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

Bishop MacEvilly’s Commentary on Matthew 10:1-7

Posted by Dim Bulb on July 6, 2013

This post opens with the Bishop’s brief analysis of Matthew 10, followed by his comments on verses 1-7.


Anticipating the prayer of His disciples, our Lord sends workmen into the harvest, His twelve Apostles, on whom He bestows miraculous powers, as the credentials of their Divine commission. As it is important to know who these workmen are, the names of the twelve are given (1–4). He gives them certain instructions, and enjoins certain precepts on them, as to their mode of proceeding on their mission. He tells them, where and what they are to preach, and how to confirm their teaching (5–8). To avoid every appearance of avarice, to make no unnecessary provision for their journey, and give an example of disinterestedness (9–10). To be select as to the character of their hosts, and to treat them with Christian urbanity, and address to them on entrance, a Christian salutation; He describes the rewards of such as receive them hospitably, and the punishment in store for such as refuse to receive them or their ministrations, and how they are to act in regard to such obstinate unbelievers (11–15). He warns them beforehand of the perils they were to encounter, and tells them how they were to act in difficult circumstances (16). He predicts the persecution they were to suffer from Jews and Gentiles. He assigns motives to inspire them with courage and confidence in God in such trying circumstances (17–20). He forewarns them of another painful kind of persecution, viz., domestic persecution, and exhorts them to endure such with patience and perseverance (21–22). He instructs them to fly in cases of persecution (23). He stimulates them to the courageous endurance of persecutions and sufferings by several motives. 1st. His own example; who endured worse things from the Jews (24–25). 2ndly. Because, in due time, their true character shall be made known, and themselves duly honoured (26–27). 3rdly. Because God alone is to be feared, who exercises a special providence in their regard (29–31). 4thly. Because such as act intrepidly, and boldly confess the faith, shall be rewarded and publicly honoured hereafter; whereas the fainthearted shall be dishonoured publicly and punished eternally (32–33). He describes the peace which He came to establish, not a worldly peace, arising from self-indulgence, but a spiritual peace, which shall be the accidental cause of sowing divisions in religious matters between the nearest and dearest friends, who may range themselves under opposite banners in this spiritual warfare (35–36). He shows that the love and service of God is to be preferred to every other love that may be opposed to it, whether of near relatives (37), or even of oneself, or our own corrupt self-love (38). He points out the reward of bearing every cross patiently for Christ’s sake (39). He conseles them by pointing to the merit of those who shall receive them hospitably on His account, and the merit of any charitable work, be it ever so insignificant, done from the pure motive of Christian charity, for any of His humblest followers (40–42).


Mat 10:1  And having called his twelve disciples together, he gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of diseases, and all manner of infirmities.

“And having called His twelve disciples together.” This is connected with (c. 9:37, 38), and has immediate reference to the subject there treated of. Our Redeemer Himself, does by anticipation, what He told His disciples to pray for, viz., He of Himself sends labourers to gather in the harvest, “His twelve disciples,” afterwards called “Apostles” (v. 2), thus showing, that He Himself was “Lord of the harvest.” The other Evangelists (Mark 3:13; Luke 6:13), inform us, that our Lord had chosen His twelve Apostles before He delivered the Sermon on the Mount, in order that they might be constantly in His society, as witnesses of His doctrine and miracles, to be sent in due time to preach, vested with miraculous powers and authority required for the efficacious discharge of their exalted functions. St. Matthew, in recording the Sermon on the Mount (c. 5, &c.), omits all allusion to the election of the twelve Apostles from among His disciples, or, the circumstances of the time and place in which this first occurred, as is circumstantially narrated by St. Luke. (6:13, &c.) He merely briefly alludes to it here immediately in connexion with the first public mission on which they were sent as Apostles, with miraculous powers to confirm their teaching. The mission referred to here is recorded (Mark 6:7; Luke 9:2).

Most likely, the account of this mission should be inserted between chapters 13 and 14 of St. Matthew. For, St. Mark interposes the account of the mission recorded here, between the history of our Lord’s arrival in Nazareth, and that of the Baptist’s death; and both Mark (6) and Luke (9) relate, that the Apostles returned to our Lord to render an account of their mission, after Herod had expressed his belief that John had been resuscitated in the person of our Lord, and, that then, our Lord and the Apostles retired into a desert place. The order, then, in which things occurred, is this: The Apostles are sent to teach the Jews; John is beheaded; Herod hearing of Jesus, is perplexed who He is; the Apostles return from their mission; our Redeemer retires with them beyond the lake to a desert place; He satiates, with five loaves and two fishes, the vast multitude, who, on the near approach of the Pasch, flocked around Him, &c.

“He gave them power over unclean spirits.” The devils, or evil spirits, are called “unclean,” because, they delight in unclean, sinful acts, and impel men to the commission of such acts. Before the coming of Christ, the devil had greater power over the world than he has at present. His power, which he so much abused, was crippled by the death of Christ (Heb. 2:14), and by the benign influence and spread of the Gospel. The power given to the Apostles over devils, was, “to cast them out,” and expel them from the bodies of the possessed.

“All manner of diseases,” i.e., of a chronic description; “and infirmities,” of an incipient, less aggravated kind (see c. 9:35; c. 4:23). These miraculous powers were to be the seal of their Divine mission, “the fruits by which they were to be known” and they were to be acknowledged as vested with such. (c. 7) He gives these powers, lest the Scribes and Pharisees should be preferred to them. Moreover, as Messiah sending His legates, it was but fitting He should give them the credentials of their authorized commission. Our Redeemer shows how far He surpassed the Prophets of old. These possessed and themselves exercised miraculous powers in several instances, but in no case could they (nor indeed did they ever attempt it), communicate them permanently, as is done here, to others.

Mat 10:2  And the names of the twelve Apostles are these: The first, Simon who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother,

“The twelve Apostles.” The word, “Apostle,” like the word, “Angel,” is expressive, not of nature or person, but of office. In the Scriptures of the New Testament, it denotes one sent as a legate, either in a general sense; hence, applied to our Redeemer Himself (Heb. 3:2), or, in a special sense, as in the case of Epaphroditus (Phil. 2:25), or, Doctors of the Church (Acts 14:4–14; 1 Cor. 4:9), or, those specially sent by our Redeemer Himself, as occupying the highest and most exalted rank in the Church, referred to here, and Eph. 4:11; 1 Cor. 12:28. In this last and most exalted meaning of the term, which is now attached to it by ecclesiastical usage, the word, “Apostle,” is confined exclusively to “the twelve,” whom our Redeemer Himself marked out as such (although, for a long period, ecclesiastical usage extended the title to others besides, as St. Jerome remarks on the Epistle to the Galatians).

For an Apostle, several conditions are required—1. To have seen our Lord in person (1 Cor. 9:1; Acts 1:21, 22; 22:14; 1 Cor. 15:8). 2. An immediate vocation, or to be immediately sent by God Himself. 3. An universal commission, both as to place, and persons; and also in regard to functions, embracing teaching, loosing, and binding, establishing churches, and propagating the ministry. 4. The power of miracles (Mark 16:20; Acts 2:43), this being the most necessary of Divine credentials, to prove their extraordinary mission from God, and thus beget “reasonable service” in their hearers. Hence, in preaching, the Apostles exhibited the seal of their Divine mission by working miracles, speaking unknown tongues, &c. 5. Personal infallibility and inerrancy in preaching the doctrine and precepts of Christ.

The third condition was to be exercised with a due subjection to the supreme jurisdiction of him to whom all were subjected, “lambs and sheep,” pastors and people. In regard to the Apostles, who were each specially guided and directed by the Holy Spirit, there was no danger of collision or confusion in the discharge of this universal commission. There was no need for the exercise of the supreme authority of Peter. But, still, the supreme authority over the rest was given by our Sovereign Lord to Peter. It was, per accidens, that, its exercise was unnecessary. These qualities were extraordinary and personal in the other Apostles, granted to them as Divine legates immediately sent by God, whose office of legates was to cease with themselves; and, therefore, these characteristics were not transmitted to their successors, the bishops. But, Peter’s was not only the extraordinary Apostolic commission granted to him in common with the others, as Divine legate, in which respect his Apostolic power would not be transmissible; but, also, the ordinary commission given to him, and to him alone, as universal pastor, “Feed my lambs, feed my sheep” (John 21:15–17); and hence, the Apostolic power being in Peter, a real as well as a personal quality, was meant to be transmitted to his successors in the Holy Roman See, which is, therefore, justly styled, the Apostolic See, in which the plenitude of Peter’s power and Apostolic authority resides; which alone is the centre and source of all Apostolicity throughout the earth, and which, therefore, can alone claim all the privileges conferred on the Apostles. (See admirable Dissertation on Supremacy of Peter, “Annual Miscellany,” vol. iv., Very Rev. Dr. Murray.)

“Of the twelve Apostles.” Our Redeemer, it is commonly supposed, fixes on the number “twelve,” in order that the heads or fathers of spiritual Israel, from whom the whole Christian family, the “duodecim millia signati,” out of the several tribes of the spiritual Israel of the New Law are descended, would correspond with the twelve Fathers or Patriarchs of the Jewish nation, who prefigured these twelve chosen Fathers of the spiritual Israel of the New Law.

“The FIRST, Simon who is called Peter.” This seems to corroborate the undoubted proof contained in other leading texts, of the primacy, not alone of honour, but of jurisdiction also, divinely conferred on St. Peter. St. Mark (3:16), and St. Luke (6:14), also give him the first place on their catalogue, although they vary from St. Matthew as to the place given to the other Apostles. Hence, it is not casually, but by design, he is placed first. Four times are the Apostles referred to, collectively, in the New Testament. Besides, the catalogues of the Apostles, found in the passages from the three first Evangelists here referred to, another is found in the Acts of the Apostles (1:13), and on all these is he placed first. Nay, St. Matthew calls him πρωτος, the first (such is the definite force of the ordinal). If he were called so from mere order, the others should be called second; St. Matthew pointedly not only places him first, but calls him “first,” without any ordinal reference to the others. The form, “Simon, who is called Peter,” would seem to be the reason for placing Peter “first,” implying that the change of name from “Simon” to “Peter” was the cause of this preference, and of the dignity and primacy connected with it. The Holy Fathers remark, that in all the catalogues of the Apostles, St. Peter is placed first, just as Judas is invariably placed last. This cannot arise from Peter having been called first to the Apostleship; for, Andrew, his brother, was known to our Lord before him (John 1:41), and both were called when together in the same boat (Matt. 4:18; Mark 1:16, 17). In point of years, St. Epiphanius tells us (Heresi 51), that it was well-known from tradition, that Andrew was his senior. In Acts of the Apostles, and in St. Mark, Andrew is placed fourth on the list. It was not on account of our Lord’s greater affection for him; for John was the well beloved disciple, who alone was permitted to lean on His breast at the Last Supper.

St. Matthew here, and St. Luke (6:14), show why Peter occupied the first place. “Who is called Peter”—“whom He surnamed Peter” (Luke 6:14), which is allusive to, his primacy. “First,” means highest in dignity, in which sense the word is used elsewhere, “qui vult fieri primus,” i.e., princeps or præcipuus. Whenever the Apostles are mentioned collectively, or two or three of them, he is always first. Mark (1:36), says, “Simon and they that were with him.” Whenever they act together, Simon acts and speaks in their name. The order varies in the lists of the Evangelists regarding the other Apostles, to show their equality in regard to each other, subject to Peter, the head of them all.

Mat 10:3  James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, Philip and Bartholomew, Thomas and Matthew the publican, and James the son of Alpheus, and Thaddeus,

“James,” the greater, brother of John the Evangelist. He was put to death by Herod (Acts 12:2). “Matthew, the publican.” The mention of what was humiliating to him, shows the admirable humility of St. Matthew. The other sacred writers make no allusion to his former position, or rather, odious occupation in life. “Thaddeus,” also called Jude, brother of James the lesser, and writer of the Catholic Epistle of St. Jude.

Mat 10:4  Simon the Cananean, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him.

“Simon the Cananean.” The epithet, “Cananean,” which distinguishes him from the other Simon Peter, does not mean that he was from Chanaan. All the Apostles were from Judea. He was from Cana of Galilee. Some writers assert that he was the bridegroom at the marriage of Cana, at which our Lord performed His first public miracle. The Hebrew word, cana, means, zeal. Hence, Simon is termed zelotes (Luke 6:16; Acts 1:13).

“Iscariot,” according to some, means, of the tribe of Issachar; others, say, it refers to the town where he was born, “a man from Carioth,” a town well known in SS. Scripture (Josue 15:25; Amos 2:2, &c.); others give different etymologies of the word, such as, a mercenary man, or, one who was strangled. The Hebrew root will admit these meanings, which are quite applicable to Judas the traitor. St. Jerome (Isaias 28), says, he was from the town of Iscarioth, in the tribe of Ephraim, to which tribe Judas belonged. This town of Iscarioth was, probably, of recent growth, built after the captivity, as we find no mention of it in the Old Testament (Calmet).

Mat 10:5  These twelve Jesus sent: commanding them, saying: Go ye not into the way of the Gentiles, and into the city of the Samaritans enter ye not.
Mat 10:6  But go ye rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

“These twelve Jesus sent,” as His legates, vested with His power; probably “two and two” (Mark 6:7), in the order in which they are joined together here, by St. Matthew and Mark (3:16), for mutual consolation and support, and to show the blessing of fraternal concord. “A brother that is helped by a brother is like a strong city.” Proverbs (18:19).

“Go ye not into the way of the Gentiles,” for the purpose of preaching. This is our Lord’s first precept to them, which was only of a temporary nature, to cease after His death, which broke down the middle wall of separation between Jews and Gentiles, and made them one fold under one shepherd. “The way of the Gentiles,” a Hebrew form of expression, denoting “among the Gentiles,” like the phrase, “What hast thou to do IN THE WAY OF EGYPT?” (Jer. 2:18), i.e., what brings thee into Egypt?

“And into the cities of the Samaritans enter ye not,” i.e., into any of their cities to preach the Gospel. In order to know who these Samaritans were, it is to be borne in mind, that after the ten tribes of Israel seceded from Juda and Benjamin, under Jeroboam, Amri, one of Jeroboam’s successors, built Samaria, which was to be the capital of the kingdom of Israel (1 Kings 16:24). Salmanasar, king of Assyria, carried the ten tribes captive into Assyria (2 Kings 17), and sent in their place, to colonize the country, people from Babylon and Cutha, &c. On the arrival of these latter, who carried with them their idolatrous worship, Samaria was infested with lions, which destroyed the country, and killed its inhabitants. This scourge was attributed to their neglect of the worship of the Deity of the land. Hence, in order to appease him, the king of Assyria had one of the captive priests sent back from Babylon, to instruct the new colonists in the ordinances and worship of the God of Israel.

After this, they united the worship of God with that of idols. (2 Kings 17) In this state did the Samaritans live under the kings of Assyria, having little or no intercourse with the Jews. When the Jews were permitted to rebuild the city and temple of Jerusalem, the Samaritans offered to assist them in their undertaking (Ezra 4:2). The rejection of this offer by the Jews, sowed the seeds of the undying hostility which ever after existed between both peoples. The breach was rendered irreparable, when, after the return of the Jews from captivity, and the rebuilding of the temple, the Samaritans had a rival temple built on Mount Garazim, near Samaria, where victims were offered up, as at Jerusalem, and served as a place also of resort for some malcontent Jews. From this period, the Samaritans, forgetful of their Pagan origin, wished to be considered as true Israelites, who preserved in all its purity the observance of the law, with an unbroken succession of high priests, who now ministered on Mount Garazim, the seat of their religion. For a long period, before the time of our Redeemer, they gave up the worship of idols; otherwise, they could have no pretensions to be considered true Israelites, rivals of the Jews, in regard to the observance of the law, and the purity of Divine worship.

The temple of Garazim and city of Samaria were demolished by John Hyrcanus, 120 years before the time of our Redeemer. Lest the Apostles might suppose that the Samaritans, who held a sort of intermediate place between the Jews and Gentiles, were to be confounded with the Jews, our Lord specially mentions them in connexion with the Gentiles. His object in prohibiting the Apostles from preaching to the Gentiles on this first mission was, to take away all excuse from the Jews, who might justify their incredulity and resistance on the ground, that, according to the ordination of God, and His promises through the predictions of the Prophets, the message of salvation was first promised to the Jews, “the children of the kingdom,” “the sons of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,” to whom these promises were specially made (Acts 13:46). To the Jews the Gospel was given, according to promise and mercy; to the Gentiles, out of pure mercy, without a promise. (Rom. 15)

“Lost sheep.” The Jews were “the sheep of His pasture.” (Psa. 73) They belonged specially to His fold; the objects of His special care and predilection. They were spiritually “lost,” having gone astray from God. (Rom. 3) Hence, compared, in the preceding chapter, to “sheep without a shepherd.” This first precept was to be observed only during our Redeemer’s mortal life. For, after His glorious resurrection, He gave the Apostles an unlimited, universal commission. “Euntes docete OMNES gentes.” (Matthew 28) “Eritis mihi testes … usque ad ultimum terræ” (Acts 1:8).

Mat 10:7  And going, preach, saying: The kingdom of heaven is at hand.

(The second Precept.) “The kingdom of heaven” (see c. 3:2), i.e., the Church of Christ is shortly to be established, which is the threshold or entrance into the kingdom of God’s glory. This kingdom of bliss, so long closed against mankind, is soon to be thrown open by the blood of Christ. Prepare, by penance, faith, and good works, to obtain admission into it. The theme of the preaching of the Apostles was the same as His own (Matt. 4:17); of the Baptist (3:2). It is clear, the preaching of penance, was also included and inculcated in the commission given the Apostles. For, the Apostles preached penance (Mark 6:12).

The form, “kingdom of heaven,” is peculiar to St. Matthew. The other Evangelists for it use the form, “the kingdom of God,” “heavenly kingdom,” “the kingdom of Christ.” The words, “the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” is a summary of the things preached; and convey an exhortation to perform the good works that may lead to it, and avoid the evils, that may prove an obstacle to our admittance, into that kingdom of everlasting bliss; in a word, “to avoid evil and do good.” St. Luke informs us (10:9), that this precept of “preaching the kingdom of God,” was given to the seventy-two disciples. He insinuates that it was also given to the twelve Apostles (9:2).


One Response to “Bishop MacEvilly’s Commentary on Matthew 10:1-7”

  1. […] Bishop MacEvilly’s Commentary on Today’s Gospel (Matt 10:1-7). […]

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