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 Today’s Gospel (Matt 8:5-17)

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 18, 2011

Mat 8:5  And when he had entered into Capharnaum, there came to him a centurion, beseeching him,

The probability is, that the preceding miracle was performed near, or in the suburbs of, Capharnaum, or in some town on His way from the Mount. The narrative of St. Luke and St. Matthew may be very easily reconciled, if we suppose the cure of the leper to be performed on His entrance into Capharnaum. The narrative of St. Matthew, referring in this verse to when He had entered Capharnaum admits of this interpretation and mode of solution.

There came to Him a centurion.  The time, place, and other circumstances would seem to render it clear, that the miracle here recorded is the same as that mentioned by St. Luke (ch. 7) The trifling diversity in the narrative of both Evangelists is easily explained, and both are easily reconciled. When St. Luke says (7:3, &c.), he sent some influential friends, the ancients of the Jews, to our Redeemer; that He went with them, and when near the house the centurion sent his friends to meet Him, and through them addressed Him, all this presents no discrepancy whatever in regard to what St. Matthew records here, as it may be said, with truth, that a man himself says, what he says through others, or employed others to say for him. The Greek commentators (St. Chrysostom, Theophylact, &c.) say, the words of St. Matthew ought to be understood literally, that the elders of the Jews, on behalf of the centurion, first accosted our Lord (as St. Luke says); that when the centurion found that our Lord Himself meant to come, he sent his friends, who addressed Him, as is recorded by St. Luke (7); and that then the centurion himself finally met Him quite close to his house, and addressed Him, as is mentioned here by St. Matthew.

Mat 8:6  And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, and is grievously tormented.

Servant. St. Luke has his slave (δοῦλος = doulos). But, the word here employed (παῖς = pais) may mean, either a boy or a slave. Hence, it means, a boy slave much prized by the centurion, as St. Luke informs us.

Mat 8:7  And Jesus saith to him: I will come and heal him.

I will come, &c. These words were addressed to the ancients of the Jews (Luke 7:3). It is deserving of remark, and has been frequently observed by interpreters, that when there is question of a poor slave, our Redeemer goes to visit him in person, although his master, the centurion, did not ask Him; but in the case of the Ruler’s son, He cures him only at a distance (John 4:50).

Mat 8:8  And the centurion, making answer, said: Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldst enter under my roof; but only say the word, and my servant shall be healed.

Lord, I am not worthy, &c. These words the centurion commissioned his friends to express in his name as our Lord was approaching his house; and hence, he expressed them through others. Or, if we adopt the interpretation of St. Chrysostom, they may have been personally uttered by the centurion himself, on seeing the Redeemer approaching his house.

Only say the word, a Hebrew phrase, signifying, only command it; only express a wish, and it shall be well with my afflicted servant. It would appear from St. Luke, that, in the first instance, when the centurion employed the mediation of the Jewish ancients, he wished Him to come. Now, his faith is increased and enlightened, as Jesus approaches his house; and he unhesitatingly proclaimed His omnipotence.

Mat 8:9  For I also am a man subject to authority, having under me soldiers; and I say to this, Go, and he goeth, and to another Come, and he cometh, and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.

Under authority means, as St. Luke expresses it, subject to authority, a subordinate, subject to higher officers, captains or generals. Having soldiers under me. This he says not out of vain ostentation, but to show why his commands are obeyed. The conclusion, which may be regarded as, an argumentum a minori ad majus (i.e., proof from the minor to the major), so expressive of the great faith of the centurion, is: If I, a mere man, myself subject to others above me, can command my subordinates, and by my mere word, ensure a ready compliance and obedience from them, how much more canst Thou, who art Sovereign Lord of all things, subject to no one, having no one over or above Thee, command diseases and bodily infirmities, and by Thy mere word, insure the most perfect obedience and compliance with Thy wishes, Mare et venti obediunt ei (the winds and sea obey him. See 8:27).

Mat 8:10  And Jesus hearing this, marvelled; and said to them that followed him. Amen I say to you, I have not found so great faith in Israel.

Marvelled i.e., expressed wonder at this external manifestation of faith, which may be explained, consistently with our Lord’s omniscience, as St. Thomas explains it (3 Part, q. 15, Art. 18), thus; although, in virtue of His Divine omniscience, our Lord knew the faith of the centurion already, and, moreover, could not be ignorant of it, as it was He Himself that inspired the centurion by His heavenly grace; still, He really and interiorly marvelled, owing to the experimental knowledge of the fact; just as the astronomer, who predicts an eclipse, expresses his admiration and astonishment on witnessing it actually taking place. Others, with St. Augustine, &c., understand the word to convey the mere external expression of His praise, and commendation of it; and of astonishment, as evidenced by His whole external appearance and countenance. It may, probably, also, denote the expression of commendation conveyed in the following words: Amen I say to you, &c.

In Israel, the Jewish people, the depositaries of God s oracles, favoured with His special graces and revelations. In the Greek it is more expressive still (ουδε εν τω ισραηλ), neither in Israel. From this, it would appear that the centurion was a Gentile, a Roman soldier. Our Redeemer says, He did not find such faith, as was shown by a Pagan soldier, among the carnal descendants of Abraham. In this, He did not surely refer to those who, from the very nature of things, and the well-known evidence of facts, were excepted, such as the Blessed Virgin, John the Baptist, the ancient Patriarchs and Prophets, the Apostles, as when speaking of the Baptist He says, No greater arose among the lorn of women. Nor, of course, did He include Himself. Or the words may be confined to the period of His public mission; since He began to preach publicly and work miracles, He found no such instance of faith in the mass of the Jewish people in general.

Mat 8:11  And I say to you that many shall come from the east and the west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven:

And I say to you &c. The centurion being a Gentile, as clearly appears from the contrast,  in Israel, as also from the words of the ancients of the Jews, He loveth our nation (Luke 7:5), our Redeemer takes occasion, by way of digression, to refer to the vocation of the Gentiles and the rejection of the Jews-a subject referred to by the Prophets in many places, but especially by Isaias (43:5, 6, 10. See also Romans 9-11)-after which digression, He resumes the subject of the centurion’s appeal.

That many attracted by God’s grace, like the centurion, shall come from the East &c., from the four quarters of the globe, and the remotest regions of the Gentiles–the Gentiles may be called, many compared with the Jews–and shall sit down with Abraham &c., the Patriarchs, the three great Princes of Israel, and fathers of the spiritual sons of promise, to whom were first made the promises of eternal bliss.

Shall sit down, is allusive to the recumbent posture in which the ancients partook of their banquets–a fit emblem of the bliss they shall, one day, fully enjoy, in supreme security and rest. Our Redeemer, in accordance with a Scriptural usage, represents the eternal bliss of the saints, under the figure of an earthly banquet.

The kingdom of heaven conveys an idea of the joys of that blessed country in which the saints shall enjoy God for ever and ever.

Mat 8:12  But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into the exterior darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

The children of the Kingdom, The natural descendants, according to the flesh, of the Patriarchs, born in Judea, which was a type of heaven; and as they had a claim to the type, it would seem but natural, that they had a claim to the thing typified also. And, in truth, the Jews seemed to claim the spiritual inheritance of justification which conducted to heaven, as a kind of hereditary birthright transmitted to them, as sons of AbraHam (vide Ep. ad rom.) To them, the Gospel of the kingdom was first preached.

Exterior darkness.  The words are found in St. Matthew only, here and in Matt 22:3; 25:30. They have, undoubtedly, reference to the darkness of hell, that land of misery and darkness, where everlasting horror dwells. “Darkness” also conveys the idea of a close prison (Ps 107:10-16; Isa 49:9.). “Exterior,” according to some interpreters, is allusive to the metaphor of the banquet, which in the East, usually took place at night. Within the banquet hall, was a profusion of lights; without, darkness. Everything outside the banquet hall was darkness, compared with the brilliancy which reigned within. In hell, there is physical darkness. The damned are also deprived of the light of God’s beatific vision, said to be hell’s greatest torment. According to these, the words mean: They shall be cast out of God’s bright kingdom, outside which there is but darkness. Others, seeing the word, “exterior” to be used (Matt 25:30), where there is no allusion to a feast, interpret “exterior darkness,” to mean, darkness of the densest kind in that deep and profound abyss, which is situated outside the brightness of this world, under or within the earth, where the light of the sun never reaches. Others, take the word in a superlative sense, to mean the densest darkness, farthest off from the brightness of God’s kingdom
and the light of His glorious effulgence.

Weeping and gnashing of teeth. These words, used by St. Matthew, not only here, but also in chapters 13, 22, 24, 25, and once by St. Luke (13), are explained by some to denote the extreme cold and heat of hell; the latter producing “weeping:” the former, “gnashing of teeth.” St. Jerome, in his commentary on Job, as also on St. Matthew 10 seems to hold this opinion, for which there is some foundation, in the words of Job 24:19. The meaning of the words of Job is, however, questioned by others. Hence, the matter is uncertain. (See Jansenius, c. xlv.) Maldonatus holds that there is real weeping &c., in hell. Lapide maintains, there is real gnashing of teeth, but not real weeping or shedding of tears; and St. Jerome, taking the words literally, infers from them, the resurrection of the body. The words mean, excessive pain, rage or horror; the former, indicated by the word, “weeping;” the latter, by the words, ”gnashing of teeth.” Even profane authors refer to the torture of dying soldiers, who were afflicted with stridor dentium.

Mat 8:13  And Jesus said to the centurion: Go, and as thou hast believed, so be it done to thee. And the servant was healed at the same hour.

Go—a Hebrew form of expression, implying that his request was granted—go home, in a joyous mood, “and as thou hast believed,” that in virtue of my Divine power, I could, although absent, cure thy servant, “so he it done to thee.” “In that hour,” i.e., at the very instant Jesus told him to go home, conveying, that He had granted his request.

Mat 8:14  And when Jesus was come into Peter’s house, he saw his wife’s mother lying, and sick of a fever;

The two preceding miracles were performed by our Redeemer, after delivering the Sermon on the Mount. The following miracle and all the events recorded in the remaining portion of this and in the ninth chapters, took place before the Sermon on the Mount, as appears from the other Evangelists. This appears clear also from the fact, that our Redeemer had, previous to the sermon, selected the twelve Apostles, of whom St. Matthew was one. Now, the Apostle relates, in Matt 9:9 his first call to be one of our Redeemer’s disciples previous to his adoption into the Apostolic college. Hence, the remainder of this chapter, together with chapter 9 should have been, in due order, inserted at Matt 4:22.

Note: The Bishop often notes in his commentaries on the Gospels that the authors were not writing in chronological order; he did however subscribe to a theory that a chronology of the life and ministry of Christ could be reconstructed from them. That fact is reflected in the above comment.

And when Jesus was come into Peter’s house, &c. From Mark 1:22, &c., and Luke 4:32, &c., it appears that our Redeemer, after having called Peter and Andrew (Matt 4:18), entered Capliarnaum; and after haviug preached in the synagogue and having cured a demoniac, He went to the house of Peter.

Peter’s house, is said by some to be the house of his mother-in-law, called “Peter’s,” because, whenever he came from Bethsaida, his native place (John 1:44), to Capharnaum, he most likely stopped there. It is also called ”the house of Simon and Andrew” (Mark 1:29), as, probably, both stopped at the house of Peter’s mother-in-law when at Capliarnaum. Some say it refers to the house of Peter’s father at Bethsaida, which was but a short distance from Capharnaum. It is, however, clearly inferred from St. Mark and St. Luke, that the miracle took place at Capharnaum. St. Mark 1:33 says, “all the city teas gathered together at the door.” He spoke of no other city, save Capharnaum. St. Luke says 4:38, “Jesus rising up out of the synagogue, went into Simon’s house,” which shows it was in the city or near it. Most likely, our Redeemer went there, for the purpose of taking food, as the hour for dining had arrived. (St. Chrysostom, Theophylact, &c.) It is called “Peter’s house,” as it was his, formerly, before he left all to follow Christ.

Sick of a fever. It seems she was very ill, as St. Luke 4:38, calls it, “a great fever.”

Mat 8:15  And he touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she arose and ministered to them.

And He touched her hand. St. Mark 4:31 “He took her by the hand”; St. Luke (iv. 39), ”standing over her” i.e., close by her, inclining towards the sick bed, “He commanded the fever;” i.e., in a menacing, authoritative way, He commanded the fever to leave her, “and she arose (St. Luke adds, ‘immediately^) and ministered.” Physicians tell us, and it is known from experience, that persons, on their immediate recovery from fever, are very weak. Peter’s mother-in-law was perfectly restored and vigorous. Her serving them at table shows, therefore, that her cure was at once complete and miraculous.

Mat 8:16  And when evening was come, they brought to him many that were possessed with devils: and he cast out the spirits with his word: and all that were sick he healed:

When evening was come. St. Luke 4:40 says, ”when the sun was down”. The cure of the demoniac in the synagogue, and of Peter’s wife, which occurred on the Sabbath day (Mark 1:21; Luke 4:31), had excited the attention of the Jews, who, however, before bringing their sick to Him, waited for the evening and the setting of the sun, when, according to the Jewish computation of their feasts, which was from evening to evening (Lev 23), the Sabbath was over, as they considered, it unlawful to have any work performed on the Sabbath. Hence, as the Sabbath was over at sunset, they bring their sick and infirm to Peter’s house, where He tarried, to be cured by Him. How many spiritual cures have been performed, even to the present day, in Peter’s house, which is God’s holy Church. In mentioning the lateness of the hour, the Evangelist, probably, wishes to convey, that our Lord heeded not any inconvenience, whenever an opportuuity presented itself, of doing good. “Possessed with devils,” shows actual real possession; otherwise, the whole account would be illusory. The expulsion of those wicked spirits, proved the superior power of Christ.

Mat 8:17  That it might be fulfilled, which was spoken by the prophet Isaias, saying: He took our infirmities, and bore our diseases.

That it might he fulfilled, &c. “That” which is the same as “so that,” denotes the consequence or effect. The effect of these cures, was the fulfilment of the prophecy of Isaiah 53:4. The Prophet in this passage, refers to sins primarily. But, he also refers to corporal diseases, as the manifest effects and clear types of sin. The Jews, themselves, regarded these diseases as the punishment of sin; and our Redeemer, when curing bodily diseases, usually premised with saying, “Thy sins are forgiven.” The cause is first removed, and then the effect or punishment. Hence, as the Prophet referred to sin and its punishment, the words of Isaiah have a double fulfilment in the removal of bodily distempers, and the remission of sin in consideration of the future merits of Christ. Theologians generally hold, that, the words of Isaiah are applied by St. Matthew here, in sensie accommoditio. The Socinian argument, who confine the prophecy of Isaiah to the removal of bodily distempers only, is fully answered by a reference to St. Peter, who( 1 Pet 2:24), interprets the words of Isaiah 53:5-12), of the remission of sin, and the satisfaction paid for it on the cross. So that whatever interpretation may be given of Isaiah 53:4, here quoted by St. Matthew, it is certain, that verses 5-12 of that chapter refer to the atonement for sin by the sufferings of Christ on the cross.

St. Jerome has rendered the original Hebrew of Isaias thus in the Vulgate: vere languores nostros ipse tulit et dolores nostros ipse portavit (“Surely he hath borne our infirmities and carried our sorrows”) These words, viewed as referring to sin, will mean: He bore our sins as to imputability, and He endured on the cross the sorrows and tortures we should be enduring for all eternity, if He had not graciously vouchsafed to become a vicarious offering in our stead. Viewed in regard to corporal diseases, as applied here by St. Matthew, the words will mean, “He took” our infirmities, not in the sense, that He took upon Him these corporal diseases, which would not be becoming for Him, and would prevent His ministry, although He submitted to the common infirmities of our nature not unbecoming Him, such as hunger, thirst, lassitude, &c.; but, in the sense, that He took them away from the people, by healing them, a meaning which the Greek, ελαβεν, and corresponding Hebrew word, nasa, often bears. Similar is the phrase, “qui tollit peccata mundi” (“who takes away the sin of the world”).  “And bore our diseases.” While sympathizing with the sick. He bore their sorrows, as St. Jerome renders it, dolores nostros, by removing their diseases. St. Paul uses the word, “hear,” to signify sympathy. The word “bore”, may mean, not taking to oneself, but taking off another, and lightening his burden, in which sense the Hebrew word, sahal, as well as its cognate word, nasa. Hence, the words, as referring to bodily diseases, mean, “He took our infirmities,” i.e., He took them away, by curing us of them; “and He bore our diseases,” not on His own shoulders; but, He lightened on us this load of diseases under which we were groaning, and carried them off elsewhere from us. The Septuagint for “infirmities is, αμαρτιας; sins.


3 Responses to “Father MacEvily’s Commentary on Today’s Gospel (Matt 8:5-17)”

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  2. […] Bishop MacEvily’s Commentary on the Gospel Reading (Matt 8:5-13). This post includes notes on verses 14-17 as well. Share this:StumbleUponDiggEmailTwitterRedditPrintLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. […]

  3. […] Bishop MacEvily’s Commentary on the Gospel Reading (Matt 8:5-13). This post includes notes on verses 14-17 as well. […]

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