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

Archive for August 17th, 2013

Father Maas’ Commentary on Matthew 22:34-40

Posted by Dim Bulb on August 17, 2013

Mat 22:34  But the Pharisees, hearing that he had silenced the Sadducees, came together.

But the Pharisees hearing. The theological attack. The Pharisees had been overcome in their political assault, but seeing the admiration of the multitude for the answers of Jesus, they feel bound to destroy our Lord’s authority by confounding him in public. “Silenced,” according to the Greek text, might be rendered “muzzled” [cf. Deut. 25:4; 1 Cor. 9:9; 1 Tim. 5:18]. “The Pharisees … came together” in order to deliberate about their course of action [cf. Ps. 2:2]; the result of this council is given in the words “and one of them”; for they agreed to depute a delegate instead of approaching Jesus in a body. “A doctor of the law” occurs only here in the first gospel, while the third gospel employs the term more frequently; etymologically considered, the Greek word for “doctor of the law” denotes one learned in the law, while “scribe” denotes one versed in Scripture. Hence some think that the scribes explained the law in the synagogues, while the doctors explained it in the schools and in private assemblies, or that the scribes explained matters of doctrine, while the doctors taught matters of practice [cf. Calmet], or that the scribes explained the Haggada, while the doctors were concerned with the Halacha [cf. Schanz]; but since the Scripture and the law were practically identical for the Jews [cf. Jn. 10:37; 15:25; 7:49; 12:34; 1 Cor. 14:21], the doctors of the law must have been identical with those learned in the Scriptures, a conclusion that is confirmed by Mk. 12:28, where the “doctor of the law” is called “one of the scribes,” and also by Lk. 11:52, 53, where the two titles are indiscriminately applied to the same class of persons [cf. Knabenbauer].

Mat 22:35  And one of them, a doctor of the law, asked him, tempting him:
Mat 22:36  Master, which is the great commandment in the law?

“Tempting him” appears to contradict the second gospel [Mk. 12:32, 33], in which the scribe seems to have been sincere in his question; the discrepancy cannot be explained by contending that the Pharisees acted hypocritically, while their representative was fully sincere [cf. Paschasius, Sylveira, Schanz], nor by maintaining that the questioner tempted Jesus in a good sense, as the queen of Saba had tempted Solomon [cf. 1 Kings 10:1; Lam. Augustine De cons. evang. ii. 73, 141; Lapide], for both these explanations do violence to the text of St. Matthew. The scribe may have come with an evil intention, and may have been changed or perhaps wholly converted after the answer of Jesus [cf. Chrysostom, Augustine, Theophylact, Euthymius, Paschasius, Thomas Aquinas, Dionysius, Salmeron Sylveira]. The Jewish doctors enumerated 613 commandments [cf. Surenhusius, p. iv. p. 291], 248 of which were positive [equal to the number of bones in the human body], and 365 negative [equal to the number of days in the year]. These commandments were distinguished into great and small ones [cf. Schöttgen, Wünsche, Wetstein, ad v. 19], but practically it was hard to decide whether a given precept was great or small. The Greek text admits a double interpretation: first, what kind of commandment is a great one in the law, a question inquiring after the criterion according to which a great commandment might be distinguished from a small one [cf. Arnoldi, Schegg, Bisping, Schanz, Meyer, Weiss]; secondly, which particular precept is the greatest in the law, an interpretation favored by our Lord’s answer and the parallel text of the second gospel [Mk. 12:28]. Both points were much disputed among the Jewish doctors, so that Jesus could not answer the question in either sense without incurring the odium of some of the doctors.

Mat 22:37  Jesus said to him: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart and with thy whole soul and with thy whole mind.
Mat 22:38  This is the greatest and the first commandment.

Jesus escapes the snare by drawing attention to the great principles of morality, instead of entering into the Rabbinic discussions on the ceremonial law; for no Jewish doctors could under any circumstances have denied the paramount importance of the moral obligations that were the soul of all external observances. The law which Jesus cites is taken from Deut. 6:5; according to the first gospel we read “with thy whole mind” instead of the original “with thy whole strength,” while Mk. 12:30 and Lk. 10:27 combine the expressions of Deut. and St. Matthew, reading “with thy whole mind, and with thy whole strength,” and “with all thy strength, and with all thy mind.” The verb “love” in both Greek and Latin text denotes the love of esteem rather than the love of affection. The manner of love described by the evangelists has found various explanations: first, the single clauses express different faculties or parts of man, but nearly every commentator of note has his own manner of explaining them [cf. Origen, Opus Imperfectum, Thomas Aquinas, Theophylact, Alb. Dionysius, Cajetan, Salmeron, Sylveira]; secondly, the “heart” denotes our will, the “soul” the lower faculties, the “mind” our whole way of thinking and willing, so that we must love God with our whole will, and with our lower faculties, and in both ways we must love him completely or with all our strength [cf. Augustine De doctr. christ. i. 22; Opus Imperfectum, Salmeron, Jansenius, Knabenbauer]; thirdly, the different clauses only indicate that our love for God must be supreme, i. e. that we must not adhere to anything contrary to God, that God alone must be our last end, that he must be our greatest good in appreciation at least [cf. Maldonado, Lapide, Jansenius c. 81, comment. in concord. evang.].

Mat 22:39  And the second is like to this: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
Mat 22:40  On these two commandments dependeth the whole law and the prophets

“And the second” commandment in dignity as well as in width “is like to this”; because man must be loved as being the image of God [Origen, Opus Imperfectum, Alb. Thomas Aquinas, Faber Stapulensis, Dionysius], so that the love of our neighbor extends as far as the likeness of God extends [cf. Tostatus quæst. 278, in c. xxii.; Sylveira]. “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” requires first, that we must love the neighbor for the same motive for which we love ourselves; secondly, that we must wish our neighbor the same kind of good we desire for ourselves [cf. Augustine De vera relig. xlvi. 87; Maldonado, Mt. 7:12]. Then Jesus adds the reason why the two foregoing precepts are the greatest: “On these two commandments dependeth” [cf. Is. 22:23–25] “the whole law and the prophets,” i. e. the whole moral law; for these two laws contain all other moral laws [cf. Theophylact, Rabanus, St Bruno], they are the end of all other laws [cf. 1 Tim. 1:5; Rom. 3:19; Alb. Thomas Aquinas, Cajetan], they are the motives for the observance of all the other laws [cf. Dionysius, Lapide], and they give the form to all morally good actions [cf. Rom. 13:10; Alb. Thomas Aquinas, Cajetan].

Posted in Bible, Catholic, Catholic lectionary, Christ, Devotional Resources, fathers of the church, Notes on the Gospel of Matthew, Notes on the Lectionary, Scripture | Tagged: , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Father Maas’ Commentary on Matthew 22:1-14

Posted by Dim Bulb on August 17, 2013

Mat 22:1  And Jesus answering, spoke again in parables to them, saying:
Mat 22:2  The kingdom of heaven is likened to a king who made a marriage for his son.
Mat 22:3  And he sent his servants to call them that were invited to the marriage: and they would not come.
Mat 22:4  Again he sent other servants, saying: Tell them that were invited, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my beeves and fatlings are killed, and all things are ready. Come ye to the marriage.

Third parable. In the first parable we saw that the Pharisees and scribes were in a less advantageous condition than the publicans and the harlots; in the second, we saw the kingdom of God taken away from them, and themselves utterly ruined; in the present parable, it is predicted that not only the scribes and Pharisees will be ruined, but the nation also, while not all of the Gentiles who enter the kingdom will be saved. “And Jesus answering” must be taken in the wide meaning which we saw in Mt 11:25 and Mt 12:38; the expression hardly connects with the secret thoughts of the adversaries [cf. Cajetan, Fillion, Meyer, Arnoldi, Bucher], but with the last words of Jesus, so that the emphasis lies on “spoke again in parables” [cf. Schegg, Weiss, Schanz], though in the present case the parable did not serve to conceal the truth [cf. Mt. 13:13 ff.]. “The kingdom of heaven is likened,” i. e. what happens in the kingdom of heaven resembles the following events. The “king” is God the Father; “his son” or the bridegroom is Jesus the Messias [cf. Ps. 45; Jn. 3:29; Mt. 9:15]; for as in the Old Testament the Synagogue was represented as the bride of God [cf. Is. 1:1; 2:2; Ezek 16:8], and idolatry was described as fornication or adultery, so is the Church predicted [cf. Hosea 2:19] and represented as the spouse of Christ [cf. 2 Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5:25–27]. “Made a marriage” can be said of the father, because the Father prepared the Church for the Son [cf. Jn. 6:44; Jn 17:6, 9, 11, 12, 24]. “To call them that were invited to the marriage” agrees with the alleged double invitation of the ancients [cf. Esth. 5:8 and Esth 6:14; Echa rabbati, iv. 2; Suet. Claud. 39; Wetstein, Wünsche, Rosenmüller, Morgenland, v. p. 192]; without determining here whether this custom really existed, the Jews had been invited to the Messianic kingdom by the call of Abraham, by the covenant near Sinai [cf. Ex. 19:5], by the many prophets that were sent them between the time of Moses and that of Malachias [cf. Is. 2:2 f.; Chrysostom, Euthymius, Hilary, Cajetan, Schanz]. The first “servants” sent to call to the wedding were therefore not either Moses or the prophets [cf. Origen, Theophylact, Jerome, Opus Imperfectum, St Bruno, Paschasius, Alb. Thomas Aquinas, Dionysius, Faber Stapulensis, Maldonado, Lapide, Calmet, Grimm, Fillion], but they must have been contemporaries of Jesus, such as the Baptist, the twelve, the seventy [Chrysostom, Theodore of Heraclea, Euthymius, Hilary, Cajetan, Salmeron, Jansenius, Lam. Schegg, Schanz, Knabenbauer], since they were sent when the marriage feast was ready. “Again he sent other servants,” showing an astounding patience and forbearance in spite of his royal dignity; but God the Father actually followed this course with the Jewish people, who were even after the death of Christ and the descent of the Holy Ghost again evangelized by the apostles, announcing that the lamb of God had been slain, that the sacraments produced their full effect, “and that all things were ready.”

Mat 22:5  But they neglected and went their ways, one to his farm and another to his merchandise.
Mat 22:6  And the rest laid hands on his servants and, having treated them contumeliously, put them to death.
Mat 22:7  But when the king had heard of it, he was angry: and sending his armies, he destroyed those murderers and burnt their city.
Mat 22:8  Then he saith to his servants: The marriage indeed is ready; but they that were invited were not worthy.
Mat 22:9  Go ye therefore into the highways; and as many as you shall find, call to the marriage.
Mat 22:10  And his servants going forth into the ways, gathered together all that they found, both bad and good: and the marriage was filled with guests

The invited guests are now divided into two classes: first, those indifferent to the marriage, and intent on their own pleasure and profit: “they neglected, and went their ways, one to his farm, and another to his merchandise”; secondly, those apparently irritated and offended by the marriage [cf. Schegg], of whom the evangelist says: “and the rest laid hands on his servants, and having treated them contumeliously, put them to death.” History shows that the body of the Jewish nation was divided into these two classes, and the New Testament abounds in examples especially of the second class: Acts 5:40, 41; Acts 8:1; 9:24, 29; 12:3; 13:50; 14:5, 18; 17:5, 13; 18:6, 12; 21:28; 22:22; 2 Cor. 11:24; 1 Thess. 2:14–16; etc. “His armies” which the king sent in his anger were the Roman troops under Titus [cf. Origen, Chrysostom, Jerome, Opus Imperfectum, St Bruno], just as in the Old Testament the armies executing the divine judgments are called the hosts of God [cf. Is. 13:3; Ezek. 29:18]. “Then he saith to his servants … they that were invited were not worthy,” as has been seen from their behavior towards my servants; the unworthiness of the Jews may be found in their empty pride of being sons of Abraham, as the Baptist had pointed out, and in their expectation of a royal Messias who would come in pomp and glory [cf. Rom. 10:3]. “Go ye therefore into the highways,” or more correctly, “the corners of the streets” where one street intersects another; strangers were wont to congregate in these places. “Both good and bad,” i. e. both those that “do by nature those things that are of the law” [Rom. 2:14], and those that violate the natural law, are “gathered together” by the servants so that the grace of God brings even those to the Church that have led a bad life previously to their call. The plenitude of the marriage feast is therefore not destroyed by the bad will of the invited guests; thus by the sin of the Jews “salvation is come to the Gentiles” [cf. Rom. 11:11, 12].

Mat 22:11  And the king went in to see the guests: and he saw there a man who had not on a wedding garment.
Mat 22:12  And he saith to him: Friend, how camest thou in hither not having on a wedding garment? But he was silent.
Mat 22:13  Then the king said to the waiters: Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the exterior darkness. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth

“A man who had not on a wedding garment” does not necessarily imply that all the guests were supplied by the king with a garment suitable for the feast [cf. Arnoldi, Reischl, Fillion], just as in Persia those about to appear before the king are supplied with a special garment [Kaftan; cf. Rosenmüller, Morgenland, v. p. 75 ff.]; this circumstance would surely be mentioned in the parable, and the behavior of the guest would be almost incomprehensible [cf. Olshausen, Kistem. Arnoldi, Bucher, Reischl]. The king did not demand a precious garment, but merely a decent dress, such as all the guests could have put on before appearing at the feast [cf. Schanz, Knabenbauer]. In the parable the nuptial garment does not represent faith alone [cf. old Protestant writers; Zahn-Wichelhaus, etc.], but, primarily, sanctifying grace [cf. Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10–12; Gal. 3:27; 1 Cor. 13:1 ff.; Opus Imperfectum, St Bruno, Alb.]; secondarily, all those gifts and characteristics necessarily presupposed by, or connected with sanctifying grace, such as the indwelling of the Holy Ghost [Ir. Hil.], the infused virtues [Origen, Jerome], a knowledge and love of Christ [Augustine, Thomas Aquinas], internal regeneration by the Holy Ghost [Mansel], a truly Christian life of justice and holiness [Tertullian, Origen, Chrysostom, Ambrose, Jerome; cf. Weiss, Maldonado]. “Friend” [cf. Mt 20:13], “how camest thou in hither not having on a wedding garment,” well knowing that by doing so thou wouldst insult me, my son, and the other guests? If garments had been provided by the king, for all the guests, the servants would probably have been responsible for the decent attire of all present [cf. Arnoldi, Reischl, Fillion]. Cajetan draws attention to the quiet dignity of the king’s words who does not utter a reproach, but merely states the fact. “But he was silent” shows according to Gregory that no excuse will be of any avail in the divine judgment, and according to Chrysostom, that God will not condemn any man who has not previously condemned himself. Here again we see that there shall be bad mixed with the good in the Church till the time of judgment [cf. Mt 13:25, 47]; “weeping and gnashing of teeth” agrees with Mt 8:12 and Mt 13:42; “bind his hands and feet” so that he may not be able to escape from his place of punishment, where all those shall be bound unwillingly who have here willingly borne the bonds of their sinful passions [cf. Gregory hom. xxxviii. 13; Lk. 16:24]; “exterior darkness” alludes to the well-lit dining-room outside of which there was intense darkness; the context shows that the punishment of the guest consisted not merely in being deprived of the feast.

Mat 22:14  For many are called, but few are chosen.

“Many are called, but few are chosen” does not refer to the guests that had actually come to the marriage feast [cf. Augustine, serm. xc., xcv.; Gregory, Rabanus, Alb. Calmet, Arnoldi], since we cannot explain the one guest ejected as denoting the greater part of the guests, without doing violence to the obvious meaning of the text. Nor does it refer to both the guests that had refused to come and those that had come [cf. Thomas Aquinas, Cajetan, Salmeron tract. 37, Jansenius, Lam. Fillion]; for besides the violence it does to the plain meaning of the text, as already shown, this interpretation gives two different significations to the term “called” at least, if not to both “called” and “chosen.” “Many are called, but few are chosen” refers, therefore, to the whole parable, so that the “called” are those repeatedly invited, and the “few chosen” are the invited guests that actually came [Origen, Theophylact, Knabenbauer etc.]. Since the parable refers to the Jewish nation, it denotes that few of its members will enter the kingdom of the Messiah, a doctrine fully agreeing with the predictions of the prophets [cf. Is. 10:21; Amos 3:12], and with the utterances of St. Paul [Rom. 11:5, 7; 1 Cor. 1:27; Eph. 1:4; 1 Thess. 1:4; 2 Thess. 2:12; cf. James 2:5; 1 Pet. 1:1; 2:9; 2 Pet. 1:10]. See the footnotes to Romans 11 in the NABRE. The complete doctrine of the parable encourages, therefore, the hearers of Jesus, since it shows that some of them will be saved [cf. Maldonado, Lapide, Sylveira, Schegg]; at the same time it warns those entering the kingdom of the Messias not to presume, since some of them will be lost; whether the number of the lost in the kingdom is greater than, or equal to, or less than, the number of the saved is not determined by the parable.

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This Week’s Commentaries and Posts: Sunday, August 18-Sunday, August 25, 2013

Posted by Dim Bulb on August 17, 2013

A few posts are still pending, and some updates may be added.

Dominica XIII Post Pentecosten III. Augusti ~ II. classis

RESOURCES FOR SUNDAY MASS (Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms).

Last Week’s Posts and Commentaries.


Today’s Mass Readings.

Today’s Divine Office.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Today’s 1st Reading (Judges 2:11-19).

Update: My Notes on Today’s 1st Reading (Judges 2:11-19).

Father Boylan’s Introduction to Today’s Responsorial (Psalm 106).

St Augustine’s Notes on Today’s Responsorial (Psalm 106).

Juan de Maldonado’s Commentary on Today’s Gospel (Matthew 19:16-22).

Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on Today’s Gospel (Matthew 19:16-22).

Father Maas’ Commentary on Today’s Gospel (Matthew 19:16-22).

Bishop MacEvilly’s Commentary on Today’s Gospel (Matthew 19:16-22).

St Augustine’s Homily on Matthew 19:17. St Joe of O blog.

Bishop Knecht’s Practical Commentary on Today’s Gospel (Matt 19:16-22). St Joe of O blog. On 16-30. Also posted under tomorrow’s resources.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Today’s Gospel (Matthew 19:16-22).


Today’s Mass Readings.

Today’s Divine Office.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Today’s 1st Reading (Judges 6:11-24a).

Update: My Notes on Today’s 1st Reading (Judges 6:11-24a).

Father Boylan’s Introduction to Today’s Responsorial (Psalm 85).

Pope John Paul II’s Commentary on Today’s Responsorial (Psalm 85).

My Notes on Today’s Responsorial (Psalm 85). Opens with Fr. Boylan’s introduction.

Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Today’s Gospel (Matthew 19:23-30).

Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on Today’s Gospel (Matthew 19:23-30).

Father Maas’ Commentary on Today’s Gospel (Matthew 19:23-30).

Bishop MacEvilly’s Commentary on Today’s Gospel (Matthew 19:23-30).

Bishop Knecht’s Practical Commentary on Today’s Gospel (Matt 19:23-30)St Joe of O blog. On 16-30. Also listed under yesterday’s posts.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Today’s Gospel (Matthew 19:23-30).

St Augustine’s First Homily on Matthew 19:28. St Joe of O blog.

St Augustine’s Second Homily on Matthew 19:28. St Joe of O blog.


Today’s Mass Readings.

Today’s Divine Office.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Today’s 1st Reading (Judges 9:6-15).

Father Boylan’s Introduction to Today’s Responsorial (Psalm 21).

St Thomas Aquinas’ Lecture on Today’s Responsorial (Psalm 21).

Father Berry’s Commentary on Today’s Responsorial (Psalm 21).

Pope John Paul II’s Commentary on Today’s Responsorial (Psalm 21).

Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Today’s Gospel (Matthew 20:1-16).

Father Fonck’s Commentary on Today’s Gospel (Matthew 20:1-16).

Father Maas’ Commentary on Today’s Gospel (Matthew 20:1-16).

Bishop MacEvilly’s Commentary on Today’s Gospel (Matthew 20:1-16).

Bishop Knecht’s Practical Commentary on Today’s Gospel (Matthew 20:1-16). St Joe of O blog.

Update: St Augustine’s Homily on Today’s Gospel (Matthew 20:1-16). St Joe of O Blog.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Today’s Gospel (Matthew 20:1-16).


Today’s Mass Resources.

Today’s Divine Office.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Today’s 1st Reading (Judges 11:29-39a).

Father Boylan’s Introduction to Today’s Responsorial (Psalm 40).

St Augustine’s Notes on Today’s Responsorial (Psalm 40:5, 7-8a, 8b-9, 10). Includes a note on verse 2.

Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Today’s Gospel (Matthew 22:1-14).

Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on Today’s Gospel (Matthew 22:1-14).

Father Maas’ Commentary on Today’s Gospel (Matthew 22:1-14).

Bishop MacEvilly’s Commentary on Today’s Gospel (Matthew 22:1-14).

Bishop Knecht’s Practical Commentary on Today’s Gospel (Matt 22:1-14). St Joe of O blog. On 1-11.

Update: St Augustine’s Homily on Today’s Gospel (Matthew 22:1-14). St Joe of O Blog.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Today’s Gospel (Matthew 22:1-14).


Today’s Mass Readings.

Today’s Divine Office.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Today’s 1st Reading (Ruth 1:1, 3-6, 14b-16, 22).

Father Boylan’s Introduction to Today’s Responsorial (Psalm 146).

Patristic/Medieval Commentary on Today’s Responsorial (Psalm 146).

Pope John Paul II’s Commentary on Today’s Responsorial (Psalm 146).

My Notes on Today’s Responsorial (Psalm 146).

Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Today’s Gospel (Matthew 22:34-40).

Father Maas’ Commentary on Today’s Gospel (Matthew 22:34-40).

Bishop MacEvilly’s Commentary on Today’s Gospel (Matthew 22:34-40).

Navarre Bible Commentary on Today’s Gospel (Matthew 22:34-40).


Today’s Mass Readings.

Today’s Divine Office.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Today’s 1st Reading (Revelation 21:9b-14).

My Notes on Today’s 1st Reading (Revelation 21:9b-14). On verses 10-14, 22-23.

Father Boylan’s Introduction to Today’s Responsorial (Psalm 145).

St Augustine’s Notes on Today’s Responsorial (Psalm 145).

Pope Benedict XVI’s Commentary on Today’s Responsorial (Psalm 145).

Bishop MacEvilly’s Commentary on Today’s Gospel (John 1:45-51).

Pending: St Augustine’s Tractate on Today’s Gospel (John 1:45-51). On 34-51.

My Notes on Today’s Gospel (John 1:45-51).

Update: Fathers Nolan’s and Brown’s Commentary on Today’s Gospel (John 1:45-51).

Update: Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Today’s Gospel (John 1:45-51).

Update: St Cyril of Alexandria’s Commentary on Today’s Gospel (John 1:45-51).

Navarre Bible Commentary on Today’s Gospel (John 1:45-51).

Dominica XIV Post Pentecosten IV. Augusti ~ II. classis

COMMENTARIES AND RESOURCES FOR SUNDAY MASS (Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms)Usually posted on Wednesday evening, sometimes on Tues. or Thurs. evenings (I got and early start this week!).

Next Week’s Posts: Sun, August 25-Sun, September 1.

Posted in Bible, Catholic, Daily Catholic Lectionary | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Bishop MacEvilly’s Commentary on Matthew 22:1-14

Posted by Dim Bulb on August 17, 2013

Mat 22:1  And Jesus answering, spoke again in parables to them, saying:

“And Jesus answering.” The word, “answer,” by a Hebrew idiom, means, to commence speaking; to continue a discourse, introducing something new. It does not always suppose a preceding question calling for a reply. Here, it conveys, that no way daunted by the well-known designs of the Pharisees, our Redeemer continues to speak to them, and takes occasion, from their feelings, which He well knew, to point out, in the following parable, the rejection of the Jews, the call of the Gentiles, and the final reprobation of the evil doers, who, although of the Church, persevere in bad works to the end. It might be said, too, that He “answered,” to the latent thoughts of the Pharisees, “in parables.” It is disputed whether the following parable is the same as that mentioned (Luke 14:15 ff), there being several circumstances in which they agree; and several, in which they differ. Some commentators, among whom are St. Augustine, St. Gregory, Jansenius, &c., say, they are quite different; that they were uttered under different circumstances. The parable referred to in St. Luke, was spoken when our Redeemer had been at table in the house of one of the Pharisees, and spoken on occasion of an observation made by one of the guests; whereas, the parable here, was spoken in different circumstances. Moreover, the characters referred to are quite different; the messengers despatched in the two parables, quite different, &c. Others, with St. Irenæus, &c., whose opinion is held by Maldonatus, say, there is reference to the same parable in St. Luke and here. The substance and scope in both are the same; and the circumstances in which they differ, so trivial, that they merit no consideration. The difference of circumstance of time and place, is accounted for in this way: St. Luke records facts accurately; whereas, St. Matthew, although remarkable for quoting our Redeemer’s words more fully than the other Evangelists, is not very particular in detailing the order of events; and hence, often anticipates or postpones events in his narrative, being more desirous of fully recording our Redeemer’s words. Here, then, he quotes this parable, although uttered under other circumstances; because, it suited those whom our Redeemer was now addressing.

Mat 22:2  The kingdom of heaven is likened to a king who made a marriage for his son.

“The kingdom of heaven,” viz., the Church of Christ, which is the long expected kingdom of the Messiah, in which He reigns over angels and men, subject and obedient to His spiritual rule. Hitherto, men were in servitude; but, now, the faithful are gifted with true spiritual liberty, under the sway of a spiritual King. It is also called “heavenly;” because all its ordinances, gifts, privileges, are from heaven; its destination, and the end to which it tends, is heaven.

“Is like to a king.” It is not the kingdom, but, rather, the King of heaven, that is like a king. Hence, the words mean: something occurs in the founding and extension of the Church, like unto what is represented in the following parable of the king and the marriage feast.

The literal meaning of the parable needs no explanation. Hence, we have only to point out its application. The king who instituted the marriage feast, refers to the Heavenly Father, whose eternal “Son,” Jesus Christ, in the fulness of time, being born of the Father from eternity, was born as man, of the Virgin, in time, and united to Himself the nature of man.

“The marriage,” refers, not to the nuptial union, but to the marriage feast (Mt 22:4 ff), to the graces, the Sacraments of the Church; above all, to the Sacrament of the adorable Eucharist; to the Word of God, by which the soul is nourished, all of which will lead to the enjoyment of those delights in store for the sons of God, who shall be inebriated with the abundance of God’s house, and for ever drink of the torrent of His delights (Psa. 36:9). By His assuming human nature, and afterwards redeeming us by His death, our Redeemer espoused His Church, and united her to Him by Faith, Hope, and Charity, here; which is to be followed by a closer union in the fruition of bliss, hereafter. The feast consequent on this nuptial union of Christ, comprises all the blessings of soul and body resulting therefrom, both in this life and in the next. It is quite usual, in SS. Scripture, to represent the covenant of God with man, under the figure of a marriage feast. (Isa. 54:6; Jer. 3:8; Matt. 25:5; John 3:29; 2 Cor. 11:2 ff) The allusion here to the mystical union of Christ with His Church, supposes a magnificent feast, such as marriage feasts, of kings, were amongst the ancients.

Mat 22:3  And he sent his servants to call them that were invited to the marriage: and they would not come.

The “invited,” most likely, refers to the Jews, who had long since been invited by their Prophets and the Law of Moses, to prepare for the rich banquet, which in the time of the New Law, was to follow the Incarnation of the Son of God. The servants sent to call in those who were already invited, most probably refer to John the Baptist, and the Apostles, who, before the death of our Redeemer, invited the Jews to do penance, as “the kingdom of heaven was at hand.” St. Jerome reads, servant, in the singular. But, as it was most likely taken from St. Luke (Lk 14:17), the reading here is the more probable. The phrase, calling “those who were invited,” is allusive to a custom very prevalent, of issuing a more precise invitation, on the eve of a marriage, to the friends, who were before informed, in a more general way, of the event to take place at some period not then defined. “And they would not come.” The Jewish people resisted these gracious calls and invitations. As the king is said (v. 4), to send out “other servants” a second time, which are generally understood to refer to the Apostles; hence, some commentators understand, by the servants referred to in this verse (3), John the Baptist, and our Redeemer Himself, who was a servant, according to human nature. As, however, the servants sent on both occasions would seem to be different from the king’s son, of whose marriage there is question, it is better to adopt the former interpretation; for, the same Apostles may be regarded as other servants, inasmuch as they were sent on another and different occasion. Moreover, they were different men after the descent of the Holy Ghost, and they had associated to them parties who did not preach before the death of Christ, viz., Paul and Barnabas.

St. Chrysostom understands the servants, to refer to the latter Prophets; and John the Baptist, who pointed out Christ as already come, and His kingdom now arrived. Our Redeemer Himself, may perhaps, be included, since, in one respect, He was a servant, and He personally invited all: “Come to Me all ye that labour,” &c.; and also, when He commanded them to eat His flesh and drink His blood, which is the most precious banquet ever destined by God for man.

Mat 22:4  Again he sent other servants, saying: Tell them that were invited, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my beeves and fatlings are killed, and all things are ready. Come ye to the marriage. 

“Other servants.” This, most probably, refers to the period after the death of Christ, when He sent His Apostles and Apostolic men to invite the Jews again to the banquet. St. Chrysostom comments on the folly of the Jews, whose refusal necessitated this second mission of the king’s servants. After having slain his son and heir; after having spurned and refused the invitation of a king, and that to a banquet, which refusal was calculated to enrage him; still, such is the goodness of this Heavenly King, that He repeats His invitation, telling them, “all things are ready.” The invitation is not to sufferings, crosses, and afflictions; but, to pleasures and delights, at the very time they deserved punishment for the murder of His Son. No doubt, all who will take on them the yoke of Christ, will have to suffer persecution (2 Tim. 3:12); still, our Redeemer Himself declares, that His “yoke is sweet, and His burden light;” and the Psalmist invites all to “taste and see that the Lord is sweet.”

The “fatlings and beeves,” refer to the precious viands prepared in a style of royal magnificence for the numerous guests invited to the royal marriage; for more than one many “fatlings are killed.” This, may refer, in a special manner, to the death of Christ, and the institution of the adorable Eucharist, which took place between the first and second sending out of His servants. “All things are ready,” refers to the manifold and superabundant spiritual effects of the death of Christ, in the removal of obstacles, by His victory over the devil; in His throwing open the gates of heaven; and in the abundant graces now dispensed, of which the Holy Ghost plentifully dispensed by the Apostles, was a sure earnest and foretaste.

“Come ye to the marriage.” What infinite goodness and condescension on the part of our good God, whose happiness was no way affected by their coming or staying away.

Mat 22:5  But they neglected and went their ways, one to his farm and another to his merchandise.

The neglect and indifference with which they treated the invitation of the king, not heeding it, but merely attending to their ordinary business, clearly exhibit, the dispositions of the Jews in regard to embracing the faith of Jesus Christ, after He had shed His blood for them. Plunged in earthly cares, and grovelling in their attachment to temporal concerns—which is a distinguishing characteristic of that unhappy race even to the present day—they undervalued the price of Redemption, and preferred frivolous and passing pleasures, to the solid and permanent joys of a celestial banquet.

Mat 22:6  And the rest laid hands on his servants and, having treated them contumeliously, put them to death.

Some of them went so far as to maltreat and abuse the kind’s messengers. This exhibits the ingratitude of the Jews in a still clearer light, inasmuch as, having been invited long beforehand, and having promised to come to the nuptials, now, when everything is prepared, at immense sacrifice and cost, they kill the servants sent to call them.

The bad treatment received by the Apostles at the hands of the Jews, is recorded in the Acts of the Apostles. They show still greater brutality than those did, who are referred to in the parable of the vineyard; for, these slew only the men who demanded the fruit of the vineyard, whereas, the others slew those who demanded nothing of them, but merely invited them to partake of the greatest enjoyments and delights.

How often do we not act similarly, crucifying again the Son of God by our sins, and exposing Him to mockery, refusing to enjoy His heavenly banquet. This, in a special manner, applies to those Christians, who refuse to approach Holy Communion; engrossed in worldly business and the distracting cares of temporal interests, or, indulging in illicit pleasures, they crucify again the Son of God; and we should tremble the more, as we have not the excuse the Jews had, viz., the folly and scandal of the Cross of Christ, to estrange and deter us.

For, we know, that He has triumphed by His Cross; and having been crucified according to the weakness of the flesh. He now lives by the power of God, seated at His right hand.

Mat 22:7  But when the king had heard of it, he was angry: and sending his armies, he destroyed those murderers and burnt their city.

When the king had heard of it” This is spoken conformably to the parable; as also are the words, “He was angry;” since the supreme King, knew of Himself, in virtue of His omniscience, all that happens; nor is He ever changed or moved to anger, save in the sense of inflicting punishment, as is done by an angry man.

“And sending His armies,” &c. This has evident reference to the destruction of Jerusalem forty years after, by the Romans under Titus and Vespasian. They are called “His armies;” because, they were mere instruments in the hands of God, to execute His judgments. (See Isa. 13:4-5 ff; Jer. 25:9 ff) It was “He sent” these armies. It was He destroyed, by their instrumentality, without their knowing it, “those murderers, and burnt their city.” Josephus, describing the fearful miseries endured by the Jews in the last siege of Jerusalem, tells us, 1,100,000 persons were destroyed, and the city utterly ruined (Lib. 6, c. 9, de Bello Judaico). This might be regarded as a prophetic parable, which was fulfilled to the letter. The temporal punishment inflicted on the unhappy Jerusalem, is but a type of the excruciating tortures which, in the next life, the enemies of God are doomed to suffer for ever in hell.

Mat 22:8  Then he saith to his servants: The marriage indeed is ready; but they that were invited were not worthy. 

“Then,” after the Jews, who were invited first, had rejected and spurned the grace of the Gospel, “He saith to His servants,” the Apostles, whose invitation the Jews had rejected.

“Were not worthy,” implies more than is expressed. It means, that they rendered themselves positively unworthy, by their incredulity and resistance to grace. For, the Gentiles who were admitted into the Church, were not worthy; but, they did not place such obstacles to grace as did the Jews. (Rom. 9:30, &c.) The mysterious economy of God in calling the Gentiles only, when the Jews had rejected the Gospel, and in making their fall the occasion of the call of the others, is fully explained by St. Paul (Rom. 11); and, also, Acts 13:45 ff .

Mat 22:9  Go ye therefore into the highways; and as many as you shall find, call to the marriage.

But, although the first invited refused coming, still, the banquet would not be left unattended. “Highways” (“exitus viarum,” Vulgate), are understood by some, to mean the places where many roads meet, and whence many roads branch off. These are generally the places most crowded—places of public resort. Others understand by them, the outlets of the main streets from the city into the country. In the parable, the words refer to the most distant and remote nations of the Gentiles, “in omnem terram,” &c. (Psalm 18) “Eritis mihi testes,” &c. (Acts 1:8).

“And as many as you shall find.” No exception, no distinction—Jews or Gentiles, Greeks or barbarians. To all they are debtors. To all they owe it, to invite them to the king’s banquet.

Mat 22:10  And his servants going forth into the ways, gathered together all that they found, both bad and good: and the marriage was filled with guests.

They invited them, without distinction or exception—“good and bad.” Since all are “bad,” before their call, the words mean, they invited all, without distinction, from every class and rank of life, from every tribe, tongue, people, nation, sex, and profession. Or, the words may refer to the different degrees of moral character, which exist among Pagans themselves. For, among Pagans, some may be morally good, v.g., Cornelius the centurion, and others, “who by nature, do those things that are of the law” (Rom. 2:14); or, at least, there are “good and bad” among them, according to their own notions and opinions. The words may also refer to the condition they were in after their vocation and aggregation to the Church; and thus would show, that there are wicked men even in the Church, as is expressed, verse 11.

“And the marriage was filled with guests,” refers to the fulness of the Gentiles, who entered the Church after the Jews had refused entering, whose incredulity was made the occasion of the call of the former.

Mat 22:11  And the king went in to see the guests: and he saw there a man who had not on a wedding garment.

The entrance of the king “to see the guests,” is literally allusive to the usage observed by exalted personages, when they give splendid entertainments, of going in to see how all things appear, how it fares with their guests, and whether all things are conducted in a way worthy of such an occasion. In the application, it refers to the judgment of God, whether particular, at death; or, general, at the end of the world, as appears from the punishment (v. 13). Our Redeemer introduces this, to prevent any false feelings of foolish confidence on the part of the Gentiles, who were introduced after the Jews were rejected; since, it will not suffice to be in the Church to gain salvation. Many of the children of the Church may be reprobates and lost.

“And He there saw a man,” a certain person sitting down with the other guests.

“Wedding garment,” cannot refer to faith; since, he could not be there without it. By faith, and the sacraments of faith, he entered the Church. To come to the feast is, to believe, as those who did not come did so, because they did not believe. Hence, the word means, charity, which was the disposition in which Christ Himself united to Him His Church; and, therefore, the corresponding disposition which each one should carry with him. Charity it is, that “that covers a multitude of sins.” Charity it is, with the want of which St. John charges the Bishop of Ephesus, and the want of which rendered displeasing to God, the Bishop of Laodicea. It is charity that renders us beautiful in the eyes of God.

Others understand by it, a spotless, holy life, free from gross sins, adorned with all virtues and good works. This it is, that constitutes the putting on of Christ (Rom. 13:14; Col 3:12); the putting on of the new man (Eph. 4:14); the newness of life (Rom. 6:4); the new creature (Gal. 6:15). This, however, comes to the same as the preceding interpretation, since charity cannot exist without a good life and meritorious good works; nor can these exist, in the sense now referred to, without charity. Hence, “the nuptial garment,” embraces all, viz., charity, good works, and a truly Christian life. This shows, that faith alone, without good works, will not suffice for salvation.

Mat 22:12  And he saith to him: Friend, how camest thou in hither not having on a wedding garment? But he was silent.

“Friend, how earnest thou hither?” This form of address, shows the reproach Almighty God will make to the members of His Church, who, having abused the friendship shown them, and having insulted Him after all the marks of friendship and love exhibited by Him, deserve hell. It also shows, that God punishes them, from a sense of justice, rather than from a feeling of hatred.

“He was silent,” conveys to us, that at the hour of death, or on the Day of Judgment, the light of God’s justice shall so dazzle the reprobate, and place the crimes they concealed from man in so manifest a light, that they cannot either deny or palliate them. The angels and men at judgment, shall be witnesses, says St. Jerome, of the sins of those whom the Divine justice will condemn: “nec negandi erit facultas, cum omnes Angeli et mundus ipse sit testes peccatorum. Illuminabit abscondita tenebrarum et manifestabit consilia cordium”

Mat 22:13  Then the king said to the waiters: Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the exterior darkness. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

“The waiters,” the Angels, who are to execute the decrees of Divine justice.

The “binding of hands and feet,” denotes the inevitable punishment in store for them, in “exterior darkness,” &c., which refers to the eternal torments of hell, where they shall be for ever shut out from the sight of God, and the brilliant light of the supper hall; and consigned in a darksome dungeon to excruciating tortures, denoted by “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” In speaking of “exterior darkness, weeping,” &c., our Redeemer passes, as sometimes is His wont, from the parabolical form of expression, to the thing denoted by the parable.

Mat 22:14  For many are called, but few are chosen.

“For, many are called, but few are chosen.” This is the conclusion which our Redeemer draws from the foregoing parable. At first sight, one would imagine the conclusion, from the rejection of only one out of so many guests, ought to be, although many are called, only FEW are rejected. Some expositors, among them, St. Augustine, say, that this one who was rejected, was a type, and representative of those who are rejected, who are many, and more numerous than those who are saved, since, “broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many enter thereat;” whereas, but few enter the narrow gate. The scope of the parable, according to this, is to show that, besides the many who altogether refuse entering the Church, even of those who enter, some are lost. That our Redeemer designed to make the man in question, a representative of those many, who, being called, are still rejected, appears from the general conclusion He draws from the parable.

Others assert, that the conclusion is drawn from the entire foregoing passage, and comprises both the vast multitudes, who refuse entering the Church, and those who, being in the Church, do not lead lives worthy of their vocation, nor persevere to the end, and are thus rejected. Then in this interpretation, both the justness, and truth of the general conclusion are quite evident, since, if we include among those called, all who remain outside the Church, Jews and Pagans, and all who, being in the Church, do not lead edifying lives, it is clear, the damned are many, and the saved comparatively few. Others say, that the conclusion, as well as the entire parable, refers to the Jews, of whom many were called, but few embraced the faith at the preaching of the Apostles; and our Redeemer casually introduces, at the end of the parable, verse 11, the case of one of those who entered the Church, and was still lost, to show those who are members of the Church, and the Gentiles, who are called, that they had no reason to glory against the Jews; since, not all that are called and enter the Church are saved, which is sufficiently verified and exhibited by the fate of only one, in the Church, because he had not “the wedding garment,” was not clothed with the robe of charity and sanctifying grace.

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Matthew 20:1-16

Posted by Dim Bulb on August 17, 2013

Mat 20:1  The kingdom of heaven is like to an householder, who went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard.
Mat 20:2  And having agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard.
Mat 20:3  And going out about the third hour, he saw others standing in the marketplace idle.
Mat 20:4  And he said to them: Go you also into my vineyard, and I will give you what shall be just.
Mat 20:5  And they went their way. And again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did in like manner.  

“The kingdom of heaven,” &c. In the Greek, ὅμοια γαρ εστιν ἡ βασιλεια, &c., it is, “FOR, the kingdom of heaven,” &c. It is the same in the Syriac. The main design and scope of the following parable may be clearly seen from the context, from the identity of the proposition which immediately precedes it (19:30), of which it is, according to the Greek—“FOR, the kingdom of heaven,” &c.—the demonstration on elucidation, with the conclusion deduced from it by our Divine Redeemer (v. 16). The article prefixed to “first” and “last” in the Greek, in verse 16—οἱ πρωτοι, “the first;” οι εσχατοι, “the last,” shows, they manifestly refer to “first” and “last” (19:30). The parable is clearly intended to show, that, in the economy of God’s providence, “the first shall be last, and the last first,” regarding the meaning of which words, as shall be seen hereafter, there is a great difference of opinion among commentators.

The literal meaning hardly needs any explanation. The phrase, “The kingdom of heaven is like,” &c., frequently means, in the Gospel, that in the economy of God’s merciful dealings with His people, in His militant Church here, and in the kingdom of His glory, or Church militant hereafter, something occurs, similar to what happens when a householder goes out early, &c. For, taken literally, it is not the kingdom, but, rather, the King, or ruler of heaven, that should be compared with a householder. The several hours of the day are allusive to the division of time among the Romans and Jews. The Jews, at this period of their history, having been now subject to Rome, adopted the Roman custom of calculating time. They divided their days and nights, at all seasons of the year, into twelve hours each, which, of course, were longer or shorter at several periods of the year. The twelve hours of the night they divided into four watches, each watch comprising three hours, at the close of which the military guard relieved one another. In like manner, they divided the “twelve hours of the day” (John 11:9) into four greater hours, or principal parts, consisting of three hours each. The first, or prime, commenced at sunrise, corresponding with our six o’clock, supposing sunrise to take place at the same hour as at the Equinox, and embraced half the space of time between sunrise and mid-day. The second, or terce, commenced at the end of the first three hours, nine o’clock, and ended at mid-day, or twelve o’clock. The third principal part, or sext, commenced at twelve o’clock, and ended at three o’clock. The fourth principal part, or none, commenced at the end of sext, and ended at six o’clock, at sunset or close of the day. Not only were the civil duties among the Jews, but also their sacred aim ecclesiastical duties, regulated by this division (Mark 15:25).

It is at these different principal points of division of time, the householder in the parable is said to have gone forth to hire the labourers into his vineyard. At the present day, this division of time is still kept up by the Church in the office of her sacred ministers. The 118th Psalm, which, with the exception of one verse, is all employed in treating of the law of God, is thus divided in the daily rentation of the Divine office. Prime, began among the Jews at the commencement of the first hour of the day, or at sunrise; terce began at the end of the third, or a nine o’clock; sext, at the end of the sixth, or twelve o’clock; none, at the end of the ninth, or three in the afternoon. The three hours, included under none, closed the day at sunset, or twelfth hour, viz., six in the evening. Hence, “the eleventh hour” (verses 6, 9), means, one hour before sunset.

“The kingdom of heaven,” as has been already conveyed, means, the Church militant, where men labour; and the Church triumphant, where they are rewarded.

By the “householder,” is meant, Almighty God, the King of Heaven, who at all periods of time from creation, and at all stages of life, calls men to labour in His service. “Labourers,” those called to serve God by the practice of good works. “Vineyard,” the Church, which is often, in SS. Scripture, compared to a “vineyard” (Ps 80:9).

By the several hours of the day are meant, according to some, the several leading religious epochs—the several dispensations under which God called men to labour in His Church, and thus to reach securely the goal of salvation. According to these, the time comprised between the first and third hour, refers to the interval between Adam and Noah; from the third to the sixth, the interval between Noah and Abraham; from the sixth to the ninth, the time between Abraham and Moses; from the ninth to the eleventh, between Moses and Christ, whose religion embraces the last hour, between the eleventh and sunset. Hence, the period of the Christian dispensation is called “the last hour” in the Gospel, in which men receive such abundant graces and privileges, and amass such treasures of merit, compared with those living under preceding dispensations, that, although last in point of time, they are first in glory and merit; and hence, the Apostles take precedence of the Patriarchs and Prophets of the Old Law. Moreover, they might be termed first, because they had not to wait long, like the just of old, before entering heaven (Heb. 11:40). These expositors understand, by “evening,” the end of all things, when God shall come to judge the world.

Others, by the “day,” understand, the term of man’s life, during which one can work (John 9:4), and insure his salvation; and the principal hours of the day, the period or stage of life at which men are called, and enter God’s service—some, from infancy; others, from boyhood; others, in manhood; and others, in decrepid old age. These, by “evening,” understand, the close of a man’s life. The first class have to labour long and hard against the strength of youthful temptations, and the heat of their unruly passions. This latter opinion is preferred by Maldonatus, who maintains, that it is beside the scope of the parable, at what age of the world a man was called. Our Redeemer only wishes to convey, that some labour more, and acquire greater merit in a short time, than others do in a longer period; and to serve this object, it matters little at what age of the world, but only at what period of his life, he was called and entered on God’s service.

It is deserving of remark, that our Redeemer supposes in the parable, that men merit eternal life; for, He speaks of an agreement to labour for a certain “hire,” which implies merit. Moreover, He speaks of paying “what is just,” which proves merit, founded, however, on God’s gracious promises.

For “penny,” the daily hire, Kenrick has “shilling,” his rendering of “denarius.” The value of the denarius is computed differently. Some say, it was nearly equal to one shilling of our money (Kenrick); others, to 7½d; others, less. But, whatever may have been its value, it denotes in the parable, life eternal; and, although given the same, to all; it was only generically, but not specifically so; for, we know, the Saints enjoy different degrees of glory. (1 Cor. 15) All the Saints enjoy in common the glory of being admitted into the kingdom, and to the beatific vision of God; as it is common to all the stars to be set in the firmament of heaven, with different degrees, however, of lustre and brightness. (1 Cor. 15)

Mat 20:6  But about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing, and he saith to them: Why stand you here all the day idle?
Mat 20:7  They say to him: Because no man hath hired us. He saith to them: Go ye also into my vineyard

“Why stand you here all the day idle? Because no one hath hired us.” Almighty God calls men at all times. But men do not always choose to correspond with His call, or enter His service. The “householder” hired all whom he found in the market-place in the first instance. This he conveys by the Prophet Jeremias. “I have spoken to you rising early in the morning” (Jer. 7:13; Jer 11:7-8; Jer 30:11). Hence, the answer, “because no one hath hired us,” may be regarded as an ornamental part of the parable; because, although not strictly true in the sense of the parable, it expresses the kind of false excuse which idlers generally allege; nor are householders in general supposed to be cognizant of the falsehood it expresses.

Mat 20:8  And when evening was come, the lord of the vineyard saith to his steward: Call the labourers and pay them their hire, beginning from the last even to the first.
Mat 20:9  When therefore they were come that came about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny.
Mat 20:10  But when the first also came, they thought that they should receive more: And they also received every man a penny.
Mat 20:11  And receiving it they murmured against the master of the house,
Mat 20:12  Saying: These last have worked but one hour. and thou hast made them equal to us, that have borne the burden of the day and the heats.
Mat 20:13  But he answering said to one of them: friend, I do thee no wrong: didst thou not agree with me for a penny?
Mat 20:14  Take what is thine, and go thy way: I will also give to this last even as to thee

“Evening.” The end of the world, or the close of human life. They both, practically, come to the same; since the sentence at general judgment is but a ratification of that passed at particular judgment at each one’s death.

“Steward,” refers to our Lord, who is constituted by His Father, Judge of the living and of the dead.

“Give them their hire.” Hence, the reward of merit. The hire given the last, far exceeding their expectations, gives us an idea of merit, in the Catholic sense, since the reward of merit far exceeds the intrinsic value of the act. It is from the grace and liberality of God, that our actions are meritorious, and receive so great a reward. Hence, St. Augustine says, “in crowning our merits, God crowns His own gifts.”

Mat 20:15  Or, is it not lawful for me to do what I will? Is thy eye evil, because I am good?

The entire context of the parable clearly refutes the false conclusion deduced by heretics from the words of this verse, as if the householder said, that the reward of life eternal was utterly gratuitous, exclusive of merit. The reply of the householder is altogether ornamental, and suited to the dignity of a master in dealing with murmuring labourers, without entering into any discussion at all regarding the merits of the case. At best, the words would only prove that the value of merit and its reward flow, in the first instance, from the grace and gratuitous liberality of God, which every Catholic readily admits.

The word, “evil,” applied to the murmurers, in the phrase, “is thine eye evil?” &c., means, envious, a signification of the word common among the Jews (Prov. 28:6; Eccles. 31:14; Mark 7:22).

Mat 20:16  So shall the last be first and the first last. For many are called but few chosen.

“So shall the last be first,” &c. This is regarded by the generality of commentators, as the application of the parable, and as the conclusion which our Redeemer means to draw from it, identical with proposition (Mt 19:30). But how the application is made, is a subject about which they are much divided, according to the difference of interpretation given of “first” becoming “last;” and “last,” “first” (Mt 19:30, and here). Nor, indeed, is it easy to see how the conclusion, and especially, the reason given for the conclusion—“for many are called, but few are chosen”—is warranted by the parable, in which all are represented as receiving the hire or reward in equal proportions. I pass by as improbable, the opinion of St. Chrysostom, who holds, that the words of this verse are not a conclusion from the parable at all; that our Redeemer merely wishes to convey, that as the labourers all received an equal amount contrary to the expectations of all; so, something more wonderful occurs also, when “the first”—by whom St. Chrysostom understands, the Jews, and those Christians who fell away from the summit of perfection to the depths of spiritual misery—became “last;” and the “last”—those who arise from the depths of sin and misery, and reach the height of perfection—become “first,” Some expositors hold, that the words are allusive to the rejection of the Jaws and the calling of the Gentiles. Hence, according to them, by the “first” becoming “last,” are meant, those who are utterly excluded from the kingdom of heaven. The words are used in this sense (Luke 13:30). The second conclusion, or, rather, reason assigned for the conclusion, regarding the “first” becoming “last,” &c., viz.: “For, many are called, but few are chosen,” is in favour of this interpretation; so, is the murmuring of the early workmen. Hence, according to them, the scope of the parable is to show, that the Gentile believers would be preferred, both in the Church militant here and triumphant hereafter, to the Jews who rejected Christ. Hence, the murmurs of the Jews, at seeing the Gentiles called of late to the Church, preferred to themselves, who had such claims to preference, on the ground of their early call, in the persons of the Patriarchs and their fathers at different periods, as well as on account of their labour in cultivating the vineyard with such inconveniences, and such sparing distribution of graces and helps, so abundantly dealt out to the children of the New Law. These interpreters say, that whatever has reference to this object in the parable, should be regarded as significant; whatever does not tend to illustrate this, should be regarded as ornamental. It is not easy to explain, in this opinion, how the “penny,” the daily hire promised by the householder, is given to all the labourers; and it is in reference to “the kingdom of heaven” it is given. Moreover, it is given at “evening,” that is to say, either at the close of human life, or at the end of the world. It could not, therefore, be understood of the temporal retribution given the Jews; since, among those who gained eternal life, are many faithful Jews; and besides, such temporal retribution was given during man’s life—not at its close, nor at the end of the world. Hence, others say, that “first” and “last,” refer to those who are saved, and receive the crown of eternal life. According to these, the scope of the parable is to show, that it matters not at what stage of human life, or period of the world, a man is called; provided he labours and co-operates more, fervently and zealously, he shall gain the first place in the kingdom of heaven, in preference to those who may labour less fervently for a longer period of time. These expositors say, looking to the scope of the parable, that, the “first” in the order of reward are termed such, because, although called last, and their labour of shorter duration, it was a source of greater glory to them to be the first favoured with the reward. This was a proof of greater diligence on their part. Moreover, they received a greater reward than they expected from the liberality and beneficence of their employer, while those who imagined themselves entitled to the first place, who filled high stations in this world, and occupied prominent positions in the opinion of men, were not so much exalted in glory as the lowly and the humble. Thus, the Apostles, and other such abject and humble men, would be preferred to the great ones of the earth, and their judiciary power and exaltation would be signified by their being termed “first,” whilst the others, over whom they would be appointed judges, would be “last” in comparative judgment. “First” and “last” are verified of every class of persons, and at every stage of the world. Against this latter opinion, it will not militate, that the householder says, “take thine own and go thy way.” These words may be regarded as ornamental. Moreover, they refer to eternal glory in this opinion; neither will the phrase, “thine eye is evil,” that is, envious, illiberal, which may be also regarded as ornamental, and would, at best, only convey an idea of the magnitude of the glory which God bestows on His singularly beloved and faithful servants, calculated to make the very elect envious, if possible, or cause them to wonder at the sovereign liberality of God. While the former opinion—which understands, by “last,” those excluded from everlasting bliss—accords better with the context (Mt 19:30), this latter opinion seems to accord better with the parable, in which all received the “penny,” or daily hire, in different degrees, no doubt; preference and pre-eminence being conferred on some before others. It is, however, rather difficult to see the connexion between the parable in this latter interpretation, and the second conclusion, or, rather, the reason assigned at the close, “For, many are called, but few are chosen.” This would naturally follow from the words of the parable understood in the former sense, which understands “last,” of those rejected from the kingdom of bliss, the same with “many are called;” and “first,” of those who actually gain eternal life, the same with “but few are chosen.”

The opinion of Suarez on this point seems to be the most probable. He holds that the words, “for many are called,” &c., are an argument, a fortiori, as if our Lord meant to say: It is no wonder that of those who are called, some do not obtain the first place, although they receive life eternal; since even of those who are called, many are excluded altogether. Others explain, “many are called,” to the Gospel and the observance of God’s commandments; and understand “chosen,” of extraordinary graces, and the observance of the Evangelical counsel. And this accords well with the context (c. 19), where those who merely observe God’s Commandments, are contrasted with those who practise the Evangelical counsels, and who receive the special reward attached thereto.

This parable of the labourers is meant to convey to us a very practical and important lesson of instruction, as to the importance of eternal salvation. This can be seen—1. From the magnitude of the gain to be secured for all eternity, in case of success; and of the loss we sustain for all eternity, in case of failure. 2. From the price paid to ensure it for us, “not corruptible gold or silver, bid the precious blood of the Immaculate Lamb.” 3. From the words of our Redeemer, declaring it to be the only thing necessary, “porro unum est necessarium.” Other things may be useful—friends, wealth, health, and the other goods of fortune; but, this alone is essential. Gain this, every other loss is gain; lose this, every other gain is loss. Other losses may be repaired; this is irreparable, unchangeable for all eternity. Let each one imagine, what should stimulate us to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling,” viz., that, after being presented before the tribunal of Jesus Christ, and condemned, the pondus æternitatis is laid upon him; that he begins to suffer excruciating tortures, with the full knowledge of the loss of God, with the remorse of the undying worm of conscience, with the knowledge, every moment he suffers, that he is to suffer for eternity. What a dreadful thought. Let him seriously reflect on the words, EVER and NEVER. Ever to continue; never to end; then, he may estimate the importance of eternal salvation. Oh! “What doth it avail a man to gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his own soul?” Let him imagine he gained the whole world, enjoyed honours, pleasures, and riches, and all that his imagination could suggest, or picture to him, for the longest life—he “gained the entire world.” Let him imagine the other part verified, he is at the end of all this enjoyment damned—he “suffers the loss of his soul.” What will his past enjoyments avail him? Yes; the recollection of them will avail to aggravate his eternal torments. There is now no further redemption. “Or what exchange shall a man give for his soul?” (Mt 16:26) We should practically resolve on adopting the most efficacious means of securing our salvation. These are, fervent and persevering prayer; flights of the occasion of sin; frequentation of the Sacraments; a tender devotion to the Immaculate Mother of God, &c.

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Father Maas’ Commentary on Matthew 20:1-16

Posted by Dim Bulb on August 17, 2013

Mat 20:1  The kingdom of heaven is like to an householder, who went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard.Mat 20:2  And having agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard.
Mat 20:3  And going out about the third hour, he saw others standing in the marketplace idle.
Mat 20:4  And he said to them: Go you also into my vineyard, and I will give you what shall be just.
Mat 20:5  And they went their way. And again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did in like manner.
Mat 20:6  But about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing, and he saith to them: Why stand you here all the day idle?
Mat 20:7  They say to him: Because no man hath hired us. He saith to them: Go ye also into my vineyard. .  

The kingdom of heaven. Distribution of grace. In the Greek text and in several Latin codd. the parable is connected with the preceding passage by the conjunction “for”; it does not indeed formally explain the saying “many that are first, shall be last,” since this statement finds its explanation in the preceding words where those first in dignity in the kingdom of heaven are mentioned. But the parable adds another view in which the first may become last: our works are worthy of a supernatural reward not on their own account, but because they are dignified by the grace of God; hence our merit cannot be measured by the length of time during which we labor, or by the greatness of our enterprises, but is proportioned to the divine grace from which our works spring, so that in this respect also those that are seemingly first may be last. “The kingdom of heaven is like” signifies that what happens in the kingdom of heaven is like the following parable. “Who went out early in the morning” agrees with the Oriental custom according to which the workmen go in the morning to the market-place in order to be hired for the day [cf. Fillion]. The Hebrew day was divided into twelve hours, counting from sunrise to sunset, so that the length of the hours differed in winter and summer. “A penny a day” [in our money about 15 c. or 7½ d.] seems according to Tobit 5:14-15 to have been a day’s wages; the Rabbinic sources do not lend additional weight to this opinion, and Tac. i. 17 does not say that this was the daily allowance of the Roman soldiers, though we know that they received during the time of the republic annually 120 pennies, which salary was raised by Cæsar to 225, and by Domitian to 300 pennies [Marquardt, Handbuch d. röm. Alt. iii. 2; pp. 76, 77]. The sixth hour is our noon, the third hour is midway between noon and sunrise, the ninth hour midway between noon and sunset. In the case of the later laborers the sum of the hire is not specified, but the householder promises to give “what shall be just.”

Mat 20:8  And when evening was come, the lord of the vineyard saith to his steward: Call the labourers and pay them their hire, beginning from the last even to the first.
Mat 20:9  When therefore they were come that came about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny.
Mat 20:10  But when the first also came, they thought that they should receive more: And they also received every man a penny.
Mat 20:11  And receiving it they murmured against the master of the house,
Mat 20:12  Saying: These last have worked but one hour. and thou hast made them equal to us, that have borne the burden of the day and the heats.
Mat 20:13  But he answering said to one of them: friend, I do thee no wrong: didst thou not agree with me for a penny?
Mat 20:14  Take what is thine, and go thy way: I will also give to this last even as to thee.
Mat 20:15  Or, is it not lawful for me to do what I will? Is thy eye evil, because I am good?

“When evening was come,” or when it was the latter part of the day, about sunset. “The steward,” usually one of the slaves [cf. Aristotle œc. i. 5], was to pay “the laborers” “their hire,” or the sum representing “what shall be just,” “beginning from the last” and continuing “even to the first.” The Greek expression for “these have worked but one hour” cannot be rendered “these have spent here but one hour” [cf. Acts 15:33; Acts 18:23; 2 Cor. 11:25; Eccles. 6:12 (lxx.); Arnoldi, Fillion, Meyer], since the Greek verb has that meaning only when it is connected with an expression of distance or place [cf. Tobit 10:7 (lxx.); James 4:13; Acts 20:3]; besides, the Greek verb signifies “to work” also in Ruth 2:11 (lxx.), so that its meaning in the present case is not without parallel [cf. Schleusner, Thesaur. iv. p. 391; Schegg, Schanz, Keil, Weiss, etc.]. “Friend” lessens the rebuke which the householder administers to “one” of the murmurers; “is thy eye evil” agrees with the Hebrew manner of expressing liberality and benevolence by “a good eye,” while “an evil eye” denotes avarice and envy [cf. Deut. 15:9; Prov. 22:9; Prov. 23:6; Prov. 28:22, all in heb.].

Mat 20:16  So shall the last be first and the first last. For many are called but few chosen.

“So shall the last be first, and the first last” does not signify that those who become last from being first are excluded from life eternal, since all laborers alike receive “a penny” or a day’s wages [cf. Jansenius]; it is therefore not very probable that Jesus speaks here of the Jews and the Gentiles, as if he predicted the rejection of the former and the call of the latter [cf. Jansenius, Barradas Lucus Brugensis, Vasqu.], an opinion already advanced by Jerome and further developed by Bede, Rabanus. “The first” are rather those that are seemingly first on account of their dignity, their office in the Church, their earthly greatness, their time in the service of God, while they are really “last” in the sight of God, in the time of admission to their reward, in the supernatural merits of their works [cf. Gregory hom. 19 in evang. n. 4; Cajetan, Augustine, Chrysostom, Maldonado, Bellarmine, etc.]. “Many are called, but few chosen” does not appear to be an interpolation from 22:14 [cf. א B L Z 36 sah cop Tisch W H Schanz, Keim, Weiss], since its presence is attested not merely by its exegetical difficulty, but also by good extrinsic authority [C D N unc 13 it vlg syr arm æth Or Chrysostom, Arnoldi, Bisping, Schegg, Fillion, Knabenbauer]. But “few” does not refer to the few that are predestined, “ante prævisa merita,” nor “many” to the many predestined, “post prævisa merita” [Suarez De deo uno et trino, lib. 2. c. 20, n. 12, 17; Vasqu. 1 p. disp. 90; cf. Lapide], for there is nothing in the preceding parable to justify this explanation; nor can the words refer to those who are called to life eternal almost by right, but who fail to attain it [cf. Schegg], for this also is against the preceding parable, in which all receive their penny; “many,” therefore, must be the multitude of souls called in an ordinary manner, and “few” are those that receive extraordinary graces so as to attain to the highest sanctity [cf. Cajetan, Arnoldi, Meyer, Knabenbauer etc.]. It has already been noted by Chrys. that we cannot urge the meaning of every detail in the parable, as if all the blessed were to receive the same amount of glory; even among the laborers there are first and last, though all receive substantially the same amount.

Coming to the application of the parable, the householder is either God the Father [Irenaeus, Chrysostom, Jerome, Greg. Bede, Euthymius], or Jesus Christ [Origen, Hilary, Opus Imperfectum, Theophylact]; the vineyard denotes the economy of salvation [Origen], or the commandments of God and his Christ [Chrysostom, Hilary, Jerome, Euthymius, Theophylact], or the church [Origen, Gregory, Bede], just as in the Old Testament the house of Israel was typified by a vineyard [cf. Deut. 32:32; Isa 5:2 ff.; Jer. 2:21; Ezek 15:2; Hosea 10:1]; the different hours represent the different ages of the world [from Adam to Noe, from Noe to Abraham, from Abraham to Moses, from Moses to Christ, from Christ to the end], or the different ages of man [childhood, youth, manhood, advanced age, old age]; the former opinion is advocated by Orig. Hilary, Optatus Milevit. Opus Imperfectum, Greg. Bede, while the latter is held by Chrysostom, Jerome, Gregory Nanzian, Theophylact, Euthymius, Maldonado, Arnoldi, Fillion. The laborers are not the Jews and Gentiles, or the Pharisees and the apostles [cf. Lapide, Lam. Calmet, Jansenius, Schegg], for in that case the different hours cannot be explained satisfactorily; nor are the laborers those that are called to a life of perfection and refuse to follow their call [Fillion], for all receive a reward; nor again are they the tepid souls of the kingdom [cf. Maldonado], for the laborers in the parable are not described as bad workmen; but they seem to represent men called by grace at different times of life, because the work and reward of such fit best into all the circumstances of the parable [cf. Chrysostom Basil, reg. brev. 224; Euthymius, St Bruno, Faber Stapulensis, Augustine serm. 49, 2; Maldonadl, Arnoldi, Fillion]. No one need therefore despair [St Bruno], since there is hope even at the eleventh hour [Theophylact, Euthymius]. Though the sameness of reward of all laborers might be explained as denoting the same eternity of the heavenly reward [Augustine serm. 343, 4], or the same objective beatitude of the saints which is God’s own essence [Thomas Aquinas, Lapide, Euthymius]; and though the murmuring of some of the laborers might be understood as expressing the ardent desires of the patriarchs of the Old Testament [cf. Gregory Rabanus], it is preferable to abstain from urging these details of the parable [cf. Chrysostom].

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Bishop MacEvilly’s Commentary on Matthew 19:23-30

Posted by Dim Bulb on August 17, 2013

Mat 19:23  Then Jesus said to his disciples: Amen, I say to you, that a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. 

“Then Jesus said,” &c. We are informed by St. Mark (10:23), that, seeing the young man depart sorrowful, our Redeemer, looking around, addressed Himself to His disciples; and, lest they should regret their having voluntarily embraced poverty, “ecce reliquimus omnia,” &c., He availed Himself of the example of this young man, so good in every other respect, whom attachment to wealth had turned aside from the path of perfection, for which he seemed disposed, to show the danger of riches in general, and how much more secure was the state of poverty for gaining heaven. For, if this young man, who led a life of innocence, was drawn away by riches from the path of perfection, for which his former life, aided by God’s grace, fitted him, what must be the difficulty for the rich in general to enter heaven, since they are not so anxious for eternal life, as this young man seemed to be for Christian perfection.

He prefixes “Amen,” to show the importance of what He was about to assert; “a rich man,” abounding in wealth and earthly possessions. SS. Mark and Luke say, “they that have riches,” “will hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven,” i.e., they shall experience much difficulty, and meet with many obstacles, arising from riches, in endeavouring to gain heaven, from which the poor are exempt.

Mat 19:24  And again I say to you: It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven.

We are told by St. Mark (Mk 10:24), that the disciples showed astonishment at this expression of our Redeemer, regarding the difficulty of salvation for the rich, and that our Redeemer again said, “how hard it is for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God,” thereby pointing out, that it was not riches, as such, that caused this great difficulty—since, among the Saints were to be found many who possessed riches, as if they possessed them not, and placed not “their trust” in them—but the placing one’s trust in them. But, generally speaking, there are but few rich, who do not place their trust in riches, and indulge in the vices attendant on wealth, to the neglect of God, and the imperishable concerns of eternity. Therefore it is, that St. Paul (1 Tim. 6:17), “charges the rich of this world, not to trust in the uncertainty of riches,” since one of the great evils, attendant on the possession of wealth, is to cause men to place all their hopes in this fleeting, uncertain world, to withdraw them from God, and make them undervalue the imperishable riches of His heavenly kingdom.

“It is easier for a camel,” &c. From the utter impossibility of an animal like a camel, passing through the eye of a needle, and the seeming absurdity of the phrase, that anything can be “easier” than an impossibility, some commentators say, the word, “camel,” means, a cable or ship rope. But the Greek word for cable is, not χαμηλος, as here, but χαμιλος. Others understand it, of a small gate in Jerusalem, called “the needle’s eye,” through which a camel could pass only by stooping down, after having laid aside its burden. There is no reliable authority for asserting there was any such gate in Jerusalem. Hence, the more probable opinion is, that the word, “camel,” should be taken literally for the humpy animal of that name—an apt type of the rich, who are burdened with the heavy load of riches, which they must lay aside, in order to pass through the narrow gate, that leads to life; and, like the humpy animal in question, are deformed before God, when they love and place their hopes in riches. And, then, the words simply express, an adage or proverb, quite common in the East. They convey a hyperbole, or exaggeration, signifying extreme difficulty, amounting, almost, to an impossibility, in accomplishing a thing. Similar forms of expression are frequent in SS. Scripture. “Sand and salt, and a mass of iron is easier to bear than a man without sense” (Eccles 22:18). This only expresses the extreme difficulty of bearing with such a man. “It is better to meet a bear robbed of her whelps, than a fool trusting in his own folly” (Prov. 17:12). In like manner, “If the Ethiopian can change his skin … you may also do well,” &c. (Jer. 13:23). All these are exaggerative forms of expression, denoting a thing to be very difficult. So it is here. The phrase denotes great difficulty, but not, strictly speaking, impossibility; for, after saying (Mark 10:24; Luke 18:25), that it was very difficult for the rich, who trust in riches, to enter heaven, He gives, as a proof of this great difficulty, the words, “It is easier for a camel,” &c. If the words be taken to express impossibility, then it may be said to be impossible in this sense, that, as long as the rich man continues to confide in his riches—and the rich, in general, do confide in them—he cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven; and it is not by any power, or natural strength of his own, but, solely, by God’s grace, he can be weaned from the love of riches, and from confidence in them, so as to be fit to enter the kingdom of heaven. Although the indulgence in other vices, lust, anger, ambition, &c., may serve as an obstacle to entering heaven; still, confiding in riches, is the vice on which our Lord dwells here, because, this is a very common vice. “From the least even to the greatest, all are given to covetousness” (Jer. 6:13); “every one is turned aside after his own gain” (Isaiah 56:11); “omnes, quæ sua sunt quærunt” (Philip. 2:21). And, although salvation is difficult of attainment for all, poor as well as rich, just as well as sinners, for “scarcely shall the just man be saved” (1 Peter 4:18); still, He refers, in a special way, to the rich, owing to the peculiar difficulties incident to riches, in regard to salvation, arising not from riches, as such—since they are given to us by God to enable us to gain heaven, by “making to ourselves friends out of the mammon of iniquity,” and, by liberality to the poor, to lay up for ourselves a good foundation, against the time to come, and “lay hold on the true life” (1 Tim 6:19)—but from the corrupt, and inordinate attachment to them, on which account, men hardly love God, or their neighbour, as they ought; and, moreover, the rich become immersed in pleasures and enjoyments, at variance with the law of God, placing all their hopes in this world.

Mat 19:25  And when they had heard this, the disciples wondered much, saying: Who then can be saved?

“The disciples wondered very much, saying”—to which St. Mark adds—“among themselves.” Although, they were themselves poor and free from the incumbrances of riches, still, they trembled for the salvation of the world, who, if they were not all rich, still had a hankering after riches; and it was their love for riches, rather than their actual possession, that made the salvation of the rich so difficult.

If, then, there be such difficulty in the way of the rich, “Who then can be saved?” since, there are but very few who do not covet riches, or, do not indulge in other vices, such as lust, ambition, &c.

Mat 19:26  And Jesus beholding, said to them: With men this is impossible: but with God all things are possible. 

In order to assuage their sorrow, our Redeemer, first, regarding them with a look of pity, and compassion (Mark 10:27), referring to the omnipotent power of God, tells them that, “with men, this is impossible; but, with God all things are possible.” In other words, left to his own unaided, weak, corrupt nature, it is as impossible for a rich man to enter heaven, as it would be for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle; but that is not impossible for him, aided by God, since God can do all things, that can be done; and, hence, He can bring a camel through a needle’s eye, by divesting him of the properties of grossness and continuous quantity, as He does in regard to the adorable body of Christ, which, in its sacramental form, is really, truly, and substantially present, in the smallest particle of the Sacred Host; which, also, after His glorious resurrection, passed through the door of the chamber, wherein the Apostles were assembled. So, in like manner, He can save the rich man; not by opening heaven to him, while continuing attached to riches, and indulging in the vices usually attendant on them; but by changing his affections, and by making him become “poor in spirit,” humble, charitable, detached in heart and soul. In these words, our Lord tempers the severity of the foregoing expressions, by teaching His disciples, that while they can do nothing of themselves towards attaining salvation, they should not measure their hopes of obtaining it by human infirmity, but by the power of God, on which, relying on His grace alone, they should repose all their hopes. In this passage, our Redeemer wishes to stimulate us to greater ardour and exertions, in attaining our salvation. Far from becoming despondent at the prospect before us, and the exceeding great difficulty of the work, we should rather strive, with greater eagerness, to attain it, and fly to the Divine benignity, for that aid, which alone can render its attainment possible for us.

It may be asked, if by the impossibility in which the rich are placed, of attaining heaven, is meant the impossibility, considering the natural powers of man, is not the same true of the poor as well, and mankind in general; since it is only by God’s grace and assistance any one can enter heaven? True. But this is, in a particular manner, applicable to the rich, owing to the peculiar obstacles to salvation, which riches cast in their way, and the still more powerful grace of God which they, in a special manner, require, in order to surmount these obstacles; so that greater, more abundant, and more efficacious graces are required for the salvation of the rich, than for that of the poor.

Mat 19:27  Then Peter answering, said to him: Behold we have left all things, and have followed thee: what therefore shall we have?

“Then Peter answering, said.” “Answering,” is frequently used to denote, entering on, or, commencing some discourse or conversation; this is its meaning here. “Behold we have left all, and followed Thee, what therefore shall we have?” Some commentators say, the cause of this interrogation was; as our Redeemer had told the young man, who consulted Him, that, in order to have a treasure in heaven, he should sell all, and give it to the poor, and then follow Himself; seeing that the Apostles left all and followed Christ, without giving it to the poor, Peter wishes to know what reward was in store for the Apostles, for having given up all, and following Christ, without, however, giving it to the poor. (Jansenius Gandav., &c.) But it is more likely, as St. Jerome and others understand the passage, that Peter, on hearing the words of our Redeemer, confident that he had complied with His counsel, relative to voluntary poverty, wishes, by this question, to gladden his fellow-Apostles, and to confirm them in their holy resolution, by the prospect of the special rewards and treasure in store for them. Nor is the silence of Peter, regarding their having sold all their possessions, and given them to the poor, any proof that they did not do so. For, it is perfectly conformable to our ideas of the virtue and perfection of the Apostles, that they did give all their effects to the poor, or to their relatives, who were poor, and in want; and this may be fairly inferred from the words of St. Peter, “Behold, we have left all things;” for, although, he does not say, we sold them, and gave them to the poor, still, it may be inferred, they did so, just as in our Redeemer’s reply, no mention is made of their “having left all,” but only of their “having followed Him,” although the former is clearly implied. What the Apostles left, was indeed trifling in itself; but, in this matter, it was the feeling of love and self-denial, with which they gave up that little, and which would influence them to give up great possessions, that God regarded. It is the heart God chiefly looks to in this matter. They are pronounced blessed, who are “poor in spirit,” whether, in reality, rich or poor, as regards the possession of wealth. They gave up, with what they possessed, the desire of possessing more. “Multum reliquit,” says St. Gregory (Hom. 5 in Evang.), “qui sibi nihil retinuit; multum reliquit, qui quantum libet parum totum deseruit.” “Totum mundum dimittit,” says St. Augustine, “qui et illud quod habet et quod habere optat, dimittit.”

“And followed Thee.” Without this, giving up riches would avail nothing, since many philosophers did so. But it is the giving up of riches, with a view of following Christ, corporally, as did the Apostles; and, spiritually, by an imitation of His virtues. This it is, that entitles us to a reward. “Secuti estis me,” says St. Jerome, “proprium est Apostolorum atque credentium.”

Mat 19:28  And Jesus said to them: Amen I say to you, that you who have followed me, in the regeneration, when the Son of man shall sit on the seat of his majesty, you also shall sit on twelve seats judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

You who have followed Me.” He does not say, you who have left all, because this being the lesser, is contained in the greater act; “who follow Me,” says St. Jerome.

“In the regeneration, when the Son of man,” &c. The words, “in the regeneration,” are to be connected with what follows. They denote, according to the most probable opinion, the final judgment and resurrection, when the body of man shall be regenerated, and shall assume a new and glorified form, as his soul was regenerated and born anew at baptism; then, there shall be “a new heaven and a new earth,” and all things made new, “ecce nova facio omnia.”

“When the Son of man shall sit,” &c. When the Sovereign Judge shall come in glory, seated on the clouds of heaven, which shall be refulgent and beaming with heavenly glory and brightness. For, we are assured, the Son of God will come to judgment, seated on the clouds of heaven (Mt 24:30; Mt 26:64; Rev 1:7). He is said to be “seated,” this being the attitude suited to one pronouncing judgment. The word also designates, the superior majesty of the Sovereign Judge (Mt 25:31).

“You also shall sit on twelve seats,” probably on bright clouds, resembling that in which the Sovereign Judge will appear, sedebitis et vos, implying, similar thrones to that of the Sovereign Judge.

“Twelve thrones,” one for each of the twelve Apostles. Our Redeemer speaks on the supposition that they shall persevere. Hence, as Judas did not persevere, the promise is not falsified in His case. Moreover, Matthias, who succeeded him in the Apostleship, succeeded also to the promise here made. Nor, is the promise confined to the twelve: those who, like the Apostles, have left all and followed Christ, shall enjoy a like privilege; but, He employs the number, twelve, because He addresses His Apostles, to whom His words were applicable, and who were at that time, twelve in number.

“Judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” “Judging,” is understood by some to mean, a judgment of condemnation by contrast, as the Jewish exorcists and the Queen of the South shall condemn the unbelieving Jews (Mt 12:40-41). Others say, this judgment shall consist in approving of the sentence of the Sovereign Judge. These, however, are improbable interpretations; for, the former mode of judgment is common to the very reprobate, who shall, by contrast, condemn others; and the latter is common to all Christians. (1 Cor. 6) Hence, the most probable meaning would seem to be, that which understands it of sitting as assessors next the throne of our Lord. Seated on refulgent thrones, they shall judge of the merits and demerits of each case, and at the instance of the Sovereign Judge, they shall pass sentence, which, by His supreme inherent authority, He shall ratify. Hence, they shall judge, not only by a sentence of approbation, which all the elect shall do, but with a certain power and authority given them by the Sovereign Judge, as the princes and chief administrators, next to Himself, in the government of His kingdom. Whether this shall be extended to others, who come after them, is not quite so clear, though by no means improbable. That it shall be granted to St. Paul, who was an Apostle, and laboured more than any other, and to St. Barnabas, seems to be generally agreed upon among commentators. In truth, by referring to twelve, He meant all the Apostles, among whom Paul and Barnabas are reckoned.

“The twelve tribes of Israel,” refers to the entire Church, the true spiritual Israel of God, who succeeds to the inheritance which was first proffered to carnal Israel. Our Redeemer’s mission had been confined to the Jewish people; and hence, in allusion to those to whom He preached, He speaks, under the figure of them, of the entire Church, or spiritual Israel, scattered all over the earth, embracing Gentiles as well as Jews—the duodecim millia signati, out of each tribe.

Some commentators understand, “the regeneration,” not only of their judging as assessors on the last day; but also of the privileges granted them, in their own lifetime, when they are appointed princes over the entire earth, “constitues vos principes super omnes terram.” (Psa. 45:17) And, after His resurrection, which is a kind of new generation of the Eternal Son of God, “ego hodie genui te,” or after the regeneration of the world in baptism, when He shall ascend into heaven, and sit at His Father’s right hand in glory, then, they, too, shall be appointed princes of the world, seated on twelve thrones, with judicial authority, to teach and judge the entire Church, signified by “the twelve tribes of Israel.”

Speaking of the twelve Apostles and twelve tribes, our Redeemer spoke in accommodation to those whom He was addressing, and among whom He was engaged. He was addressing His Apostles, who were in number “twelve,” and He lived and preached among the Jews, who were reckoned by twelve tribes. And, moreover, the faithful of the New Law succeeded the Jews in their privilege as people of God; they were ingrafted as “wild olives on Jewish trunks.”

“The twelve tribes,” &c. He does not speak of the infidels; for, they are already judged, “qui non credit, jam judicatus est,” although they shall appear at judgment to receive the sentence of condemnation due to their demerits and crimes.

Mat 19:29  And every one that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall possess life everlasting.

Some expositors are of opinion, that this is but a repetition of the preceding promise, extended to every one, as well as to the Apostles, who shall have given up all he may prize, whether “house or brethren,” &c. Others, with Origen, St. Jerome, &c., think that our Redeemer speaks of a less perfect class of men, who do not give up all, as the Apostles did, but only some of the things which men prize, whether it be “house, or brethren, or sisters,” &c. The disjunctive, or, renders this opinion the more probable. “Whosoever will give up any of these for His name’s sake,” or, as St. Mark (Mk 10:29), has it, “for His sake and for the Gospel.” The words, “for the Gospel,” are added, to show, that no one can act from the love of Christ, unless he fulfils the precepts of the Gospel. Therefore, reference is made to those who, rather than desert the service of Christ, and give up the practice of the Gospel precepts, shall deprive themselves of any of the things mentioned here. The giving up of one’s “wife,” does not imply that the marriage tie may be dissolved, or that a man may voluntarily leave his wife, without her consent; or, that a child can voluntarily leave his parents, if they require his aid. All that is conveyed is, that if they be to us a cause of deserting the Gospel, or the occasion of sin, and of the loss of our soul; then, we can, and ought, to give them up.

“Shall receive an hundred fold.” What this means is disputed. From St. Mark (Mk 10:30), “Shall receive an hundred fold now in this time;” and Luke (Lk 18:30), “Shall receive much more in this present time,” it would seem to refer to the present life. The same would appear from the contrast with “life everlasting,” which in Luke is, “and in the world to come, life everlasting.” St. Jerome (Hom. Lib. 3, c. 19) understands it, of spiritual blessings, which, in point of merit, and in comparison with temporal blessings, shall—“ut si parvo numero, centenarius numerus comparetur”—so far exceed them, as an hundred exceeds one. Against this, we have St. Mark (Mk 10:30), saying, they “shall receive an hundred times as much now in this time, houses and brethren,” &c. Hence, the words may be taken literally to signify, that those who give up all for Christ, shall receive an hundred for one; for the one house, Christian charity shall provide them with an hundred houses of the faithful; for the one field, the fields of hundreds shall minister to their support; for one father and mother, they shall receive an hundred fathers and mothers, who will show spiritual affection for them; wives, who, with chaste love, shall tend them, &c. Is not this verified literally in the case of religious souls, as seen from daily experience? “Fideli,” says St. Augustine (Ep. 89, q. 4), “totus mundus divitiarum est.” All that any one can enjoy of his possessions is what will supply his wants, and these are supplied by Christian charity. Our Lord adds this promise, to show that those who give up all for Him, need not be unduly solicitous about their temporal wants. St. Mark adds (Mk 10:30), “with persecutions,” which is understood by some to mean, you shall receive all the foregoing blessings, in the midst of persecutions, while tyrants are persecuting you—a circumstance calculated to beget wonder—or, the words may mean, in addition to the foregoing, you shall be blessed with persecutions, and accounted worthy to suffer for Christ (Philip 1:29; Acts 5:41; 2 Tim. 3:12). Probably, our Lord alluded to persecutions, lest we might think He promised temporal felicity or sensual delights. He promises, rather, interior consolation, peace of a good conscience, spiritual gifts, far more valuable than any temporal advantages whatsoever. Apostolic men have, then, the entire world for their possessions, “nihil habentes, omnia possidentes.” (1 Cor. 7)

Others, by “hundred fold,” understand God Himself, who shall be to them a father and mother, &c. (12:49) Others interpret it thus: that, should they be bereft of everything which this world values, still, God will bestow upon them an hundred times more peace, contentment, and happiness, than when they possessed the abundance of all things.

“And shall possess everlasting life;” “in the world to come” (Mark 10:30). Such a one shall receive “everlasting life” as an inheritance. No doubt, every one who shall observe God’s commandments, shall gain this. But, as it is difficult to observe the commandments without the Evangelical counsels, our Redeemer, therefore, here confines the promise of eternal life to those who observe the counsels, and implies, that it shall be granted to them, in a greater and more glorious degree.

Mat 19:30  And many that are first, shall be last: and the last shall be first.

“But many that are first shall be last,” &c. Our Redeemer appropriately connects this with the foregoing. For, having opposed Himself and His doctrine to the Pharisees and to their expositions of the Old Law, He now contrasts His reward with that received in the Old Law. In this verse, he meets a tacit objection which might arise in the minds of the Apostles against His doctrine regarding the judiciary powers and exalted pre-eminence promised them, viz.: How could it be supposed that ignorant, illiterate fishermen, could be appointed judges over the great, the learned, and wise of this world, such as the Scribes and Pharisees, and the young man who went away possessing much riches? He says, those who are reputed as of no consideration in this world, shall then be the first and most honoured; and those who seem to be great in their own estimation, “shall be last” in the kingdom of heaven. The word, “last,” might be understood, as excluding them altogether. They would not be there at all, just as He said of him, who would be called “the least in the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5:19). The words, “the last shall be first,” in a special manner apply to the Apostles, and to such as become poor and humble, like them, for Christ’s sake. He says, “many that are first,” &c., not all, because some who occupy and fill high stations here, shall also be among the first, and shall occupy the highest place in heaven; and, on the other hand, many who are of no consideration here, shall also be amongst the last in heaven, or altogether excluded from it, for their sins. Some understand the passage, of the reprobation of the Jews, the first, both as to vocation and the promise of the Messiah to be born of their race, and the other privileges specially enjoyed by them (see Rom. 9:4, &c.); and of the conversion of the Gentiles, “the last” called to the faith, with which they were favoured only after the Jews refused and rejected it, who were in turn reprobated by God for their crimes, and above all, for the murder of the Son of God. In their place, the Gentiles were substituted, who thus became first, and Jews last. This will apply, in a special manner, to the Pharisees, who, being first, both in quality of Jews, and among them reputed first, on account of their more accurate observance of the law, were rejected for their stubbornness, and the publicans and sinners preferred.


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Father Maas’ Commentary on Matthew 19:23-30

Posted by Dim Bulb on August 17, 2013

Mat 19:23  Then Jesus said to his disciples: Amen, I say to you, that a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Mat 19:24  And again I say to you: It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven. 

Then Jesus said to his disciplesNecessity of poverty. Jesus first declares the great difficulty a “rich man” has to “enter the kingdom of heaven,” since riches of themselves demand the whole attention of man, and they lead moreover to pride and the gratification of the lower passions [cf. 1 Tim. 6:9-10, 17; Chrysostom, Hilary, Augustine civ. dei, V. xii. 3]; secondly, our Lord urges his first statement by a proverbial expression which denotes the great difficulty of something [cf. Lightfoot, ad h. l.; Wünsche, p. 232; Edersheim 2. p. 342]. Similar hyperbolic proverbs we find in Prov. 17:12; Sirach22:18; Jer 13:23. The expression of our Lord cannot be explained by assuming that the Greek word rendered “camel” means a large cable rope [κάμιλον; cf. Cyril, Theophylact, Euthymius], for this meaning of the word occurs only in Suidas and a scholiast of Aristophanes [Vesp. 1030] and seems to have been invented to escape the fancied difficulty here [cf. Liddell and Scott’s Lex. sub voce; Passow, Gr. Wörterb.; Knabenbauer Schanz, Weiss]; nor can our Lord’s expression be explained by making the “eye of a needle” a low, narrow gate [cf. Alb. Thomas Aquinas, Cajetan, Lady Dulf Gordon, Letters from Egypt, London, 1865, p. 113], or a narrow mountain pass [cf. Furrer, Schenkel’s B. L. iii. p. 476]. The reasons against this explanation may be found in Keim [3:33, Anm. 4], Wetzstein [Sitzungsbericht der philos. philolog. u. histor. Klasse der Münchener Ak. 1873, pp. 581–596], Delitzsch [p. 254 f.], Titus Tobler [Das Nadelöhr, Ausland, 1877, n. 1], and Socin [Zeitschrift des d. Palæstina-Vereins, 1891, p. 34]. In Act. Petri et Andreæ [Tischendorf p. 164 f.] Peter is said to have actually made the experiment with the “eye of a needle” in presence of a doubting rich man.

Mat 19:25  And when they had heard this, the disciples wondered much, saying: Who then can be saved?
Mat 19:26  And Jesus beholding, said to them: With men this is impossible: but with God all things are possible. 

“The disciples wondered very much,” not because they considered it more difficult for a poor man to enter the kingdom than for a rich man with all his resources [cf. Meyer, Berlepsch, Schegg], for this is contradicted by the whole context; the sentiments of the disciples sprang on the one hand from their knowledge that all men were most addicted to earthly goods [cf. Augustine, Chrysostom, Jansenius, Arnoldi, Bucher, Keil, Lutter.], and on the other from the Rabbinic doctrine that poverty was worse than all the Egyptian plagues taken together, worse than any other misfortune that could befall man, that it was among the three afflictions on account of which life was not life, and among the four by reason of which the living ought to be numbered among the dead [Edersheim ii. p. 342; Wünsche, p. 231]. Under such circumstances the disciples had not much hope for the success of their Master [cf. Chrysostom, Euthymius]. “And Jesus beholding” reassures his disciples first by his benign look [Euthymius]; then comes the formal declaration “with men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible,” i. e. men of themselves are unable to work out their salvation, but the grace of God is always ready to assist them [cf. Jansenius Ezek 36:26-27; Gal. 2:20], so that even a rich man can be saved [Origen, Chrysostom]. The generalization of this saying in the early Church proves nothing against the foregoing explanation [cf. Clement; 1 Cor. xxvii. 2; Justin Apol. i. c. 18, 19; epist. ad Diogn. c. 9; Theophylact ad Autol. ii. 13; Origen contra Cels. v. 14].

Mat 19:27  Then Peter answering, said to him: Behold we have left all things, and have followed thee: what therefore shall we have?
Mat 19:28  And Jesus said to them: Amen I say to you, that you who have followed me, in the regeneration, when the Son of man shall sit on the seat of his majesty, you also shall sit on twelve seats judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 

Then Peter answeringReward of poverty. ”Answering” must be taken in the meaning we have seen several times; “Peter” speaks in agreement with Mt 16:22; Mt 17:4; Mt 18:21. “We have left all things …” is not said from fear as if their possessions had been too small to deserve much reward [cf. Euthymius, Cajetan, Jansenius], or as if they had not complied with the Master’s injunction, because they had “left all things” instead of selling them and giving the proceeds to the poor [cf. Maldonatus]; on the contrary, Peter was full of confidence, being conscious of having complied with the Master’s wishes [cf. Origen, Jerome, Gregory horn. 5 in evang.; Lapide, etc.] and, at the same time, encouraged by the preceding words of kindness [Schegg, Schanz]. “All things” left by the disciples were not merely their actual possessions, but also their families and occupations [cf. Origen, Chrysostom, Euthymius]. “What therefore shall we have” is not found in the parallel passages of the second and third gospel, since Mark and Luke do not wish to represent this apparent weakness of the apostles [cf. Schanz].
“Amen I say to you” emphasizes the following promise of Jesus; “you who have followed me” implies already that they had left their earthly possessions in order to share the labors and blessings of the Lord [cf. St Bruno, Jansenius]. This clause must not be joined with “in the regeneration” [cf. Hil. op. imp. Hil.]; for “regeneration” does not here mean “baptism” [cf. Titus 3:5.]; nor does it directly refer to the resurrection [cf. Augustine, Theophylact, Euthymius]; but rather to the second advent of the Lord [cf. Chrysostom, Jerome], which was often predicted in the Old Testament [Isa 9, Isa 30, Isa 60, Isa 65; Ezek 47, 48; cf. 2 Pet. 3:13; Rev 21:1; Rom 8:19], and the concomitant circumstances of which the Jews expected even at the first coming of the Messias [cf. Buxtorf, Wünsche, Langen, Judenthum, pp. 420 ff.; 498]. In the New Testament the event is sometimes described as a new creation [2 Pet. 3:5–13] and again as a new birth [Rom. 8:17 ff.]. “The Son of man shall sit on the seat of his majesty,” because his glory will then be manifest to all; his authority is expressed by his sitting posture. “You also shall sit” when I shall be in my glory, as you are now the coöperators in the foundation of my kingdom. “On twelve seats,” not as if “twelve” denoted all those that will follow Jesus in voluntary poverty till the end of time [cf. Tostatus, qu. 205; Lapide, Sylveira, Jansenius], nor as if “twelve” meant mere universality [cf. Augustine civ. dei, 20:5]; but “twelve” signifies the body of the apostles [1 Cor. 15:5], so that it neither includes Judas nor excludes Matthias and Paul [cf. Jer. 18:7–10; Ezek. 33:13–15, where occur such conditional promises]. “Judging” does not mean merely to point out the heavenly inheritance to the entering blessed [cf. Schegg], nor has it the meaning of 1 Cor. 6:3 or Mt. 12:41 ff., where there is question of men judging the angels and of the men of Ninive rising in judgment against the Jewish nation [cf. Chrysostom, Euthymius]; though the word rendered “judging” has in Greek also the meaning of “ruling as king” [cf. 1 Sam 8:5 f.; 2 Kings 15:5], it has this signification with a special view of the king’s judicial power, so that the apostles will be really the fellow judges of our Lord in his glory, always dependent on his will [cf. Thomas Aquinas, Cajetan, Lapide, Fabian Stapulensis, Jansenius etc.]. “The twelve tribes of Israel” are not only the members of unbelieving Israel [cf. Origen, Chrysostom, Jerome, Opus Imperfectum, Auth. Maldonado, Paschasius, Dionysius], but embrace the whole of Israel, so that Jesus describes the dignity and reward of the disciples truly indeed, but in terms easily understood by them; and since the Israelities commonly typify all Christ’s faithful [cf. Gal. 3:29; Rom. 4:12; Rom 11:17; Phil. 3:3], the disciples will be the judges of all the faithful [cf. Opus Imperfectum, Bede, Rabanus, Alb. Thomas Aquinas, Faber Stapulensis, Dionysius, Jansenius, Macd. Lapide, Arnoldi, Schegg, Fil. Knabenbauer Keil].

Mat 19:29  And every one that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall possess life everlasting. 

And every one that hath left house … for my name’s sake forms the transition from the apostles to all the faithful who for the sake of Christ’s principles and for the love of his person [cf. Mk. 10:29; Lk. 18:29] have made a sacrifice similar to that of the apostles [Chrysostom, Opus Imperfectum], or at least partially so [cf. Origen, Augustine, Maldonado, Jansenius]. Mark and Luke distinguish the reward more clearly into that of this life, “an hundredfold,” and that of the next, “life everlasting,” so that the second member is not merely an explanation of the “hundred-fold” [cf. Weiss]. “An hundred-fold” in this life means either spiritual blessings of whatever kind [cf. Jerome, Bede, Jansenius, Opus Imperfectum etc.], or even temporal advantages that will far outweigh the temporal goods abandoned [cf. Chrysostom, Euthymius, Origen, St Bruno, Jansenius, Faber Stapulensis, Lapide etc.]. The first evangelist needed not state the distinction between the temporal and eternal reward as clearly as the second and third evangelist, because he and his readers regarded the temporal felicity in the Messianic kingdom as a matter of course [cf. Schanz].

Mat 19:30  And many that are first, shall be last: and the last shall be first.

“And many that are first shall be last …” does not refer to the first and last in time [cf. Origen, Theophylact, Maldonado, Meyer, Arnoldi], but in rank and dignity [cf. Chrysostom, Euthymius, Erasmus, Maldonado, Jansenius Lucus Brugensis, etc.]; since Jesus bad spoken about the prominent rank of the apostles and the faithful who have made sacrifices for him, he now warns them, not to presume, but to consider that they may fall and become the last in the kingdom. The words should not therefore be connected with the following parable [cf. Jansenius, Calmet, Arnoldi, Schegg], nor do they directly refer to the rejection of the Jews who were first called [cf. Theophylact, Paschasius, Lam.], nor again do they answer a tacit exception of the apostles arguing that they cannot judge the Jewish dignitaries and learned scribes [Lapide]; but their meaning is exemplified by the fall of Judas and the conversion of the penitent thief [cf. Bede, Rabanus]..

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Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on Matthew 19:23-30

Posted by Dim Bulb on August 17, 2013

The following is excerpted from The Great Commentary of Cornelius a Lapide, S.J.

Mat 19:23  Then Jesus said to his disciples: Amen, I say to you, that a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Mat 19:24  And again I say to you: It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven.

The Arabic is, the entering of a camel into a needle’s eye is more easy.

And again, the Gr. πάγιν δὲ, i.e., but again. Christ, in giving this addition, as it were corrects what he has just said: “I have said that it is a difficult thing for a rich man to be saved, now I add something more, that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven.” By rich man, Remigius understands one who trusts in riches, who places all his hope in them, which is what many rich men do. More simply you may take it to mean any rich person.

You will ask, What is the meaning of camel in this passage, and how could it pass through a needle’s eye? Some, with Theophylact, understand in Greek a sailor’s cable, which is κάμηλος, a camel. Some, with the Gloss, understand a gate of Jerusalem; which, because it was very low, was called the camel, because it was necessary for him who entered through it to stoop down and bend like a camel.

But I say that the tall and hump-backed animal, which is commonly called a camel, is here meant. So the Syriac, Arabic, Origen, SS. Hilary, Jerome, Chrysostom, and others, passim. Whence note that it was a proverb among the Jews, when they wished to signify that a thing was impossible, to say, “A camel will more easily pass through a needle’s eye, than such a thing will be.” Whence the Talmudists use such a proverb even now, as Caninius testifies (in nom. Hebr. N. Test.). Similar proverbs, signifying that a thing is impossible, are the following: “More easily will a tortoise outstrip a hare.” “A wolf might take a sheep to wife first.” “A locust will bring forth an ox sooner.” “A tortoise will vanquish an eagle.” “The earth will take to itself wings.” “Rivers will run up-hill.” “More easily might you hide an elephant under your arm.” “You will fly without wings first.” “A beetle will more readily make honey.” “The sky will fall first.” “The sea will more easily produce vines.” “Words will be wanting to a woman sooner.” “More easily may you feed on wind.”

Moreover, there is an hyperbole here. That is called impossible which is exceedingly difficult. Whence, that a rich man should be saved, which Christ here says is impossible, in the verse preceding He said was difficult. As S. Jerome observes, “Not impossibility is declared, but infrequency is shown.” So too Jansen, Maldonatus, and others. Thus, in the twelfth verse, He said, He that can take it, let him take it. It means, some cannot receive, i.e., with difficulty receive the counsel of celibacy. And Jeremiah says (Jer 13:23): “If the Ethiopian can change his skin, or the leopard his spots, so too may ye do good when ye have learnt evil.” (Vulg.) And yet this might be done, though it would be difficult. So it is as impossible—that is to say, difficult—for a rich man to be saved, as it would be for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. And yet, speaking absolutely, such a thing could take place: if, for example, the camel were cut up into the minutest particles, each one of which was passed separately, though slowly and laboriously, through the needle’s eye. Or if some needle were made great and thick, that it should be like a tower or a pyramid; for then its eye would be of sufficient size for a camel to pass through it whole. Lastly, Emanuel Sa, by the eye of a needle, understands what a needle has, or what a needle does, for it is possible to make with it by degrees an immense aperture.

Again, you may take impossible here in a strict sense. For that a rich man should be saved is impossible with men: but it is possible with God, as Christ says in verse 26. That is to say, it is impossible by natural strength, but by the power of the grace given by God it is possible. Just as that a camel should pass through the eye of a needle is possible by the power of God. That this is possible with God is plain from a similar case; namely from the quantity of the body of Christ, which in the Eucharist is wholly contained in a very small Host, yea in every particle of it. For if God is able to place the whole body of Christ in a particle of a consecrated Host, He is able also to make a camel pass through the eye of a needle.

Appositely and elegantly says Francis Lucas, a rich man puffed up and swelling with his riches, on whose back great burdens of wealth are pressing is compared to a camel, and the strait gate, by which we must enter into life to the eye of a needle, that you may understand that those who abound in riches, and are swelling with pride and disdain in too great a degree to allow themselves to be reduced within those narrow bounds in which God confines His own people are meant. I have given many analogies between a camel and a rich man in Sirach 13:11.

By this similitude of a camel and a needle Christ signifies that his riches are not so much an advantage to a rich man, as an impediment to virtue, and the kingdom of heaven. Wisely therefore did He counsel the young man that he should give his wealth to the poor, and as a poor man follow Christ who was poor.

Mystically: Isaiah prophesied that camels, i.e., rich men, laying aside by the grace of Christ the hump of their pride, would enter into the Church through the eye of a needle, i.e., through the straits of humility and the evangelical law (Isa 60:6). “The company of camels shall cover thee, the dromedaries of Midian and Epha.” Hear S. Jerome, “Such was thy mother Paula of saintly memory, and thy brother, Pammachias, who through the eye of a needle, that is by the strait and narrow way which leadeth unto life, passed, and with their burdens leaving the broad way, which leads to Tartarus, carried whatever they had as the Lord’s gifts, according to the saying, “the ransom of a man are his riches,” for the things which are impossible with men are possible with God.”

Allegorically: S. Augustine (lib. 2, quæst. cap. 47), and S. Gregory (lib. 35, Moral 17), by camel understood Christ and by the needle, His Passion. Thus, it is more easy that Christ should suffer for the lovers of the world, than for lovers of the world to be converted unto Christ. Hear S. Gregory, “A camel passed through the eye of a needle when our Redeemer entered through the straitness of His Passion, even unto the enduring of death. This Passion was like a needle, because it pricked His body with pain. But more easily could a camel pass through the eye of a needle than a rich man enter into the kingdom of heaven, because unless He had first shown unto us by His Passion the pattern of humility, by no means would our proud rigidity have bowed down.”

Symbolically and Anagogically:  Auctor Imperf. (apud. S. Chrysostom Hom. 33) says, “The souls of the Gentiles are likened unto crooked camels, in which was the hump of idolatry, because the knowledge of God is the lifting up of the soul. But the needle is the Son of God, of which the first part is subtle according to the Divinity: but the rest is thicker according to the Incarnation. But the whole is straight, and hath no bending, through the wound of whose Passion the Gentiles entered into life. With this needle the garment of immortality hath been sewed. It is the very needle which has sewed the flesh to the spirit. This needle hath united the people of the Jews to the Gentiles. This needle hath brought about friendship between angels and men. It is easier then for the Gentiles to pass through the eye of the needle than for the rich Jews to enter into the kingdom of Heaven.”

Mat 19:25  And when they had heard this, the disciples wondered much, saying: Who then can be saved?

When they had heard this, &c. Because there were few, and at that time scarcely any, who did not wish to be rich. For all were gasping after lucre, even as many gasp after it now. For as S. Augustine says upon this passage, “All who desire riches are counted among the rich.”

Mat 19:26  And Jesus beholding, said to them: With men this is impossible: but with God all things are possible.

And Jesus beholding. Greek, ε̉πιβλέψας. Jesus looking upon his disciples, regarding them with a benign countenance, calmed the timidity and anxiety of their minds. So Chrysostom. With men: it is impossible to a rich man by human strength to obtain salvation, for he is entangled in his riches. And this salvation is a supernatural blessing, which we cannot obtain without similar supernatural powers of grace. But to God all things are possible, because God is the Author and the Fountain both of nature and grace and glory, and He so provides that by grace we should easily and gravely overcome all the difficulties and hindrances of nature: and, which pertains to the subject now in hand, He brings it about that rich men are not corrupted by their riches, but use them well, yea, that not a few, forsaking them, are ambitious of, and follow the evangelical poverty of Christ. Thus did all the first Christians, who had all things common. (Act_4:32.)

Mat 19:27  Then Peter answering, said to him: Behold we have left all things, and have followed thee: what therefore shall we have?

Then Peter answering. Arabic, What then is nigh, that it may be to us?

What then shall we have? namely, of reward in Heaven, and glory in life eternal? Peter following Christ’s counsel of poverty, which the young man had despised, becoming more zealous, animates the Apostles, because they were almost alone in following the counsel of poverty given by Christ. And that he might still further encourage them, he asks what, and how great reward of glory awaits himself and the other Apostles, who followed Christ in His poverty in preaching the good news of the kingdom of Heaven? Thus Peter would confirm his companions in their holy purpose.

We have left all things. Our ships and our nets, by which we gained our livelihood. And although these were poor and small things, yet, as S. Gregory says (Hom. 5, in Evang.), “he has forsaken much, who has left the desire of having. By those who followed Christ as many things were left as could be desired by those who followed him not.” For the poor in spirit, although he may be reckoned among the needy, yet in a sense is he rich, because all the things which he might have, hope for, or obtain, all his life long in the world, yea, the whole world, he forsakes for the love of Christ, that he may give up his whole heart to God. This is an heroic act of poverty, and therefore of charity and religion in which a man offers himself as a whole burnt offering to God: yea he himself becomes a living and perpetual burnt offering.

Hear S. Augustine. (In Psalm 104, Conc. 3.) “Peter left not only what he had, but what he wished to have. For what poor person is there who is not puffed up by worldly hopes? Who does not daily desire to increase his possessions? That cupidity was cut off. Peter left the whole world, and Peter received the whole world. ‘Having nothing, and yet possessing all things.'”

Mat 19:28  And Jesus said to them: Amen I say to you, that you who have followed me, in the regeneration, when the Son of man shall sit on the seat of his majesty, you also shall sit on twelve seats judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Jesus said to them, &c. In the regeneration, i.e., in baptism. For this is spiritual regeneration, in which, dying unto sin, we are born into spiritual and heavenly life. Thus S. Hilary explains, “Ye who have followed Me through the regeneration of baptism, shall sit with Me as judges of the twelve tribes of Israel.” But all other commentators, passim, understand by regeneration, the general resurrection in the Day of Judgment. For this shall be the renovation of the body, and of the whole man as well as of the universe, and, as it were, their second birth to glory. Hence it is rightly called here and elsewhere Regeneration. Whence the Syriac renders, in the new world: the Arabic, in the generation to come. For then there shall be a new heaven and a new earth. (Isaiah 65:17. Rev  21:1.  2 Peter 3:13.)

When the Son of Man shall sit, &c. on the seat of His majesty (Vulg.); of His glory (Arabic).  S. Chrysostom, Theophylact, and Euthymius understand by session, judicial power. For judges sit in order that they may adjudicate calmly and tranquilly, without perturbation or haste. This is true; but over and above this, sitting in this place signifies properly that Christ will sit in judgment, and with Him the Apostles and those like them, and that on thrones of cloud, splendid and majestic, but each according to his merit and dignity. Whence Sacred Scripture ordinarily attributes a seat and sitting to Christ in judgment. For sitting under such circumstances is common to all nations, and is the natural posture of judges. So Maldonatus. But Jansen and some others deny this, who say that the proper posture of the glorified body such as Christ has, is standing rather than sitting. But both postures are appropriate to the glorified body—viz., standing for fighting, and sitting for judgment.

You also  shall sit, &c. Richard Victor (Trad. de potest. judiciar.) and others think that these things were promised by Christ to the Apostles alone, because they were His first followers. As though He had said, “Each of you twelve shall have his throne in the judgment;” even Judas, says Chrysostom, if he persevere in his vocation. But others, with more probability, think that these promises were made also to the followers of the Apostles, such as religious, who leaving all things to preach the Gospel, come nearest to Christ and His Apostles. A definite number, then, is placed here for an indefinite one, viz., twelve for all. For Christ speaks to His twelve Apostles, but in such a manner as to address their followers. For they who have equal labour with Apostles, will deserve equal honour with them. Christ therefore promises these judicial seats to those who leave all things, and follow Him in preaching the Gospel. This is what religious do, especially such as devote themselves to win souls. Whence S. Bernard says (Serm. de Ingratitud.): We have all made profession of the Apostolic life. Hence Nazianzen (0rat. in Julian. 1) shows that it is the privilege of monks to sit on thrones.  S. Augustine (in Ps. 87) proves this. “For if there were to be twelves thrones only, Paul, the thirteenth Apostle, would have no throne; and he would not be able to judge who said, nevertheless, that he should judge not men only, but even angels. Not only, then, those twelve, and the Apostle Paul, but as many as shall judge pertain to the twelve thrones, on account of the general signification.” And S. Bernard says (Serm. de S. Benedict.): “Altogether just is the retribution that they who here for Christ’s sake have forsaken the glory of human majesty, should there be glorified by Christ and sit with Him in an especial manner as judges. But let no one think that only the twelve Apostles (for instead of Judas, who transgressed, Matthias was chosen) shall at that time be judges, for as neither are there twelve tribes only of Israel to be judged, for otherwise the tribe of Levi, which was the thirteenth, would be unjudged; and Paul—who was the thirteenth Apostle—would, perchance, be deprived of judging; whereas he says himself: ‘Know ye not that we shall judge angels?’ We must understand, therefore, that all who, after the example of the Apostles, have left all things and followed Christ, shall come as judges with Him, even as all men shall be judged: for because by the number twelve, in Scripture, totality is often understood; by the twelve thrones of the Apostles the entire number of all who judge, and by the twelve tribes of Israel the entire number of those who are to be judged is shown.”  S. Thomas demonstrates the same thing at length (Trad. cont. retrahent. a Relig. caps. 6 & 7), where he teaches that this session is promised to evangelical poverty. And he proves from hence how sublime and pleasing to God this poverty is, forasmuch as it excels other virtues, and merits this lofty judicial power.  S. Gregory gives the reason (Moral. 26, 20), when, interpreting that passage in Job 36—He hath given judgment for the poor—he says: “The more they were despised in this world through their great humility, so much the more, when they receive their thrones, do they grow in the height of power.”

Wherefore deservedly does S. Bernard, admiring this their excellency, exclaim (Serm. 8, in Ps. Qui habitat), “0 grace of friendship, 0 summit of honour, 0 privilege of confidence, 0 prerogative of perfect security! For what is so much to be feared? What is so full of anxiety and vehement solicitude as the thought of standing to be judged at that awful tribunal, and to wait for the sentence as yet doubtful, from so strict a judge?” And after a little, he says, “Happy indeed the position, which in that supreme clashing of the elements, in that tremendous examination of deserts, in that so great scrutiny of judging, can make them not secure only but glorious.” Moreover this glorious judicial session before the whole world, yea of the whole world, is promised by Christ to all those, who leaving all things, follow by means of perfect imitation, Christ who was poor, as poor, and spread His Gospel, and His kingdom.

The expression therefore, you also shall sit, implies, 1. The security of those who are poor for the Gospel’s sake. 2. The privilege of judging. 3. Dignity and eminence above others. 4. The nearest place to Christ and most perfect union with Him. 5. A principality of grace, happiness and glory, that inasmuch as they are princes of the kingdom of heaven, they should have the right of judging, and of admitting into it those who are worthy, and excluding the unworthy.

Tropologically, Auctor Imperfecti, by this session and judicial power understands that there is promised to those who leave all things and follow Christ a dominion of hearts, so that they may rule over the hearts and minds of men, and place in them the throne and kingdom of Christ where they may sit, and rule like kings, and make all things therein obedient to the law of Christ. Wherefore Apostles and Apostolic men, leaving all things, as monks and religious have done, being inflamed with the love of God, have converted the world, as Jerome Platus shows (lib. 2, de bono stat. Relig. c. 30). For says Auctor Imperfecti, “all who receive Christ into themselves by believing in and perfectly following Him, are the thrones of His majesty.” And, “whosoever shall receive the word of Peter becomes the throne of Peter, and Peter sits in him.”

Judging the twelve tribes, not only by comparison with the wicked, as SS. Jerome and Chrysostom, Euthymius, and Auctor Imperfecti explain, as the Queen of the South and the Ninevites are said to be about to condemn the Jews in the day of judgment, that is to say, by their example, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah, whereas the Jews would not repent at the preaching of Christ. Nor yet even merely by approbation of the sentence of Christ in which manner all the saints shall judge: but much more honourably and gloriously, as it were nobles and princes of the heavenly kingdom, sitting upon their own thrones as assessors with Christ, as cardinals with the pope. They shall in truth judge, and pass the same sentence as Christ by which they shall assign the just to heaven, the unjust to hell, rebuking and reproving those who despised their doctrine and the example of their holy life, and praising those who cherished and honoured both.

Twelve tribes of Israel: understand not the twelve tribes of Israel only, as some expound, but likewise all nations.

Where observe, twelve tribes are spoken of, although the tribe of Joseph, being divided into two—Ephraim and Manasseh—whom Jacob adopted as his own sons, and made them equal in the rights of succession and inheritance with them (and according to this computation the tribe of Levi would not be the twelfth but the thirteenth); yet if we look at the origin of the tribes from the Patriarchs, the sons of Jacob, there were but twelve.

Observe 2. These twelve tribes were formerly the elect and faithful people of God, yea, the Church of God, even in the time of Christ. Yea this was the kingdom of Israel promised to Messiah. Whence the nations who believed in Christ were, as it were, grafted into this Church and people of the Jews, and as it were endowed with its rights of citizenship, so that they were no longer Gentiles but Jews that is, confessing and believing, and Israelites, i.e., having power with God, as the Apostle teaches (Rom 2:29). Hence too S. John (Rev  21:13.), says that he saw the names of the twelve tribes of Israel inscribed on the gates of the heavenly Jerusalem. All Christians, therefore, of all nations are divided and distributed among the twelve tribes of Israel, in such manner that some are reckoned to belong to the tribe of Judah, others to the tribe of Joseph, others to the tribe of Levi, and so on, according to the diversity of their virtues and professions. To Judah pertain magistrates, kings and princes. To Joseph pertain virgins, the chaste and celibates. For such a one was Joseph before his elevation. To Levi, pertain priests and deacons, and religious.

Note 3. Unbelieving nations do not properly pertain to the twelve tribes of Israel, who are the faithful. Wherefore by this omission of the unbelievers it is tacitly intimated that they will not be judged in the Day of Judgment; “for he that does not believe is judged already” (John2:18). This must be understood of the judgment of a doubtful issue, for in this way only will believers be judged. For of them there can be doubt whether they will be saved or damned, which doubt will be resolved by an examination of the works of each. For in another view, the unbelieving also will appear and be judged in the Day of Judgment, and be awarded greater or less punishment in hell, according to their demerits. This is allowed by all, and is plain from Joel 3:2, and Matt 25:32.

Mat 19:29  And every one that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall possess life everlasting.

Every one that hath left house, &c. Observe that in the several clauses of this sentence the disjunctive conjunction, or, is put because Christ is not speaking now of those who have left everything to follow Him, but of those who have only left some things for His sake and the Gospel’s. So Origen, S. Jerome, Maldonatus.  S. Chrysostom is of a different opinion, and thinks that the same thing is here promised by Christ to all the faithful which a little previously He had promised to the twelve Apostles. As though He had said, All the faithful who have acted in the same way as the twelve Apostles, by forsaking all things and following Me, shall receive the same honour with them, and shall obtain one of the twelve thrones among the Apostles, and on it shall judge the twelve tribes of Israel. But the previous explanation is the best, as being required by the disjunctive conjunction, or.

That hath left house: either because he has been despoiled of his house, and been driven into exile by a tyrant; or because he has voluntarily given up his house on account of the scandals and temptations which he hath found in it; or because he hath left his house and fled to a monastery, or church, in order to give himself up entirely to the service of God. I say the same thing concerning brethren, sisters, father, mother, wife, children; for when they are unbelieving and wicked, they make it their business to draw a believer away from faith and righteousness. Wherefore, if a wife draw away her husband from faith and piety, Christ advises the husband to be divorced from her; for it is better to desert a wife than to desert Christ. But voluntarily they leave the same who from zeal for the more perfect life, flee to the cloisters. This is the meaning of for My name’s sake; i.e., for the sake of Me and My love and reverence, that they may better and more fully serve Me.

Shall receive (Gr. έκατονταπλασίονα) a hundredfold—viz., of each that instead of one house which he has left for the sake of Christ he should receive a hundred, for one brother a hundred brethren, and so on. The Syriac is, one in to a hundred, i.e., augmented a hundred per cent. Thus also the Egyptian, Arabic, Ethiopic and Persian, which generally agree among themselves, especially the Ethiopic with the Persian, and the Egyptian with the Arabic. A hundredfold here means many times more, as Luke has it. A definite number is put for an indefinite, in order that the vast magnitude of the compensation may be signified.

You will ask, what sort of a recompense is this which is promised to those who have left their possessions for Christ?  1. The Chiliasts or Millenarians by a hundredfold understand a thousand years, with which these saints after the General (communis) Resurrection shall be delighted in this world, and shall enjoy all sorts of pleasures. But this is an error which I have confuted in Rev 20. And what Mark says is repugnant to this (Mark 10:30), Receive a hundred times as much now in this time. Hear S. Jerome, “By reason of this sentence, some introduce a thousand years after the Resurrection, and say, then there shall be restored to us a hundred times as many of all the things which we have forsaken; and also eternal life. They do not perceive if in other things the recompense were becoming, it would be something shameful in the matter of wives, that he who had forsaken one wife for the Lord’s sake, should receive a hundred wives in the time to come.”

2. S. Gregory (Hom. 18 in Ezech.) says, “He shall receive a hundredfold, because God shall take care that such a one shall rejoice far more in his poverty, or his renunciation of his goods for the love of Christ, than rich men rejoice in all their riches and advantages.” And this, these who give up their possessions for Christ’s sake do in very deed experience.

3. S. Jerome, Bede, and others, take a hundredfold to apply not to temporal, but to spiritual goods, such as peace, joy, Divine consolations, and all other gifts and graces, with which God comforts them, and which He heaps upon them. These things surpass all earthly goods and joys, far more than a hundred exceeds unity. But because Mark particularly explains a hundred times as many, by adding, houses, brethren, sisters, mothers, children, and lands. Hence,

4. And more correctly, Origen, Theophylact, Euthymius, and Cassian explain the hundredfold thus, that the man who forsakes his possessions and friends for Christ’s sake, shall find that Christ will take care that he has a hundred, i.e., very many others, who will give him the love and help of brothers, wives and mothers, with far more exceeding sweetness and charity; so that it shall not seem that he has lost his own possessions, but has only laid them down, and in Christ’s providence has multiplied them with great usury. For spiritual affections are sweeter than natural ones. Wherefore he who has left one home for Christ will find a hundred and more homes of pious people open and ready to receive him with love and gladness. Priests and those who flee from their homes on account of the persecution in Japan, England and Scotland know this by experience. They find the houses of all the faithful open to receive them to hospitality, and are frequently migrating from house to house. So too a religious, who has left one house of his father for Christ finds a hundred, not houses, but colleges and monasteries, very great and fair to receive him with maternal tenderness. So also he who has left one field for Christ will find a hundred fields of the worshippers of Christ by which he may be nourished, and that without labour, or toil, whereas he would have had to cultivate his own. In like manner for one brother forsaken, there will be very many Christians who will cherish him with fraternal love, and cleave to him more sweetly with spiritual attachment. For one sister, very many maidens will chastely love him, and attend to his wants like a brother. Instead of one father, very many elders will cherish him as a son. For one mother, very many matrons will supply his necessities with maternal care. For one wife, a hundred wives of others, united to him in chaste spiritual bonds will be ready by means of themselves and others to care for him in sickness, and attend to his wants just as lovingly as though they were his own wives. Lastly, instead of a single son or a daughter, innumerable children will revere him as a father, and hang upon his sound doctrine and counsels, from whom his mind will derive greater pleasure than he could from his own children. This is what S. Augustine says from Solomon (epist. 89, quæst. 4): “The whole world is the riches of the faithful.” Cassian teaches the same thing (Collat. ult. cap. vii.). The Apostles had experience of this hundredfold, and so had the early Christians, in the fervour of the Primitive Church, concerning whom Paul says, “having nothing, and yet possessing all things.” Also Luke, Acts 4:32. “And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.” And by and by, “Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or Houses, sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold. And laid them down at the Apostles’ feet: and distribution was made to every man according as he had need.” This is experienced even now by good religious. And even if at any time it falls out otherwise, and they are in want of anything for the body, then God supplies the corporeal deficiency, and compensates for it by abundance of spiritual gifts and joys.

There was a famous example of this in the philosopher Peregrinus, who pretended to be a Christian, and as such in a time of persecu- cution offered himself to be put in prison, that he might enjoy the assistance and the money of Christians who succoured him. Nor was he mistaken in his opinion. For the Christians vied with one another in helping him, and the impostor went back to his own country laden with gold, as Lucian relates, in Peregrino.

Lastly, S. Ambrose (in Ps. cxix. lit. Cheth.), by a hundredfold, understands God Himself, and consequently the whole world, which is God’s property. For to such as leave all things for God’s sake, God is father, mother, wife, brother, sister, and all things. “Because,” says S. Ambrose, “he who has left all things begins to possess God, and He is, as it were, the perfect reward of virtues, which is reckoned not by the enumeration of a hundredfold, but by the estimation of perfect virtue.” He adduces the example of the tribe of Levi, which—because, by the Lord’s command, it had no portion of the land among the other tribes—the Lord Himself promised, and constantly confirmed it, that He would be its portion and inheritance. Whence he concludes with this golden sentence. “He who has God for his portion is the possessor of all nature. Instead of lands, he is sufficient to himself, having good fruit, which cannot perish. Instead of houses, it is enough for him that there is the habitation of God, and the temple of God, than which nothing can he more precious. For what is more precious than God? That is the portion which no earthly inheritance can equal. What is more magnificent than the celestial host? What more blessed than Divine possession?” And Cassian says: “Instead of that joy which any one had in the possession of a single field or house, he shall enjoy a hundredfold more the delight of riches, who passing into the adoption of the sons of God, shall possess as his own all things which belong to the Eternal Father, and in effect and virtue (following the example of His True Son) shall proclaim, ‘All things that the Father hath are Mine;’ and now no more with any penal care of distraction or anxiety, but secure and joyful he cometh, as it were, everywhere to his own, hearing daily what the Apostle preaches—’All things are yours, whether things present, or things to come.'” This, therefore, is the congruous and condign reward of poverty—that having nothing, nothing should be wanting to it, but that it should possess all things.  S. Francis experienced this, and exhorted his brethren to it. “Dearest sons,” he said, “great and unspeakable are the kindnesses of our God toward us, who thus turns the hearts of the faithful towards us His humble and worthless servants. From what we have received we daily hope for what we are to receive. Cast, therefore, your care upon the Lord, and He will nourish you on this mountain (Alvernia), Who sustained Elias in the wilderness, Antony and Paul in the desert. Know this of a surety, that there is no more secure refuge for the relief of our necessities than to have nothing. For if we be truly and evangelically poor, the world will have compassion upon us, and feed us abundantly. But if we are false to poverty, the world will forsake us; and if we ward off indigence by unlawful means, we shall endure worse penury.” (So Wadding, in Annal. Minorum, A.C. 1212, num. 14.) Mark adds, that this hundredfold will be given with persecutions (Mark 10:30). How this is I have there explained.

Tropologically: Cassian, in the place already cited, asserts that the joy of the converted in virtue is a hundred times as great as it was before in cupidity and vice; and he says, “If instead of the perturbation of anger and fury, you weigh the perpetual calmness of the mind; for the torment of anxiety and distraction, the quiet of security; for the fruitless and penal sadness of this world, the fruit of sorrow unto salvation; for the vanity of worldly joy, the richness of spiritual delight; you will perceive that the recompense of such an exchange is a hundredfold.”

Anagogically:  S. Anthony, as S. Athanasius testifies in his Life, understands by hundredfold the kingdom of Heaven, in which there are a hundred times more good things than there are on earth. “He who hath left,” he said, “the dominion of the whole world shall receive a hundredfold better rewards in the kingdom above.” Instead of transitory things, those which are steadfast shall be given him; for worthless, things excellent, great things instead of small; heavenly for earthly; divine for human; things eternal for those of a moment.

And shall posses, &c. Syriac, shall possess in inheritance. Arabic, shall become the heir of eternal life. This is the most ample inheritance, in which the blessed are heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ. Therefore they shall possess not only earth and Heaven, and all things which in them are, but even God Himself; and every honour, all riches, all glory, all sweetness, all delights, all joys, and in short, all good things in God; and that, not as having the mere usufruct (the legal right to enjoy and use the fruits and labors of another), but as heirs and masters, with perpetual inheritance, to endure for ever, so long as God shall be God. All this is involved and signified in the expression, eternal life. Moreover all who keep the commandments of God shall inherit this eternal life, as Christ hath said, ver. 17 (Mat 19:17). They however shall possess it in a more full and glorious degree, who have united counsels to precepts. Whence in this place Christ promises and assigns it to such only. By this manner of speaking He tacitly intimates that it is a difficult thing to attain eternal life by the observance of precepts only, without keeping the counsels. For the one is hard without the other. It is difficult to keep all the commands of God, unless the counsels, especially that of poverty, be observed. For, as Christ says (ver. 23), it is difficult, and as it were impossible, for a rich man to be saved.

Mat 19:30  And many that are first, shall be last: and the last shall be first.

But many that are first, &c. Observe how appositely Christ subjoins these words to what He had previously said. For He Himself has through almost the whole of this chapter, opposed Himself and His grace and the counsels of the Gospels, to the Pharisees and the Old Law. Whence He here, by consequence, opposes its reward to His reward, as will be plain in the next chapter. But He has especial reference to what He had spoken immediately before concerning the twelve judicial thrones; concerning the hundredfold; concerning the life eternal. And He appears to answer a tacit objection of the Apostles. For they might have said within themselves, “How shall this be, that we who are vile, poor, ignorant, ignoble, should sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel, when there are in them very many men eminent in dignity, wealth, learning, fame, authority, such as the Scribes and Pharisees, and that young ruler, who was also a keeper of the Law?” Christ meets this objection, and declares that they indeed are eminent, and the first in this world, but that in Heaven and the life eternal they will be the last. That is, they would find no place there, they will be rejected and excluded from it. He used a like mode of expression (v. 19), “Whoso shall break one of these least commandments, shall be called the least, i.e., not at all in the kingdom of Heaven.” And the last are called here the most remote from the kingdom of Heaven, as is plain from Luke 13:30. This was because they despised Christ as being a poor man. But the Apostles, and others like them, who left all to follow Christ, who seemed in this world the poorest and the least of men, were to be the first in the life eternal, forasmuch as they were most dear to Christ, the King of Heaven, and most like Him in life and character, especially in poverty and zeal in preaching. So S. Jerome, Bede, S. Thomas, and others; also Victor Antioch (in cap. x. Marci.). Now He saith many not all, because there are some first here, who shall be first also in Heaven, such as holy kings, princes, doctors, bishops, pontiffs, who although they abound in wealth, yet are poor in spirit. And in turn there are some who are last here who shall be also last in Heaven, such as paupers and beggars, who give themselves up to theft and rapine in order to supply their wants, and that they may become rich and opulent.

On the whole, by this saying Christ signifies that the rich, and those who pant after earthly good, shall be shut out of Heaven; but the poor who covet heavenly things shall be the first there. He refers to what He said to the rich young man (ver. 21, Matt 19:21): If thou will be perfect, go and sell what thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shall have treasure in Heaven. Also to Peter’s words: Lo, we have left all and followed thee; what shall we have therefore? Thus Christ in Heaven is the first, Who on earth was the last, according to the words in Isaiah 53: “We saw Him, and there was no comeliness; we desired Him, Who was despised and the last of men.” (Vulg.) See what is there said. Next to Christ is the Blessed Virgin, who, after Christ, was the last among men. The Apostles follow, of whom Paul spake (1 Cor 4:9, 1 Cor 4:13): “For I think that God hath set forth us the Apostles last, as it were appointed to death; for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men. . . . Being defamed, we intreat; we are made as the filth of the earth, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day.” Thus concerning S. Martin the Church sings: “Martin is received with joy into Abraham’s bosom. Martin, the poor and lowly, enters Heaven rich. He is honoured with celestial hymns.” There was seen in Heaven by a certain holy man a lofty and glorious throne, and as he was wondering for whom it was designed, he heard the words, “This seat is kept for the lowly Francis.”

Lastly, many Fathers and scholastic Doctors—whom I will cite on the first verse of the following chapter—take the words first and last as applying strictly and literally to eternal life. In this manner: Rich men who here below have led an honest but comfortable life, keeping only the precepts of God, in Heaven shall be the last; but the poor men, who to the precepts have added evangelical counsels, and in poverty have followed Christ in preaching the Gospel, shall be the first in Heaven. I have said more about this in the following chapter. The meaning will be more ample with a more complete application to all that is said in the parable which follows, if you take last in both ways—viz., as signifying those who are to be excluded from Heaven, as well as those who are last in Heaven. For the Apostles, who as first shall judge the twelve tribes of Israel, as it were the last, shall award to many of them, as being just, the kingdom of Heaven, and to many as being unjust, hell. Moreover this sentence, many that are first shall be last, and the last first, Christ explains by the subsequent parable of the labourers. This sentence is, as it were, the pro-parable, i.e., the title and argument of that parable, to which is annexed the post-parable, as it were the scope and application of the parable (Matt 20:16). Thus the last shall be first, and the first last; for many are called, but few chosen. Whence it is plain that the post-parable exactly corresponds to the pro-parable, indeed that it is one and the same thing with it. The first therefore are called the chosen, or the elect: but the called only, not the elect, are called the last.

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Father Maas’ Commentary on Matthew 19:16-22

Posted by Dim Bulb on August 17, 2013

A Note About The Scripture Links: The links are automatically generated and by clicking them on you are taken to the text of the Lexham English Bible, a well regarded  Protestant translation. Once on that site you can view the passage in a number of different translations, including the Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (RSVCE), the Douay-Rheims (D-R), and the Clementine Vulgate.

Mat 19:16  And behold one came and said to him: Good master, what good shall I do that I may have life everlasting?

And, behold, one came. 4. Christian poverty, Mt 19:16–30. Here we have first the incident of the young man, Mt 19:16–22; secondly, Christ instructs the disciples about the necessity of poverty, Mt 19:23–26; thirdly, the reward of poverty is described, Mt 19:27–30.

The rich young man. “Behold, one,” according to Lk. 18:18 “a ruler” and therefore either the prefect of a synagogue or a member of the Sanhedrin; he must have been of the former condition on account of his youth [verse 20]. He “came” or, according to the second gospel [Mk. 10:17], ran to our Lord and knelt before him. “Good Master …” is not a question put through mere legal pride and a vain desire of excelling in the Messianic kingdom [cf. Hilary, opus Imperfectum, Paschasius], nor is it asked in order to tempt our Lord [cf. Hilary, Jerome, Ambrose, in Luc. op. imp. Bede, Rabanus], but in all sincerity of heart [Chrysostom, Theophylact, Euthymius, Maldonado etc.]. The former views are excluded by the reverence of the young man [Mk. 10:17], by the silence of the gospels about his bad will [cf. Mt. 16:1; Mt 19:3; Mt 22:35; Mk. 8:11; Mk 10:2; Lk. 10:25; Lk 11:16], by our Lord’s love for the young man [Mk. 10:21], by his question concerning his further needs [Mt 19:20], and by his sadness on departing [Mt 19:22]. The Rabbis appear to have much discussed the question what particular good works would bring one surely to life eternal [cf. Lightfoot, Schöttg. Wünsche], so that the question is almost equivalent to a Christian youth’s inquiry concerning his state of life [cf. Schegg, Schanz].

Mat 19:17  Who said to him: Why askest thou me concerning good? One is good, God. But if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.
Mat 19:18  He said to him: Which? And Jesus said: Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness.
Mat 19:19  Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.
Mat 19:20  The young man saith to him: All these have I kept from my youth, what is yet wanting to me?
Mat 19:21  Jesus saith to him: If thou wilt be perfect, go sell what thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.
Mat 19:22  And when the young man had heard this word, he went away sad: for he had great possessions.

“Why askest thou me concerning good?”—or as several codd. read, “why callest thou me good?” in accordance with Mk. 10:17 and Lk. 18:18 as well as with our Lord’s words “one is good”—taken with the following statement, “one is good, God,” is by some writers regarded as an allusion to our Lord’s divinity. The argument may be expressed thus: God alone is good; but thou callest me good; therefore thou must acknowledge me as God. At any rate, the words contain a general principle of morality, representing God alone as essentially, efficiently, exemplarily, and finally, the greatest good [cf. Alb. Fabian Stapulensis]. Next, this general principle is expressed in more particular terms: “keep the commandments.” “If thou wilt” indicates that the young man had his free choice, and therefore a free will. “Which” shows that the young man thought our Lord referred to certain particular commandments. Our Lord in answer refers to the decalogue by citing five of its commandments concerning the substance of our good works [cf. Ex. 20:12–16], and adding a sixth concerning their form [Lev. 19:18; Rom. 13:9; cf. Alb. Thomas Aquinas]. Jesus cites from the second table not merely because it implies the observance of the first [cf. Tostatus in c. xix. qu. 124; Sylveira], but because we cannot expect to love God the invisible more easily than man whom we see [cf. 1 Jn. 4:20]. The love of our neighbor inculcated in Mt 19:19 implies perfection indeed, but not the perfection of the evangelical counsels advised in Mt 19:21, so that the words “thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” are not an interpolation from 22:39 [cf. Origen, Paschasisu Weiss].

“Young man” is not a mere inference from the clause “from my youth” [א B L Ir. Cyprian, Jerome, Lachm. Tisch. omit the last clause, so that Schanz regards it as an interpolation from Mk. and Lk.], nor from the preceding precept “honor thy father and thy mother”; for if this were the case, the evangelist would have used it in Mt 19:16, too. “All these have I kept from my youth” is not a falsehood [cf. Jerome, Opus Imperfectum, Bede, Rabanus, Fabian Stapulensis]; for if it were, Jesus would not have loved the speaker [cf. Mk. 10:21; Alb.], nor could the young ruler have asked, “what is yet wanting to me?” There are according to the words of Christ two goals that can be reached: “if thou wilt enter into life” [verse17], and “if thou wilt be perfect” [verse 21]; hence there must also be two ways: “keep the commandments” [verse 17], and “sell what thou hast” [verse 21]; and there are two rewards promised: “enter into life” [verse 17], and “thou shalt have a treasure in heaven” [verse 21]. These differences show first that the selling one’s property and the following of Jesus is not merely identical with the love of the neighbor enjoined in Christ’s first answer [cf. Keil]; nor is it merely a trial of the young man, necessary in his particular case [cf. Meyer, Weiss, Keil, Edersheim ii. 341]. If the sale of one’s property were identical with the perfect observance of the commandments, all would be bound to rid themselves of their earthly goods; again, if it had been necessary for the young man in particular, Christ’s first answer would have been false, the differences of the two answers would be unreasonable, and it would still follow that in the kingdom of Christ there are persons who, on account of their peculiar disposition, must sell all, give it to the poor, and follow Christ. In other words, in the kingdom of Christ there must be devout persons whom our Lord characterizes as wishing “to be perfect,” who must sell what they have, and give it to the poor; who consequently must abstain from marriage, since they cannot provide for their offspring; who must follow Jesus either spiritually by perfect obedience to his representatives [cf. Origen, Jerome, Chrysostom, Bede, Euthymius, Maldonado], or even bodily by embracing an apostolic life as the ruler was called upon to do. “The young man … went away sad,” for having “great possessions,” his love of wealth was greater than his wish to be perfect; he preferred the “great possessions” to the “treasure in heaven.”

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