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 10:7-15

Posted by Dim Bulb on July 6, 2013

Mat 10:7  And going (on the mission I have empowered you for), preach, saying: The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Note: verse 7 closed out yesterday’s reading so the notes on this verse appeared in yesterday’s post.

(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). Notice the close association here between the Church and the Kingdom. Lumen Gentium, art. 3: To carry out the will of the Father, Christ inaugurated the Kingdom of heaven on earth and revealed to us the mystery of that kingdom. By His obedience He brought about redemption. The Church, or, in other words, the kingdom of Christ now present in mystery, grows visibly through the power of God [Catholic Church. (2011). Dogmatic Constitution on the Church: Lumen Gentium. Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana].

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).

Mat 10:8  Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out devils: freely have you received, freely give.

(The third Precept). “Heal the sick,” &c. The operation of mighty and stupendous miracles was to form the credentials of their Divine mission, necessary to beget belief in a new and unheard of doctrine; otherwise, the proud and haughty would pay no attention to the teaching of ignorant, illiterate fishermen, “these weak and foolish things of the world,” whom God employed “to confound the wise and the strong.” (1 Cor. 1) He gave the like power to Moses, so that the opposing magicians exclaimed, “Digitus Dei est hic” (Exod. 8:19). The miracles they were to perform were works of beneficence, calculated to win the people to embrace the faith. Doubtless, this power was not allowed to be idle or inoperative, although we have hardly any record of its exercise left us in the Gospels.

(Fourth Precept.) “Freely have you received,” i.e., these powers they received without labour, and irrespective of merit, solely from God’s gratuitous concession. This represses every feeling of pride, and begets humility. All they have is “received.” “Freely give,” gratuitously, and generously bestow it on the people, without price or payment; since, it is priceless. Thus is repressed every feeling of simony and sordid avarice. This may refer to the two preceding powers—of preaching (v. 7), and of working miracles (v. 8); or, rather, to the one immediately preceding, viz., the working of cures, &c. The injunction is put in so general a form, that it will apply to the selling of all kinds of spiritual gifts, which, being far beyond all price, would be undervalued, were they sold for money. What is given gratuitously by God, should not be made the subject of traffic, but be made subservient to God’s glory alone. Moreover, they are not the masters of them; but only the dispensers. There are three reasons generally assigned why spiritual things cannot be sold—1st. Because a spiritual thing is above all earthly price. It is “more precious than all riches” (Prov. 3:15). St. Peter tells Simon Magus, “thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money” (Acts 8:20). 2ndly. Because no one is master of such gifts; but only the dispenser (1 Cor. 3). 3rdly. Because, as they come gratuitously from God, one acts irreverently towards God, whenever he exacts a price for what God wishes to be dispensed gratuitously. These two latter reasons are involved in the words, “freely, or gratis, give.” A. Lapide observes here, that the reason why spiritual gifts cannot be sold, is not precisely because they are gratuitously given by God; for, God may bestow a gratuitous gift, as He bestowed science and all knowledge of art on Beseleel, the builder of the Tabernacle (Exodus 31); and this he could sell and teach others for price, like any other master of an art—but, because, spiritual gifts are so exalted and sublime, so incomparably exceeding all human skill and exertions, that to self them for money, would be treating the Author of them, God, with indignity, and would constitute the crime of sacrilege and simony.

Mat 10:9  Do not possess gold, nor silver, nor money in your purses:

(Fifth Precept.) Our Redeemer here points out how they should proceed on their mission, and what provision they should make for their journey. According to some commentators, the prohibition contained in this verse is not confined to the present mission of the Apostles among the Jews; it applies also to their final mission among the Gentiles. Our Redeemer, they say, here draws a true and perfect picture of an Apostolic man in every age, whose chief characteristic should be detachment from earthly goods. Unencumbered with worldly possessions, wholly devoted to his duties, he should cast all his care on God’s merciful providence.

Others maintain, and it would seem with greater probability, that the prohibition conveyed in this verse is not only of a personal, but also of a temporary character, confined to this mission of the Apostles among the Jews, to which it is immediately subjoined. No such mandate is attached to their last solemn commission (“euntes docete omnes gentes,” &c.), similar to the injunction regarding the place and subjects of their preaching on this first mission. This our Redeemer would Himself seem to insinuate (Luke 22:35), “When I sent you without purse … but now he that hath a purse,” &c., leaving it to be inferred, that the period for observing the precept conveyed here was past—we find that St. Paul had a cloak in reserve (2 Tim. 4:13). Again, such a precept would be impracticable among the barbarous Gentiles, who would give no support to those who preached down their gods. And the Apostles, in the course of their preaching, had to provide for catechists, by whom they were accompanied. They allowed certain persons to accompany them and provide for their temporal wants (1 Cor. 9:5). Our Redeemer Himself permitted Judas to be purse-bearer to his companions. (A. Lapide, Jansenius Gandav., c. 45, &c.) At the same time, these latter authors admit, that the spirit of these precepts, which were meant to inspire a feeling of disinterestedness and detachment from earthly possessions, and an unbounded reliance in God’s providence, on the part of the ministers of the Gospel, extends to all times. We find that after the descent of the Holy Ghost, the Apostles, in the course of their preaching among the Gentiles, literally adhered to them; and, no doubt, the spirit of these precepts has reference, as far as circumstances will permit, to all future ministers of the Gospel.

“Do not possess,” &c. Following St. Mark (c. 6:8), and St. Luke (9:3), this means: Do not provide anything unnecessary, even for journeying purposes, as the words, “for your journey,” here imply.

“Nor money.” The Greek, χαλκον, means, “brass,” as if He said: Nor any other description of money. Neither money nor any other valuables, equivalent to money, should be carried by them as a store, or to be held as a reserve for their journey.

“In your purses.” The original word, ζωνας, means girdles, which is the same as purses. It is allusive to the custom among travellers of old, to carry their purses attached to their belts or girdles, or to make their girdles serve as purses—a custom still prevalent in the East. Hence, the well known phrase, “perdidit zonam,” when there was question of losing one’s money.

Mat 10:10  Nor scrip (food pouch) for your journey, nor two coats, nor shoes, nor a staff; for the workman is worthy of his meat.

“Nor scrip.” In Mark and Luke is added, “nor bread.” The idea is conveyed here by St. Matthew. In prohibiting them the use of a scrip for carrying meat or drink, he prohibits them to carry provisions of any kind.

“Two coats,” any stock of duplicate clothes in reserve, or for the purposes of change. The wearing of two coats or two garments is not prohibited, if necessary. Our Redeemer Himself at the time of His sacred Passion (John 19:23), were more than one garment. He only prohibits duplicates of the same.

“Nor shoes.” St. Mark (6:9) says, our Redeemer permitted them to be “shod with sandals.” To reconcile this with St. Matthew here, some say, our Lord here prohibits them to have two pairs of shoes, to be kept in reserve, as in the case of the coats, &c. Against this solution it may be urged, that our Redeemer says (Luke 22:35), “I sent you without scrip and shoes.” Hence, others reconcile the passages in this way: He prohibits the use of shoes which covered the entire foot, as such might retard them in their journey, and betray a concern for bodily comforts; that they were to go forth as they stood at that moment in His presence, “shod with sandals” only (Mark 6:9), which merely protected the soles of the feet against the roughness of the roads, and were very necessary for this purpose in a stony country like Judea. This was the description of shoes worn by the poorer classes, and our Redeemer, most likely, Himself used them against the roughness of the roads. The history of the sinful woman bathing His feet with her tears, would render it probable, that He did not use shoes, the upper part of His feet being exposed.

“Nor a staff.” St. Mark (6:8) says, He allowed them a staff, “but a staff only.” Some expositors (among the rest Euthymius) say, that our Redeemer having, in the first instance, prohibited it, afterwards dispensed in the precept (Victor of Antioch), in accommodation to the weakness of His Apostles, and allowed them to carry a staff, as is stated by St. Mark, who, writing after St. Matthew, records this dispensation. These apply the same solution to the former question regarding the sandals. The more probable solution, however, seems to be that St. Matthew and St. Mark speak of a different description of staff. St. Matthew of a weapon, for the purposes of offence or defence; St. Mark, of a staff for support, for leaning on. This is implied in the words of St. Mark, “but a staff only,” as if allowed only for the purpose of support or propping up. Moreover, our Redeemer’s object is to render them less encumbered with care or anxiety in regard to their future provision and protection—with which a walking staff did not interfere—and to cast aside all superfluities. Our Redeemer opposes the “rod,” which He prohibits here, to a sword (Luke 22:36), where He would seem to revoke the precept given to the Apostles at their first mission here. At their first mission, He prohibited offensive weapons. In St. Luke (22) He allows them, which would show it is of a rod as a weapon of offence, and not as a means of support, He speaks here.

Some expositors, among them Patrizzi (Mark 6:8), reconcile both readings by saying, that the reading in most of the old Greek MSS. in the Coptic, Armenian, and later Syriac versions, is in the plural, ραβδους; that our Lord prohibits more than one staff, but in St. Mark, He allows one. But there are as good authorities for the reading in the singular. There would seem to be no reason for preventing a change of staffs, as in the case of clothes.

“For the workman,” &c. As the Apostles might allege that they could not help providing the necessaries for their journey and support, our Redeemer here meets that plea, by saying, they need not trouble themselves, as they shall be provided with everything. St. Luke has, “his hire” (10:7), to convey to us, that support is due to the Evangelical labourer, as his “hire” is due to the workman; but, it by no means signifies, that it is the price of the labour done, or an equivalent for it; since the spiritual work of preaching and of the ministry transcends all price; or that the spiritual work of the Gospel ministers should be performed with the view or end of gaining temporal remuneration. It is more properly termed by St. Paul, “a stipend,” such as is given to the soldier, who serves, not for the pay—his small pay would be no price for his life or labours—but to serve his country. The stipend, however, is given to him, as it also is to the Evangelical labourer, to enable him to perform the service assigned to him. Support is to be given the Evangelical workman, by the people; the reward by God. “Accipiant prædicatores,” says St. Chrysostom, “SUSTENTATIONEM a populo, MERCEDEM a Deo.” The word, “workman,” shows, that, in order to be entitled to his support, the minister of religion must work, must labour, for the spiritual good of his people. “His meat,” shows he should be contented with the necessary support, and must not seek to become rich by the Gospel.

Mat 10:11  And into whatsoever city or town you shall enter, inquire who in it is worthy, and there abide till you go thence.

(Sixth Precept.) Lest the Apostles should imagine they were free to receive food, hospitality, &c., from every description of persons indiscriminately, our Lord gives them instructions regarding the lodgings they were to choose on their mission, and the prudent precautions and discrimination they were to use in this matter.

“Town,” a smaller place than a “city.” “You shall enter,” for the purposes of preaching. “Who is worthy,” distinguished for a good and edifying life, and willing to exercise hospitality towards pious strangers. Were they to seek hospitality from an enemy of the Gospel and lodge with him, they might be maltreated and forced to change; if with any infamous character, their ministry might be brought into disrepute, and the cause of the Gospel might thus suffer. Our Lord does not tell them to ask, who is wealthy, or who could afford the most comfortable accommodation, but, “who is worthy.”

“And there abide,” &c. The same is expressed more clearly by St. Luke (10:7); “remove not from house to house.” As they should be careful as to their lodgings, and should avoid all precipitancy in choosing them, so having chosen a worthy abode, they should also be still more cautious to avoid all precipitancy in leaving it, lest they might be liable to the reproach of inconstancy, or a desire for better cheer; or, perhaps, give offence and pain to their former host.

Mat 10:12  And when you come into the house, salute it, saying: Peace be to this house.

(Seventh Precept.) Our Lord here gives instructions to the Apostles, as to how they are to treat the house to which they may be directed, and next verse, He also indicates a means for ascertaining if the parties so represented be really worthy. “Salute it,” that is, its inmates. Our Lord wishes the Apostles to anticipate their host in urbanity and humility, by “saluting” him, so as to conciliate his good will. The Syriac version is, “precamini pacem illi,” which is, probably, the form of words employed by our Redeemer, in the Syro-Chaldaic language. For, the following words, “Peace be to this house,” are wanting in the Greek and many Latin copies. Neither are they found in St. Jerome’s text in his Commentary of this passage. They are read, however, in Luke (10:5). The words, “peace be to you,” was quite a common form of salutation among the Jews, who referred to temporal things; but, our Lord includes spiritual blessings, which He came on earth to bestow, “pax hominibus,” &c. It conveyed, that the ingress of a man was peaceful, the act of a friend, and not of an enemy. “Peace,” meant the quiet, undisturbed possession of the fulness of all blessings, spiritual and temporal. In the case of the Apostles, referred to here, it implied the fulness of Gospel blessings.

Mat 10:13  And if that house be worthy, your peace shall come upon it; but if it be not worthy, your peace shall return to you.

“And if that house be worthy” of the peace you pray for it, which St. Luke (10:6), more clearly expresses, “if the Son of peace be there,” i.e., if the host deserves the blessings you pray for on his behalf, and show a worthy disposition to receive the blessings of the Gospel, by hospitably harbouring its first heralds and ministers.

“Your peace shall come upon it.” Your prayer shall be not without due effect. God will give due efficacy to your prayers.

“Your peace shall return to you.” Some understand this to mean: You shall have the merit of your peaceful salutation still, even though it suffered a repulse from others. Similar are the words (Psa. 34:13), “oratio mea in sinu meo convertetur.” (St. Jerome, &c.) Against this interpretation, the word, “return,” would seem to militate, because the merit and reward of the blessing given, always remained with the Apostles who bestowed it. Others understand it thus: the peace prayed for, notwithstanding its repulse by others, shall still return to you as you gave it, uninjured; so that it shall accompany and conduct you to others, who will co-operate and correspond with your good wishes. Peace is here personified, and represented as coming back to the Apostles, and accompanying them until it finds a host worthy of it.

The Greek for “shall come”—“shall return,” is in the imperative form, “may it come”—“may it return.” But, the imperative form is commonly employed by the Hebrews for the future indicative, so that the Vulgate and our English version, give the sense of the passage, and it is read in the future in Luke (10:6); or, it may be, that the imperative form was used for the purpose of expressing the Divine power. “I wish, and therefore, shall take care, that your peace would come upon it.… I wish that your peace would return to yourselves.”

Mat 10:14  And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words: going forth out of that house or city shake off the dust from your feet.
(Eighth Precept.) “Shake the dust,” &c. That this precept was meant literally, seems clear, from the fact, that Paul and Barnabas literally observed it (Acts 13:51). The reason of this usage among the Jews may have been, to express, that they had nothing in common with the Gentiles, or a certain description of persons, just as in hearing of blasphemy, it was usual with them to rend their garments (Mark 6:11; Luke 9:5).

Our Redeemer’s reason for enjoining it here, probably, was, to signify, that the labour undergone by the Apostles, and their long toilsome journeys, indicated by “the dust of their feet,” had no effect on these people, which would aggravate their sin of incredulity; or, it may denote, that they would have nothing in common with a race execrable for having rejected the Gospel preached with so much toil; not even the very worthless dust of their streets, which partook of the general Anathema they incurred; or, to show they took nothing from those incredulous men, not even the very dust. St. Mark (6:11); Luke (9:5) adds, “for a testimony against them,” which Origen (Gen. 8, Homil. 4); Hilary (Matth. 10), interpret thus: The dust thus contracted by toilsome journeys, would be “a testimony” on the Day of Judgment, against the incredulity and obstinacy of these cities, and a proof that they perished through their own fault alone, “signo pulveris pedibus excussi æterna maledictio relinquitur.” (St. Hilary, in Matth. 10) It was customary with the Jews to perpetuate the recollection of any notable event, by some material monument (Josue 24:27; Gen. 31:51, 52, &c.) Hence, he adds, v. 15—

Mat 10:15  Amen I say to you, it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city.

“Amen, I say to you, it shall be more tolerable,” &c., i.e., the incredulous, who refuse your ministry, shall be treated with more rigour on the day of judgment, than the Sodomites, &c., whom fire and brimstone from heaven sunk alive into hell; because, the former resisted greater graces and neglected greater aids, than had been offered to the sinful Sodomites, &c., among whom no such preaching took place; moreover, they had longer time for penance. Some maintain, that their sin was more grievous; that Infidelity, Heresy, Schism, are more grievous sins than Sodomy, which is the most grievous among carnal sins. The inhospitable rejection of the Apostles, may be allusive to the inhumanity and inhospitality of the Sodomites, which is reckoned among the other sins with which Sodom is charged by Ezechiel (16:49). It is in this latter respect only, they are compared here according to some. However, as the comparison is general and absolute, the former interpretation seems preferable.

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One Response to “Bishop MacEvilly’s Commentary on Matthew 10:7-15”

  1. […] Bishop MacEvilly’s Commentary on Today’s Gospel (Matt 10:7-15). […]

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