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 Maas’ Commentary on Matthew 18:15-20

Posted by Dim Bulb on August 29, 2011

This part treats first of fraternal correction (Matt 18:15-20); secondly, of
fraternal forgiveness (Matt 18:21-35).

15. But if thy brother shall offend against thee, go and rebuke him
between thee and him alone. If he shall hear thee, thou shalt gain thy brother.
16. And if he will not hear thee, take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may stand.
17. And if he will not hear them, tell the church. And if he will not hear the church, let him be to thee as the heathen and publican.

“If thy brother ” in Christ [cf. Gal 3:27 ff.] shall offend “against thee,” i. e., commit any sin, because all sins are against us, being against our Father in heaven; “against thee ” may also mean ” within thy knowledge”; or “against thee” is an interpolation from Luke 17:4, since Paschasius testifies that in his time it was wanting in several codd. of the Vulgate.

That there can be no question of a personal offence follows, first, from the general character of our Lord’s discourse; secondly, from the ineptitude of an offended person to serve as monitor of the offender. Our Lord is not content with our not scandalizing others, but he wishes us also to aid those that have already fallen. Hence the positive precept: “Go and rebuke him,” which, however, does not bind when fraternal correction is evidently useless, or when it brings on us or the Church grave inconveniences. “Between thee and him alone,” to spare the feelings of the offender [cf. cAug. serm. 82, 8], lest the sinner should become worse by the manifestation of his fault [Thomas, Chrysostom, Albert, Dionysius, Cajetan, Jansenius], or defend his sin and become obdurate in evil [Jansenius].

“If he shall hear thee,” practically, by obeying thy monition [cf. 2 Kings 22:13], “thou shalt gain thy brother ” not merely as a friend [cf. Chrysostom, Euthymius], but for the Church, and for life eternal, a gain that will be to thy own advantage [cf. Jerome Rabanus, Paschasius, Albert, Thomas, Dionysius, Cajetan, Lapide, Baronius Sylveri]. “If he will not hear thee,” thou must not consider thyself free from thy duty, but “take with thee one or two more,” not to increase his shame, nor to have witnesses that thou hast fulfilled thy duty, nor to have witnesses before the ecclesiastical tribunal, if thou must proceed to it; but “that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may stand” [cf. Deut 19:15; John 8:17; 2 Cor 13:1; Heb 10:28], i. e. that he may be convinced by the multiplied testimony of the necessity to change his life [cf. Dionysius, Maldonado, Sylveri]. “If he will not hear them, tell the Church,” not indeed the Synagogue [cf. Beza, Calvin Fritzsche, Keil, Weiss], but the Church of Christ [Matt 16:18]; nor again the whole multitude of the faithful, including their superiors [cf. Tert. apologetic, c. 39 ; Thomas, Baronius Jansenius; 1 Cor 5:3-4], but the Church represented in its superiors [Chrysostom, Euthymius, Theophylact Albert, Cajetan, Maldonado, Lapide, Calmet, Bisping]. If it be not against the nature of the Church to be represented by an authority constituted by the community [cf. Meyer], it cannot be against its nature to be represented by an authority instituted after the manner of the apostles [cf. Schanz]. That the former kind of representation is not understood by Jesus follows first from its being wholly unknown among- the Jews, so that the disciples could not understand our Lord’s “words in that sense; secondly, from what Jesus had said according to Matt 16:18; thirdly, from the power with which he is about to invest his apostles [cf. next verse]. “If he will not hear the Church, let him he to thee as the heathen and publican,” i. e. as the heathen and publican is to the Jew [cf. Lightfoot ad h. 1.], in order that he may not contaminate his brethren [Jansenius], and that he may feel ashamed of his condition when he sees himself thus separated from his friends [cf. 1 Cor 5:5-6, 13; 2 Cor 2:6-7].

18. Amen I say to you, whatsoever you shall bind upon earth shall be bound also in heaven; and whatsoever you shall loose upon earth shall be loosed also in heaven.
That the voice of the Church does not remain without its effect follows from the
promise, “amen I say to you,” not to the offended [cf. Gregory, Augustine, Theophylact, Grotius], nor to the body of the faithful [cf. Thomas], but to you, my apostles [Hilary, Jerome, Albert etc.]; for the apostles were the only representatives of the Church then present, the whole context is concerned with the apostles alone [Matt 18:1; cf. Mk 9:32], and again the first gospel denotes the apostles by the name disciples [cf. Matt 10:1-2]. “Whatsoever you shall bind upon earth shall be bound also in heaven; and whatsoever you shall loose upon earth shall be loosed also in heaven” [cf. Matt 16:19] . Comparing this promise with that given to Peter, Origen first remarks that in Peter’s promise we read “in the heavens” (των ουρανων note the plural which is often mistranslated as singular), while here we have the singular “in heaven” [εν ουρανω note the lack of the plural ending “ν”]; secondly, Peter receives the power of the keys besides that of binding and loosing, and besides the privilege of being the rock of the Church [cf. Orig. Pasch.]. Since, then, Peter’s prerogatives are not annulled by the present passage, it follows that the other apostles received the power of binding and loosing in dependence on and in subordination to Peter’s privilege; since Peter alone could not bind and loose all that needed to be bound and loosed in the Church, Jesus gave that power also to the apostles, leaving Peter as rock of the Clmrch and therefore as head of his brethren. What has been said about the meaning of the power to bind and to loose in Matt 16:19 receives additional light from the present context; for as there is question of an accused sinner, the power to bind implies evidently the power of retaining or binding his sins, of punishing them, and of excommunicating the guilty; while the power to loose implies the power to remit his sin, and to condone his punishment.

19. Again I say to you, that if two of you shall consent upon earth
concerning anything whatsoever they shall ask, it shall be done to them by my Father who is in heaven.

“Again I say to you” does not merely add another remedy against scandal; nor does it express another privilege of the Church besides that of binding and loosing, viz. the power of impetration [cf. Cajetan, Keil]; nor again does it merely add to the foregoing privilege of the apostles that of having their prayers answered by God; nor does it merely manifest the advantages of union with the Church, as the preceding passage shows the curse of being separated from it [cf. Schegg]; nor does it merely show the merit of charity in opposition to the foregoing sin of scandal [cf. Euthymius]; nor does it purport to show the reward of union and concord, as the preceding verse treats of disunion and enmity [cf. Chrysostom, Theophylact, Hilary, Jerome, Dionysius, Baronius, Calmet]; but it proves the power of the apostles to bind and loose [Albert], by an argument “a minori ad maius,” i. e. it infers from their power of prayer that of their judicial sentence. The strength of this argument increases, because ” two of you” is not limited to the apostles and their successors in the episcopacy, but refers to all the faithful, as is clear from the general principle “where there are two or three. . . .” It does not follow from this that “to you” of the preceding verse also must be understood of all the faithful, and that consequently all the faithful received the power of binding and loosing [cf. Weiss]. For the second “to
you” occurs in the ” a minori ” part of the argument, so that the full force of the inference lies in the comparison of two terms on each side: first, “you as common Christians” is compared with “you as apostles”; secondly, ” infallible power of impetration” is compared with “infallible effect of judicial sentence.” In other words, the prayer of common Christians has an infallible effect in heaven; therefore the judicial sentence of apostles must have its infallible ratification in heaven.

20. For where there are two or three gathered together in my name,
there am I in the midst of them.

“In my name” does not merely mean that they are gathered together because they are Christians [cf. Weiss], or because of my commandments [cf. Cyril Euthymius], or for some end connected with my interests [cf. Jansenius] , or for the honor and glory of myname [cf.Dionysius]; but according to the Greek εις το εμον ονομα (in my name) the prayers must be said for that same end to which the name of Jesus tends, or Jesus himself, in as far as his aims and wishes and office are revealed to us. “There I am in the midst of them,” not merely by my presence, and essence, and power, but also by a special assistance of my grace [Cajetan], directing the hearts and wills of those who pray, and making their prayer my own [Jansenius; cf. Rom 8:26]. We see from this why many prayers remain unheard, since they ask for something hurtful [Chrysostom], or are not offered with the proper trust in God, or again are offered without the required fraternal union [Thomas]. On the other hand, this passage illustrates the power and dignity of councils where there are many prelates gathered in the name of Christ [cf. Maldonado, Jansenius, Lapide, Calmet]. According to Jewish tradition [cf. Mal 3:16], two or three assembled in judgment or to study the law were favored with the visible presence of God.

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One Response to “Father Maas’ Commentary on Matthew 18:15-20”

  1. […] Father Maas’ Commentary on Matt 18:15-20 for Sunday Mass, Sept 4. Reading used in the Ordinary Form of the […]

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