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

Juan de Maldonado’s Commentary on Matthew 5:43-48

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 13, 2011

Mat 5:43  You have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thy enemy.

The question as to where this is found was discussed on verse 21. Your neighbour  לרעך “your friend,” for that is the meaning of the Hebrew word. That is, one who is near to you in blood or friendship. Such an one is called our, neighbour, not as some think in a foreign tongue, but in the Latin; for so Cicero himself often speaks. The meaning is found in the Law: “Thou shalt love thy friend as thyself” (Lev 19:18, proximum). That is, thy friend, as is shown by the force of the word “love” and the antithesis which Christ uses. For he was called a “friend” in the Law who not only was but ought to be such. A Jew ought to be such. What some say, therefore, and especially heretics, that even the Jews had this command in the Law (as in Ex 23:4) is wholly foreign to the subject. For the very person who is here called an enemy (inimicus) was a friend as being a Jew: an enemy as entertaining a personal hatred to the other. The same person is therefore called a brother (Deut 22:1). This is the more difficult, because Christ, in S. Luke 10:29, seems to teach us who is our neighbour otherwise; but His explanation is not of the Law but of the Gospel. Christ willed by it to destroy the difference of nations, the wall having been broken down, and there being in Him neither Jew nor Greek, but a new creature; so that the Jews were no longer a peculiar people to Him, but there was to be one fold and one shepherd.

It might be proved that the Pharisees did not err in their interpretation of the precept, but that they only who are friends and deserve well of us are to be called our neighbours. For that lawyer, or scribe, or Pharisee, or certain person learned in the Law, is said to have judged rightly, that neither the priest nor the Levite, but the Samaritan, who performed the part of a friend to the man who fell among the thieves, was his neighbour. But we know that Christ meant otherwise. We merely wish to show that it cannot be proved, from the above passage, that every man, without distinction, is called our neighbour in that precept of the Law.

Mat 5:44  But I say to you, Love your enemies: do good to them that hate you: and pray for them that persecute and calumniate you:

Love your enemies. This, as all the Ancients say, and as has been proved on verses 21, 43, is a peculiar precept of the Gospel. In this, as in all else that Christ added, part is of precept, part of counsel. It is a precept that we are not to cherish hatred, not to return evil for evil, not to wish evil to others, but to hold them in love, and not to exclude them from the common prayers, alms, and benefits which we perform for others. It is a counsel that we be charitable even to such as are not in extreme need: salute them by name: hold familiar converse with them. The words, “Bless them that curse you,” which are found in the Greek, our version omits. They are not necessary to the sense, but they agree with the context, and the more because S. Paul seems possibly to allude to them (1 Cor 4:12).

Mat 5:45  That you may be the children of your Father who is in heaven, who maketh his sun to rise upon the good, and bad, and raineth upon the just and the unjust.

That you may be the children. Most authors explain this: That you may be; that is, that you may declare yourselves to be sons. This may be allowed, but it seems better to say that it is a Hebraism, by which one who resembles another is styled his son; and it seems more appropriate, because it is mere tautology to call sons the sons of their fathers, but to say that they resemble their fathers is a common expression.

This also states how they will be the sons of the Father—that is, will resemble Him—if they do good to all; for “God maketh His sun to rise upon the good and bad, and raineth upon the just and the unjust” (verse 45); and it is said in verse 48: “Be you therefore perfect, as also your Heavenly Father is perfect,” where it is shown how we may, not indeed be, but be like, the sons of God. It is not to be denied that there is a power to be made the sons of God given to those who believe in the name of Christ, who are born, “not of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God “. The meaning of the passage is what has to be explained.

Mat 5:46  For if you love them that love you, what reward shall you have? do not even the publicans this?

What reward shall you have?  Christ does not deny that they who love their friends shall have their reward, for it is of charity to do so. But He says that they will have none if they only love them like the publicans, that is, not for the sake of God, but either from a natural attraction to them, or because of the advantages they hope to gain from them. Whoever does not love his enemies shows plainly that he does not love his friends for the sake of God (propter Deum), but for his own sake. For if he loved them propter Deum, he would love his enemies also, who, not less than his friends, are the image of God. He, therefore, who loves his friend’s but not his enemies, because he does not love them propter Deum, but to gain some good to himself from his friendship, has no reward of love from God. But he who loves not only his friends but his enemies also, will have the reward, not only of his love of his enemies, but of his friends also, for God rewards not nature but grace.

Do not even the publicans this? They were called publicans because they collected the revenues for the ruler. They were a covetous class, and were held in general detestation, especially when Christ said this; when the Jews were compelled to pay tribute, not to a ruler of their own nation, but to the Roman emperor. Hence the question whether it were lawful to give tribute to Caesar (S. Mark 12:14; S. Luke 20:2). Publicans were held as public and abandoned sinners (S. Matt 9:10-11; 11:19; 18:17; 21:31, 32; S. Luke 3:12, 13). Christ spoke in accordance with this opinion. S. Matthew was at one time a publican, and sat at receipt of custom (Matt 9:9); but from a publican the grace of God made him an Apostle and Evangelist.

Mat 5:47  And if you salute your brethren only, what do you more? do not also the heathens this?
Mat 5:48  Be you therefore perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect.

Be you therefore perfect as also your Heavenly Father. The word “as” contains the meaning, not of equality (æqualitatem), but of quality (qualitatem) and resemblance, that similitude which can exist between God and man, not that between man and man. Christ prays “that they all may be one” (S. John 17:21), as He was one with the Father. Not that we can attain to that natural oneness, which is between the Father and the Son, but we can imitate it. Christ proposes a mark to us for our perfection to which He knows that we cannot attain, that we may come as near to it as we can. He does not will us to advance so far, but that we should not stand still. He would have us in all things to be as like the Father as possible, especially in that which is His own chief property—mercy. When therefore S. Matthew says, “Be you perfect,” S. Luke says, “Be you therefore merciful” (Luke 6:36).

3 Responses to “Juan de Maldonado’s Commentary on Matthew 5:43-48”

  1. […] UPDATE: Juan de Maldonado’s Commentary on Today’s Gospel (Matt 5:43-48). […]

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  3. […] Maldonado’s Commentary on Today’s Gospel (Matt 5:43-48). […]

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