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

Father Callan’s Commentary on Philippians 4:10-19

Posted by Dim Bulb on November 6, 2010

This post includes Father Callan’s summary of Philippians 4:10-23 to help provide context for today’s reading. I’ve also included his commentary on verses 20-23.

THE CONCLUSION TO PHILIPPIANS: A Summary of 4:10-23. Having closed the didactic part of his letter, St. Paul now turns to personal matters. He thanks the Philippians for the gifts they sent him, recalling the privilege they have had in sharing, through their charity, in his labors and afflictions ever since they first had the Gospel preached to them, assuring them that he needs nothing further and that God will repay them in glory. Offering greetings from himself and his companions, he then imparts his blessing.

10. Now I rejoice in the Lord exceedingly, that now at length your thought for me hath flourished again, as you did also think; but you were busied.

The Apostle rejoices with a holy joy at the gifts the Philipplans have sent by Epaphroditus, not so much because they have succored him, but because by their charity they have profited spiritually.

That now at length, etc. Some see in these words a slight rebuke, as if the faithful at Philippi had been guilty of neglect in
the Apostle’s regard; but the real meaning is that a change for the better in their temporal circumstances or opportunities had enabled them to assist the Apostle once more as they had done in the past; they had the will to help all along, but they had been impeded.

As you did also think, etc., i.e., they did continue to care for him, they wanted to come to his assistance, but opportunity was lacking.

11. I speak not as it were for want. For I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, to be content therewith.
12. I know both how to be brought low, and I know how to abound: everywhere, and in all things I am instructed both to be full, and to b hungry;
both to abound, and to suffer need.
13. I can do all things in him who strengtheneth me.

In these verses the Apostle tells the Philippians that the gladness he experienced over their gifts was not due to his want or to the relief they gave him; for he has learned in the school of Christ to be content wherever he is, or with whatever he has, be it little or much, be he in need or in affluence. He has arrived at this state of spiritual peace and equanimity, not by his own efforts, but by reason of his union with Jesus Christ and the supernatural power given him by his Master: all his strength is from Christ.

I am instructed (verse 12). Better, “I have been initiated,” a phrase often
used with reference to pagan mystery cults, initiation into which was a slow and difficult process. It means here that St. Paul through faith, and perhaps by divine revelation, had learned the secret of the peace and contentment of mind which he describes in these verses. The Apostle was well aware of the great truth that it is what a man is that he carries into the future life, and that he leaves behind what he has here.

14. Nevertheless you have done well in communicating to my tribulation.

Nevertheless. From what the Apostle had just said the Philippians might conclude that he was not pleased with their gifts, and hence he now praises their liberality.

In communicating, etc., i.e., in taking a share in his affliction; because they thus made themselves worthy to have a share also in his rewards.

15. And you also know, Philippians, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but you only:
16. For unto Thessalonica also you sent once and again for my use.

He recalls their liberality of the past, which began with the first preaching of the Gospel at Philippi. And this singular honor belongs to the Philippians alone of all the Churches evangelized by St. Paul.

(Verse 15) No church communicated with me, etc. The Apostle is here
using commercial language, and his meaning is that no other Church gave him material aid in exchange for his spiritual benefits (cf. 1 Cor 9:11).

Verse 16) For unto Thessalonica, etc. Scarcely had the Apostle left the
Philippians on his way to Greece than they sent him gifts, and that several times, while he was yet in Macedonia (Acts 17:1-5). From no other Church, however, did he ever accept aid, as he tells us himself (2 Cor 11:7-9).

17. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account.

While praising the prompt liberality of the faithful of Philippi, St. Paul here, as in verse 11, is careful to remind them that he is not seeking help for himself, but rather the spiritual benefit of the Philippians; he rejoices at the merits they are gaining by their kind charity.

18. But I have all, and abound: I am filled, having received from Epaphroditus the things you sent, an odor of sweetness, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.

Again he forestalls a possible misunderstanding. In saying that he seeks in the gifts of the Philippians abundant spiritual fruit for them, it might seem to be implied that he wanted them to send him more. Therefore he here assures them that he has all that he needs, and more than he needs.

An odor of sweetness. The alms of the Philippians were not only acceptable to the Apostle, but were also pleasing to God, like
a sweet-smelling sacrifice (cf. Gen 8:21 ; Exod 29:18; Ezech 20:41).

19. And my God will supply all your want, according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

The Apostle now assures the PhiUppians that, in return for their material gifts to him, God will repay them with spiritual treasures; and this, not according to their merits, but “according to his riches,” which He will lavish on them “in glory,” i.e., in their heavenly home above. “His riches in glory” are the fruit of “the riches of his grace” (Eph 1:7).

In Christ Jesus, i.e., by reason of their union with Christ.

The impleat of the Vulgate should be implebit, to agree with the
Greek.

20. Now to God and our Father be glory world without end. Amen.

The words just spoken about the rewards of the Philippians cause the Apostle to break into a doxology in gratitude to the Giver of all good things, who is also “our Father.”

Glory. Better, “the glory,” as in the Greek, meaning the glory which belongs to God.

World without end is a Hebraism, meaning for all eternity. Amen, so be it.

21. Salute ye every saint in Christ Jesus.
22. The brethren who are with me, salute you. All the saints salute you; especially, they that are of Caesar’s household.

St. Paul sends first his personal salutations to each Christian of the Church at Philippi; then subjoins those of his immediate circle; and finally, those of all the Roman Christians, especially those of “Caesar’s household,” who were “probably slaves and freed men attached to the palace” (Lightfoot). The mention of these last personages shows how widespread and powerful was the influence of the Gospel, which had penetrated even into the royal palace.

23. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.

The Apostle concludes his Epistle with his accustomed blessing, which was very likely an autograph.

One Response to “Father Callan’s Commentary on Philippians 4:10-19”

  1. […] Father Callan on Today’s 1st Reading (Phil 4:10-19). Available 12:05 AM EST. […]

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