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 on Matthew 9:9-13

Posted by Dim Bulb on September 20, 2012

Mat 9:9  And when Jesus passed on from thence, he saw a man sitting in the custom house, named Matthew; and he saith to him: Follow me. And he arose up and followed him.

And when Jesus passed on from thence, &c. Custom, in Greek, τελος, means revenue; from which telonium, the word here used by S. Matthew, means the house, or place where the sailors and merchants paid the tribute and customs dues upon their ships and merchandise. Here sat the publicans, who were the farmers and collectors of these dues. Hence the Persian version, instead of telonium has, in the house of payment; the Ethiopic has, in the forum, or market-place. Matthew was one of these publicans; whence it is probable that his house was at Capernaum, by the shore of the Sea of Galilee, at a point where the vessels touched. The Roman Senate and the people were accustomed to let the tribute which was due to them from their subjects for a stipulated sum.

Jansen, in his Harmony of the Gospels, says, that persons who have carefully surveyed the Holy Land, assert that the spot where Matthew was called is still pointed out, outside of Capernaum, near the Sea. Mark and Luke say that Matthew was sitting at the telonium, because, by this word, they seem to mean not a house, but a table, on which they were counting the tribute money.

Named Matthew. Matthew names himself, both out of humility, that he might confess to the whole world that he had been a publican and a sinner, and also out of gratitude, that he might make known abroad the exceeding grace of Christ towards him, just as S. Paul does: “It is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief,” (1 Tim1:15).

Follow me: Whom in Capernaum thou hast heard preaching heavenly doctrine, and confirming it by many miracles, and especially by that recent healing of the paralytic. He calls Matthew, already subdued by the fame of His miracles, says Chrysostom. Observe the condescension of Christ who calls Matthew, the publican, and so a man infamous among the Jews, not only to grace but to His family and intimate friendship and Apostleship.

And he arose, &c. Note here the efficacy of Christ’s vocation, and the ready obedience of Matthew. Hear what S. Jerome says about it. “Porphyry and Julian find fault in this place, either with the lying unskilfulness of the historian, or else with the folly of those persons who immediately followed the Saviour, as though they irrationally followed the first person who called them. But they do not consider that great miracles and mighty signs had preceded this calling. And there can be no doubt that the Apostles had witnessed these things before they believed. This at least is certain, the very refulgence and majesty of the hidden Divinity, which shone even in His human countenance, was able to attract to Him those who saw Him as soon as they beheld Him. For if there be in a magnet, which is but a stone, such force that it is able to attract, and join unto itself rings and straws, how much more is the Lord of all creatures able to draw unto Himself whom He will.”

Thus then as a magnet draws iron unto it, so did Christ draw Matthew, and by His drawing, gave him his virtues, and chiefly his exceeding love of God, zeal for souls, ardour in preaching. Listen to the account of S. Matthew’s conversion, which he himself gave to S. Bridget, when praying at his tomb at Malphi: “It was my desire at the time I was a publican to defraud no man, and I wished to find out a way by which I might abandon that employment, and cleave to God alone with my whole heart. When therefore He who loved me, even Jesus Christ was preaching, His call was a flame of fire in my heart; and so sweet were His words unto my taste, that I thought no more of riches than of straws: yea, it was delightful to me to weep for joy, that my God had deigned to call one of such small account, and so great a sinner as I to His grace. And as I clave unto my Lord, His burning words became fixed in my heart, and day and night I fed upon them by meditation, as upon sweetest food.”

Mat 9:10  And it came to pass as he was sitting at meat in the house, behold many publicans and sinners came, and sat down with Jesus and his disciples.

And it came to pass as he was sitting at meat, &c. This was in Matthew’s own house, for he is silent about his virtues, outspoken about his errors. This appears from what Luke says, Levi, that is, Matthew, made him a great feast in his own house: to this feast he invited many of his companions, publicans like himself, and sinners, that they might be drawn by the kindness of Christ to follow Him, as he had done. It is indeed a sign of true conversion to be anxious that others also should be converted from their sins. For good is self-diffusive, and charity instigates men to seek the salvation of other lost sinners.

The office of a publican, although a just one in itself, and one that could be exercised without sin, yet, because avaricious men frequently undertook it from love of gain, who extorted unjust dues, especially from the poor, publicans were accounted infamous among the Jews, and public sinners, as public usurers are similarly accounted among Christians. There was this also, that the Jews maintained that they, as a people dedicated to God, ought not to pay tribute to the Romans, who were Gentiles and idolaters: for this was contrary to the liberty and dignity of the children of God. Thus they detested the publicans, who exacted the tribute.

Sinners are here distinguished from publican. These sinners seem to have been dissolute Jews, who cared little for the law and religion of the Jews, and lived in a heathenish manner, or who had apostatized to heathenism.

Mat 9:11  And the Pharisees seeing it, said to his disciples: Why doth your master eat with publicans and sinners?

And the Pharisees seeing it, &c. These are the words, not of those who asked a question, but of those who were making an accusation. As much as to say, “Your Master Christ acts contrary to the law of God and the traditions of the Fathers. Why do you listen to Him, and follow Him? He associates with sinners. He is bringing the stain of their sins and infamy upon you.”

Mat 9:12  But Jesus hearing it, said: They that are in health need not a physician, but they that are ill.

But Jesus hearing it, &c. from the report of His disciples. For even the Pharisees did not dare to make this charge to Christ Himself. He saith, not to His disciples, but to the Pharisees, for He turned Himself to those from whom the complaint proceeded, as is clear from what follows. They that are in health, &c. As a physician is not infected by the diseases of those who are sick, but rather overcometh diseases, and drives them away, and therefore it is not a disgrace, but an honour to a physician to be associated with the sick, so in like manner I, who have been sent from heaven to earth by God the Father, to be a physician of sin-sick souls, am not contaminated by their sins when I associate with them, but rather heal them, which is the highest praise to Me, and the greatest benefit to them. I therefore am the Physician, not the companion of sinners.

Mat 9:13  Go then and learn what this meaneth, I will have mercy and not sacrifice. For I am not come to call the just, but sinners.

Got then: that is, go away from Me; depart out of My sight. They are the words of one repudiating them. And learn, what Hosea 6:6 says, I will have mercy and not sacrifice: i.e., I prefer mercy to sacrifice, although sacrifice is the noblest act of religion. Therefore follow mercy, even as I do, that ye may save sinners. For I prefer mercy, and to have pity upon miserable sinners, rather than with you to offer victims to God. See what I have said upon Hos_6:6, where I have commented upon the dignity and surpassing excellency of mercy.

Well does S. Bernard (Serm. 16 in Cant.).exclaim, “0 Wisdom, with what art of healing, by wine and oil, dost Thou restore health to my soul! Thou art bravely sweet, and sweetly brave, brave for me, sweet to me. Thy name is oil poured forth, not wine. For I would not that Thou shouldst enter into judgment with Thy servant. It is oil, because thou crownest me with mercy and loving kindness. It is indeed oil; for oil floats at the top of all liquids with which it is mingled: and thus it is a lively figure of that Name which is above every name.”

For I am not come to call the just but sinners. So it is in the Vulgate. The Greek adds, ει̉ς μετανοίαν, to repentance. So too S. Luke, and the Arabic Version. This must be either expressed or understood. For Christ also called Nathanael, who was a just man. Also He called the Blessed Virgin, S. John, and Elizabeth, who were saints, to still greater sanctity and perfection.

Hilary, Jerome, Bede, &c., take the words differently, I am not come to call the just, that is, those who proudly, but falsely esteem and boast themselves to be righteous, when they are in very truth sinners and hypocrites, such as ye are, 0 ye Pharisees.

2 Responses to “Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on Matthew 9:9-13”

  1. […] The Great Commentary of Cornelius a Lapide: S. Matthew’s Gospel, Chaps. I. to IX, 3rd edition, translated by Thomas W. Mossman, Assisted by Various Scholars (London: John Hodges, 1887). May be downloaded in PDF format through the Saints’ Books index; available in various formats at Internet Archive and Internet Archive (2nd copy). The 2nd edition (1876) is also available in various formats at Internet Archive and Open Library, and may be read in TXT format at EWTN Library. The Divine Lamp reproduces individual portions of the work, including St. Matthew 7:15-21 and 9:9-13. […]

  2. […] Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on Matthew 9:9-13. […]

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