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 Mark 10:17-27

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 25, 2013

17. And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?
18. And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.
19. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother.
20. And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth.
21. Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.
22. And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.
23. And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!
24. And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God!
25. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
26. And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved?
27. And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible,

BEDE. (ubi sup.) A certain man had heard from the Lord that only they who are willing to be like little children are worthy to enter into the kingdom of heaven, and therefore he desires to have explained to him, not in parables, but openly, by the merits of what works a man may attain everlasting life. Wherefore it is said: And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?

THEOPHYLACT. I wonder at this young man, who when all others come to Christ to be healed of their infirmities, begs of Him the possession of everlasting life, notwithstanding his love of money, the malignant passion which afterwards caused his sorrow.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. in Matt. 63) Because however he had come to Christ as he would to a man, and to one of the Jewish doctors, Christ answered him as Man. Wherefore it goes on: And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but the One God. In saying which He does not exclude men from goodness, but from a comparison with the goodness of God.

BEDE. (ubi sup.) But by this one God, who is good, we must not only understand the Father, but also the Son, who says, I am the good Shepherd; (John 10:11) and also the Holy Ghost, because it is said, The Father which is in heaven will give the good Spirit to them that ask him. (Luke 2:15. Vulg.) For the One and Undivided Trinity itself, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, is the Only and One good God. The Lord, therefore, does not deny Himself to be good, but implies that He is God; He does not deny that He is good Master, but He declares that no master is good but God.

THEOPHYLACT. Therefore the Lord intended by these words to raise the mind of the young man, so that he might know Him to be God. But He also implies another thing by these words, that when you have to converse with a man, you should not flatter him in your conversation, but look back upon God, the root and fount of goodness, and do honour to Him.

BEDE. (ubi sup.) But observe that the righteousness of the law, when kept in its own time, conferred not only earthly goods, but also eternal life on those who chose it. Wherefore the Lord’s answer to one who enquires concerning everlasting life is, Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill; for this is the childlike blamelessness which is proposed to us, if we would enter the kingdom of heaven. On which there follows, And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth. We must not suppose that this man either asked the Lord, with a wish to tempt him, as some have fancied, or lied in his account of his life; but we must believe that he confessed with simplicity how he had lived; which is evident, from what is subjoined, Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him. If however he had been guilty of lying or of dissimulation, by no means would Jesus, after looking on the secrets of his heart, have been said to love him.

ORIGEN. (in Evan. tom. xv. 14) For in that He loved, or kissed himp, He appears to affirm the truth of his profession, in saying that he had fulfilled all those things; for on applying His mind to him, He saw that the man answered with a good conscience.

PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. (Cat. in Marc. Oxon.) It is worthy of enquiry, however, how He loved a man, who, He knew, would not follow Him? But this is so much as to say, that since he was worthy of love in the first instance, because he observed the things of the law from his youth, so in the end, though he did not take upon himself perfection, he did not suffer a lessening of his former love. For although he did not pass the bounds of humanity, nor follow the perfection of Christ, still he was not guilty of any sin, since he kept the law according to the capability of a man, and in this mode of keeping it, Christ loved him.

BEDE. (ubi sup.) For God loves those who keep the commandments of the law, though they be inferior; nevertheless, He shews to those who would be perfect the deficiency of the law, for He came not to destroy the law, but to fulfil it. Wherefore there follows: And said unto him, One thing thou lackest; go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me; (Matt. 5:17) for whosoever would be perfect ought to sell all that he has, not a part, like Ananias and Sapphira, but the whole.

THEOPHYLACT. And when he has sold it, to give it to the poor, not to stage-players and luxurious persons.

CHRYSOSTOM. (ubi sup.) Well too did He say, not eternal life, but treasure, saying, And thou shalt have treasure in heaven; for since the question was concerning wealth, and the renouncing of all things, He shews that He returns more things than He has bidden us leave, in proportion as heaven is greater than earth.

THEOPHYLACT. But because there are many poor who are not humble, but are drunkards or have some other vice, for this reason He says, And come, follow me.

BEDE. (ubi sup) For he follows the Lord, who imitates Him, and walks in His footsteps. It goes on: And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved.

CHRYSOSTOM. (ubi sup.) And the Evangelist adds the cause of his grief, saying, For he had great possessions. The feelings of those who have little and those who have much are not the same, for the increase of acquired wealth lights up a greater flame of covetousness. There follows: And Jesus looked round about, and said unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God.

THEOPHYLACT. He says not here, that riches are bad, but that those are bad who only have them to watch them carefully; for He teaches us not to have them, that is, not to keep or preserve them, but to use them in necessary things.

CHRYSOSTOM. (ubi sup.) But the Lord said this to His disciples, who were poor and possessed nothing, in order to teach them not to blush at their poverty, and as it were to make an excuse to them, and give them a reason, why He had not allowed them to possess any thing. It goes on: And the disciples were astonished at his words; for it is plain, since they themselves were poor, that they were anxious for the salvation of others.

BEDE. But there is a great difference between having riches, and loving them; wherefore also Solomon says not, He that hath silver, but, He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied, with silver. (Eccl. 5:10) Therefore the Lord unfolds the words of His former saying to His astonished disciples, as follows: But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard it is for them that trust in their riches to enter the kingdom of God. Where we must observe that He says not, how impossible, but how hard; for what is impossible cannot in any way come to pass, what is difficult can be compassed, though with labour.

CHRYSOSTOM. (ubi sup.) Or else, after saying difficult, He then shews that it is impossible, and that not simply, but with a certain vehemence; and he shews this by an example, saying, It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.

THEOPHYLACT. It may be that by camel, we should understand the animal itself, or else that thick cable, which is used for large vessels.

BEDE. (ubi sup.) How then could either in the Gospel, Matthew and Joseph, or in the Old Testament, very many rich persons, enter into the kingdom of God, unless it be that they learned through the inspiration of God either to count their riches as nothing, or to quit them altogether. Or in a higher sense, it is easier for Christ to suffer for those who love Him, than for the lovers of this world to turn to Christ; for under the name of camel, He wished Himself to be understood, because He bore the burden of our weakness; and by the needle, He understands the prickings, that is, the pains of His Passion. By the eye of a needle, therefore, He means the straits of His Passion, by which He, as it were, deigned to mend the torn garments of our nature. It goes on; And they were astonished above measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved? Since the number of poor people is immeasurably the greater, and these might be saved, though the rich perished, they must have understood Him to mean that all who love riches, although they cannot obtain them, are reckoned in the number of the rich. It goes on; And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God; which we must not take to mean, that covetous and proud persons can enter into the kingdom of Heaven with their covetousness and pride, but that it is possible with God that they should be converted from covetousness and pride to charity and lowliness.

CHRYSOSTOM. (ubi sup.) And the reason why He says that this is the work of God is, that He may shew that he who is put into this path by God, has much need of grace; from which it is proved, that great is the reward of those rich men, who are willing to follow the 1discipline of Christ.

THEOPHYLACT. Or we must understand that by, with man it is impossible, but not with God, He means, that when we listen to God, it becomes possible, but as long as we keep our human notions, it is impossible. There follows, For all things are possible with God; when He says all things, you must understand, that have a being; which sin has not, for it is a thing without being and substance.. Or else: sin does not come under the notion of strength, but of weakness, therefore sin, like weakness, is impossible with God. But can God cause that not to have been done which has been done? To which we answer, that God is Truth, but to cause that what has been done should not have been done, is falsehood. How then can truth do what is false? He must first therefore quit His own nature, so that they who speak thus really say, Can God cease to be God? which is absurd.

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