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 11:20-24

Posted by Dim Bulb on July 9, 2011

Ver 20. “Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not:21. Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.22. But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you.23. And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.24. But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee.”

Gloss, ap. Anselm: Thus far He had brought His accusation against the Jews in common; now against certain towns by name, in which He had specially preached, and yet they would not be converted; whence it is said, “Then began he to upbraid the cities in which most of hie mighty works were done, because they had not repented.”

Jerome: His upbraiding of the towns of Corozaim, Bethsaida, and Capharnaum, is set forth in this chapter, because He therefore upbraided them, because after He had such mighty works and wonders in them they had not done penitence. Whence He adds, “Wo for thee, Corozaim! wo for thee, Bethsaida!”Chrys.: That you should not say that they were by nature evil, He names Bethsaida, a town from which the Apostles had come; namely, Philip, and two pair of the chief of the Apostles, Peter and Andrew, James and John.

Jerome: In this word, Wo, these towns of Galilee are mourned for by the Saviour, that after so many signs and mighty works, they had not done penitence.

Raban.: Corozaim, which is interpreted ‘my mystery,’ and Bethsaida, ‘the house of fruits,’ or, ‘the house of hunters,’ are towns of Galilee situated on the shore of the sea of Galilee. The Lord herefore mourns for towns which once had the mystery of God, and which ought to have brought forth the fruit of virtues, and into which spiritual hunters had been sent.

Jerome: And to these are preferred Tyre and Sidon, cities given up to idolatry and vices; “For if the mighty works which have been done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have long ago done penitence in sackcloth and ashes.”

Greg., Mor., xxxv. 6: In “sackcloth” is the roughness which denotes the pricking of the conscience for sin, “ashes” denote the dust of the dead; and both are wont to be employed in penitence, that the pricking of the sackcloth may remind us of our sins, and the dust of the ash may cause us to reflect what we have become by judgment.

Raban.: Tyre and Sidon are cities of Phoenicia. Tyre is interpreted ‘narrowness,’ and Sidon ‘hunting,” and denote the Gentiles  whom the Devil as a hunter drives into the straits of sin; but Jesus the Saviour sets them free by the Gospel.

Jerome: We ask where it is written that the Lord did wonders in Corozaim and Bethsaida? We read above, “And he went about the towns and villages, healing all sicknesses, &c.” [Matt 9:35] among the rest, therefore, we may suppose that He wrought signs in Corozaim and Bethsaida.

Aug., De Dom. Pers. 9: It is not then true that His Gospel was not preached in those times and places, in which He foreknew that all would be such, as were many in His actual presence, who would not even believe on Him when He raised men from the dead. For the Lord Himself bears witness that they of Tyre and Sidon would have done penitence in great humility, had the wonders of the Divine power been done in them.

Moreover, if the dead are judged according to those deeds which they would have done had they lived, then because these would have believed had the Gospel been preached to them with so great miracles, surely they should not be punished at all, and yet in the day of judgment they shall be punished; for it follows, “But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment, than for you.” Those then shall be punished with more, these with less severity.

Jerome: This is because Tyre and Sidon had trodden under foot the law of nature only, but these towns after they had transgressed the natural and the written Law, also made light of those wonders which had been wrought among them.

Raban.: We at this day see the words of the Saviour fulfilled; Corozaim and Bethsaida would not believe when the Lord came to them in person; but Tyre and Sidon have afterwards believed on the preaching of the Apostles.

Remig.: Capharnaum was the metropolis of Galilee, and a noted town of that province, and therefore the Lord mentions it particularly, saying, “And thou, Capharnaum, shalt thou indeed be exalted to heaven? Thou shalt go down even to hell.”

Jerome: In other copies we find, “And thou, Capharnaum, that art exalted to heaven, shalt be brought down to hell;” and it may be understood in two different ways. Either, thou shalt go down to hell because thou hast proudly resisted my preaching; or, thou that hast been exalted to heaven by entertaining me, and having my mighty wonders done in thee, shalt be visited with the heavier punishment, because thou wouldest not believe even these.

Remig.: And they have made the sins not of Sodom only and Gomorrah, but of Tyre and Sidon light in comparison, and therefore it follows, “For if the mighty works which have been done in thee had been done in Sodom, it would perhaps have remained unto this day.”

Chrys.: This makes the accusation heavier, for it is a proof of extreme wickedness, that they are worse, not only than any then living, but than the wickedest of all past time.

Jerome: In Capharnaum, which is interpreted ‘the most fair town,’ Jerusalem is condemned, to which it is said by Ezekiel, “Sodom is justified by thee.” [Ezek 16:52]

Remig.: The Lord, who knows all things, here uses a word expressing uncertainty — “perhaps,” to shew that freedom of choice is left to men. “But I say unto you, it shall be easier for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you.” And be it known, that in speaking of the city or country, the Lord does not chide with the buildings and walls, but with the men that inhabit there, by the figure metonymy, putting the thing containing for the thing contained. The words, “It shall be easier in the day of judgment,” clearly prove that there are divers punishments in hell, as there are divers mansions in the kingdom of heaven.

Jerome: The careful reader will hesitate here; If Tyre and Sidon could have done penitence at the preaching of the Saviour, and His miracles, they are not in fault that they believed not; the sin is his who would not preach to bring them to penitence. To this there is a ready answer, that we know not God’s judgments, and are ignorant of the sacraments of His peculiar dispensations.

It was determined by the Lord not to pass the borders of Judea, that He might not give the Pharisees and Priests a just occasion of persecuting Him, as also He gave commandment to the Apostles, “Go not into the way of the Gentile.” Corozaim and Bethsaida are condemned because they would not believe, though Christ Himself was among them — Tyre and Sidon are justified, because they believed His Apostles. You should not enquire into times when you see the salvation of those that believe.

Remig.: We may also answer in another way. There were many in Corozaim and Bethsaida who would believe, and many in Tyre and Sidon who would not believe, and therefore were not worthy of the Gospel. The Lord therefore preached to the dwellers in Corozaim and Bethsaida, that they who were to believe, might be able; and preached not in Tyre and Sidon, lest perhaps they who were not to believe, being made worse by contempt of the Gospel, should be punished more heavily.

Aug., De Don. Pers. 10: A certain Catholic disputant of some note expounded this place of the Gospel in the following way; That the Lord foreknew that they of Tyre and Simon would fall from the faith after they had believed the miracles done among them; and that therefore in mercy He did not His miracles there, because they would have incurred the heavier penalty had they lapsed from the faith after having held it, than if they had never held it at all.

Or otherwise; The Lord surely foreknew His mercies with which He deigns to deliver us. And this is the predestination of the saints, namely, the foreknowledge and making ready the mercies of God, by which they are most certainly saved, whosoever are saved. The rest are left to the just judgment of God in the general body of the condemned, where they of Tyre and Sidon are left, who might have believed had they seen Christ’s many miracles; but since it was not given them that they should believe, therefore that through which. they might have believed was also withheld.

From which it appears, that there are certain who have in their dispositions by nature a divine gift of understanding by which they would be moved to faith, if they should either hear words or see signs adapted to their minds. But if they be not by the high sentence of God set apart from the mass of perdition through the predestination of grace, then neither words nor works are set before them by God, which yet, could they have seen or heard them, would have stirred them to believe.In this general mass of perdition are the Jews also left, who could not believe so great and manifest wonders wrought before their eyes. And the cause wherefore they could not believe, the Gospel hath not hidden, speaking thus; “Though he did so great miracles before them, yet could they not believe, as Esaias said, I have blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart.” [John 12:37]

Not in this way then were the eyes of they of Tyre and Sidon blinded, or their heart hardened, for they would have believed had they seen such wonders as these saw. But it profited those not that they could have believed, for that they were not predestinated; neither would it have been any hindrance to these that they had not power to believe, had they been so predestined that God should have enlightened their blindness, and taken away the heart of stone from within them.

Aug., De Cons. Ev., ii, 32: Luke also gives this as spoken in continuation of some other of the Lord’s discourses; from which it appears that he has rather followed the actual order of events; Matthew to have followed his recollection. Or the words of Matthew, “Then began he to upbraid the towns,” must be taken, as some think, as expressing some particular time by the word, “then,” but not referring generally to that time in which the many other things here told were done and said.

Whoever, therefore, thinks thus must suppose that this was spoken twice. And when we find in the same Evangelist some things spoken by the Lord at two different times — like that in Luke concerning the not taking a scrip for their journey,– what wonder is it if any thing else, which was twice spoken, is found once severally in two several Gospels in the actual connexion in which it was spoken, which connexion is different, because they are two different occasions on which it is related to have been spoken?


2 Responses to “Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Matthew 11:20-24”

  1. […] Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Today’s Gospel (Matt 11:20-24). […]

  2. […] Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Today’s Gospel (Matt 11:20-24). […]

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