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

Archive for March 29th, 2011

Father Callan’s Commentary on Ephesians 5:8-14

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 29, 2011

This post contains Father Callan’s brief introduction to chapter 5 of Ephesians followed by his notes on verses 8-14.


A Summary of Ephesians 5:1-21~This Chapter continues the thought of the preceding Chapter, and verses 1-2 here really belong at the end of Chapter 4, with which they are so intimately connected. The Apostle has just been saying that his readers, in forgiving one another, should imitate God who has pardoned them for the sake of Christ; and now he continues that thought, and makes the further plea that in their relations with one another they should imitate the charity of Christ who gave Himself as a sacrifice to God for us all.

Verses 1-21 here, apparently having in view pagan pleasures and festivities, contain five commands mainly for self-guidance regarding Christian love, light, wisdom, gladness and submission, as Chapter 4:25-32, contained five prohibitions regarding others.

8. For you were heretofore darkness, but now light in the Lord. Walk then as children of the light.

The Apostle now gives other reasons to show why the faithful ought to avoid the sins mentioned above (in verses 3-5). Before their conversion they were “darkness,” i.e., the very embodiment of moral ignorance and corruption; but now as Christians they embody “light,” possessing the truth of Him and living in union with Him who said: “I am the light of the world, etc.” (John 8:12 ff.). Their lives, therefore, ought to be in conformity with the knowledge and grace they have received. This and the two following verses constitute a parenthesis in which the Apostle is again contrasting (as in Eph 2:11-22 and Eph 4:17-24) the new condition of his readers with their old condition.

9. For the fruit of the light is in all goodness, and justice, and truth;

Fruit of the light. The Textus Receptus and some other lesser MSS. have: “fruit of the Spirit,” which is certainly not the best reading, as the context shows. It was doubtless introduced from Gal 5:22.

Is in, etc., i.e., consists in, etc.

Goodness is the quality by which a person Is good in himself and shows himself benevolent to others: it is opposed to anger (Eph 4:31).

Justice, as here used and in general, is the rectitude of moral acts, and in particular it is understood as the virtue which regulates our dealings with our neighbor; it is opposed to avarice (verse3).

Truth is the supreme rule of life, governing our obligations to ourselves, our neighbor, and God; it is opposed to lying (Eph 4:25). This verse is a parenthesis within the parenthesis of ver. 8-10. Cf. Voste, hoc loco.

10. Proving what is well pleasing to God:

Proving, etc., i.e., testing all things by the touchstone of God’s will and good pleasure, and conforming in our actions to the results thus ascertained.

To God should be “to the Lord,” according to the Greek, Thus, our Lord is here supposed to be God, because He is made the judge and norm of our actions: the judgment of the Lord is the judgment of God. The parenthesis closes with this verse, and the thought goes back to that of verse 7.

11. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.

Here the Christians are warned not only to have no part in the sinful works of the pagans, but by their own good lives and example they are to register their disapproval of them. Perhaps their disapproval is to be expressed also in words, if necessary; but from the following verse it seems they are not even to speak of those works, if this can be avoided. The sinful practices of the pagans are said to be “unfruitful,” as being devoid of all merit for eternal life and deserving of eternal damnation; they are the opposite of the fruits of the light (ver. 9).

12. For the things that are done by them in secret, it is a shame even to speak of.

The dark deeds here referred to are mentioned in Rom 8:13, St. Paul is alluding to certain nocturnal feasts and mysteries which the pagans celebrated with an idolatry and an immorality that were unspeakable,

13. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light; for all that is made manifest is light.

The Apostle is telling his readers that, whereas they were formerly moral darkness because of their sins, they are now moral light in the Lord (ver. 8), and that the spiritual radiance now emanating from their good lives and example is able to convert the moral darkness of the gross paganism around them into moral light like themselves. Nothing can resist the influence and light of a truly holy life; spiritual light makes manifest sin and works of darkness, and turns them from darkness to light ; everything that is thus made manifest becomes light in its turn.

14. Wherefore he saith: Rise thou that steepest, and arise from the dead; and Christ shall enlighten thee.

Wherefore he saith. Who saith? It is difficult to determine. Many moderns think the Apostle is here referring to some ancient hymn or baptismal formula of the early Church, which was well known to the faithful. Others think he is citing some apocryphal work. With greater probability still others hold that we have here a free citation of Isa 60:: “Arise, be enlightened, O Jerusalem: for thy light is come, etc.” The application is clear: Let those who are asleep and dead in sin, arise, and they shall be enlightened by Christ, and thus enabled in their turn to shed their light on the pagan darkness around them.

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Father MacIntyre’s Commentary on John 9:1-41 for the Fourth Sunday of Lent

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 29, 2011

In the following narrative we have the account of another symbolical miracle, one illustrative of the great truth that Christ is the Light of the world. Hence our Lord heals the man s spiritual blindness (35-38) as well as his bodily blindness.

Joh 9:1  And Jesus passing by, saw a man who was blind from his birth.

The narrative is closely connected with the preceding narrative, and the events flow on uninterruptedly. Jesus went out of the Temple, and passing by, saw a man who was blind from his birth. The Holy Name does not occur in the first verse of the original text, but has been repeated from 8:59.

Joh 9:2  And his disciples asked him: Rabbi, who hath sinned, this man or his parents, that he should be born blind?

Rabbi, who hath sinned, this man, or his parents? That such inflictions as blindness, disease, &c., are punishments sometimes inflicted for sin, is quite certain; but it was a widespread Jewish opinion that all such calamities were punishments for personal sin, and that children were afflicted because of the sins of their parents. Besides, according to the Rabbis, evil impulse begins its dominion even from birth. We must suppose, therefore, that the disciples, impressed deeply by the greatness of the man s calamity, and with the current notions of the time running vaguely through their minds, put the question to our Lord. The very question is an incidental proof of their belief that our Lord knew all things. Our Lord answered, that the blindness was not the punishment of personal sin.

Joh 9:3  Jesus answered: Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents; but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.

But (it happened) that (in order that) the works of God (i.e., what God works) should be made manifest in him. The cause of the man’s blindness was the natural working of the natural forces that work through all nature. God permits the ill results that occasionally spring from those forces; but for a high moral purpose. Our Lord declares the reasonableness of such results when they are viewed in connection with that moral purpose. The actual case of the blind man is made an instance in point. His calamity had been permitted in order that the glory of God might be manifested by the miracle that was about to be performed.

Joh 9:4  I must work the works of him that sent me, whilst it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.

I must work (the better attested reading is, We must work ) the works of him that sent me (a weakly attested reading gives us ), whilst it is day. Under the form of a general principle, applicable to the Apostles in their association with Christ in the work of converting the world, our Lord gives a reason why He is now about to heal the man’s bodily and spiritual blindness. He must accomplish, while in the flesh on earth, the works which the Father had given Him to accomplish, in the present visible mode and action, on earth.

Joh 9:5  As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.

As long as I am in the world, explains what is meant by day and night of ver. 4, i.e., the day of life, and the night of death which brought Christ s mortal life to an end (cf. Jn 3:17, 19, 6:14, 8:26). Hence our Lord is speaking of His visible mission on earth, when, in a special way, He was the Light of the world; for, in fact, He has always been the Light (Jn 1:4, 5). The Greek runs literally, When I am in the world, I am Light to the world. That is, I cannot be in the world unless at the same time enlightening the world. The when also suggests a time when He would withdraw His visible presence from the world.

Joh 9:6  When he had said these things, he spat on the ground and made clay of the spittle and spread the clay upon his eyes,

Made clay of the spittle. Our Lord, although usually working miracles by a word (cf. Jn 5: 8), sometimes added, as in the present instance, some ceremony (cf. Mark 7:33, 8:23). St. John does not inform us for what reason our Lord anointed the eyes of the blind man, and we can therefore only conjecture. But we learn, at any rate, how our Lord could have imparted to the sacramental signs their spiritual efficacy.

Joh 9:7  And said to him: Go, wash in the pool of Siloe, which is interpreted, Sent. He went therefore and washed: and he came seeing.

Go, wash in (wash into, i.e., wash away the clay into) the pool of Siloe (Siloam). Or the εις (“in”) may belong, not to νιψαι (wash), but to υπαγε (go) = Go to the pool (see verse 11). The name of the pool still survives in Birket Silwan, situated at the entrance of the Tyropoeon Valley, on the south-east of the hill of Sion. The pool is probably that referred to in Isa 8:6; Neh 3:15.

Which is interpreted, Sent. The term might be either a noun, “ascending forth”, i.e., of water, or a participial adjective, sent. St. John shows that the name was providentially intended to be symbolical; and the prominence given to the pool in the Feast of Tabernacles (see on Jn 7:37) points to such symbolism. In the command, therefore, to wash in Siloe there is a symbolism of Him who was the Sent of the Father.

And he came (ηλθεν: perhaps, “came home”, see verse 8) seeing.

Joh 9:8  The neighbours, therefore, and they who had seen him before that he was a beggar, said: Is not this he that sat and begged? Some said: This is he.
Joh 9:9  But others said: No, but he is like him. But he said: I am he.

No, but he is like him. The acquisition of sight altered his expression of face.

Joh 9:10  They said therefore to him: How were thy eyes opened?
Joh 9:11  He answered: That man that is called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and said to me: Go to the pool of Siloe and wash. And I went: I washed: and I see.
Joh 9:12  And they said to him: Where is he? He saith: I know not.

Where is he? The people were evidently perplexed about the violation of the Sabbath (verses 13, 14); and as they could not themselves answer the question, they seek the authority of the leaders.

Joh 9:13  They bring him that had been blind to the Pharisees.

To the Pharisees. Not, however, to the Sanhedrin, for St. John never designates the Sanhedrin by the simple term, “the Pharisees” (see Jn 7:32, 45, 11:47, 56, 18:3).

Joh 9:14  Now it was the sabbath, when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes.

Now it was the sabbath. The ground on which the charge would rest was plain: the healing involved a manifold breach of the Sabbath-law. The first of these was that Jesus had made clay. Next, it would be a question whether -any remedy might be applied on the holy-day. Such could only be done in diseases of the internal organs (from the throat downwards) except when danger to life or the loss of an organ was involved. It was, indeed, declared lawful to apply, for example, wine to the outside of the eyelid, on the ground that this might be treated as washing; but it was sinful to apply it to the inside of the eye. And as regards saliva, its application to the eye is expressly forbidden on the ground that it was evidently intended as a remedy (Eders. l.c., p. 334).

Our Lord worked seven specific miracles of healing on the Sabbath : (1) A man with an unclean spirit (Mk 1:23); (2) Simon’s wife’s mother, Mk 1:29); (3) a man with a withered hand (Matt 12:10); (4) a woman with a spirit of infirmity (Lk 13: 11, 14); (5) a dropsical man (Lk 14:2, 3); (6) a paralytic at Bethesda (Jn 5:10); (7) man born blind.

Joh 9:15  Again therefore the Pharisees asked him how he had received his sight. But he said to them: He put clay upon my eyes: and I washed: and I see.

Again therefore the Pharisees (και οι φαρισαιοι = “the Pharisees also”). The statement looks back to the question put previously by the crowd (verse 10). They had evidently not been satisfied with the account given by those who had brought the man, and so made the man himself repeat it. The shortness of the man’s reply shows that he is getting somewhat angry at the questioning.

Joh 9:16  Some therefore of the Pharisees said: This man is not of God, who keepeth not the sabbath. But others said: How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? And there was a division among them.

Some therefore . . . but others. The undeniable truth of the fact creates a great dilemma. Is their Sabbath-observance Divine, or is the miracle Divine? They are puzzled to find an answer, and therefore ask the man for his opinion. The man readily replied.

Joh 9:17  They say therefore to the blind man again: What sayest thou of him that hath opened thy eyes? And he said: He is a prophet.
Joh 9:18  The Jews then did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of him that had received his sight,
Joh 9:19  And asked them, saying: Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then doth he now see?
Joh 9:20  His parents answered them and said: We know that this is our son and that he was born blind:
Joh 9:21  But how he now seeth, we know not: or who hath opened his eyes, we know not. Ask himself: he is of age: Let him speak for himself.

He is a prophet, i.e., a man sent by God (cf. Jn 3:2). The same conclusion had been drawn by Nicodemus, one of themselves; there was force, therefore, in the inference. Only one course was now open to call in question the truth of the already-admitted fact. The man’s parents were summoned. They attested that their son had been born blind; but, fearing the Jews, they prudently declined to make any statement as to the manner in which he had recovered his sight, and reasonably referred the Pharisees to the son himself. In v. 21 there is a strong emphasis on the pronouns ” “we know not,”he is of age.”

Joh 9:22  These things his parents said, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had already agreed among themselves that if any man should confess him to be Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue.

For the Jews had already agreed (συνετεθειντο). Not necessarily by a formal decree of the Sanhedrin (see Lk 22:5; Acts 23:20. The word occurs nowhere else in N.T.).

That (ινα) if any man. The particle represents what they had agreed upon as the purpose or intention of their agreement.

He should be put out of the synagogue (αποσυναγωγος γενηται = he should become unsynagogued). Two, or perhaps three, kinds of excommunication are mentioned in Jewish writings. The first two were comparatively mild punishments, and took the form of an admonition or rebuke. The third, called the Cherem or ban, was the real casting out or unsynagoguing. The culprit became as a leper. He might buy the necessaries of life, but he was obliged to wear a culprit s dress, so that all might avoid him; for it was forbidden to eat or drink with him, to show him the road, or to hold intercourse with him.

Joh 9:23  Therefore did his parents say: He is of age. Ask himself.

Therefore: cf. verse 16.

Joh 9:24  They therefore called the man again that had been blind and said to him: Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner.
Joh 9:25  He said therefore to them: If he be a sinner, I know not. One thing I know, that whereas I was blind. now I see.
Joh 9:26  They said then to him: What did he to thee? How did he open thy eyes?

Give glory to God (A.V. give God the praise). This is not an invitation to give praise to God for the cure, the truth of which the Pharisees do not wish to admit, but an adjuration to speak the truth, Give glory to God by speaking the truth (cf. Joshua 7:19). They desire the man to withdraw his profession of faith that Christ was a prophet (verse 17).

We (very emphatic -We, the leaders) know that this man is a sinner.

Joh 9:27  He answered them: I have told you already, and you have heard. Why would you hear it again? Will you also become his disciples?

I have told (better, I told) you already, and you have heard (ουκ ηκουσατε = you did not hear). Better, interrogatively, “I told you already, and did you not hear?”

Joh 9:28  They reviled him therefore and said: Be thou his disciple; but we are the disciples of Moses.

Be thou his disciple. Better, “Thou art that man’s disciple.”

Joh 9:29  We know that God spoke to Moses: but as to this man, we know not from whence he is.

We know that God spoke (hath spoken: for the Mosaic revelation still remained) to Moses.

Joh 9:30  The man answered and said to them: why, herein is a wonderful thing, that you know not from whence he is, and he hath opened my eyes.

Why, herein is a wonderful thing. Better, “Herein ( = in this) certainly is the marvel, that you (the leaders of the people) should not know whence he is, and ( = although) he hath opened my eyes.” Moses by miracle had proved that he was sent by God; the Pharisees, therefore, believe in Moses Divine mission: Jesus works miracles, and says He is sent by God; but the Pharisees know not whence He is!

Joh 9:31  Now we know that God doth not hear sinners: but if a man be a server of God and doth his, will, him he heareth.

Now we (i.e., both you and I) know that God doth not hear sinners. It was a Rabbinic maxim, a maxim constantly repeated by them, that answers to prayer depended on a man s being pious. The maxim was an exaggeration and perversion of an undoubted Scriptural truth (Prov 15:29, 28:9; Job 27:8, 9; Isa 1:15, 59:2). But it was their own maxim, and the man urges it against them.

Joh 9:32  From the beginning of the world it hath not been heard, that any man hath opened the eyes of one born blind.
Joh 9:33  Unless this man were of God, he could not do anything.
Joh 9:34  They answered and said to him: Thou wast wholly born in sins; and dost thou teach us? And they cast him out.

He could not do anything, i.e., miraculous anything like the wonder wrought in me. The Pharisees had nothing to answer. They turn on the man with bitter reproach. Would he presume to teach them? he who was through and through a born reprobate (“wholly born in sins”: cf. verse 2), as was proved by his being born blind.

And they cast him out (και εξεβαλον αυτον εξω), i.e., out of the place of assembly; not excommunicated or unsynagogued him (cf. the different phrases in verse 22). But perhaps some form of excommunication is implied (verse 35).

Joh 9:35  Jesus heard that they had cast him out. And when he had found him, he said to him: Dost thou believe in the Son of God?
Joh 9:36  He answered, and said: Who is he, Lord, that I may believe in him?

Who is he, Lord? ( = sir). As the man had already declared Jesus to be a prophet, he naturally believed He could point out the Messiah.

Joh 9:37  And Jesus said to him: Thou hast both seen him; and it is he that talketh with thee.

Thou hast both seen him. The Greek may be literally rendered, “Thou even (actually) seest (perfect in sense of present) Him, and He that speaketh with thee is He” (cf. Jn 4:26).

Joh 9:38  And he said: I believe, Lord. And falling down, he adored him.

Falling down he adored. Although the verb προσεκυνησεν does not of itself necessarily imply supreme worship, yet St. John uses it solely of such supreme and Divine worship (Jn 4:20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 12:20).

Joh 9:39  And Jesus said: For judgment I am come into this world: that they who see not may see; and they who see may become blind.

For judgment (κριμα) I am come (came) into this world. As the man knelt at our Lord’s feet in humble adoration (verse 38) our Lord, turning to the bystanders, explains the deep lesson of the miracle. The man had been blind both in mind and body; but in both he can now see. The Pharisees, although really blind of heart, had boasted that they could see (29, 34); but their pride involves them in still denser darkness. The term κριμα, employed only in this place of the Gospel of St. John, occurs in the Apocalypse thrice (Rev 17:1, 18:20, 20:4), and in all three places it means a sentence, favourable or unfavourable. Outside the Apocalypse the term is used in the New Testament twenty-four times, so that it is easy to gather its meaning a decree, a judgment which is formed or passed, a sentence. It can also have the sense of a simple decision.

That (ινα = in order that) they who see not (i.e., those who are involved in the darkness of sin and ignorance) may see (of course, through their acceptance of grace and their obedience to the truth, Jn 1:9, 12): and they who see (i.e., wrap themselves up in the pride of self-sufficiency and boasted knowledge, as did the Pharisees), may become blind (i.e., by God’s decree and just sentence be buried in deeper darkness). Man’s obstinacy is punished by withdrawal of grace. These results, on the one side salutary, on the other side condemnatory, of the Divine decree already passed, must not be confounded with the future judgment of eternal condemnation to be given by Christ (Jn 5:22), from which judgment Christ desires to save all men (Jn 3:17); but such results are, in the case of the obstinate, true consequences, taking effect even in this life, that overtake those who believe not, and who are therefore “already judged” (Jn 3:18), and upon whom “the wrath of God abideth” (Jn 3:36). Compare, for the whole sentence, Jn 1:4, 9, 12, 3:14-21, 36, 5:22-24, 8:21, 26.  God’s justice makes men eat the fruit of their own way.

Joh 9:40  And some of the Pharisees, who were with him, heard: and they said unto him: Are we also blind?

And some of the Pharisees. Better, “And those of the Pharisees, who were with Him (probably for the purpose of malicious espionage), heard; (and, perceiving the spiritual drift of Christ’s words) they said unto Him: But surely we also are not blind?”

Joh 9:41  Jesus said to them: If you were blind, you should not have sin: but now you say: We see. Your sin remaineth.

If you were blind (i.e., from simplicity and mere ignorance), you should (would) not have sin: but now you say : We see (are proudly self-reliant and boastful).

Your sin remaineth (abideth: cf. Jn 5:38, 6:27, 57).

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Father Callan on 1 Corinthians 15:12-20a

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 29, 2011


A Summary of 1 Corinthians 15:12-20a~Before coming to the main theme of the present chapter, which is the resurrection of the just, and of all the dead, St. Paul wishes still further to strengthen and enlighten the belief of the Corinthians in Christ’s glorious Resurrection, for it is upon this latter that he will base his great argument for the truth of the former. Therefore, after having cited in the preceding section what he considers to be the best witnesses for our Saviour’s corporal Resurrection, he proceeds now to show the dire consequences that would necessarily follow if Christ were not truly risen. In such an event both the preaching of the Apostles and the faith of Christians would be without foundation. Wherefore, he concludes, we must accept the Resurrection of Christ.

12. Now if Christ be preached, that he arose again from the dead, how do some among you say, that there is no resurrection of the dead?
13. But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen again.

These verses show that some among the Corinthians denied the resurrection of the dead, but they imply that those same sceptics believed that Christ was truly risen; otherwise St. Paul’s argument here would avail nothing against those who thought corporal resurrection was absurd and impossible (against MacR.). If they admitted, as seems evident, that Christ was risen, then it is possible for others to rise; and since the faithful form one mystical body of which Christ is the head (1 Cor 6:15; 12:27), their resurrection must naturally follow upon His. It is unseemly that the head should live without the body. Moreover, Christians, by reason of their union and fellowship with Christ, have become the adopted children of God, having a right to share in Christ’s inheritance and in the glory and honor, of body as well as soul, which is His. Thus the admitted Resurrection of Christ makes necessary the further admission that His members will also rise.

If it be objected that this argument proves only the resurrection of the just, of Christians who are united with Christ, we may reply with St. Chrysostom and St. Thomas that St. Paul was writing to, and arguing against those among the faithful of Corinth who denied the resurrection, but who did not consider that they thereby ceased to be Christians, united to Christ.

14. And if Christ be not risen again, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.
15. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God: because we have given testimony against God, that he hath raised up Christ; whom he hath not raised up if the dead rise not again.

Terrible consequences would follow, if Christ were not risen again, (a) Both the preaching of the Apostles and the faith of their converts would be vain, i.e., without foundation, because Christ pointed to His Resurrection as the supreme proof of His Divinity and Messiahship (Matt 12:38 ff.; John 2:18 ff.); and if He be not truly risen, then we must conclude that He was a false prophet and has deceived both preachers and believers, and that there is no reason for either the Gospel or faith.

The Apostles always proved the divine origin and authority of their preaching by appealing to the Resurrection of Jesus, holding that God would not have raised Him from the dead had He not been all He claimed to be, and had His doctrine not been true (Acts 1:22; 2:24, 32; 3:15, 21; 4:10, 33; 5:30; 10:37; 17:31 ; Rom 1:4; 4:24, etc.).

(b) The Apostles would be false witnesses of God, because they have attributed to Him something He never did, namely, the raising of Christ from the grave. And if it is an evil thing falsely to attribute something of grave moment to another human being, what a serious offence it would be to bear similar false witness to God!

Again, both in verse 14 and in verse 15 should be omitted, as not represented in the Greek.

16. For if the dead rise not again, neither is Christ risen again.

For if the dead, etc., a solemn repetition of the conclusion stated above, in verse 13, from which still further evils would result.

Again in this and in the following verse should be away.

17. And if Christ be not risen again, your faith is vain, for you are yet in your sins.
18. Then they also that are fallen asleep in Christ, are perished.

Your faith is vain, i.e., useless to you, for you could not be redeemed and freed from your sins by an impostor who claimed to be the true Messiah and Saviour of the world.

Then they also, etc. In the event that Christ is not truly risen, then those that died believing in Him and hoping for the remission of their sins through His redeeming merits, have died with their sins still upon them and are lost forever.

19. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.

If Christ is not risen from the dead, faith in Him is not only useless for the living and the dead, but it is also a great detriment to Christians. If all our faith in Christ does for us is to give us in the present life a groundless hope of something false, causing us to deny ourselves many things which unbelievers enjoy, and bringing upon us numberless persecutions, then indeed we are of all men more to be pitied (ελεεινοτεροι) than others.

20a. But now Christ is risen from the dead…

But all these terrible consequences that have just been described are false, because Christ is truly risen from the dead, and neither our preaching nor your faith is vain.

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Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Matthew 18:21-35

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 29, 2011

Ver 21. Then came Peter to him, and said, “Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?”22. Jesus saith unto him, “I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.”

Jerome: The Lord had said above, “See that ye despise not one of these little ones,” and had added, “If thy brother sin against thee, &c.” making also a promise, “If two of you, &c.” by which the Apostle Peter was led to ask, “Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?” And to his question he adds an opinion, “Until seven times?”

Chrys., Hom., lxi: Peter thought that he had made a large allowance; but what answers Christ the Lover of men? it follows, “Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times, but, Until seventy times seven.”

Aug., Serm., 83, 3: I am bold to say, that if he shall sin seventy-eight times, thou shouldest forgive him; yea, and if a hundred; and how oft soever he sin against thee, forgive him. For if Christ found a thousand sins, yet forgave them all, do not you withdraw your forgiveness. For the Apostle says, “Forgive one another, if any man hath a quarrel against any, even as God in Christ forgave you.” [Col_3:13]

Chrys.: When He says, “Until seventy times seven,” He does not limit a definite number within which forgiveness must be kept; but He signifies thereby something endless and ever enduring.

Aug.: Yet not without reason did the Lord say, “Seventy times seven;” for the Law is set forth in ten precepts; and the Law is signified by the number ten, sin by eleven, because it is passing the denary line. Seven is used to be put for a whole, because time goes round in seven days. Take eleven seven times, and you have seventy. He would therefore have all trespasses forgiven, for this is what He signifies by the number seventy-seven.

Origen: Or, because the number six seems to denote toil and labour, and the number seven repose, He says that forgiveness should be given to all brethren who live in this world, and sin in the things of this world. But if any commit transgressions beyond these things, he shall then have no further forgiveness.

Jerome: Or understand it of four hundred and ninety times, that He bids us forgive our brother so oft.

Raban.: It is one thing to give pardon to a brother when he seeks it, that he may live with us in social charity, as Joseph to his brethren; and another to a hostile foe, that we may wish him good, and if we can do him good, as David mourning for Saul.

Ver  23. “Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants.24. And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents.25. But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made.26. The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.27. Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.28. But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellow servants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest.29. And his fellow servant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.30. And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.31. So when his fellow servants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done.32. Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me:33. Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellow servant, even as I had pity on thee?34. And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.35. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.”

Chrys. That none should think that the Lord had enjoined something great and burdensome in saying that we must forgive till seventy times seven, He adds a parable.

Jerome: For it is customary with the Syrians, especially they of Palestine, to add a parable to what they speak; that what their hearers might not retain simply, and in itself, the instance and similitude may be the means of retaining.

Origen, (vid. 1Co_1:30): The Son of God, as He is wisdom, righteousness, and truth, so is He a kingdom; not indeed any of those which are beneath, but all those which are above, reigning over those in whose senses reigns justice and the other virtues; these are made of heaven because they bear the image of the heavenly. This kingdom of heaven then, i.e. the Son of God, when He was made in the likeness of sinful flesh, was then like to a king, in uniting man to himself.

Remig.: Or, by the kingdom of heaven is reasonably understood the holy Church, in which the Lord works what He speaks of in this parable. By the man is sometimes represented the Father, as in that, “The Kingdom of heaven is like to a king, who made a marriage for his son;” and sometimes the Son; but here we may take it for both, the Father and the Son, who are one God. God is called a King, inasmuch as He created and governs all things.

Origen: The servants, in these parables, are only they who are employed in dispensing the word, and to whom this business is committed.

Remig.: Or, by the servants of this King are signified all mankind whom He has created for His own praise, and to whom He gave the law of nature; He takes account with them, when He would look into each man’s manners, life, and deeds, that He may render to each according to that He has done; as it follows, “And when He had begun to reckon, one was brought unto Him which owed Him ten thousand talents.”

Origen: The King takes account of our whole life then, when “we must all be presented before the judgment-seat of Christ.” [2Co_5:10] We mean not this so as that any shouldst think that the business itself must needs require a long time. For God, when He will scrutinize the minds of all, will by some undescribable power cause every thing that every man has done to pass speedily before the mind of each.

He says, “And when he began to take account,” because the beginning of the judgment is that it begin from the house of God. [margin note: 1Pe_4:17] At His beginning to take account there is brought unto Him one who owes Him many talents; one, that is, who had wrought great evils; one on whom much had been enjoined, and had yet brought no gain; who perhaps had destroyed as many men as he owed talents; one who was therefore become a debtor of many talents, because he had followed the woman sitting upon a talent of lead, whose name is Iniquity. [Zec_5:7]

Jerome: I know that some interpret the man who owed the ten thousand talents to be the devil, and by his wife and children who were to be sold when he persevered in his wickedness, understand foolishness, and hurtful thoughts. For as wisdom is called the wife of the righteous man, so the wife of the unrighteous and the sinner is called foolishness. But how the Lord remits to the devil ten thousand talents, and how he would not remit ten denarii to us his fellow servants, of this there is no ecclesiastical interpretation, nor is it to be admitted by thoughtful men.

Aug., Serm., 83, 6: Therefore let us say, that because the Law is set forth in ten precepts, the ten thousand talents which he owed denote all sins which can be done under the Law.

Remig.: Man who sinned of his own will and choice, has no power to rise again by his own endeavour, and has not wherewith to pay, because he finds nothing in himself by which he may loose himself frown his sins; whence it follows, “And when he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made.” The fool’s wife is folly, and the pleasure or lust of the flesh.

Aug., Quaest. Ev., i, 25: This signifies that the transgressor of the decalogue deserves punishment for his lusts and evil deeds; and that is his price; for the price for which they sell is the punishment of him that is damned.

Chrys.: This command issued not of cruelty, but of unspeakable tenderness. For he seeks by these terrors to bring him to plead that he be not sold, which fell out, as he shews when he adds, “The servant therefore fell down and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.”

Remig.: That he says, “falling down,” shews how the sinner humbled himself, and offered amends. “Have patience with me,” expresses the sinner’s prayer, begging respite, and space to correct his error. Abundant is the bounty of God, and His clemency to sinners converted, seeing He is ever ready to forgive sins by baptism or penitence, as it follows, “But the lord of that servant had mercy upon him, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.”

Chrys.: See the exuberance of heavenly love! The servant asked only a brief respite, but he gives him more than he had asked, a full remittance and cancelling of the whole debt. He was minded to have forgiven him from the very first, but he would not have it to be of his own mere motion, but also of the other’s suit, that he might not depart without a gift. But he did not remit the debt till he had taken account, because he would have him know how great debts he set him free of, that by this he should at the least be made more merciful to his fellow servants.

And indeed as far as what has gone he was worthy to be accepted; for he made confession, and promised that he would pay the debt, and fell down and begged, and confessed the greatness of his debt. But his after deeds were unworthy of the former, for it follows, “But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellow servants which owed him a hundred denarii.”

Aug., Serm., 83, 6: That He says he “owed him a hundred denarii” is taken from the same number, ten, the number of the Law. For a hundred times a hundred are ten thousand, and ten times ten are a hundred; and those ten thousand talents and these hundred denarii are still keeping to the number of the Law; in both of them you find sins. Both are debtors, both are suitors for remission; so every man is himself a debtor to God, and has his brother his debtor.

Chrys.: But there is as great difference between sins committed against men, and sins committed against God, as between ten thousand talents and a hundred denarii; yea rather there is still greater difference. This appears from the difference of the persons, and from the fewness of the offenders. For when we are seen of man we withhold and are loath to sin, but we cease not daily though God see us, but act and speak all things fearlessly. Not by this only are our sins against God shewn to be more heinous, but also by reason of the benefits which we have received from Him; He gave us being, and has done all things in our behalf, has breathed into us a rational soul, has sent His Son, has opened heaven to us, and made us His sons. If then we should every day die for Him, could we make Him any worthy return? By no means; it should rather redound again to our advantage. But, on the contrary, we offend against His laws.

Remig.: So by him who owed ten thousand talents are represented those that commit the greater crimes; by the debtor of a hundred denarii those who commit the lesser.

Jerome: That this may be made plainer, let us speak it in instances. If any one of you shall have committed an adultery, a homicide, or a sacrilege, these greater sins of ten thousand talents shall be remitted when you beg for it, if you also shall remit lesser offences to those that trespass against you.

Aug.: But this unworthy, unjust servant would not render that which had been rendered to him, for it follows, “And he laid hands on him, and held him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest.”

Remig.: That is, he pressed him hardly, that he might exact vengeance from him.

Origen: He therefore, as I suppose, took him by the throat, because he had come forth from the king; for he would not have so handled his fellow servant, if he had not gone forth from the king.

Chrys.: By saying, “as he went out,” He shews that it was not after long time, but immediately; while the favour he had received still sounded in his ears, he abused to wickedness the liberty his lord had accorded him. What the other did is added; “And his fellow servant fell down, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.”

Origen: Observe the exactness of Scripture; the servant who owed many talents fell down, and worshipped the king; he who owed the hundred denarii falling down, did not worship, but besought his fellow servant, saying, “Have patience.” But the ungrateful servant did not even respect the very words which had saved himself, for it follows, “but he would not.”

Aug., Quaest. Ev., i, 21: That is, he nourished such thoughts towards him that he sought his punishment. “But he went his way.”

Remig.: That is, his wrath was the rather inflamed, to exact vengeance of him; “And he cast him into prison, until he should pay the debt;” that is, he seized his brother, and exacted vengeance of him.

Chrys.: Observe the Lord’s tenderness, and the servant’s cruelty; the one for ten thousand talents, the other for ten denarii; the one a suitor to his fellow, the other to his lord; the one obtained entire remission, the other sought only respite, but he got it not. They who owed nought grieved with him; “his fellow servants, seeing what was done, were very sorry.”

Aug., Quaest. Ev., i, 25: By the fellow servants is understood the Church, which binds one and looses another.

Remig.: Or perhaps they represent the Angels, or the preachers of the holy Church, or any of the faithful, who when they see a brother whose sins are forgiven refusing to forgive his fellow servant, they are sorrowful over his perdition. “And they came, and told their lord what was done.” They came not in body, but in spirit. To tell their Lord, is to shew the woe and sorrow of the heart in their carriage.

It follows, “Then his lord called him.” He called him by the sentence of death, and bade him pass out of this world, and said. unto him, “Thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou prayedst me.”

Chrys.: When he owed him ten thousand talents, he did not call him wicked, nor did he at all chide him, but had mercy on him; but now when he had been ungenerous to his fellow servant, then he says to him, “Thou wicked servant;” and this is what is said, “Oughtest thou not to have had mercy upon thy fellow servant.”

Remig.: And it is to be known, that we read no answer made by that servant to his lord; by which it is shewn us, that in the day of judgment, and altogether after this life, all excusing of ourselves shall be cut off.

Chrys.: Because kindness had not mended him, it remains that he be corrected by punishment; whence it follows, “And the lord of that servant was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay the whole debt.: He said not merely, “Delivered him,” but “was angry,” this he had not said before; when his Lord commanded that he should be sold; for that was not in wrath, but in love, for his correction; now this is a sentence of penalty and punishment.

Remig.: For God is said then to be wroth, when he takes vengeance on sinners. Torturers are intended for the daemons, who are always ready to take up lost souls, and torture them in the pangs of eternal punishment. Will any who is once sunk into everlasting  condemnation ever come to find season of repentance, and a way to escape?

Never; that “until” is put for infinity; and the meaning is, He shall be ever paying, and shall never quit the debt, but shall be ever under punishment.

Chrys.: By this is shewn that his punishment shall be increasing and eternal, and that he shall never pay. And however irrevocable are the graces and callings of God, yet wickedness has that force, that it seems to break even this law.

Aug., Serm., 83, 7: For God says, “Forgive, and ye shall be forgiven;” [Luk_6:37] I have first forgiven, forgive you then after Me; for if you forgive not, I will call you back, and will require again all that I had remitted to you. For Christ neither deceives nor is deceived; and He adds here, “Thus will my heavenly Father do unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.” It is better that you should cry out with your mouth, and forgive in your heart, than that you should speak smoothly, and be unrelenting in your heart. For the Lord adds, “From your hearts,” to the end that though, out of affection you put him to discipline, yet gentleness should not depart out of your heart.

What is more beneficial than the knife of the surgeon? He is rough with the sore that the man may be healed; should he be tender with the sore, the man were lost.

Jerome: Also this, “from your hearts,” is added to take away all feigned reconciliations. Therefore the Lord’s command to Peter under this similitude of the king and his servant who owed him ten thousand talents, and was forgiven by his lord upon his entreaty, is, that he also should forgive his fellow servants their lesser trespasses.

Origen: He seeks to instruct us, that we should be ready to shew clemency to those who have done us harm, especially if they offer amends, and plead to have forgiveness.

Raban.: Allegorically; The servant here who owed the ten thousand talents, is the Jewish people bound to the Ten Commandments in the Law. These the Lord oft forgave their trespasses, when being in difficulties they besought His mercy; but when they were set free, they exacted the utmost with great severity from all their debtors; and of the gentile people which they hated, they required circumcision and the ceremonies of the Law; yea, the  Prophets and Apostles they barbarously put to death. For all this the Lord gave them over into the hands of the Romans as to evil spirits, who should punish them with eternal tortures.

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