from His death till midnight; the whole of Saturday; a part of Sunday, from midnight till morning. It would seem, that the Jews adopted the Roman computation of time in civil matters, as we find the system of counting hours from watch to watch existing among them (Matt. 14:25). We have an example of computing natural days in a partial sense (Esther 5:1), where the Jews are told to “fast three days and three nights;” and still, after part of these days, “on the third day,” Esther went to the king on the business, for the successful issue of which the fast was observed. Hence, our Redeemer is frequently said to “rise on the third day” (Matt. 16:22); and it is quite common in all languages, to say that a thing was done after three days, which was done on the third day. After three days you must appear, would mean, you must do so on the third day.

“In the heart of the earth.” This refers to the Limbus Patrum, called by St. Paul (Eph. 4:9), “the lower parts of the earth,” to which He descended to preach deliverance to the saints therein detained captive (1 Peter 3:19).

Mt 12:41. After instituting a comparison between Himself and Jonas, and between the Jews and Ninevites, our Redeemer points out the different fruits resulting from Jonas’s preaching and His own; and He thus shows, in the clearest light, the obstinacy of the Jews.

“The men of Ninive shall rise in judgment,” that is, shall be witnesses against the Jews. The word, “rise,” contains an allusion to the usage, which then prevailed, to have witnesses to give testimony in a standing posture.

“And shall condemn it,” not that they shall act as judges; but, by a judgment of contrast or comparison, they shall show, by their penance and good works, that the obstinate and incredulous Jews shall be justly condemned.

“They did penance.” Although the Greek word, “μετενοησαν,” strictly speaking, only means, a change of heart; still, we know that their penance, which is here commended by our Redeemer, involved acts of the austerest penitential severity and rigour (Jonah 3:6-8); and, it was, when “God saw their works, that He had mercy on them” (v. 10). (See p. 39.)

“A greater than Jonas.” Jonas was but a servant; Christ, the Master; Jonas, a creature; Christ was God.

Mt 12:42. Another example to show the same. “The Queen of the South,” some country south of Judea. She is called “the Queen of Saba” (1 Kings 10:1), of which Saba, some say, Saba, in Arabia Felix; and she might be said to come from “the ends of the earth,” as Arabia Felix is the farthest off point of land in that quarter, being bounded by the Persian Gulf and Red Sea. Others understand Saba, the chief city of the island Meroe, in Ethiopia, which Cambyses called Meroe, after his sister of that name. It is said, that the queens of Meroe were named Candaces, as the Egyptian monarchs went by the name of Pharaoh. Hence, the Ethiopian belonged to the Queen of Ethiopia, whom Philip found reading the SS. Scriptures (Acts 8), which were introduced into that country since the return of this queen from the court of Solomon.

“A greater” (πλειον), something greater. The neuter gender is used as a mark of humility; or, as agreeing with sign (σημειον). Out of humility, He speaks of Himself in the third person. The contrast is very striking. A woman undertakes a distant, laborious journey to see the wisdom of a mere man. Here, we have the God of heaven coming to preach a kingdom to the Jews, bringing it home to their very doors; and they reject and spurn it.

Mt 12:43. St. Luke (Lk 11:24) records this parable, as also the exclamation of the woman, who pronounced the parent of our Redeemer happy (v. 46), before our Redeemer’s refutation of the calumnies of the Pharisees, referred to in the preceding, ascribing His miracles to diabolical agency. But, as St. Matthew is more exact in following the order of events, it is better to adopt the order which he follows.

Mt 12:43–45. The whole parable is given in these three verses, as well as its application. “So shall it be also to this wicked generation.” The Pharisees charged our Redeemer with being possessed by a devil, and with acting under his influence. Our Redeemer, after refuting this gross calumny, now wishes to inspire the proud, impenitent Pharisees with salutary fear, by describing their wretched spiritual condition, and the misfortunes which are sure to overtake them. He, at the same time, conveys, that they, and not He, are under the power of the devil.

“An unclean spirit.” The devil, who prompts and instigates to acts of impurity and sin. “Is gone out of a man,” being expelled by God’s powerful grace, either in baptism or penance. “He walketh through dry places.” St. Luke has, “places without water” (Lk 11:24). (The Greek, however, is the same in both, τόπων ἀνύδρων). This is said of the demon, ascribing to him the feelings of men, or in accommodation to the notions of the Jews regarding the haunts of demons—generally supposed to reside in waterless deserts, and this notion is warranted by Scripture (Tobit 8:3)—and of persons possessed, who never are at rest. “Seeking rest, and findeth none.” Some understand, “dry places,” to refer to persons of mortified habits, not enervated by luxury, whom the demons assail in vain, without gaining admittance.

Mt 12:44. “Findeth it empty,” useless; unoccupied by God, who no longer makes it His abode.

“Swept and garnished,” destitute of virtue, piety, or Divine grace, filled with pride, furnished with the ordure of sin, in which the unclean spirit finds delight.

Mt 12:45. To render his hold more lasting and secure, he takes back with him an indefinite number of devils, represented by the number, “Seven.”

“And the last state of that man is worse,” &c. This is a proverbial form of expression (see 2 Peter 2:20, 21; Hebrews 12:4).

“So shall it be also to this wicked generation.” This is the application of the foregoing similitude, as if He said: It shall happen this wicked generation, as happens a demoniac, from whom a devil is expelled, and into whom, a whole legion of demons afterwards enter, rendering his last condition infinitely worse, and more deplorable than the first. Our Redeemer conveys to the Jews, that having been freed from the tyranny of Satan by the law, segregated from all the nations, and especially cared by God’s providence, they now, by their sins, their obstinacy and resistance to God’s grace, provoke against themselves a heavier judgment of impenitence, and shall continue irretrievably under the dominion of Satan. No doubt, the example has a more general application. It is applicable to every relapsing sinner, and clearly represents his miserable spiritual condition. But it is specially intended for the Jewish people, as is clear from the application made by our Lord, “So shall it be also to this wicked generation.”

Mt 12:46. While our Redeemer was addressing the multitudes, His blessed mother, probably desirous of withdrawing her Divine Son from the dangers that encompassed Him, and also of securing for Him some respite from His labours, stood outside, wishing to speak to Him.

“And His brethren,” also, that is, His cousins, who are called “brethren,” according to the custom among the Jews, of calling cousins, by the name of “brethren.” These were, most probably, the children of Mary, the daughter of Cleophas, and the wife of Alpheus. This Mary was cousin to the Blessed Virgin. These came from Nazareth to Capharnaum to see Him.

“Stood without,” as they could not go in and reach Him by reason of the crowd (Luke 8:19). It might be also, that they wished to speak to Him privately, apart from the crowd.

“Seeking to speak to Him.” His relatives, unable to see Him, sent a message to Him (Mark 3:31). They (His relatives) said, “He is become mad” (Mark 3:21). Whether they really thought so, or only affected to think it, in order to withdraw Him from the fury of His enemies, may be disputed. It is quite certain, the Blessed Virgin did not think so; she knew well He was of sound mind. Likely, His “brethren,” concealed from her, their opinions regarding Him, and brought her, by way of respect, to converse more secretly with our Lord. Their design was to force Him away with them to Nazareth.

Mt 12:47. “Thy brethren.” There is a tradition, that the Blessed Virgin was an only child. Hence, “brethren,” refer to the children of the cousin-german of the Blessed Virgin, viz., Mary Cleophas, the wife of Alpheus.

“And one said unto Him.” St. Mark says, they sent a messenger to Him (Mk 3:31).

Mt 12:48. In asking this question, He does not mean to deny, that He had a real mother, or to imply that He was ashamed of His mother or brethren; but, probably, to check the untimely importunity and interruption of the messenger, and also to show, as St. Ambrose intimates, that He preferred the ministry of His Father to maternal affection. He wished to convey, that He acknowledges no mother, no brother, should they in the least interfere with Him, while doing His Father’s business. (See Luke 2)

Mt 12:49. Our Redeemer extends the relationship to a higher degree, and takes occasion to give a preference to His spiritual relationship, which He prized more than His natural relationship. In this respect, He prized His blessed mother more than all the rest of creation; because, in a spiritual sense, she was the most perfect and the holiest of God’s creatures.

Mt 12:50. In this, His blessed mother is pre-eminently included, as she had, in the most perfect manner, accomplished God’s holy and adorable will. The words, “brother, sister,” &c., show, that in spiritual relationship, there is no distinction of sex; but that all are one, as St. Paul declares (Gal. 3:28).

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