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 9:32-38

Posted by Dim Bulb on July 6, 2013

Mat 9:32  And when they were gone out (from the house in verse 28), behold they brought him a dumb man, possessed with a devil.

“When they had gone out,” full of joy and gratitude at their deliverance, they met a wretched sufferer—“a dumb man possessed of a devil,” and brought him. The Greek for “dumb” (κωφον), may also be rendered “deaf.” In fact, it means that the devil, who possessed, him, deprived him of the use of his senses, rendering him perfectly insensible. Hence, the demon is called “mute” by St. Luke (11:14), from the effect produced by him on the man possessed. Some hold that this miracle is different from that recorded (Luke 11); and that this latter is the same as that recorded in Matthew 12.

Mat 9:33  And after the devil was cast out, the dumb man spoke, and the multitudes wondered, saying, Never was the like seen in Israel.

“The dumb man spoke,” thereby showing his dumbness to be, not a natural effect; but attributable solely to diabolical agency or demoniac possession.

“Never was the like,” &c. The admiration of the crowd was not caused by this solitary miracle. It was caused by the many miracles wrought by our Divine Redeemer. Never before did such miracles appear “in Israel,” or, never before did such a person appear in Israel, if we regard the number of miracles wrought, their variety, the facility, celerity, and, above all, the authority with which they were wrought. The prophets wrought miracles, after invoking the Divine aid. He wrought them from His own innate power. In this sense, no such miracles were ever wrought in Israel.

Mat 9:34  But the Pharisees said, By the prince of devils he casteth out devils.

This was a favourite calumny of the Pharisees, which our Redeemer formally refutes (c. 12:25, &c.) It seems probable that the miracle recorded is quite different from that recorded (c. 12:22). While the people were extolling the miracles of our Lord, the Pharisees, maddened by envy, and unable to gainsay the facts, ascribed them to diabolical agency, to magic, and a compact with the chief of the demons. The Jews believed, that there was a variety of ranks and powers among demons, which is comformable to SS. Scripture. They never, for an instant, seemed to reflect, that the expulsion of demons was not the only miracle He performed; that He performed some miracles which exceeded the power of demons, such as raising the dead; that He performed others, which were opposed to their nature, such as remitting sin, and leading men to God, by preaching the Gospel of the kingdom, &c. Our Redeemer, unmoved by these calumnies, goes about doing good, and accomplishing His heavenly mission. It would seem, that here these charges were made in our Redeemer’s absence, before the multitude who extolled His miracles.

Mat 9:35  And Jesus went about all the cities and towns, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every disease, and every infirmity.

Our Lord, regardless of the calumnies with which He was assailed, went about all the towns and villages of Galilee, of which Capharnaum, where He fixed His abode, was the metropolis, “teaching in their synagogues,” which were established in all the cities and populous towns of Judea—nay, in large cities, there were more than one synagogue, “and preaching the Gospel of the kingdom,” the glad tidings regarding the near approach of redemption, which was to throw open the gates of heaven, so long closed against the human race, and, confirming his teaching, by curing all their ailments, whether inveterate and confirmed “disease” (νοσος), or, in an incipient stage, “infirmity” (μαλακιαν). The one form of expression (νοσος), disease, denotes a more advanced step of illness than infirmity (μαλαχιαν). The former signifies, a confirmed, inveterate disorder; the latter, incipient, temporary infirmity. Thus, our Blessed Lord cured, not only their minds, but their bodies also. (See c. 4:23, where, in the Vulgate and Greek, the words are the same as here.)

Mat 9:36  And seeing the multitudes, he had compassion on them: because they were distressed, and lying like sheep that have no shepherd.

“He had compassion.” The Greek word εσπλαγχνισθη (splagchnizomai), expresses the deepest and most intense feelings of tenderness and compassion. It conveys that His bowels—σπλαγχνα (splagchna)—the seat of compassion, were moved to tenderness on their account. The Greek word σπλαγχνα (splagchna) is basically a reference to the inner organs. In modern American terms our Lord “had a gut reaction.”

“Distressed,” means worried, afflicted with various evils, especially spiritual diseases. It is likely it refers to their being worried by “unclean spirits” (c. 10:1), and this is borne out by the context.

“Lying,” left abandoned and unprotected by their spiritual guides—who only cared for their own interests—a prey to every evil. “Like sheep that have no shepherd.” This gives an idea of their neglected, unprotected state, which so much touched the tender bowels of our Divine Redeemer, “Viscera misericordiæ Dei Nostri.”

Mat 9:37  Then he saith to his disciples, The harvest indeed is great, but the labourers are few.

“The harvest is great,” &c. Here we have a figurative term, borrowed from husbandry, strongly expressive of the great spiritual wants of the people; of their dispositions to profit by spiritual ministrations; of the necessity of having spiritual teachers sent amongst them; of the good dispositions of the people, embracing Jews and Gentiles; of their longing desire to be gathered into the granary of God’s holy Church, and the society of the saints, like a harvest ready for the sickle; of their destitution, having no one to care them “The labourers few.” As yet, only our Redeemer Himself and the Baptist. The Scribes and Pharisees, who pretended to be their guides, utterly neglected their duty. The word, “harvest,” also conveys, that the lot of those in charge of the people is work, and not idleness.

Mat 9:38  Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he send forth labourers into his harvest.

“Therefore,” a practical conclusion from the preceding verse. Some make this verse the beginning of the next chapter (10)

“The Lord of the harvest,” according to some, means, God the Father. Our Lord calls His Father, “the Lord of the vineyard” (21:40), and also “the husbandman” (John 15:1). Others understand it, of our Redeemer Himself, who may be regarded as the husbandman and “Lord of the harvest,” by whom the labourers were to be sent, as were the Apostles here. The Prophets sowed the seed; the harvest is now ripe; the honour and labour are now reserved for them; the Scribes and Pharisees neglected the ripe field confided to them; it only remains for the Apostles to put their hands to the work; without waiting to be asked, He Himself sends “labourers,” that is, preachers and pastors, whose duty it was to labour. Of them the Psalmist speaks (Psa. 125), “Who sow in tears, shall reap in exultation,” &c. He also indicates the preciousness of the gift of good labourers, when He asks them to pray fervently for it. “That He send forth,” since, without a mission, without being sent, they can produce no fruits, but rather mischief, as always happens in regard to heretics and self-sent preachers. “I did not send prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied” (Jer. 23:21).



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