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

Aquinas’ Catena aurea on Matthew 10:16-23

Posted by Dim Bulb on July 4, 2011

Ver 16. “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.17. But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues;18. And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles.”

Chrys., Hom. 33: Having removed all care and anxiety from the Apostles, and armed them with the miraculous powers, He proceeds to foretell the evils which should befal them. First, that they might know his knowledge of the future; secondly, that they should not think that these things befel them because of the want of power in their Master; thirdly, that they might not be amazed if these things had come upon them unexpectedly; fourthly, that after hearing these things, they might not be dismayed in the season of His cross; and lastly, that they might learn a new method of warfare.

He sends them unprovided, bidding them look to those who should receive them for support; but rests not in that, but shews his power still further, “Lo, I send you as sheep in the midst of wolves.” Where observe that He does not say merely ‘to wolves,’ but “in the midst of wolves,” to shew His excellent might therein, that the sheep would overcome the wolves though they were in the midst of them; and though they received many bites from them, yet were they not destroyed, but rather convert them. And it is a much greater and a more wonderful power that can change their hearts than that can kill them. Among wolves He teaches them to shew the meekness of sheep.

Greg., Hom. in Ev., xvii. 4: For he who undertakes the office of preacher ought not to do evil, but to suffer it, and by his meekness to mollify the wrath of the angry, and by his wounds to heal the wounds of sinners in their affliction. And even should the zeal of right-doing ever require that He should be severe to those that are placed under Him, His very severity will be of love and not of cruelty, outwardly maintaining the rights of discipline, and inwardly loving those whom He corrects. Too many, when they are entrusted with the reins of government, burn to make the subjects feel them, display the terrors of authority, and forgetting that they are fathers, rather desire to be thought lords, changing a station of lowliness into that of lofty dominion, if they ever seem outwardly to fawn on any one, they inwardly hate him; of such He spoke above; “They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” [Mat_7:15] For prevention whereof we ought to consider that we are sent as sheep among wolves, whose innocence we ought to preserve, not having the tooth of malice.

Jerome: He calls the Scribes and Pharisees who are the clergy of the Jews, “wolves.”

Hilary: The wolves indeed are all such as should pursue the Apostles with mad fury.

Chrys.: Their consolation under their hardships was the excellent power of Him who sent them; wherefore He puts that before all, “Lo, I send you.” Be not dismayed, though you be sent into the midst of wolves; for I am able to bring it to pass that you suffer no hurt, and that ye should not only prevail over the wolves, but be made more terrible than lions. But it is good that it should be thus; hereby your virtue is made brighter, and My power is more manifested. Also that somewhat should proceed from themselves, that they should not think themselves to be crowned without reason. He add, “Be ye therefore wise as serpents, simple as doves.”

Jerome: “Wise,” that they might escape snares; “simple,” that they might not do evil to others. The craft of the serpent is set before them as an example, for he hides his head with all the rest of his body, that he may protect the part in which life is. So ought we to expose our whole body, that we may guard our head which is Christ; that is, that we study to keep the faith whole and uncorrupt.

Raban.: The serpent moreover seeks out narrow chinks through which it crawls to draw off its old skin; so the preacher passing through the narrow way lays aside the old man.

Remig.: Beautifully the Lord bids the preacher have the wisdom of the serpent; because the first man was beguiled by a serpent; as though He had said, The foe is subtle to deceive, be ye therefore wise to rescue; he commended the tree, do ye also commend the tree of the Cross.

Hilary: He first attempted the softer sex, allured her by hope, and promised a share of immortality. Do you in like manner seize every opportunity, look well into each man’s nature and inclination, use wisdom of speech, reveal hope of good things to come; that what he promised falsely we may preach truly according to God’s promise, that they that believe shall be like to the Angels.

Chrys.: But as we ought to have the wisdom of the serpent, that we should not be hurt in any deadly part, so also we should have the simplicity of the dove, not to retaliate when we are hurt, nor to avenge ourselves on those who have designed aught against us.

Remig.: The Lord unites these two thing; because simplicity without wisdom might be easily deceived, and wisdom is dangerous unless it be tempered with simplicity that does no man hurt.

Jerome: The harmlessness of doves is shewn by the assumption of that form by the Holy Spirit; as the Apostle speaks, “In malice be ye children.”

Chrys.: What is harder than these commands? It is not enough that we suffer ill, but we must not be angry thereat, as is the dove’s nature, for anger is extinguished not by anger, but by meekness.

Raban.: That by the wolves above He intended men, He shews when He adds, “Take heed of men.”

Gloss, ap. Anselm: Ye have indeed need to be wise as serpents, for, as they are wont to do, “they will deliver you to councils,” forbidding you to preach in My name; then if ye be not corrected, “they will scourge you,” and at length “ye shall be brought before kings and governors.”

Hilary: Who will endeavour to extort from you either to be silent or to temporize.

Chrys.: How wonderful that men who had never been beyond the lake in which they fished, did not straighway depart from Him on hearing these things. It was not only of their goodness, but of the wisdom of their Teacher. For to each evil He attaches somewhat of alleviation; as here He adds, “for my sake;” for it is no light consolation to suffer for Christ’s sake, for they did not suffer as evil or wrong doers. Again He adds, “for a testimony against them.”

Greg., Hom. in Ev., xxxv, 2: Either that they had presented to the death, or that they had seen and were not changed. For the death of the saints is to the good an aid, to the bad a testimony; that thus the wicked may perish without excuse in that from which the elect take example and live.

Chrys.: This was matter of consolation to them, not that they sought the punishment of others, but that they were confident that in all things they had One present with them, and all-knowing.

Hilary: And by this their testimony not only was all excuse of ignorance of His divinity taken away from their persecutors, but also to the Gentiles was opened the way of believing on Christ, who was thus devotedly preached by the voices of the confessors among the flames of persecution; and this is that He adds, “and the Gentiles.”

Ver 19. “But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak.20. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.”

Chrys.: To the foregoing topics of consolation, He adds another not a little one; that they should not say, How shall we be able to persuade such men as these, when they shall persecute us? He bids them be of good courage respecting their answer, saying, “When they shall deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak.”

Remig.: “How or what,” one refers to the substance, the other to the expression in words. And because both of these would be supplied by Him, there was no need for the holy preachers to be anxious about either.

Jerome: When then we are brought before judges for Christ’s sake, we ought to offer only our will for Christ. But Christ who dwelleth in us speaks for Himself, and the grace of the Holy Spirit will minister in our answer.

Hilary: For our faith, observing all the precepts of the Divine will, will be instructed with an answer according to knowledge, after the example of Abraham, to whom when he had given up Isaac, there was not wanting a ram for a victim. “For it is not ye who speak, but the Spirit of your Father that speaketh in you.”

Remig., ap. Raban.: Meaning, Ye indeed go out to the battle, but it is I who fight; you utter the words, but it is I who speak. Hence Paul speaks, “Seek ye a proof of Christ who speaketh in me?” [2Co_13:3]

Chrys.: Thus He raises them to the dignity of the Prophets, who have spoken by the Spirit of God. He who says here, “Take no thought what ye shall speak,” [1Pe_3:15] has said in another place, “Be ye always ready to give an answer to him that demandeth a reason of the hope that is in you.” When it is a dispute among friends, we are commanded to “be ready;” but before the awful judgment, and the raging people, aid is ministered by Christ, that they may speak boldly and not be dismayed.

Ver 21. “And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child; and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death.22. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.”

Gloss, ap. Anselm: Having placed the comfort first, He adds the more alarming perils; “Brother shall deliver up brother to death, and the father the son; children shall rise against parents, to put them to death.”

Greg., Hom. in Ev., xxxv, 3: Wrongs which we suffer from strangers, pain us less than those we suffer from men on whose affections we had counted; for besides the bodily affliction, there is then the pain of lost affection.

Jerome: This we see often happen in persecutions, nor is there any true affection between those whose faith is different.

Chrys.: What follows is yet more dreadful, “Ye shall be hated of all men;” they sought to exterminate them as common enemies of all the world. To this again is added the consolation, “For my name’s sake;” and yet further to cheer them, “Whosoever shall endure to the end, he shall be saved.” For many are hot and zealous in the beginning, but afterwards grow cool, for these, He says, I look at the end. For where is the profit of seeds that only sprout at first? wherefore He requires a sufficient endurance from them.

Jerome: For virtue is not to begin but to complete.

Remig.: And the reward is not for those that begin, but for those that bring to an end.

Chrys.: But that no man should say, that Christ wrought all things in His Apostles, and therefore it is nothing wonderful that they were made such as they were, since they did not bear the burden of these things, therefore He says, that perseverance was their work. For though they were rescued from their first perils, they are preserved for still harder trials, which again shall be followed by others, and they shall be in danger of snares as long as they live. This He covertly intimates when he says, “Whosoever shall endure to the end, he shall be saved.”

Remig.: That is, He who shall not let go the commands of the faith, nor fall away in persecution, shall be saved; he shall receive the reward of the heavenly kingdom for his earthly persecutions. And note that ‘the end’ does not always mean destruction, but sometimes perfection, as in that, “Christ is the end of the Law.” [Rom_10:4] So the sense here may be, “Whosoever shall endure to the end,” that is, in Christ.

Aug., City of God, book 21, ch. 25: To endure in Christ, is to abide in His faith which worketh by love.

Ver 23. “But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come.”

Chrys.: Having foretold the fearful things which should come upon them after His Cross, resurrection, and ascension, He leads them to gentler prospects; He does not bid them presumptuously to offer themselves for persecution, but to fly from it; “When they persecute you in this city, flee ye to another.” For because this was the first beginning of their conversion, He adapts His words to their state.

Jerome: This must be referred to the time when the Apostles were sent to preach, when it was said to them, “Go not into the way of the Gentiles;” they should not fear, but may shun persecution. This we see the believers did in the beginning, when on a persecution arising in Jerusalem they were scattered throughout all Judaea, and thus the season of tribulation was made the seedtime of the Gospel.

Aug., cont. Faust., xxii, 36: Not that the Saviour was unable to protect His disciples, does He here bid them fly, and Himself give them an example of it, but He instructed man’s weakness, that he should not presume to tempt God, when he has anything that he can do for himself, but should shun all evils.

Aug., City of God, book 1, ch. 22: He might have suffered them to lay violent hands upon themselves, that they might not fall into the hands of their persecutors. Therefore if He neither commanded nor allowed this mode of departure from this world to His own, for whom He Himself had promised that He would prepare an eternal mansion; whatever instances may be brought by the Gentiles who know not God, it is clear that this is not lawful for those who believe one true God.

Chrys.: But that they should not say, What then if we fly from persecution, and again they cast us out thence whither we have fled? To remove this fear, He says, “Verily, I say unto you, ye shall not have completed, &c.” that is, ye shall not have made the circuit of Palestine and return to Me, before I shall take you to Me.

Raban.: Or; He foretels that they shall not have brought all the cities of Israel to the faith by their preaching, before the Lord’s resurrection be accomplished, and a commission given them to preach the Gospel throughout the world.

Hilary: Otherwise; He exhorts to fly from place to place; for His preaching driven from Judaea, first passing into Greece; then, wearied with divers sufferings of the Apostles up and down the cities of Greece, it takes an abiding refuge in the rest of the Gentile world. But to shew that the Gentiles would believe the preaching of the Apostles, but that the remnant of Israel should only believe at His second coming, He adds, “Ye shall not have completed the cities of Israel;” i.e. After the fulness of the Gentiles is brought in, that which remains of Israel to fill up the number of the Saints shall be called into the Church in Christ’s future coming to glory.

Aug., Ep. 228: Let the servants of Christ then do as He commanded, or permitted them; as He fled into Egypt, let them fly from city to city, whenever any one of them is marked out for persecution; that the Church be not deserted, it will be filled by those who are not so sought after; and let these give sustenance to their fellow-servants whom they know cannot live by any other means. But when the threatening danger is common to all, Bishops, clergy, and laity, let not those who have need of aid be deserted by those whose aid they require.

Either therefore let them all pass to some stronghold, or let those who are obliged to remain, not be deserted by those whose province it is to supply their ecclesiastical needs; that they may either all live, or all suffer whatever their Master will have them to suffer.

Remig.: Be it known moreover, that as this precept respecting endurance under persecution specially belongs to the Apostles and their successors, men of fortitude, so the permission to fly is sufficiently proper for the weak in the faith, to whom the tender Master condescends, lest if they should offer themselves for martyrdom, under the pain they should deny the faith; and the sin of flight is lighter than that of denial. But though by their flight they shewed that they had not the constancy of perfect faith, yet their desert was great, seeing they were ready to leave all for Christ. So that if He had not given them permission to fly, some would have said that they were aliens from the glory of the heavenly kingdom.

Jerome: Spiritually, we may say; When they shall persecute you in one book or one passage of Scripture, let us flee to other volumes, for however contentious the adversary may be, protection will come from the Saviour before the victory is yielded to the enemy.

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5 Responses to “Aquinas’ Catena aurea on Matthew 10:16-23”

  1. […] Thursday, July 7: Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on Today’s Gospel (Matt 10:7-15) Friday, July 8: Aquinas’ Catena aurea on Today’s Gospel (Matt 10:16-23) […]

  2. […] Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Today’s Gospel (Matt 10:17-22). Actually, this post is on verses 16-23. […]

  3. […] Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Today’s Gospel (Matt 10:17-22). Actually, this post is on verses 16-23. […]

  4. […] Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Today’s Gospel (Matt 10:16-23). […]

  5. […] Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Matthew 10:17-22. Actually, this post is on verses 16-23. […]

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