The Divine Lamp

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Archive for April 2nd, 2016

A Commentary on John 6:16-21

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 2, 2016

The following is excerpted from a Protestant word, THE PULPIT COMMENTARY.

Joh_6:16, Joh_6:17 Now when it became evening. This must have been the “second evening;” for the miracle itself was said to he wrought when the day began to decline (Mat_14:15; Luk_9:12). The first evening (ὀψία) lasted from three to six p.m., the “second evening” stretched from sundown to darkness (σκοτία). The night was drawing on. His disciples went down from the higher ground or grassy slopes to the sea (ἐπὶ τὴν θάλασσαν), and having embarked in a ship, they were making for the other side of the sea to Capernaum; or as Mark (Mar_6:45) says, “towards Bethsaida.” This occasions no difficulty to those who remember that there were two Bethsaidas—one, “Bethsaida Julias,” on the northeastern end of the lake; and the other near to Capernaum, called “Bethsaida of Galilee.”” The two towns were so near that the latter Bethsaida might reasonably he regarded as the port of Capernaum.

Joh_6:17, Joh_6:18 And darkness had already come on, and Jesus had not yet come to them. This thrilling touch in John’s narrative makes it more than evident that the beloved disciple was on board. He had been expecting the Master to make his appearance in some form. He had looked long and eagerly to that point on the mountainside whither he knew that Jesus had retired. The dreary and disappointed expectation, the long and weary waiting, left an indelible impression. Their natural course towards Capernaum would have been almost parallel with the shore of the lake; but it was dark and tempestuous, they could not steer. And the sea was being roused from its slumber by reason of a high wind which was blowing. If the wind came from the north, it would drift them out into the darkness and the middle of the lake, which is there, at its widest, about five miles broad, i.e. forty stadia, or furlongs. The statement of the next verse comes then into undesigned coincidence with Mar_6:47, which shows that they were “in the midst of the sea,” i.e. halfway from shore to shore. This would exactly correspond with the following statement.

Joh_6:19 When they had rowed about twenty-five or thirty stadia; or, furlongs. When they had rowed with a northwest wind, one “contrary to them,” about three miles and a half, they would be in the midst of the broadest portion of the lake, and exposed to the force of those gales which often sweep down with astonishing fury upon lakes similarly guarded on all sides by high hills. While the wind was tossing the little lake into angry waves, it was not silent on the mountain side or summit, and Jesus “saw them toiling in rowing.” He loved them to the uttermost. Now, Jesus never went out of his way to work a miracle, but he never went out of his way to avoid one. It seems as natural to him to make his will the cause of events as to submit to the arbitrament of circumstances. The miracle, however, was always for the benefit of others, not for his own advantage and comfort. They beheld Jesus walking on the sea, and drawing near to the ship. Paulus, Gfrorer, and Baumgarten-Crusius suppose that Jesus was walking “along the shore”, and that they had miscalculated their distance, and that there was no manifestation of special power on the occasion, nothing less than one of the most ordinary of all coincidences. The three narrators, each in his own manner, convey a profoundly different impression. The discovery of their Lord thus in near proximity would not have made them “cry out for fear,” and say, “It is a phantasm,” an apparition, a herald of immediate destruction. The loud cry (ἀνέκραξαν) is the especial note of Mark. John simply says, They were affrighted (ἐφοβήθησαν). They might have eagerly longed for his presence, remembering his recent display of power when “the winds and sea obeyed him.” But when the deliverance came, the manner of it was unexpected, and the symbolism ineffably sublime. They could not have been ignorant of the Psalms which spoke of Jehovah walking on the sea, and mightier than its waves (see also Job_9:8, “He alone spreadeth out the heavens, and treadeth on the heights of the sea”). This visible nearness to them of the mighty power of God is enough to have startled them into cries of fear; but it is quite incompatible with the rationalistic interpretation of the event. Matthew and Mark both relate that the Lord came to them at or about the fourth watch (i.e. between three and six a.m.), when the first gleams of light were breaking over the eastern hills. Consequently, their peril had been prolonged and perplexing. The whole of the narrative lends itself to symbol, and suggests the impressive analogy of the calamities to which the ship of God’s Church has been exposed in its long history. Often has the Church been chastised for its secular tastes and worldly passions, buffeted with the storms of the world and tormented by the waves; but in the direst extremity it has seen the deliverer approach, and at first cried out for fear, trembling at his nearness. Individual believers have often seen, in this picture of the storm and the Saviour, an image  of the sore travail and victory of their faith. The disposition on the part of numerous expositors to press these analogies has strengthened the hands of the critical and rationalistic expositors. We can grant that the idea which is so fertile is more important than the narrative per se, but apart from the historic fact itself, who can say that the idea would ever have dawned on human minds? We make no further attempt to think out the modus operandi of the miracle, nor can we with that view accept the docetic conception of the body of Christ, which some have attributed most unfairly to John’s Gospel. It is enough that the will of Christ thus faced the forces of nature, and prophesied the ultimate victory which the will of glorified humanity will likewise win. The great ἔργα of Christ include his power over nature, in its physical elements and forces, in the regions of both animal and vegetable life, over human nature, diseased, crippled, devil ridden, and dead. The highest realm over which he reigned was his own Divine-human Person, as recorded:

(1) in this event,
(2) in his transfiguration,
(3) in his resurrection and ascension.

Joh_6:20 But he saith to them, It is I (literally, I am); be not afraid. These Divine words, in a voice which reminded them of his entire personality, of all his previous beneficence, of all his knowledge of their weakness and fear, are sacredly symbolic. The Church has ever since regarded them as veritably sacramental. In the darkest hour of men and Churches, in the throes of persecution in the furnace of temptation, on a million death-beds, the same voice has been heard. tits Divine Personality, his infinite power and perfect sympathy, the conviction of his specialized regard and veritable nearness (as we count nearness), have scattered doubt and fear.

Joh_6:21 Then they were willing to receive him into the ship: and straightway the ship was at the land whither they were going. Some expositors, who find discrepancy between this statement and that of the synoptists, say, “they were willing, but did not do it,” because the vessel is said by some remarkable process to have been miraculously propelled to the shore (so Lucke, Meyer). There are many passages, however, where a similar expression is used, and where no doubt arises that that which the actors were willing to do they actually did. Chrysostom felt this difficulty, and actually proposed to read ἦλθον instead of ἤθελον, which would remove the difficulty; and א veritably contains this reading, but it has every appearance of an unauthorized correction. The imperfect tense implies a lengthened willingness supervening on fear and outcry—a willingness or wish increased by the sound of his voice, following his first action, his apparent resolve to pass by them; and, still more, by the incident described in Matthew’s Gospel, of Peter’s desire to display the strength of his faith and the eminence of his position among the twelve. This occupied time, during which the wind may have been bearing them briskly in their true direction. They willed, wished, to take him into the ship, and did so, and the calm supervened as described in Matthew and Mark. Their wish is not frustrated by the fact now mentioned, but accompanied by it. “Straightway,” etc. Most expositors confess this to be an additional miracle, that the twenty furlongs or thereabouts (two miles and a half) were suddenly traversed and miraculously abolished. There would be a greater miracle in this than in the two events which preceded. The annihilation of space and time is the obliteration of the very categories of thought, and would, if conveyed by the statement, suggest a stupendous and, so far as we can see, a useless portent. It would strongly tempt us to accept the rationalistic interpretation. Εὐθέως does not always mean “instantaneously,” but simply that the next thing to notice or observe was the fact described. Take Mar_1:21, Mar_1:29. It does not mean that any miraculous rapidity characterized the movement of Christ to the house of Simon and Andrew (Mar_4:17; Gal_1:16; 3Jn_1:14; Joh_13:32; and many other passages). The author of the “Christian Year” has consecrated in sweet lines the supposed addition to the miracle—

“Thou Framer of the light and dark,
Steer through the tempest thine own ark;
Amid the howling wintry sea,
We are in port, if we have thee.”

But there are so many ways in which this “straightway” may be reconciled with an ordinary disembarkation, that there is no necessity to regard it as implied in John’s narrative. John so often leaves gaps unfilled in his chronology and horology that no peat emphasis need be laid upon the annihilation (save in his adoring thought) of the hour before the dawn.

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Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on John 6:15-21

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 2, 2016

Ver 15. When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone.16. And when even was now come, his disciples went down to the sea,17. And entered into a ship, and went over the sea toward Capernaum. And it was now dark, and Jesus was not come to them.18. And the sea arose by reason of a great wind that blew.19. So when they had rowed about five and twenty or thirty furlongs, they see Jesus walking on the sea, and drawing nigh to the ship: and they were afraid.20. But he said to them, It is I; be not afraid.21. Then they willingly received him into the ship: and immediately the ship was at the land whither they went

BEDE. The multitude concluding, from so great a miracle, that He was merciful and powerful, wished to make Him a king. For men like having a merciful king to rule over them, and a powerful one to protect them. Our Lord knowing this, retired to the mountain: When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take Him by force to make Him a king, He departed again into a mountain Himself alone. From this we gather, that our Lord went down from the mountain before, where He was sitting with His disciples, when He saw the multitude coming, and had fed them on the plain below. For how could He go up to the mountain again, unless He had come down from it.

AUG. This is not at all inconsistent with what we read, that He went up into a mountain apart to pray: the object of escape being quite compatible with that of prayer. Indeed our Lord teaches us here, that whenever escape is necessary, there is great necessity for prayer.

AUG. Yet He who feared to be made a king, was a king; not made king by men, (for He ever reigns with the Father, in that He is the Son of God,) but making men kings: which kingdom of His the Prophets had foretold. Christ by being made man, made the believers in Him Christians, i.e. members of His kingdom, incorporated and purchased by His Word. And this kingdom will be made manifest, after the judgment; when the brightness of His saints shall be revealed. The disciples however, and the multitude who believed in Him thought that He had come to reign now; and so would have taken Him by force, to make Him a king, wishing to anticipate His time, which He kept secret.

CHRYS. See what the belly can do. They care no more for the violation of the Sabbath; all their zeal for God is fled, now that their bellies are filled: Christ has become a Prophet, and they wish to enthrone Him as king. But Christ makes His escape; to teach us to despise the dignities of the world. He dismisses His disciples, and goes up into the mountain. – These, when their Master had left them went down in the evening to the sea; as we read; And when even was now come, His disciples went down to the sea. They waited till evening, thinking He would come to them; and then, as He did not come, delayed no longer searching for Him, but in the ardor of love, entered into a ship, and went over the sea toward Capernaum. They went to Capernaum thinking they should find Him there.

AUG. The Evangelist now returns to explain why they went, and relate what happened to them while they were crossing the lake: And it was dark, he says, and Jesus was not come to them.

CHRYS. The mention of the time is not accidental, but meant to show the strength of their love. They did not make excuses, and say, It is evening now, and night is coming on, but in the warmth of their love went into the ship. And now many things alarm them: the time, And it was now dark; and the weather, as we read next, And the sea arose by reason of a great wind that blew; their distance from land, So when they had rowed about five and twenty or thirty furlongs.

BEDE. The way of speaking we use, when we are in doubt; about five and twenty, we say, or thirty.

CHRYS. And at last He appears quite unexpectedly: They see Jesus walking upon the sea, drawing nigh. He reappears after His retirement, teaching them what it is to be forsaken, and stirring them to greater love; His reappearance manifesting His power. They were disturbed, were afraid, it is said. Our Lord comforts them: But He said to them, It is I, be not afraid.

BEDE. He does not say, I am Jesus, but only I am. He trusts to their easily recognizing a c voice, which was so familiar to them, or, as is more probable, He shows that He was the same who said to Moses, I am that I am.

CHRYS. He appeared to them in this way, to show His power; for He immediately calmed the tempest: Then they wished to receive Him into tile ship; and immediately the ship was at the land, whither they went. So great was the calm, He did not even enter the ship, in order to work a greater miracle, and to show his Divinity more clearly.

THEOPHYL. Observe the three miracles here; the first, His walking on the sea; the second, His stilling the waves; the third, His putting them immediately on shore, which they were some distance off, when our Lord appeared.

CHRYS Jesus does not show Himself to the crowd walking on the sea, such a miracle being too much for them to hear. Nor even to the disciples did He show Himself long, but disappeared immediately.

AUG. Mark’s account does not contradict this. He says indeed that our Lord told the disciples first to enter the ship, and go before Him over the sea, while He dismissed the crowds, and that when the crowd was dismissed, He went up alone into the mountain to pray: while John places His going up alone in the mountain first, and then says, And when even was now come, His disciples went down to the sea. But it is easy to see that John relates that as done afterwards by the disciples, which our Lord had ordered before His departure to the mountain.

CHRYS. Or take another explanation. This miracle seems to me to be a different one, from the one given in Matthew: for there they do not receive Him into the ship immediately, whereas here they do: and there the storm lasts for some time, whereas here as soon as He speaks, there is a calm. He often repeats the same miracle in order to impress it on men’s minds.

AUG. There is a mystical meaning in our Lord’s feeding the multitude, and ascending the mountain: for thus was it prophesied of Him, So shall the congregation of the people come about You: for their sake therefore lift up Yourself again: i.e. that the congregation of the people may come about You, lift up Yourself again. But why is it fled; for they could not have detained Him against His wild? This fleeing has a meaning; viz. that His flight is above our comprehension; just as, when you do not understand a thing, you see, It escapes me. He fled alone to the mountain, because He is ascended from above all heavens. But on His ascension aloft a storm came upon the disciples in the ship, i.e. the Church, and it became dark, the light, i.e. Jesus, having gone. As the end of the world draws nigh, error increases, iniquity abounds. Light again is love, according to John, He that hates his brother is in darkness. The waves and storms and winds then that agitate the ship, are the clamors of the evil speaking, and love waxing cold. Nevertheless the wind, and storm, and waves, and darkness were not able to stop, and sink the vessel; For be that endures to the end, the same shall be saved. As the number five has reference to the Law, the books of Moses being five, the number five and twenty, being made up of five pieces, has the same meaning. And this law was imperfect, before the Gospel came. Now the number of perfection is six, so therefore five is multiplied by six, which makes thirty: i.e. the law is fulfilled by the Gospel. To those then who fulfill the law Jesus comes treading on the waves, i.e. trampling under foot all the swellings of the world, all the loftiness of men: and yet such tribulations remain, that even they who believe on Jesus, fear lest they should be lost.

THEOPHYL. When either men or devils try to terrify us, let us hear Christ saying, It is I, be not afraid, i.e. I am ever near you, God unchangeable, immovable; let not any false fears destroy your faith in Me. Observe too our Lord did not come when the danger was beginning, but when it was ending. He suffers us to remain in the midst of dangers and tribulations, that we may be proved thereby, and flee for succor to Him Who is able to give us deliverance when we least expect it. When man’s understanding can no longer help him, then the Divine deliverance comes. If we are willing also to receive Christ into the ship, i.e. to live in our hearts, we shall find ourselves immediately in the place, where we wish to be, i.e. heaven.

BEDE. This ship, however, does not carry an idle crew; they are all stout rowers; i.e. in the Church not the idle and effeminate, but the strenuous and persevering in good works, attain to the harbor of everlasting salvation.

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on John 6:16-21

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 2, 2016

16 And when evening was come, his disciples went down to the sea.
17 And when they had gone up into a ship, they went over the sea to Capharnaum. And it was now dark: and Jesus was not come unto them.

They went over the sea to Capharnaum,” that is, they directed their course to Capharnaum. They intended going there and making for it. In St. Mark (6:45) it is said, they were ordered by Him, while dismissing the crowds, to make for Bethsaida, which is near Capharnaum. Possibly, the tempest drove them past Bethsaida; and they, then, made for Capharnaum.

For verses 18-21 Fr. MacEvilly sends us to his commentary on Matthew 14:24-33 which I’ve reproduced below.

18 And the sea arose, by reason of a great wind that blew.

Notes on Mt 14:24~The darkness and adverse winds, together with the absence of our Lord, added to their danger, and heightened their terrors. This is more clearly expressed (John 6:17). This storm was purposely caused by our Divine Redeemer, in order to try their faith and confidence in Him during His absence.

19 When they had rowed therefore about five and twenty or thirty furlongs, they see Jesus walking upon the sea and drawing nigh to the ship. And they were afraid.
20 But he saith to them: It is I. Be not afraid.

Notes on Mt 14:25-27~About five and twenty or thirty furlongs.” Roughly about 3 to 4 miles. According to Matthew the time wasin the fourth watch of the night,” or, about three o’clock in the morning, “He came to them,” &c. Formerly, the Jews divided the night, in their military arrangements, into three watches, of four hours each. The first was called the beginning of the watch (Jeremias Lament 2:19). The second, the middle watch, at which those who were on guard, in the first watch, were relieved and succeeded by others (Judg. 7:19). The third, and last watch, was called, the morning watch (Exod. 14:24). St. Luke refers to this (12:38). But the Romans divided the nights into four watches, dividing the night, from sunset to sunrise, according to the season of the year, into four equal parts. The hours were, of course, according to this arrangement, shorter, or longer, according to the season of the year. At the Equinoxes, the first watch was from six in the evening till nine; the second from nine till twelve; the third from twelve till three in the morning, and the fourth from three till six, or sunrise. In the time of our Lord, the Jews had adopted this Roman division of time into four watches. The Apostles were tossed about by the tempest during the entire night. By walking on the sea, our Redeemer showed, in a remarkable way, His Divine power. It is specially said of God, in the Book of Job (9:8–10), “Who alone spreadeth out the heavens and walketh upon the waves of the sea,” making this one of His Divine qualities or attributes. “Walking upon the sea.” “Upon.” (επι), is used with a verb of motion.

Unable, owing to the darkness, to distinguish the object they saw walking on the waters, and to recognise our Divine Lord, the Apostles were affrighted, taking Him for a spectre, or, as Matthew has it, anapparition.” It was the common belief among the Jews, which was also in accordance with Scripture, and asserted by the Pharisees, who maintained the existence of spirits, that these spirits sometimes appeared, clad in human form. Night was commonly believed to be the time for evil spirits, known to injure man, to make their appearance. Hence, the affright of the Apostles, who imagined the apparition, which now presented itself, to be ominous of coming shipwreck.

And they cried out for fear.” This loud and confused cry indicated their excessive fear. John makes no mention of this.

When their fears reached the highest pitch, our Redeemer, at once, allays them, saying: “Be of good heart,” (in John, “do not be afraid”) in a tone of voice, which at once assured them, and convinced them of His Divine presence. “Be of good heart,” give up all fears. “It is I,” from whom you have nothing to fear, who heretofore rescued you from so many perils. These words, “It is I,” are allusive to the description the Almighty gave of Himself, in addressing Moses, “SUM QUI SUM.” (Exod. 3)

21 They were willing therefore to take him into the ship. And presently the ship was at the land to which they were going.

Notes on Mt 14:32-33~“And when they were come up into the boat,” &c. St. John (6:21), says, “they were willing, therefore, to take him into the ship, and presently the ship was at the land, to which they were going.”

This is not opposed to the account given here by St. Matthew. The Apostles were desirous of taking our Redeemer into the ship, as St. John states, and our Redeemer, as St. Matthew tells us here, gratifying their desires, did actually enter the ship.

They were willing to take Him.” (John 6:21), εθελον λαβειν, is an idiomatic phrase for, εθελοντως ελαβον—“they willingly received Him.” (Bloomfield). A twofold miracle followed, the storm at once abated, and the ship at once reached land. So there were five miracles altogether connected with it—1. Our Lord’s walking on the sea. 2. Peter’s walking on it by His aid. 3. When sinking, Peter is raised 4. The sudden ceasing of the storm. 5. The arrival at land, at once.

The sailors who owned the boat, and the Apostles, who were in the boat with them “adored Him;προσεκυνησαν, means, prostrate adoration (see 2:11). “Indeed, Thou art the Son of God,” that is, the promised Messiah, not merely the adopted, but the natural Son of God, such as He proclaimed Himself, and the Pharisees denied Him to be (John 5:18–33; 19:7). Others say, there is question of the Son of God by excellence, and not by nature; because, according to them, these ignorant sailors, who, with the Apostles, adored our Lord, did not know the mystery of the Trinity, which others answer by saying, they received this knowledge in the boat by revelation.

St. Mark (6:51), says, that seeing the miracle of His walking on the sea, the cessation of the wind, &c., the Apostles were more and more astonished, and he assigns as a reason (v. 52), “for, they understood not concerning the loaves; for, their heart was blinded.”

They were so stupified by the storm and the danger they were in, that they did not attend to the greater miracle of the multiplication of the loaves which our Lord had performed; otherwise, they would not have been astonished at the greatness of the present miracle. Our Divine Lord permitted them to be sorely tried after He had performed the preceding miracle of the multiplication of the loaves, in order that they would the more readily acknowledge Him in the evils which befell them. For, we are generally more affected by the sense of misfortune, than we are by the enjoyment of blessings—and, indeed, as it is most likely, that among these, “that were in the boat,” were included the Apostles, we can hardly suppose, that they, at least, who having lived so long with our Redeemer, heard His discourses, witnessed His many miracles, and must, therefore, by this time, have believed Him to be the natural Son of God, could have uttered the words, “Indeed, Thou art the Son of God,” in any other sense, save that they professed their faith in His Divinity, which the present miracle tended to strengthen. “And presently the ship was at the land to which they were going” (John 6:21).

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on John 6:1-15

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 2, 2016

This post opens with Fr. MacEvilly’s brief analysis of John chapter 6, followed by his comments on verses 1-15. Text in red, if any, are my additions.

ANALYSIS OF JOHN CHAPTER 6

In this chapter we have an account of a miracle wrought by our Lord in the multiplication of five barley loaves and two fishes, so as to satisfy the wants of about five thousand persons. The admiration expressed by the crowd, who were witnesses of this miracle (1–15).

The miracle wrought on the sea, when immediately after having entered the boat in which the disciples laboured hard against the storm, our Lord had the boat suddenly brought to shore (17–22).

The anxious search of the multitude for Him, whom they at last succeeded in finding (24, 25).

Our Lord’s discourse, in which after having referred indistinctly and rather obscurely, to the Eucharistic bread He meant to give them (v. 27), He fully explains the most effectual means of securing this bread, viz., faith in Himself, upon which, after several interruptions, He fully dilates as far as v. 51.

At v. 51, He commences to deliver distinctly, His consoling doctrine regarding His real presence, and the necessity of partaking of His body and blood in the Holy Eucharist. This He inculcates by a threat of exclusion from eternal life, in case of disobedience, and repeated promises of eternal life, to those who obey. At the same time, He refers to the superior excellence of this promised gift (54–60).

After repeatedly corroborating the ideas which the Jews had conceived from His own words, regarding the real manducation of His body, which proves they were right; He next, in reply to their rebellious murmurings, corrects their erroneous carnal ideas regarding the mode of receiving Him.

He points out the source of their murmurings, viz., want of faith in His Divine mission, which they had not humility to pray for, to His Heavenly Father, the source of all blessings (65, 66).

The Evangelist next describes our Lord’s stern resolve, to allow His disciples and apostles leave Him, sooner than withdraw or modify or correct a word of what He delivered, regarding His real presence in the Eucharist (67, 68). He next records the confession of Peter, on behalf of the twelve, in our Lord’s Divinity—our Lord’s reference to the treason of Judas (71, 72).

COMMENTARY ON JOHN 6:1-15

1 After these things Jesus went over the sea of Galilee, which is that of Tiberias.

After these things,” etc. The occurrences referred to in the preceding chapter, took place about the Pasch or Pentecost of the second year of our Lord’s public ministry. The events the Evangelist is now about recording in this chapter, occurred about the Pasch of the following year. So, that, nearly an interval of a year elapsed between the occurrences recorded in this and the preceding chapter. St. John here passes over the election of the twelve Apostles, the Sermon on the Mount, etc., recorded fully by St. Matthew.

Although the miraculous multiplication of bread was recorded by the other Evangelists; still, St. John repeats it here with some additional circumstances as an appropriate introduction to the discourse, He was about to deliver regarding the heavenly food—His own adorable body—which He promised to give them, and gave them, by a permanent rite, at the Last Supper. The other Evangelists (Matthew 14:13; Mark 6:32; Luke 9:10, etc., record what is narrated here by St. John up to v. 14). It is not known precisely when our Lord left Judea, where the events recorded in the preceding chapter took place.

The Sea of Galilee.” According to Hebrew usage, any large expanse of water is designated a “sea.” Hence, the large lake in question is called, “the Sea of Galilee,” as it was in the province of that name, and “of Tiberias,” situated on its borders. The town was so called, after Tiberius Cæsar, by Herod the Tetrarch, who built it in honour of that Emperor (Josephus, Lib. 18, Antiq. c. 3).

Went over.” (See Matthew 14:13, Commentary on.) Some Commentators maintain, He did not cross the lake from one side to the other, from east to west; but, only crossed several creeks on the same side, the people thus following Him on foot, being even before Him at the several points of destination, owing to the difficulties in sailing. It may be also, that He Himself wished to cross these creeks slowly, so that the people could meet Him.

2 And a great multitude followed him, because they saw the miracles which he did on them that were diseased.

And a great multitude followed Him,” etc. He went by boat; they, on foot. (See Mark 6:32; Mathew 14:13.)

3 Jesus therefore went up into a mountain: and there he sat with his disciples.
4 Now the pasch, the festival day of the Jews, was near at hand.

The Pasch, the Festival day of the Jews,” their greatest and chief festival. The Pasch is mentioned on account of those, who were not well versed in Jewish history or in Jewish religious rite.

For notes on verses 5-15 Fr. MacEvilly refers us to his commentary on Matthew 14:15-22. I”ve reproduced this commentary below.

5 When Jesus therefore had lifted up his eyes and seen that a very great multitude cometh to him, he said to Philip: Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?
6 And this he said to try him: for he himself knew what he would do.
7 Philip answered him: Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them that every one may take a little.

Notes on Mt 14:16~St. John (6:5, &c.) states, that our Redeemer, on seeing the multitude, said to Philip, for the purpose of trying him, “Whence shall we buy bread that these may eat?” Likely, He thus spoke, after the Apostles had suggested to Him to dismiss the crowd, as St. Matthew records it here, so that both accounts contain a full statement of the entire transaction. He, probably, interrogated Philip, either because he was slower of apprehension than the other Apostles, and, by thus questioning him, He meant to impress on him the greatness of the miracle He was about to perform; or, perhaps, He asked him specially, because, being a native of Bethsaida, he was better acquainted with the resources of the district, and the places where food could be had.

It is deserving of remark, that St. John, who usually avoids mentioning what is related by the other Evangelists, especially what happened in Galilee, on this occasion refers to this miracle (c. 6), to introduce the subject of the promised bread of life. He had, moreover, particularly in view, to describe the different Passovers during the term of our Redeemer’s preaching, and, as he remained in Galilee during the third Passover, St. John relates circumstantially His works and miracles performed during that time. What is recorded by one Evangelist is not denied by the other. Both narratives form one perfect account.

Our Redeemer suggested to the Apostles to give the multitude wherewith to satiate their hunger, a thing which they regarded, humanly speaking, as utterly impossible. Mark (6:37) and John (6:7) state, that our Lord was told that two hundred pence would be necessary to procure bread, so as to give each a little, and the Apostles well knew this sum was beyond their reach. Hence, the words of Mark (6:37) are generally supposed to be spoken ironically, as if to say: Yes, indeed, we can give them to eat, but we require two hundred pence worth of bread for the purpose, which you know to be beyond our reach. It was only after He elicited from them an admission of the impossibility, humanly speaking, of what He asked, our Redeemer performed the miracle.

8 One of his disciples, Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, saith to him:
9 There is a boy here that hath five barley loaves and two fishes. But what are these among so many?

Notes on Mt 14:17~In order to show more clearly the utter impossibility, humanly speaking, of satiating so large a crowd in the desert, our Redeemer asks, what resources they had at hand; and the Apostles reply, or rather Andrew replies in their name (John 6:8, &c.), that there were only five barley loaves and two fishes, which some boy in the crowd, who, probably, was attending the Apostles, had with him for their immediate use; “but, what are these among so many?” (John 6:9).

10 Then Jesus said: Make the men sit down. Now, there was much grass in the place. The men therefore sat down, in number about five thousand.
11 And Jesus took the loaves: and when he had given thanks, he distributed to them that were set down. In like manner also of the fishes, as much as they would.

Notes on Mt 14:18-19, 21~After commanding them to bring forward the five loaves, &c., He then ordered His disciples to arrange the men in companies, and make them sit down on the grass, with which the place abounded. This they did, arranging them in companies of hundreds and fifties (Mark 6:40; Luke 9:14). By this arrangement the number could be more easily ascertained, and the parties more regularly served.

Five thousand men.” (or, as the Greek has it, ὡσεὶ πεντακισχιλίοι, “about five thousand”). St. John (6:10), has the same form, “about five thousand.”

Besides women and children,” who might, probably, amount to an equal number, but whom it was not usual with the Jews to number. Hence, we find in the Book of Numbers, whenever the priests, and Levites, and soldiers, were numbered, the women and children were left unnumbered.

To feed a multitude in the desert was a wonderful miracle in the eyes of the Jews. “Nunquid poterit, parare mensam in deserto.”

And looking up to heaven,” which (John 6:11) expresses by “giving thanks,” that is, thanking His Heavenly Father, from whom, with His Divinity, He received power of working miracles, for His great goodness in vouchsafing to work so great a miracle, for the temporal and spiritual benefit of His people. It may mean, He invoked the beneficent power of his Father on the loaves, &c.

He took the five loaves,” &c., to show that He was Himself the author of the great miracle He was about performing.

He blessed.” St. Mark says (6:41), “He blessed and broke the loaves.” St. Luke (9:16) says, “He blessed them.” viz., the loaves; and by this benediction, imparted to them the occult efficaciousness of being multiplied.

And gave the loaves to His disciples, and the disciples to the multitudes.” The miraculous multiplication probably occurred partly, in the hands of our Redeemer; and partly, in the hands of the disciples, when distributing them, and placing them in the hands of the crowd, without any outward show. How this occurred, we cannot say. One thing seems certain, that it was not effected by the creation of new loaves or new fishes. For, from the Evangelists, it is quite clear, “He divided the two fishes among them all,” as also the five barley loaves (Mark 6:41; John 6:11).

12 And when they were filled, he said to his disciples: gather up the fragments that remain, lest they be lost.
13 They gathered up therefore and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves which remained over and above to them that had eaten.

Notes on Mt 14:20~To place the miracle beyond the reach of cavil or doubt, our Redeemer ordered (John 6:12), that, what remained after the multitude were satiated, should be gathered up. This exceeded in quantity what was originally set before our Lord to be distributed. And to show, that in the exercise of charity, economy and frugality should not be neglected, He did not wish that any of it should be lost.

Twelve full baskets of fragments,” a basket for each of the Apostles.

These “baskets” were, probably, made of osiers. They were commonly used by the Jews on their journeys in other countries, to save their provisions from heathen contact and pollution. Their size is not known. They must certainly have been of considerable dimensions, to serve the purpose referred to. Juvenal (Satire 3–14), refers to them as badges of the Jewish people: “Judæis, quorum Cophinus fœnumque supellex.” Also, speaking of a fortune-telling Jewess (Satire vi. 541), he says, “Cophino fœnoque relicto.” The use of the hay was, probably, to stop the interstices of these wicker baskets, which carried their provisions and money. It is not likely they carried hay about with them in such quantities, as would serve for beds, as some authors imagine. Grotius remarks (Matt. 16:9; Mark 8:19), “In these baskets or little panniers, they used to carry along with them, bread.”

14 Now those men, when they had seen what a miracle Jesus had done, said: This is of a truth the prophet that is to come into the world.
15 Jesus therefore, when he knew that they would come to take him by force and make him king, fled again into the mountains, himself alone.

Notes on Mt 14:22~Our Redeemer, perceiving that the people “would come and make Him king” (John 6:15), forthwith, both from motives of prudence, and to teach us to avoid all vain display, “obliged His disciples to go up into the boat, and to go before Him over the water.” Mark adds (6:45), “to Bethsaida,” whilst He dismissed the crowd. The word, “obliged,” as St. Jerome remarks, shows the great reluctance of the Apostles to be, even for the shortest period, separated from their dear Lord. Their departure, however, would enable Him to dismiss the crowd the more readily, and prevent them from conspiring with the multitude to make Him king. It would afford Him leisure to be alone, for the purposes of prayer, and would also prepare the way for the miracle of calming the sea, which followed. Perhaps the reluctance on the part of the disciples to depart, arose from seeing the glory which awaited their Master, from the crowd, who wished to make Him king. They were ordered to cross the lake in the direction of Bethsaida, but they came to Capharnaum. (John 6) Capharnaum and Bethsaida of Galilee were both on the western shore of the lake, so there is no contradiction between St. Mark and St. John. They went towards Bethsaida, but they reached Capharnaum, it might be, after having first arrived at Bethsaida, on the west shore of the lake; or, it may be, they sailed first to Capharnaum, and then to Bethsaida, which was not far distant (Patrizzi in Marcum vi. 45).

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on John 3:31-36

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 2, 2016

31 He that cometh from above is above all. He that is of the earth, of the earth he is, and of the earth he speaketh. He that cometh from heaven is above all.

He that cometh from above,” from the bosom of the Eternal Father, having a Divine origin, as the only begotten Son of God, “is above all.” Therefore, above me, above all angels and men. Hence, it is fit He should increase, and be devoutly reverenced and received by all.

He that is of the earth, of the earth he is,” etc. In this, the Baptist shows the superiority of our Lord’s person and doctrine beyond himself and his doctrine. The Baptist and all other men are formed from the slime of the earth, mere earthly beings; and their teaching, earthly, derived from human knowledge and human principles. This is true of man, considered in himself, abstracting from revelation and the knowledge derived from God. If he speaks Divine things, it is owing to the illumination communicated from above. “He that cometh from Heaven,” essentially participating in the Divine nature, is heavenly, and above all.

32 And what he hath seen and heard, that he testifieth: and no man receiveth his testimony.

And what He hath seen,” etc., a form of expression accommodated to our conceptions, the senses of seeing and hearing being the means, through which men acquire knowledge. The words mean, in relation to our Lord, what He knows by Divine Omniscience and intuition, that He testifies to us on earth in His assumed nature, wherein He converses with us.

And no one,” but very few—In next verse, it is stated there were some exceptions—“receiveth His testimony.” In this the Baptist reproaches his own envious disciples. They tell the Baptist, that all men come to Christ. He says, but very few, comparatively, embrace His heavenly doctrines, not excepting John’s own disciples.

33 He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true.

Receiveth His testimony,” by giving the assent of faith to what He says, “hath set to His seal,” etc. By the very fact of believing the words of our Lord, such a person, like a man who puts his seal to a document, to a bond or deed, in testimony of his conviction regarding the truth of its contents, has shown his conviction, by his firm belief openly professed, “that God”—who has spoken—“is true,” the primary and infallible truth, who speaks through the mouth of His Son. Such a man honours God’s veracity.

34 For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God doth not give the Spirit by measure.

He sets his seal to the truth of God; because, He whom God sent into the world to teach mankind, speaks not from Himself, but the words of the Father who sent Him. He, therefore, who believes the Son, believes the Father, whose words the Son utters.

For God doth not give His Spirit by measure,” to His Son. This proves that the Son speaks the words of God; because, as He has the Spirit without measure, He, therefore, always acts and speaks under the influence of the Spirit, and so speaks the words of God; unlike the men who receiving it in measure, sometimes speak from themselves.

If there be question of our Lord, as God, then, by communicating the Divine substance in His first birth from eternity, the Father communicated His Spirit and the gifts of His Spirit in an infinite degree. If there be question of Him as man, at His second birth; then, the Spirit was given abundantly, most copiously. The whole plenitude of the Divinity dwelt in Him corporally (Col. 2:9), as man. In Him, as man, were concealed all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col. 2:3), and God poured forth on Him the whole plenitude of the gifts of His Spirit without stint or measure. So that none of them was wanting to Him in all perfection. He unceasingly possessed them all at once, to the greatest extent of which human nature is capable, unlike men, who possess them partially and successively, one having one gift; another, another. To give a thing “by measure,” implies, sparingly, as is done by those who give a thing by measuring or weighing it. Without measure, conveys, abundantly, copiously.

35 The Father loveth the Son: and he hath given all things into his hand.

Here is assigned a reason why the Spirit is not given by measure, because the love of the Father for His Son was infinite, without measure; and hence, He handed over to His control and without measure, “into His hand,” as man, “all things” in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, to distribute them at will. But He has especially granted to Him, as man, to bestow all the gifts of the Spirit necessary for the salvation of the human race. The words of this and the following verses are almost identical with the words of our Lord (v. 16). “God so loved the world … may have life everlasting.”

36 He that believeth in the Son hath life everlasting: but he that believeth not the Son shall not see life: but the wrath of God abideth on him.

As the Father hath handed over all things for dispensation and distribution into the hands of His Son, whoever, therefore, wishes to have eternal life, which God alone can give, must receive it from the hands of His Son. This can be only through faith, our only way for approaching Him—faith accompanied with good works.

Hath life everlasting,” in an inchoate state, at present, through justification, which gives a claim to it, and is an earnest of it; and in its full enjoyment and possession hereafter, provided he persevere in grace and in the performance of good works.

Believeth not … shall not see life.” The future is used to denote the privation of all present and future hope. He shall be excluded not only from the possession or enjoyment of eternal life; but, he shall not even taste it or get a glimpse of it.

But the wrath of God,” the vengeance of God in inflicting punishment, “abideth in him,” shall abide in him for all eternity in hell’s torments. Similar are the words (v. 18), “Qui non credit, jam judicatus est.” They were in a state of sin and damnation before our Lord came, “natura, filii irœ” (Eph. 2:3), and by refusing to adopt the means decreed by God to rescue them from this state of damnation, viz., faith, “that worketh by charity” (Gal. 5:6), they continue under it, and the wrath of God and judgment of damnation always abides with them.

The Baptist discloses all these mysteries of God to his disciples—the Trinity, Incarnation, necessity of faith, etc.—in order that they should become detached from himself, and attached to Christ, to whose Divinity he bore such unequivocal testimony, whose faith they must embrace—the end of John’s preaching and baptism—if they wish to secure eternal life; otherwise they shall be the victims of God’s everlasting wrath.

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on John 3:16-21

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 2, 2016

16 For God so loved the world, as to give his only begotten Son: that whosoever believeth in him may not perish, but may have life everlasting.

In this verse our Lord, as if answering an objection which might present itself to Nicodemus, viz., why should the Son of God be suspended on an ignominious gibbet, assigns the true, efficient cause, viz., the boundless love of God for man. Every word is expressive and suggestive. “So,” to such a boundless extent, with such mighty effort and vehemence, “did God,” not a king or emperor, but, God, this Infinite Being—Infinite in all perfections—“love” freely and gratuitously. without any claim on Him, “the world,” all mankind, His enemy by sin (Rom. 5:6–9), “as to give,” deliver over to torture and punishment, not for His own, but for their outrages and sins, “His only begotten (His natural) Son.” What a mystery of godliness. God becoming man. The Highest and the lowest united. The Great Creator showing His love for a wretched, sinful worm of the earth, by submitting to excruciating, ignominious tortures. “Laudetur in eternum Summa Dei Majestas. Venite, adoremus et procidamus ante Deum.”

The cause of the Incarnation and death of the Son of God was the boundless and incomprehensible love of God for the world.

The end was, not to exercise justice in condemning, but mercy in saving.

The fruit, was the saving of man from perishing eternally, and bestowing on him life eternal through faith, accompanied by the observance of God’s commandments.

17 For God sent not his Son into the world, to judge the world: but that the world may be saved by him.

This is explanatory of the last verse in regard to God’s object in sending His Son, which was to bestow on them “everlasting life.” For, although looking to God’s justice, the world would deserve condemnation for its sins; still, it was not to display His justice, in judging and condemning the world that God sent His Son in the first instance, but to exercise His mercy, which is over all His works, “that the world may be saved by Him,” by rescuing them from everlasting death, and bestowing on them, everlasting life. Hence, God wills, by a sincere antecedent will, the salvation of all mankind. Such of them as are lost, are lost through their own fault. No doubt, at His second coming on the day of judgment, the Son of God will display His justice, rewarding and punishing men, according to their deserts, judging every man, according to his works.

18 He that believeth in him is not judged. But he that doth not believe is already judged: because he believeth not in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

In this verse is proved by a kind of implied dilemma, that God did not send His Son “to judge the world.” For, either a man believes in Him, or refuses to do so. If he believes; then, he is not judged; but is rescued and saved by the mercy of God and the superabundant merits of our Saviour, from the general condemnation, in which all men would be involved, and receives abundance of grace.

If he believes not; then, no further sentence is needed. He remains in the state of damnation, in which all men are involved, as “children of wrath.” He is condemned by the original decree of God and his own determined obstinacy of will to persevere in his unbelief, “because he believeth not in the name of the only begotten Son of God,” thus rejecting the only means instituted by God, to save and rescue him from damnation.

St. Augustine (Tract 12), illustrates this by the example of a physician who comes to cure all the infirm. Such as refuse his ministrations, die; not on account of the physician, as if he came to cause their death; but, on account of the infirmities already contracted by them, which they refuse to have cured by the physician.

19 And this is the judgment: Because the light is come into the world and men loved darkness rather than the light: for their works were evil.

This is the judgment.” The cause of judgment or condemnation, “because the light,” which is our Lord Himself, who enlightens every man, whether naturally or supernaturally, “is come into the world” to dissipate, by the diffusion of true doctrine, the darkness of infidelity and sin. “He was the light of the world” (8:12), “and men,” wallowing in the mire of corruption, culpably, “loved the darkness” of infidelity, in which they were enveloped, “rather than the light,” which, by a little inquiry, they might easily ascertain to be the true light. They then acted perversely. For, had they embraced the light and true teaching of Christ, they would be compelled to abandon their present evil courses, which they were determined on pursuing. “Their works are evil.” They shun the light, lest they should be convicted by the light, which the teaching of Christ would shed upon them.

Moral perversity is, ordinarily, the cause, why men persevere in rejecting the teachings of truth.

The words of the verse may also mean: the judgment of condemnation which they pass on themselves consists in this; that, having a full opportunity of walking in the light, performing the works of light, they prefer remaining in darkness, “for, their deeds,” in which they glory and mean to persevere, “are evil.”

20 For every one that doth evil hateth the light and cometh not to the light, that his works may not be reproved.

For every one that doth evil,” and perversely means to persevere in its commission, “hateth the light, and cometh not,” etc., because the effect of the light would be, to expose his wicked works, which he would fain conceal. They would show him to be deserving of reprehension, “that his works be not reproved,” not to speak of their generating remorse of conscience (Eph. 5:11–13).

21 But he that doth truth cometh to the light, that his works may be made manifest: because they are done in God.

Doth truth.” There is question of practical truth, of actions or works done in accordance with the law of rectitude and justice—“doth,” sincerely intends and purposes to do good works, to do what is right and true. Such a man, unlike him who means to persevere in his perversity, far from flying and shunning the light, “cometh to the light, that his works may be made manifest,” that his future works, which he means to perform in the new course of life which the light will point out to him, may “be done in God,” done in accordance with the will and commands of God.

The words may also have reference to his past works, done in grace, before embracing the light of faith. Pagans may do good works, aided by grace, before embracing the faith. The proposition, “Faith is the first grace,” was condemned by Pius VI. in the Bull, Auctorem Fidei, as put forward in the Schismatical Council of Pistoia, under its Bishop, Scipio Ricci.

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on John 3:7b-15

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 2, 2016

Verses 7-8 were covered in yesterday’s commentary. This post repeats the comments on 7b (i.e., the second half of verse 7) and verse 8. Text in red, if any, are my additions.

7b You must be born again.

Possibly, our Lord saw, either as searcher of hearts, or from Nicodemus’s manner, that from a feeling of incredulity, he was astonished at what he heard. Hence, He tells him not to be surprised, that in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, which flesh and blood can never possess, a man must receive a new spiritual existence, superadded to his natural being—a thing quite possible, not requiring a second human birth.

8 The Spirit breatheth where he will and thou hearest his voice: but thou knowest not whence he cometh and whither he goeth. So is every one that is born of the Spirit.

The leading interpretations of the verse are reduced to two, founded chiefly on the meaning attached to the word “spirit.” Some understand it to mean “the wind,” as if our Lord meant to illustrate His teachings by a sensible matter, the operations and effects of the wind, which blows as “it wills,” according to its natural tendency; and one knows not whence it comes or where it spends itself. But, its voice or sound is heard, either in the hurricane or the gentle breeze rustling through the trees; and then, applying the comparison, our Lord adds: “so is every one that is born of the Spirit,” as if to say, the operation of the Divine Spirit, in the work of spiritual regeneration is invisible and imperceptible by the senses. You cannot know how it commences or how it terminates. But you only hear it in its effects, in its external operations. No wonder, then, if you cannot understand it. This is the interpretation of SS. Cyril, Chrysostom. etc. The comparison instituted by our Lord between the operations of this power denoted by “spirit,” whatever it means, and the Holy Ghost favors this interpretation. “sic est omnis qui natus est de spiritu.” The words of our Lord in v. 12, are in favor of it, “If I have spoken to you earthly things.” etc. The allusion to the wind here would be the only earthly thing referred to by our Lord in His conversation with Nicodemus. All the other illustrations are of a purely spiritual and heavenly character. Against it, the chief difficulties are, that it can hardly be said we know not, whence the wind goes or whither it cometh. Again, it is hard to attribute personal operations to it, “as it wills,” not to speak of the confusion, the use of the same word “spirit” (το πνενμα) in different meanings, in the same sentence, would be apt to engender in the mind of Nicodemus, to whom our Lord was explaining the process and effects of spiritual regeneration.

Others—SS. Augustine, Ambrose, Gregory, etc., understand the words, “the spirit breathes,” etc., of the Holy Ghost, who breathes and infuses the impulses of faith, penance and grace just as He pleases, “singulis dividens, prout vult” (1 Cor. 12:4–11). The voice of this Holy Spirit is heard in the wonderful effects and conversions brought about by His invisible grace and secret inspirations, in the preaching of His ministers, in the utterances of the Prophets, in the total change effected in the heroes of the Old and New Testaments, Samson, Gideon, Paul, etc., who were transformed into new men, through the operations and impulses of the Holy Ghost, of which Nicodemus, so learned, could not be ignorant.

These Expositors say, that, in the words, “so is every one that is born of the Spirit,” there is no application of a comparison; that the words are merely illustrative of the preceding operations of the Holy Ghost in general, as if He said: such, too, is His action or operation, in the case of every one spiritually born of Him in Baptism.

Maldonatus holds a peculiar view of his own, not shared in by any other Commentator of note. He understands “spirit” of the human soul, whose entrance into the body or existence in it, or exit from same, no one can understand, although its power is proved from external operations and effects; and, then. the connexion would be: as you cannot understand, or account for, the operations and effects of corporal existence; so, it is not a matter of surprise, if you cannot understand what relates to the spiritual nativity in the Holy Ghost.

9 Nicodemus answered and said to him: How can these things be done?

Nicodemus, after being instructed by our Lord, no longer thinks of carnal regeneration; still, not clearly perceiving the meaning of our Redeemer’s words relative to spiritual regeneration, unable to understand how a man can become a spirit or spiritual being, asks for further information.

How?” a favourite exclamation with infidels and unbelievers in all ages, though, indeed, hardly applicable to Nicodemus here, in its full perverse sense.

10 Jesus answered and said to him: Art thou a master in Israel, and knowest not these things?

Our Lord reproaches him for his ignorance, on a subject in which he ought to be well versed, considering his position and repute for learning.

A master in Israel.” The Greek article prefixed (ὅ διδασκαλος = ho didaskalos), shows, that the word denotes a distinguished doctor among the the Jews.

And knowest not these things?” ignorant of what one learned in the Law ought to know, and able to comprehend when explained. For, the Prophets, with whom He was, or should be, conversant, had predicted spiritual regeneration through water (Ezechiel 36:24; Zacharias 13:1). Hence, while perplexed regarding the mystery or mode of operation, he should unhesitatingly believe it, as regards the fact.

11 Amen, amen, I say to thee that we speak what we know and we testify what we have seen: and you receive not our testimony.

Our Lord had, in the preceding, gently alluded to Nicodemus’s ignorance without any asperity, however on account of his good dispositions. In the same spirit of gentleness. He now points to his incredulity. Nicodemus himself had borne testimony to our Lord’s veracity and Divine mission. Our Lord now, in order to attach greater weight to His statements, declares in the most solemn way, as the words, “Amen, amen,” indicate, that He only stated, what was most certain and most true as He stated only what He “had seen.” He thus conveys to Nicodemus. that He ought to believe firmly on His testimony, what was stated without further reasoning or questioning, although the mode of its existence might be incomprehensible. He uses the plural, “we know.” etc., either for greater solemnity sake; or, because the Father and the Holy Ghost testified along with Him; so that the legal number of witnesses were forthcoming. As God, our Lord had the knowledge of all things, of Himself, and by His Divine Omniscience. As man, through the Beatific Vision and infused science.

And you”—referring to Nicodemus and the bulk of the incredulous Jews—“receive not our testimony.”

12 If I have spoken to you earthly things, and you believe not: how will you believe, if I shall speak to you heavenly things?

Earthly things,” are understood by some of the comparison regarding the wind, to which the word, “spirit,” according to them, refers; “and heavenly things,” of the spiritual regeneration through water.

Others, by “earthly things,” understand the spiritual regeneration of man termed, earthly; because, it regards an earthly being, man; and by “heavenly things,” the more sublime mysteries relating to the eternal generation of the Son of God—a heavenly and Divine Person—to the Trinity, God’s attributes, etc. Our Lord here reproaches Nicodemus and the unbelieving Jews, who heard His discourses, with their slowness of belief; and He insinuates, that they should believe what He proposed, without further questioning, if they meant to deserve the communication of more exalted truths of faith, and not to be deprived of the precious gift of faith altogether.

13 And no man hath ascended into heaven, but he that descended from heaven, the Son of man who is in heaven.

And no man hath ascended into heaven,” etc. “And,” meaning, and yet, as if to say, you are slow in believing Me, and yet, you can learn these abstruse heavenly truths from no one else. For, no one else ever “ascended into heaven,” not even the Prophets, in whom you believe, which is the same as, ever was in heaven, to learn and contemplate and fully comprehend these things, but Myself, who am always there, the only-begotten Son, “who is in the bosom of the Father” (1–18), who came down from heaven to assume human nature and appear visibly in human flesh. Our Lord here very significantly conveys to Nicodemus, that He was God, being always in heaven, “who is in heaven,” and man at the same time, by descending from heaven; thus becoming “the Son of man,” in virtue of human nature assumed by Him on earth, still retaining the nature and Personality of the Divine Word. “He descended from heaven” without leaving it; since in His Divine nature he fills heaven and earth, nay, all space, by His glorious, Divine Immensity.

The words, then, mean, that our Lord alone could fully enlighten Nicodemus, on heavenly subjects. For, no one could securely do so, except one who mounted up to heaven and was in heaven, and no one else was in heaven, so as fully to become acquainted with heavenly things and come down to earth to teach mankind these heavenly mysteries, save “the Son of man,” our Lord Himself, who is always in heaven, in virtue of His Divinity, and never leaving it, came down by assuming nature, to teach mankind.

Our Lord is said to be “in heaven” as “Son of man,” by, what is theologically termed, the communication of Idioms, which means; that, as our Lord had two natures and one Person, to which Person the actions of both natures are attributed (actiones sunt suppositorum), we can predicate of one nature of Christ what peculiarly belongs to the other, on account of His unity of Person. The words, “ascending” and “descending,” in reference to our Lord, are used by way of accommodation; and, strictly speaking, do not apply to Him at all; but are used in reference to all other men. “Descended,” and “is in heaven,” express our Lord’s twofold nature and unity of Person.

14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of man be lifted up:

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert.” The desert refers to the desolate district south of Mount Horeb, near Edom. In the preceding verse, our Lord instructs Nicodemus regarding His Divinity. Here, He speaks of His humanity.

Allusion is made to Numbers (21:9, etc.), where it is recorded that Moses, by the command of God, raised up, on an elevated pole, to be visible to all, a brazen serpent, so that such as would look upon it, would be cured of the effects of the bite of the poisonous serpent; and such as would refuse doing so, would be left to perish.

So the Son of man must be lifted up.” By the Divine decree, our Lord must be raised aloft on the cross and put to death. This is the meaning of the words, “lifted up,” in several passages of this Gospel (8:28; 12:32–34). Those who will look upon Him by faith, will be saved from the effects of the bite of the infernal serpent, from sin and its consequences, temporal and everlasting. But, as in the case of those bitten by the fiery serpent, such as either refused or neglected looking on the brazen serpent were sure to die of the effects of this bite; so, those who refuse or neglect to look up to our Lord hanging on the cross, and believe in Him, will, surely, be lost for ever.

15 That whosoever believeth in him may not perish, but may have life everlasting.

That whosoever believeth in Him,” etc., looks up to Him suspended on the cross, by faith in His Divinity and humanity “may not perish,” etc. This faith, in order to secure, “life everlasting,” must be animated by charity and good works; since, our Lord declares elsewhere, that, in order to gain eternal life, we must keep the Commandments. The proposition, “faith saves us,” like every other affirmative proposition, has its attribute taken, as logicians term it, particularly, implying, that other essential conditions are present or attended to.

Posted in Bible, Catholic, Christ, Notes on the Gospel of John, Notes on the Lectionary, Scripture | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on John 3:1-8

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 2, 2016

This post opens with Fr. MacEvilly’s brief analysis of John chapter 3, followed by his notes on verse 1-8. Text in red are my additions.

ANALYSIS OF JOHN CHAPTER 3

In this chapter, the Evangelist records our Lord’s discourse with Nicodemus, in which he instructs him in the doctrine of spiritual regeneration—the absolute necessity, by the decree of God, to be born again spiritually, in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. He replies to Nicodemus’s doubts by adducing several illustrations (1–13).

He next records our Lord’s teaching on the subject of faith, its necessity, and the heavy judgment in store for such as wilfully closing their eyes against Divine truth, refuse to believe (14–21).

He next records our Lord’s ministry of baptizing simultaneously with John (22–24).

We have next an account of the jealousy which the disciples of John entertained in regard to our Lord. John’s mild reproof, and his humble testimony in favour of our Lord’s Divinity, whom he proclaimed, as infinitely exalted above himself (25–36).

COMMENTARY ON JOHN 3:1-8

1 And there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.

And there was,” etc. Among those who believed in our Lord, on seeing the miracles He performed at the Paschal Festival (c. 2:23), was a certain man named Nicodemus, of whom the Evangelist makes special mention, both on account of his religious profession—he belonged to the sect of the “Pharisees”—as well as his high repute among the Jews, and his elevated rank. He was “a ruler of the Jews.” He was a member of the Sanhedrim, or Supreme Council (c. 7:45–50).

2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him: Rabbi, we know that thou art come a teacher from God; for no man can do these signs which thou dost, unless God be with him.

This man came to Jesus by night.” Some say he came by night, because, our Lord, owing to His labours by day, was accessible only by night for private instruction. The more probable opinion, however, is that he did so from shame. He felt ashamed, that one so exalted in rank and distinguished for learning, should publicly place himself at the feet of the humble Jesus, to receive instruction; and also, like many of the Rulers, who would not publicly confess Him from fear of fellow rulers (John 7:1-11; 9:22), from a fear of incurring the displeasure and anger of the Sanhedrim, whom he knew to be the deadly enemies of our Lord. His faith in our Lord and his love were, evidently, very imperfect. He believed Him to be “a teacher come from God,” or possibly, the Messiah. But, it is clear he did not believe Him to be the Son of God. The slave of human respect with his love of our Lord, he wished to unite the love of the world: and achieve what was impossible, viz., the serving of two masters, God and the world. He, then, came by night, from human respect and fear of his colleagues. John occasionally uses the term “Jews” to refer to the people as a whole and in positive fashion (Jn 4:22). However, he also uses the term to designate the people as being divided concerning Jesus, and of Jewish leaders who were hostile to Jesus. He also employs the term “multitude” or “crowd” to refer to the people (non-rulers) in general, often in contexts which emphasize their difference of opinions regarding Jesus.

Rabbi”—my master. A title of honour and eminence among the Jews.

We know,” both myself and several others, that Thou art sent by God, as a teacher, to instruct men in the true principles of religion. In proof of this, thou dost exhibit God’s own credentials.

For no man can do these things,” etc. While Nicodemus does not seem to have believed in our Lord, as the Son of God—had he believed it, he would have said so—he believes Him, however, to be a true teacher. He regards the works performed by Him, as true miracles, beyond the power of natural or diabolical agency, both from their number, variety, and mode of operation. He may have regarded Him as the Messiah also.

Unless God be with Him,” unless he be aided by Divine power. Our Redeemer’s miracles, such as raising the dead, giving instantaneous sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, etc., were of such a nature, as to be the result of the Divine Power only. Their avowed end and object was, to prove Jesus to be the Son of God; and as God could not, consistently with His own veracity, set the seal of miracles on what was false; hence, they proved Our Lord’s Divinity. Moreover, these miracles were predicted, as special marks of the Messiah (Isaias 35:2–6). None among the Prophets performed miracles like those of our Divine Redeemer. Nicodemus, as Doctor of the Jews, could easily have known, that these were predicted of the Messiah (Isaias 35:2–6), and that the Messiah was God and Son of God. (Isaias 9:6, etc.) Hence, Nicodemus’s faith and love, though laudable, were still imperfect.

3 Jesus answered and said to him: Amen, amen, I say to thee, unless a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

Jesus answered him,” etc. It may be, that the words of our Lord here, are but an answer to some question put by Nicodemus, as to what was necessary for entering the Kingdom of God; or, our Lord seeing what was in his mind, may have answered him, by anticipation. Far from reproaching him for his weakness and timidity in coming at night, our Lord mercifully pities his weakness.

Unless a man,” no matter what his rank, learning, age, country or respectability—no exception made in the Divine decree regarding the mode of entering God’s Kingdom. Neither Nicodemus nor anyone else could claim exemption.

Be born again.” The Greek word, ανωθεν, could be also rendered, from above. But, “again,” is the more probable rendering, and in this sense, it was understood by Nicodemus. This spiritual regeneration, afterwards explained by our Lord, was the indispensable means decreed by God, for every child born of Adam and sinning in him, to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, viz., God’s Church here and His eternal Kingdom of Glory hereafter. Whoever was born of Adam, should be re-born or spiritually regenerated, in order to be cleaned from the stain of original sin. “Born again,” or “from above?”I strongly disagree with Fr. MacEvilly on this point. Nicodemus clearly understand ανωθεν (anothen) as meaning “born again.” but it is clearly the other meaning, “born from above,” that our Lord has in mind, especially in light of verses 6-15 (most notably verses 12-14). The concept of regeneration/rebirth is not absent here, but the emphasis is on its origin. Only by ascending back to the Father above can Jesus send the Spirit and thus give new life from above.

Cannot see,” that is, cannot enter into “the Kingdom of God,” as above explained. Nicodemus’s object being, to know how he was to obtain the Kingdom of God; hence, our Lord opens His instructions with this point.

4 Nicodemus saith to him: How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born again?

Nicodemus, whose ideas on spiritual things were imperfect, like the sensual man who “cannot perceive the things of the Spirit of God,” understands our Lord’s words literally, of carnal regeneration; and asks, how can it be possible for one grown old like himself and sincerely anxious for his salvation, to be born again of a mother now possibly resting in her grave? Our Lord spoke obscurely, in order to humble the pride of the Pharisee, by showing him his ignorance, and wishes to raise his mind thus humbled, from carnal to spiritual conceptions.

5 Jesus answered: Amen, amen, I say to thee, unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

Our Lord seeing that Nicodemus came to Him with good dispositions, and a sincere desire of learning what was necessary for salvation, far from being offended at the question rather bluntly put, mercifully condescends to enlighten him, by explaining in clear terms, that He spoke, not of carnal generation, as Nicodemus fancied; but, of spiritual regeneration through “water and the Holy Ghost,” repeating the same truth in clearer terms.

Holy Ghost.” In the Greek “Holy” is omitted. It is, however, read by some ancient Fathers, Cyril. Chrysostom, etc. It is admitted on all hands to mean, the “Holy Spirit.”

This is certain from the words of the Baptist (Matthew 3:11), and the form of Baptism given by our Lord Himself—“Unless a man be born again of water”—the instrumental cause, the matter employed in this process of spiritual regeneration, signifying the spiritual cleansing of the soul by sanctifying grace, which it at the same time produces.

And the Holy Ghost”—the efficient cause, which imparts this spiritual efficacy to the rite through water, of cleansing and purifying the soul.

He cannot enter,” etc. The word “enter” clearly conveys the same idea as “see” in preceding verse.

Almost all the Catholic Commentators agree in interpreting this verse of the Sacrament of Baptism. The Council of Trent SS. vii. c. 2, de Baptismo, defines it, as de fide, that true and natural water is necessary for baptism, and condemns such as would distort the words of this verse, “unless a man be born again,” etc., to any methaphorical meaning.

The word, “born again,” or regenerated, signifies a new existence, in which we are fit to become Sons of God, by a twofold process or effect. 1st, by the remission of our sins, through the instrumentality of water after due penance (Acts 2:28), when the old man of sin for ever destroyed, is buried in the waters of baptism (Rom. 6:4–6). 2ndly, by the infusion of sanctifying grace, which is effected by one and the same process, “et accipietis donum Spiritus Sancti,” of which our Lord’s Resurrection was a type. This is effected by “the Holy Ghost.” The rite or sacrament instituted by our Lord was proclaimed as essential for salvation (Mark 16:16); here, too, it is said, no one without it, can enter the Kingdom of God. This Baptism was to be in water. (See Acts 8:36; also the words of the Eunuch to Philip), and of St. Peter to the family of Cornelius (Acts 10:47). It is clear from the complaints of the disciples of John, that our Lord Himself baptized in water (John 3:22–26).

Our Lord’s Baptism was in the Holy Ghost. For (Acts 2:38), the receiving of the Holy Ghost is attributed to Baptism. Hence, called the “laver of regeneration and renovation of the Holy Ghost” (Titus 3:5).

Commentators remark, that, as in carnal generation, a twofold principle is necessary; so, is it also in spiritual regeneration. Water and the Holy Ghost, both are needed. As in our Lord’s own Incarnation, the Holy Ghost was the principal agent; so also does it happen in the spiritual regeneration of all the Sons of God, in the Sacrament of Baptism.

Whether Baptism was instituted here, to be of obligation only after the promulgation of the New Law at Pentecost, or whether it was only promised here and afterwards instituted, as in the case of the Holy Eucharist, is disputed.

6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh: and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

That which is born of the flesh,” etc. This second birth will not necessitate, what is impossible, as you suppose. It shall be a spiritual birth, whereby man will receive a new spiritual existence, superadded to his natural, human existence. In this new birth, he will not be born of man. For, so, he would receive a new human natural existence, because, the new being will be assimilated to the principle of generation. Hence, what is born of man, by natural human process of generation, is man. But what is “born of the Spirit is spirit,” or receives not a new natural, but a new spiritual existence.

7 Wonder not that I said to thee: You must be born again.

Possibly, our Lord saw, either as searcher of hearts, or from Nicodemus’s manner, that from a feeling of incredulity, he was astonished at what he heard. Hence, He tells him not to be surprised, that in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, which flesh and blood can never possess, a man must receive a new spiritual existence, superadded to his natural being—a thing quite possible, not requiring a second human birth.

8 The Spirit breatheth where he will and thou hearest his voice: but thou knowest not whence he cometh and whither he goeth. So is every one that is born of the Spirit.

The leading interpretations of the verse are reduced to two, founded chiefly on the meaning attached to the word “spirit.” Some understand it to mean “the wind,” as if our Lord meant to illustrate His teachings by a sensible matter, the operations and effects of the wind, which blows as “it wills,” according to its natural tendency; and one knows not whence it comes or where it spends itself. But, its voice or sound is heard, either in the hurricane or the gentle breeze rustling through the trees; and then, applying the comparison, our Lord adds: “so is every one that is born of the Spirit,” as if to say, the operation of the Divine Spirit, in the work of spiritual regeneration is invisible and imperceptible by the senses. You cannot know how it commences or how it terminates. But you only hear it in its effects, in its external operations. No wonder, then, if you cannot understand it. This is the interpretation of SS. Cyril, Chrysostom. etc. The comparison instituted by our Lord between the operations of this power denoted by “spirit,” whatever it means, and the Holy Ghost favors this interpretation. “sic est omnis qui natus est de spiritu.” The words of our Lord in v. 12, are in favor of it, “If I have spoken to you earthly things.” etc. The allusion to the wind here would be the only earthly thing referred to by our Lord in His conversation with Nicodemus. All the other illustrations are of a purely spiritual and heavenly character. Against it, the chief difficulties are, that it can hardly be said we know not, whence the wind goes or whither it cometh. Again, it is hard to attribute personal operations to it, “as it wills,” not to speak of the confusion, the use of the same word “spirit” (το πνενμα) in different meanings, in the same sentence, would be apt to engender in the mind of Nicodemus, to whom our Lord was explaining the process and effects of spiritual regeneration.

Others—SS. Augustine, Ambrose, Gregory, etc., understand the words, “the spirit breathes,” etc., of the Holy Ghost, who breathes and infuses the impulses of faith, penance and grace just as He pleases, “singulis dividens, prout vult” (1 Cor. 12:4–11). The voice of this Holy Spirit is heard in the wonderful effects and conversions brought about by His invisible grace and secret inspirations, in the preaching of His ministers, in the utterances of the Prophets, in the total change effected in the heroes of the Old and New Testaments, Samson, Gideon, Paul, etc., who were transformed into new men, through the operations and impulses of the Holy Ghost, of which Nicodemus, so learned, could not be ignorant.

These Expositors say, that, in the words, “so is every one that is born of the Spirit,” there is no application of a comparison; that the words are merely illustrative of the preceding operations of the Holy Ghost in general, as if He said: such, too, is His action or operation, in the case of every one spiritually born of Him in Baptism.

Maldonatus holds a peculiar view of his own, not shared in by any other Commentator of note. He understands “spirit” of the human soul, whose entrance into the body or existence in it, or exit from same, no one can understand, although its power is proved from external operations and effects; and, then. the connexion would be: as you cannot understand, or account for, the operations and effects of corporal existence; so, it is not a matter of surprise, if you cannot understand what relates to the spiritual nativity in the Holy Ghost.

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