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 MacEvily’s Commentary on Matt 5:13-16

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 31, 2011

13.You are the salt of the earth. You are you ought to be. You are destined by Me to be, and are selected by Me to be such, which by My grace, you shall be in reality, the salt of the earth. Salt is the symbol of wisdom which is partly in the intellect, partly in the will or moral conduct. These words are addressed to the Apostles in particular, whom our Redeemer wishes to stimulate to patient suffering for His sake, and to zeal in executing His commands, by pointing out the exalted position which He assigns to them, as leaders and guides of His people. By several similitudes, He shows the character and position they hold. The Prophets were the salt of Judea only, the Apostles of the (entire) earth, hence the superiority of the latter. The twofold property of salt viz., to impart flavour to insipid food, and preserve from, corruption, symbolizes the character and office of the Apostles, in their relations with the world. What salt is to the food, seasoning and preserving it from corruption, they should be to the rest of mankind. By their preaching and holy example, they should render men, otherwise insipid before God, whom He would vomit out of His mouth (Rev 3), agreeable in His sight, and freeing them from the corruption of sin, preserve them for eternal incorruption. Our Redeemer here implies that the whole earth, of which the Apostles were the salt, was sunk in the corruption of sin. If salt lose there is nothing to restore to it its properties of flavouring and curing. If the teacher teaches what is false, or scandalize by his corrupt and immoral life, who can correct or restore him? The implied answer is, that although it be a thing, that may happen, it is a thing very difficult of accomplishment, and that rarely happens, as, indeed, a sad experience every day confirms.

It is good for nothing but to be cast out.  It is unfit for any useful purpose, like the wood of the vine (Ezek 15:2, 3, 4). St. Luke (14:35) more fully expresses it: ” It is neither profitable for the land nor for the dunghill, &c. Other things, even if they miss their destination, may be utilized gold, food, &c. not so salt, once it loses it properties of savouring and preserving. The cure of the perverse teacher is almost hopeless. Rarely, aud with difficulty, is he converted. Degradation and misery here, by being contemptuously trodden under foot by the passers-by, and eternal degradation under the feet of demons, hereafter, is generally, it is to be feared, the portion in store for him.

But, if the salt lose its savour. Some say salt never loses its savour; hence, our Redeemer here supposes what is false. The assertion is only hypothetical.
Our Redeemer does not say it does lose its savour. It is a supposition like But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach a gospe &c. (Gal 1:8) Rock salt, it is said, loses it savour, but not sea salt. Shaw and other modern travellers say, they saw, in their travels in the East, salt that lost its savour Many commentators here say there is allusion made by our Lord to bitumen taken from the Dead Sea, with which the victims in the temple were besmeared. This, after exposure to the air, lost its savoury qualities, and was then
thrown on the floor of the temple, to prevent the priests from slipping in wet weather.

14. He once more illustrates the character and duties of the Apostles by the example of light. They were destined to enlighten the world by the soundness and purity of their teaching and example a world, sunk in the darkness of sin and error. Both illustrations refer to the doctrine of faith and morals, with which they were to enlighten and reform the intellects and minds of mankind. Salt especially refers to morals or example; light, to teaching. You are that is, you ought, and are destined, to be, and shall be, if you correspond, as is meet, with My grace. They are a light, but having only a brilliancy borrowed from without, and imparted by Him who is of  Himself the true (essential) light, which enlightens every man the true Son of Justice itself.

A city &c. Here is a third example tending to the same thing, viz., to stimulate the Apostles to zeal in the discharge of the great Apostolic functions confided
to them, of enlightening and saving the rest of mankind, by the preaching, in season and out of season, of the Gospel of truth, and by the constant, open and public example of saintly lives. There is an ellipsis here of the words, You are a city set on a mountain.

15. These words have the same object as the preceding, to stimulate the Apostles to shine as lights before the world, to enlighten the surrounding darkness, and impart to all the world the light of a holy, spotless life, and of pure teaching. As a city on a hill cannot be hid, so neither can the Apostles, from their exalted position, be concealed from the eyes of men; and, hence, their duty, to live so as to edify men. As no one lights a candle for the purpose of concealing its light, so neither did God constitute the Apostles as the lights of the world, in order to hide their light and detain the truth of God in injustice. Their duty is quite plain, viz., to diffuse this light far and near; to be deterred by no obstacles, in the free exercise of the exalted commission confided to them by God Himself, and to show forth the brilliancy of their virtues, and by their example to allure others to God.

16. Here, we have the explanation and application of the foregoing parables. In the preceding, He shows, that their light should shine before men. In this, He shows how it is to shine, how they are to discharge the duties of enlightening and saving the world, imposed upon them, and the end or motive they should have in view, viz., the glory of their Heavenly Father. In this verse is insinuated, that unless our works correspond with our teaching, we cannot bring men to God. The particle that, denotes the consequence, not the end or motive, at least the ultimate one. Our ultimate end or motive should be, not our own personal glory, nor the praises of men; but, God’s glory. Hence, this is not opposed to Matt 6:1, THAT you may be seen by them, as in these latter words, is conveyed the ultimate end or final motive of catching the applause and securing the praise of men.  Sit opus in publico, ut intentio maneat in occulto (St. Gregory). Those, then, violate the injunction of our Lord 1. Who (1)  indolently hide their light under a bushel, or traffic not with the talent confided to them. (2). Whose lives correspond not with their teaching. (3). Whose motives are Corrupt, viz., vanity, desire of applause, and not God s greater glory.


2 Responses to “Father MacEvily’s Commentary on Matt 5:13-16”

  1. […] Bishop MacEvily on Matt 5:13-16 for Sunday Mass, Feb 6. […]

  2. […] Bishop MacEvilly’s Commentary on Matthew 5:13-16. […]

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