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

Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary Matt 9:1-8

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 26, 2011

Mat 9:1  And entering into a boat, he passed over the water and came into his own city.

Passed over: that is, sailed across the sea of Galilee, to its western side. And came into his own city. Sedulius thinks Bethlehem is meant because he was born there. S. Jerome, with more probability, understands Nazareth, where He was brought up. The best opinion is that of S. Chrysostom, Theophylact, Maldonatus, and many others, who say, Capernaum is to be understood, in which Christ often dwelt. And (Matt 4:13) S. Matthew says that, leaving Nazareth, Christ dwelt there. And S. Mark teaches that the healing of the paralytic, which is now to be related, look place at Capernaum. (Mark 2:3.) As Christ ennobled Bethlehem by His birth, Nazareth by his education, Egypt by His flight, Jerusalem by His Passion, so he adorned Capernaum, by His dwelling, preaching, and working miracles there.

Mat 9:2  And behold they brought to him one sick of the palsy lying in a bed. And Jesus, seeing their faith, said to the man sick of the palsy: Be of good heart, son, thy sins are forgiven thee.

And, behold, they brought to him, &c. S. Mark says, the paralytic man was carried by four bearers. Learn from this to care not only for thine own salvation, but for that of thy neighbours, and that earnestly, as well because charity demands it, as because God often chastises the good as well as the bad, because the good neglect to chastise and amend the faults of the bad.

And Jesus, seeing their faith, &c. The faith of those who brought the paralytic to Christ. For when they were not able to bring him into the house to Christ, they carried him up upon the roof (see Mark 2:4). The roofs of the houses in Palestine are not steep, as they are in Germany, but flat, more so than they are in Italy. They uncovered the roof: that is, they broke through it, by taking away the tiles. S. Mark says, they laid bare the roof: and thus they let down the sick man by means of ropes before Christ. All these things showed their great faith and devotion to Christ.

Their faith refers to those who brought him, say SS. Ambrose and Jerome. S. Chrysostom adds, that the faith of the paralytic himself is included, for through this faith he wished himself to be carried, and let down through the roof before Christ. Neither would he have heard the words, “Thy sins are forgiven thee,” unless he had had faith. Moreover this faith was the faith of miracles. Learn from him that the measure of prayer is faith and hope. For what thou hopest from Christ that shalt thou obtain of Him. For the more thou enlargest the lap of thy soul by hope, the more capacious thou makest it, and the more worthy that God should fill it, according to these words in the Psalm, “Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it.” And, “I opened my mouth and drew in my breath.” (Ps 119:131.)

Wherefore Christ said to this man, be of good heart, son. “Trust that thou shalt be by Me miraculously healed, first in thy soul from sin, then in thy body from palsy. For because of sin, God has afflicted thee with this disease. Observe, this paralytic already had faith and hope in Christ as I have just shown, but Christ bids him confirm and increase his faith. Moreover, by these outward words, Be of good heart, but more by the inward afflatus of His grace, Christ stirred up the paralytic to an act of great faith, hope, and sorrow for the sins which he had committed, and firm determination to enter upon a new and holy life, and love God above all things, that by this means he might be in a fit state to receive remission of his sins. For such are the dispositions which Scripture in other places requires, Christ, however, here and elsewhere, names and requires faith alone, and attributes salvation, more especially of the body, to faith, because faith is the prime origin and root of hope, fear, sorrow, and love of God. And faith in Christ was the thing, at that time, to be especially insisted on.

The heretics, therefore, can find nothing in this passage to prove that faith only properly justifies; especially since what is here treated of is miraculous faith, which they themselves distinguish from justifying faith. I may add that Christ here speaks of the faith of the bearers as much, or more than he does of the faith of the paralytic, and their faith could not justify the sick man.

Son. For he truly is a son of God, whose sins are forgiven, says Haymo. Observe here the kindness of Christ, addressing the sick man with these most sweet words. Hence S. Jerome exclamns, “0 wondrous humility. He calls this despised and feeble one, all the joints of whose limbs were loosed, Son, a man whom the priests would not deign to touch.”

Thy sins are forgiven thee: Gr. α̉φέωνται, have been forgiven. This Is a Hebraism for are forgiven.

S. Chrysostom observes that Christ first forgave the paralytic his sins, and then healed him, that from the calumnious remarks of the Pharisees, which he foresaw would follow upon what he had said and done, He might take occasion to prove His Divinity. This He did by a triple miracle, as an irrefragable proof, first by declaring openly their secret thoughts and murmurs against Him, secondly by healing the paralytic, thirdly by performing the miracle with this end in view, that, by it, He might demonstrate He had the power of forgiving sins.

Taken, however, literally, the more patent reason was, that He might show that palsies, and other diseases often arise, not so much from natural causes, as from sin. For He forgives the sins first, and then He heals the paralytic; showing that when the cause was taken away, the effect followed

This is why it is ordered by the canon law that physicians should seek the health of a sick man’s soul before that of his body. (See chap. Cum infirm. de pæniten. et remiss.) This rule is strictly observed at Rome, where physicians after the third day of illness, especially when there is peril of death, may not go near a sick person, except he forthwith cleanse his soul from sin by sacramental confession. For, as S. Basil says (Reg. 55), “Oftentimes are diseases the scourges of sins, which are sent for no other purpose than that we should amend our lives.”

Again, expositors collect from this passage that those who were corporeally healed by Christ were usually spiritually healed also by Him, and justified, as was the case with the paralytic. And this is consonant with Christ’s liberality, that He should not bestow a half-healing, but whole and perfect salvation. For the works of God are perfect. And we must remember that Christ came into the world chiefly to bestow spiritual health. This is what he says of another paralytic, “I have made a whole man sound upon the sabbath.” (John7:23, Vulg.)

Mat 9:3  And behold some of the scribes said within themselves: He blasphemeth.

And, behold, some of the scribes, &c. Within themselves. Syr., in their soul; because He takes away God’s special prerogative of pardoning sin, and claims it for Himself, which would be a grave dishonour done to God, and therefore blasphemy. Thus they thought, supposing Christ was not God, but a mere man. This was their perpetual and obstinate error, which led them perpetually to persecute Him, even unto the death of the Cross. Wherefore S. Mark adds, that they said, “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” For sin is an offence against God, a violation of the Divine Majesty, so that no one can pardon it, except God Himself.

Mat 9:4  And Jesus seeing their thoughts, said: Why do you think evil in your hearts?

And Jesus seeing their thoughts, &c. S. Mark adds that Jesus knew in His Spirit. This was not because another revealed to Him the thoughts and blasphemies of the Scribes, as the prophets knew such things, but by Himself and His own Spirit, pervading and penetrating all things. From this the Fathers rightly prove the Divinity of Christ against the Arians. For He searches the hearts, a thing which God alone can do. Thus S. Jerome, who adds, “Even when keeping silence, He speaks. As though He said, ‘By the same power and majesty by which I behold your thoughts, I am able also to forgive men their sins.’” So too S. Chrysostom and others. Whence Chrysologus says, “Receive the tokens of Christ’s Divinity: behold Him come to the secret hiding-places of thy thoughts.

You may say, the Scribes might have raised the following objection:—”Thou, 0 Jesus, indeed knowest and revealest our secret thoughts, but not by Thine own Spirit, for that Thou in no way rnakest plain to us, but by the Spirit of God. Therefore Thou art a prophet and not God, that thou shouldst remit sins.” I reply, if the Scribes acknowledged Jesus to be a prophet, then surely they ought to have believed that He was speaking the truth when He said that He had, of Himself, power to forgive sins, and therefore that He was God. Again, in the Old Testament, the power of remitting sins was given to none of the prophets, but it was promised to Messiah alone by the prophets. Therefore, they ought to have acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah, and consequently God, as is plain from many passages of Scripture.

Lastly, Christ by His command alone, and proper authority, both healed the paralytic, and forgave him his sins, and so in this, as in all His other miracles, He had this end in view, that He might convince them He was the Messiah—that is, the Son of God, who had come in the flesh, the Saviour of the world, the Redeemer of sinners, who had been foretold by Moses and the prophets.

Mat 9:5  Whether is easier, to say, Thy sins are forgiven thee: or to say, Arise, and walk?

Whether is easier, &c. You may ask, whether of these two is absolutely the more difficult? I answer—

1. It is, per se, more difficult to forgive sins than to heal a paralytic person, yea, than to create heaven and earth. And there is à priori reason for this: first, because sin, as an enemy of God, is far further away from God than a paralytic, yea, than any created thing, forasmuch as these are in themselves good: yea, further than nothingness, out of which all things were made, itself, for nothingness is only negatively and privatively opposed to entity and God; but sin is diametrically opposed and repugnant to God. For there are no contraries which are so mutually opposed as supreme goodness and supreme badness—that is to say, God and sin.

2. Because remission of sins is something of a higher order than the natural order. It has to do with the supernatural order of grace. Grace is the highest communion with the Divine Nature: for by grace “we are made partakers of the divine nature,” as S. Peter says (2Pet 1:4).

I observe, however, secondly: on the contrary, Christ here seems to speak of remission of sins as being easier than the healing of the paralytic. This was so, because the latter was more difficult in respect of the Jews, and it was a more perilous thing besides. For he who saith, I forgive thee thy sins, cannot be convicted of falsehood, whether he remits them or not. For neither sin, nor its remission, are things that can be seen. But he who saith to a paralytic, Arise and walk, exposes both himself and his good name to great peril, if the sick man does not arise. Such a one will be convicted by all of imposture and falsehood. Just as we are accustomed to say, It is easier to write a history of Tartary than a history of Italy: because here a man might be convicted of falsehood by multitudes; but there by no one.

Lastly, the healing of paralysis is a physical operation, and, physically speaking, more difficult than the remission of sins, which is, per se, a moral act, of like nature with sin itself.

Jansen adds, With respect to God, both are equally easy and divine, for both are miraculous, and both require exercise of omnipotent power.

Moreover, although of itself the healing of the paralytic was a less work than the remission of sins, yet Christ conclusively proves by it that He had the power of forgiving sin.

Mat 9:6  But that you may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then said he to the man sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go into thy house.

But that you may know, &c. Observe the expression, Son of Man, for Christ forgave sins, not only as He was God, but in that He was man, authoritatively and meritoriously. Because His Humanity was hypostatically united to His Divinity, and subsisted in the Divine Person of the Son of God, therefore He was able to make full satisfaction for the sins of the whole world.

Wherefore this primary power and authority of forgiving sins was given unto Him, next unto God, which power He is able to grant unto others likewise, such as priests, who are instituted by Him, as His ministers, that they too should forgive sins. Whence S. Thomas says (3 part. quæst. 63, art. 3), “The power of the excellence of Christ standeth in four things. 1. Because His merit, and the virtue of His Passion, operate in the sacraments. 2. Because by His Name the sacraments are sanctified. 3. Because He Himself, who gives virtue to the sacraments, had power to institute them. 4. Because the effect of the sacraments—in other words, the remission of sins, and grace—Christ is able to confer without the sacraments. This power is peculiar to Christ alone, quâ (as) man; and therefore it has been communicated neither to priest nor pontiff, nor to S. Peter.

Arise, take up thy bed, &c. Rise: be sound and healed of thy palsy; and to show to the Scribes and all the people that thou art healed, take up thy bed, that now thou mayest bear that which has lately borne thee, as Sedulius says in this place, “He himself, with grateful thanks, repaid his hire.” Instead of bed (lectum), Mark has grabatum. Grabatus, says Sipontius, is a narrow sort of couch on which we recline at noon, as if from carabatus, something on which we lay our head, from καρὰ, the head, and, βατὸν, passing. Whence the line of Martial—”Went the three-legged grabatus, went the three-legged table.”

Mat 9:7  And he arose, and went into his house.

And he arose, &c. He arose at once, for what Christ said was straightway done. And the man walked off with the bed upon his shoulders.

S. Simon Stylites followed the example of this miracle of Christ, as may be seen in his Life, taken by Surius out of Theodoret. “A certain Saracen prince brought to him a paralytic domestic, and asked him to heal him. The holy man commanded him to be brought into the midst, and bade him abjure the impiety of his ancestors. After the man had done this, he asked him if he believed in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. He replied that he did believe. ‘If thou believest,’ said he, ‘rise up.’ As soon as he had arisen, he bade him take up and carry the before-named prince, who was an excessively fat man, upon his shoulders, as far as his tent. And he immediately raised him up, and carried him whither he was bidden. All the spectators were amazed at this miracle, and glorified God.” In a similar manner S. Bernard, at the request of the King of France, healed a man sick of the palsy, with the sign of the Cross, and bade him take up his bed.

Tropologically: by the sick man’s taking up, and carrying his bed is meant, that by the just judgment of God it cometh to pass that the sinner who aforetime willingly consented to temptation, after he has repented, feels temptation against his will. For repentance truly takes away sin, but not sinful habits and depraved inclinations, which the sinner of his own will contracted and put on. Thus S. Mary of Egypt, after her conversion, felt for seventeen years the sharp goads of lust, because for so many years she had shamefully lived in lust.

Mat 9:8  And the multitude seeing it, feared, and glorified God that gave such power to men.

and the multitudes saw it they feared, &c. S. Mark adds, that the multitude said, We never saw the like. S. Luke, We have seen wonderful things today. For this man’s whole body was paralysed. S. Mark says that, he was borne of four, which shows that the palsy had affected every limb. He was a different paralytic from the one of whom S. John makes mention (John 5:2), who was healed in the Sheep-market at Jerusalem. That man had no one carrying him: neither did he believe, as this one did, to whom it was said, Son, be of good heart.

Tropologically; paralysis is any disease of the soul whatsoever, but especially of fleshly lust, and the carelessness and indifference to spiritual things which it generates. For it so entirely prostrates the soul, that it is without power to lift itself up to virtue, to heaven, to God. Wherefore the man that labours under this disease must be carried by bearers, that is, by pastors, preachers, confessors, up upon the housetop, that is, to the desire of salvation and heavenly things; and then must be let down through the roof to the feet of Christ; and they must ask of Him by earnest prayer to heal him by His grace, and restore to him the power of motion, and the sense of spiritual things. Then when he is healed, let him give thanks to Christ his Saviour, and let him not be slothful, but let him go away to the house of his mind and conscience, and sweep it clean of vices, and adorn it with all virtuous actions. Thus ought the soul to trust in the Lord, because He alone is able to supply all her wants. She ought to arise from the sleep of sin, and the bed of depraved habits, by calling to mind into what a state she has fallen, which she doth by confession; for as he who arises, so also does he who confesses, come forth: she ought to take up her bed, which pertains to satisfaction, for when that is enjoined in confession, it is a sort of burden to be borne, for the flesh which, as a bed, gave pleasure, and as it were carried the dead soul, ought, after remission and satisfaction. to be a burden to a man, as it was to him who cried out, “0 wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” So Salmeron, Jansen, Toletus, and others, expound this passage.

Anagogically, understand it of the celestial glory, concerning which the Psalmist speaks, “I was glad when they said unto me, We will go into the house of the Lord.” (Ps 122:1.) For, in the resurrection, the Lord will say, “Arise, that is, from death; and take up thy bed, that is, resume thy body, endowed with glorious gifts; and go into thine house, that is, into the eternal and heavenly mansion.”

4 Responses to “Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary Matt 9:1-8”

  1. […] de Maldonado’s Commentary on Matt 16:13-19 for the Solemnity of St Peter and St Paul Thursday, June 30: Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on Today’s Gospel (Matt 9:1-8) […]

  2. […] Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on Matthew 9:1-8. […]

  3. […] Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on Today’s Gospel (Matt 9:1-8). […]

  4. […] Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on Matt 9:1-8. […]

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