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

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Matthew Chapter 26

Posted by Dim Bulb on November 21, 2018

ANALYSIS OF MATTHEW CHAPTER 26

In this chapter, the Evangelist narrates our Redeemer’s prediction of His death, just now at hand. The meeting of the Jewish Sanhedrim for the purpose of devising measures to insure His death (Mt 26;1–5). The anointing of His feet at Bethania with precious ointment by Magdalen, which made the avaricious Judas murmur, and furnished him with a pretext for betraying his Lord (Mt 26:6–9). Our Lord’s defence of the woman, whose act, He declares to be praiseworthy, considering the religious end she had in view; He predicts, that her act would be regarded in this light at a future day, throughout the entire world (Mt 26:10–13). The treasonable bargain entered into by Judas to betray Him for thirty pieces of silver (Mt 26:14–16). The commission given to Peter and John to go into Jerusalem and prepare the Pasch, with which they strictly complied (Mt 26:17–19). His prediction that one of His Apostles present would betray Him; and mild means having failed to reclaim the traitor, whom He refrains from mentioning by name, He employs the threats, unhappily, in vain, of eternal woe to effect this Mt 26:(17–25). The institution of the adorable Eucharist, both as a Sacrament and Sacrifice at the Last Supper. Our Redeemer’s valedictory address, pointing to the joys in store for His faithful servants in the kingdom of His Father (Mt 26:26–30). We have next an account of our Lord’s prediction of the cowardly desertion of Him by His Apostles. Peter’s confident declaration, that he would die first, in which the other Apostles joined him. Our Lord’s prediction of Peter’s denial of Him before cockcrow Mt 26:31–35). Our Lord’s agony in the garden, and His fervent, protracted prayer (Mt 26:36–46). We have, next, the treason of Judas; the apprehension of our Lord; His rebuke to His followers, who meant to defend Him. His rebuke to His enemies, who came to treat Him as a midnight robber (Mt 26:47–56). The examination of our Lord before the assembled Sanhedrin; the false testimony suborned for the purpose. The dignified silence of our Lord, with reference to the false testimony adduced against Him. His solemn declaration of His Divinity, when officially questioned in the name of the living God, by the High Priest. The blasphemous conduct of the High Priest. His iniquitous judgment, in which the other members of the court joined (Mt 26:57–66). The contumelious treatment of our Lord by the servants and underlings in the Hall of Caiphas, during the night, after the assembly broke up (Mt 26:67–68). The triple denial of our Lord by Peter, his sorrow and repentance (Mt 26:69–75).

Mt 26:1. “And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended all these words.” “All these words,” most probably, refer to the preceding discourse (chapters 24-25), relative to the Day of Judgment, the destruction of Jerusalem, the necessity of vigilance, and good works, as illustrated in the several foregoing parables. St. Thomas (in hunc locum) observes, that “all these words,” comprise the entire of our Redeemer’s teaching, as contained in the Gospel, so that the Evangelist wishes, according to Him, to convey, that, after our Redeemer had acquitted Himself of the office of teacher, He now prepares for His office of Saviour, and wishes to apprise His disciples, beforehand, of it, in order to secure them against being scandalized at His Passion, by showing them, He foresaw it all beforehand, and endured it, because He willed it. Having heretofore predicted the manner, and the place, of His death, He here predicts the exact time of it.

Mt 26:2. “You know,” as a matter of course, well known to the entire people; or, it might mean, that He Himself had previously informed them of it; “that”—according to the strict disposition of the law itself, which He meant to follow—“the Pasch shall be after two days.” (In the Greek, it is in the present tense, γινεται, “the Pasch is,” to denote the certainty of the future event, and the fixed time for celebrating it). This passage furnishes a subject of great doubt and disputation, as to the time when these words were spoken. It is almost universally agreed upon, that they were spoken on the evening of the twelfth moon of the month, Nisan, corresponding with our March. For, as the Pasch was to be eaten on the evening of the 14th of that month, according to the Jewish law (Exod. 12:6–18), and the festival which commenced on that evening, was to be celebrated also during the following day, the 15th (for all the Jewish festivals were celebrated from evening till evening), then, as “two days” intervened between the time our Redeemer spoke these words, and the evening of the 14th, it follows, clearly, that that evening was the 12th of the month.

But on what day of the week did He say those things, is another question. That it was on Tuesday evening, is clearly inferred, from the fact, that our Redeemer’s Passion took place on Friday. For, St. Luke (Lk 23:54–56); St. John (Jn 19:31), inform us, that the day following His Passion was the Sabbath. Moreover, such has been, at all times, the teaching of the Christian Church. Then, as our Redeemer, as is clear from the Gospel history, celebrated the Paschal feast on the preceding evening, of the 14th Nisan, at the time the Paschal festival of the following day (the 15th Nisan) commenced, on which day He was crucified, it follows, that the words were spoken on Tuesday evening, between which and the evening of Thursday, two days intervened. The same is inferred, from the day of His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, which happened on Sunday, as the Catholic Church has always taught. Now, as the Paschal solemnity was to be on Friday, commencing, as all Jewish festivals did, on the preceding evening, it follows, as the words were spoken, two days” before, that it must have occurred on Tuesday.

St. John says, our Redeemer came to Bethania “six days before the Pasch.” The Pasch commenced on Thursday evening, the 14th Nisan. On that evening, the Pasch lamb was immolated and consumed. Hence, our Lord, most probably, came to Bethania on the previous Friday, where great multitudes came to see Him, after having raised Lazarus from the dead (John 12:9), and rested there, on account of the Sabbath, on which day the people could not cut down branches, or make the intended public demonstration. On the evening of Saturday, after the feast of the Pasch was over He was entertained at supper, at “the house of Simon the leper,” on which occasion, His feet were anointed (John 12:3, &c.; Matt. 26:6). “The next day,” that is, the day after the supper, which, indisputably, was Sunday (John 12:12), He entered Jerusalem in triumph.

The series of events, in which our Lord was engaged, from Friday, the day of His arrival in Bethania, till Thursday evening, on which commenced the Paschal festival of the following day, whereon He died, was as follows:—On Friday, 8th Nisan, He came to Bethania, and rested there, on account of the Sabbath. 9th Nisan, which terminated on Saturday evening, He supped at “the house of Simon the leper,” late on that evening, after the close of the Sabbath. The day after this supper—Palm Sunday—10th Nisan, He entered Jerusalem in triumph (John 12:12), and retired to Bethania, for the night. On Monday morning, 11th Nisan, He cursed the barren fig-tree, on His way back to Jerusalem, where He cast the profane traffickers out of the temple, and returned for the night to Bethania. On Tuesday morning, 12th Nisan, on His way back to Jerusalem, the disciples express their surprise at seeing the barren fig-tree utterly withered, which, probably, escaped them the evening before, on account of the darkness. After delivering lengthened discourses in the temple, on that day, our Lord, leaving the temple, predicts the ruin of the city; and, sitting on Mount Olivet, He answers the questions of the Apostles, regarding the threatened destruction of Jerusalem, and the final end of all things. The two days before the Pasch, commence on this evening of Tuesday. After spending the night on Mount Olivet (Luke 21:37, 38), as was His wont, He goes to Jerusalem the next day, Wednesday, 13th Nisan. The Council is held there, for the purpose of destroying Him. Judas covenants with the Chief Priests, to betray Him for a fixed price. Our Lord repairs that evening, as usual, to Bethania, and spends the night there. It is not likely, that He came to Jerusalem early the following day, 14th Nisan, as, in the afternoon, He sent in two of His disciples to prepare the Pasch, whom He Himself soon followed, with the other Apostles, in order to celebrate it at the evening hour, appointed by the Jewish law, for eating the Paschal lamb (Ex. 12:6). At sunset of this 14th day of the month Nisan, commenced the first day of Azymes. The festival of the following day always commenced, according to the Jewish computation of festivals, on the preceding evening. On that night, our Lord celebrates the Pasch; institutes the Blessed Eucharist; goes to Gethsemani; is apprehended, and brought before the assembled Sanhedrin. The following morning, the 15th Nisan—the Paschal solemnity—He is brought again before the Sanhedrin, who send Him to Pilate, by whom He is condemned to the death of the cross, crucified at mid-day, and buried before sunset. If we bear in mind the Jewish calculation of their festivals, viz., from the sunset of the day preceding the festival, till the sunset of the festival day itself, we can easily reconcile the apparent discrepancy between Matthew (Mt 5:17), Mark (Mk 14:22), Luke (Lk 22:7), who all concur in saying, that our Lord celebrated the Pasch on the first day of Azyms, and St. John (Jn 13:1), who says, it was celebrated the day before. Both accounts are true. It was the evening before, according to the civil computation of time, which St. John, who wrote sixty years after this, when the Jewish law and Jewish usages had passed away, most likely adopted. But, according to the sacred, or festival computation, which alone the throe other Evangelists attended to, the evening before formed a part of the following festival day. The Pasch was celebrated “between the two evenings” of Thursday and Friday (Mt 26:20). Hence, as our Lord, who was observant of “all justice,” could not be supposed to have anticipated the usual and prescribed time for celebrating the Pasch, the error of the Greeks, who maintained He did not celebrate it in unleavened bread, is clearly refuted.

A question, much debated, is raised here, viz., whether our Lord celebrated the Pasch on the same day with the Jews. That He celebrated it at the time, and in the manner, marked out in the law of Moses (Ex 12:6), seems quite clear, from the words of the Evangelists, Matthew (Mt 26:2–17, 18); Luke (Lk 22:7–13), where our Lord speaks of “the Pasch,” manifestly in the ordinary acceptation of the term, embracing the prescribed time, and all the ceremonies connected with it. But, whether the Jews also celebrated it, on this occasion, on the day appointed by law, the evening of the 14th Nisan, is disputed. Some distinguished commentators hold, that they postponed it one day; that, instead of celebrating it on the evening of Thursday, they put it off till the evening of Friday, and that Saturday, the 16th Nisan, was, in this year, the day on which they kept the Paschal solemnity. These writers say, that the Jews were warranted, by a tradition handed down from their lathers, since the Babylonish captivity, in transferring the celebration of the Pasch, whenever it fell on Friday, to the following day, Saturday, in order to avoid the great inconveniences resulting from the celebration of two festivals, in immediate succession. Rupertus, Paulus Brugensis, Petavius, &c., quote the tradition referred to. But, they have failed to prove its existence, and it is stated by others, that the custom referred to was of a date subsequent to the death of our Divine Redeemer. It seems, however, to be the far more probable opinion, that the Jews celebrated the Pasch on the day marked out by law, the same with that on which it was kept by our Divine Redeemer. This is expressly stated by St. Mark (Mk 14:12). For, he tells us, our Redeemer sent His disciples to prepare the Pasch, “on the first day of the unleavened bread, when they sacrificed the Pasch.” A further proof that our Lord and the Jews celebrated the Pasch on the same day, is derived from the account given by the four Evangelists of the liberation of Barabbas, shortly before our Lord was condemned to death by Pilate. The Governor was wont to release, at the request of the people, a prisoner, whomsoever they demanded. This always happened on the festival day (Matt. 27:15). St. Mark says, the people demanded this, as a matter of course, on the festival; and St. John expressly states (Jn 18:39), that the feast day on which the custom of having a prisoner released, was “the Pasch.” They, therefore, celebrated the Pasch on the day of our Lord’s crucifixion; and hence, they must have partaken of the Paschal supper on the preceding evening, as did our Blessed Lord.

The objections against this opinion are—1st. St. John, who must clearly refer to the Last Supper (see Patrizzi, Lib. iii. Diss. 1.), says, it took place “before the festival day of the Pasch” (Jn 13:1). This has been already answered. St. John, who wrote sixty years after this, followed, not the Jewish computation of festival days, from sunset till sunset; but, the Greek or Roman computation of days, from midnight to midnight. The same Apostle gives proof that in his Gospel he sometimes follows the Roman computation of time (Jn 12:12; 20:19). 2ndly. It is supposed in the account given by St. John (Jn 18:28), of the accusation preferred by the Jews against our Lord, on the day of His death, before the tribunal of Pilate, that they had not then eaten the Pasch, and that, therefore, they had put it off till the evening of that day, whereas our Redeemer had eaten it the evening before. “They went not into the Hall, that they might not he defiled, but that they might eat the Pasch.” Answer. This supposes what is not exactly correct, viz., that the word, Pasch, exclusively refers to the Paschal lamb, eaten on the first day of Azymes. Moses himself (Deut. 16:2, 3), applies the term to victims of sheep and oxen, “sacrificabis Phase Domino Deo tuo ores et loves.” From the pages of the Talmud, it appears, that the word, Pasch, in the usual language of the Jews, applied, besides the Paschal lamb, to the other victims, which were eaten on the 15th of Nisan, the first day of Azymes, and the night following (Patrizzi, ibidem). That it did not apply to the Paschal lamb, in the passage quoted from St. John, is clear from this, that the slight uncleanness the Jews would contract by entering Pilate’s Hall (they seemed to have no scruple whatever regarding the grievous crime of co-operating in the death of a just man), could be easily removed by an evening purification. Hence, there must be reference to some other victims, of which they were to partake before the time of evening lustrations (Patrizzi). 3rdly. We find several acts performed on the day of our Lord’s crucifixion, in connexion with our Lord’s death, which could not be performed on a festival day, such as His arrest, His trial, His crucifixion. Again, we find Joseph of Arimathea and the holy women, after our Lord’s body was taken down from the cross, buying fine linen, and making other preparations for His burial, which would not be allowed on a festival day. Answer. There is no proof that the acts performed preparatory to our Lord’s death, were against the letter of the law, at least, as regards a festival day. The heads of the Jewish Church themselves, who were very anxious to carry out the provisions of the law, at least externally, did not scorn to think these acts were prohibited. All they were concerned about was, not the violation of the law, but, lest His arrest should cause “a tumult among the people” (Matt. 26:5). The same answer applies to the acts performed by Joseph of Arimathea, and the holy women. The Sabbatical rest was more strictly enforced than that on festivals. In reference to the latter, servile work, necessary for the preparation of food, was allowed. (Ex. 12:14–20; 23:14, &c.; Lev. 23:6; Num. 28:16, &c.) But, no such exception extended to the ordinary Sabbath rest. However, even on the Sabbath, the bodies of those who suffered the penalty of death should be buried (Deut. 21:23), and this injunction or concession must include everything necessary for this purpose, such as the act of buying spices, referred to in the Gospel. 4thly. St. John calls the Sabbath immediately following our Lord’s crucifixion, “a great Sabbath day,” “erat enim magnus dies ille Sabbati” (Jn 19:31), which supposes the solemnity of the Pasch to be added to the ordinary Sabbath. Answer. The very fact of its falling within the octave of the Pasch, would warrant the Evangelist in calling is a great Sabbath (see Jn 12:1). 5thly, St. John (Jn 19:14), says, the day of our Lord’s crucifixion was “the parasceve of the Pasch,” which looking to the strict meaning of the word, “parasceve,” preparation, means, “it was the preparation of the Pasch.” Hence, the Pasch was observed on the following day. Answer, The word “parasceve,” if we look to etymology, signified preparation; if we look to usage, commonly signified, the sixth day of the week; this St. Mark expressly says of it (Mk 15:42), “because it was the Parasceve, that is, the day before the Sabbath.” The same meaning of the word is insinuated by St. John (Jn 19:31), “that the bodies might not remain upon the cross on the Sabbath day.” Hence, the phrase means, it was “the Parascere,” or sixth day of the week, within which week was celebrated the Pasch, just as we term the Friday after Easter, Feria 6ta Paschatis, that is to say, Friday within Easter week; and in the three passages of St. John’s Gospel, where the word, parasceve (παρασκυη), is employed, viz. (Jn 19:14, 31, 42), the article is omitted in the two first, to show, it was meant to express, not preparation, but to express the day of the week; whereas, in Jn 19:42, the article shows it means, preparation; not, however, the preparation of the Pasch; but, of the succeeding Sabbath, the common acceptation of the term. It is needless to dwell on any other objections against the opinion we advocate. The arguments in proof of it are far stronger than the objections against it.

“After two days shall be the Pasch.” The word, “Pasch,” signifies, a passing over, and contains an allusion commemorative of the occasion, when the destroying angel in Egypt smote the Egyptians, and passed over the houses of the Hebrews, the jambs of whose doors were sprinkled with the blood of the lamb, slain on the occasion (Ex 12:1)—hence, the term, Passover. It is frequently employed to denote—1st. The Paschal lamb, slain according to law (Ex 12:6), on the evening of the 14th of the month, Nisan, the first month with the Jews, corresponding with our March (Ex 12:21; Deut. 16:2; Luke 22:7; Matt. 26:17; Mark 14:12; 1 Cor. 5:7). 2ndly. The solemnity itself, as here, and Mark 14:1; Luke 22:1. 3rdly. Other victims, which were offered up with the Paschal lamb, but after a different rite, as peace offerings (Deut. 16:2; 2 Chron 35:7–9, 13).

“And the Son of man shall be delivered,” &c. “The Son of man.” It is quite usual with our Lord to speak of Himself in the third person, and call Himself “the Son of man;” as if to convey to us, that, although the Son of God from eternity, He has still humbled Himself for us, by taking upon Himself the true nature of man, in which alone He could have become a Redeemer for us; and that He has taken upon Himself, for our sakes, all the infirmities and ills of weak human nature, sin excepted.

“Shall be delivered,” most likely, refers to the treason of Judas, as He refers to a particular time—“after two days,” &c.—in the foregoing. St. Thomas and Origen observe, that our Redeemer was delivered by His Father, and by Himself, in order to redeem mankind; by the devil, in order to incite men to sin, and prevent the work of man’s redemption; by Judas, through avarice; by the Jews, through envy; and by Pilate, through fear of losing the friendship of Cæsar.

“To be crucified.” If the preceding words refer to Judas, then, in these words is expressed merely the consequence of His betrayal. If to the Jews, they express the the end or motive; for, they cried out, “Crucifige, crucifige eum.” Our Redeemer conveys, in these words, that the immolation of the true Paschal Lamb is to take place in such a way that the antitype shall fully correspond with its type, by being sacrificed on the same day, freely and voluntarily selected by Himself for that object.

Mt 26:3. “Then,” may refer to the time our Redeemer uttered these words regarding His Passion, or about the time, viz., early on the following (Wednesday) morning, to show the infallible efficacy of the Divine decree, ordaining that our Lord should suffer at the time of the Pasch. The very fact of our Redeemer uttering the prophecy at this time shows, He could not have learned the circumstance from the hostile meeting of the Sanhedrin, which took place afterwards, and whose deliberations were opposed to His being put to death on the day He had fixed upon. “Then,” may refer to the Pasch, which was to occur “after two days,” and for which, as a joyous and solemn festival, the chief men among the Jews should be preparing, rather than be engaged in plotting against the life of an innocent man. It was in consequence of this Jewish Council, held on Wednesday, to compass our Redeemer’s death, that Wednesday was a fast day in the early Christian Church (St. Augustine, Epist. 36; Theophylact and Victor Antiochenus, in Marcum xvi. 1, 2).

“The Chief Priests.” By these are generally understood, the heads or chiefs of the twenty-four sacerdotal families (1 Chron. 15:6, 7; 2 Chron. 24:6), according to the arrangements of David, which continued to our Redeemer’s time; or, those who had been High Priests already. For, from the time of Herod, this dignity was not perpetual, as formerly, but annual; and formed the subject of the most iniquitous traffic, and of the basest venality (see Mt 2:4).

“And ancients of the people.” By these were meant, those whom St. Luke (Lk 22:4) calls “magistrates,” who ruled in civil matters—a signification in which the Greek word, στρατηγοι, is often employed in SS. Scripture. (Acts 4; Acts 16:20, &c.) These were generally Pharisees (Josephus, Lib. 18 Antiq.) The Greek text has here, “and the Scribes.” So also have Mark and Luke, as if to convey to us, that in this assemblage, the different orders in the State—Chief Priests, Doctors of the Law, and Judges, were represented. The words mean: that the Sanhedrim, composed of the different orders, which, presided over by the High Priest, was the supreme tribunal among the Jews, appointed to judge doctrinal questions, and sit in judgment on false prophets, had been assembled on this occasion.

“Into the Court of the High Priest,” that is, the Court or Hall of the High Priest’s house, where such assemblies usually took place. It may be used by synedoche for the house itself, denoting a mansion or palace. While there were several chiefs of Priestly families, there was but one High Priest. His name was “Caiphas,” whom Josephus represents as infamous for his avarice and bad qualities, by which he worked his way to the office of High Priest (Lib. 18, Antiq. c. 3, 6). It is most likely, that this assembly was convoked by him, who, from his office, far from stimulating men to the perpetration of injustice, should be the first to warn them against it.

Mt 26:4. “They consulted together,” not what preparation they should make for the coming solemn festival; but, “that by subtilty,” that is, how they could privately, without the knowledge of the people, who, they feared, would rescue Him; or, without any anticipation on the part of Jesus Himself, who might escape from them, and elude their grasp, as He did on former occasions. “They might apprehend Jesus, and,” after having seized Him, “put Him to death.” They had already determined on His death; nay, the Pontiff of that year had declared this to be a just measure of necessary precaution and public safety. But, the question now deliberated among them was, how this could be safely and effectually brought about. “They feared the people,” as we are informed by St. Luke (22:2), if they were to attempt anything publicly against Him. Hence, their deliberation, regarding the mode of apprehending and putting Him to death; and their resolve that it should not occur on the festival day.

Mt 26:5. “Not on the festival day,” that is, either on the first day of the Pasch, or the following days; but, that His arrest should be either anticipated, as is held by some or, postponed, as the words are interpreted by others, till after the seven days of the Paschal solemnity had expired. “Lest there should be a tumult among the people,” who assembled from every part of Judea, on the occasion of the Paschal solemnity. Among this assembled multitude, there were many of our Redeemer’s own countrymen from Galilee—many who received benefits at His hands, cures of their bodily distempers, many, whose hunger He miraculously appeased in the desert—many, who regarded Him as a holy man and a prophet. The enemies of our Divine Redeemer, therefore, calculated, that if any violence were resorted to against Him on this public occasion, when it was usual to release and pardon malefactors, the multitude, who, as we learn from Josephus (Lib. Antiq. 20), were prone to tumults, which caused the Roman Governor to station a body of soldiers near the temple, would resent it, and rescue Him out of their hands, and, perhaps, maltreat themselves. Hence, they resolve that the apprehension and death of our Redeemer should either precede the Paschal solemnity, or be postponed till alter it. But, the designs of God are not to be frustrated by human machinations. The true Paschal Lamb was to have suffered on the Paschal solemnity, according to the decrees of God. Hence, it came to pass, that the High Priests, &c., changing their minds, availed themselves of the unexpected opportunity presented to them, by the treason of Judas, for His apprehension; and, forgetful of the sacredness of the Paschal solemnity, imbrue their hands in His blood; while the multitude, whom they dreaded, seconding their efforts, called for His crucifixion, and invoked His innocent blood on their own heads, and those of their children; so, that the designs of God, and the consequent predictions of our Redeemer, regarding the day, the hour, the place, and manner of His death were fulfilled to the letter.

Mt 26:6. “And when Jesus was in Bethania,” &c. The anointing of our Saviour, described here, occurred some days before the above words were spoken. It occurred, as we are informed by St. John (Jn 12:1), “six days before the Patch,” and before His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. But, as SS. Matthew and Mark had omitted referring to it in its proper place and order, they introduce it here after the description of our Lord’s public entry, because the anointing of our Redeemer, and the profusion and expense incurred, served as the occasion of suggesting to the avaricious Judas, the idea of betraying Him for money. Our Lord frequently stopped at Bethania, the native village of Martha and Mary, at the foot of Mount Olivet. On the present occasion, He was entertained by “Simon,” called “the leper,” either from having been himself infected with leprosy, of which he was now cured; or, it may have been a cognomen of his family.

Mt 26:7. “There came to Him a woman, having an alabaster box,” &c. This box was made of alabaster, or rather, of some fragile substance like it. St. Mark (Mk 14:3) says, she poured out the ointment, “breaking the alabaster box,” which might be understood, of breaking the narrow neck of the fragile flask, in which such perfumes were usually kept. It was “precious,” of great value, both in regard to the quality, and, also, the quantity, which, St. John tells us, was “a pound.” A pound weight of this ointment was worth “three hundred pence,” or denarii, which amounted to a large sum. St. Mark (Mk 14:3) and St. John (Jn 12:3) tell us, it was the ointment “of spikenard.” The valuable extract or perfume of the roots of this aromatic Eastern plant, was highly prized by the ancients, and much used at feasts and baths. Both St. John and St. Mark call it, νάρδου πιστικῆς. The meaning of the latter term is much controverted. Some understand pistici, to mean, genuine, unadulteratea, the sense attached to the word in our English version (John 12:3), “right spikenard.” Others, more probably, deriving it from a different root, give the meaning of, potable, liquid, to distinguish it from the spikenard ointment, which is of a more solid description.

But, who the “woman” was, is a subject of much controversy. It seems, the more probable opinion, that, although the anointing described by St. Luke (Lk 7:37, &c.), is different from that described here by St. Matthew, and by Mark (14), John (12);—for, the former occurred two years before our Redeemer’s death; the latter, only a few days before it—still, the female referred to on both occasions is Mary Magdalen, the sister of Lazarus and Martha (John 11) For, in speaking of Mary, the sister of Lazarus, St. John (Jn 11:2) describes her as the person “who anointed the Lord with ointment,” &c., which could hardly be assigned, as a peculiar designation of Mary Magdalen, had any other woman done the same; and, although she is described by St. Luke (Lk 7:37) as a “sinner,” and would seem to be represented by the other Evangelists as a saint; still, as they refer to different periods, it only shows she gave up her previous sinful life, and returned to God by penance. The difference in the mode of anointing—she having been represented on one occasion as anointing His feet; on another, His head—proves nothing; as, on the occasion when she is described as anointing His feet, it is to be presumed, she also did what was usual on such occasions, viz., anointed His head. This our Redeemer insinuates, when addressing Simon (Luke 7:46), He says, “My head with oil thou didst not anoint, but she with ointment hath anointed”—not only My head, but, also—“My feet.” That Matthew, Mark, and John refer to the same anointing, although there may be some apparent trivial discrepancy as regards the days, is clear, from the perfect concurrence of almost all the circumstances—the place (Bethania); the kind of oil; the murmuring of Judas—our Redeemer’s approbation of the act. For, how could the same charge be so soon repeated by the traitor, within four days after the severe rebuke of our Saviour on the same subject? St. John particularizes the female, viz., Mary, the sister of Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead; because, his object was, as he follows the order of time, to describe more particularly this occurrence; whereas, Matthew and Mark merely call her “a woman,” because they merely incidentally refer to this unction as introductory to the treason of Judas, of which it was the occasion. St. John does not say, that this supper took place in the house of Lazarus; he only says (Jn 12:2), “they made Him a supper there,” viz., Bethania, in what house, he does not say. He rather insinuates, that it was not at the house of Lazarus; for, he says, “Lazarus was one of them that sat at table,” which would be hardly a matter to be recorded, if the supper was given at his own house; nor would it be deserving of special record, that Martha and Mary served, if it was at their own house. The other Evangelists say expressly, it was “at the house of Simon the leper.”

Mt 26:8-9. “The disciples seeing it” (St. Mark 14:4) has, “some” of them, which is perfectly reconcilable with St. Matthew; St. John 12:4, says, “one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot”), which may be easily explained, by a figure quite common in SS. Scripture, which employs the plural for the singular; thus, it is said, the thieves on the cross blasphemed Him, while only one did so. Or, it may be more probable, as St. Augustine explains it (Lib. 2 de Consensu. Evangel.), that Judas, having first expressed his indignation, the other Apostles, who knew our Redeemer’s austere manner of life, and His unbounded charity to the poor, then joined in expressing feelings of indignation, but from different motives—Judas from avarice (John 12:6); they, from charity. This mode of explaining the passage, derives probability from the words which St. John subjoins: “Now he said this, not because he cared for the poor; but, because he was a thief,” &c. Our Redeemer’s rebuke is addressed, not to one, but to all. St. Mark and St. John say, it was worth “more than three hundred pence,” which shows the ungrudging liberality of the woman towards Him. The value of a penny, or denarius, among the ancients, was considerable. We are informed by Tacitus (Annal. i. 17), it was more than the daily pay of a Roman soldier.

Mt 26:10. “Jesus knowing it.” In virtue of His Divine knowledge, He knew their private murmurings, addressed directly to the woman; but indirectly, levelled at Himself, for having permitted such waste, although these murmurings did not reach His ear. “Said to them.” He does not harshly rebuke their indiscreet murmuring; nor does He expose the avarice of Judas, nor his affected concern for the poor; but, mildly, wishing to teach them to bear with those who err not from malice, He undertakes the defence of the woman. “Why do you trouble this woman?” by your rash and unfounded accusations. “For, she hath wrought a good work upon Me,” a work dictated by humanity, gratitude, the firmest faith, the most ardent love towards the Son of God. “Upon Me,” towards Me, whom it must be far more praiseworthy and meritorious to serve than the poor. He next answers their objections or grounds of murmuring.

Mt 26:11. For, as regards the poor, for whom you seem so much concerned, the world shall always abound with them, so that you shall never want an opportunity of relieving them; but, as I am to be put to death in a few days, and although I shall be always with My Church, and My immensity ever fills the heavens and the earth; still, I shall not be amongst you in a visible, corporal appearance, and in mortal flesh, so as to be an object of bodily relief. Those, therefore, that are disposed to show Me kindness, during the short period of my visible stay here below, should not be interfered with.

Mt 26:12. “For she in pouring this ointment,” &c. This, He adds, to convey to them the near approach of His death; and He assigns this, also, as an excuse for her anointing Him. He might have excused her, or praised her act, on several grounds—on the ground of the excellence of His Divine Person—as this act of honour was exhibited to His own Divine Person, which it was more meritorious to serve and honour than the poor, however numerous or indigent—also, on the ground of her strong devoted affection and the praiseworthy motives of gratitude, humility, piety, &c., from which this act had proceeded. Passing over these, He confined Himself to this, viz., that by anticipation, she had shown that devotion and respect to Him, still alive, but, however, on the point of death, which it would be regarded as praiseworthy in her to have shown Him when dead. The Jews usually embalmed and anointed the bodies of their dead (John 19:40), to show their affection, to preserve them from corruption, and in testimony of their faith in the future resurrection. Our Redeemer, then, wishes to convey, it was not from motives of pleasure or luxury, to which He was so averse during life, that either He was influenced in permitting the anointing, or she in performing it. But, that it was simply meant to be an anticipated act of funereal respect, which she would not be permitted to show when He was dead. He knew well, she could not anoint Him alter His death; because, owing to circumstances, she could not approach Him, and Joseph and Nicodemus would have anticipated her. His resurrection, also, was to have occurred so soon, that she would hardly have time. Hence, He permitted her to do beforehand, not as a matter of luxury, but as a duty of piety, what she would, but could not, have done after His death. This is conveyed (Mark 14:8), when He says, she, as it were, by anticipation, anointed His body for burial. This is also conveyed by St. John, when He says, “Let her alone, that she may keep it against the day of My burial,” that is, allow her to use the ointment for the purpose for which she has kept it, viz., against the day of My burial, which, knowing to be nigh at hand, she has anticipated. Our Redeemer here tacitly contrasts her anxiety, to preserve His body, with that of the murmuring Judas, who contemplated and projected in his mind, to destroy Him. It is disputed, whether Mary Magdalen had really intended in her mind, from a full knowledge and belief in our Saviour’s approaching death, and the difficulty of anointing Him, to do so by anticipation; or, whether she merely acted from feelings of love and gratitude, without any reference to His death, the Holy Ghost impelling her to do so, unconsciously on her part, but intended by Him to have reference to our Lord’s death, after which she could not anoint Him. Just as Caiphas uttered a prophecy, unconsciously; so, she acted a prophetic part, without being conscious of it.

By some, it is held that she fully intended this anointing in anticipation of His death, and the honour, then, due to Him, which she knew she could not show; and that our Redeemer had communicated to her the knowledge of His approaching death—to her, whose faith was, doubtless, as strong as that of her sister, Martha, who proclaimed Him to be the Christ, the Son of the living God (John 11:27). And this derives confirmation from the words of the Angel to the holy women, among whom was Magdalen (Luke 24:6, 7).

Others say, it is most likely, that Magdalen merely acted from feelings of love and gratitude; but, that the Holy Ghost intended it to be an act of anointing His body beforehand, and from this intention of the Holy Ghost, our Redeemer derives an argument to excuse or commend her act.

Mt 26:13. Our Redeemer opposes to the censure of Judas, the praise and commendation of the entire world. He insinuates, that “this Gospel,” the message of salvation through Christ, and the history of His life and Passion on earth, shall be preached throughout the entire world, embracing Gentile as well as Jew. What she did, shall be also spoken of, or proclaimed, “for a memory of her,” that is, in commemoration of her having done this thing, viz., out of love and affection for Me, meant also by the Holy Ghost to be a prophetic anticipation of My approaching death. Hence, the praiseworthy excellence of this act, which caused the avaricious Judas to murmur.

Mt 26:14. “Then,” may have no reference whatever to time, and may simply mean, that on account of this tacit reproach, addressed to him by our Redeemer, while defending the act of the woman, and seeing all hopes of securing the price of the precious ointment baffled, Judas, out of a spirit of revenge, and blinded by avarice, resolved to betray Him. Or, if “then” refers to time, it has reference to what is recorded (Mt 26:3), the intermediate account of the anointing of our Saviour’s feet, being merely parenthetically introduced.

“One of the twelve,” shows the magnitude of his guilt and ingratitude, since it was not even one of the seventy-two disciples; but, one of His constant companions, a member of His own family, whom He destined to be one of the future pillars of His Church. This circumstance, however, rendered him a fit instrument for betraying our Lord, as being well acquainted with His domestic habits, His going out and coming in.

“Who was called Judas Iscariot.” He mentions his name, “Judas,” to save the character of the other Apostles. “Iscariot,” to distinguish him from Jude, the author of the Catholic Epistle (John 14:22).

“Went,” spontaneously, of his own accord; “the devil having entered into him” (Luke 22:3), instigating him, and acting on his blind passions and perverted will, urged him on to this mad act. St. John more clearly expresses it (Jn 13:2), “the devil put it into the heart of Judas … to betray Him.”

“To the Chief Priests,” to which St. Luke adds, “and to the magistrates” (Lk 22:4). This refers to the meeting mentioned (Mt 26:3). Very likely, he went into Jerusalem, on Wednesday morning, under pretext of some business, and hearing of the assembly of the High Priests, &c. (Mt 26:3), he conjectured what the cause of their meeting was, for, he knew that “the Pharisees and High Priests gave a command, that if any one knew where our Lord was, he should tell, in order that they might apprehend Him” (John 11:56).

Mt 26:15. “And he said to them,” &c. It is most likely, that Judas, before making the base offer of betraying his Master, made some charge against Him, in order to palliate his own treachery, and to make it appear that he was himself trustworthy, such as allowing Himself the luxury of having His head and feet anointed, to which he may have added other charges, not recorded by the Evangelists.

“What will you give me?” &c. These words are interpreted by some (among the rest, St. Jerome), to convey, that Judas regarded our Redeemer of such little value, as to leave it to themselves to give what they pleased; that he would receive any price for Him. Others understand the words to mean, that Judas wished to know, if they meant to give a suitable, a sufficiently large price for Him; and, that he would betray Him, if they meant to compensate him as was fit for them to do. “The wretch,” says St. Jerome, “wished to indemnify himself for the loss of the price of the ointment, by the price of his Master.” He is so blinded by avarice, that he merely bargains for the money, regardless of how they would afterwards treat his Master. So blinded, that he forgets every feeling of humanity, gratitude, friendship; nay, the omniscience and omnipotence of Jesus, of which he had already witnessed so many proofs. “They appointed him,” which some understand to mean, measured out to him, actually gave him. Others, more probably; they promised to give, they covenanted with him for, “thirty pieces of silver.” There is a diversity of opinion as to the precise value of this sum. It is, however, generally maintained, that whenever there is mention of αργυριον (argenteus, Vulgate) in the New Testament, it means, the Jewish silver sicle, which was equivalent to the Greek stater, and was equal to two didrachmas, or four Attic drachmas. Hence (Exodus 21:32), for “thirty sicles of silver,” according to the Hebrew reading, the Septuagint have, “thirty didrachmas of silver,” the price of a slave among the Jews (Exodus 21:32). The value of a “silver piece,” or sicle, was something about 2s. 6d. of our money. Hence, the price set on our Redeemer was something under £3, 15s, of our money, the price of n common slave. This sum, though small, was still, considering the increased value of money in these early days, sufficient to purchase the potter’s field (Mt 27:7). It is probable, this field was in a most wretched condition, the best part of the soil having been taken away from it. Moreover, its extent is not stated in SS. Scripture, nor is it said, that this sum was exclusively appropriated to the purchase.

Mt 26:16. “From thenceforth”—this happened on Wednesday morning—“he sought an opportunity,” both as to time and place, “to betray Him” into the hands of His enemies. Instigated by the spirit of avarice, he watched our Redeemer, when, on the following (Thursday) night, he proceeded to the garden of Gethsemani, and there found the desired opportunity of privately betraying Him, and thus securing the price of innocent blood. Base ingratitude of Judas; yet, how often may not we have sold the Son of God, not once, but hundreds of times, and handed Him over to the devil, not for even thirty crowns, but for a base, brutal passion. Hence, when contemplating the perfidy of Judas, and viewing with horror all its circumstances, we may justly apply to ourselves the words of Nathan to David, “Thou art the man” (2 Sam 12:7). For, we are assured by the Holy Ghost, that as often as we commit mortal sin, which does not so much as gain us thirty pieces of silver, “we crucify again the Son of God, and make a mockery of Him.” (Heb. 6) How frequently should we not exclaim from the bottom of our hearts, and in a truly penitential spirit, “Miserere mei Deus,” &c. “Tibi soli peccavi … peccatum meum contra me est semper.”

Mt 26:17. “And on the first day of Azymes,” that is, of unleavened bread, which commenced with the Paschal solemnity, viz., on the evening of the 14th Nisan. On that evening, they should eat the Paschal lamb with unleavened bread (Ex. 12:8). On that evening commenced the feast of unleavened bread, called also the Feast of the Pasch, which continued seven days. The 14th Nisan is called the first day of Azymes, because the Feast of Azymes, or the Pasch, which was celebrated on the 15th Nisan, commenced, according to the Jewish computation of festivals, from sunset to sunset, on the previous evening of the 14th. Hence, the first day of the Feast of Azymes, or Pasch, may be said to be the 14th or 15th Nisan; for, it commenced at sunset of the 14th, and ended at the sunset of the 15th. The feast continued for seven days.

But, as our Lord sent His two disciples into Jerusalem, to prepare the Pasch at an earlier date than that on which the festival of the following day commenced, a question may arise, how could it be said that, at the hour they were sent in, it was the first day of Azymes? The answer commonly given is, that the Jews, as may be seen from their records, were wont to clear their houses of all leaven, early on the 14th, in preparation for the festival; the 14th was, therefore, popularly termed the first day of Azymes, as all leaven was entirely removed from their houses, from an early part of the day.

“The disciples came to Jesus, saying: Where,” &c. There is some difference between the narration of St. Luke and that of St. Matthew. The most probable way of reconciling both is, that our Redeemer first, put His disciples in mind, as St. Luke relates (Lk 22:8), of preparing for the coming Pasch; and that they, then, asked Him, as is given by the three Evangelists. “Where wilt Thou, that we prepare for Thee to eat the Pasch?”

“The disciples came to Jesus,” after having been sent for. St. Mark (Mk 14:13) says, “two of His disciples;” and these, St. Luke (Lk 22:8) says, were “Peter and John.”

“Where,” that is, in what house; for, Jerusalem alone was appointed by law (Deut. 16:5-7), to be the place to which all the Jews should resort for celebrating the Paschal solemnity.

“Wilt Thou we prepare for Thee the Pasch?” According to some writers, not the Priests alone, but those also who were deputed by the heads of a family, as Peter and John were deputed here (Luke 22:8) by our Lord, were allowed to sacrifice the Paschal lamb at home, to roast it and prepare it for consumption. For this, these writers quote the authority of Philo. Others, more probably, maintain, with Patrizzi (de Evangeliis) that the Priests alone could receive the blood of the victims, and, with it, sprinkle the rim of the altar.

Mt 26:18. “Go ye into the city”—hence, He was by this time at Bethania—“to a certain man.” He points out the man without naming him, on account of the presence of Judas, lest he might prematurely, or in any unseemly way, interrupt the solemnity of the Last Supper. Both St. Mark (14) and St. Luke (22) give a more particular account of the man in question, or rather, of the circumstances, that distinguished him from any other. On entering the city, they were to meet a man carrying a pitcher of water; they should follow him into the house he was to enter, and there addressing the master of the house, who was clearly different from the man carrying the water, they were to address him in these words: “The Master saith, My time is at hand,” My time for leaving this world, and, after redeeming mankind, and leaving them the most affecting proof of My love, to return to My Father.

“I will keep the Pasch,” &c. This He adds, to let him know the number, thirteen, for whom he was to provide suitable accommodation. It is generally supposed, that this man was one of our Saviour’s followers. The word “Master,” a common designation of our Lord among His followers, would seem to confirm this opinion. There is a tradition, that this was the house of John Mark, the companion of St. Paul and Barnabas, in preaching the Gospel. There, the Apostles lay concealed after our Redeemer’s death. There, He appeared to them on the evening of His resurrection. There, they received the Holy Ghost on Pentecost Sunday. Thither, St. Peter repaired after his liberation by the Angel. Some are of opinion, that our Redeemer had previously arranged with him, to celebrate the Pasch in his house. Others seem to think, that there was no such previous arrangement, but that, as our Lord had exerted His power, and shown His dominion in the case of the owner of the ass and the colt, who at once gave them up; so, here also, without any previous concert, and, in order to confirm the faith of His Apostles, He wishes to show His power and authority in influencing the mind of the householder to comply with His wishes.

It seems, that this man made becoming preparation for them, for, “he had a large dining-room furnished.” The Greek—ανωγεων—would imply, in the upper part of the house. This was prepared, either in consequence of a previous understanding with our Redeemer; or, having it prepared already, for some other party, he placed it at once at the service of our Lord.

Mt 26:19. The disciples, viz., Peter and John—his most confidential and intimate friends among the Apostles—went “and prepared the Pasch,” that is, got ready everything necessary for eating the Paschal lamb. They had the lamb itself, a male of one year, without blemish, duly sacrificed and prepared, through the intervention of the Priests, who received the blood of the lamb between the two evenings, sprinkled the altar with it, and placed the victim on the altar, and then returned it to the families who offered it. That this was the rite of sacrifice, we are informed by Josephus (De Bello, Lib. 6, c. 1), who tells us, that, in reply to the question of Cestius, regarding the number of Jews who assembled at Jerusalem, the Priests, in order to determine this exactly, as ten persons should partake of each lamb, told precisely the number of lambs sacrificed, which they could not do, unless the lambs were prepared, and the sacerdotal services performed at the stated hour. The Apostles also got ready unleavened bread, and wild lettuces. After the sacrificing of the Paschal lamb, the Jews could not have leaven in their houses for seven days. The use of unleavened bread continued from the evening of the 14th Nisan till the evening of the 21st of the same month (Ex. 12:18).

Mt 26:20. “Now when it was evening,” after sunset. The lamb was immolated between the third hour of the day and sunset, but not eaten till after sunset. The Hebrew in Exodus (Ex 12:6) Ben-arbaiim, which St. Jerome translates, “ad vesperam,” “in the evening,” or rather, “towards evening,” signifies, between the two evenings, that is, between the ninth hour, or three o’clock of our day, when the sun begins to decline, and sunset. This time was set apart for sacrificing the Paschal lamb, which corresponds with the hour at which the true Paschal Lamb was sacrificed (Matt. 27:46). After sunset, “when it was evening;” or, as St. Luke has it (Lk 22:14), “when the hour was come, He sat down to eat it with His twelve disciples.” They constituted His family, who were to eat the Paschal lamb with Him. It is insinuated, that all were present, not excepting the traitor, Judas. We are informed by Philo (Lib. de Sacrif. Cain and Abel), that the Jewish Pasch was partaken of by men in a standing posture. The law, however, does not command this, although it implies it (Ex. 12:11). The words of St. Matthew, “He sat down,” merely convey, that He partook of food, without determining the posture, in which He did so, whether standing or reclining.

Possibly, our Redeemer might have partaken of the Paschal lamb in a standing posture. Others maintain, that He had partaken of the Jewish supper, and other viands, served up on that occasion, in a reclining posture. This is held by St. Chrysostom, Theophylact, and others (John 13:4).

In describing banquets in our day, we commonly say, a man sat down to dinner, accommodating ourselves to the ordinary forms of expression, although, in that particular instance, He might have been standing, while partaking of it. Calmet (in hunc locum) says, the Jews of his day, eat the Pasch in a sitting posture; perhaps, because they regarded a standing posture commanded in Exodus (Ex 12:1) as appertaining only to the first occasion of the institution of the Pasch by Moses. St. Hilary is the only one among the Fathers, who denies that Judas was present. That he was, is clear from Matthew 26:21; Mark 14:18; Luke 22:21; John 13:11, 26, 30.

Mt 26:21. St. Luke (Lk 22:21), says, these words were used by our Redeemer, not before, as here, but after, the institution of the adorable Eucharist. And this seems more likely, as our Redeemer would hardly have disturbed the minds of His Apostles before preparing for this solemn supper, by the announcement recorded here. Hence, St. Matthew records the matter here by anticipation. Others, however (St. Augustine, &c.), say, that our Redeemer twice alluded to His betrayal, before the Last Supper, and after it. He alluded to it in a very general way before the Last Supper, not naming the traitor. Then the Apostles, having asked who it was, He, still in a very indefinite way, describes him to be the party who dipped his hand in the dish with Him (Mt 26:23). This, however, is intended more to show the close intimacy existing, and the consequent aggravated guilt of the traitor, than to determine the person. After that, He institutes the Eucharist, and then declares, the traitor was with Him at the table (Luke 22:21; John 13:21). Then, St. Peter beckoned to St. John, who was reclining on our Redeemer’s breast, to ask who it was; and it was told him in reply, that it was the person to whom He would give bread dipped (John 13:26); after which, Judas left to consummate his wickedness.

“Amen I say to you.” He premises a solemn asseveration, as the matter seemed so incredible. “One of you,” My chosen friends, whom I have thus honoured and exalted, “will betray Me.” He often before predicted, that He would be delivered to the Gentiles, &c.; but, it is only now He predicts by whom this was to be done. And this He does, to show them, that He was fully conscious of all that was to happen, and that He was freely to undergo death. He did not expressly name Judas, in order, by this consideration for his feelings, to incline him to repent for the wicked deed he meditated—to teach us, how to act towards occult sinners—and, also, lest the Apostles might lay violent hands on him, in vindicating the honour of their Master.

Mt 26:22. They were very much terrified, from a consciousness of their own weakness, however, and a dread of the secret judgments of God, although not conscious to themselves of any wicked design against their Divine Master, whose assurance, they could not call in question.

Mt 26:23. The same is given (Mark 14:20). Our Redeemer still refrains from naming him; and He mentions the circumstance of great intimacy and familiarity, to aggravate the guilt and ingratitude of the party. The mention of “his hand” is very significant, as if to say, the hand that is in the dish with Me, the same it is, that shall betray Me. It may be, that in the word, “dish,” we have the container for the thing contained, so that the words would mean: the man who uses the same food and table with Me, he it is that is to betray Me. This is conformable to the words of the Psalmist 41:10, “qui edebat panes meos,” &c. (Mark 14:18; Luke 22:21.) Hence, in this answer, our Redeemer does not say, who is, or who is not to betray Him. He only repeats His former assertion, adding a circumstance implying great familiarity, calculated to aggravate and heighten the guilt of the traitor.

Mt 26:24. Meekness having failed, He now has recourse to threats of punishment, in order to incline him to repentance. “The Son of man goeth,” that is, leaving the world, He “goeth” to death, of His own free will, and returns to His Father, in accordance with the predictions of the Prophets and the determined decree of Heaven (Luke 22:22). But, although immense advantage shall accrue to the human race from My death, and great glory to My Father, still, “woe,” eternal torture shall be the fate of the wretch “by whom the Son of man shall be betrayed.” He is not, on that account, to be reputed guiltless. Although the human race may profit by it; still, it were better for him, that he were never born, than be tortured for all eternity.

Mt 26:25. The traitor, fearing discovery from his silence, also asked, with the others, and in terms of greater respect, “Is it I, Rabbi?” while the others addressed Him, as “Lord.” The holy Fathers here express their amazement at the cool effrontery of Judas. It does not seem likely, that he asked our Redeemer separately from the others, after He said (Mt 26:23), “he that dippeth his hand,” &c., as the account given here by St. Matthew would seem to indicate; for, otherwise, the Apostles could have clearly seen he was the party alluded to, but, that he asked the question with the others (Mt 26:22). Others, however, are of opinion that Judas asked this question, after our Redeemer intimated to St. John, who it was, by giving him the morsel of bread.

“He saith: Thou hast said it”—a mild form of saying: Yes, thou art the man. This is also the signification the words bear when addressed to Caiphas (verse 64), whilst St. Mark says, “I am He” (Mk 14:62). It is most likely, that our Lord said this, in so low a tone of voice, as to escape the notice of the other Apostles, who were thrown into confusion by the announcement (Mt 26:21). For, we find, that even after our Lord had given a definite sign to St. John, and told Judas, “quod facis, fac citius” (John 13:27); still, they did not understand what was meant (Mt 26:28-29).

Mt 26:26. Our loving Saviour, now on the point of leaving this world and returning to His father, institutes the adorable Eucharist, in which “He, as it were, pours forth the riches of His Divine love towards men, making a memorial of His wonders.” (Concil. Trid. SS. xiii. c. ii.) Speaking of the adorable Eucharist, St. Augustine says: “Although God be omnipotent, He can do no more; although infinitely wise, He can contrive nothing greater; although infinitely rich, He can bestow nothing greater.” Every circumstance connected with this adorable institution is calculated to awaken our love and heighten our gratitude towards our loving Saviour in this Divine mystery. When did He institute it? The night before His cruel Passion; while men were bent on putting Him to an ignominious death, He was bent on leaving them an antidote of immortality. For how long? “Till He come” to judgment, that is to say, till the end of the world. On whom? “His delight is to be with the children of men.” And oh! “What is man, that He should be (thus) mindful of him, or the Son of man that He should (thus) visit him?” Ungrateful man, at all times unmindful of Him, nay, often insulting Him and outraging Him in this Divine institution.

What is the gift bestowed? Himself, on whom the Angels love to look, the joy of the elect for eternity, when they shall behold Him face to face, who now conceals Himself under the sacramental veils, lest we should be oppressed with the Majesty of Glory—Himself, who fills heaven and earth, than whom heaven or earth can contain nothing greater.

At what sacrifice does He give Himself? Let the history of the neglect, the profanation, the impiety, shown the adorable Eucharist from its first institution, to the end of time, answer. Should not, therefore, the consideration of these and other circumstances, stimulate us to love with our whole hearts our Blessed Lord in the adorable Sacrament, to make reparation to His loving heart for all He endured for our sakes, and to proclaim and extol for ever, the boundless dimensions, that is to say, the height, length, breadth, and depth, of that excessive love which made Him annihilate Himself even more than He has done in the mystery of His Incarnation, for our sakes.

“Whilst they were at supper.” The Greek, εσθιόντων αὐτῶν means, whilst they were eating (as in Mt 26:21). But, as the repast, of which they were partaking at that late hour of the evening, was supper, the Vulgate interpreter conveyed the sense, “cœnantibus illis.” From St. Paul, who relates the circumstances, as he was taught by our Lord (1 Cor. 11), and from St. Luke also, we learn, that it was after supper—“after He had supped”—that is to say, after both the Jewish Paschal supper and the common supper which succeeded it, He distributed the Blessed Eucharist, in the form or under the species of wine; and as it is by no means likely, that He allowed any interruption in the institution of the Holy Eucharist under both species, as a Sacrament and a Sacrifice; but rather by continuous, uninterrupted acts, instituted it at once; it is, therefore, inferred, that it was after supper, this institution, under both species, occurred. But, as the bread and wine employed in the Paschal supper, and common Jewish supper which succeeded it were not removed, and as the Eucharist was instituted while they were sitting at table; hence, St. Matthew says, “whilst they were at supper,” or, at the close of the twofold supper referred to, and before the food was removed from the table, the bread and wine which remained being necessary for the new mystery of love which our Lord was about to institute. As the Paschal lamb, eaten according to the prescribed rite, in a standing posture, with wild lettuces, having staves in their hands, &c. (Ex 12:8–11), would not satisfy the number of persons, ten at least, who should assemble to partake of it; hence, a common Jewish supper usually succeeded the Paschal, and it was after this common supper, of which our Lord and His Apostles partook, He instituted the adorable Eucharist.

“Jesus took bread.” “Jesus,” the eternal, consubstantial Son of the Omnipotent God, with whom no word is impossible, “took bread,” the unleavened bread, which alone could be in the houses of the Jews, on that and the following days. He made bread and wine, the matter of the Eucharist, to convey to us its effects; for, as bread is the ordinary food of man, and most easily procured; so, is this Divine food intended to nourish our souls; “for, His flesh is meat indeed,” &c. (John 6:56); also, to point out the union of heart and charity which should subsist among His followers, signified by the different grains united in the bread, and the different grapes pressed into the wine (1 Cor. 10:17). He appointed both species, to signify more clearly His Passion, in which His flesh was tortured, and His blood had profusely flowed for us. He also, by sacrificing in bread and wine, showed Himself a Priest, according to the order of Melchisedech, as had been declared, regarding Him, by the Psalmist (Psa. 110), and He had chosen this matter to prevent our conceiving horror at the idea of our partaking of His flesh and blood. Finally, He had chosen unleavened bread, as a symbol of the purity and simplicity which should distinguish His people; leaven signifying hypocrisy and deceit (1 Cor. 5:8; Luke 12:1). It may be also intended to denote the purity of dispositions we should carry with us, in approaching the adorable Eucharist.

“And blessed,” viz., the bread, by invoking over it the Divine power and beneficence, so that it would be rendered fit to be converted into His body. This is clear from the Greek, where it runs thus: “Taking bread and blessing, He broke,” &c. The several actions recited here have reference to the bread. Why not, then, the act of benediction, which is nothing more than invoking the power and beneficence of God upon it, so as to be fitted for the change about to be wrought on it? Our Redeemer did so in regard to the loaves He multiplied, “benedixit cis” (Luke 9:16). St. Paul refers the benediction to the subject matter, “the chalice of benediction, which we bless,” &c. (1 Cor. 10) He also tells us, that every creature is sanctified by the Word of God and prayer. (1 Tim. 4) The Church, in her Liturgy, refers the word, “benedixit,” to the bread. In pronouncing this word, the Priest is enjoined to make the sign of the cross, over the bread and the chalice.

St. Luke and St. Paul (1 Cor. 11), has for “blessed,” “gave thanks.” The Greek for both words is sometimes employed to signify the same thing (1 Cor. 14:16). The more probable mode, however, of reconciling both accounts is this: Our Redeemer, first lifting up His eyes to heaven, which He most probably did on this as on the solemn occasion of other miracles, gave thanks to His Father, as St. Paul and St. Luke relate; and then, blessed the bread, as is fully and circumstantially recorded by the Church in the Canon of the Mass. As there can be no doubt that our Redeemer had given thanks, and pronounced a blessing before the Jewish supper, the circumstance of His doing so now again shows, He is entering on a new supper, and instituting a rite of great importance. “He gave His Father thanks” for the great gift He was about to bestow on mankind; and also, because the New Pasch and the consummation of the Old Law were at hand.

It is disputed whether this act of benediction is the same as the consecration. But, the most probable opinion is, that this benediction preceded the consecration. The Council of Trent says, “post benedictionem panis et vini, suum ipsius corpus illis præbere testatus est.” (SS. xiii. c. 1.) The consecration was effected by the efficacious words, “Hoc est corpus meum,” “Hic est Calix,” &c., which took place after the benediction in question.

He then, “broke,” by dividing the one bread into as many parts as there were disciples present; and this, before consecration, as is evident from the narrative of the Evangelists. Some commentators, among the rest, Maldonatus, infer from the fact of all the Evangelists describing this circumstance, as also from the disciples at Emmaus recognizing our Redeemer “in the breaking of bread” (Luke 24:35), that He must have employed some peculiar method of doing so. However, this does not necessarily follow. The very reception of the Eucharist might have opened the eyes of the disciples at Emmaus (Luke 24:35). The Church does not follow any such method. The Eucharist, from this circumstance, is termed, “the breaking of bread” (Acts 2:42). From this ceremony, the faithful could understand what was meant, without provoking the blasphemies of unbelievers.

“And He gave to His disciples,” the twelve Apostles, not excepting Judas, as almost all the ancient Fathers affirm, his crime being occult, and our Redeemer did not wish to furnish him with any grounds for imbittered or exasperated feelings. Others, however, are of the contrary opinion. They hold that Judas left before our Redeemer instituted the adorable Eucharist. St. Jerome (Ep. 150 ad Hedibiam), tells us our Saviour Himself first received a portion, “ipse conviva et convivium, ipse comedens et qui comeditur.” This He did, in order to complete the sacrifice, and also to remove any feelings of horror which the Apostles might conceive, on being invited to partake of His body. It is most likely, He gave His body into the hands of His Apostles, as He did in regard to the chalice, “take and divide it amongst you” (Luke 22:17), which was the mode of originally administering the body of our Lord. (Tertullian, de Spectaculis; St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechesi; St. Augustine, Sermo 244, &c.) Afterwards, this discipline was changed, for greater reverence’ sake, just as the discipline of administering the Eucharist to those only who were fasting, was observed, for reverence’ sake, from the very Apostolic times, although our Redeemer gave it to His Apostles after supper.

“Take ye and eat,” shows the use of the gift He was about bestowing on them. It was, that, by partaking of it, they would become one body, and one spirit with Him, altogether identified with Him, “non tu me mutabis in te, sed tu mutaberis in me” (St. Augustine).

“This is My body.” The causal particle, “for, this is My,” &c., which is used in the words of consecration, in the Mass, is understood here, as it is expressed, in reference to His blood (Mt 26:28). “For, this is My blood,” &c. His reason for telling them to eat of it is, because, it is His body, regarding which, He told them already (John 6:54), “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man … you shall not have life in you,” and, “he that eateth My flesh … hath everlasting life” (Jn 6:55).

REAL PRESENCE PROVED

The Council of Trent (SS. xiii. c. 1), has declared, that these words, “This is My body,” &c., used by our Redeemer at the Last Supper, demonstrate the Real Presence of our Lord in the adorable Eucharist. Taken in their literal signification, they clearly prove the Catholic doctrine regarding the real, true, and substantial presence of our Lord in this Divine Institution. Truly, if we suppose that our Lord meant to give His body and blood, as defined by Catholic doctrine, He could not have employed any clearer terms, to convey His meaning, than He has used in the words of institution, as recorded by the three Evangelists, and by St. Paul to the Corinthians. For, taken in the literal sense, they are nothing else than the very expression of Catholic doctrine. This, the Sacramentarians themselves admit; and hence, they resort to all sorts of artful ingenuity to wrest the words to a forced and figurative signification.

They are constrained, by the very usages of language, to admit the proof of Catholic doctrine, contained in the words taken literally. In the ordinary concerns of life, all propositions of this nature, “this is bread,” “this is a man,” and the like, are understood, of the reality and substance of the object referred to, as clearly as if the words, “really, substantially,” were added. Nay, more, a person would expose himself to ridicule, who, in pointing to a man, or a loaf of bread, would say, “this is really and substantially a man,” &c., because, there is no difference between any object and the reality and substance of that object. By announcing it, one announces its reality and substance. Hence, the words of our Lord, taken literally, declare the reality and substance of His body and blood in the Blessed Eucharist. Now, such being the case, we have a right, without further reasoning, to regard our doctrine as satisfactorily proved. For, we have a right to assume, that our Redeemer meant to be understood, according to the literal meaning of His words, until the contrary is satisfactorily proved. The very announcement of the words, by our Redeemer, “This is My body,” establishes the Catholic doctrine. For, we cannot recur to a clearer medium of demonstration, than the fact, that a God of infinite power and veracity has said so. In adopting this line of argument, we are only applying the canon of interpretation of SS. Scripture, handed down in the Church, from the days of St. Augustine, founded, indeed, on common sense, viz., that, in the interpretation of Scripture—the same applies to every other law—we are to understand the words in their plain, obvious signification, unless there be some satisfactory reason to the contrary. Acting on this principle, adopted by Protestants themselves, we have a strict right to insist on interpreting the words of our Lord literally, until they, on whom the onus of proof, or, rather, of disproof devolves, show the contrary. In a word, the bare enunciation of the words of our Lord, proves the Catholic doctrine; and, until our religious opponents show that His words are to be understood in a sense different from what they naturally convey, we are to look on our doctrine as proved.

Suppose, there were question of the interpretation of an important law case. One party quotes the very words of the law, as expressing his view. Would he not be justified in regarding his opinion proved, by a reference to the very terms of the law, which were identical with his opinion, until the opposite party adduced some satisfactory reason for departing from the natural and received meaning of the words of the law, the more so, if it were well known that a prudent legislator attached vast importance to the point, and was, therefore, extremely careful in wording it? Now, our Redeemer, at the Last Supper, was instituting a sacred rite, the most august Sacrament of the New Law. He was bequeathing His last testament to His Church, with a strict precept to have its provisions continued to the end of time. Are we not, therefore, warranted in regarding His words as spoken literally, and our doctrine, consequently, established, by the bare announcement of the terms, until the contrary is satisfactorily proved?

But, going beyond mere defensive grounds, to which we might confine ourselves, as possessors and inheritors of the dogma of the Real Presence, for 1500 years, until our religious opponents satisfactorily prove that the words of our Divine Redeemer are not to be understood literally; it can be clearly shown, by a positive proof, which shall serve, at the same time, as a principle of solution to all the reasoning of our religious opponents, that the words of our Redeemer must be understood literally, and cannot be understood figuratively, at least in the sense given them by Protestants, to imply, that the sign is put for the thing signified. The words must be understood literally, and cannot bear the interpretation put upon them our religious opponents, provided the Apostles, at the time our Lord took bread, blessed it, and giving it to them, said, “This is My body,” were not prepared to regard bread—to which He only vaguely and indistinctly referred by saying, “this”—as the sign of His body of which He spoke, but, rather, as really converted into the body by the words of consecration, when the sentence, “This is My body,” was fully enunciated. The truth of this proposition is clear from the ordinary rules of human language, according to which one is guilty of a falsehood, by saying of the sign, that it is the thing signified, when he is well aware that his hearers regard it, not in quality of sign, but absolutely, without any reference whatever to signification. This can be further illustrated, by the language employed, when there is question of portraits, maps, &c. Why are they called, without any departure from truth, by the names of the men, or the country they represent? Is it not because mankind are prepared to regard them as signs of things? But, if we could imagine a case, in which those whom we addressed regarded them as the reality referred to, we could not, without being guilty of a falsehood, use the same language, in reference to them, v.g., we could not say of the portrait of St. Paul, that it was St. Paul, if we knew that our hearers, from ignorance, or from any cause whatever, were prepared to regard it as St. Paul in reality, and not as his representation, or figure. And, if this be true in cases where Nature herself has established a connexion, as in the example adduced, it is still more so, in reference to those signs that are strictly arbitrary and conventional. Our Redeemer was well aware of the feelings of His Apostles, at the Last Supper, and of the extent of their knowledge. Hence, if they were not prepared to regard bread, in His hands, as the sign of His body, He could not, with a knowledge of their ideas and feelings, say, as He did say, that it was His body. Now, the Apostles were not so prepared. They could not be prepared to see the connexion of sign and thing signified, where no such connexion or relation ever existed. No such connexion existed between bread and the body of Christ. There was, certainly, no natural connexion. Nature never made bread the sign of any body, much less of a determinate body, as was the body of Christ. Nor was it such by the conventional agreement of mankind. Bread was never classed by mankind among the things which existed only in quality of signs. Nor was this connexion instituted by our Redeemer Himself. In order to be warranted, at the time He enunciated the proposition, “This is My body,” in saying so, He should have instituted this connexion beforehand, and apprised His Apostles of the same, unless it really was His body. We have no evidence in SS. Scripture, that He did so. Had He done so, the Scriptures would not have passed over such a circumstance, which was indispensable, as a key to arrive at a just knowledge of one of the most important passages of Divine revelation. Hence, as bread was neither a natural nor a conventional sign of the body of Christ, the Apostles could not regard it as such; and our Redeemer could not, therefore, call it His body, unless it were such in substance and reality.

Furthermore, the Apostles were not only unprepared to regard bread, in the hands of Christ, as the sign of His body; but they were positively prepared for the very contrary. For, on the authority of the Son of God Himself, they believed Him “as having the words of eternal life” (John 6:69), when, twelve months before this date, He promised them that, one day, He would give them His real flesh, as food: “The bread I will give, is My flesh, for the life of the world” (John 6:52). They were, therefore, every day in expectation of the fulfilment of this promise. When, therefore, our Redeemer, on the eve of His Passion, after partaking of the Paschal supper—the last He was to take with them, till they partook of it, after a new rite, in the kingdom of His Father—took bread into His venerable and creative hands, and told them to eat, because it was His body, which was to be delivered for them, must they not, at once, have regarded it as that flesh which He promised them, and which, while others went away incredulous, they believed to be His true flesh? (John 6:67–71.) Hence, the Apostles, far from being prepared to regard bread, in the hands of Christ, as the sign of His body, were, on the contrary, prepared to regard it as His real body, to be rendered such by His omnipotent word. Our Redeemer could not, therefore (unless we impute to Him what would be blasphemous), with His knowledge of the Apostles’ ideas and feelings, say of the bread, “This is My body,” unless it were really rendered such, by His Almighty power, in the words of consecration. The words must, therefore, be taken literally, and so taken, prove the Catholic doctrine.

The principle now explained will fully answer all the objections of Protestants against the proof adduced. In truth, all their objections leave the chief point of the proof untouched. Their whole process of reasoning is founded on the fact, that, in many parts of SS. Scripture, we find it said of the sign, that it is the thing signified. Therefore, our Redeemer could have said of the bread, although a mere sign of His body, “This is My body.” Now, the conclusion is quite unfounded and illogical, unless to the first proposition be added: In many parts of SS. Scripture, it is said of the sign, that it is the thing signified—in circumstances where neither the hearers nor the readers were prepared to regard it as a sign—(as has been shown, in reference to the Apostles, at the Last Supper); and, then, the proposition is utterly false; because, not a single instance is alleged by our adversaries, in which the readers or hearers were not aware, either from the nature of the subject, or the context, or the expressed declaration of the sacred writer or speaker, that there was question of figurative language; whereas, it is quite otherwise, as has been shown, as regards the words of institution.

Their objection may be fully set at rest for ever, by the following disjunctive, or, rather, dilemma: The Apostles, on the occasion of the Last Supper, were either well versed in the SS. Scriptures of the Old Testament (the New was yet unwritten), having the examples adduced by our religious opponents before their eyes, and able to reason from them; or, they were not. If we suppose them not versed in SS. Scripture (and this is their real character before the descent of the Holy Ghost—poor, ignorant, illiterate fishermen, who paid implicit belief to everything uttered by our Divine Redeemer); then, the passages alleged in objection were utterly unknown to them, and could, therefore, afford them no key for understanding the words of our Lord figuratively. If we suppose them well versed in Scriptural texts, and able to reason from them; then the objected passages would only serve to have them understand the words of our Lord literally; because, in the supposition made, they were fully cognizant that, in the passages alluded to, the language was known to the readers, or hearers, to be figurative. They also saw, that no such intimation was given themselves by our Lord, at the Last Supper, not to speak of His promise, which they believed that He would give them, one day, His real flesh. The conclusion, therefore, they should arrive at, if they had a particle of reflection, was, that His words must be understood literally. In all examples adduced by our religious opponents, the figure, or metaphor, is quite apparent; as may be seen from several instances, “I am a vine,” “I am the door,” “Christ is a lion,” &c. But, in the words, “This is My body,” no figurative meaning could be allowed. For if so, they would present an example of what is called, “an inverted metaphor,” which according to the laws of human language, is never allowable. Although, one might say, without impropriety, Christ is a lion; Christ is a door; Christ is a vine; no one could invert the words with any degree of propriety, and say, a vine is Christ, much less say, this vine is Christ; this lion is Christ. And, in order to be like the words, “This is My body,” they should be so inverted. It should be borne in mind, in reference to the sacred words, “This is My body,” that the word, “this,” like every other demonstrative pronoun, refers, in a general, indistinct way, to the object present. (“This is my brother,” this is a good man, &c.; the pronoun, in a general way, points out what is more distinctly expressed by the attribute.) In the first instance, it denotes bread, but this being a practical proposition, it is only when the entire proposition is expressed, that it is verified. So that the words really mean: “this (which now is bread) is (in the next instance, in virtue of the change effected) My body.” The change of the water into wine at Cana, could be quoted as an illustration. Our Redeemer, taking the water, could say, “This is wine,” rendered such by the change effected. And although, in the first instance, “this,” designated water; still, when the proposition was concluded, owing to the change effected, it designated wine. In like manner, God could have said, taking the rib out of which He made the woman, “this (rib) is a woman,” having been converted into a woman by His omnipotent word.

It is also to be observed, that there is no figure in any of the words of institution. Surely, none in “this,” nor in the verb “is,” which, being a most simple verb, into which all other verbs are resolvable, never has a figurative meaning in any language; since it merely denotes existence and a connexion between the subject and attribute of a proposition. Nor in the words, “My body,” since the words are added, “which is given for you” (Luke 22:19); “which shall be delivered for you” (1 Cor. 11:24); this was His real body. It is to be observed, as regards the form recorded by St. Paul, that the words, “which shall be delivered for you,” are used in the present tense in most Greek copies, κλωμενον, “which is broken,” having reference, in a certain sense, to His death on the cross. Hence, on account of the certainty and proximity of His death, the present may be regarded as having a future signification; and it is so rendered, “shall be delivered for you” (1 Cor. 11:24). However, although this is to a certain extent true, if it be borne in mind, that the body given and delivered at the Last Supper, was identical with that delivered on the cross; still, the present signification is most likely to be the one primarily intended by our Lord. For, He speaks of His body, broken for them, which could not refer to the cross, on which it was predicted His body was not to be broken. It is said to be broken in the Eucharist, under the Sacramental veils, or, ratione specierum. This shall appear more clear when the words having reference to His sacred blood are examined. For, speaking of the chalice, He says, “This chalice is the New Testament in My blood (the chalice I say), which shall be shed for you,” τουτο το ποτηριον … το υπερ υμων εκχυνομενον which manifestly refer to the present pouring out of His blood, “which is poured out,” &c. Our Redeemer employs the present tense, “My body which is given,” not to you, for the purpose of manducation, which was expressed in the words “take, cat,” but, “for you,” to convey, that He was then not only instituting a Sacrament, but also instituting and offering up the Sacrifice of His body and blood, under the appearance of bread and wine, thus discharging the duty devolving on Him, as “Priest according to the order of Melchisedech.”

PROOF OF TRANSUBSTANTIATION

From the doctrine of the Real Presence of our Lord in the Blessed Eucharist, follows, as a necessary consectary, the doctrine of Transubstantiation. For, if it be once proved that our Saviour said of the bread which He took in His hands, that it was really and substantially His body, it follows, that He must have made it such, by changing it, in virtue of His omnipotent power. For, no one thing in nature can become really and substantially another thing of a different kind, unless it be changed into it. If, taking water into His hands at Cana, our Redeemer said, this is wine, the assertion would be false, unless He changed the water into wine. In like manner, were Moses to say of the rod in his hand, on flinging it on the ground, this is a serpent, it would not be true, unless it were changed into a serpent. Hence, when our Redeemer said, of what He held in His hands, viz., bread and wine, that they were really and substantially His body and blood, they should be changed into His body and blood, in order that His assertion would be true. “This wonderful and singular conversion of the whole substance of the bread into the body, and of the whole substance of the wine into the blood of Christ, by the consecration of the bread and wine, is properly called by the Holy Catholic Church, Transubstantiation.” (Conc. Trid. SS. xiii. cap. iv. can. ii.) She employs similar phraseology, distinctly expressive of her doctrines, in reference to the mysteries of the Godhead, such as Trinity, Incarnation, &c.; and Protestants employ these terms, although not found in SS. Scripture. But, like the term, Transubstantiation, they express, in the clearest form, the doctrines found in SS. Scripture.

It is deserving of remark, that the three Evangelists and St. Paul give the same precise words, when treating of the consecration of the bread, “This is My body,” to which St. Luke adds, “which is given for you;” St. Paul, “which shall be delivered (or, as the Greek has it, which is broken) for you.” Both St. Luke and St. Paul add, “Do this in commemoration of Me.” The Greek for “commemoration” (αναμνησιν), means, remembrance, as it is used in the Canon of the Mass, “in mei memoriam facietis,” in remembrance of His death and Passion.

“Do this.” “This,” refers to the entire action of our Redeemer, taking bread, giving thanks, blessing, and transubstantiating it into His body and blood. By commanding them to do so, He gave them the power to obey His mandate. Hence, the Council of Trent (SS. xxii. c. 1, de Mis. Sac.), tells us, that—“At the Last Supper, on the night on which He was betrayed, our Lord … declaring Himself to be constituted a Priest for ever according to the order of Melchisedech, offered His body and blood, under the appearances of bread and wine, to God the Father; and under the symbols of the same things, delivered it to His Apostles, whom He constituted Priests of the New Testament, to partake of it, and commanded them and their successors in the Priesthood to offer it, by these words, ‘Do this in commemoration of Me.’ ” It is also defined (Can. 2), that by the words, “do this,” &c., He constituted His Apostles Priests, and enjoined on them and other Priests to offer up His body and blood.

There were some things, however, done by our Redeemer on that occasion, which were not necessarily to be done by the Apostles and their successors afterwards, such as giving the Eucharist after supper, or giving it under both kinds, or giving it at all on some occasions. There were other things which should necessarily be always done. But what things should be done as necessary for the Sacrifice, and what things might be omitted, cannot be better ascertained than from the doctrine and practice of the Catholic Church, which, ever guided by the Spirit of God, teaches us, that for the validity of the Sacrifice, the words of our Lord should be employed of necessity, as the form of consecration of the bread and wine; that both species should necessarily be consecrated for the Sacrifice; that both should be consumed by the celebrant, to carry out our Lord’s ordinance. In other points, her discipline has varied, as she has not regarded them of Divine precept, in which it would be beyond her power to dispense.

Mt 26:27. “And taking the chalice, He gave thanks.” St. Luke (Lk 22:20), and St. Paul (1 Cor. 11), say, “In like manner the chalice also, after He had supped.” “In like manner,” that is, He acted in reference to the chalice, as He did with regard to the bread, He took it into His hands, He blessed, gave thanks, and gave it to them to be divided among them. “After He had supped,” conveys to us, that this sacred banquet did not appertain to the Paschal and common Jewish suppers, of which He and His disciples had partaken already.

That it was only after the Paschal supper, and the Jewish common supper, which immediately succeeded the Paschal supper—for, the Paschal lamb could not satiate the cravings of the number, ten at least, who should join in partaking of it—the bread, too, was transubstantiated, is certain; for, our Redeemer would not have divided this mystery, so that a part would be instituted before the Paschal supper, and the other part after it. By one continuous action, both parts, that is, the entire Sacrament, was instituted (see Mt 26:26).

“Drink ye all of this.” By “all,” are meant, me twelve Apostles, who were present. The term, “all,” applies to the same, of whom St. Mark, who by anticipation describes this circumstance, before the consecration took place (Mk 14:23) says, “and they all drank of it.” Our Redeemer does not say, in reference to His body, “eat ye all of this;” because, having broken the bread, He divided it into is many parts as there were persons present to partake of it; and hence no fear of mistake. But, to avoid mistake, since He could not separate the contents of the chalice, as He did the bread, and lest those who received it first, might consume the entire, He conveys to them, that it should be so used as that all would partake of a portion of it. This is more clearly expressed in reference to the Paschal cup, by St. Luke (Lk 22:17), “Take, and divide it among you.”

From the words of this verse, the enemies of the Church endeavour to derive an argument against the practice of the Catholic Church, relative to administering the Eucharist under one kind, in the form of bread only to the laity. This practice universally existed in the Church at the time of the Council of Constance; and this discipline was there enacted (SS. xiii.) as a law. The giving the Holy Eucharist under both or either species is a matter of discipline which may vary according to the will of the Church. If it were a Divine precept to administer the Holy Eucharist under both species; then, no individual or body of men could, without sacrilege, administer one portion without the other. For, the power of the Church, in any arrangement regarding the dispensation of the Sacraments must be always exercised, salva illorum substantia (Cone. Trid. SS. xxi. c. 2). Hence, the Church of Christ, while administering the Eucharist in the early ages, not unfrequently under both kinds, allowed it to be given, in certain cases, under one kind only. She never regarded it as a Divine mandate to give it under both kinds. She allowed Communion under one kind—1st. To infants, under the form of wine only, without the consecrated Host (Cyprian, de lapsis 2). 2ndly. In domestic Communions, the faithful, on account of the persecution, were permitted to carry consecrated Hosts, but not consecrated wine, to their own houses for private Communion (Tertul., Lib. ii., ad uxorem, c. 5; Cyprian, do lapsis). 3rd. In the manner of administering the Sacrament to the sick (Eusebius de His. Lib. 6, c. 44). Hence, the early Church regarded, as a point of discipline only, which she has full power to change, at any time for just reasons the giving of Communion under both kinds, or, one kind only.

The doctrine of the Church, as well as her practice on this point (Council of Constance, SS. xiii.; Trent, SS. xxi., c. i.–ii., Can. i.–ii. de Com.) is grounded:—

1st. On the words of our Redeemer, who, while He says, “unless you eat … and drink His blood,” &c., also declares, “if any man eat of this bread he shall live for ever;” “the bread which I will give is My flesh, for the life of the world;” also “he that eateth this bread, shall live for ever.”

2ndly. On the principle of faith, that under each species, the entire body and blood, together with the soul and Divinity of Christ, are contained. For, since Christ arose from the dead to die no more, wherever His (living) body is, there must His blood and His soul also be, by a natural concomitance; and so also must His Divinity, which, since the Hypostatic union, was never separated from either His body or soul. Whoever, therefore, receives one species, receives Christ whole, God and man, without any separation or mutilation whatsoever; he receives body and blood together, which can never be separated; and we contend, from the texts already adduced, and the interpretation by the Church of the other texts, which would seem to require the separate reception of each, that this is all that is required by the Divine precept.

“Now in order to reconcile the three texts already adduced, where there is question only of partaking of the heavenly ‘bread,’ with those in which the cup and drinking are mentioned, we must of necessity say, that by eating and drinking is meant, the action of receiving the body and blood of Christ, and not precisely the manner of receiving; and, hence, the precept regarded not the manner of receiving, but only the thing received. This interpretation is in perfect accordance with the scope of our Redeemer’s discourse (John 6), which was to convince His hearers, that unless their souls were nourished with the real flesh and blood of the Son of man, they would forfeit everlasting life; and that by partaking of His body and blood, they would have life everlasting. So that, provided the real body and blood of Christ be received, whether it be by the action of eating or of drinking only, or by both together, the worthy communicants, by receiving Christ whole, the fountain of grace and eternal life, fully satisfy the end of Christ’s institution, and perform all that is obligatory in the precept of Communion.” (Manning’s reply to Leslie, Case Stated, sec. xxxix.)

The external form of drinking is neither excluded by the texts, which mention eating alone, nor commanded by the texts, which mention them both. Our Redeemer, by attributing, at one time, the whole efficacy and virtue of the Sacrament to eating alone; and, at other times, to eating and drinking conjointly, shows, that it is not the external form or manner of receiving under one or both kinds, but the thing received, that bestows grace and eternal life on the worthy receiver; and His attributing the whole virtue and efficacy of the Sacrament to eating alone, proves clearly, that when He mentions eating and drinking, this does not convey a precept, obliging all to receive the Sacrament under both kinds, but only to receive His body and blood, which, owing to the natural concomitance between Christ’s body and blood, that must now, since His Resurrection, always exist united, is done by a communion under one, as well as under both kinds. And truly, as regards the meaning of the words of Christ, and the proper method of faithfully dispensing His Sacraments, that Church, which He commanded all to hear, with which He promised to be to the end of time—the pillar and ground of truth—which was taught all truth by the ever-abiding Spirit of God, which He appointed to feed and govern His flock, and dispense His mysteries, ought to be a better judge, and a more authorized interpreter, than a few factious individuals, without mission or authority, or any pretensions to Divine superintendence of any kind.

The disjunctive form employed by the Apostle (1 Cor. 11:27), in which he says, “that by eating or drinking unworthily, one is guilty of the body and of the blood of our Lord,” confirms the doctrine of the Church, and supposes, that one part could be received worthily without the other. For, the unworthiness, of which the Apostle speaks, does not consist in disjoining what, our adversaries maintain, should be taken by all conjointly, according to the institution of our Lord; but in the previous unworthy dispositions of the receivers, arising from sins against morals, committed before they approached Holy Communion (1 Cor. 11:21-22).

But, does not this charge against the Catholic Church, of mutilating the Sacrament of Christ’s body, come well from those who utterly deny, that He is really present at all, either as to flesh or blood, soul or body? For the more perfect representation of our Lord’s Passion, in which His blood flowed from His body, the Priests are bound, in offering Sacrifice, to consecrate and receive under both kinds, viz., of bread, which represents His flesh; and of wine, which aptly represents His blood. Should it be said, that when addressed by Christ, at the Last Supper, the Apostles represented the entire Church, it may be also said in reply, that they still continue to represent her, and that they carry out the commands of Christ, in this respect, as often as they offer Sacrifice and consecrate and receive under both kinds. It is His Priests our Redeemer directly addresses at the Last Supper, and commands to offer Sacrifice and distribute the Eucharist, in memory of His Passion. The only precept which indirectly, or by correlative obligation, binds the faithful, is to receive the Eucharist from the hands of their pastors, and by receiving it, to commemorate the death of Christ, which embraces also all the other mysteries of His life, &c.

Hence, in the Canon of the Mass the Church says, “unde et memores … necnon et ab inferis resurrectionis, et gloriosæ Ascensionis,” &c. But His death is specially commemorated, as in it, His charity towards mankind is specially manifested. The Church might, to-morrow, if she pleased, enjoin the administration of the Eucharist under the form of wine alone, or under both species; and she would actually do so, if graver reasons than those which influence her present discipline, on this head, were to present themselves.

Mt 26:28. “This is My blood,” &c. These words prove the Real Presence, taken literally, as they must be taken; for, it was by His real blood, “the New Testament” was sanctioned, ratified, and confirmed. “Of the New Testament.” The Greek article prefixed (τὸ τῆς καινῆς διαθήκης), that of the New Testament, would imply, that there was a reference to a Testament long before foretold by the Prophets, promised and preached by Christ Himself. The words of our Lord are evidently allusive to those employed by Moses, in sanctioning the old Testament: “This is the blood of the covenant which the Lord hath made with you” (Ex 24:8; Heb. 9:18, &c.), as if He said: Formerly, Moses solemnized the old covenant of God with your fathers, by sprinkling them with the blood of animals; but, I establish the new alliance with you, not by shedding upon your clothes the blood of animals; but, by refreshing your bodies and souls with My own blood. The comparison is clearly expressed between the blood, used by Moses (Ex 24:6), and the chalice of the Lord; between the interior and exterior effusion; between the blood of animals and the blood of Jesus Christ; and, consequently, between the sacrifice of Moses and that of Christ. It was with real blood, Moses sanctioned his Testament, and it would be absurd to say, it was with unreal blood a more perfect covenant was established and sanctioned by Christ.

“Testament.” He terms the covenant, which He had established with men, of granting, on His part, grace, remission of sin here, and the inheritance of life eternal hereafter, on the condition of their observing His Law and Commandments—and to observe these He promises His assistance—a “Testament;” because, it conveyed an inheritance bequeathed by a dying testator. This is the special meaning attached by St. Paul (Heb. 9:16), to the word, διαθηκη.

“New,” in opposition to the old, entered into with the Jewish people (Exod. 19–24; Jer. 31:31). Moreover, it conveys blessings of a newer and still more exalted spiritual character, than those guaranteed by the old.

“Which shall be shed.” The Greek (εκχυνομενον), has a present signification, and, doubtless, has reference to the present pouring out of His blood. This means, the same as offering it in sacrifice to God the Father; and this is very significantly conveyed by the Evangelists and St. Paul, when they use a word of the present tense, in reference to this effusion of Christ’s blood, as St. Luke and St. Paul do in reference to His sacred body: “which is delivered;” “which is broken.” They meant to convey, that there is reference, primarily, to the Sacrament and Sacrifice He was then instituting; although, no doubt, it had reference to the blood shed on the cross, with which that poured forth and offered up, at the Last Sapper, was identical, and from which it borrowed all its efficacy; and, also, to the further continuance of the rite to the end of time. On this account, most likely it was, that the Vulgate interpreter rendered the Greek word, εκχυνομενον, in the future tense, “effundetur.” According to St. Luke (Lk 22:20), the effusion which took place must regard the Last Supper, “the chalice … which (chalice) shall be shed for you (το ποτηριον … το υπερ υμων ετχυνομενον), the chalice poured out for you.”

“For many.” Some say, that by “many,” are meant the entire human race; for, they are many. Others say, our Redeemer only refers to the most of those present; for, Judas could not derive any profit ultimately from the innocent blood which he betrayed. In St. Luke and St. Paul, in reference to His body, it is, “given for you” and the same is the reading in St. Luke, in reference to the blood, “shed for you.” It may be, that our Redeemer employed both forms, as is adopted by the Church ii the words of consecration, “qui pro vobis et pro multis effundetur in remissionem,” &c. Others, however, say, that our Redeemer used only one form or the other; but, that the Church, without deciding which were the precise words, whether pro vobis, or, pro multis, both being identical in sense, adopted both in the canon, neither being regarded, according to the more probable opinion, as an essential part of the words of consecration.

“For the remission of sins.” This remission is the source and fountain of all the other blessings promised and conveyed in the New Testament. It precedes their attainment. In this, His blood differs from that of the Old Testament, which availed only for “the cleansing of the flesh” (Heb. 9:13).

The fruit or effects of this blood poured forth on the cross, is obtained when it is poured out in the Sacrifice of the Eucharist, and also, when it is applied to our souls, through the Sacraments, the channels divinely instituted for communicating to us the abundant graces purchased for us on the cross. The very fact of our Redeemer saying, that this blood was poured out in the Eucharist, “for the remission of sins,” shows it to be a Sacrifice, this being the direct end and effect of a Propitiatory Sacrifice; for, as a Sacrament, it supposes, in order to be worthily received, that the receiver has proved himself, and approached with a conscience free from sin. And, also, as a Sacrament, its primary end and effect is, not “the remission of sins,” but the preservation and increase of spiritual life. Our Redeemer could have also added, “for the remission of sins,” when speaking of His body, since it was delivered for the remission of sins; but, it is only when speaking of His blood He says so, because, it is to the effusion of blood, the effects of sacrifice are attributed in the Old Law. Moreover, blood is a more expressive symbol of His death, by which He atoned for our sins, than was His flesh.

The form of consecration of the chalice recorded by St. Luke (Lk 22:20), and by St. Paul (1 Cor. 11:25), who both agree, is quite different from that given by St. Matthew here, and by St. Mark (Mk 14:24). St. Luke has it, “This is the chalice, the New Testament in My blood;” St. Paul, “This chalice is the New Testament in My blood.” From the Greek of St. Luke, in which is omitted the substantive verb, is—τοῦτο τὁ ποτήριον ἡ καινἠ διαθήκη έν τῶ αἴματί μου—it cannot be determined for certain, whether it should be rendered, “This is the chalice, the New Testament in My blood,” or, “This chalice is the New Testament in My blood,” as in St. Paul. He alludes to the New Testament only when speaking of His blood, not when referring to His body; because, it was with blood that covenants were ratified among all nations. The word, chalice, is not expressed in the form employed either by St. Matthew here, or by St. Mark (Mk 14:24); and, as it is not probable that our Redeemer used both forms, it is most likely, that St. Matthew, who was present, records the identical words used by our Redeemer on the occasion. The words of St. Luke and St. Paul, although substantially the same with St. Matthew, ought to be explained by the clearer form recorded by St. Matthew, who more clearly expresses what our Redeemer chiefly intended, viz., to give them His body and blood. The allusion to the New Testament, recorded by all, was merely explanatory and incidental, and introduced subordinately to His leading assertion, that He was giving them His blood. But, were we to adopt the form of St. Luke, it will come to the same as St. Matthew’s, viz., This is the chalice, whereby is ratified and confirmed the New Testament, and that through My blood, which it contains.

Maldonatus holds, that the words, “in My blood” (in sanguine meo), are, by a Hebrew idiom, put for, “of My blood” (sanguinis mei), and that they should be connected with chalice, thus: “This is the chalice of My blood, which (chalice) is the New Testament.” In this construction, there is no figure whatever in the form of St. Luke. The chalice, containing the blood, is the authentic instrument whereby the New Testament was sanctioned and ratified. By a usage, common to all language, the word, “Testament,” not only means the thing bequeathed in one’s will, but the written, authentic instrument, as also, the copy of that will. In this latter sense, the word, Testament, is used by St. Luke and St. Paul. By St. Matthew, in the former sense, viz., the very thing bequeathed; since it was in virtue, or, through the merits of the blood of Christ, the blessings bequeathed, of grace here and of glory hereafter, were secured. On the cross, Christ published, as it were, by letters patent to all men, His dying covenant or testament with the human race. At the Last Supper, and all future repetitions of it, were contained authentic copies of the same, availing in such a way, that the right secured to all men by that original deed on the cross, would be applied to certain individuals; to the party for whom it is offered, as well as to the worthy receiver, who shall ultimately secure the actual possession and fruition of the promised blessings, secured on the cross, unless it be their own fault.

Should it be objected, that a copy should not precede the original, it may be said in reply, that our Redeemer, owing to the certain proximity of His Passion, upon which He was just entering, regarded it as past and accomplished. So that it was operative in its effects in regard to the Last Supper, as, indeed, it had been from the beginning of time. Hence, He was said to be, “agnus occisus ab origine mundi” (Rev 13:8).

Mt 26:29. “This fruit of the vine”—a more elegant phrase for wine, which is in another part of SS. Scripture called, “the blood of the grape” (Gen. 49:11)—some commentators, adhering to the order described by St. Matthew, who places these words, as spoken after the consecration, understand by them, the sacred blood of our Redeemer contained in the chalice, which is called wine, on account of the pre-existing matter from which it was changed; we find His sacred body called “bread” (John 6:52, &c.; 1 Cor. 11:27), for the same reason. Nothing is more common in SS. Scripture than to call things by the name of the substance out of which they were formed. Thus, the serpent is called, the rod of Moses; Adam, called, dust. The words will, then, mean: we shall not again drink together of this wine used at supper, under the appearance of which you drank My blood, until we drink it again in a far more excellent manner, “in the kingdom of My Father.” According, however, to the more common, as well as the more general opinion of commentators, the words refer to the wine used at the Paschal or the common Jewish supper, both of which preceded the institution of the Blessed Eucharist. According to these, St. Matthew, for brevity’ sake, describes as occurring at the Eucharistic institution, what took place at the suppers which preceded it. Hence, he does not strictly follow the order of events observed by our Divine Redeemer, which is so fully and so accurately described by St. Luke. Both Matthew and Mark place after the consecration of the chalice, what occurred before it, as recorded by St. Luke (Lk 22:15–18), who informs us, that our Redeemer expressed Himself in the same terms in regard to the Jewish Paschal lamb. Hence, most likely, the words of this verse were employed by our Redeemer in reference to the chalice whereof the Jewish householder, after partaking of the Paschal lamb, first tasted, and then sent it round to be tasted by all present, as we have from the traditions of the Jews. The words constitute, as it were, the valedictory address of our Redeemer to His Apostles, at parting. They, at the same time, convey the consoling assurance of the supreme felicity in reserve for them in the kingdom of heaven, which He represents under the figure of a banquet, in which enjoyment of the most exquisite kind, metaphorically represented by wine, is in store for God’s faithful servants. Of course, our Lord does not say, that, in any sense, whether literally or metaphorically, they were to drink of His blood in the kingdom of heaven.

“Until that day,” refers to some distant time, when the just shall be inebriated with the plenty of God’s house, and shall drink of the torrents of His delights.

The wine is called “new,” of a different and more excellent kind, according to a Hebrew idiom, calling whatever was most excellent, “new.” “Cantate Domine Canticum novum.”

“Kingdom of My Father,” the kingdom of God’s glory in heaven. St. Luke refers to the same: “And I appoint to you, as My Father appointed to Me, a kingdom … at My table in My kingdom” (Lk 22:29-30). Although these words were uttered by our Redeemer before He gave His body and blood, nor does St. Matthew say anything to the contrary; still, they are fitly recorded by St. Matthew after the Last Supper, as they contain our Redeemer’s valedictory and consoling address to His Apostles.

But did not our Redeemer eat and drink with His Apostles, after His resurrection? Yes; He did so, however, not for the sustenance of mortal life, but only (Acts 10:41), in a passing way, and to prove the truth of His resurrection. Hence, it might be regarded as not happening, just as He regards His conversation with them after His resurrection as not happening at all: “These are the words I spoke to you, while I was yet with you” (Luke 24:44). Moreover, might not the words regarding His “kingdom” be understood of His glorious state, after His resurrection?

But, how could our Redeemer have used the word, wine, in a different sense in the same sentence—real wine, “this fruit of the vine;” and wine, in a metaphorical sense, “new in the kingdom,” &c.? The words, “this fruit of the vine,” refer to wine in general, whether in a literal or metaphorical sense. So does the word “it.” “Drink it new.” From circumstances it must be determined, when it is used literally; when metaphorically. In the former case, it is used literally; in the latter, metaphorically. Thus, He says in the same breath, “suffer the dead to bury their dead;” also, “every one who shall drink of this water shall thirst again; but whosoever shall drink of the water which I shall give him,” &c. (John 4:13.) In both these quotations, the same words, “dead,” and “water,” have different meanings, in the same sentence, viz., literal and metaphorical.

Some commentators, with Mauduit (Disser. 23), maintain, that the words of St. Luke (Lk 22:18), are different from those of St. Matthew in this verse, and uttered at different times. In St. Luke it is, “of the fruit of the vine;” here, “of this fruit of the vine.” Mauduit contends, that our Redeemer employed the words recorded by St. Luke before the institution of the Eucharist; those of St. Matthew, when giving the Apostles His adorable body and blood.

Mt 26:30. “And a hymn being said.” The Greek word, ὑμνήσαντες, would show, that they sung the hymn. Some commentators think, that our Redeemer composed a hymn for the occasion. However, as we have no record of this, others are of opinion, that they all joined in singing the Eucharistic song, contained in the Jewish ritual for thanksgiving after the Paschal supper. It commenced with Psalm 113, “Laudate, pueri,” &c., and embraced the five following Psalms, as far as, “Confitemini Domino,” &c., inclusive.

“They went out to Mount Olivet,” distant from the city about one mile, or, “a Sabbath-day’s journey” (Acts 1:12). Hitherto our Redeemer, during the last days of His life, after having spent the day-time in preaching in the temple, was wont, each evening, to return to Bethania to supper; and thence, He went to Mount Olivet, where He spent the night, no doubt in prayer, according to His usual custom. On this occasion, He did not go to Bethania, having supped at Jerusalem, whence He proceeded directly to Mount Olivet, at the foot of which was the Garden of Gethsemani, to be apprehended by Judas, and handed over to the Jews.

St. John records a lengthened discourse delivered by our Redeemer, immediately after giving communion to His Apostles. From the words at the end of c. 15 of St. John, “Arise, let us go hence,” some commentators infer, that our Redeemer, after having delivered the discourse contained in John (chapters 13, 14), had joined His Apostles in singing a hymn of thanksgiving, as recorded by the three other Evangelists, and, then, on His way to Mount Olivet, delivered the remainder of the discourse contained in chapters 15, 16, 17 of St. John. When He told them, to “arise,” suiting the action to the word, He went forth—they in obedience accompanying Him—to meet His enemies, and prove the sincerity of His love for His Heavenly Father (John 14:31). Others, however, maintain, that, the whole discourse of our Redeemer recorded (John 13–17.), was delivered by our Redeemer before leaving the supper hall. It would be inconvenient to deliver it, on His way to so large a number as His eleven Apostles, who, probably, could hardly hear Him conveniently. Besides, St. John does not say, He left immediately on saying the words, “arise,” &c. He insinuates, on the contrary (Jn 18:1), “When Jesus had said these things, He went forth,” &c., that it was after delivering the entire discourse, He left. The words (Jn 14:31), “arise,” &c., would only convey, at most, that they all arose, and that while standing, anxiously wishing Him to prolong His parting words, He delivered the portion of His discourse contained in chapters 15, 16, 17, in a standing posture, before finally departing from the supper hall for the scene of His Passion. St. Luke (Lk 22:21–39) records other matters spoken by Him on that occasion, which are omitted by St. John.

Mt 26:31. “Then,” on His way to the Garden of Gethsemani (Jn 26:36).

“All you,” My Apostles, who have hitherto faithfully adhered to Me.

“Shall be scandalized in Me this night.” The word, “scandal,” which literally means, a stumbling-block that causes us a fall, transferred to the spiritual order, means, whatever is the occasion of our falling into sin, or proves a rock of spiritual offence (Mt 11:6). Our Redeemer means here, that He shall prove a stumbling-block to His Apostles; that they shall take occasion, from what they shall see happening Him, that night, to fall into sin. This He predicts, to prove His divine insight into future contingent things; and God permitted this, for several reasons, among the rest, to afford matter for greater sufferings and sorrow for our Redeemer, seeing that His very chosen friends would desert Him; also to convince the Apostles of their weakness, and to teach them to commiserate the fallen. Commentators are not agreed, as to what the sin referred to here, was. It is the more common opinion, that their sin consisted, not precisely in their deserting their Master, and leaving Him as they did, in the hands of His enemies; since, they might have known, He willingly presented Himself for death; but, in the principle of this desertion, arising from weakness and vacillation in their faith, owing to which they imagined He was forcibly overpowered by His enemies, and that, He could not fulfil the promise He made, as Son of God, to rise again. It is to this our Redeemer refers (John 16:31-32). Some commentators extend this not alone to the Apostles, but to the whole of His followers. This, as St. Augustine remarks, was clearly the case with Cleophas (Luke 24); “but, we hoped that He would redeem Israel,” as if they had not this hope any longer. The words of this verse are placed by Concordances of the Gospel, immediately after the words addressed by our Redeemer to St. Peter (Luke 22:31). After reminding St. Peter, of the trial He should undergo, He next addressed the entire body, and predicted their fall. As regards St. Peter himself, some say, he actually lost faith in Christ; he was not yet constituted head of the Church. Others maintain, he did not sin against faith, which he always retained in his heart; for, our Lord prayed, that “his faith would not fail” (Luke 22:32), but, against the external profession, or, confession of faith, and thus lost charity.

“For, it is written” (Zech. 13:7), “I will strike the shepherd,” &c. In the original Hebrew and in the Septuagint, it is, “strike the shepherd,” as if addressed by God to the “sword.” But the Evangelist gives the sense. The words of Zacharias, in the imperative form, convey, that God Himself will strike the shepherd, or suffer him to be struck by the Jews. “He delivered Him up for us all” (Rom. 8:32). The words of the Prophet are applied by our Lord to Himself; and, although they regarded the Priests of the Old Law, in the first place; still, the context shows, they applied, in a special way, to Christ, the Shepherd of shepherds, “and Bishop of our souls” (1 Peter 2:25).

“And the sheep of the flock,” &c. The Apostles and the followers of Christ, whom He gathered together again after His resurrection. The word, “flock,” is not in the passage from the Prophet; it is added by the Evangelist, for clearness’ sake.

Mt 26:32. He arms them against despair or excessive diffidence, by this consoling prediction, that before they would have returned to their native district of Galilee, He would be there before them, to collect them together again and care them. Some expositors think the pastoral metaphor is here kept up, and that it is allusive to the custom with shepherds in the East, of not following, but of going before and leading their sheep.

Commentators here direct attention to the wonderful mildness of our Redeemer, who, although about to die for His Apostles, and while predicting their desertion of Him; still, far from showing imbittered feelings or upbraiding them, on the contrary, promises to console and protect them.

Mt 26:33. St. Peter, whose vehement, burning zeal for his Divine Master, made him always take a more prominent part than the rest in all things tending to defend His interests, from an impulse of love and fervour, not measuring his own strength, and not considering his natural infirmity, exclaims at once, “though all men shall be scandalized,” he never would be scandalized or desert Him. In this, he committed a threefold sin. 1st. By contradicting his Divine Redeemer, and not acquiescing in His words. 2ndly. By preferring himself to others. 3rdly. By presuming too much on his natural strength, and arrogating to himself what should proceed only from the Divine mercy.

Mt 26:34. But as this proceeded from love, our Redeemer treats him mildly; and merely tells him, that as he presumed more than others, he would be scandalized still more than they. The others would fly; he would even abjure his Divine Master.

“This very night,” on which you seem so confident, “before the cock crow”—thus defining precisely the time of the night it would occur, viz., before the time of night, or early morning, specially termed cock-crowing—“thou shalt deny Me,” not merely by flying, or deserting Me, like the other Apostles; but, thou shalt abjure and deny Me, and swear thou knowest nothing of Me, and this, not once, but “thrice.” All these words of our Redeemer are very emphatic.

St. Mark has, “before the cock crow twice” (Mk 14:30), whereas the other three Evangelists simply speak of “cock crow.” Both assertions are easily reconciled. The cock crows twice in the night, at midnight, and at daybreak in the morning, and the latter is principally regarded as the hour of cock-crowing. It is to this latter, the other Evangelists refer; and St. Mark mentions it more circumstantially, because he, probably learned from St. Peter, whose disciple he was, that our Lord distinctly mentioned these words. All the Evangelists (Matt. 26:72–74; Luke 22:60; Mark 14:72; John 18:27) concur in narrating the fulfilment of this prophecy, and Peter’s repentance.

Mt 26:35. Far from being inspired with sentiments of diffidence in himself, and distrust in his present strength and future resolves, after the declaration of our Divine Redeemer, Peter, on the contrary, “spoke the more vehemently” (Mark 14:31), saying, “though I should die with Thee,” &c. So did all the rest, lest they should seem to be inferior to Peter in courage and fidelity to their Divine Master. In the hour of trial, they all proved equally weak and cowardly. They, as well as Peter, sinned by presumption, and by not perfectly acquiescing in the words of their Divine Master. Not that they disbelieved Him; but, they regarded His words rather as a menace than as a prediction; and in speaking thus, they considered their own present resolve and love for their Master, which they wished thus openly to profess and declare, rather than His words, which they regarded more as expressing distrust in themselves, than as conveying a prophecy. This prediction did not, in the least, interfere with their liberty or freedom of action; our Redeemer predicted it as He foresaw it; and He foresaw it in the way it happened, viz., freely and voluntarily. The announcement of this knowledge or foresight did not, in any way, interfere with the freedom of their act at any particular time or moment. Just as the announcement, that an act is now freely and voluntarily taking place would not interfere with the freedom of the agent concerned. All things are present with God. He foresees things, because they are to happen, and how they are to happen, viz., freely, if there be question of contingent free acts.

Mt 26:36. “A country place, called Gethsemam,” which word signifies, oil presses, as the garden probably contained presses for manufacturing oil from the olives of the neighbouring Mount Olivet. St. John says, it had attached to it, “a garden beyond the Torrent Cedron,” which was to the east of Jerusalem, and flowed by this place and Jerusalem. Our Redeemer and His disciples were in the habit of resorting to this place (John 18:2); and hence, it was well known to the traitor. He now enters it, to show, that He voluntarily underwent death, as He wished to go to the place where the traitor might easily apprehend Him. His passing over the brook Cedron, may have been meant to recall the sufferings of David, flying before his unnatural son, Absalom—a fit type of our Lord, who suffered at the hands of ungrateful children—moreover, it recalls the words of the Psalmist, “de torrente in via bibet.” He drank there deeply of the cup of tribulation. The garden—the first theatre of our Saviour’s bitter Passion—was calculated to remind us forcibly—and it may have been so intended—of another Garden, where sin commenced, which He is now about to atone for.

“Sit you here, till I go yonder and pray.” He went apart from His disciples, to teach us to retire, as far as possible, from all occasions of distraction in prayer, and “pray to our Father in secret.” He, moreover, did not wish them all to be witnesses of His sufferings, lost it might be an occasion of scandal, and weaken their faith. Whether He told the eleven, “Pray, lest ye enter into temptation,” as is insinuated by St. Luke (Lk 22:40), or merely said so to the three whom He selected as witnesses of His Passion (Lk 22:41), is uncertain. Most likely, He addressed the words to the eleven, before leaving them, and a second time to those whom He had chosen to accompany Him (v. 41).

Mt 26:37. He selected as witnesses of His Passion, as most likely to be less scandalized by it, those whom He had chosen as witnesses of His glory on Thabor.

“Began to grow sorrowful,” shows He had not been sorrowful in presence of the other Apostles, and that now this sorrow commences, which was consequently voluntary, and freely endured, when and where, and to whatever extent He desired.

“To be sorrowful and sad.” The word, “sad,” implies a kind of stupor, and insensibility; a weariness of life, caused by the grief and fear with which He was overwhelmed. For “sorrowful,” St. Mark has, εκθαμβεῖσθαι, seized wih terror. Most likely, both Evangelists convey the different sensations then felt in an excessive degree by our Divine Redeemer, viz., fear, sadness, and sorrow, together with a stupor and insensibility, accompanied with a loathing weariness of life. All these feelings, at the same time, agitated Him. They constituted what St. Luke (Lk 22:43) expresses in one word, His “agony.” “And being in an agony, He prayed the longer.”

Mt 26:38. “Then He saith to them,” viz., the three Apostles, whom He wished to be witnesses of His agony in the garden.

“My soul is sorrowful.” The Greek word, “περὶλυπος,” means, sorely grieved, excessively afflicted. Not My body, but “My soul,” is, as it were, rent in two by the excess and multitude of the sorrows that overwhelm Me, “intraverunt aquæ usque ad animam meam.” (Ps 69)

“Even unto death,” intensifies the above. As if He said: I experience such sorrow, as would be capable of producing death; such sorrow, as those endure, who are on the point of dissolution, struggling, in the last agonies of death. Hence, St. Luke tells us, He was “in an agony” (Lk 22:43).

Our Redeemer, as the victim of atonement for sin, was resolved to endure all its punishment. Hence, He voluntarily endured all those feelings of excessive sadness, fear, and weariness in His soul, to experience what our sins merited, viz., “What a dreadful thing it is to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:31). Hence, it is also, that as His body was to be tortured by men; so is his soul, the more noble part of His humanity, to be delivered over, in the Garden, to the more dire execution of His Heavenly Father, and of His own outraged Divinity.

He endures all this punishment in His soul; to atone for our sinful pleasures of interior sense. He fears death, to atone for our reckless insensibility to eternal death. He is sad and sorrowful; because we rejoiced in the thoughts and recollections of our past iniquity. His Passion commences with interior sorrow; because, our sins commence with acts of the will drawn to sensible pleasures. These sorrows had also the effect of proving to after ages, the reality of His tortures, and the excess of His love for man.

These feelings of sorrow, fear, &c., in our Redeemer were voluntary, and the natural consequence of the human nature which He assumed. For, He became like to us in all things, sin excepted. As He was subject to hunger, cold, nay, death itself, so was He also subject to sadness, &c. It is not easy to determine whether He was of necessity subject to them, or whether, by dispensation, He assumed them for a time. Any necessity arising from His human nature could be impeded in its effects by His Divinity. Hence, His human nature, did not endure these things necessarily; but only so far as His Divine nature permitted them. It may, therefore, be said, that He assumed these by dispensation for a time. But, in Him, unlike us, these passions did not anticipate or affect the rational part of His soul, nor impel Him to evil, any more than they did in Adam, as long as He retained the original justice in which He was created.

It is most likely, that it was the certain approach of death and the concomitant tortures present before His mind, that affected His human nature and His human will, inasmuch as human nature naturally recoils from suffering. However, in Him this was over subject to the will of God. “Not My will,” which, in His human nature, would avoid death and suffering; “but Thine”—the superior will of God—“be done.”

The sorrow was, likely, produced by the clear knowledge of the multiplied sins of men, from the first disobedience of Adam to the last sin that was to be ever committed. He became the bail and surety with God for the payment of the heavy debt, which these entailed. “On Him God laid the iniquities of us all.” He, then, was cast into excessive sorrow, at the sight of this dark mass of iniquity—this unbearable weight, of sin.

His sadness, most likely, arose from the prevision of the inefficacy of His tortures for millions of His creatures, who would ungratefully forget God’s benefits, outrage His goodness, and precipitate themselves into hell.

Oh! how instructive to us is not the agony of this Godlike model of true penitents. How forcibly does He remind us of the excessive enormity of mortal sin and the sorrow which it merits. Jesus, though innocent, is so affected at the sight of our sins, as to shed drops of blood; and we, who are guilty, cannot be induced to look back on the follies and ignorances of our youth with a feeling of penitential regret, or bestow on them a thought of sorrow. Jesus wails in spirit at the sight of our deplorable condition, standing over the pit of hell; and we, with the most reckless insensibility, pass along, although, perhaps, for a series of years, during which we unconcernedly reposed at night on our pillows, had death suddenly surprised us, as it did thousands of others, before the morning sun arose, we would be found opening our eyes in hell. A God is sorrowful, even unto death, for the sins of His guilty creature. And the guilty creature, with the example of a weeping God, feels neither compunction nor sorrow. Let us beware, lest one day, we may in vain call upon the mountains to fall upon us, and upon the hills to cover us, and lest, trampling on the blood of propitiation, we were only invoking on our own heads, the dreadful terrors of judgment.

“Stay you here, and watch with Me;” in order that, besides being witnesses of His grief, they would learn, in all tribulation, to have recourse to prayer; and by watching and sympathizing, they would in some measure console Him. He also told thorn to “pray” (Luke 22:40). He permitted Himself, however, to be deprived of the consolation arising from the sympathy of His friends. They are fast asleep, while His soul is sorrowing even unto death. “He looked for one that would grieve together with Him; one that would comfort Him, and He finds none” (Psa. 69:21).

Mt 26:39. “A little farther,” from the chosen three. St. Luke says, “a stone’s cast” (Lk 22:41). Whether the distance spoken of by St. Luke be the same as that referred to here by St. Matthew, or rather, the distance in regard to the eight other Apostles, as the reading in St. Luke would seem to imply, is uncertain. Possibly, however, as St. Luke makes no reference to the selection of Peter, James, and John, it may have reference to them, as here. Our Lord withdrew from them a short distance—which however, was such, that they could witness His sorrow—in order to enjoy, without interruption, the communication with Heaven, and to conceal from them, in some measure, the severity of His conflict, and pour forth the excess of His sorrows more fully in presence of His Heavenly Father.

“He fell upon His face, praying.” Most likely, He first prayed in a kneeling posture; and, then, redoubling His prayer, prostrated Himself, His face touching the ground. By this prostration, He testified His deep affliction, His great humiliation, His reverence for His Father. He bore witness to the immense magnitude of the guilt of sin, which thus prostrated Him, as a penitent, before the outraged justice of Heaven. Being destitute of human consolation, in His unspeakable anguish, He turns towards Heaven, and says:

“My Father, if it be possible, let this chalice,” &c. St. Mark (Mk 14:36) says, He commenced with proclaiming the omnipotence of God, “all things are possible to Thee;” and to mark His earnestness, He repeats the words, “Abba, Father.” By the words, “if it be possible,” He does not mean, absolute possibility, within the range of God’s omnipotence; but only, if it be God’s will.

There is a great diversity of opinion about the meaning of, “this chalice.” The most probable opinion understands it, of His approaching torments and death, from which the humanity of Christ naturally recoiled. The word, “chalice,” is frequently used in Scripture, to denote the lot marked out by God for each one, whether good or evil (Psa. 16), “Dominus pars … et calicis mei;” “Calix meus inebrians,” &c. (Psa. 23) It is more commonly used in an evil sense, denoting death and misery—“ignis, sulphur … pars calicis corum” (Psa. 11); “Calix … plenus misto” (Psa. 75), &c. This figurative signification of the word was not confined to the Jews; it was quite common among the Gentiles. It, probably, had reference originally to the custom, quite prevalent amongst the ancients, on the part of the host, to assign to each guest a particular cup, as well as a dish; and, from the quantity ana quality of the liquor it contained, it marked the degree of respect the host had for each guest. Hence, the word, “cup,” came to signify the portion assigned to each man in life, good or evil. It is more frequently, however, used to designate the latter, in which sense, it may, probably, be allusive to the custom among the ancients, of giving to men condemned to death, as in the case of Socrates, a cup of poison to end their life. Most likely, our Redeemer here refers to His bitter Passion and death.

Our Redeemer well knew, that while, absolutely speaking, it was possible that the chalice might pass away, and He might escape death; still, consistently with the decrees of God, it was not possible. Hence, while the conditional form, “if it be,” &c., expresses the natural desire of His human nature, or the desire of His natural appetite, and of His will, viewed under that respect, to escape death, He, at once, absolutely expresses the perfect conformity of His human, rational will to God’s will, for the accomplishment of which He prays unconditionally; “nevertheless, not as I will.” &c. This, St. Luke expresses more clearly (Lk 22:42), “not My will, but Thine be done.” He was heard for His reverence, when, with strong cry and tears, He then prayed. For, His human nature, by a conditional wish, prayed, that if it were possible, the chalice would pass; but, by an absolute wish, “not My will, but Thine,” it prayed that God’s will would be done, in which “He was heard” (Heb. 5:7).

From this passage is proved against the Monothelites, that there are two wills in Christ, as declared by the Sixth Synod, viz., the Divine and the Human. By this latter one, He merited our redemption; and this latter will, although one, is virtually twofold, viz., the natural human will, by which He recoiled from death, and the rational and free, whereby, subjecting Himself to the Divine will, He wished for death, “not my will, but Thine,” &c. The former is conditional and inefficacious; the latter, absolute and efficacious; and both are materially and formally subject to God’s will. And, although the natural will would seem to be materially opposed to the Divine, it was not so, in reality it was perfectly conformable to it; for, it was ruled by the rational, and, through it, subjected to the Divine will. And both the will of God and the rational will of Christ wished, that the natural will would, for the reasons already assigned, show this horror of death. Hence, it was, in reality, subject and conformable, in all things, to the supreme will of God (A. Lapide).

Mt 26:40. In the midst of His anguish, He is not unmindful of His disciples, in order to leave an example to all, who are charged with the care of others, of how they should look after their flock. While they are overwhelmed with sorrow for the sins of their flock, and fervently praying for them, they should not, at the same time, neglect to look after them.

He “findeth asleep.” St. Luke says (Lk 22:45), “He found them sleeping for sorrow.” He shows, at the same time, His meekness and paternal consideration, although He finds them asleep, contrary to His injunctions; and, addressing Peter in particular, who always signalized himself, in his profession of love and zeal, for the interests of his Divine Master, He says, “What?” as if to say, is this the result of your boastful promises of dying for Me, so courageously uttered but a few moments ago? This exclamation is more clearly expressed by St. Mark (Mk 14:37), “Simon, sleepest thou?”

“Could you not watch one hour with Me?” In St. Mark (Mk 14:37) it is in the singular, as if addressed to Peter, “couldst thou not watch?” &c. Most likely, our Redeemer used the singular form, as in St. Mark; but, while addressing Peter, and reminding him of his promise of fidelity, which was uttered by all the others (Mk 14:35), He addressed the other Apostles also. Hence, St. Mark gives the sense of what our Redeemer intended.

“One hour,” a short time, while He was praying in extreme straits, and struggling in the agonies of death. Others, however, take the word in its literal meaning; and of this they understand the words of St. Luke (Lk 22:43), “He prayed the longer.”

Mt 26:41. He exhorts them to vigilance a second time (Mt 26:38), and also to prayer, not on His own account, but for their sakes. Vigilance is a necessary accompaniment of efficacious prayer; vigilance will cause us to be on our guard against the wiles of our enemy. Prayer will procure from God the necessary strength to overcome him.

“That ye enter not into temptation.” By this it is by no means meant, that they would not have to encounter temptations (for, in this life, no one can hope to be exempt from them; and, they are sent by God as an occasion of merit), but, that they would not yield or succumb to temptation, and be overcome by it, so as to fall into sin. Our Redeemer, most likely, warns them of the trial of their faith and fidelity to Him, which was just at hand. In this, they yielded to temptation, for want of prayer and vigilance, notwithstanding His repeated warnings. However, they soon repented, and were restored to grace, as was predicted of St. Peter (Luke 22:32).

“The spirit, indeed, is willing,” that is, the rational will of the Apostles was willing to obey the commands of God, and the call of duty to their Divine Master. Their promptitude in crying out, “although we should die,” &c. (Mt 26:35), showed that.

“But, the flesh is weak.” The sensitive and carnal appetite, ever inclined to embrace whatever gratifies corrupt nature, “is weak” and indolent in carrying out the desires of the will, bent on obeying the commands of God, opposed to the gratification of corrupt nature. Hence, they should pray for help from God, to strengthen their weak nature, and enable it to obey the dictates of their rational will, which desires the fulfilment of the law of God.

Mt 26:42. In addressing His Father a second time, He insinuates, that, while it would be agreeable to nature to escape the bitter death awaiting Him, it would, still, be more agreeable to Him to accomplish the Divine will. Hence, His second prayer is identical with the first, which is clearly intimated by St. Mark (Mk 14:35), “and going away again, He prayed, saying the same words.” In this repetition, our Redeemer leaves us an example of perseverance in prayer; and au example, also, of resignation and acquiescence in God’s arrangements, under all crosses and contradictions.

Mt 26:43. “Their eyes were heavy.” It was far gone in the night. St. Luke ascribes this heavy somnolency to the sorrow and sadness they were in. On this occasion, our Redeemer went away in silence.

Mt 26:44. “And He prayed a third time, saying the self same words.” It is likely, it was on the occasion of His praying a “third time” that what St. Luke records (Lk 22:43) took place, viz., “an Angel from heaven (visibly) appeared, strengthening Him.” Some commentators are of opinion, that this occurred on each of the three occasions, in order to show us, that although Christ’s prayer, for the passing away of the chalice, was not granted, still, it was not without fruit; it merited for Him to be strengthened by the Angel. However, it is most probable, that it was only on the occasion of His praying a third time, when He protracted His prayer somewhat longer, that this occurred, to teach us the good effect of perseverance in prayer.

While destitute of all human and Divine consolation, the human nature of our Lord was “strengthened by an Angel from heaven,” corporally; so, that while His human nature was dissolving in the bloody sweat, and tending to the last extremity, His sufferings were not allowed to terminate His life; spiritually, owing to the proposing to the intellect of the Man-God, of the motives which increased the resolution of His will to suffer, such as the decree of God to save the world by the death and torments of His Son; the glory that would redound to Him, and the salvation that would come to men from these tortures; the fulfilment of the several prophecies on this subject, &c. But, the proposing of these motives still left the inferior man absorbed in grief and sorrow. Hence, it is observed, that it was not consolation; but, strength, the Angel came to bring him.

St. Luke (ibidem) tells us, that He was “in an agony,” by which is meant, the anguish of mind He suffered, arising from the struggle between His inferior and superior faculties. This word, “agony,” expresses what SS. Matthew and Mark term, “to be sorrowful and sad,” &c. “He prayed the longer.” St. Luke thus briefly expresses what the other Evangelists describe more minutely, as praying three different times. Most likely, on the third occasion, when He permitted the struggle to be fiercest, His prayer was more fervent and prolonged.

St. Luke (ibidem) describes His sweat, the result of this “agony” and struggle, which “became as drops of blood trickling down to the ground.” It was then that the “Angel appeared, strengthening Him.” This is commonly understood of real blood. So great was the united effect of this fear, sadness, and sorrow, which constituted our Redeemer’s “agony,” that it naturally forced the blood to the heart; whilst the vehemence of His love, and the determined resolution of His will to suffer the death of the cross, drew, by an astonishing effect of His great soul, the blood from thence, with such force that, bursting through the veins, it flowed so profusely through every pore that, after saturating His garments, it ran in streams along the ground, on which He lay prostrate.

Mt 26:45. “Then He cometh to His disciples.” After having been strengthened by the Angel, and laying aside the sorrow, sadness, fear, and all the traces of the bloody sweat and agony which He voluntarily assumed; and having now resumed His former courage and firm resolve to suffer the death of the cross, “He cometh to His disciples, and saith to them: Sleep ye now, and take your rest.”

Some expositors of SS. Scripture, with St. Augustine (de Comm. Evan. Lib. 3, c. 4), say, the words are permissive, on the part of our Redeemer, condescending to the weakness of the Apostles, and now considerately permitting what He before had forbidden, when He wished them to watch during His agony. In favour of this view, they quote the words of St. Mark (Mk 14:41), “it is enough,” as if, in the words of St. Matthew, He granted them an interval for sleep: “Sleep … and take your rest,” and after that roused them from sleep, saying, in the words of St. Mark, “it is enough.” Others, with St. Chrysostom, maintain, that the words are spoken ironically, as if He said: Having already slept, when you should have watched, you may as well sleep now during the remainder of the time that is left you, before a sense of personal danger, just at hand, shall compel you to be on the alert, which My words failed to effect. The following words: “Behold, the hour is at hand,” are strongly confirmatory of this view, as if He said: Sleep now, if you can; but, you cannot—the precise moment fixed and determined by God, “and” (that is, in which) “the Son of man shall be betrayed, is at hand”—the traitor and his employers are at the very door. These interpreters say, the words of St. Mark, “it is enough,” are strongly confirmatory of the irony, as if He said: You have indulged long enough in sleep; the danger at hand prevents you from doing so any longer.

“Shall he betrayed”—(the Greek, παραδιδοται, is betrayed)—into the hands of sinners,” Judas and the Jewish High Priests, representing the entire Jewish nation—or, the Gentiles; for Judas got a cohort of Roman soldiers to accompany him. The Greek for, “it is enough” (ἀπέχει), causes some embarrassment to critics. Some understand by the word, “he receives,” that is, the devil receives power over Me. Others, “they have an end,” corresponding with the words of St. Luke (Lk 22:37), “for, the things concerning Me have an end.” The rendering of the Vulgate is, “sufficit” (corresponding with the words of St. Luke 22:38), “it is enough.”

Mt 26:46. “Arise.” The Apostles were in a sitting or reclining posture, whilst asleep. “Go hence,” not fly, but courageously go forth to meet their enemies. “Behold, he is at hand,” &c. Strengthened by the Angel, our Redeemer resumes His wonted courage and contempt of personal danger. As in His agony, He exhibited the infirmity of assumed human nature, so now, He exhibits the majesty of His Divinity, by predicting the near approach of the traitor, which His Providence arranged, and by displaying Godlike courage and promptitude in going forth to meet death and confront His enemies.

Mt 26:47. “As He yet spoke.” Mark and Luke note the same circumstance, to show the truth of His prediction regarding the near approach of the traitor. “Behold,” a matter of wonder, a crime unheard of, that “Judas, one of the twelve”—one of His chosen friends—raised to the highest dignity—destined to be one of the pillars of the future edifice of His Church—on whom He had bestowed so many marks of favour and friendship, should be the party to betray Him.

“And with him a great multitude.” This multitude was composed of “a band of men, and servants from the chief priests and the Pharisees” (John 18:3). Among them was a “Tribune” (John 18:12), and “chief priests, and magistrates of the temple and ancients” (Luke 22:52). St. Luke says. “Judas went before them” (Lk 22:47). He knew the place well (John 18:2), as our Lord was in the habit of resorting to it. Hence, probably, after searching the hall where our Redeemer had celebrated the Last Supper, he repaired thither, at once.

They came “with swords and clubs,” and also, “with torches and lanterns” (John 18:3). Can any thing so clearly demonstrate the folly of the enemies of our Redeemer, or the blindness with which the demon of avarice inflicted on Judas, as their imagining that these weapons would prove of any avail against Him, who, by a single act of His power, prostrated them on the ground? (John 18:6).

Mt 26:48. Not only does the traitor have recourse to violent measures to secure the apprehension of his Divine Master; but, he has also recourse to the basest treachery and dissimulation. He gave those who accompanied him, most of them Roman soldiers and Pagans, to whom our Redeemer was personally unknown, a sign whereby to distinguish Him from the others, “Whomsoever I shall kiss, that is He,” for whose betrayal I have stipulated; “hold Him fast.” This he adds, lest our Redeemer should slip from their hands, as often happened before, when His life was menaced; and the traitor would miss the promised thirty pieces of silver (Mt 26:15; Mark 14:11). He had not yet received the money; it was only promised.

Mark adds (Mk 14:44), that the traitor also said, “lead Him away carefully,” lest our Redeemer might, by any means escape them; or, lest any tumult being created by His apprehension, the people might rescue Him out of their hands; and thus, he might fail to secure the promised blood money.

Most likely, our Redeemer, in accordance with the usage of the time, saluted His Apostles with a kiss when He met them, or when they returned after any absence; and Judas employed this sign of friendship and salute of peace, as a covert means of concealing from the Apostles, who surrounded our Redeemer, his treacherous designs.

Mt 26:49. Going before the crowd, he came up to our Redeemer, saying: “Hail, Rabbi”—words expressive of respect—“Rabbi,” that is, Master; “and he kissed Him.” Both by his feigned language of respect and his conduct, he wished to conceal his wicked design.

But our Redeemer showed, that violent as well as treacherous measures were equally unavailing against Him. He showed the one, by prostrating His enemies (John 18:6); and He showed how clearly He saw through the treachery of Judas, by the following question.

Mt 26:50. Friend, whereto art thou come?” He calls him “friend”—although, now, His deadliest enemy—on account of their former friendship; and because, he now exhibits the sign of friendship as usual. He also thus addresses him, in order to show His compassionate feelings for him, and His grief for his fall; thus, if possible, to reclaim him.

“Whereto art thou come?” which is more clearly expressed by St. Luke (Lk 22:48), “Judas, dost thou betray the Son of man with a kiss?” “Whereto art thou come?” If your design be hostile, why salute Me with the sign of friendship? If friendly, what means this armed band that accompanies thee? After having thus kissed Him, Judas retired back among those who came with him, “and stood with them” (John 18:6). Oh! how pathetically had the Royal Psalmist (Psa. 55:13), described the anguish caused our Redeemer by the treason of His chosen disciple, “si inimicus meus maledixisset mihi, sustinuissem utique,” &c. We are told by Moses (Gen. 6:7), that the sins of God’s enemies—the giant sinners of old—so affected Him, that He cried out, “It repenteth Me that I made them.” And still, the Psalmist assures us, that the outrage offered God, which made Him sorry for creating man, was tolerable, compared with the anguish caused Him by the treason of His apostate disciple, “tu, vero, homo unanimis, dux meus et notus meus; qui simul mecum dulces capiebas eibos” (Psa. 55:14). Doubtless, we must regard it as one of the circumstances most painful to the Sacred Heart of our loving Redeemer, in the betrayal of Judas, that neither the affectionate appeal of his Divine Master—“Friend, why comest thou hither?” nor the fears of judgment, had any effect in overcoming his obstinate impenitence, until, in despair, “he hanged himself with a halter” (Mt 27:5), and his bowels bursting asunder, his soul descended to its destined place in hell (Acts 1:25).

“Then they came up, and laid hands on Jesus,” &c. Here may be inserted what is recorded by St. John (18:4–9), viz., after Judas had kissed his Divine Master, he retreated towards the armed band that accompanied them. Our Redeemer, then, came forward to meet them, and inquired, whom were they in search of; and then, He at once, declares Himself to be the party they sought, in reply to their answer, that it was “Jesus of Nazareth.” From this form of words, many infer that they did not know our Redeemer, and that they might have been struck with a kind of blindness similar to that inflicted on the sinful men of Sodom (Gen. 19:11). On saying, “I am He,” they were at once, by an act of the Divine power, which showed them what little harm they could do Him, save in as far as He would permit it, thrown backwards on the ground.

After restoring to them their former strength, and again asking, “Whom seek ye?” and answering them, “I am He,” He cautions them not to molest His Apostles, showing greater solicitude for them than for Himself (John 18:8). After this, the soldiers and servants “took Jesus and bound Him” (John 18:12). The words mean, they were about laying hands on Him and binding Him. For, what is recorded in the following verse regarding Peter’s attempt to defend Him, took place before He was actually apprehended by the Tribune and the whole band (John 18:10–12).

Mt 26:51. We are told by St. Luke (Lk 22:49), that His disciples, seeing what was to happen, asked our Lord, whether they would use the swords in His defence which they had with them (Lk 22:38). Remembering that He told them to purchase swords (Lk 22:36,) they probably imagined the time was now come to use them in defending Him, and in showing their fidelity; and most likely, “one of them,” whom St. John (Jn 18:10) tells us, was “Simon Peter,” without waiting for our Redeemer’s reply, out of a sudden impulse of fervent zeal, at once, cut off the right ear of the servant of the High Priest, who, probably, was the most forward and ferocious of the band in attacking our Redeemer. This “servant’s name was Malchus” (John, ibidem). He is supposed to be one of those who smote our Redeemer upon the face, even after the miraculous cure performed in his favour. Then, our Redeemer, answering their question (Luke 22:51), said, “suffer ye thus far,” which is differently interpreted: Permit My enemies to exert their power over Me “thus far,” so as to apprehend Me; or, “thus far,” unto this hour, which is their hour, and the power of darkness; or, permit My defence to proceed “thus far,” that is, so far as the cutting of the ear off Malchus is concerned; but, proceed no farther. He, then, at once touching the ear of Malchus, which, from the word, “touched,” would seem not to have altogether fallen off, but to be merely hanging from him, perfectly restored it. From the foregoing, we can see the number of miracles our Redeemer performed on this occasion—1st. The blindness and stupor inflicted on those sent to apprehend Him. 2nd. The prostrating of them on the ground. 3rd. His protecting His followers from any harm 4th. The restoring of the ear of Malchus.

Mt 26:52. “Then Jesus said to him: Put up thy sword in its place” (St. John 18:11), “the scabbard.” He censures the conduct of Peter on threefold grounds—1st. On the general ground of the Divine prohibition to use the sword and shed blood without a justifying cause (Gen. 9:6). To this improper use of the sword, appropriate and severe penalty is justly due. “All that take the sword, shall perish by the sword.” This only expresses the punishment due to such; or, if it refer to what actually occurs, it merely expresses what, commonly speaking, happens, as we know from sad experience. There may be exceptional cases, where those who imbrue their hands in the blood of their fellow-men, escape punishment; but these are exceptional cases. The general law, prohibiting the unjust effusion of human blood, to which the punishment here referred to is annexed, is promulgated (Gen. 9:6), “Whosoever shall shed man’s blood, his blood shall be shed.” There is, of course, question both in these and in the words of our Redeemer in this verse, of the shedding of blood by private authority, and without some justifying cause. Hence, St. Peter, although seemingly justified, as acting in self-defence, still transgressed; because, he acted without waiting for the permission, and against the wishes of his Divine Master. Again, because his act bore the character of vindictiveness rather than of defence, which, humanly speaking, would be useless against such a multitude.

2ndly. He censures his mode of acting on the ground, that it was quite useless and uncalled for. Had He wished to be defended, He might “have asked His Father,” and the whole hosts of the heavenly armies, one of whom, in one night, slew 185,000 Assyrians (4 Kings, 19:35), would be ready to defend Him.

Mt 26:53. “Twelve legions of Angels,” denote an immense number of the heavenly armies. The word, “legion,” is allusive to the Roman military system of computation. God is called, “the Lord of Sabaoth,” or, of hosts. “Thousands of thousands ministered to Him, and ten thousand times a hundred thousand stood before Him” (Dan. 7:10).

Mt 26:54. He censures Peter’s conduct, 3rdly, on the ground that it was opposed to the decrees of His Heavenly Father, already foretold in the Scriptures, regarding the different circumstances of His death and Passion. Under this, may be included the reason assigned in St. John (Jn 18:11), having reference to the special ordination of His Heavenly Father: “The chalice which My Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it?”

Mt 26:55. After having censured the act of Peter, our Redeemer now severely reproaches His enemies, and conveys to them, that all the power they are about exerting against Him, was owing to His having voluntarily and freely submitted to it Himself.

You are come out with swords and clubs to apprehend me, and you avail yourselves of the darkness of night, coming furnished with lanterns and torches to apprehend Me, as if I were a nightly robber. I have not acted any such part. The robber always seeks the darkness to conceal himself, whereas, “I sat daily with you, teaching in the temple.” Our Redeemer makes no mention of the miracles He wrought in their favour. He merely refers to the doctrines of salvation He dealt out to them. He did so in the day, in the very temple, where they had jurisdiction; where, if they wished, they could apprehend Him; however, they did nothing of the sort.

Mt 26:56. But their having refrained from apprehending Him in the temple, and their seizing on Him in the darkness of the night, headed by His own traitorous Apostle, and the other circumstances of His arrest (“all this was done”), were permitted by God, in order that the several prophecies regarding them in SS. Scripture might be accomplished. These words, which St. Matthew records here historically, were spoken by our Redeemer Himself, as we learn from St. Mark (Mk 14:49). They have partly the same meaning as those recorded by St. Luke (Lk 22:53), “but this is your hour, and the power of darkness;” as if it were meant to convey, that if they abstained from laying violent hands upon Him heretofore, it was because He did not permit them; but that now, in accordance with the pre-arranged decrees of God, recorded and predicted in the ancient Scriptures, He submitted, and permitted them and the demons by whom they were instigated, to vent all their rage and malice against Him. After having thus addressed them, He permitted them to apprehend Him, although His apprehension is, by anticipation, recorded in Mt 26:50. The circumstance of His having touched the ear of Malchus, afterwards, shows He was not then apprehended or bound.

The painful anguish, which the mode of His apprehension must have caused our Redeemer, may be estimated from various circumstances—1st. He, who was Infinite Sanctity, was apprehended as a robber. 2ndly. He was apprehended by the most wicked characters, who bound, mocked, blasphemed Him, dragged Him to and fro, treating Him worse than a beast of burden. 3rdly. He was deserted by all His friends. 4thly. He was bound by heavy chains, whereby He wished to loose the chains of our sins. Whence Jeremias (Lam. 4:20) says, “The breath of our mouth, Christ the Lord, is taken in our sins.”

“Then the disciples, all leaving Him, fled.” Here is fulfilled His prophecy, regarding them (verse 31). The entire eleven leaving Him, both in mind and body, giving up all trust and hope in Him, fled, and left Him alone in the hands of His enemies. Some say, they did not sin in this flight; or, at best, that they only sinned venially, since, they adhered to Him interiorly, and in their hearts. They fled, seeing they could be of no service to Him. But, however, having fled without consulting Him, whom they should have confidence in, after seing Him prostrate His enemies, and having done this from the impulse of sudden fear and timidity; they therefore sinned lightly. These maintain, that the Apostles lost neither faith nor charity by so doing. Peter, however, and John returned (John 18:15-16). The former followed Him, but only at a distance (verse 58).

St. Mark relates (Mk 14:51), that a young man followed Him, and was obliged to fly from the fury of His enemies. Most likely, he records this to show, what treatment was in store for the Apostles, had they not consulted for their safety by flight, and also to give us an idea of the fury of His enemies, and the general trepidation caused by them. Who this “young man” was, cannot be determined for certain. That he was not one of the Apostles, seems very likely from his age, his dress, in which, probably, none of the Apostles appeared at the Last Supper, and besides, it is said, “they all fled.” That he was a follower of our Redeemer, seems most likely, from the words of St. Mark, “he followed Him,” that is, Christ, and not the crowd. Moreover, he was about being apprehended, and maltreated, as one of His followers. Most likely, he was a servant of the villa, or country house, at Gethsemani. He must have conceived a very high idea of the sanctity of our Redeemer, whom he saw come there often to pray; and hearing the noise and concourse, he, probably, leaped out of bed, and went out, half dressed, to see what was the matter, and to ascertain what these midnight assailants meant to do with our Lord.

Mt 26:57. Having been permitted by our Redeemer to apprehend Him, after He had restored the ear of Malchus, and had reproached them, as in preceding verse, “they led Him to Caiphas the High Priest” (St. Luke 22:54, “to the High Priest’s house”), where the entire Sanhedrin were assembled, for the purpose of sitting in judgment on Jesus. It was the province of the Sanhedrin to judge questions of doctrine, and condemn false teachers, such as our Redeemer was alleged to be.

“The Synedrium, or great Council of the Jews, called by the Talmudists, Sanhedrin, consisted of seventy-two judges. Its president was always the High Priest … The assessors were—1st. The Chief Priests, that is, those who enjoyed the dignity of High Priest, as well as the heads of the twenty-four classes, into which the Priests were distributed. This class is referred to (Mt 26:3, 59). 2nd. The Elders, that is, the chiefs of the tribes, and heads of families. 3rd. The Scribes, or Doctors of the Law. However, not all the Scribes, nor all the Elders were members of the Sanhedrin; but, only those who obtained this dignity by election, or by the nomination of the Prince, or chief Governor of the State” (see Dixon’s General Introduction, &c., vol. ii., p. 51). Those several members of the Supreme Council “were assembled” together at the house of Caiphas, the High Priest, for the purpose of sitting in judgment on Jesus.

St. John states (Jn 18:13), that they led Him to Annas, first. This they did, in order to gratify the High Priest, whose father-in-law Annas was. The High Priest greatly regarded Him, on account of their close connexion; and respected, on account of his age. Most likely, he was guided by his advice in the apprehension of our Redeemer. It may be that the house of Annas was on the way to that of Caiphas. Some even suppose that it was there Judas received the price of his treason, and that it was Annas stipulated with him to betray our Redeemer, for the promised sum. St. Cyril says so expressly. The traitor received the price of blood that very night, as appears from his coming back the following morning and throwing it to them (Mt 27:5). And it seems most probable, it was not at the house of Caiphas he received it; for, had he been there, he would have betrayed Peter.

Mt 58. It is disputed whether the first denial of Peter occurred at the house of Annas or of Caiphas. For, St. John (Jn 18:24), after describing the first denial of Peter, says, “And Annas sent Him bound to Caiphas the High Priest,” whence, some infer, that the events recorded (John 18:13–24), all took place at the house of Annas. But, the aorist form for sent (απεστειλεν), has a pluperfect sense, had sent (Beelen); and taking into account the narrative of the three other Evangelists, it is all but certain, that all Peter’s denials occurred at the house of Caiphas.

St. John says this, at least virtually. For, he says (Jn 18:16), that Simon Peter was admitted into the hall of the High Priest. It was the High Priest’s maid first questioned him (Jn 18:17). It was the High Priest first questioned our Lord concerning His doctrines and disciples (Jn 18:19); and it is expressly stated before (Jn 18:13), that Caiphas “was the High Priest of that year.” It is quite certain there could be only one actual High Priest among the Jews, whose duties, in case of any impediment which might prevent his officiating, were deputed, for a definite time, to another. Hence, Josephus tells us (Antiq. Lib. 27, c. 8), that, on that account, the duty of offering sacrifice was deputed, on a certain occasion, to Joseph, the son of Ellenus, on the part of Matthias, the High Priest, who could not himself officiate. The words of St. Luke (Lk 3:2), “under the High Priests, Annas and Caiphas,” contain no proof to the contrary. The words may mean, that Annas was High Priest the year before, as Josephus informs us: and as John the Baptist, of whose preaching there is an account given by St. Luke, continued to preach penance for two years, he is, therefore, said to have preached “under Annas and Caiphas, the High Priests.” Or, it may be, that having been the most venerable among those who held the office of High Priest, and enjoying the greatest authority among his countrymen, Annas was mentioned with the actual Pontiff, who, very likely, was much guided by his counsel, as being always respected as High Priest, even after the actual discharge of the High Priest’s functions were transferred to another. Hence, the words of St. John (Jn 18:24), are but an express repetition of what he had virtually conveyed already; and he wishes to guard against any mistake, as to who the High Priest was, of whom there is question in the following verses, from Jn 18:13-24. St. Cyril places verse 24 before verse 15 in that 18th chapter of St. John. The other Evangelists make no mention of Annas, because nothing worth recording occurred at his house.

“But Peter followed Him afar off.” Recovering from his first panic, Peter, from a feeling of love, followed Him, while the other Apostles were scattered abroad, like sheep without a shepherd. His love was not unmixed with fear. For, he followed “from afar,” lest he might be apprehended, as one of His disciples. Love impels him forward; fear keeps him at a distance.

“Even to the court of the High Priest.” How he obtained admittance there is recorded by St. John (Jn 18:15-16). He was introduced by one of our Redeemer’s disciples, who was known to the High Priest. Who this disciple was is disputed. Some say, it was John the Evangelist; others, some one of our Redeemer’s secret followers, who privately heard Him and believed in Him. “The court” was within the house, where the servants were awaiting their masters, who were sitting in council, in the innermost part of the house.

“He sat with the servants.” St. John (Jn 18:18), tells us, they were warming themselves by a fire in the hall, because the weather was cold.

“That he might see the end,” that is, the issue of our Redeemer’s trial and examination by the Sanhedrin, whether He would be condemned or absolved, and shape his conduct accordingly. From the result of such communication, we can see the danger of frequenting the occasions of sin, against truth or morals. Had St. Peter not associated with the servants of the members of the Sanhedrin, he might have escaped the humiliating crime, which he afterwards committed, of denying his Divine Master. So, if we love the danger, we shall surely perish. There are certain circumstances and moments of passion, in which the strength of Samson, or the sanctity of the Baptist, would not save us in the presence of occasions. David, the man according to God’s heart, Solomon, endowed with wisdom from Heaven, Peter, the rock of God’s Church, fell, and fell shamefully; because they did not avoid the occasions. All moments are not seasons of grace; and, if under ordinary temptation, grace is necessary to secure the victory, is not more than ordinary grace necessary to triumph in the circumstances now contemplated? And are we to expect that God will come to our rescue, by granting extraordinary graces, when we are voluntarily throwing ourselves into the very jaws of destruction? It would be tempting God to expect such miracles of His supernatural Providence, who created us without our help, but will not save us without our own co-operation. “Qui creavit te sine te, non salvabit te sine te” (St. Augustine).

Mt 26:59. The High Priest had interrogated our Lord concerning His doctrine (John 18:19), and failed to elicit anything from Him on this head whereon to found a plausible charge. Hence, the enemies of our Lord, anxious to preserve a show of justice, and desirous of some ostensible grounds for charging Him before Pilate, with some crime that would warrant a sentence of death, have now recourse to another artifice. In the absence of truthful witnesses, whom they despaired of finding, owing to our Redeemer’s prudence and sanctity, known to the entire people, they “sought false witnesses;” they wished that these would appear as credible witnesses, in order to compass His death. They should have had some well grounded evidence of His guilt before arresting Him at all. Hence, their utter disregard for the very commonest forms of justice, in their mode of proceeding.

Mt 26:60. And, although many false witnesses presented themselves, they were of no use for the purpose of a conviction. “And they found not,” their evidence, besides other defects, being of a contradictory nature, as we learn from St. Mark (Mk 14:55–59). How clearly was this declared beforehand, by the Psalmist, “scrutati sunt iniquitates; defecerunt scrutantes,” &c. (Ps. 64); and also, “insurrexerunt in me testes iniqui et mentita est iniquitas sibi.” (Psa. 26)

“And last of all there came two false witnesses.” Two witnesses, at least, were required by the Jewish law for evidence of any importance, “in ore duorum vel trium testium stet omne verbum” (Deut. 19:15). Their evidence is specially mentioned, either because, it had reference to the mystery of the death of Christ, which was now being compassed, or, on account of its open and ridiculous falsity, so that we may infer from their evidence what sort of witnesses the others were.

Mt 26:61. “I am able to destroy the temple of God, and in three days” &c. Their evidence was false—1st. Because they attributed to our Lord words He had not used. He did not say, “I am able to destroy,” &c., He only said, “destroy this temple,” that is, if you should destroy this temple, &c. Again, in Mark (Mk 14:58), are inserted the words, “made with hands,” which words He did not use. Nor did He say, “I will rebuild;” but, “I will raise it up” (John 2:19). 2ndly. It was false, inasmuch as they gave the words of our Redeemer a false construction. They interpreted of the temple of Jerusalem, what He meant to be understood of His own body (John 2:21), the temple in which “all the fulness of the Godhead dwelleth corporally” (Col. 2:9). He gave them, when asking for a sign of His power, the greatest proof of Divine omnipotence, viz., His resurrection from the grave, after having been there for three days. But, He did this in an enigmatical manner, as He was addressing cavillers, who were only bent on catching Him in His words; and He did not wish to speak more plainly, lest it might interfere with His death, which, by the decree of God, the Jews were permitted to inflict on Him. St. Mark (Mk 14:59), says, “these witnesses did not agree,” which, very probably, means, looking to the Greek, καὶ ἶσαι ἅι μυρτυρἱαι ουκ ἦσαν, their evidence was not equal to securing a conviction. All that could be said, at most, of His words was, that they contained a harmless boast, doing injury to no one.

Mt 26:62. “The High Pried rising up,” as if to convey, that a subject of the vastest importance was under consideration. He rose up also, according to the opinion of St. Jerome, from rage at seeing the insufficiency of the evidence, and also at seeing that our Redeemer, by His silence, as if He regarded such evidence as undeserving of a reply, gave no pretext for strengthening, from the distortion of His words in self defence, the evidence already adduced, which was utterly insufficient to secure a conviction. He utterly forgot the calm composure of the judge, in thus rising up to question our Divine Redeemer. Judges usually occupy a sitting posture. It is held by some that here the High Priest acted in the capacity of a Priest of the synagogue, where men spoke in a standing posture (Luke 4:16).

“Answerest Thou nothing?” &c. In proposing this question, this wicked judge affected to believe that the absurd evidence given was important, and deserving of a reply. Hence, in a state of irritation at the course things were taking, he wishes to elicit some answer from our Redeemer, on which to ground some charge. If there be any miscreant on this earth greater than another, it is the corrupt, partisan judge, who, forgetful of God—the just Judge of all who shall judge him justly in turn—dead to every feeling of moral sense, blinded by sectarian bigotry, or a hatred of all religion, shows, by his very manner in passing an unjust sentence—at times, furiously impetuous; at times, deliberately slow—the bent of his wicked and perverse mind. Caiphas, in the present instance, furnishes a fair specimen of such. Would to God, that our day also had not to witness similar samples of judicial impartiality. Thank God, they are the exceptions.

Mt 26:63. “But, Jesus held His peace,” because He knew the charges preferred against Him involved nothing deserving of death, and the evidence in support of them to be unmeaning; and He did not wish to evade death, now that His hour had arrived. How cearly had the Psalmist long before described our Redeemer’s mode of acting on the occasion (Ps. 38:13-14), “They that sought evils to me spoke vain things … but, I, as a deaf man, heard not; and as a dumb man, not opening his mouth.” Also (Psa 39), “I set a guard to my mouth, when the sinner stood against me.” Our Redeemer teaches us by His silence, that we too ought silently to endure the calumnies of men, nor deign an answer to such as charge us with palpably false crimes, since our defence would only provoke them the more.

“I adjure thee by the living God.” Maddened at seeing that our Redeemer’s continued silence had baffled all their efforts to insnare Him in His words, and to found some accusation, even on the distorted interpretation of His language, the High Priest now comes to the chief point of accusation against Him, and in virtue of his pontifical authority, as representative of the power of God, he rashly employs, by an excess of shocking impiety, what is most sacred in religion, the holy name of “the living God,” to force our Redeemer to speak and say if He was not the Son of God.

He “adjures” Him, that is, he solemnly and publicly commands Him, in the presence of God, the witness as well as the judge of what was to be said, to say, if He were not “the Christ” &c. The word “adjure,” has manifold meanings in SS. Scripture—1st. To make one swear. Thus, Abraham adjures his servant (Gen. 24:2); Jacob adjures Joseph (Gen. 50:5). 2ndly. To devote one to Divine vengeance and malediction (1 Sam 14:27-28). 3rdly. To bind one under some religious obligation, such as the fear of outraging religion, or of incurring the Divine vengeance, to do something commanded (1 Kings 22:16; Son 2:7; 3:8; 5:8; Acts 19:13). Here, it is taken in this latter sense. The High Priest publicly and solemnly commands our Redeemer, in virtue of the obedience due to him, as Pontiff, and of the reverence and respect due to the name of God, to answer him. His object was not to discover the truth; but, to find matter for condemnation against Him, in any event. If He were still to maintain silence, it would be construed into disrespect to the High Priest, and irreverence towards God. If He answered, and did so affirmatirely, He would be charged with disaffection to the Romans in affecting sovereign authority; and with blasphemous sacrilege in usurping the Divine dignity. If in the negative. He would be charged with falsely usurping these titles on former occasions, and lately allowing the people to greet Him with loud hosannas, and welcome Him as the Son and rightful heir of David.

“If Thou be the Christ,” &c. By “the Christ,” the High Priest understood, the long expected Messiah, the promised deliverer and King of Israel. By “the Son of God,” he meant the natural, co-eternal, not merely the adopted, Son of God. The High Priest understood our Redeemer to have called Himself such, from His public teaching: “I and the Father are one,” whence the Jews charged Him with making “Himself equal to God” (John 10:30–33), and from the confession of His followers (Matt. 16; John 11:27). The question of the High Priest was twofold: one regarding “the Christ,” which would involve the charge of disaffection to the Romans; the other regarding His Divinity, which would involve the guilt of blasphemy, and so He would be accused under both heads.

Mt 26:64. Our Redeemer, although He knew the High Priest had acted from malice, and not to secure the ends of justice, and also knew that His public profession of the truth, would be made the occasion of His condemnation; still, to show us, that when interrogated by public authority respecting our faith, we must not fail to confess it; and also to show that the name of God is to be honoured; and still more, to give us an example of obedience to authority, even when it is abused, so long as it only prescribes what is good, and proposes nothing wrong—at once answers, “thou hast said it,” a mild way of asserting a thing without giving offence. Hence, in St. Mark it is, “I am” (Mk 13:6).

“Nevertheless I say to you, hereafter you shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of the power of God,” &c. Our Redeemer after asserting, in obedience to the command of the High Priest, and out of reverence for the name of God, and for the sake of publicly professing the truth, which He came on earth to proclaim to the world, that He was the Son of God, now intrepidly advances a most convincing proof in support of the same. “Hereafter,” that is, when the hour of the power of darkness shall have passed, after His resurrection and ascension, “they shall see,” that is, know and experience from the effects and wonderful proofs of His power. For, the reprobate Jews shall not be blessed with the sight of the glory of God. They can only judge from the effects of His power, that He sits at the right hand of God.

“The Son of man,” whom they now despise us a weak man. “Sitting on the right hand of the power of God,” at the powerful right hand of God, equal to God in power and majesty. Then especially shall they conclude that He “sits at the right hand,” &c., that He is Himself God, the Son of God, when they shall see His glorious majesty “coming in the clouds of heaven,” surrounded with the entire host of the heavenly armies. Even His executioners shall see this (Rev 1:7). There is here a direct antithesis between “the Son of man,” in his present, lowly condition of accused, standing before an earthly judge; and “the power of God,” the majesty of Sovereign Judge, which He shall display at His second coming.

Who can fail here to admire the intrepid magnanimity of our Blessed Lord, when, in the midst of His enemies, He menaces them, who are now sitting in judgment on Him, and bent on condemning Him unjustly to death, with the terrors of the dreadful judgment He shall one day pronounce on the impious, in the Valley of Josaphat.

The adversative particle, “nevertheless,” has nothing here expressed to correspond with it. The corresponding member is implied. It is expressed by St. Luke (Lk 22:67), “If I shall tell you, you will not believe me; but you shall see,” &c. By some it is maintained, that the corresponding Greek word (πλῆν), is not adversative at all here, that it only signifies, nay more, or some such.

Mt 26:65. The High Priest, desirous of such confession from the lips of our Divine Redeemer, as the grounds of a sentence of condemnation against Him, rising from his seat, “rent his garments,” to testify the intensity of his grief. The Jewish garments were so made that the upper part was loose, and whenever they rent their garments, they tore them asunder as far as the girdle, but no farther, for modesty’s sake. It was quite usual with the ancients to express the strong emotions, particularly of grief or indignation, by thus rending their garments. The Jews, particularly, were in the habit of doing so when any terrible evil occurred—Jacob (Gen. 37:30–34); Josue (Num 14:6), &c. This they did, particularly on the occasion of the greatest of evils, viz., blasphemy; Ezechias (2 Kings 19:1); Paul and Barnabas (Acts 14:13). Here, the High Priest rends his garments, not precisely out of grief for the outrage offered to God, which he hypocritically feigned to deplore, but for the purpose of inciting those present against Jesus. His conduct seemed to point out still more strongly the occurrence of some unheard of calamity, since it was forbidden to the High Priest to rend his garments (Lev. 21:10). Hence, the fact of his doing so here in violation of the law, shows that some uncommon calamity must have occurred. By some (Benedict XIV., Calmet, &c.), it is maintained that the prohibition in Leviticus had reference only to private grief, and when the Pontiff was clad in his sacerdotal garments, and in the temple; but that, on occasions of public sorrow, the High Priest might rend his garments (1 Macc. 11:71).

“He hath blasphemed.” Without waiting for a calm discussion, regarding the nature of our Redeemer’s offence, this corrupt judge, forgetting his office, as judge, at once charges Him with the guilt of blasphemy, for asserting that He was the Son of God, and the long expected Messiah, thus claiming the honour due to God and to Christ, and He calls on the other judges to act the part of accusers.

“What further need have we of witnesses?” This shows the impiety of Caiphas, who acts not as judge, but as accuser. “Behold now you have heard the blasphemy,” as if to say, the case is too evident to admit of any discussion whatever. These words betray the inward joy Caiphas felt at having secured a pretext for condemning our Redeemer.

Mt 26:66. “What think you?” The question regards not His guilt, which the High Priest asserted to be beyond discussion, but, the punishment; to what punishment do you sentence Him for this manifest crime of blasphemy?

“They answering,” with one voice, said, “He is guilty of death,” that is, deserving of death, which was the punishment awarded by the law to blasphemers (Lev. 24:16). The special kind of death marked out in the law was stoning; but, as they were determined on subjecting Him to the most cruel and ignominious death of the cross, they refrain from saying, “He deserves, that all the multitude would stone Him” (Lev. 24:16).

Mt 26:67. “Then.” According to the more probable opinion, after our Redeemer was condemned at night, the Council broke up, as it was to be assembled again the following morning (Mt 27:1). In the meantime, and during the night, what is here recorded, occurred. St. Matthew records all things fully, and in their proper order. There are, however, commentators who hold that what is recorded here, from Mt 26:59, to this, regarding the interrogation by the High Priest, the cruel treatment of our Blessed Lord, in the hall of Caiphas, occurred only after the Council was assembled on the following morning (Mt 27:1); that St. Matthew, therefore, records this by anticipation and out of order; and that all from Mt 26:59 to this should be placed in order after Mt 27:1. But there was a twofold Council held, at each of which our Redeemer was interrogated—one at night, after our Lord’s apprehension, when He was interrogated, in the first instance, by the High Priest; and another in the morning (Luke 22:66), at which all the Chief Priests and ancients of the people attended. To this, most likely, the High Priest summoned all, even those who might be absent from the meeting of the previous evening. After the first meeting, when our Lord was interrogated, as recorded here, the events here mentioned about our Lord’s contumelious treatment, occurred during the night. After the second (Luke 22:66, &c.), at which He was also questioned, condemned as a blasphemer and rebel, He was delivered up to Pilate to be condemned to the death of the cross.

“They spit in His face,” a great mark of disrespect, and the grossest of insults. (Num. 12; Deut. 25) St. Luke says (Lk 22:63), it was “the men that held Him,” that did so. St. Mark insinuates, that some of the Council did so; for, he pointedly says, “some began to spit on Him … and the servants struck Him,” thereby implying, that others, besides servants, offered Him other indignities.

“And buffeted Him,” that means, that they struck Him with clenched hands, or, with fists, in every part of His body.

“And others struck His face with the palms of their hands.” The former indignity caused Him severe pain. This slapping of Him in the face, besides being, probably, very painful, from the violence with which it was inflicted, contained also the greatest indignity and insult that could be offered a man.

Mt 26:68. “Saying: Prophesy unto us, O Christ, who is he that struck thee.” In order fully to understand this, it should be borne in mind, as we have it recorded in St. Mark (Mk 15:19). Luke (Lk 22:64), that they blindfolded Him, and, treating Him as a laughing stock, and, as a fool, they began to question Him, to prophesy, who was it that struck Him, at different times. These words contain a sneering taunt at His pretensions to be a Prophet. The word, “prophesy,” signifies, not merely to predict future events but also to disclose secret and hidden things, in which latter sense the word is employed here. They also added other blasphemous taunts, deriding and insulting Him. “And many other things, blaspheming, they said against Him” (Luke 22:65). Oh! who can conceive all that our innocent Redeemer suffered during that dismal night, when He was abandoned, or rather, for our sakes, abandoned Himself, to the vile crew of miscreants, in the hall of Caiphas, who employed all the devices which their rage and refined malice could invent, to abuse, vilify, and torment Him. Who is it, that was thus treated? Wherefore, and by whom? How graphically was His condition described beforehand, by the Prophet Isaias (Isa 50:6), “I have given My body to the strikers, and My cheeks to them that plucked Me.”

Mt 26:69. “But Peter sat without in the court.” After describing consecutively, the examination and condemnation of our Saviour, and the cruel mockery He was subjected to in the hall of Caiphas, the Evangelist now returns to the history of the denial of Peter to whom He referred (v. 58), and, without interruption, describes the triple denial, although occurring at three distinct periods, and at different intervals.

“Peter sat.” St. John assures us, “he stood” (Jn 18:18), but, both accounts are true; he sat and stood alternately, “without in the court,” that is, in the hall within the house, which, although within the house, was “without,” relative to those who were in an inner chamber, sitting in judgment on Jesus Christ. How St. Peter was introduced, is described (John 18:15-16): “A servant maid.” She was “portress” (Jn 18:17), and observed all who went in and came out, and from the confused, frightened appearance of Peter, which was so strongly reflected from the fire at which the servants sat and stood, warming themselves, she conjectured that he was one of our Redeemer’s followers, and said, first to the bystanders, “This man was also with Him” (Luke 22:56). She, next, petulantly addressing Peter himself, asked him, as St. John has it, “Art not thou also one of this man’s disciples?” (Jn 18:17); or, as we have it here recorded by St. Matthew, “thou also wast with Jesus the Galilean.” He is called, “the Galilean,” being from Nazareth, the place of His education, which was in Galilee; it was also a term of reproach, Galilee being a most contemptible province (John 7:52). Hence, they speak of Him as “the Galilean,” out of contempt, for His pretending to be a prophet, since no prophet comes from Galilee (John 7:52), and, by it, they imply also, that He was a seditious favourer and follower of Judas the Galilean.

Mt 26:70. “I know not what thou sayest.” The words used by the other Evangelists convey the same meaning—(Luke), “I know Him not;” (John), “I am not.” Peter might have employed these several forms of expression. Here, St. Peter grievously sinned against the confession of faith, being terrified by the empty taunts of a silly maid. St. Mark, who alone records the prediction of our Redeemer, regarding the second crowing of the cock, also alone informs us, that, after Peter’s first denial, when he went out of the hall, “the cock crew” (Mk 14:68), in order to show that the prediction of our Lord, regarding the second crowing of the cock, was verified; and he refers to Peter’s having gone out, “before the Court,” to convey to us, that Peter could have thus more easily heard the crowing of the cock there, than amidst the tumult and noise in the hall.

Mt 26:71. “And as he went out of the gate,” or, the door, which led from the hall to the porch, to which egress St. Mark refers (Mk 14:68). From the Greek, εις τον πυλωνα, it appears, that there is question of the door leading from the hall to the porch. “Another maid saw him,” &c.

Mt 26:72. “And he again denied with an oath, I do not know the man.” This denial did not take place immediately, in reply to the observation of the maid servant; but, as we learn from St. John (Jn 18:25), this denial occurred at the fire, after Peter had returned, and after one of the bystanders (Luke 22:58), or more than one of them (John 18:25), taking up the observation made by the maid, joined her in charging him with being one of the disciples. He, on this second occasion, in order to free himself from suspicion, denied, on oath, that he knew the man. As the second fall of a man is ordinarily greater than the first, so, Peter’s second denial was more heinous than the first, since to it he added perjury. The extenuation of Peter’s guilt, put forward by some holy Fathers, St. Hilary, &c., viz., that he only said, he knew not the man, but knew Him as God, cannot be admitted. For, as St. Jerome well remarks, this would be defending Peter at the expense of his Divine Master, who would, if this defence, were admitted, be guilty of a lie, when He said, “thrice shalt thou deny Me.”

Mt 26:73. “And after a little while,” that is, “about the space of an hour after” (Luke 22:59)—there was an interval of an hour between the first and second crowing of the cock—“they that stood by came, and said to Peter: Surely … for even thy speech doth discover thee.” He spoke with the accent of a Galilean.

Mt 26:74. Peter, seeing himself pressed on every side, and terrified at the allusion to the outrage committed in the garden, which was calculated to bring upon him vengeance, and provoke retaliation, at once begins to curse and swear, i.e., to invoke upon his head all sorts of malediction, if he knew the man. It is deserving of remark, that, as Peter’s confident declarations of fidelity to his Divine Master increased in strength and intensity (Mt 26:33-34), so do his denials increase in intensity. He first simply denies. 2ndly. He denies, on oath. 3rdly. He does so, with oaths and imprecations of all sorts. In the first denial, he said. “I am not” (John 18:17); “I know Him not” (Luke 22:57); “I know not what thou sayest” here, and Mark 14:68. In the second denial, he employed an oath. In the third, he added repeated execrations.

“And immediately.” Luke says, “while he was yet speaking” (Lk 22:60) “the cock crew,” thus verifying the prediction of our Redeemer, that before the cook would crow twice, he would have thrice denied Him.

Mt 26:75. “And Peter remembered the word of Jesus which He said,” &c. St. Luke (Lk 22:61), says, “The Lord, turning, looked on Peter, and Peter remembered the word,” &c. Our Lord looked on him interiorly, with the eye of mercy, reminding him of the magnitude of his crime, and of His own prediction, and inspiring him with true sorrow and compunction. It may be, that He looked on him corporally; since it was likely, after the assembly broke up at night, in the interior of the house, that Jesus was left in the hall, to be abused and mocked by the servants; or, we may also suppose that, if He were left inside, the door being open, our Lord looked at Peter in such a way as to remind him of his fall, and urge him to repentance. “And going forth, he wept bitterly.” He did not wish, nor did he doom it congruous, to weep in presence of the enemies of our Redeemer, because this would betray him, or, rather, because he could weep more freely in solitude, which is best suited for penance. Moreover, their presence was the cause of his denial of his Divine Master. Hence, at once he tied the occasion of his former sin. “He wept bitterly,” at the thought of his sins, particularly his pride, his foolish boasting and presumption, when his Divine Master forewarned him of his fall, and still more, at the recollection of his shameful denial of his Divine Master. The ancient historians of the life of St. Peter, assure us, that his penance and bitter tears were not of a passing kind; that every day, during his entire life, he bitterly wept and deplored his fall.

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Matthew Chapter 25

Posted by Dim Bulb on November 21, 2018

ANALYSIS OF MATTHEW CHAPTER 25

In this chapter, our Lord exhorts all the faithful to the constant and vigilant performance of good works, and stimulates them thereto by the parable of the ten virgins, of whom five were wife, and five more unwise (Mt 25:1–13). He next points out the necessity of good works, corresponding with the graces and talents God bestows on us, by proposing the example of the worthless servant, who was condemned for having neglected to do good, and turn to profitable account the talent confided to him (Mt 25:14–30). He next describes the last Judgment, the sentence to be passed on the elect and reprobate, the reasons assigned in both cases, which point out the necessity of performing works of mercy, in order to gain heaven and escape hell. Finally, He describes the execution of this irrevocable sentence (Mt 25:31–46).

Mt 25:1. “Then,” at the final coming of the Son of man, when He shall appear unexpectedly, to judge the living and the dead—for, it is of this subject our Lord is treating in the foregoing—“shall the kingdom of heaven,” that is, His Church, gathered from all portions of this world, “be like to ten virgins,” &c., that is to say, something shall take place in His Church, on the occasion of His last coming, similar to what is about being stated in the following parable of the ten virgins, “who, taking their lamps, went out to meet the bridegroom and the bride.” “Went out,” may refer to their preparation to go forth; for, it was only afterwards they did so (Mt 25:6), “go ye forth to meet him.” Or, it might be said, that our Redeemer here mentions, by anticipation, and in a general way, the fact which is afterwards more particularly detailed. “To meet the bridegroom and the bride.” The Greek copies have only, “to meet the bridegroom.” And this would seem to accord better with the usage then prevailing, to which there is reference here, of young virgins remaining at the house of the bride, expecting the coming of the bridegroom, who, on his part, was also accompanied by his male attendants, to fetch her from her father’s house to his own, or some other place, where the marriage feast was celebrated. Hence, the phrase, ducere uxorem, to signify, marrying a wife. On this occasion, the young maidens went forth to meet the bridegroom on his approach to the house of the bride, and accompanied him thither. Moreover, we have only the bridegroom mentioned (Mt 25:6), “Behold the bridegroom cometh … meet him.” However, the Vulgate has the words, “bride and bridegroom.” They are also quoted by the most distinguished of the holy Fathers (St. Hilary, St. Augustine, St. Jerome, &c.); and the words may be explained, of the bride and bridegroom leaving the bride’s house for that of the bridegroom, accompanied by these virgins. It might be also said, that the words, in the application of the parable, may refer to the same person, viz., our Divine Redeemer, who, since His Incarnation, may be regarded both as Bridegroom and Bride, under different relations, as St. Hilary expresses it. For, he says, as the Spirit is bridegroom to the flesh, so is the flesh bride to the Spirit. The number, “ten” is used in SS. Scripture, to denote or symbolize an indefinite multitude. It would appear, too, that “ten” was the usual number of bridal attendants in Judea. The “five wise virgins,” are termed such, because they made prudent provision for the future. The others are termed, “foolish,” for the opposite reason. It is not meant, that the number of reprobate and elect is equal. It is only meant to convey, that even among those having an exterior of piety, who observe purity, and practise certain external acts of piety, nay, even of mercy, adds St. Augustine, symbolized by the burning lamps, there shall be found some excluded from the heavenly banquet.

The literal meaning of the parable hardly needs any explanation. Torches were generally carried on the occasion of nuptial celebrations, which took place at night. A bundle of rags, wound round the end of an iron rod, is said to have served as a torch, the oil being, from time to time, replenished, by dipping the rod in a vessel (Kenrick). The chief matter for explanation is, the scope and application of the several parts of the parable. Regarding the scope of the parable, there can be but very little difficulty. It manifestly is—as appears from Mt 25:13, “Watch you therefore,” &c.; as also from the preceding chapter (Mt 24:44)—to stimulate us to continued vigilance, and preparation against the coming of our Lord to judgment. It is to this the foregoing examples of the householder, of the faithful servant, &c., manifestly tend. And, although it directly refers to the General Judgment, it also includes the particular judgment, of which the general shall be but a public ratification. Hence, it refers to the coming of our Lord, at the hour of death, which is included under coming at the last day. As to the application of the parable—by “the kingdom of heaven,” is meant the Church, composed of good and bad. Now, we cannot distinguish between both. But then, the parable of the ten virgins shall be clearly illustrated; and although the reprobate, who shall then have been condemned to hell, could not be called the members of the Church; still, they are termed such, having been members during life, before God’s judgment was made manifest and executed upon them.

The “ten virgins” are understood by some (Chrysostom, Theophylact, &c.), of those who really were virgins; but some were virgins only in body, their souls not being replenished with sanctifying grace and charity. The others, designated “wise,” were virgins in soul and body. These expositors say, that the object of the parable is to show, that however exalted the virtue of virginity may be, still, it will not suffice, without the works of mercy and charity. But the most generally received opinion is that of St. Jerome, who holds, that, while the word includes virgins as a particular in a general, and hence applied to them by the Church in the Gospel of the Mass for Virgins, it refers generally to all the faithful who are called “virgins,” on account of the integrity and sincere purity of their faith, whose hearts are not sullied with the prostitution of idolatry, nor their bodies with the sinful pleasures of lust. On the other hand, the Scripture is wont to call heretics and infidels by the name of harlots and adulterers.

The “spouse,” denotes our Lord, who shall come at judgment to espouse His glorious Church, and with her celebrate the eternal nuptials in His heavenly kingdom.

By the “lamps,” is commonly understood, the light of faith which all these are supposed to be gifted with, probably accompanied with external good works; for, as to those who had lived immoral lives, they can hardly be said to be in expectation of, or care for, the coming of the heavenly Bridegroom. The difference, however, between the wise and unwise virgins in this interpretation, arises from the difference of intention with which their works were performed. The works of the one class were done purely for God, and from motives of charity; whereas, those of the other, were done from motives of gaining human applause and through empty vanity, like the Pharisees of old, for which they already “received their reward.”

By “the oil,” wherewith the “wise virgins trimmed their lamps,” are commonly understood, good works, without which the “lamp is extinguished,” or “faith is dead.” All had “lamps,” that is, faith; but only those who had the oil of charity, or good works, were admitted to the nuptial feast—faith, without good works, being insufficient for salvation.

The vessels for containing the oil, mean, the souls or consciences of the faithful. To take oil in their vessels, means, to treasure up an abundance of good works against the coming of our Lord, to “lay up treasures to themselves in heaven, where neither the rust nor moth doth consume,” &c. (Mt 6:20).

“The delay of the spouse,” refers to the time between our Lord’s Ascension and the General Judgment. And St. Chrysostom remarks, that our Redeemer wishes to convey to His disciples, that He would not come immediately, as some of them erroneously imagined. The word has reference also to the impatience of the virgins who were awaiting Him. For, although the longest time, relative to eternity, is but very short; still, the ardour of His disciples seemed not to be satisfied with anything short of His immediate approach. At the same time, our Redeemer did not wish to convey to them expressly that His coming would be deferred, for fear of rendering them secure or remiss. However, His coming at the death of each was necessarily speedy, as well as uncertain; and thus, they should not fail to prepare themselves. “They slumbered and slept.” “Slumbering,” which precedes perfect sleep, denotes, the infirmities and sickness, which usher in men’s death, which is expressed by, “they slept.” Between the final coming of our Lord and His first coming, the faithful, yielding to the necessities of nature, shall “have slept.” Death is frequently represented in SS. Scripture, as a state of sleep; since, men are to be once more roused and resuscitated at the General Resurrection. Others, understand, slumbering and slept, to express, that men shall have ceased to think of our Lord’s coming, so that He will come when they are not expecting Him.

Mt 25:6. “At midnight … a cry,” &c. By “cry,” is meant, the Archangel’s trumpet, which St. John (Jn 5:28), calls, “the voice of the Son of God.” “Midnight,” denotes, that His coming shall be concealed from men, and that the summons shall be sent forth when least expected, or, this may be an ornamental part of the parable. (SS. Jerome, Chrysostom, &c.) Others infer from this, that Christ will come to judge the world, at the hour of midnight. St. Jerome tells us, that this was an Apostolical tradition. Hence, formerly at the vigil of the Pasch, the people were not allowed to leave the church till after midnight, from an impression, that Christ would come to judgment, at that hour, as He came at the same hour formerly to slay the first-born of the Egyptians, and liberate the Hebrew people. However, all this regarding the hour of Christ’s coming is very uncertain; for, our Redeemer Himself says, “You know not the day nor the hour.”

Mt 25:7. The trimming of their lamps, by all these virgins, after being roused from sleep, denotes, that after all the faithful shall have been resuscitated by the trumpet of the Archangel, they shall proceed to meet their Judge, and, consulting memory, to examine their consciences, regarding the account they are to give for the actions of their entire lives.

Mt 25:8. This is one of the ornamental parts of the parable, having no further significance or illustration; for, on the last day, the reprobate will know well, that the just cannot impart to them any portion of their merits; that each one shall be judged according to his own works, whether good or evil. The words, however, convey to us, the straits and despair to which the wicked shall be reduced on beholding the inevitable damnation to which they are doomed, without any prospect of alleviation or reprieve, from the intercession of friends, or the merits of God’s saints, and the unavailing regrets in which they shall indulge at that hour, for not having availed themselves, during life, of the means of securing their salvation.

The words, “our lamps are gone out,” show, that without the oil of good works, charity, which is the flame that emanates from the lamps, is lost; inasmuch as, without performing good works, which are prescribed by God’s Commandments, we forfeit God’s grace and friendship. Hence, we must be ever employed in good works, if we wish to preserve and keep alive the holy flame of Divine charity.

Mt 25:9. This, also, is ornamental, and merely intended to complete the literal narrative. If it has any meaning at all, it conveys to us, that at that hour, the just, however they might assist sinners during life, can give no assistance to them, now that the time of mercy and merit is past; that even the just shall tremble for their own salvation. The words may also convey, the reproaches which the reprobate shall meet with on that day, for having, during life, performed their actions to please men who “sell” the oil of flattery, and adulation, and foolish passing applause, which are of no avail, but rather a subject of regret at judgment. “But, let not the oil of the sinner fatten my head” (Psa. 141:5). In the literal reading of this verse there is supposed to be an ellipsis, and the words, “we fear” (φοβουμεθα), understood thus—“(we fear) lest there be not enough,” &c. (Beelen.)

Mt 25:10. This is, like the preceding, ornamental. At the same time, it conveys to us, the fruitless regrets of the reprobate, when, too late, and the time of merit is passed, for not having performed the good works, whereby they might have earned the kingdom of heaven. The coming of the bridegroom represents, the coming of Christ to judgment. The entrance of those who were ready, denotes, the admission of the elect to the joys of heaven, “the nuptials of the Lamb” (Rev 19:7). “The door was shut,” expresses, that the time of doing good is past, and “the night come when no one can work.”

Mt 25:11. In this verse is conveyed, the despair and anguish of spirit of the reprobate on seeing themselves for ever banished from the glory and beatific vision of God. This anguish is most pathetically described by the Wise man. (Wis 5:1, &c.)

Mt 25:12. “I know you not,” signifies, the knowledge of love, benevolence, and approbation, as if He said: Although well known to Me, still, I do not wish to have any intercourse with you. I disown yon, as My children and friends. I reprobate and reject you from the pure joys of My eternal kingdom (Mt 7:23).

Mt 25:13. This is the great lesson, which the entire parable is primarily intended to inculcate, and to which the preceding parables of the preceding chapter (Mt 24:42), as also the following parable, and the several parts of each parable have reference. To the words of this verse, is added, in the Protestant versions, “Wherein the Son of man cometh.” But, these words are rejected by the best critics, and omitted in the chief MSS. They were, most likely, introduced from the margin, as more clearly completing and expressing the sense. For, the words, even in our version, mean: You know not that last day, nor that last hour, when the Lord shall come unexpectedly, like the midnight thief—the hour upon which depends an eternity of happiness or misery. According to the preparation we shall have made, and the vigilance we shall have employed to be always ready and to have the oil of charity and good works always burning in our hearts, with our consciences always pure before God, shall our doom be determined.

But, it may be asked, how can the inference, “Watch ye, therefore,” &c., be deduced from the example of the ten virgins, since, all are supposed to have slept, the “wise,” as well as the unwise? Resp. The example of the wise virgins is not proposed to us in this sense: that as they kept a bodily watch, we should watch spiritually; but only in this sense, that as they prudently provided against the uncertain coming of the spouse, so, we should prudently provide against the uncertain coming of our Lord, in such a way as not to be caught unprepared; this we shall escape, by constantly watching in the performance of good works. Hence, our Lord in this sense, infers, “Watch ye, therefore,” &c., as if He said: In order that no such misfortune as befell the unwise virgins may befall you, so that that day should find you unprepared, and thus subject you to exclusion from My kingdom, prepare against that uncertain day. In other words, watch continually in good works, and be not remiss, as you must be persuaded, that any preparation you may make on that day, shall come too late. It is, of course, to be observed, that although our Redeemer directly refers to His coming at the General Judgment, He also includes His coming at the death of each, when the final doom of every man is to be decided, and the sentence to be solemnly and publicly repeated at the General Judgment, already irrevocably pronounced.

We are admonished, therefore, not to live negligently, content merely with the light of faith; but, that we should provide ourselves with the oil of charity and good works, before the arrival of the hour of death; so that, when the Spouse shall have arrived, and demanded an account of our actions, we may have sufficient oil to trim our lamps which shall light us into the banquet-hall of the heavenly kingdom.

Mt 25:14. “For even,” &c. The object of the following is the same as that of the preceding parable, viz., to impress us all with the necessity of constantly watching in the performance of good works, tending to our own and our neighbour’s sanctification, and God’s glory, by the good use and employment of the means placed at our disposal, for which we must one day render an exact account. The particle, “for,” shows this parable to have reference to the foregoing moral conclusion, “Watch ye, therefore,” &c.

“Even as a man going into a strange,” &c. There is nothing expressed in the following part to complete the sense, corresponding with the particle, “as.” Hence, commentators supply it thus, “for the kingdom of God,” or, “the Son of man,” coming to exact an account of us in judgment, is the same as, or God acts, as “a man going into a strange,” &c. Others say, it is not an elliptical, but rather, an unfinished construction, or an anacoluthon. This parable is similar to that recorded by St. Luke (Lk 19:12), regarding the pounds, referred to a different time and occasion. But, whether it be same with it, is disputed among commentators. Some, with SS. Ambrose and Jerome, assert, that it is; that, although there may be some immaterial differences, both as to the time and place to which both narrations refer the event; still, it is substantially the same, and tends to the same object and purpose. Others, with St. Chrysostom, maintain, they are different, uttered on two different occasions. That in St. Luke, was delivered before our Redeemer’s final approach to Jerusalem. This, in St. Matthew, after it, in the week following Palm Sunday. They note several other points of difference, in the parable itself, which may be seen on examining both passages. In St. Luke, there is mention made of men who refused to be subject to their king, and on his return, were ordered to be slain. This suited the passage in St. Luke, where he taxes the infidelity of the Jews; but not this passage, where in all the parables adduced, our Lord only desires to stimulate all the faithful to vigilance. In St. Luke, the same amount of money (a pound, mna), is given to all; here, a different, sum is given to different persons. Doubtless, however, the scope and object of both parables are the same.

By “the man who went into a strange country,” it is agreed by all, is meant, our Divine Redeemer, whom St. Luke designates, “a certain nobleman” (Lk 19:12).

By His “going into a strange country,” which, St. Luke says, was for the purpose of “receiving for Himself a kingdom, and returning,” is commonly meant, His ascending into heaven, to receive royal honours, the homage of angels and saints, at the right hand of His Father, whence He is to come, at a future day, to judgment.

By “His servants,” whom He called together, are, most probably, meant, all Christians. For, to all of them, He confided His goods in a lesser or greater degree, and of all of them, shall an exact account be demanded. To them, He refers in the foregoing parable of the “ten virgins.” It refers, most likely, in a special way, to the pastors of His Church, whom He has placed there, and gifted in different degrees, as is recorded by St. Paul (1 Cor. 12:4–30; Eph. 4:11–14). By the goods He gave his servants, are meant, the gifts, both in the order of nature and of grace, given us by God, to advance His glory, and our own and our neighbour’s salvation. The giving of these goods conveys, that all that we have comes not from ourselves; but, from the bountiful hand of God. The same is expressed by the talents in next verse, the unequal number of which marks the unequal distribution of God’s gifts, which He dispenses at will.

Mt 25:15. “To one five talents,” &c. St. Luke says, he gave his ten servants, ten pounds, or, ten definite sums of money. For, this is the original meaning of the word mna, from the Hebrew root, mana—he numbered—a piece to each. By the talents are meant, the several gifts of God, without which we can do nothing, embracing—1st. Grace, properly so called, with faith, hope, charity, and the other virtues. 2nd. The graces called, gratis datæ, such as the power of working miracles, episcopacy, priesthood, prophecy, &c., given for the benefit of others. 3rd. External gifts and goods of fortune, such as wealth, station, &c. All those, God distributes unequally to different persons, according to His good will and pleasure. All these gifts, are by His ordination, to be employed for the ends they are intended to advance, viz., God’s glory and the salvation of souls. As regards the literal meaning of the parable, it is to be observed, that in the East, it was customary to intrust even slaves with the management of some money or goods, to stimulate their industry.

“To every one according to his proper ability.” How can this be, since the very ability or capacity for employing those gifts profitably, must come from God, and be His gift? Some commentators say, these words are merely ornamental, and without any direct meaning in the parable; that they merely convey, what men ordinarily do in the distribution of their property. They distribute it, having a due regard to the capacity of their servants, their industry and ability to derive profit from it. For, it is a point of faith, that, so far as grace, properly so-called, is concerned, it is not given, in the first instance, according to or in consideration of one’s natural capacity or merits; and that nature, however good, is no disposition for grace. This is a point of faith defined against the Pelagians; others say, it has an application in the parable, and applies to what are called gratiæ, gratis datæ, and to conditions of life, such as Magistracy, Episcopacy, Priesthood, &c., the blessings of the second and third order already referred to. For, these states of life are frequently arranged by God, in accordance with the previous dispositions and capacity of those whom He selects for them, and before bestowing any permanent gift or office on any individual, the Almighty bestows on him a capacity or disposition, whether natural or supernatural, to render him fit for the duties annexed to it. This He does frequently, but not always, as the example of Jeremiah alone proves. The words also convey, that in exacting an account of the gifts bestowed on us. He does not ask an account for anything beyond what we can do. He requires nothing impossible, but only what is within our reach, whether in the natural or supernatural order. It also conveys, that, in the unequal distribution of His gifts and vocations, God confers none beyond our strength; but, that He regards each one’s power and capacity, so that no one can complain, that more was imposed on him than he could bear.

“And immediately he took his journey,” refers to our Saviour’s ascension into heaven. St. Luke (19) tells us, that before leaving, he enjoined on his servants, “trade till I come,” viz., by labouring zealously during life to increase, by good works, the fruit of the talents confided to them, and to present this fruit to him on his return. St. Luke also adds, that the citizens of this man refused to have him reign over them, which refers to the obstinate rejection of our Redeemer by the Jews, who would have no king but Cæsar; their persecution of Himself and His Apostles after His Ascension. And that he ordered them (Lk 19:27) to be slain in his presence, which refers to the total ruin of the Jews by Titus, which was but a type of the eternal ruin of those who continued in their obstinate unbelief.

Mt 25:16. “And he that had received the five talents … gained other five.” As regards the servant himself, the gaining of five talents means, that by the proper use of the gifts and graces bestowed on him by God, he gained, in the proportion of the gifts bestowed on him, an increase of grace, which is the seed of glory, and the measure of the rewards whch he afterwards received. As regards the Master or Almighty God, the “five talents” mean, that this servant laboured strenuously to promote God’s glory, in the work of self-sanctification, and the salvation of his brethren.

Mt 25:17. The observations made in the foregoing, apply equally to the present verse. The man who “received the two talents,” gained an increase proportioned to the amount of goods confided to his management. In St. Luke, the master is represented as giving the same amount to each of his ten servants, who are commanded to traffic upon it till his return, some of whom gained in the proportion of ten talents; others, five, &c. Here, the amount given is said to be unequal.

Some commentators understand, by the “servant,” who, after receiving “five talents,” gained “other five,” the Apostles, including St. Paul, whose gifts were so great and whose labours so very successful and remarkable: and by those, who received two and gained other two talents, the other ministers of Christ, who received less than the Apostles, and were faithful in discharging their ministry, and serving the Church according to the measure of their gifts and graces. It is, at the same time, to be remarked, that the test of our fidelity in the discharge of our duties, is not the success that may attend us, but our labours. Hence, St. Paul in stating that God’s grace was not vain, in him, says, the proof of it is, that he had laboured more than all the others (1 Cor. 15); and in reference to other Evangelical workmen, each of whom acts according to the gift he received from God, the Apostle only regards them, as labouring in planting and watering; the increase must come from God, and the reward of each is not according to his success, but, “according to his labour” (1 Cor. 3:8).

Mt 25:18. The idea expressed by “digging in the earth, and hiding his lord’s money there,” is conveyed by St. Luke (19:20), thus: “kept it laid up in a napkin.” The meaning of both phrases is the same, viz., that he kept it unemployed and laid by unprofitably, without securing the expected gain. It may happen, and oftentimes does happen, that those who are blessed with “five talents,” gifts of the highest order, leave them unemployed, nay, abuse them, as often as those do, who receive but “one,” or gifts of lesser value. But, our Redeemer instances the abuse or neglect of grace in the man who received but “one talent,” in order to convey to us, more forcibly, the greater guilt, and, consequently, the heavier punishment of him who neglects or abuses greater gifts, from which greater profit would be expected, when the man who received but lesser gifts is represented as very criminal, and deserving of the severest punishments. Our Lord also wishes to show, how inexcusable the servant is, since he did not require extraordinary exertions to produce the gain proportioned to the talents he received. Hence, his indolence had no palliation.

If such be the guilt and punishment of the unprofitable, idle servant, what shall be the guilt of those who not only neglect God’s graces, but positively abuse them, squander them extravagantly, and turn them against the master himself, by converting them to the worst purposes, to promote the reign of the enemy of God, and of souls, turning against Him the very arms with which He supplied them.

Mt 25:19. “And after a long time,” which is expressed by St. Luke (Lk 19:15), “he returned, having received the kingdom.” The words refer to the account to be rendered by each one in judgment, of the mode in which he employed the several gifts of God, both general and particular. The “long time” refers to the long interval between Christ’s Ascension and the General Judgment, although the sentence passed at the General Judgment, is but a more solemn and public ratification of that which occurs immediately after the death of each one; hence, it refers to the period of each man’s life. The words also convey, that God gives every one ample time to employ the gifts bestowed on him profitably, before exacting an account; and that, unlike certain severe, exacting masters, He will not exact the fruit of His gifts before the proper time. It also refers to the patience and long-suffering of God, in His dealings with His creatures.

Mt 25:20–23. The servant who received “five,” as well as he who received “two talents,” acknowledge that it was owing to the gifts of their master they gained anything whence it is inferred, that the chief principle in the performance of good works is the grace of God, “Not I, but the grace of God with me” (1 Cor. 15:10); and this is more clearly expressed by St. Luke (Lk 19:16), “thy pound hath gained ten pounds.”

“Well done, thou good and faithful servant, because thou hast been faithful over a few things.” The goods and graces confided to us during life, however great in themselves, as the seeds of future glory, are still but trifling, in a comparative sense, compared with the great bliss, and ineffable happiness in store for God’s elect, the exceeding great magnitude of which is expressed in the words. “over many things,” and is more fully conveyed in the words, “enter into the joy of thy Lord,” which shows, the ineffable delights and eternal enjoyment of the saints, when they shall become, as far as their finite capacity will permit, sharers in God’s own beatitude, heirs of His kingdom, and co-heirs with His eternal Son Jesus Christ, the predestined model of His elect, and the first-born among many brethren, sharers with Him in “the joy of their Lord,” which neither “eye hath seen nor ear heard,” &c. The words, “place thee over many things,” are differently expressed by St. Luke (19), “have power over ten … five cities,” in allusion to the mode of acting often resorted to by kings, in rewarding their faithful servants with governments, more or less important, according to their merits and capacity. It is deserving of remark, that the same praises, the same reward, are liberally bestowed on the servant who gained only two talents, as on him who gained five. “Well done … enter into the joy,” &c., because, as St. Jerome remarks, “the Lord does not so much regard the amount of gain, as the fulness of desire”—“non tam considerat Dominus lucri magnitudinem quam studii voluntatem”—and our reward is proportioned, not to the fruit of our labours, but to the labour itself.

Mt 25:24. The servant who received but “one talent,” and left it unprofitably idle, wishes to excuse himself for his neglect, and casts the blame on his master, and thus adds the sin of pride to that of sloth, when he should have humbly acknowledged his fault, and craved pardon and forgiveness. “A hard man,” that is, a man of a severe, harsh, grinding disposition, bent on acquiring lucre by every means, no matter how iniquitous or oppressive. Interpreters generally regard these words as ornamental, or introduced for the purpose of completing the full literal sense of the parable, rather than as having any particular meaning in its application; for, it is not likely the damned will thus address our Redeemer in judgment, their own conscience, and knowledge of their crimes, bearing testimony against them. It may, however, be said, on the other hand, that, not unlikely, the damned will, on that day, in a fit of madness and despair, rise against their Judge, and, with blasphemous impiety, upbraid Him as the cause of their miseries, and, in hell, shall eternally blaspheme Christ and His saints. Perhaps, in this sense, the words of this verse may not be without application in the parable. The words, also, convey, that the reprobate shall be without excuse on the Day of Judgment. “Reapest where thou hast not sown,” is a sort of common adage, expressive of cruel exaction, and grinding injustice.

Mt 25:25. Being afraid, in consequence of the reputed unrelenting harshness of his master, lest, if in trading, he either lost the principal, or secured not the expected amount of gain, he should doubly exasperate him, this foolish servant deemed it the safer course to remain idle, and not endanger the talent intrusted to him.

Mt 25:26. “Wicked and slothful servant.” “Wicked,” that is, malicious in imputing his own guilty and slothful conduct to his master. “Thou knowest,” &c., that is, taking you at your word, admitting what you say to be true. It is an argumentum ad hominem, founded on the servant’s own expressed admission or confession, which is more clearly conveyed by St. Luke (Lk 19:22), “Out of thy own, mouth I judge thee, thou wicked,” &c. The words are an illustration of what is termed a rhetorical synchoresis, involving no real admission; but, an argument scoffingly conceded, for the purpose of retorting more pointedly. If thou knewest that I reaped where I sowed not, thou shouldst know that I would strictly exact fruit where I sowed, as I have done in committing to you my money.

Mt 25:27. On the supposition which you make, you ought, at least, to have adopted the easiest, least laborious, and least dangerous means of acquiring interest, by confiding it to “the bankers,” &c. These words are no argument, either in favour of usury or against it, even if we speak of usury in the worst sense of the word, since the whole passage is spoken by synchoresis, in the sense already explained. At all events, they would convey no approbation of usury, since, what our Redeemer really wished to convey is, that the servant should have exerted himself, in some of the ordinary ways, for procuring gain from the talent of his master. Our Lord no more approves of illicit usury here, than He does of the dishonesty of the unjust steward (Luke 16), or the lies of the Egyptian midwives (Ex 1:19). What is commended in the former case, is the industry and wisdom exhibited by the unjust steward; and in the latter, the humanity manifested in the rescuing of the Hebrew children. So it is, also, in the present instance, even supposing synchoresis out of the question in the passage.

Mt 25:28. “Take ye away, therefore,” &c. The master tells his attendant servants to take this talent, and give it to the man who had “ten talents.” He thus shows, the injustice of the charge of griping avarice preferred against him by his wicked servant, since, far from appropriating to himself the talent taken from the unprofitable servant, he hands it over to the servant, who turned to the best account the ten talents confided to him. The words are partly ornamental, and partly applicable to the subject of the parable. They are applicable, so far as the taking away of the talent is concerned, since, Almighty God oftentimes, in this life, deprives men both of the gifts of grace and of nature, which they abuse. He always deprives the man of sanctifying grace who abuses His graces, by the commission of mortal sin; and, on the Day of Judgment, He shall take away from the reprobate the gifts they neglected or abused.

But, “the giving of it to the man who had ten talents,” is merely ornamental, and has no particular application in the parable, save that it may convey, that the saints in heaven shall derive additional joy from considering the good use they made of their talents, compared with the reprobate, and shall be filled with happiness, so complete, as if all the gifts of the reprobate were transferred to them. Should the words have reference to this life, and to the private judgments of God, on His faithful servants, and His idle servants, the words may have application in this sense, that, while God deprives the wicked of His graces, in punishment of their sins and negligences, He increases the gifts and graces of His faithful servants, which, if not specifically, shall be generically the same as the gifts withdrawn from sinners. St. Luke relates, that the attendant ministers of the Master seemed to wonder at this arrangement. Hence, they said, “Lord, he hath ten pounds?” as if to say, is it not more natural to give it to him who hath only “five pounds?” Hence, our Lord concludes the parable, in the following verse, with the general saying, which applies to the subject matter.

Mt 25:29. “For, to every one that hath,” &c. (see Mt 13:12), that is, to every one that, by co-operation, with grace, acquires further graces and talents, “it shall be given,” that is, grace and glory, shall be given as a reward. Or, “hath,” may mean, who properly uses the talents given him; for, strictly speaking, he who uses and employs his talent, has it; while as regards the sluggard, who uses it not, it is the same as if he had it not, at all.

“That hath not,” may mean, as above, hath not increased or derived any gain from it, or who uses it not, suffering it to he useless and idle. “That which he hath not,” viz., the talent, the graces he gained nothing from, or which he did not properly use.

“That also which he seemeth to have,” that is, which although he actually possessed, yet acted in relation to it, as if he had it not, or made no good use whatever of it, so as to advance the interests of Him who gave it.

“Shall be taken away,” the very lights, whether natural or supernatural, with which he was favoured, shall be taken away from him, on the Day of Judgment, and sometimes this happens even in this life.

Mt 15:30. And by God’s just judgment, this useless servant, shall be, for ever, cast into darkness, and condemned to the fire of hell.

If such be the rigours of God’s judgment upon the merely unprofitable servant, who, so far as the parable goes, is not charged with any positive crime, but only with criminal apathy and neglect in not employing profitably the talents confided to him, what shall be the rigours of Divine judgment on those, who squander God’s favours, and by positive crime, and a sinful course of scandalous life, turn against Him the gifts He gave them, and employ them in the service of His enemy.

The three preceding parables, employed one after another, by St. Matthew, denote three distinct classes among the faithful, who shall be condemned. The first, relative to the servant, who maltreated his fellow-servants, and dilapidated his master’s goods (Mt 24:48), refers to those who openly lead impious lives.

The second, regarding the ten virgins, denotes, those who, apparently religious, are still not sufficiently watchful to provide for themselves, and fail to refer their good actions to God’s glory, such as hypocrites.

The third, regarding the parable of the talents, denotes these idle, indolent Christians, who, by a kind of impious prudence, become negligent, and charge their criminal torpor on Almighty God Himself, whom they pretend to fear. In the first parable is taxed open impiety and immoral conduct; in the second, imprudent negligence; in the third, negligence, seemingly prudent. If we join together the foregoing four parables, we shall find matter for special instruction. In that of the householder (Mt 24:43), we are reminded of observing diligence, which, however, being insufficient, we are warned in that of the unfaithful servant, of the necessity of fidelity; in that of the virgins, of the necessity of prudent provision for the future; and in that of the talents, of the necessity of labouring advantageously for the interests of our heavenly Master. We should, therefore, be vigilant, faithful, prudent, and profitable, while preparing for the coming of our Lord to judgment (Jansenius Gaudavensis).

Mt 25:31. In the preceding parables of the talents, ten virgins, &c., our Redeemer wished to inculcate vigilance in preparing for His coming judgment. Now, laying aside all figurative language, He clearly and graphically describes the mode in which He is to exercise judgment.

“When the Son of man.” As man, Christ will judge the world, “and He hath given Him power to do judgment, because He is the Son of man” (John 5:27). It is in His human form, now regarded with contempt, that the just and the impious shall behold Christ clothed “in the majesty and glory,” which is due to Him, as the true Son of God.

“Shall come,” that is, make His appearance visibly. There is a tacit contrast here between His first coming, in lowliness, and His second, in power and majesty.

He shall not come alone. He shall be accompanied by “all the Angels.” So that, heaven being, for a moment, vacated, all the Angels shall descend with the Judge, as attendants, to add to the solemnity of the scene, and to act as messengers of His will, and to execute His decrees (Zech. 14:5).

“Then He shall sit on the seat of His majesty,” that is, shall appear as a glorious Judge in the exercise of His judiciary power. He already sits on the right hand of Majesty on high. That glory is now concealed from the world. But then, it shall be visibly seen by all mankind. The imagery is borrowed partly from the custom of kings, who come, accompanied by the princes of their court, to enact laws, or solemnly dispense justice; and partly from Eastern usage, in keeping the sheep and the goats asunder.

The word, “sit,” is allusive to the posture of kings and judges in dispensing justice. Hence, the words are more expressive of His judicial power than of His bodily posture. What “the throne of His majesty” is, is not easily ascertained. Some understand it, of the bright cloud on which He shall appear seated. Others, of the choirs of Angels, upon whose shoulders, He shall be borne in triumph. Hence, some of them are called “thrones,” their functions, or office, being, to uphold the majesty of God.

Mt 25:32. “And all the nations shall be gathered”—by the ministry of Angels—“together before Him.” “All nations,” embracing all men, of every age and nation, without exception. The words, “all nations,” carry more weight than, all men. It adds to our ideas of the majesty of the Judge, to proclaim Him as the Judge of all nations, without distinction of Jew or Gentile, Christian or unbeliever. “He is appointed by God judge of the living and of the dead” (Acts 10:42).

They “shall be gathered together,” in some determinate place, which is generally supposed to be the Valley of Josaphat, and the surrounding districts (Joel 3:2), sanctified by the laborious life, preaching, Passion, Resurrection, and Ascension of our Lord. We are informed by St. Paul, that the just shall be snatched into the air to meet the Judge, when, doubtless, they shall receive, at His right hand, the sentence of approval. The wicked shall remain at His left, on the earth.

“And He shall separate them,” &c. This He shall do by the ministry of Angels, as the shepherd returning home at evening, separates the sheep and the goats, that were, during the day, allowed to roam through the same pastures, just as the wicked are, during life, undistinguished, even in God’s Church, from the elect.

Mt 25:33. He compares the elect to “sheep,” on account of their innocence, simplicity, meekness, and beneficence; the wicked to “goats,” because of the offensive smell, the lascivious, impure nature, the quarrelsome dispositions of these animals.

“He shall place the sheep,” that is, the elect, “on His right,” as the more honourable place, viz., in the air, whence they shall ascend to heaven. The “right hand,” is the symbol of happiness, glory, and triumph. “The goats,” or reprobate, “He shall set on His left,” the symbol of misery, servitude, and opprobrium. They shall also occupy a lower position on the earth, whence they shall be swallowed down to hell, that shall open wide its jaws to receive them for ever. This sitting at the right hand and at the left, denotes the election of the one, and the reprobation of the other. This division was typified by the ordinance of Moses, commanding the Israelites, after entering the land of promise (Deut. 27), that these six tribes, whose fathers were born of the freedwomen, wives of Jacob, viz., Lia and Rachel, would stand upon Mount Garazim to bless the people; and the other six, whose fathers were born of handmaids, except Reuben, whose crime with his father’s wife, caused him to be numbered with those descended from handmaids, would stand towards, or, near Mount Hebal, to curse, that is, to answer, Amen, as it is commonly understood, to the maledictions, to be pronounced by the Levites. This was done, as we read (Jos 8:33).

Mt 25:34. “Then shall the king say,” &c. Having called Himself, “the Son of man,” and exhibited Himself, under the figure of a “shepherd,” He now assumes the title of “King,” it being the part of a king to dispense rewards and punishment, and exercise judiciary power, and also to invite others to a participation of His kingly state and power.

“Come, you blessed of My Father,” &c. He commences the general judgment with His elect, as the most honourable; and, moreover, to show that God is more prone to dispense blessings, than to utter maledictions; more disposed to reward than to punish.

“Come,” from darkness to light; from servitude to the liberty of the sons of God; from labour to rest; from war to peace; from death to life; from the society of the wicked to the company of angels. “Come,” and be eternally united with Me; inebriated with the plenty of My house, and ingulphed in the torrents of My delights.

“Ye blessed of My Father.” “Blessed,” by Him to whom, by appropriation, belong power and predestination, “with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places” (Ephes. 1), through the merits of My blood. This blessedness includes their predestination, in the first place; and next, the spiritual blessings of justification actually conferred on them, together with the future blessings of glorification and happiness, now about to be conferred on them; “whom God loved and predestined, before the world; called from the world; cleansed and sanctified in the world: and now shall exalt and magnify after the world” (St. Augustine, Soliloquies).

“Possess.” (The Greek word, κληρονομησατε, signifies, to possess, by hereditary right, as Sons of God, His heirs and co-heirs of His Son.)

“The kingdom,” of heaven, the empyreal heaven, with all its ineffable delights, the society of the Blessed and Angels, possessing for ever, the qualities of glorified bodies and beatified souls.

“Prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” In this, is conveyed more than is expressed. It means, prepared for them from all eternity, in the predestinating decrees of God, which is clearly expressed by St. Paul in other words, “He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world” (Ephes. 1:4). Hence, this preparation of the kingdom means, the predestination of men for that kingdom. It also may mean, actually prepared at creation. For, God created the empyreal heaven, to be the eternal abode of the Saints. The Sonship of God, conferring a right to His inheritance, is merited by adults. Hence, they receive the crown of glory in heaven, not only by right of inheritance, generously granted by God; but, also as the reward of merit. While infants can only have the title of inheritance, as sons of God, adults must also have the twofold title of inheritance and merit.

Mt 25:35-36. In these two verses are recited six corporal works of Mercy, to which is likewise added a seventh from Tobias (Tob 12:12), viz., burying the dead. Hence, we commonly reckon seven corporal works of Mercy. Our Redeemer selects out of the entire catalogue of good works, whereby the elect merited heaven, these works of Mercy, to show, how much He values the exercise of mercy, and to impress upon His followers, that, whatever else they may do, however heroic their other actions may be, if they omit showing mercy, they can never be united with Him, who is Mercy itself; nor can they, otherwise, obtain admission into the kingdom of His mercy.

If we do not love our neighbour whom we see, “how can we love God whom we see not?” (1 John 4:20). It is true, that among the elect, there shall be many on whom this duty cannot devolve, having been themselves poor and miserable; themselves the objects of corporal mercy and compassion. But, our Redeemer instances this among the many other examples of virtue and good works, to show its great importance; and because, it is the virtue most necessary for upholding society, and binding its several members more closely together.

He says, “I was hungry,” &c., to convey to us, that, as head of His mystical body, He was sharer in the sufferings of all the other members, and alleviated in their exemption from suffering; and He shows the merit of succouring the poor, when it is Christ Himself we are succouring. St. Paul beautifully explains this union of the members of Christ’s mystic body. (1 Cor. 12:12, &c.) “I was hungry,” &c. I, who am your Creator, your God, your Redeemer. I, the great source, from which proceed all blessings, as well in the natural as in the supernatural order. I, who endured so much to save you from the eternal torments of the damned. “And you gave Me to eat,” shows, the great merit of exercising the works of mercy; since, it is not man, but God, we are relieving. That wretched, ragged—nay, sinful beggar, is the representative of Jesus Christ, and whatever we do for him, our Lord will regard as done for Himself. These seven corporal works of Mercy, expressed by the words, visito, poto, cibo, redimo, tego, colligo, condo, include the spiritual works of Mercy, also, which are so clearly marked out, and so strongly commended in SS. Scripture, viz., to correct the sinner, to give counsel to those in doubt, to instruct the ignorant, to console the sorrowful; to bear the imperfections and injuries of our neighbour; to pardon our offenders; to pray for the salvation of our neighbours. These are expressed in the words, consule, castiga, solare, remitte, fer, ora.

Whether our Redeemer is to utter those words, sensibly, in presence of the elect and reprobate, it is hard to ascertain. The Judgment shall not take place, like the Resurrection, in the twinkling of an eye, ictu oculi. For, it is described in such a way as would imply some delay. “The judgment sat, and the books were opened.” (Dan. 7:10; Rev. 10.) Most likely, this opening of the Books, refers to the particular knowledge disclosed through the conscience of each one, in displaying his actions (Rom. 2:16). It is most likely, that, while the power of God shall make known to each one, by a sort of particular judgment, through the medium of his own conscience, what are his particular deeds, his merits or demerits; and, shall have this made known in particular to all the rest of mankind, He shall sensibly utter the sentence of approbation and condemnation, and address it in general terms, to the assembled human race. It also seems to be most generally agreed upon, that, while our Redeemer shall utter, in a loud voice, the sentence of the elect and of the reprobate, He will not utter, in a similar voice, the motives of His sentence, “I was hungry,” &c., but that these shall be made known privately, by a sort of spiritual instinct or revelation.

That the infants who died without baptism shall appear, on this occasion, and see the glory of the Judge, seems to be generally agreed upon; but what their judgment or amount of privation is a matter not generally agreed upon; nor, indeed, can it be determined. That they shall not be admitted to the kingdom of heaven, is quite certain. It is commonly held they shall enjoy, for ever, the greatest natural felicity, ever enjoyed on this earth, united to God by natural love and knowledge of Him. (St. Thomas Q.D. 33. Q. 2 art. 2 ad. 5.)

As regards infidels, it is commonly supposed, that, as “he who doth not believe is already judged” (John 3:18), the infidels shall appear to receive the sentence of eternal damnation, without any particular investigation into their lives, however wicked in other respects. The form of judgment, recorded by St. Matthew, regards the faithful, of whom some shall be rewarded for their good works; others condemned for their wicked works, or omission of good works. Ven. Bede reckons four classes of men at the last judgment. 1. Those who shall exercise judgment, and not themselves be judged, viz., the Apostles. 2. Those who shall neither exercise nor undergo judgment, their sentence of condemnation having been already pronounced, viz., the impious and unbelievers. 3. Those who shall undergo, and shall pass judgment—viz., the multitude of the faithful who obeyed the Gospel. 4. Those who shall not themselves judge, but shall undergo judgment, and be condemned, viz., the wicked Jews, who lived before the Gospel law, and the wicked Christians, who disobeyed the Gospel.

Mt 25:37–39. This is expressive of the astonishment of the elect, on seeing themselves so munificently rewarded for their comparatively trifling deeds of charity; and of their humility, in seeming to be unconscious of having done anything good, referring all to His grace. It is not likely, that the just shall utter such words on the occasion; but, the words are introduced to give our Lord an opportunity of subjoining the following important declaration.

Mt 25:40. “As long as you did it,” &c. “As long.” Inasmuch as you did it; so far, as you did it “to one of these least ones,” among Christians, who, from their lowliness and wretched condition, whether voluntarily undertaken, as in the case of the voluntary poor; or, whose lot was cast in humble and distressful circumstances, whom He now calls His “brethren,” deigning to exalt them to a brotherhood with Himself. From the very beginning He was pleased to address them, as such: “Whosoever shall do the will of My Father … he is My brother,” &c. (Mt 12:50); also, “I will declare My name to My brethen” (Heb. 2:12).

Mt 25:41. “Depart from Me,” you, who are so unlike Me, and never studied to become assimilated to Me in your lives. “Depart,” far away, so as never to see My face. “From Me,” who am Justice, Sanctity, Life, the Supreme Good, the Sovereign Beatitude. I can no longer endure your presence. “You cursed,” hateful to God, and execrated by Him. He does not say, “cursed” of My Father, as He said of the just, “blessed of my Father,” to show, that God is not the author of their misery, as He is of the happiness of His elect. They themselves were the authors, the cause of their own misfortunes, owing to the wicked lives which they led. The words, “Depart from Me,” refer to the pain of loss, which is reputed by many to be the greatest torment of the damned.

But, where are they to go from Him? “Into everlasting fire.” These words denote, the pain of sense. “Fire,” to last, not merely for a time; but, for ever. “Prepared for the devil and his angels.” Although the antithesis is very marked in the other parts of the sentence, “Come, ye blessed;” “begone, ye cursed;” “possess the kingdom;” “depart into everlasting fire;” still, it is not fully carried out in these words. For, in reference to His elect, He says, “prepared for you,” in order to show, the beneficent designs of God in their regard; and to convey, that if they obtain heaven, as the reward of merit, this is attributable to the predestinating mercy and grace of God. But here, He says not, “prepared for you;” but, “for the devil and his angels,” to show, that, so far as He is concerned, God did not wish for their damnation, but rather for the salvation of all; and that they brought it upon themselves to be involved in the fate of the demons. It was not God prepared this torture for them. It was they themselves that did so. The words, “Depart from Me,” express the pain of loss, “into everlasting fire,” the pain of sense, and the eternity of both. The words also convey the unspeakable severity of the pains of the damned; since, they are to be sharers in the inconceivable tortures, which these fiends of hell have earned for themselves. The fire of hell was “prepared for the devil and his (associate) angels,” antecedently, to the sin or creation of man.

Mt 25:42-43. Here is assigned the cause of their condemnation, viz., their omission to succour Him. The words, as regards the reprobate, are very striking. “I was hungry.” I, who gave you all you had, or hoped to have. I, to whom you were indebted for everything. “I was hungry,” and suffering in every way; and with the means of relieving Me within your reach, you refused to do so. You refused to pay Me back even the tithes of what was my own. In the words which express the cause of the condemnation of the reprobate, two things are to be observed:—

Firstly. That they are represented as condemned for mere sins of omission; and if such be the severity of the sentence against those who omitted doing good, what shall be the punishment of those who never ceased to do evil? If he be condemned, who neglected to solace the afflicted, what shall be his punishment who added affliction to affliction, who persecuted the poor and the needy?

Secondly. The comparatively trifling things required of the reprobate, in order to escape damnation. Even though they might have committed other grievous sins beyond number, still, if they had shown a merciful, beneficent disposition to relieve those in distress, they would, most probably, have inclined God to forgive them, to grant them, in consideration of their merciful deeds, grace and mercy in turn, full time and grace for repentance. Having shown no mercy, they dried up the fountain of mercy, and received a judgment without mercy, in consequence.

It may be laid down as a general truth, founded on experience, that, in the end, a good death awaits those who show mercy to the poor. Indeed, the experience of God’s dealing with His creatures would show this to be generally true. So that we may say, that the final conversion of great sinners, the grace of true repentance accorded to them, was owing to their having themselves shown mercy; that although God had reason to condemn them, considering their many outrages, which provoked His anger, yet even in His anger He remembered their deeds of mercy, and spared them accordingly.

Let us hear St. Augustine on this subject: “Scriptum est, ‘Sicut aqua extinguit ignem, ita eleemosyna extinguit peccatum,’ proinde illis, quos coronaturus est, solas eleemosynas imputabit. Tanquam dicens; difficile est, si examincm vos, et appendam vos, et scruter diligentissime peccata vestra, non inveniam unde vos damnem. Sed ite in regnum. ‘Esurivi enim et dedistis mihi manducare.’ Non, ergo, itis in regnum, quia non peccastis; sed quia peccata vestra eleemosynis redemistis” (St. Augustine, Ser. 33, de diversis). So that the words of our Lord are literally fulfilled. It is because, they ministered to His wants, in His suffering members, that those, who were wicked before, are now saved, and crowned with glory. The same may apply to all the just, who received the grace of final perseverance, on account of their deeds of mercy, which they would forfeit had they neglected to show mercy.

Hence, whether we consider those among God’s elect, who were once sinners, or those who preserved their innocence, it may be said, that, while their salvation was the immediate result of God’s infinite mercy; it was remotely, in every case, the result of their mercy to the poor, which influenced God to favour them with a judgment of mercy.

It is, unfortunately, equally true of those who are hard-hearted towards the poor, however observant in other respects, that, in almost every case, they die a bad death, and receive “a judgment without mercy, as they themselves did not show mercy.”

Mt 25:44-45. They shall thus arrogantly question Him, in a fit of despair, charging our Lord with being an unjust judge, condemning them unjustly. This they shall not do in words, but in their thoughts, their conscience bearing testimony against them. For, our Redeemer would not permit them thus to gainsay His just judgment. The just and the reprobate shall both utter these words, but from quite different feelings; the former, from feelings of humility, which made them seem unconscious of the good they did, and of gratitude to God, for all His mercies, to which they ascribe their salvation; the latter, out of feelings of pride and despair, endeavouring to make excuses for their sins, “ad excusandas excusationes in peceatis.” Had they the smallest feelings of charity; had they the bowels of commiseration, they would not have failed to see, in the afflicted poor, the image of Him, who Himself became poor to make us rich, nor would they have refused Him any assistance, in the persons of the poor, who gave even the last drop of His precious blood for them.

One is touched, says St. Chrysostom (Hom. 80 in Mattheum), with compassion on beholding a beast die of hunger, and we are borne naturally to relieve him; and yet, without emotion, we hear our Lord and Master calling for bread, in the person of His starving poor, and are insensible to the pressing wants of our brother, purchased by the blood of Christ. We are deaf to the voice of God, who demands of us, to succour His poor members, only for the purpose of bestowing His treasures on us. We appear indifferent to the praises and crowns which the Son of God will bestow in the midst of the assembled nations: and to the ineffable glory with which the just shall be clad as their recompense. What tears should suffice to deplore such blindness and insensibility? What excuse for these miserable wretches, upon whom, neither the fear of punishment, nor the hopes of eternal goods, can make any impression?

This dialogue between our Lord and the damned, although it shall not take place in words, is introduced to give us an idea of the heinous nature of the crime of inhumanity to the poor.

Mt 25:46. The sentence of the Judge shall not be in vain. It shall be executed without delay, without appeal, without any diminution or remission of punishment.

“And these”—the last-named class, the reprobate—“shall go into everlasting punishment.” The earth shall open, and hell swallow them down into its seething furnaces of lurid fire and burning brimstone for ever, before the just ascend into heaven. (This is implied in the order of narrative given here), in order to increase the felicity of the just, by the contrast of their happiness with the misery of the reprobate, and by the consideration of their escape from these dreadful torments, owing to the gratuitous mercy of God, which they shall unceasingly magnify and extol for all eternity.

In this verse, is contained a clear refutation of the errors of Origen, and of the Anabaptists, regarding the eternity of the pains of hell. For, it is said here, the damned will go into eternal punishment, as the just into life everlasting. The Greek word for “everlasting” is the same in both (αἰώνιον).

The eternal duration of punishment for a sin committed in an instant may seem strange, but, even human laws visit certain crimes committed in an instant with exile, or death, which is a sort of eternal exclusion from society (St. Augustine, Lib. 21, c. 11); and in reference to the eternity of God’s punishment, we should bear in mind—1. That the will of the sinner is such, that he would sin eternally, if he could. 2. That the offence is offered to an eternal God, a God of infinite majesty. 3. That sin deserves punishment as long as its guilt remains unexpiated; and, as in hell there is no redemption, no grace, no expiation, the guilt of sin remains for ever. Hence, God, who must hate sin, must punish it as long as it remains, that is to say, for eternity.

This applies as well to believers, as to unbelievers. For, it is to believers, the sentence, or rather, the cause of the sentence, applies; since, it is not to the want of faith, but of good works, the damnation of the reprobate is ascribed in this passage.

Thus shall have ended the terrible “day of the Lord,” this last of days, after which there shall be no longer days, nor years, nor times, nor seasons, nor ages. Time is now closed for ever. An awful eternal silence shall reign over what was once the face of Nature. All that shall remain of this immense creation shall be a boundless chaos. Man shall have entered the house of his eternity. We should all provide against this dreadful moment, which awaits all, not by mere wishes, not by mere barren desires of conversion; but, by labouring to perform the good works which the Sovereign Judge shall, on that day, demand at our hands—good works of charity and beneficence, towards “these least ones”—His afflicted poor, we should “make sure our vocation and election” (2 Peter 1:10).

At present, in regard to every one, may be repeated the words of Moses to the Jewish people, “I call heaven and earth to witness this day, that I have set before you life and death, benediction and malediction” (Deut. 30:19). To us in this life is proposed to choose between the joys of heaven and the pains of hell; the broad and the narrow way. Upon the choice we shall make now while we have time, while the day for working lasts, must depend, the term of either eternal happiness or eternal woe we shall arrive at in eternity, “Janua cœli, ora pro nobis.”

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Matthew Chapter 24

Posted by Dim Bulb on November 21, 2018

ANALYSIS OF MATTHEW CHAPTER 24

In this chapter, our Redeemer, leaving the temple, probably for the last time, after having denounced the Scribes and Pharisees, predicts the utter ruin of that magnificent structure (Mt 24:1–2). His Apostles propose a twofold question—1st. Regarding the time of the menaced ruin of Jerusalem, and the final end of all things, which was to precede His glorious coming; and, 2ndly, regarding the precursory signs of these events. Replying to the second question first, regarding the precursory signs. He gives, as far as verse Mt 24:14, the signs that would apply equally to the ruin of Jerusalem, and the end of the world (Mt 24:3–14). He next gives the signs which apply, directly, to the ruin of Jerusalem, and, in a secondary way, to the final end of all things; the former being a type of the latter (Mt 24:15–28). He, then, gives the precursory signs of the final end of all things, when the Sovereign Judge shall come to judge all mankind (Mt 24:29–35). Replying to the first question, regarding the time of His second coming, He tells them, they must be ever kept in uncertainty on this point; and He, therefore, concludes, they should he always prepared for it, always on the watch, and not to be taken by surprise—ever engaged in the performance of good works (Mt 24:36–51).

Mt 24:1. “And Jesus being come out of the temple, went away.” After having been engaged during the day in preaching in the temple, He left it, probably, for the last time, as we read nowhere that He returned there again, and proceeded, as was His wont, to Mount Olivet (Luke 21:37), and lodged with Magdalen and Martha (A. Lapide). This occurred on the Wednesday before His Passion; and thus He closes His public ministry with the awful reproofs and predictions contained in the preceding chapter.

In the Greek, the word, “temple,” is not joined with “came out,” but with “went away” (ἐπορύετο εκ τοῦ ἱεροῦ).

“And His disciples,” who heard Him menace the temple with utter ruin (Mt 23:38), in the hope of moving Him to commiseration, so as to revoke His sentence, and spare the doomed city, “came to show Him the buildings of the temple”—the quality of the stones, and its magnificent proportions (Mark 13)—the splendid gifts with which it was enriched (Luke 21:5). The Zorobabelic Temple was rebuilt by Herod; and viewed, either in regard to its strength of structure, its magnificence, its costly materials, its rare beauty and ornamentation, it was an object of wonder and admiration (see Josephus de Antiq. Jud., Lib. 15, c. 11, where he gives a full description of the materials employed by Herod in rebuilding the temple). In directing the attention of our Lord to the magnificence of the temple, which was the glory of the Jewish people, the disciples wished to convey, what a pity it would be, if such a noble monument of piety were utterly destroyed, as had been menaced. Could such a thing be possible? In the minds of the Jews, the destruction of the temple and the end of the world were coeval, or, at least, some change in the constitution of the world should take place at the destruction of the temple (Bloomfield). The magnificence of earthly buildings can never appease the anger of God, provoked by sin. It availed the Jews but little of old to say, “the temple of the Lord,” &c. (Jer. 7:4) St. Mark (Mk 13:1) says, only one of His disciples addressed our Lord on this occasion. But there is no contradiction between him and St. Matthew. It may be, that the disciples had previously spoken among themselves on the subject; and that one, on the part of the others, addressed Him. Hence, they addressed Him through their spokesman; or, it may be that, after one had spoken, the others also spoke out, as is mentioned here by St. Matthew.

Mt 24:2. “Do you see all these things?” that is, consider again and again, this magnificent temple. This He says, in order to direct their attention the more to the judgment of God, and to show the deliberation with which He announces the following solemn threat, to which He prefixes the usual form of asseveration. “Amen, I say,” &c.; I assert it as a thing that shall unquestionably take place.

“There shall not be a stone,” &c. These words denote, utter destruction and ruin They were verified in the destruction of the temple by the Romans. They were however, verified afterwards more literally still; and the Jews themselves were made the instruments of this literal fulfilment, when, at the instance of Julian the apostate, they undertook to rebuild the Temple of Jerusalem. They came together from all quarters of the globe. They lavishly contributed their choicest gifts towards the expenses of the work, aided by the State support and encouragement of the Imperial apostate, who thus sought to falsify the prediction of our Redeemer. They set about vigorously to work; and, in clearing the foundations, they did not leave a single stone upon another, of those left untouched by the Romans, in their work of destruction, so that the prophecy of our Redeemer was fully verified. The work was put a stop to, as we learn from Ammianus Marcellinus (Lib. 23), Socrates (Lib. 3, c. 20), and Sozomen (Lib. 5, c. ult.), by the Divine interposition. Horrible balls of fire issued from the foundations, rendering them inaccessible to the scorched workmen; and owing to repeated earthquakes, whatever was cleared away during the day, was thrown back, the next night, into the trenches, so that they were reluctantly obliged to discontinue the work altogether (see Alban. Butler, Lives of SS., March 18).

Mt 24:3. “And when He was sitting on Mount Olivet.” Our Redeemer, after preaching in the temple during the day, went out each evening to Bethania, whence, after refection, He retired to Mount Olivet, which was just nigh, where He “spent the night” (Luke 21:37), most likely, in prayer and preparation for His approaching Passion. It may be, on this occasion, that on His way to Bethania, and wearied from His labours, and weak from fasting during the day, He sat on Mount Olivet; or that, after partaking of supper, He returned to spend the night, and then sat down, “over against the temple” (Mark 13:3), of which He had a full view from Mount Olivet. This happened, according to some (Maldonatus), on the fourth day (viz., Wednesday) after His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. According to others (Jansenius, &c.), on the third. The view of the temple, recalled to the minds of His disciples His prophecy relating to its destruction. Possibly, also, our Redeemer, in viewing the temple, may have again spoken of its coming destruction. “The disciples came to Him privately.” Mark (Mk 13:3) says, only four of them did so. It may be, that these four alone spoke and questioned Him, with the concurrence of the rest. This they did “privately,” away from the multitude. Others interpret, “privately” (A. Lapide), apart from the other disciples. These four referred to, who were most intimate with Him, question Him on this very delicate subject, which it was most dangerous to speak of publicly, lest it should reach the Scribes. St. Stephen’s death is owing to a charge of his having spoken on this subject (Acts 6:14).

“Tell us,” to whom you are accustomed to disclose what you do not wish to make known to all, “when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign?” &c. Mark (Mk 13:5) and Luke (Lk 21:7) have only—1st. “When shall these things be?” which have been so often prophesied by Thee, regarding the destruction of Jerusalem; and 2ndly. “The sign when all these things shall be begin to be fulfilled,” regarding Thy glorious coming; whereas, St. Matthew has, for the second question, “What shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of the consummation of the world?” Hence, some commentators, with St. Jerome, divide this latter question in St. Matthew into two, and say, the question of the disciples was threefold—1. The time of this menaced ruin of the temple; 2. Its sign; 3. The sign of the end of the world. It seems most probable, that the second question in St. Matthew is the same as that in Mark and Luke. The disciples imagined, from the parables of our Lord (Matt. 22:1, &c.; Luke 19:12), that the destruction of Jerusalem, and of the temple, would take place simultaneously with the destruction of the world; after which, they supposed our Redeemer’s glorious reign would commence. On the latter point, their ideas were of a very carnal character. Hence, they proposed two questions: the first regarded the destruction of Jerusalem, which they supposed would take place at His glorious coming; the second, the signs of those events, which they supposed to be near at hand. Our Redeemer first answers the second question, regarding the signs of His coming; and the question of the time in the next place.

Mt 24:4. There is a great diversity of opinion among commentators, regarding the meaning of the several parts of this chapter, and the events to which they refer. Some refer them to the destruction of Jerusalem; others, to the destruction of all things at the end of the world. St. Chrysostom, whose opinion is adopted by Jansenius Gandav. (Concord, c. cxxii.), understands the chapter, as far as verse Mt 24:23 exclusively, to refer to the destruction of Jerusalem; and all that preceded that event, as recorded by Josephus and Eusebius, perfectly squares with what our Redeemer says here, as far as verse 23, not even excepting the preaching of the Gospel (Mt 24:14), to the entire world, which, St. Chrysostom asserts, took place before the year 70, the period of the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus. Others, with St. Jerome, St. Augustine, and Ven. Bede, whose opinion is preferred by Maldonatus, hold, that our Redeemer treats, as far as Mt 24:23, of both the destruction of Jerusalem and that of the world, without distinguishing one from the other; and that, from the text, we must see to which He may specially refer in any particular verse. For, as the questions of the Apostles confusedly referred to both, our Redeemer answers their questions as they proposed them, not wishing to separate His allusion to the end of the world distinctly from His allusion to the end of Jerusalem, lest, after the destruction of the temple, the Apostles and His followers might rest too secure, in respect to the distant approach of the Day of Judgment. It may be, that our Redeemer connects the description of the Day of Judgment with the destruction of Jerusalem, and speaks indifferently of both, in order to convey to us, that the woes and dreadful sufferings of the Jews, at the taking of Jerusalem, were a type and the prelude of the evils which shall fall upon the wicked, the enemies of God, during the persecuting reign of Antichrist, at the approach of the final destruction of the earth. In truth, the precursory signs regarding “false prophets,” &c., which indicated the near approach of the ruin of Jerusalem, shall also usher in the Day of Judgment. (Rev. 10, &c.) This latter opinion seems very likely. The predictions regarding the two events are so closely interwoven in some passages, and the expressions and imagery employed, in reference to the destruction of Jerusalem, so applicable to the Day of Judgment, that we may fairly hold, that in the passage where He may primarily and directly refer to the former event, He, in a secondary sense, alludes to the latter. This secondary, or implied sense, is, by no means, unusual in prophetical writings, in which two subjects, a primary and subordinate one, are treated of simultaneously, the same words being applied to both.

“Take heed,” are words of earnest caution. “That no one seduce you,” from My faith from the law of God, from the Gospel. Before giving the precursory signs which His disciples were desirous of ascertaining, probably, out of curiosity, and from a desire of knowing how soon they were to be made sharers in His glorious kingdom, of which they still conceived carnal notions, our Redeemer forewarns them of the evils and dangers they should expect to occur, that thus they might not be moved when they saw them come to pass, as He had predicted. These are, the appearance of false teachers and impostors—wars and other calamities—persecution and several temptations, as well from false brethren as from impostors; finally, the dreadful carnage and misery which would be suffered in the actual ruin of the city, to avoid which, those who are in Judea should fly and betake themselves elsewhere.

Mt 24:5. “Many will come in My name, saying I am Christ.” Such were Theodas, to whom Gamaliel refers (Acts 5:36). Such was the Egyptian impostor mentioned by Josephus (Lib. 2, Bel. c. 12; Acts 21:38); Simon Magus (Acts 8), called “the power of God,” who gave himself out as the Blessed Trinity, and by his incantations, succeeded at Rome in having a statue erected for himself on the Tiber, with the inscription, “Simoni, Deo Magno.” Such, in fine, were the entire swarm of heretics who then appeared, and are called by St. John, “many Antichrists.” These gave themselves out for Christs, because they pretended to have in view to free the people from the yoke of tyranny, to become their saviours and liberators, which was the office of Christ. Instead of this, they only brought on them speedy destruction and utter ruin.

“And shall seduce many,” particularly from among the Jews, who, having rejected Christ, who came in the name of His Father, will receive and adhere to the impostors who came of themselves, unsent. History testifies how this was verified at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem; and to it St. Luke refers, when he says (Lk 21:8), “And the time is at hand; go ye not, therefore, after them.” No doubt, the same shall be true of the period of the end of the world. Then, shall Antichrist work wonders, to seduce them that perish. (2 Thess. 2:9, 10, &c.)

Mt 24:6. “And you shall hear of wars,” &c. For “and,” the Vulgate has “enim,” “for,” and the Greek, δε, “but.” If the Vulgate reading be adopted, “for,” has reference to what follows; as if He said: See that you be not troubled, because of your “hearing of wars,” &c. In the Greek, it is a digression to another precursory sign. Our Redeemer having warned them against being seduced from the path of justice by the blandishments of false teachers, now cautions them against being turned aside by the fear of evil. “Wars,” tumults, seditions, &c., and what is more embarrassing and terrifying, “rumours of wars.” This was literally verified at the destruction of Jerusalem. The history of the wars and bloodshed among the Jews, which preceded the final destruction of Jerusalem by Titus, as well in Jerusalem itself, as in the provinces, is given by Josephus (Lib. 2 de Bello, Jud. to the end of Lib. 7). The same shall happen, no doubt, at the end of the world (Apocalypse). So that this second sign applies to the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the world.

“For, these things must come to pass,” not from absolute necessity; but, as a matter of consequent necessity, like scandals, heresies, &c., considering the malice of man, on the one hand; and the decrees of God, drawing good out of the evil, which He permits, on the other. “These things,” wars, and rumours of wars. Why, then, should men be disturbed or turned aside from the straight path, by events which cannot be avoided, that must come to pass by a just judgment of God?

“But the end is not yet,” that is, the end of the evils, which are to fall on Jerusalem. Greater ones still are to follow, or, “the end” of the world, which is to be preceded by the wars of Antichrist. (St. Jerome, Theophylact, &c.) The word, “end,” may, probably, refer to both, one being the type and precursor of the other.

Mt 24:7. “For, nation shall rise against nation.” This shall occur at the end of the world. History testifies how it did happen previous to the ruin of Jerusalem (Josephus de Bello, Lib. 2, de Bello, cc. 11–25; Hegesippus Lib. 2, cc. 11–17). St. Jerome, Ven. Bede, St. Augustine, &c., say, that as our Redeemer had been asked by His Apostles in an indistinct sort of way about the end of Jerusalem and the end of the world, so, He replies to both indistinctly, mixing up one with the other. This He does as far as Mt 24:15, in order that the Apostles and the faithful would be kept in a state of suspense, and be always prepared for both events. Then, from Mr 24:15 to Mt 24:29, He treats exclusively of the destruction of Jerusalem, and of the signs that shall precede it. From that, to the close of the chapter, He treats of the phenomena that shall precede and usher in the end of the world.

“And there shall be pestilences, and famines,” &c. That the Jews suffered famine before the final destruction of Jerusalem, is attested by Josephus (Lib. 20, Antiq. c. 2, 3); the same also appears from Acts 11:28, &c. “Pestilences” are a concomitant of famine. Although Josephus says nothing of it; still, it is what commonly happens. “Earthquakes in places,” that is, in different places. The only record we have of any earthquakes before the destruction of Jerusalem, is that left by Eusebius in Chronicon, relative to an earthquake which, in the reign of Nero, occurred at Rome, whereby three cities in Asia were destroyed. Josephus, who makes mention of famine in Judea, which, pestilence usually accompanies, is silent regarding the occurrence of any earthquake there, probably, being intent on recording more signal calamities.

We have all these signs repeated in latter times, pointing out, that the world is now growing old, and approaching its end, as the repeated attacks of illness warns the patient, who grows weaker after each, that he is to expect his end to be arriving.

St. Luke (Lk 21:11), adds—“and terrors from heaven, and there shall be great signs.” These are to precede the end of the world (Rev. 8 and 9; see also Mt 24:29). They also preceded the destruction of Jerusalem. For instance, a terrible comet, in the form of a sword, hung over Jerusalem for twelve months before its destruction. During the assemblage of the people at the Pasch, a bright mid-day light shone for half an hour at night, in the temple, and voices were heard in the temple, crying out, “Let us remove hence.” The Oriental gate of the temple, which twenty men could hardly move, opened of its own accord, during the dead hour of night. In the air were seen armed bands, chariots, and fighting. Four years before the commencement of the Jewish war, while Jerusalem yet enjoyed profound peace and abundance, a poor plebeian husbandman, named Jesus, the son of Ananias, at the Feast of Tabernacles, began suddenly to cry out, “A voice from the east; a voice from the west; a voice from the four winds; a voice against Jerusalem and against the temple; a voice against the bridegroom, and against the bride; a voice against all the people.” This was his unceasing cry day and night, as he passed through the lanes and streets of the city. Some persons of rank, unable to endure words of such bad omen, caused him to be apprehended and scourged. At every stroke, he repeated, in a plaintive and doleful tone, “Woe, woe to Jerusalem When Jerusalem was besieged by Titus,” his predictions were found to be verified. He then went round the walls of the city and began to cry, “Woe, woe to the city; woe to the people; woe to the temple;” on which, having added, “Woe to myself,” he was killed by a stone discharged from one of the engines of the enemy (Josephus, Lib. vi. c. 5, de Bel. Jud.; Eusebius, Lib. 3, Histor c. 8)

Mt 24:8. Greater evils still shall succeed, of which the preceding are but the premonitory symptoms. The Greek word for sorrow (ωδινων), means, the throes of childbirth. The idea is, that the calamities spoken of, compared with those which are to follow, are just like the premonitory symptoms of approaching childbirth, compared with the acute throes of parturition. This is an illustration quite familiar, and frequently to be met with in SS. Scripture. And, in truth, whosoever reads the account of the calamities which occurred in the actual sacking of Jerusalem, when on it fell “all the just blood shed since that of Abel.” &c. (Mt 23:35), see Josephus, Lib. 6 and 7, de Belle can see how this was verified. The same applies also to the precursory signs that shall precede, and the dreadful evils that shall take place at the destruction of the world, when a just God shall discharge the full vial of His wrath on the devoted heads of His guilty enemies.

Mt 24:9. Having cautioned them against being disturbed by the evils that shall happen others, our Redeemer now forewarns them against the evils that may happen themselves, lest they might imagine that they themselves would be free from calamities, so that when these things would happen, they might not be disturbed. For, hitherto, they were only thinking of the joys of His glorious kingdom.

“Then they shall deliver you up to be afflicted,” that is, men shall so afflict you in divers ways, that you would seem to be given over to tribulation.

“Shall put you to death,” &c. The history of the infant Church, as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, informs us how the Apostles and the faithful were persecuted, and put to death, and hated, for the name of Christ, both by Jews and Gentiles. These things happened even before the menaced evils had fallen on Jerusalem. For, St. John was the only one of the Apostles who survived its destruction. Hence, St. Luke says (Lk 21:12), “but, before all things, they will lay their hands on you,” &c. It is observed, that St. Matthew does not so minutely or circumstantially detail the evils which were to befall the Apostles, as is done by St. Luke and St. Mark; but this is accounted for, as St. Matthew had done so already, (Mt 10:17. &c.)

The same shall happen before the end of the world, in the persecuting reign of Antichrist, whose persecution, preceded by those remarkable ones commenced under Nero, shall be the last and the most dreadful that the Church had ever encountered.

Mt 24:10. “Many shall be scandalized,” &c. From fear of death or persecution, they shall apostatize from the faith. Many Christians, in the early period referred to, had abandoned the faith, and from faithful brethren, became enemies and false brethren, betraying their nearest friends, to gain the favour of the great, and hated one another. This intestine war is referred to by St. Paul (2 Cor. 11), a falsis fratribus. Others understand it of Pagans, who, seeing the persecution endured by the Christians, “shall be scandalized,” alienated from the faith, so that “a brother shall betray a brother unto death … and children shall rise up against their parents” (Mark 13:12). “Hate one another,” has reference, probably, to the hatred of apostates for their former associates, even when they did not go the length of betraying them.

11. “False prophets.” By these are meant the heretics, who sprang up in the very midst of the persecutions of the Church. These, while they confess the true Christ, and pretend to be teachers sent by God, shall, pretending to act in His name, disseminate error. Of such St. Paul complains. (2 Cor. 11; Philip. 3; Gal. 4, &c.) So does St. Peter (2 Peter 2); and St. John terms them Antichrists. St. Paul predicts their coming (Acts 20:30). Among these false prophets, might be counted Ebion, Cerinthus, the Nicolaites, and the whole swarm of the early Gnostics. In latter times, Luther, Calvin, and last of all, Antichrist.

Mt 24:12. This is another great evil. In consequence of the prevalence, and superior force of iniquity, that is, of the persecutions of tyrants, of infidelity, of heresy, of the hatred borne the faithful, of the seduction by “false prophets,” &c., “the charity of many shall grow bold.” By “charity,” is commonly understood, Christian charity, the love of God, in the first place, from whom they will revolt, having begun before to love Him by faith. To such, St. Paul refers, “erunt homines seipsos amantes,” &c. (2 Tim. 2) To this charity he refers, “quis nos separabit a charitate Christi?” (Rom. 8) It also embraces the love of our neighbour. Those who had hitherto the charity to relieve their Christian brethren will, owing to the pressure of persecution, refuse all assistance, lest they might appear as Christians themselves. Of this we have an example (2 Tim. 4:16), where St. Paul says, he was forsaken by all his former friends. Our Redeemer forewarns His Apostles of all this, in order to strengthen them against these trials, whenever they might occur. The words of this verse seem to be the conclusion, or rather, the brief repetition, of what was asserted in verses Mt 24:10-11.

Mt 13. “Shall persevere.” The Greek, υπομεινας, means, enduring, bearing up against trials; which is more clearly expressed by St. Luke (Lk 21:19), “in patientia vestra,” &c. (ὑπομονῆ). “Shall persevere” in the faith and charity of Christ, “unto the end” of the persecution, or rather end of his life, so as to endure patiently these trials, shall obtain eternal salvation. From this it appears, that “the charity” in the preceding refers to the charity of God, the loss of which entails eternal death; whosoever shall not persevere in it, “shall not be saved.” The words of this verse also show, that by “charity growing cold,” is meant the entire loss of charity, since it is contrasted with that perseverance which alone insures eternal life. Our Redeemer having, in the preceding, fortified them against the evils from without, on the part of infidels (Mt 24:9), and from within, on the part of the false brethren (Mt 24:10-11), now conseles them with the assurance, that their patient endurance and perseverance to the end in these trials shall insure their salvation, which is expressed by St. Luke in another form, “in patientia vestra possidebitis animas vestras,” that is, shall save your souls. The word for “patience,” (υπομονη), in St. Luke (Lk 21:19), is the same as that for “persevere,” here (ὕπομεινας).

Mt 24:14. The Redeemer gives the fifth sign, to meet an objection which might tacitly present itself on the part of the Apostles, as if they said: If the world be thus confused, and the obstacles to our preaching the Gospel so great, why then send us forward to preach? Our Redeemer tells them, that, notwithstanding these obstacles, the Gospel shall be preached, and that successfully, before the end shall come. Hence, relying on the Divine promise, they should vigorously persevere—undervaluing all obstacles—in preaching “this Gospel of the kingdom,” which announces the opening of “the kingdom of heaven,” by the blood and redemption of Christ, so long shut against men.

“For a testimony,” &c. So that this preaching of the Gospel shall serve as a testimony to all the Gentile nations, of the paternal providence, love, and solicitude of God for their salvation, through Christ, who omitted no means of insuring it. The universal preaching of it, notwithstanding the opposing obstacles, shall confirm their faith in God’s power, and thus be a “testimony,” and shall render them inexcusable, if they reject it; or, it may mean, that it will serve as a testimony of the love of God for the Jews, to whom salvation was offered in the first instance by Christ, which they, having obstinately and perfidiously rejected, the Gospel was, in consequence, transferred to the nations who were substituted for them in the favour of God. It would be made clearly known to the entire world, that the Jews wore justly abandoned on account of their multiplied crimes, which culminated in the murder of His eternal Son, and the persecution of His servants. The former seems to be the more probable opinion, which understands “testimony,” of the clear proof, which the preaching of the Gospel, in the midst of insuperable obstacles, among the Gentiles, would give them of God’s power, and of the Divine origin of the Gospel thus preached. This would confirm and strengthen their faith.

It is disputed whether reference is here made to the destruction of Jerusalem, or to the end of the world. It most likely refers to both. Our Redeemer conseles His Apostles with the assurance, that before the menaced evils shall fall on the unhappy Jerusalem, the Gospel shall be preached throughout the world. That this was done, we are assured by St. Paul (Rom. 1:8; 10:18; Col. 1:5, 6, 23). In all these passages, the Apostle says the Gospel was preached throughout the world, in the sense that it reached the principal portions of the then known world; and if we bear in mind how much St. Paul himself did, to how many countries he preached the Gospel (Rom. 15:19), it is not to be wondered at that the Apostles, who were animated with the same spirit, should, after parcelling out the world for the theatre of their labours, have preached the faith through all the parts of the then known world. This happened before the ruin of Jerusalem, when the Apostles wore all dead except St. John. Hence, the words can apply to the destruction of Jerusalem, and the same shall be true of the end of the world. The evils which preceded the ruin of Jerusalem, the carnage, bloodshed, and dreadful calamities which occurred at it, are but a type of another end; of the still greater calamities and evils of every kind, which shall precede the Day of Judgment, and shall occur on it. The word “end,” then, refers to the end of Jerusalem, and the end of the world, of which the former, with all its circumstances, was a very expressive type.

“Then the end.” How soon after the preaching of the Gospel throughout the world, in a limited sense, the end of Jerusalem was to come, or after it is preached in a more perfect and extended sense, the end of the world was to take place, our Redeemer does not say; but, neither event was to occur until the Gospel was preached throughout the world, in a limited sense, as regarded the end of Jerusalem, and in a more extended and perfect sense, embracing all parts of the world successively, as regards the end of all things. God wished to have the Gospel preached throughout the nations, before the utter destruction of Jerusalem, and the dispersion of the Jews; because, He did not wish utterly to abandon one people till He had adopted to Himself another, through the preaching of the Gospel. And, moreover, He wished, by this means, to make known to the entire world the impiety and ingratitude of the Jews, which drew down upon them the signal chastisements of heaven; and this event would be calculated to confirm the faith of the Gentile world. He wished it to be preached in a most extended and Catholic sense, to all the nations, before the end of the world, out of His infinitely merciful desire to reject no nation, however barbarous, but to offer to all the means of salvation. It is, then, better to understand our Redeemer as referring, in the first fourteen verses of this chapter, both to the end of the world and to the end of Jerusalem indifferently, as well as to the events which were to occur at both. Hardly any event or circumstance recorded in the first fourteen verses that will not apply to both, the one being intended to be a type and forerunner of the other.

Mt 24:15. “When, therefore you shall see,” &c. “Therefore,” would seem not so much to express a conclusion, as a continuation of the discourse, and to indicate that our Redeemer was passing on to another topic, or to another sign of the “end,” concerning which they questioned Him. Having described or pointed out the signs, common to the destruction of Jerusalem, and of the world, indifferently, in the foregoing, He now proceeds to give the distinctive signs of the destruction of Jerusalem, in reply to the first question, “When shall these things be?” as far as verse 29; and then, He commences to give the distinctive marks of the approaching destruction of the world, to the close of the chapter. In giving the signs of both indifferently in the foregoing, our Redeemer wishes to impress upon us the dreadful nature of the evils and woes that shall befall the wicked at the end of the world; since, of these, the shocking evils inflicted on Jerusalem, the bare recital of which, even at this remote period, makes us shudder, were but a mere figure—evils, the very sight of which, forced Titus, this hardened man of blood, at the head of the iron legions of Rome, stretching forth his hands, to invoke Heaven as witness, that he was in no way responsible for these unutterable woes. (Josephus de Bel. Jud. Lib. v. c. 10, &c.)

“The abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the Prophet.” In these words, there is allusion to Daniel (Dan 9:27), “there shall be in the temple abomination of desolation: and the desolation shall continue even to the consummation, and to the end,” because, the temple, no matter what efforts may be made, never can be rebuilt. In Dan 12:11, “the abomination unto desolation shall be set up,” &c., Daniel speaks of the end of the world, whereas in Dan 9:27, he speaks of the destruction of Jerusalem, to which our Redeemer distinctly refers here. Commentators are greatly divided as to what “the abomination of desolation,” means. Those who say, there is allusion here to the end of the world, (Irenæus, &c.), mean by it, Antichrist, who “shall sit in the temple of God … as if he were God” (2 Thess. 2:4). But, it is clear from St. Luke (Lk 21:20), where, for “abomination of desolation,” we read, “when you shall see Jerusalem compassed about with an army, then know that the desolation thereof is at hand,” that our Redeemer distinctly refers to the destruction of Jerusalem, of which He here gives a premonitory sign in reply to the question of the disciples; and, moreover, in the passage quoted from Daniel, there is no allusion to the reign of Antichrist, but only to the desolation of Jerusalem; hence, various interpretations of the words, in connexion with this event, are given. By it, some understand, the statue of Cæsar, placed by Pilate, in the temple; or, the equestrian statue of Adrian, which, St. Jerome tells us, was placed in the sanctum sanctorum. But, although a statue or idol was an abomination with the Jews (see 1 Macc. 1:57, where the Greek for, “abominable idol of desolation,” is the same as here, βδέλυγμα τῆς έρημώσεως), and the words, “standing in the holy place,” would suit this interpretation; still, neither statue could be referred to, as a sign of the devastation of Jerusalem. For, the placing of Cæsar’s statue happened before our Redeemer spoke these words (if it was placed there at all by Pilate, which is questioned by some, as Josephus says nothing about it), and that of Adrian was placed there after the destruction of Jerusalem, and could not, therefore, serve as a warning, to leave a city that was to be destroyed. Hence, some commentators understand by it, the army of the Romans, who, in approaching and entering Jerusalem, in a hostile spirit, would not hesitate to display their idols on their banners, and offer sacrifice to their gods. These things were an abomination to the Jews, and this abomination portended desolation and utter ruin. And they would “stand on the holy place,” that is, Jerusalem, which the Evangelist calls, the holy city (Mt 4:5). It was such as yet, not having been yet wholly abandoned by God. This refers to the time of Cœstius Gallus, prefect of Syria, who surrounded Jerusalem with an army; but afterwards, raised the siege, and retired inglorious from before the walls of Jerusalem. It could not refer to the final destruction, under Titus, as then, there was no opportunity for escaping. Others, by “abomination of desolation,” understand, the occupation of the temple by seditious Jews and turbulent malefactors (the Zealots), who got possession of the temple at the time of Cœstius, and held it for three years and a half, in spite of the Jews themselves, until its final destruction by Titus. These made the sacred enclosures of the holy house, a place of carnage and a citadel of defence. They were guilty of the greatest atrocities within its walls, and filled the different halls with pools of innocent blood, sparing neither priests nor people. (Josephus de Bel. Jud., Lib. iv. c. 3, 5, 6, &c.) This seems to be the most probable interpretation, because these really stood in the temple, as Daniel predicted. They profaned it, and committed atrocities there, and this was both the sign and immediate cause of its destruction. For, had they given it up, the Romans would have spared it. Perhaps, however, it might be better to understand the words, of the Roman invading army, and of the Jewish Zealots, who defended the temple. For, the besiegers and defenders of Jerusalem were an abomination. The Romans, on account of their idols; the Zealots, on account of their crimes, and the carnage they were guilty of. Both stood in the holy place, where they “ought not” (Mark 13:14). (The Hebrew for holy place means, “super alam”—“above the wing,” or extremity of Jerusalem and the temple, “there shall be desolating abominations.”) Both stood at the extremity of Jerusalem and the temple; nay, in the very temple. The Zealots, who made it a citadel, and its halls, places of carnage; the Romans, by undermining, burning, consuming it, and slaughtering the Jews there like cattle, and introducing their standards, adorned with, images, of their false gods. The union of both the former interpretations in this one, will fully explain the entire passage; particularly, if we understand it, of the attack of Cœstius, which preceded that of Titus, and of the defence made against him by the Zealots. The Hebrew of the Prophet Daniel, which has “abominations” in the plural, would seem to refer to the abomination on the part of the Romans, and that on the part of the Jews themselves. It was in consequence “of an old tradition among the Jews, that the city would be destroyed, whenever the hands of the Jews themselves would profane their temple” (Josephus, Lib. v. c. 2), that many of the better classes among the Jews fled from Jerusalem, as from a sinking vessel, after the withdrawal of Cœstius; and relying on the same tradition, but particularly on the prophetic warning of our Lord, the Christians, and among them, St. Simeon, Bishop of Jerusalem, who lived till the time of Trajan, fled to the territories of king Agrippa, and to the city of Pella in particular, beyond the Jordan.

Maldonatus understands by, “the abomination of desolation,” or, “the abominable or horrid desolation,” the desolation itself; and he says it was not given as a sign, by any means, of the desolation, since it could not be a sign of itself. Our Redeemer gave, as a sign, the surrounding of Jerusalem by an army. For, Maldonatus holds, that our Redeemer used both phrases, “when you shall see Jerusalem compassed about by an army” (Luke 21:20)—which was a sign of impending destruction—and, “when you shall see the abomination of desolation,” &c. When you witness these two events, then you are to conclude, that the prophecy of Daniel, regarding the utter ruin of Jerusalem, is fulfilled. According to him, the words of this verse, “when you see the abomination,” &c., are not connected with the words of next verse, “then, they that are in Judea,” &c., nor is their sense any way suspensive or dependent on them. The sentence concludes fully with the words of this verse, “he that readeth, let him understand.” The interpretation, however, which makes them dependent on the following verse, is the one more commonly adopted. Hence, the words mean: “When you shall see Jerusalem surrounded with an army,” viz., of Cœstius, and immediately after, or in connexion with it, an abominable band of brigands establish themselves in the temple, or, “the holy place,” “where they should not” (Mark 13:14). Then, “he that reads, let him understand,” that is, whoever has sense, let him understand that the words of Daniel (Dan 9:27), “and there shall be in the temple the abomination of desolation,” &c., are fulfilled. Some interpreters (Patrizzi, Lib. 1, cap. 1, de Ev. M., §§ 2, &c.), understand these to be the words, not of our Lord, but of the Evangelist, encouraging the faithful to understand the verification of the words of Daniel. In this interpretation, the words are parenthetical, containing an allusion to the words of Daniel (Dan 9:25), and the sense of the foregoing suspended until the sentence is completed in the next verse, thus: “When you shall see,” &c., verse 15 (he that heareth let him understand), “then, they that are in Judea,” &c., verse 16.

Mt 24:16. “Then,” when you shall see all this happening, it shall be a signal for you to escape, with all haste, for your lives. “Those who are in Judea,” where Jerusalem is situated. It includes all the land of Israel and Galilee, which were first destroyed by Vespasian. “Fly to the mountains,” places difficult of access, and a safe retreat from an enemy. St. Luke (Lk 21:21) adds, “and those who are in the midst thereof depart out; and let those who are in other countries not enter into it.” Maldonatus refers, “then,” to all the preceding signs, viz., when you shall hear of wars, &c., and see the other signs of the devastation of Jerusalem, “then,” fly with as much speed as possible.

Mt 24:17. “House-top,” is allusive to the flat roofs of the houses in Judea, where the people used to walk, &c. The houses were provided with two staircases—one inside; the other, outside on the street. By the latter, or, as some suppose, over the flat roofs of the other houses, to the city walls, they are recommended to fly. “Let him not come down,” &c. Descending in the most expeditious way possible, let him make no delay, by entering the house, to take anything out of it for his approaching flight. Let him busy himself only about the most expeditious way of accomplishing his escape.

Mt 24:18. “He that is in the field,” whether walking or labouring, “let him not go back to take his coat,” however necessary for his journey; but, let him fly as quickly as possible, in whatever costume he may chance to be at the time. In southern countries, husbandmen, when at work, used to leave their upper garments, the cloak and coat, at home.

The words of this, and of the preceding verses (Mt 24:16-17), are proverbial or hyperbolical forms of expression, conveying the imminent nature of the danger, and the necessity of immediate and speedy flight, as well as the magnitude of the evils that were approaching, since men should sacrifice everything sooner than encounter or endure them. Although six months elapsed between the raising of the siege, by Cœstius, and the march of Vespasian into Galilee, and a still longer period between it and the siege of Jerusalem, by Titus; still, this would be very short, when we consider the lingering delays that oftentimes embarrass those who are leaving their beloved country for ever. Hence, our Redeemer urges them to the greatest expedition and haste in their flight, on their beholding the signs He gives them of the ruin and unutterable woes that were to befall the unhappy Jerusalem.

St. Luke (Lk 21:22) adds, as the cause of all this urgent admonition—“For, these are the days of vengeance, that all things may be fulfilled, that are written,” in the book of Daniel, and the other prophets, concerning the ruin of Jerusalem, and the vengeance to be inflicted on the Jews, for all the just blood they shed, from that of Abel downwards.

Mt 24:19. “Those who are with child, or that give suck,” cannot fly with sufficient speed; nor can they leave their charge behind, as easily as those can, who leave their money, &c., on account of the strong natural affection of a mother for her offspring. They shall be, therefore, caught and butchered by the Romans. Our Redeemer selects them, in preference to the aged and decrepit; both, because, of the happiness and ease they are wont to enjoy, and which shall now be converted into the greatest tribulation; and also to show the fearful havoc and indiscriminate slaughter that shall take place, since the pregnant and nursing women, who are ordinarily spared in war, shall meet with no mercy from the Romans. Perhaps, also, he alludes to the straits to which some unhappy mothers were to be reduced in the siege of Jerusalem, when, as we learn from Josephus, they devoured their own children, to appease hunger.

Mt 24:20. As in the preceding, He refers to two classes of persons; so here he refers to two periods of time, unsuited for flight. “In winter,” the state of the weather, and of the roads, render flight very troublesome and inconvenient. “Or on the Sabbath,” when the converted Jews, although the Mosaic ceremonies were then abolished, would still observe the law, regarding a Sabbath-day’s journey, and would, under no circumstances, transgress it, although, in cases of necessity, or danger of life, this did not oblige; still, some Jews did not admit even this exception. At this time, the converted Jews were permitted, though not bound, to observe the Mosaic ceremonies, and our Redeemer here speaks in accommodation to their well-known feelings on the matter. The words of this verse mean: Pray to God, that you may escape these dreadful evils, and that nothing may obstruct your flight; and they also convey to us, by a familiar illustration, an idea of the menaced calamities, which would be such, that they should fervently pray for any circumstances that might mitigate their severity. St. Luke tells us the reason (Lk 21:23), “For, there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon the people.” History fully testifies to the fearful fulfilment of this sad prediction (Josephus, de Bel. Jnd., Lib. 3–7).

Mt 24:21. “For there shall be great tribulation,” &c. St. Augustine says (Epistle 8), that while it would be difficult to determine, from St. Matthew or St. Mark, whether there was reference here to the Day of Judgment or to the siege of Jerusalem, St. Luke determines it as referring to the latter, just as he clearly points out what “the abomination of desolation” refers to. He explains in what these dreadful evils shall consist: “they shall fall by the edge of the sword … Jerusalem shall be trodden down,” &c. (Lk 21:24.) The word, “for,” shows it refers to the foregoing. It is assigned as a reason for their rapid flight.

“Great tribulation, such was not from the beginning of the world, nor shall be.” Any one who reads the account, given by Josephus, of the dreadful and almost incredible calamities which befell the unhappy Jews, in the siege of Jerusalem, may clearly see how this was fulfilled. And although, it may be, that during the persecuting reign of Antichrist, the sufferings may be more general; yet, hardly shall any fall so heavily, in point of horror and intensity, on any particular race or people, as those are said to be which were inflicted on the Jews. Moreover, the tribulation of the faithful, under Antichrist, shall not be such a tribulation of vengeance as that of the Jews. For, as their crime of Deicide, coupled with their obstinate resistance to grace, and their monstrous ingratitude, far exceeded the guilt of any other nation; so, was the vengeance more severe. Hence, even the punishment inflicted on Sodom, in this life, which was but a type of that inflicted on it, in the other, was not so severe as the protracted misfortunes inflicted on the Jews, in the siege of Jerusalem, which were only a feeble type of the eternal misfortunes in store for these miserable and ungrateful Deicides, who invoked the blood of the Son of God “on themselves, and on their children.”

Mt 24:22. “Unless these days,” employed in the siege of Jerusalem, “had been shortened,” and rendered fewer, than the anger of the Romans called for, and the iniquities of the Jews merited, for which no punishment, however protracted or intense, was too severe, “no flesh,” no person from out the Jewish nation, “should be saved,” from utter ruin and destruction. Had the Romans met with greater resistance and delay, and had they endured more hardships and sufferings, for any protracted time, as the natural strength and powerful fortifications of Jerusalem would give grounds to apprehend, the likelihood is, that, not only would every living soul within the precincts of Jerusalem be put to the sword; but, by a general edict, which would be carried out cheerfully by all other peoples throughout the earth, by whom the Jews were held in hatred, the Romans, then all-powerful, would decree the utter extirpation of the Jews, and abolish for ever the name of Jew, throughout the entire earth, almost all then subject to the dominion of Rome. Hence, there would be no Jews from whom “the elect” would be descended. The words, “no flesh,” refer to the Jews exclusively. From this we see, how God ordains everything for the good of His elect.

“But for the sake of the elect,” those whom God had, by His eternal decree, elected to grace and glory among the Jews, whether these living and converted, or those to be afterwards converted, or to be born in course of time of the Jews then existing. “But for the sake of the elect,” lest the merciful decrees and designs of God on them should be frustrated, “those days shall be shortened.” St. Mark says (Mk 13:20), “But, for the sake of the elect, which He (the Lord) hath chosen, He hath shortened these days.” In truth, such was the strength of Jerusalem, that, were it not, that the Zealots were blinded by Divine justice, to destroy the stores of provisions, which would have served for years (Josephus, Lib. 6, c. 1), and were also seized with unusual fear to abandon their strong fortifications, and weaken, by their cruel carnage and bloodshed, the strength of the city, Jerusalem might have held out for years against the Romans. Hence, Josephus (Lib. 3, c. 11), and elsewhere, attributes the success of the Romans to the interposition of God. And the same historian informs us (Lib. 7, c. 16), that Titus, on entering the stronghold of Sion, and beholding the strength of the place, declared, it was God that assisted the Romans, who could not otherwise succeed; and going round, and, seeing the ramparts filled with corpses, raising his hands, he called God to witness, that this was none of his doing. Hence, he refused a golden crown, presented to him by the neighbouring nations, stating, that not he, but God, who was angry with the Jews, was the cause of these wonderful successes (Baronius, a.d. 72, ex Philostrate).

St. Chrysostom (in Matth. 77), extols the Providence of God, who makes the three other Evangelists, who did not live till the siege of Jerusalem, the narrators of these events. St. John, who survived it, says nothing of it, in order to strengthen our faith in the predictions of our Redeemer. And, doubtless, it was with the same providential design, God employed Josephus, himself a Jew, and no Christian, to chronicle the fulfilment of these predictions, so minute in details. The words of this verse, although directly and immediately meant for the time preceding the destruction of Jerusalem, apply also to the persecution of Antichrist, who shall be allowed to “tread under foot the holy city” (Rev 11:2), that is, the Church of Christ, “two and forty months,” that is, three years and a half; “and, to make war with the saints, and to overcome them” (Rev 13:7). His persecuting reign, which would destroy the whole human race, and would seduce almost all, shall be shortened to the above period of three and one-half years, “for the sake of the elect.”

Mt 24:23. Some commentators say, that our Redeemer here pauses to treat distinctly of the events, that are to occur after the ruin of Jerusalem, and between that period and the end of the world; and that He refers, in a particular way, to what shall take place before the end of the world, of which the ruin of Jerusalem was a type and figure. (Maldonatus, Jansenius, &c.) Others hold, that He continues to treat of the events, that are to precede the destruction of Jerusalem, and of those which are to precede the Day of Judgment, indifferently—the former being a type of the latter—as far as Mt 24:29, where He directly and specially treats of the events connected with the Day of Judgment.

It would seem, that the words of our Redeemer, as far as Mt 24:29, apply to the time preceding the siege of Jerusalem, and may be easily explained regarding it. They can be also explained of the events that are to take place, before the final end of all things, prefigured by what preceded the ruin of Jerusalem. Hence, it could be maintained, that, in the following six verses, our Redeemer treats of both events.

“Then,” that is, during the wars of the Romans, preceding the siege of Jerusalem. It may also refer to the period intervening between the taking of Jerusalem and the end of the world; and particularly to the time approaching the last end of all things; and, although thousands of years may elapse between both events, still, it may be said to have happened “then;” taking into account the measure of time with God, with whom “a thousand years are as one day” (2 Peter 3:8); “a thousand years in Thy sight are as yesterday,” &c. (Psa. 90) And our Redeemer, when addressing the Apostles, and, through them, the faithful of all succeeding ages (for, St. John, alone, among them, lived till even the time of the destruction of Jerusalem), speaks in such a way, as to leave them uncertain as to the near approach of the Day of Judgment, thus to keep them always in readiness for its approach. Hence, although “then,” were referred to the period of the general judgment, it could be explained as above; in the same way as the advocates of the other opinion are forced to explain the words, “immediately after the tribulation of those days” (Mt 24:29). But, in this verse, I would take “then” to refer immediately and directly to the times preceding the capture of Jerusalem, without excluding the other in a secondary and subordinate sense. “If any man shall say to you,” My faithful followers, who shall be alive then; for, the Apostles shall be dead, “Lo! here is Christ,” who is come to save and liberate His people from all their evils; “or there, do not believe Him.” The Jews were aware that the time of the Messiah was at hand, from the fulfilment of the prophecy of Jacob, regarding the passing of the sceptre from the tribe of Juda. Hence, some flattering Vespasian said, that he, as the conqueror of Judea, was the Messiah. (Suetonius in Vespas.) Others, flattered Herod in the same way. Each of the three leaders of the Jewish factions then at Jerusalem, Eleazar, son of Simon; John, son of Levi; and Simon, son of Goria, gave himself out for the Messiah. So did a certain impostor, in the reign of Adrian, who wished to be called Barchochabas. Son of the Star, as if he were the star referred to in the words, “orietur stella in Jacob.”

This shall most clearly take place in the days of Antichrist also. “Do not believe him,” that is, do not hearken to any such false rumours, so injurious to the true Messiah, whom you believe Me to be. These are words of warning, addressed to such of the faithful as might have been slow in attending to the admonitions of our Redeemer, about leaving Judea, and might have lingered at Jerusalem, or the neighbouring places, until it would be too late to betake themselves to flight.

Mt 24:24. He tells them not to believe such false statements, and that such statements shall be circulated, our Redeemer assures us. “For, there shall arise false Christs,” men who shall pretend to be Christ, the Saviour of their people; “and false prophets,” who shall aid these impostors, by proclaiming among the people, as their agents and instruments of seduction, that they are the true Christ. As Christ had His true prophets to prepare the people for His coming, so shall these false Christs have their false prophets too.

“And shall work great signs,” &c. By the aid of magic, they shall perform great prodigies, as the seal of their mission and teaching. They shall perform these false miracles, by the aid of the demon, the father of lies, “insomuch as to deceive,” by their plausibility, “(if possible) even the elect.” By “elect,” are meant, those elected to final and eternal happiness. Although the “elect” are not impeccable, and may (as they sometimes freely do) fall away from faith and grace during life; still, considering the infallible purpose of God’s decree, predestinating them to final glory, to be attained by the free exercise of good works, and the free co-operation with His efficacious graces, it is not possible, they would continue in sin, or die in sin. God’s infallible purpose of Divine election shall so guard, guide, protect, and assist their free will by His efficacious graces, that, though they may be and are free to sin, and to persevere in sin to the end (for “not to be able to sin, is not a gift of this life, but the reward of the other,” says St. Augustine, (de corruptione et gratia, c. 11), still, they will not sin always unto the end; but, they will freely repent, if in sin, and dio in God’s grace and favour. Hence, the perseverance of the elect is necessary, not by an absolute necessity, or in sensu diviso; but, by a kind of moral necessity, in sensu composito; and, supposing the Divine decree predestinating them, necessitate, as logicians say, non consequentis; sed consequentiæ. None of God’s elect shall perish; “no one can snatch them out of His hand” (John 10:28).

The words, “to deceive (if possible) the elect,” show the magnitude of the temptation; and how it shall tell upon others. This shall be particularly true of the times of Antichrist. (2 Thess. 2:9; Rev 13:13, &c.)

Mt 24:25. “I have foretold it to you,” that is, to such of My followers as shall be then alive, in order to guard against them, and to stimulate His followers to flight, so far as the ruin of Jerusalem was in question; and by good works, to make sure their election, since, it is only on the prevision of good works is founded God’s predestinating decree; and should anyone grow remiss, on account of supposing, that he was of the elect (of which no one can be absolutely certain in this life, without a revelation), such a person would give good grounds for supposing, that he is not of the elect. Moreover, if one were certain he was elected, this should be no reason for sinning; on the contrary, he should, by obeying God’s Commandments, manifest his gratitude, and increase the treasure of merit and degree of happiness in store for him.

Mt 24:26. He more fully explains the words of Mt 24:23, “here, or there.” By mentioning two places, the most opposite—the open desert, and the inmost recesses of a house—he wishes to convey, that, no matter in what place, or in what character, any such pretender should appear, he is not to be heeded. Some say, the word, “desert,” where this false Messiah was supposed to gather his forces, to free his people, has reference to Simon, the son of Goria, who, after collecting immense multitudes of every class, in deserted and mountainous places, after reducing Idumea to subjection, was admitted into Jerusalem, and tyrannically oppressed the citizens. The word, “closets,” is thought to have reference to Eleazar and John, the leaders of the Zealots, who, before the destruction of Jerusalem, successively got possession of the interior of the temple. (Josephus de Bel. Lib. vi. &c.)

Mt 24:27. In order to guard you against the deceitful wiles of these impostors, take this for a certain sign of My second coming, which alone the faithful can expect—since, they believe in My first coming already—it shall not be confined to any one place, or obscure locality; it shall not be, like My first coming, in humility, confined to an hidden corner of Judea, and the obscurity of night; but, like the lightning of heaven, which at once appears brilliant, effulgent, and dazzling, at the same moment, in the opposite parts of the heavens; so shall My coming be sudden, glorious, and seen from afar, visible to the entire earth, dazzling all mankind by its splendour and brilliancy, when it shall make itself known, not merely in one part of the earth, but throughout the vast expanse of the heavens, so that it shall convince the world at once, of the truth of My appearance. Whosoever, therefore, shall appear in any one place, or corner, and pretend to be the Messiah, is convicted, from this sign, of being an impostor. Perhaps, these words are also intended to correct the carnal notions, which the Apostles formed of the glorious coming of our Redeemer, whose kingdom, they imagined, would commence in Judea. Our Redeemer, on the contrary, conveys to them, that it would be heavenly, and all celestial, different altogether from what they imagined it would be.

Mt 24:28. The words of this verse are supposed by many to be allusive to the passage of (Job 39:30), where, treating of the eagle, God says, “wheresoever the carcass shall be, she is immediately there.” By some the words are supposed to be a Hebrew proverb, conveying, that no very great exertion or labour is needed for uniting those that are naturally united, and have a natural and irresistible tendency towards each other. He compares Himself to the carcass (the Greek for body is, πτωμα, a dead body), on account of His death, endured for our sakes, to procure glory for us, like that of His own glorified body. He compares His elect to “eagles,” because, as the eagle, this noble and royal bird, harmlessly escapes the lightning, so shall the elect escape unhurt, and stand in great constancy amidst the woes and lightnings of the last day. Moreover, as the eagles scent from an incredible distance, a dead body, and are carried aloft through space in quest of it, so, shall the elect be borne aloft in the air to meet Christ (1 Thess. 4:16), the great centre of attraction. To this St. Luke alludes (L 17:36).

The words of this verse would seem to be an answer to an implied complaint which might arise in the minds of His Apostles, viz., if Thy reign be thus brilliant, heavenly and passing, like the lightning, how can we enjoy it? He says, that His elect shall be permanently gathered to Him, so as to remain with Him, to enjoy Him. As the eagle, which is instinctively attracted to a carcass, floats aloft in air, crossing seas to enjoy it; so, shall they, after the resurrection from the tomb, renovated in youth like the eagle, be drawn to Him to enjoy Him, to feast with Him, and continue with Him for ever. The words, according to the Greek, ὅπου γαρ το πτωμα, &c., “for, where the body is,” &c., may be also regarded as illustrative, in a certain sense, of the preceding. They are a proverbial form of expression, showing, that a thing cannot be concealed. For, as the eagles scent their prey from afar, and make towards it; so, My glorious coming into the world shall not be hidden, but known to all. Wherefore, the faithful, like eagles of acutest sense, shall perceive My Divine presence, shall be attracted towards Me, and refreshed by My glory for ever. Hence, then, there shall be no need to inquire where is Christ; since, His coming shall be conspicuous and known to the entire world. Our Lord compares His elect to “eagles;” because, the reprobate shall not be borne aloft to meet the Judge, nor attracted to Him. They shall be reluctantly forced to appear at judgment.

St. Hilary infers from this verse, that our Redeemer will judge mankind in the place where His sacred body was raised on the cross, buried, and rose again. Thither shall all mankind proceed to be judged, near Jerusalem, in the valley of Josaphat, as the Prophet Joel teaches (Joel 3:2).

Mt 24:29. “Immediately after the tribulation of these days.” This refers, according to those who hold, that in the preceding verses our Redeemer is treating of the time preceding the end of the world, to the persecutions by “false Christs and false prophets,” especially Antichrist. According even to those, who hold, that in the preceding, He is treating of the incredible woes, that, from several sources, are to precede the destruction of Jerusalem, the word, “immediately,” is to be explained in the sense given already to “then,” in Mt 24:23, that the interval between the taking of Jerusalem and the end of the world, of which there is question in this verse, however long, in a human point of view, and according to human calculations, is, according to God’s view and measure, but an instant. (2 Peter 3:8; Ps. 90). Hence, in the New Testament, the whole term of the New Law is termed, “the last hour.” St. Peter says, the end of all “is at hand” (1 pet. 4:7). Even in human calculations it is very short for each individual, since it virtually takes place for each one at death, when his eternal doom is sealed. Moreover, by “immediately,” our Redeemer means to convey, that no other remarkable change in religion, which would concern the faithful, is to occur between the ruin of Jerusalem and the end of all things. Hence, in the early ages, many imagined the Day of Judgment to be at hand, which forced St. Paul to correct this error. (2 Thess. 2 &c.)

“The sun shall be darkened,” &c. This shall occur before the coming of the Judge (Luke 21:25–27; Joel 2:21). Many understand those words, in a metaphorical and spiritual sense, to refer to the Church and her condition, to the events that shall take place in her, and the persecutions she shall endure, at the end of the world. But, by comparing St. Luke (Lk 21:25–27) with St. Matthew, it is quite clear, the words are to be understood literally, of the physical and stupendous phenomena, which shall take place both in the skies and on the earth, previous to the glorious coming of Christ to judgment. The sun shall withhold its light, as happened at the death of Christ. It shall become “black as sackcloth of hair” (Rev. 11:12). As its first light pointed out a newly created world; so, shall its darkness indicate the final end of the same. “The signs in the sun and the moon and the stars” (Luke 21:25), are what is here referred to by St. Matthew, about the darkening of the sun, &c. “The moon shall not give her light.” She shall have none to give, on account of the darkness of the sun, from which she borrows her light; “she shall be as blood” (Rev. 6:12).

“The stars shall fall from heaven;” that is, they shall be so obscured from the sight of men, that they would seem to fall from heaven (Isa 13:10). Besides, this may be understood literally; because comets and other stars generated in the air shall fall (Joel 2:30; Rev. 6:13). St. Augustine (de Civit. Dei, c. 24), says: “Ignited exhalations, like to stars, shall be discharged from sky to earth, more wonderfully than happens now.”

“And the powers of heaven shall be moved.” By these, are commonly understood, the heavenly bodies or stars, which are frequently termed in SS. Scripture, “militia cœli, the army or host of heaven.” (Deut. 17:3; 2 Kings 17:16; 21:3–5; Isa. 24:21, &c.; Jer. 8:2, &c.) These “shall be moved,” from their place, and shall cease to perform their usual courses and functions, of giving light, heat, &c. According to this class of interpreters, these words express, in a general way, what is expressed in a particular way, in the preceding words, “the sun shall be darkened, the moon refuse her light,” &c. The same idea is repeated in this verse, in a general way, for greater emphasis’ sake. On seeing these different signs and changes, which shall precede the coming of the Judge, men shall be seized with fear and consternation, at the prospect of the evils that are about to fall upon the world. Others, by “the moving of the powers of heaven,” understand, an extraordinary movement and agitation of the entire machine of the heavens, a shaking of their very foundations and hinges, as it were, which, by their disorderly movement, shall exhibit symptoms of an expiring world. It is the idea conveyed by Job, when he says, “the pillars of heaven tremble at His nod” (Job 26:11). These “powers” are called “the poles of the world” (Prov. 8:26). The same idea is conveyed by St. Peter (2 Peter 3:10), “the heavens shall pass away with great violence.” Estius understands, by the “moving of the powers of the heavens,” the ceasing of the heavens to exert any influence on the earth, so that on the earth, and in the condition of the seasons, we shall witness the most strange changes; we shall see the summer, cold; and the winter, hot. The signs in the heavens shall be accompanied with corresponding signs in the sea, on the earth, and in the elements—all calculated to inspire men with dread and terror. The opinion, which understands, by “powers,” the Angels, meaning the same as the words, cœli cœlorumque virtutes, is now commonly rejected as utterly improbable.

Mt 24:30. “And then,” immediately after the preceding signs. “The sign of the Son of man.” The most commonly received interpretation, understands this of the cross of our Redeemer, which alone could be termed, “the sign” (τὸ σημεῖον), His certain, well-known standard, whereby He achieved the victory over death and hell, and merited glory for Himself and us. Hence, the Church chaunts, in the Office of the Holy Cross, “hoc signum crucis erit in cœlo, cum Dominus ad judicandum venerit.” It was by the cross He was known, and rendered celebrated throughout the world. This standard of the cross shall be borne aloft by angels before the Judge descending to pass judgment, as a trophy of victory, as the royal ensign of power and authority. Thus shall it be shown, that by His cross, Christ merited glory and judiciary power, that those are ungrateful and inexcusable, who spurned the charity which He displayed when He submitted to be crucified for the salvation of all; now, the humble followers of the cross shall be seated with Him; and its enemies hurled to the abyss of hell. Whether the real cross, on which Christ died, shall appear, after its several parts have been collected and united by the power of God; or, merely an image or resplendent figure of it, formed in the air, is disputed. The latter opinion seems, to some, the more likely, as thus we shall avoid the useless multiplication of miracles, in the collection of the scattered particles of the wood of the true cross. Besides, the word, “sign,” favours this latter view. Some commentators hold the opinion, which, however, does not exceed the bounds of probability, as the SS. Scripture and the Church are silent upon it, that the other instruments of our Saviour’s Passion—the nails, the scourges, the thorns, &c., shall also appear with the cross on that day, shining resplendent in the heavens.

“And then shall all the tribes,” that is, all the impious and infidels, who refused to receive our Lord, or obey His Commandments, and the Jews particularly, of whom it is said, “videbunt in quem transfixerunt” (John 19:37). The elect cannot be referred, to. Far from mourning, those who conformed their lives to the model of Christ suffering on the cross, shall be filled with ineffable joy and consolation. “They shall, then, stand in great constancy,” viz., the just, “who love His coming” (1 Tim. 4:8). When, then, it is said, “all the tribes of the earth shall mourn,” there is an example of what logicians term, distributio pro generibus singulorum, and not pro singulis generum. The Greek word for “mourn” (κοψονται), conveys the idea of striking their breasts. The words of this verse are allusive to Zacharias (Zech 12:10 ff.), as appears from Apocalypse (Rev 1:7). The passage from Zacharias, most likely, referred to the wailing of the faithful Jews over the death of Christ, to which their sins gave occasion, according to St. Jerome. Still, it is, by accommodation, applied by our Redeemer to the unavailing wailings of the infidels, on beholding Christ, whom they slew and rejected; just as the words which St. John (Jn 19:37), quotes from Zacharias (Zech 12:10), “and they shall look upon Him whom they have pierced,” although originally referring to the faithful Jews, who were to regard our Redeemer in a spirit of faith, and upon whom was poured out “the spirit of grace and of prayer” (Zech 12:10), are, by accommodation, applied to the unbelieving Jews, who shall, on the last day, behold Him exhibiting His wounds; so, that having before refused voluntarily to believe in Him and bewail His death, they shall then be forced to look on Him involuntarily, and indulge in unavailing regrets.

“And they shall see,” immediately after the preceding signs, “the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven.” These words are allusive to Daniel (Dan 7:13), “ecce in nubibus quasi filius hominus veniebat.” After our Lord had ascended, and had been taken up by the Angels in a cloud into heaven, it was said by them, “sic veniet, quemadmodum vidistis rum,” &c. (Acts 1:11.) He shall come now, a second time, clothed with human nature, not, however, retaining its mortality or infirmities; but, “in the clouds of heaven,” which shall symbolize His glory, by their brightness, and serve as a triumphal car, on which He shall appear seated. No longer shall He appear in lowliness, or poverty, or debasement, as at His first coming; but, “with much power and majesty.” The Greek is, with “much power and glory.” His power will be seen from the resuscitation of all the dead, at His sole word of command; from their suddenly assembling in one place; from His irrevocably passing sentence on all, according to their deserts; from His receiving the homage of every creature, in heaven, earth, and hell, including angels, men, and devils, who shall acknowledge Him as their Lord and Judge. His “glory,” or “majesty,” shall appear from the glorious brightness of His body; from the hosts of Angels accompanying Him, and heralding in His approach; from His appearing seated on the clouds of heaven; and from the sounds of trumpets; from the thunders, lightning, and earthquakes which shall precede His coming (Rev. 6:15, 16).

Mt 24:31. “Send His Angels,” &c. Similar is the description (1 Cor. 15:52; 1 Thess. 4:15, 16). He says, “His Angels,” to convey, that He is their Lord and Master; they, His messengers.

“With a trumpet and a great voice.” Whether this shall be a real trumpet or not is disputed. The most commonly received opinion is, that it refers to a noise, louder than thunder, which, by the instrumentality of Michael and the other Angels, the Son of God shall cause to reverberate throughout creation. Its effect shall be, to rouse the dead from their long slumber, owing to the efficacious power of God. The word, “and,” means, that is, “a great voice,” the latter words being explanatory of the former. In the Greek it is, “with a trumpet of great voice.” What words shall be uttered by it, is uncertain. It is commonly supposed, that it shall distinctly announce the words, “Arise, ye dead, and come to judgment,” or the words, “Behold, the Bridegroom cometh, go ye forth to meet Him” (Mt 26:6). Others suppose the passage to simply mean, that by the efficacious power and will of God, the dead shall rise from their tombs, and be awakened from their long sleep, as those who are asleep are roused by the noise of a loud trumpet. The former is most likely. This trumpet, which shall proclaim the descent of the Son of God to final judgment, had been prefigured in the Old Testament; in the first place, by that which proclaimed the majesty of God when promulgating His law on Mount Sinai; again, by the trumpets with which the people were wont to be summoned by the Priests to the Tabernacle of the Covenant. (Num. 10, &c.) The sound of trumpets is usually employed to usher in the approach of kings and great princes. The metaphor is borrowed from war, where a trumpet is employed to gather the soldiers, and terrify the enemy; here, it is conveyed, that the sound of trumpets shall be employed to announce the approach and majesty of the Sovereign Judge, to gather the human race, and inspire the enemies of God with terror and alarm.

“And they shall gather together His elect from the four winds,” that is, from the four quarters of the earth, east, west, north, and south, the principal points from which the winds blow. The words, “from the four winds,” are a Hebrew form, denoting, all quarters of the globe. The “winds,” according to the Hebrew notions, denoted not only the cardinal points of the heavens; but, they also marked the regions, in the direction from which any of them blew.

“From the farthest parts of the heavens to the utmost boundaries,” &c. The Greek word for “farthest parts,” and “utmost boundaries,” is the same, ακρων; απʼ ἄκρων οὐρανων ἕως ἄκρων, &c. It denotes, from the utmost part of the earth, to the utmost part of heaven (απʼ ἄκρου γης ἕως ακρου ουρανου), as St. Mark has it (Mk 13:27). The phrase is but a fuller and more explanatory repetition of the preceding. It signifies, the extreme points of the heavens farthest asunder, such as east and west, right and left, including all the intermediate space—not so fully expressed in the preceding words—where the earth and sky would seem to meet. From all parts under heaven shall the elect be gathered; not carried by Angels, as was the Prophet Habacuc (Dan. 14:35); but, in virtue of the glorious gift of agility, they shall be, at once, transported into the air to meet the Judge. Similar are the phrases (Deut. 4:32), “From one end of heaven to the other end thereof.” Also in the Psalm (19:7), “His going out is from the end of heaven; and His circuit even unto the end thereof” that is, from the extreme cast to the extreme point of the west. The reprobate, being devoid of this gift of agility, shall be carried by Angels, like Habacue. “And He shall send His Angels, and they shall gather all scandals from His kingdom.” But, having addressed Himself to his disciples, in order to console them, He makes mention only of “the elect.” Some commentators think the words contain an allusion to the souls of the just, which shall be transferred from the highest heavens, to reanimate their resuscitated bodies, and shall proceed to the place of judgment. The former interpretation is, however, the more probable, as it accords better with the words of St. Mark, and the allusion to “the four winds.”

Mt 24:32. “And from the fig-tree learn a parable.” “Parable,” here means, an illustration. The fig-tree was very common in Judea; and hence, any allusion to it, or illustration borrowed from it, was quite intelligible. Whenever it put forth its leaves, it was a sign that summer was nigh. This is accounted for on physical grounds, and is known from experience. St. Luke (Lk 21:30), says, “when they now shoot forth their fruit.” But, by “fruit,” he means, the young shoots and leaves, the same as is here expressed by St. Matthew.

Mt 24:33. “Know that it is nigh even at the doors.” What “it” refers to, what it is that is, “at their doors,” would not be so clear were it not that St. Luke clearly expresses it. It is, their redemption, their perfect exemption from all evils and fears, when in the full enjoyment of God’s glorious and heavenly “kingdom” (Luke 21:28–31). “It” does not refer to the coming of the Son of man. For, among “all these things,” already described, “the sign of the Son of man appearing in heaven,” is mentioned. Hence, it refers to the near or immediate approach of their redemption, when, after the reprobate shall be in great terror and alarm, and shall weep, His elect may “look up and lift up their heads” (Luke 21:28), at the prospect of hearing the consoling invitation, to “come and take possession of the kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world,” which is to succeed these precursory signs, already described. This is the perfect redemption of the glorified sons of God, after which inanimate creation itself sighs and groans, like a mother longing to be delivered from the painful throes of childbirth (Rom. 8:19–22).

Mt 24:34. “Amen I say to you, that this generation shall not pass,” &c. What, “this generation,” refers to, is not easily seen. Some understand by it, with St. Jerome, the human race, and particularly, the Jewish people, whom our Redeemer frequently calls, “this generation” (Luke 17:25; Matt. 23:36). And our Redeemer’s object would be, if we limit the word to the Jewish people, to convey, that while other nations and tribes and peoples would pass away, before the Day of Judgment, without a vestige of them being left, the Jewish people would be preserved, as a testimony of their foolish expectation of their Messiah, according to the false conceptions they had regarding Him; and also, as an argument of God’s mercy, in calling them at the end of the world, to the faith, by sending one “from Sion, who would turn away iniquity from Jacob” (Rom. 11:26). His object in saying it, if we understand the words of the human race, would be, to assure us, that the world would not end till all these things would happen, so certain was His assertion; and this is conveyed in words of the following verse: “Heaven and earth shall pass away,” &c. Others, with St. Chrysostom, understood, “this generation,” of the new generation of faithful believers, begotten by Christ; as if He said: that, no matter what evils would arise, what persecutions it had to encounter, the Christian religion would continue for ever to flourish on earth, until the Church militant would exchange her state for that of the Church triumphant. Others say, that it refers to the generation of men whom He was addressing; and, then, these give “all these things” a restricted meaning. As in the preceding, our Redeemer had been referring to the precursory signs and accompanying events, both of the destruction of Jerusalem, and of the Day of Judgment—the former being a type and figure of the latter—these expositors confine “all these things” to the signs and events relating to the destruction of Jerusalem, which happened, before all the generation He then addressed, had passed away, that is, they happened in the lifetime of some of them. The chief objection to this interpretation is, that it restricts, without any seeming justification, the words, “all these things,” to only a part of the things referred to, viz., those relating to the destruction of Jerusalem. It might, perhaps, be said, that as the signs and events relating to the destruction of Jerusalem, were types of those which shall precede, and take place on, the Day of Judgment, all shall take place on the former occasion, viz., the events relating to Jerusalem, literally; and those having reference to the Day of Judgment, typically, during the lifetime of some men, who were living at the time our Redeemer uttered those words.

Others, by generation (γενεαν) understand age, or period of time, thereby meaning, the period of time which was to elapse between Christ’s first and second coming, which is termed the last age of the world, and hence, termed by St. John, “the last hour,” and by St. Paul, “the ends of the world” (1 Cor. 10:11), being the last period of time within which any remarkable change in religion shall take place, until the end of all shall arrive. Hence, the words may mean, all these things shall happen, before the final end of this age on which we have entered shall have arrived. The coming of the Son of man shall put an end to the age on which we have entered. No other remarkable religious change shall take place until His final coming.

Mt 24:35. “Heaven and earth shall pass away” as to their present external form, “transit figura hujus mundi” (1 Cor. 7:31); but, not as to substance; for, they shall be transformed into a “new heaven and a new earth.” “But My words shall not pass,” without being fully accomplished. The words may also moan, sooner shall the heavens—which, “He hath established for ever, and for ages of ages” (Psa. 148:6)—and the earth, “which standeth for ever” (Sir. 1:4); sooner shall these things, which the Scripture itself describes as eternal and immoveable, pass away, than My words be unaccomplished. This meaning is fully warranted by the words of St. Luke (Lk 16:17), “It is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than for one tittle of the law to fail.”

Mt 24:36. He says, “of that day and hour,” meaning, thereby, a defined fixed period—rather than, “of that year, month, or age;” because, from the foregoing premonitory signs, men could know the year or period of the year, within which it would take place, just as no one knows the precise day or hour of his death, although, from certain premonitory symptoms, it could be easily seen within what time he would die. Having given the general signs of His coming, as far as was expedient to be made known to us, our Redeemer, in order to repress any further undue curiosity, which might be inconsistent with that state of uncertainty regarding our future condition in which His providence desires us all to be kept, tells His Apostles, that no being on earth or heaven, except God, knows the precise moment or hour of His coming. Hence, His Apostles should not take it amiss, if that was not communicated to them, which was hidden from the very Angels of heaven. In St. Mark (Mk 13:32), it is said, “neither the Angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father knows of that hour or day,” the meaning of which, as regards “the Son,” is, that although Christ had the fulness of all knowledge as God; and all knowledge was communicated to Him as man, at the Incarnation; for, “all things were delivered to Him by the Father” (Mt 11:27), still, He did not know the hour nor the day of the end of all things, as Legate sent by God, so as to communicate the knowledge of it to others. Christ knew it, for whenever any essential attribute is attributed to any Person of the Trinity, creatures alone are excluded; that is to say, those alone are excluded who possess not the same nature. It is different when there is question of what are termed Notional Attributes, such as, begetting and being begotten, each peculiar to the Persons of the Trinity. But, as creation and the knowledge of it, although, as an act of Providence, by appropriation, attributed to the Father, is still common to the Blessed Trinity; so also is the destruction of the world, and the knowledge regarding it common to the Trinity. However, Christ knows it not as Legate; because, in virtue of His office, He is not to communicate it to us. Just as St. Paul, who discovered wisdom among the perfect, still, among the Corinthians, “knew only Christ, and Him crucified,” this being the only knowledge He deemed fit to communicate to them. In a similar sense, He says of the sons of Zebedee (Mt 20:23): “It is not Mine to give to you, but to them for whom it is prepared by My Father.” But that He had the full knowledge of all things, we know. For, “in Him were concealed all the treasures of knowledge, and of wisdom” (Col. 2:3). God has wisely concealed this from us, in order to keep us always prepared, while daily expecting His coming. And our Redeemer represses any undue feeling of curiosity regarding further or more precise knowledge, by telling them, that no created being, either in heaven, or on earth, can know anything more definite. Nay that He Himself did not know it as Legate, so us to communicate it to others.

Mt 24:37. “As it was in the days of Noe, so shall the coming of the Son of man be.” As the deluge came suddenly upon an incredulous world, wholly unprepared for it, and unconsciously and listlessly involved in the pursuit of pleasure, and their ordinary worldly business; so, shall the coming of the Son of man find worldlings indulging in good cheer, in pleasure, and engrossed in their ordinary worldly business.

St. Luke (Lk 17:28) introduces the destruction of Sodom in the days of Lot, as a further illustration.

Mt 24:38. “Eating and drinking.” It may be, He taxes them with excessive indulgence in these things. “Marrying and giving”—their daughters—“in marriage.” Most likely, our Redeemer does not here charge them with the crimes which provoked the fearful chastisement of the Deluge. The foregoing words are merely intended to show the supine security they enjoyed, their state of unconcern, and absorption in worldly business, and indulgence in pleasure, while on the eve of dreadful destruction.

Mt 24:39. “And they knew not,” that is, although Noe, the preacher of justice, had warned them of their impending danger; still, “they knew not,” they did not care to know; they culpably and incredulously closed their ears and eyes against all they saw and heard.

“Till the flood came and swept them all away,” destroying every living creature under heaven, save Noe, and those that were with him in the ark.

“So shall the coming of the Son of man be,” sudden and unexpected. This has reference to the wicked and unbelieving, as it is to them alone, the above allusion to the Deluge also applies. This is clearly expressed by St. Paul (1 Thess. 5), where, referring to the sudden approach of the day of the Lord, he tells us, “The day of the Lord shall come as a thief in the night. For, when they shall say, peace and security; then shall sudden destruction come upon them,” &c.

A question here naturally presents itself: How could men indulge in pleasures in the midst of the evils, wars, pestilences, earthquakes, &c., and the several other phenomena, such as the darkening of the sun, the roaring of the sea, &c., that shall precede the final end of all things, the consideration of which shall make men “wither away for fear?” &c. (Luke 21:26.) The reply generally given is, that after the wars of Antichrist and the other evils, which shall take place in his time, a respite and, as it were, a short period of peace and rest, shall be given to the earth, as is supposed by St. Jerome. During that period, the wicked shall proceed with their ordinary temporal occupations, and indulge in their ordinary pleasures in perfect and fancied security; and then the immediate premonitory signs, through which commences the destruction of the earth, shall suddenly come upon them. Besides, even during the persecuting reign of Antichrist, the wicked shall prosper in the ruin and destruction of the good; while the latter shall be in sorrow, the former shall rejoice. On them, the destruction of the world shall come unexpectedly. “The coming of the Son of man,” involves the precursory signs that are immediately to usher in the final destruction of all things.

Mt 24:40-41. “Then, two shall be in the field,” &c. As St. Matthew refers to the coming of our Lord in the day time, he instances classes of persons placed in circumstances suited to the day time, such as labouring in the field, and grinding at the mill. And as St. Luke (Lk 17:34), refers to the event as happening in the night time; so, he instances circumstances suited to night, such as sleeping in bed, and working at the mill—the ordinary occupation of female slaves (Ex. 11:5)—at night, as well as in day time. Our Redeemer wishes to convey, that His coming shall be not only sudden and unexpected; but, that it shall make an eternal separation between the good and the bad, out of every order, whether slave or free, even from amongst those who are most intimately connected. Of these on the day of Christ’s coming, “one shall be taken,” and carried to meet the Judge in the air; “the other shall be left,” for reprobation, to be the prey of demons, and eternal fire. Others, give these words an opposite signification, to mean, “one shall be taken” by the demons for destruction and reprobation, on account of his wicked life; the other shall be spared, left unhurt, in reward for his good works and holy life. It is difficult to determine which is the true meaning. Mauduit has a short dissertation on the words of St. Luke (Lk 17:37): “Wheresoever the body shall be, thither will the eagles also be gathered together,” which he interprets in a sense quite the reverse of the common one, according to which, the words are understood as having reference to the elect (“the eagles”) gathered, or rather attracted, to meet Christ, whose glorious body shall, on that day, bear the marks of the wounds inflicted on Him for our sakes. In the dissertation referred to, Mauduit adopts the latter interpretation of the words, “left, and taken.” “Left,” safe, unhurt, according to him; “taken,” destroyed, become the prey of merciless demons, which are represented in SS. Scripture as “birds of prey,” that come down to destroy the good seed planted in the heart of man; and the eagles or vultures viewed as birds of prey, aptly represent the unclean spirits, who dwell in the air, whence they descend to wage their fiendish war with mankind.

But, at what precise time, the circumstances here referred to by our Redeemer, shall take place, is not easily seen, particularly as all men shall have been dead at the time our Redeemer will make His appearance. And, even admitting that some might survive till the very Day of Judgment, it is not easy to see how they can be unconcerned, either in the field, or in bed, or at the mill, after the fearful precursory signs that shall usher in the Day of Judgment. The most probable answer is, that our Redeemer refers to the time that shall precede the signs which immediately usher in the Day of Judgment, as if He said, the darkening of the sun, and the other horrible appearances, shall come on you unexpectedly. “On that night,” or darksome time, “two shall be in one bed: the one shall be taken,” &c. (Luke 17:34) Some commentators, with Cajetan, say, that the men of those days shall pay no heed to the signs of coming judgment, and, like the men in the days of Noe, will attend to their ordinary concerns, and not do penance. But this is not very likely, as regards Christians; and, moreover, the precursory signs shall inspire men with such terror—“men withering away for fear”—that it would be impossible for them to attend to their ordinary occupations in life. (Luke 21:26)

St. Augustine understands the words in a spiritual sense, as referring to the different classes of men. Those “in one bed” (Luke 17:34), refer to men free from all concern. Those “grinding at the mill,” to those actively engaged in worldly business. Those “in the field,” to the prelates of the Church, labouring in the field of the Lord.

This entire discourse of our Redeemer has for object, to inspire His Apostles, and all His followers, with sentiments of humility and salutary fear, arising from the terrible and mysterious separation He shall make; and of vigilance, owing to the uncertainty of the time of His coming. The words of these verses convey to us, that from every position in life, from the highest to the lowest, this dreadful and mysterious selection shall be made.

In the interpretation of those commentators, who understand the foregoing of the coming of our Lord to preach the Gospel, the words are quite intelligible; at the preaching of the New Law, some will embrace it, others reject it. “One will be taken” to embrace the Gospel, others left and reprobated from the same (Pere Lallemont).

Mt 24:42. This is the conclusion which our Redeemer derives from the foregoing; and in it is insinuated, that His reason for leaving us in a state of uncertainty, in regard to the time of His coming, is, in order to keep us always vigilant in expectation of it. He illustrates this in the following example. St. Mark (Mk 13:33, &c.), adds, “and pray ye,” in order to show us, that our vigilance and personal exertions, of themselves, shall avail nothing; they must be sustained by God’s grace and providence. St. Luke, after warning men against the obstacles to vigilance (Lk 21:34), adds, “praying at all times” (Lk 21:36). St. Augustine (Epist. 80) observes, that these words apply to all men, even those who shall have died before the Day of Judgment; because, the Son of God comes at death, when the Day of Judgment virtually takes place for each one. For, the condition of all, on the last day, shall depend on the state they may be found in at death, “quod in die Judicii futurum est omnibus, hoc in singulis, die mortis impletur” (St. Jerome).

“Because you know not at what hour,” &c., contains an allusion to the conduct of servants, who are always on the watch for the arrival of their master, about the time of whose coming they may be uncertain. The sentence, in order to convey its meaning accurately, should be arranged as follows: “Because, therefore, you know not … watch.” Our Redeemer does not speak of bodily watching, but of mental vigilance, ever keeping the coming of the Lord in mind, and acting accordingly, which is conveyed in Mt 24:44. “Be ready,” or prepared, on that day, by being in a state in which we would wish the Lord to find us, viz., a state of grace.

Mt 24:43. This illustration shows the vigilance we should employ, while expecting the coming of our Lord. In it, our Redeemer, at the same time, conveys a tacit censure on the indifference of men, in regard to the paramount concern of eternal salvation compared with their vigilant care and solicitude, when there is question of temporal and passing interests.

“At what hour.” The Greek, φυλακῆ, means, watch, or, hour of the night, in allusion to the military divisions of the night, into four watches, or principal hours, for relieving guard (Luke 12:38). In this verse, our Redeemer compares the unexpected suddenness of His approach to that of a thief breaking into the house of one off his guard.

By “thief,” some understand, the devil, who always endeavours to break into our house, that is, our bodies. By his wicked inspirations, and criminal pleasures, he desires to deprive them of the costly and precious ornaments of sanctifying grace.

St. Mark (Mk 13:35), expresses this more circumstantially. “Watch ye, therefore,” for you know not when the Lord of the house cometh; at even, or at midnight, or at cock-crowing, or in the morning,” which may be understood, of the several stages of man’s life. In several passages of SS. Scripture, the coming of our Lord is compared to the unexpected approach of the midnight thief. (Luke 12:39; 1 Thess. 5:4; 2 Peter 3:10, &c.)

In the Greek, instead of, “he knew,” “would watch,” “would not suffer,” it is in the past, “if he had known,” “would have watched,” “would not have suffered,” according to which reading, the example proposed refers to a householder, who, for want of due vigilance, had actually been robbed, and his house broken into, by the nightly robber, whose slothful example, therefore, we should be careful not to imitate; but, rather, be always on the watch, for fear of incurring the like misfortune, in reference to our eternal salvation.

Mt 24:44. “Therefore.” In order to complete the connexion of this with the preceding verse, and see the force of our Redeemer’s conclusion, the following sentence, which is implied, must be expressed: “But because no householder can know the precise time of the robber’s stealthy approach, he must, therefore, be always on the watch, if he wish to guard his house.” Therefore, as your condition of uncertainty is somewhat similar to that of the householder referred to, as regards “the coming of the Son of man,” you must be always ready, if you wish to secure the salvation of your souls, and escape the ruin symbolized by that of the householder in question.

Mt 24:45. “Who thinkest thou,” &c. The order of the sentence should be this: “What servant, whom his lord hath set over his family, to give them meat, in due season, is faithful and wise?” This question was asked, on the occasion of St. Peter questioning our Redeemer (Luke 12:40), if the foregoing parable, regarding vigilance, was intended for the Apostles, as well as for the rest of the faithful. For, it would seem, the Apostles fancied they had privileges and exemptions, which would not permit certain things, addressed to the multitude, to apply to them.

Our Redeemer’s reply, which is put in an interrogative form, for greater emphasis’ sake, corrects this error and conveys, that, as regards the Apostles, and all placed in charge of others, they have need of greater vigilance still, than others, and of greater prudence and fidelity, in the interests of their master; this interrogative form, as St. Chrysostom remarks, conveys, that such faithful servants are very rarely met with. Those placed in charge of others, should bear in mind, that they are “servants” of another, and not themselves masters. “Faithful,” so as not to deceive; “prudent,” so as not to be deceived. “Faithful,” in seeking the interests of their master, and the good of their fellow-servants, not their own; “prudent,” in employing the most efficacious means for this end. “Faithful,” in not refusing their fellow-servants their due measure of food; “prudent,” in distributing it properly, according to each one’s wants and requirements. “Faithful,” in not converting to their own use, what belongs to their fellow-servants; “prudent,” in disposing of these means in due time.

Both qualities are absolutely required in those placed in authority, especially in those charged with the spiritual care of souls. Without “prudence,” “fidelity” may prove injurious; and without “fidelity,” “prudence” would degenerate into cunning selfishness. Hence, they should unite the cunning of the serpent with the simplicity of the dove. This applies, as St. Chrysostom remarks, to temporal rulers also. It applies to the rich of this world, no less than to the doctors and pastors of the Church. To both is confided the stewardship of treasures of different kinds, which they should dispense with fidelity and prudence. And, as if to remind them, that they are mere stewards (Luke 12:42), our Lord calls the servant in question, “a steward.”

“Meat in season,” which is expressed by St. Luke (Lk 12:42), “measure of wheat in due season,” is allusive to the custom among masters, of appointing a head slave, or steward, to give out monthly rations, the allotted portions of food, to their fellow-slaves.

In the foregoing, our Redeemer refers, not to the prudence of the flesh, which is death; but, to the prudence of the Spirit, which is life (Rom. 8:6).

Mt 24:46-47. He pronounces, “Blessed,” that servant whom, at His coming, He shall find persevering in the faithful and prudent discharge of the stewardship confided to him. He is “blessed,” because, his master will not only place him over his fellow-servants, but, “over all his goods,” as if to share with him His own supreme power, dominion, and happiness, and make him a partner and associate, as Pharaoh did in regard to the faithful Joseph. These latter words convey the idea, of the sovereign felicity and happiness of the saints, and their never-ending remuneration in glory. They point out the more abundant honour and glory, which Christ will bestow on His faithful ministers, beyond the rest of the elect, when returning to judge the world, He shall make them His assessors, in judging the rest of mankind.

Mt 24:48. Having pointed out the office and rewards of the good steward, our Redeemer proceeds to describe the vices and punishment of the faithless and wicked servant. He particularizes two leading vices, viz., the oppression of his fellow-servants, given in charge to him; and the abuse of his master’s goods, in extravagance and in the indulgence of illicit pleasures. Against these vices, St. Peter cautions the prelates of the Church (1 Pet. 5:2).

“If that evil servant,” that is, that servant whom his master shall have placed over his fellow-servants, forgetful of his duty, having become “evil” and wicked.

“Shall say in his heart,” that is, shall think within himself, “My lord is long a coming,” that is, has deferred his coming.

Mt 24:49. “And shall begin to strike his fellow-servants,” for whom, as servants of the same household and occupation, having the same relation to their common master, he should entertain feelings of humanity.

“And shall eat and drink,” &c., that is, squander in luxurious living, in society, where he should but seldom appear, the goods which should be expended in works of mercy to the poor, vying with the worldly rich in pomp and worldly show. This is very applicable to worldly-minded ministers of religion.

Mt 24:50. At a day and hour, when he may not expect it, shall come the master of that wicked servant, who forgot that he had a master to whom he was, one day, to be accountable, whose goods he dissipated, whose servants he maltreated, acting more as a cruel, oppressive master himself, than as a kind, humane fellow-servant.

Mt 24:51. “Shall separate him.” The Greek word, διχοτομήσει—literally, shall cut in two—may either mean, that He will have him literally slain, and cut in two, the just punishment of faithless slaves; or, have him separated from the rest of his household, and confined to prison, with other wicked servants.

“And appoint his portion with the hypocrites”—(St. Luke 12:46, “with unbelievers”)—may either refer to unfaithful servants; and this is expressed here by “hypocrites,” these faithless slaves, who serve to the eye of their master, and pretend fidelity in his presence, but, loiter and misspend their time in his absence. This is the meaning of the word, if we adhere to the parable throughout. Or, the words, “unbeliever” and “hypocrite,” may express, those whom the wicked servant represents, viz., the unbeliever, who is condemned to hell for unbelief; and the wicked Christian, who is condemned for his hypocrisy and wicked life. It is not unusual for our Redeemer, at the close of a parable, to use expressions which are only applicable to the subject which the parable is introduced to illustrate, just as the punishment of “weeping and gnashing of teeth,” is that of the persons whom the wicked servant only figuratively represents.

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Matthew Chapter 23

Posted by Dim Bulb on November 21, 2018

ANALYSIS OF MATTHEW CHAPTER 23

After silencing the Scribes and Pharisees, and seeing them still incorrigible and obdurate, our Lord, in order to guard His disciples and the people against being seduced by them, publicly denounces them for their vices. Before doing so, however, He distinguishes their public official teaching from their private vices, and tells the people to attend to their teaching in their official capacity, but by no means to imitate them in their wicked conduct, which He describes (Mt 23:1–7). He takes occasion, from the pride of the Pharisees, for which He severely reprehends them, to inculcate humility, both interior and exterior (Mt 23:8–12). He next pronounces woes and maledictions against the Scribes and Pharisees, which He repeats eight times, on account of their detestable lives, and the vices, which they shamelessly indulged in (Mt 23:13–33). After predicting their maltreatment of the Apostles, and the preachers of the Gospel, He foretells the utter ruin of themselves and their city, notwithstanding His special love, repeatedly manifested to, but as often spurned and undervalued by, the unhappy Jerusalem (Mt 23:34–39).

Mt 23:1. “Then,” after He had reduced to silence His adversaries, and had employed all possible remedies in vain, to effect the conversion of the Scribes and Pharisees; after He had adduced the most cogent reasons to prove the truth of His doctrine, and had sealed the Divinity of His Heavenly mission by incontestable miracles; after He had privately reprehended them for their wickedness; seeing them still incorrigible, and become more hardened and obdurate, “then,” in order to guard the multitude and His disciples against being seduced by their wicked example, He publicly upbraids them for their vices.

Mt 23:2. Before doing so, however, He distinguishes between their public teaching, when interpreting the law of Moses, or their public authority, and their private errors, and personal vices; and guards against the charge of being the enemy of the law of Moses, and a subverter of constituted authority. In the former character, He wishes the people to respect and follow them, since they were the legitimate representatives of the authority Divinely constituted by Moses; and, as the New Law, which was to succeed the Old, and the Gospel ministry, which was to be substituted for that of Aaron and his sons, were not yet established, the people were still bound to obey the existing spiritual authority.

“Have sitten upon the chair of Moses.” By this “chair of Moses,” is meant, the authority Divinely instituted, and exercised by Moses, of teaching the people and expounding to them the law of God, and of ruling them in all things appertaining to the Divine worship; just as by the chair of Peter, cathedra Petri, is meant, the authority Divinely granted him to teach and rule the entire Church. To sit in the chair of Peter is to succeed to the fulness of his authority, that is, to “the full power of feeding, ruling, and governing the universal Church.” Hence, to “sit in the chair of Moses,” means, to exercise, by legitimate succession, the teaching and authority of Moses, in expounding the doctrine of God. The words are allusive to the posture which teachers were generally in the habit of assuming in authoritatively delivering instruction to their hearers; the custom, however, among the Jews in delivering instructions, or expounding the SS. Scripture, in their synagogues, was to do so in a standing posture (Luke 4:16; Acts 13:16). So also Esdras read the law in a standing posture (Neh 8:4). The Greek for “sit” (εκαθισαν), means, have sitten, and do still sit (Beelen).

“The Scribes and the Pharisees.” The Scribes were the doctors and interpreters of the law. It was their duty to propound and explain the law of Moses to the people (Mt 2:4). The Pharisees ruled the people, and filled the office of magistrates and rulers. The same person often filled the office of Scribe, and belonged to the sect of Pharisees. And, most likely, all the Scribes, most of whom were Pharisees, were Priests or Levites, whose duty it was to explain the law to the people (Mal. 2:7), “labia sacerdotis,” &c. But, although the Scribes and Pharisees were priests; still, our Redeemer, out of reverence for the Priestly character, refrains from referring to them, as such, to show us the respect due to the Priestly office, even where some of its occupants act in a way not befitting their exalted character. What an example to the modern Pharisees, whose entire occupation it would seem to be, to indulge in unnecessary censures on the action and motives of the Priests of God, even in presence of children, whose minds they thus corrupt. Would that some Priests, themselves the followers of Judas, who, thank God, are very few, were not the first to criticise the best actions, and endeavour to blacken the character, and impair the influence of, God’s zealous ministers, whose edifying lives are a reproach to these false brethren.

Mt 23:3. “All things, therefore, whatsoever they shall say to you, do,” &c. The word, “therefore,” shows the source of the obligation here imposed by our Divine Redeemer. It is in virtue of their public ministerial character, as successors to the authority of Moses.

“All things whatsoever.” Some interpreters give these words a wide extension, so as to embrace not only the commandments and precepts contained in the law of Moses, and expounded by them from it; but also, all the ordinances and precepts, even of an indifferent nature, imposed by the Scribes and Pharisees, not opposed to the law of Moses, as those would be regarding the honour due to parents (Mt 15:4), and those regarding perjury (v. 16); also, their teaching, regarding our Redeemer, which was manifestly opposed to Moses. These, and all such, are clearly excepted from the words, “all things whatsoever,” Thus, when the Apostle commands children to obey their parents, “in all things,” he manifestly, from the very nature of things, excepts obedience when they command evil. The universal form of the words, “all things whatsoever,” with the limitation already assigned, is in favour of this interpretation. (Jansenius, &c.) Others, with Maldonatus, restrict the words to the precepts contained in the law of Moses, and taught from it, or to the doctrine of Moses; and this would seem to be implied in the words, “sit in the chair of Moses,” as if he said, all things, then, that they command, while expounding the law of Moses, or, rather, all things which the law of Moses prescribes, the Pharisees being its expounders, do and observe. In this interpretation, there is not even the appearance of contradiction between the commands of our Redeemer here, and the caution He gives (c. 16), “cavete a fermento Pharisærum,” as in this latter place, He means to guard them against the errors which the Pharisees taught, opposed to the law of Moses. In such circumstances, they did “not sit on the chair of Moses.”

Whether the Jewish Church was gifted with infallibility, or not, is a point not quite agreed upon. At all events, it seems to have never, as such, whatever might have been the perverse teachings of individuals, erred in faith, until the time it rejected and condemned Christ. Then, however, it had ceased; it was of merely temporary duration, and any promises made to it could only regard the time of its existence. But, in reference to the Christian Church, the gift of infallibility has been secured to it until the end of time, until the consummation of ages. (See Luke 22:32).

“But, according to their works do ye not.” Our Redeemer here carefully distinguishes their private doctrines, personal conduct, and, likely, also their private teaching, from their utterances in their public ministerial capacity. It was the more necessary to caution the people against being imitators of their wicked conduct, as men are apt to attend to, and imitate the practice, rather than the doctrine, of their teachers.

“For they say, and do not.” This is the first subject of reproach, on the part of our Lord, against the Scribes and Pharisees. Their conduct is not in accordance with their teaching. The man who delivers precepts, binding on all, and himself violates them, commits a threefold sin—1st. By transgressing the law, which he is bound to observe. 2ndly. By not correcting others, as he should. 3rdly. By rendering his teaching odious, thus injuring his hearers.

Mt 23:4. “For, they bind,” i.e., collect into bundles, “heavy … burdens”—the second subject of reproach. These words are allusive to the practice, resorted to sometimes, of tying and binding up heavy loads, to be carried by beasts of burden. “Insupportable.” The Greek, δυσβάστακτα, means, hard to be carried. This has reference to the multiplied ceremonial precepts, which constituted a heavy burden, “which neither they, nor their fathers, have been able to bear” (Acts 15:10). To this, add the traditions of the ancients, and their own. St. Chrysostom, however, remarks, that, in this, our Redeemer does not refer to the Jewish Ceremonial Law, which Christ had not, as yet, abrogated; but, to the traditions of the Scribes and Pharisees, and the laws they imposed, contrary to Scripture. It may be, He refers, both to the heavy load of the Ceremonial Law, to which they superadded a great multiplicity of human traditions. To this, add their rigid interpretation of the letter of the Divine Law, the stern severity with which they enforced it. All this rendered their precepts “insupportable.” The rigour with which they enforced the observance of the Sabbath may serve as an example of the latter. The words, “lay them on men’s shoulders,” conveys an idea of the haughty, authoritative tone, assumed by these men.

“But with a finger of their own,” &c. A proverbial form of expression, common to both Greek and Latin writers, conveying, that one has no inclination or disposition whatever to take part in any labour one imposes on others. The word, “finger,” is opposed to “shoulder,” and the whole phrase conveys, that these men did not use the least exertion to render, by their own example, the observance of these ordinances light for those upon whom they imposed them.

Whether He refers here to the peculiar traditions of the Scribes and Pharisees, or to the multitude of the precepts of the Old Law, which they rendered still more intolerable by the excessive rigour with which they enforced their strict observance—and this latter seems more likely, as the Pharisees were most observant of their own traditions, while they neglected the law—St. Chrysostom observes, that our Redeemer prefers a twofold charge against the Pharisees: 1st. That of being too exacting, as regards others. 2ndly. Of being too indulgent in regard to themselves.

Mt 23:5. In the foregoing, our Redeemer cautions His followers against imitating the Pharisees, &c., in their violations of God’s law; here, He cautions them against imitating them, in the good they seem to do; since, even in this, their motives are corrupt. They perform all their external good works, such as prayer, fasting, alms-deeds, &c., from a vicious motive, for the purpose of gaining human applause, rather than of promoting the glory of God. In this, they are not to be imitated.

“For, they make their phylacteries broad.” These “phylacteries,” literally, preservatives, to remind them to keep the law; safeguards or charms against evil, were strips or scrolls of parchment, on which were written the Ten Commandments, or some sentences from the law. These the Jews bound round their foreheads, their left wrist, or arm, while at prayer (Josephus Antiq. iv. 8–13), to remind them of their duty. St. Jerome assures us, that, up to his own time, the Jews wore them in India, and among the Persians and Babylonians. This custom took its rise from a too literal, instead of a spiritual, interpretation of the text (Deut. 6:8), “Thou shalt bind them as a sign on thy hand, and they shall be, and shall move as a sign between thy eyes.” What was commanded here, was, that the Jews should be always mindful of God’s Commandments, that they should make them the rule of their conduct, and meditate on them day and night. But the Jews took the words literally, and acted accordingly. It is not the use of them our Redeemer here condemns; but, the ostentatious display of them by the Pharisees, in order to appear more religious than others.

“And enlarge their fringes.” We read Numbers 15:38; Deut. 22:12), that Moses commanded the Jews “to make to themselves fringes,” or, to make strings in the them, at the four corners of their cloaks. These fringes, or tassels, which hung from the four corners of their cloaks, which were square in front and behind, had each a distinguishing thread of deep blue—the colour of the heavens—to remind them, of their obligation to observe God’s Commandments, and also to keep before their minds, that they were segregated from all other nations. St. Jerome informs us, that, in his time, some Jews inserted sharp-pointed thorns, whose puncture, when they either walked or sat down, would remind them of their duty. What our Redeemer here censures is, the ostentatious display of the Pharisees, who enlarged these tassels, in order to appear more religious than others. They affected all this external show of piety in their garments, while they denied its spirit, and despised its ordinances, in the regulation of their own lives.

Mt 23:6. “They love,” that is, inordinately and eagerly ambition. “The first places at feasts.” Among the Jews, the first place was at the top of the table; among the Greeks and Romans, the middle of the triclinium. Our Redeemer does not so much censure them for actually obtaining these places—since those placed in exalted station should get a preference; and God, whose representatives they are, is honoured in them—as for their ambitious and vainglorious anxiety in regard to such distinctions; and it was with a view of receiving those marks of honour and distinction, they affected the exterior sanctity of manners referred to in the preceding words.

“And the first chairs in the synagogues.” The most honourable seats in these places of public meeting, assigned to the seniors and the learned, with their backs to the desk of the reader, and their faces to the people. They would thus be in a position to exhibit the most profound humility and simplicity.

Mt 23:7. “And salutations,” profound marks of reverence and respect due to them, as pre-eminently holy, and observant of the law, in places of public resort. This reverence, so much coveted by the Scribes, &c., was, probably, rendered by the people with uncovered head, and bended knee.

“And to be called by men, Rabbi.” The word, “Rabbi,” signifies, “my master.” It is repeated in the ordinary Greek, “Rabbi, Rabbi” (but not repeated so in the Vatican MS.) This was an epithet applied by Judas to our Lord (Matt. 26:49), and also to John the Baptist, by his disciples (John 3:26). It is not the title itself that our Redeemer censures, but the vainglorious assumption and pride of the Pharisees, who were delighted with the frequent repetition of the term.

Mt 23:8. “Be you,” My followers and disciples, whom I wish to be altogether free from the vices and passions of these Scribes and Pharisees—“you”—whose morals I wish to be, in every respect, the opposite of theirs.

“Be not called Rabbi,” &c., that is, neither vaingloriously affect nor desire such titles of pre-eminence and distinction, nor take foolish complacency in them, should they be bestowed on you, nor on this account prefer yourselves to others. It is quite clear, that our Redeemer does not here condemn the use and bestowal of these titles; since, St. Paul calls himself the doctor of the Gentiles, and the father of the Galatians, in the faith; and we are all obliged to show honour and respect to our fathers and superiors, on earth. In order to see what our Redeemer here censures, we must look to the scope or end of His observations, and this clearly is, to inculcate humility and simplicity of life, on the part of His followers, so opposed to the pride and vain, ostentatious assumption of these titles by the Scribes, &c., thus despising all others.

“For one is your Master.” His disciples should acknowledge that there is but “One,” who is strictly entitled to the appellation of “Master;” that, although others may be “masters,” in an inferior degree, they are still but the ministers and instruments employed by that “one Master,” who alone can, by excellence be termed such. He alone, of Himself, possesses all knowledge; He alone can impart fruit to the teaching of others; He alone can speak to the heart, and interiorly communicate light and knowledge; compared with Him, none others can strictly be termed “masters.” From Him, they borrow all their knowledge. All they have, “is received” from Him, and all the glory of their labour should be referred to Him alone. Hence, those who affect to glory in this, or similar titles, assume what is not theirs, and derogate from what is due to Him. In this sense, our Redeemer tells us not to wish to be called “Rabbi,” as compared with God; as implying superiority in a prohibited sense, over others; “and, all you are brethren,” all, whether in an humble or exalted station, learned or unlearned, all, are one in Christ, all children of the same Heavenly Father, members of the same Christian family. No one should, therefore, assume superiority over others, in the sense that anyone has anything from himself, since all our gifts are received. This, however, does not interfere with due subordination, or with the relations which should exist between the governed and governing parties (1 Cor. 4:15), or with the gradation established by God, in His mystic body, so absolutely necessary for its well-being and existence (1 Cor. 12:14–27).

The words, then, mean: Do not vaingloriously aspire to the title of doctor or teacher, as if you had, of yourselves, any claim to this title; as if you were entitled to derive honour therefrom, as is done by the Pharisees. For, there is only One who can strictly be termed such, viz., Christ; or, as if you could, therefore, despise others, who may not be thus privileged; for, they are become your equals in Christianity. “You are all brethren.”

Mt 23:9. “And call none your father upon earth,” in the sense, of referring all we possess to them, as the principal cause, viz., our existence, our possessions; or, all we hope for, by way of inheritance. In this sense, we have but “one Father, who is in heaven.” To Him alone are we are indebted for everything—our life, our persons, all our faculties and senses, our corporal and spiritual privileges, our claims to eternal happiness. It is the vainglorious affectation of this and the other titles, on the part of the Scribes, for the purpose of pride and ostentation, that our Redeemer here condemns, as opposed to the glory and honour of God, the great source of all good, “of whom is named all paternity, in heaven and earth” (Eph. 3:15). He, by no means, however, censures or prohibits Christians from bearing and bestowing, in a dependent and subordinate sense, these titles, which superiority of office, station, or talent, may confer, and which may contribute to the subordination due by others. “As there is, by nature, but one God, and one Son, yet others are called sons of God, by adoption; so, there is but one Father and Master; yet, others, in a less strict sense, are styled fathers and masters” (St. Jerome).

Mt 23:10. Most likely, our Redeemer here repeats what He inculcated (v. 8), to show His detestation of pride, and to eradicate it the more effectually from the minds of His Apostles, whom He had appointed to be teachers and doctors of the entire earth; or, it may be, that a different idea is conveyed here, tending, however, to the same end. “Rabbi”—derived from Rab, signifying, the multitude—may refer to the multiplied variety of learning one possesses for teaching others. “Master” (καθηγητης), may refer to the same, under a different relation, as “leader, guide, director;” and Christ is to be called so pre-eminently, as being alone, “the way, the truth, and the life.”

Mt 23:11. This shows the scope of the preceding. Our Redeemer supposes that there is to be pre-eminence and superiority enjoyed in His Church, and authority exercised by some over others. This order and subordination is required in every well-regulated body, for its very continuance in existence. But, supposing this, our Redeemer points out the true and proper way of exercising this superiority. (See Mt 20:27, &c.)

Mt 23:12. “Whosoever,” no matter who, “shall exalt himself,” through pride, and shall attribute to himself what he has not, or, shall glory in what he may have, as if it were not received, and shall thus usurp the glory of God’s gifts, and despise others, such a man shall be humbled, debased, and degraded, for all eternity. Man has a natural aversion to whatever debases him, and since he sinned, he only merits humiliation and debasement. But, God, who is goodness itself, and knows man’s weakness, obliges him to humble himself, only with a promise of solid and enduring elevation; and, in prohibiting him to exalt himself, it is with a threat of eternal humiliation. In thus addressing His disciples, our Lord traces an image of the folly of the Pharisees, who exalted themselves above others; since, the measure of their humiliation, at a future day, shall be that of their self-elevation at present. For this reason, He hurls against them the following woes and maledictions, to inspire others with a horror of their criminal conduct, and thus deter them from imitating their vicious example.

Mt 23:13. It is observed by commentators, that as our Redeemer pronounces eight beatitudes on His followers, so here He pronounces eight woes against His enemies. In this, the Legislator of the New Law, imitates Moses, the Legislator of the Old, who proposes to those who keep his law, many benedictions; and threatens its violaters with as many maledictions (Deut. 27:12–26).

“You shut the kingdom of heaven.” Christ came to preach the near approach of “the kingdom of heaven,” shut for 4000 years; and to open it to mankind by His death and Passion. The immediate portal or doorway leading to this kingdom (whether we understand by it, the Church of Christ, or the kingdom of bliss, to which latter it more probably refers), is faith in Christ. For, He is the door; only through faith in Him, can one enter. The Scribes and Pharisees, who, not only themselves, refused to believe in Christ, but did their utmost to prevent others from believing in Him, or becoming His followers, closed it, or kept it closed “against men,” or, in the face of many who were about to enter (εμπροσθεν ανθρωπων). By denouncing the doctrine of Christ, by representing Him as an impostor, and His miracles as performed from the influence of Satan, they prevented men who were about to enter the Church, and embrace the faith of Christ, from doing so.

While as priests and pastors, it was their duty to save from ruin those who were on the brink of the abyss, these acted as poisoners and corrupters of souls. They not only refused themselves to embrace the faith; but, by all means, in their power, nay, even by threats among the rest, to cast out of the synagogue any one who would believe in Christ, they deterred many from entering the Church, which is alone the entrance to the kingdom of bliss. When the shepherd turns wolf, the state of things becomes desperate. It may be, that, in this verse, our Redeemer charges them with keeping concealed from the people, the true import of the prophecies that regarded Christ, from the clear fulfilment of which, both as regards doctrine and miracles, they would see He was the promised Messiah; and by the false interpretation of those prophecies of which they were the legally appointed expositors, and by their calumnious and blasphemous accounts of His Divine miracles, they kept others from embracing the faith. It is in this sense, most likely, He says of the lawyers (Luke 11:52), where the allusion is the same as here, “they have taken away the key of knowledge,” &c.

The metaphor is clearly allusive to those who, having the key of a house, take it away, so that others cannot enter. They concealed from the people the true knowledge of the prophecies regarding Christ, and perverted them, out of jealousy towards Him, and a vain desire to uphold their own authority, to their own ruin and that of others. Similar is the reproach of Osee (c. 4), against the Prophets and Priests of his day, who did not announce, but rather, concealed from the people, the knowledge and ways of the Lord.

Mt 23:14. “Because you devour the houses.” “Houses,” signifies, the substance and means “of widows”—a class of whom you should rather be the protectors and defenders, as is prescribed in the law. The circumstances of their circumventing poor, defenceless widows, who are more liable to be deceived by the external appearance of sanctimony, and have no husbands or protectors to guard them, aggravated their crime, and showed more clearly, the inhuman heartlessness of the Scribes and Pharisees.

“Making long prayers.” The Greek has, και προφασει μακρά προσευχομενοι. “And praying long under pretence,” as if He said, under pretence of offering up long prayers, which was only an hypocritical pretext for gratifying their avarice, by taking advantage of the piety and weakness of these women, who, having the disposal of their property, reduced themselves to want, in order to enrich these heartless traffickers in religion. For, it was not prayer these hypocrites had in view; but, the gratification of avarice. Hence, they prevailed on these artless, unprotected women, who easily became the prey of such canting hypocrites, to give them, or what came to the same, to make over in vows or offerings to the temple in whose wealth they participated, large sums of money, in order to be recommended to the Divine protection, in these long prayers, the real object of which was avarice and ostentation. It may be, too, that there is allusion here, to the avaricious practices of the Pharisees, in regard to praying for the dead. It was customary, from the remotest antiquity, to pray in the synagogue for the souls of the departed. (2 Macc. 12) This is rendered probable, from the fact, of our Redeemer mentioning “widows,” as the parties whom they robbed, under pretence of long prayers, most likely offered up for their deceased husbands. It might be said, however, that they are specially mentioned, in order to aggravate the heartlessness of the Pharisees. Others, understand the words to mean, that their prayers and religious exercises, protracted by them to a great length, served as a pretext for visiting the houses of widows, who easily shared their wealth with their guests. Our Redeemer does not condemn long prayers, since He, Himself, devoted whole nights to prayer; and so did many of the Saints. He only condemns the hypocritical affectation and abuse of them.

“For this, you shall receive the greater judgment,” or, a heavier condemnation. They were guilty of a threefold sin, viz., avarice; perversion of sacred things to bad purposes; oppression of those, whom they should specially protect.

This verse has not been interpreted by St. Jerome, nor by Origen and others. Hence, it is omitted in some Latin versions. But, it is found in all Greek versions, with the order somewhat inverted in some, this being placed before verse 13. Its genuineness is generally admitted. It is found in Mark 12:40; Luke 20:47.

Mt 23:15. “You go around about sea and land,” traverse the entire earth; a proverbial form of expression common among the Greeks and Romans, implying the greatest activity and exertions. Even the Heathen writers allude to the zeal of the Jews for making proselytes (Hor. Sat. i. 4), so much so, that it was interdicted by the “constitutions of the Emperors.” “Proselyte,” immediately derived from the Greek, the same as the Latin term, advena, or, adventitius, denotes a person who, having belonged before to one form of religion, leaves it, and comes to join another. It signifies here, the opposite of one who was born of Jewish parents. The Scribes and Pharisees left nothing undone to make as many converts to Judaism as possible; and, thus, endeavoured to gain a character for extraordinary religious zeal. But, in reality, these “hypocrites” had in view, to advance their own ambitious and avaricious ends, by sharing in the profits accruing from the sacrifices, or victims which these converts would present in the temple. Some understand the word to mean, not so much a convert to Judaism, as a convert to the peculiar sect of the Pharisees. “A child of hell,” deserving hell, “twofold more than yourselves,” worse than the Pharisees themselves, even in the proportion of two to one. How this happens our Redeemer does not say; but, it is supposed to occur in one of two ways: either, that the converts, scandalized at the hypocrisy and wicked lives of the Pharisees, or, disgusted with the yoke of the law, to which were superadded Pharisaical traditions, again returned in disgust to the worship of idols, and thus sinned more grievously than before; since, they sinned with greater light and knowledge, and added the crime of apostasy to their other sins, thus selling their souls doubly to the devil. Or, it may be, that seeing the wicked lives of their instructors, they wished to outstrip them in wickedness. For, as St. Chrysostom remarks (in Matth. Hom. 74), with difficulty do we follow good teachers; and, as regards wicked instructors, not only do we follow their perverse example; but, we also endeavour to surpass them in wickedness, owing to our strong natural tendency to evil. It is not the zeal of the Pharisees our Redeemer here censures; but, the end to which they conducted their proselytes, the bad example and instruction they gave them. How applicable are not these words of our Redeemer to these modern Pharisees, these unprincipled traffickers in human souls, who infest this country, seeking some unhappy victims of misery and wretchedness, not to console them, like the good Samaritan, with the wine and oil of gladness, irrespective of religion, but, to corrupt them first with bribes, and then seduce them to abjure, against conscience, all they hold most sacred, in order to join their sect, not caring what they become, if, after the voice of conscience is stifled, they can be brought to blaspheme God’s Holy Church, the Angels and Saints of heaven; and above all, the Glorious and Immaculate Queen of the Saints, so dear to every Christian heart. Thus, they render their wretched dupes children of hell, worse, if possible, than themselves.

Mt 23:16. “Blind guides.” The following is one of the false traditions introduced by the Pharisees, contrary to God’s law, and in promulgating which, they did not sit on the chair of Moses. “Blind.” The crimes which provoked the preceding woes proceeded from hypocrisy. But, the crimes now denounced, proceeded from blindness of heart, resulting from avarice, from a desire to stimulate the people to offer gifts, of which they themselves were sharers.

“Guides,” teachers and instructors, pointing out to the people the way in which they should walk. “It was not the fear of God, but the love of gold,” says St. Jerome, that influenced them. They impressed the people with greater respect for the sanctity of the oblations in which they had an interest, than for the sanctity of the place in which they were presented, or of the altar consecrated for victims.

“Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing.” The Pharisees, seeing that it was commanded in the Old Law, to swear by the name of God, regarded all oaths by the name of creatures, as not binding. But, in consequence of the immediate connexion existing between God and the gifts offered to Him, they excepted oaths made by these gifts. They held, that one was bound to fulfil such oaths. This blindness, on their part, was caused by avarice, as they were enriched by the gifts presented to the treasury of the temple. It was the same motive that made them regard the fulfilment of a vow, to give a gift to the sanctuary (Corban), more binding than the precept of “honouring one’s parents.” Our Redeemer first refutes their error regarding the superior sanctity of the gifts offered in the temple, or on the altar, beyond that of the altar or temple itself. He shows, the temple to be holier than the gift offered on it; and He next draws a conclusion, diametrically opposite to that deduced by them from these false premises, viz., that, as the gifts, &c., wore more holy than the places where they were presented, the oaths, by these gifts, were more binding than those by the places where they were offered. Our Redeemer first shows, that the altar and temple are holier than the gifts. In truth, as these gifts, viewed in themselves materially, are profane, without any sacredness, it is solely from the circumstances of their being presented in the temple, or, on the altar, that any sacredness or extrinsic sanctity, consisting in their being separated from profane uses, and set apart to be dedicated to Divine purposes, is imparted to them; and therefore, the altar and the temple, “which sanctify them,” by imparting a kind of extrinsic sanctity to them, are greater than these gifts, which are sanctified.

Mt 23:20. Having refuted their error, He now draws an opposite conclusion. “Therefore”—as the altar and the temple are holier and greater than the gifts offered in them—“he that sweareth by the altar, sweareth by it, and by all things that are upon it.” He swears by all the gifts presented on the altar, and, therefore, the oath by the altar, is as binding as that by the gifts on it.

Mt 23:21. Such a man swears openly by God Himself, who, in a special manner, dwells in the temple. Such an oath is directly referred to God Himself, from whom these things cannot be considered to be separated.

Mt 23:22. The same is equally true of an oath by heaven, since God dwells there in a still more special manner. Hence, the oaths by creatures are binding; since in them, whether common or sacred, God is present; and they are His creatures, either by the title of creation or consecration. For, when we swear by mute creatures, as they cannot be invoked as witnesses of the truth, unless we suppose some divinity inherent in them, which no believer ever imagines, we must swear by God, and invoke Him as witness, as He exists, and is acknowledged in them. For, to swear, is to call God to witness. Whosoever, therefore, swears, is convicted of calling on God as witness of the truth. How many among Christians follow the false teaching of the Pharisees? How many among them make light of swearing by God Himself, of calling Him directly to witness, while they regard, with the greatest reverence, an oath on the Gospels, which are sanctified by God’s name; nay, even hold in higher reverence an oath or assertion by false human honour? This preposterous conduct is, unfortunately, to be met with every day among Christians.

Mt 23:23. “You tithe” (αποδεκατουτε, decimatis), may mean, either to pay or receive tithes. He here taxes them with another instance of hypocrisy. The Pharisees wished to appear so exact in the observance of the law, that they paid the tithes of the smallest herbs, which were either not enforced by the law; or, at best, were not binding under grievous sin. “Mint, anise, and cummin,” herbs growing in the land of Judea. The law prescribed, that “all tithes of the land, whether of corn, or of the fruits of trees, are the Lord’s” (Lev. 27:30). In Hebrew, for “corn,” it is, “the seed of the earth.” Hence, rigorously speaking, it might be, that tithes should be exacted from the herbs, which might be classed among the seeds of the earth. But, by a mild interpretation, they were regarded as not obligatory, nor was the payment of tithes from them observed or enforced among the Jews. Hence, the Pharisee in the Gospel says, that he, as contrasted with the publican and the other classes among the Jews, “gave tithes of all he possessed.” Our Redeemer does not censure the Pharisees for paying tithes from these herbs; since, if not prescribed, it was, at least, conformable to the law. What He does censure them for is, that while they attended to small things with the utmost punctuality, in order thus to acquire a character for greater exactitude and more perfect observance of the law, they, with consummate hypocrisy, neglected the most important precepts, viz., “judgment,” which may mean, in a general way, their neglect to render to their neighbour what was his due, or, their neglect, in their capacity of judges of the people, to pass a just sentence, according to the merits of each case. For, this office of judges was exercised by the Pharisees. They favoured their friends and those who gave them bribes. There is hardly any crime which the SS. Scripture so strongly condemns as the passing of unjust judgments. “Seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge for the fatherless, defend the widow” (Isa. 1:17).

“And mercy.” They rigorously exact their dues from the poor, victims from widows, &c., and neglect, at the same time, to succour the indigent, and to show charity to their neighbours. Whereas, God “prefers mercy to sacrifice” (Hos 6:6).

“And faith,” that is, fidelity, truth in their dealings, promises, and compacts. It may also refer to their rejection of the faith of Christ—the root and foundation of all true justice, of which they wished to be accounted most zealous.

“These things you ought to have done,” that is, to have observed, viz., “the weightier things,” the more important precepts of the law, judgment, &c., “and not to leave those,” viz., the paying of tithes, “undone.” From these latter words, it is inferred by some, that the payment of tithes, out of the herbs above-mentioned, was prescribed by law. However, it may be said, that “those” refers, not to tithes out of “mint, anise,” &c., but to the precepts of paying tithes in general, and this our Redeemer prescribes, lest He might pass for an enemy of the law; or, the word, “ought,” in reference to the latter phrase, may simply mean, it was convenient and right, as being conformable to the law, though not necessary.

Some expositors, with St. Jerome, interpret the words, “you tithe” (decimatis), to mean, you exact tithes. The Greek, as well as the Latin word, will mean, either to pay, or, to receive tithes. In this latter interpretation, He taxes the avarice of the Pharisees, and it would refer to such of the Pharisees as were of the Levitical Tribe. The eleven other Tribes paid tithes to the Tribe of Levi; and those of the inferior families of Levi paid tithes of their tithes to the Pontiff and the Priests. (St. Jerome, in Ezek. 45; see Numbers 18).

However, as it is to the Pharisees our Redeemer addresses Himself, and not to the Priests, it is most likely, that the word means, to pay tithes. These hypocrites affected the greatest exactitude, and such zeal for the law, as to pay tithes even out of the most trifling things—hence, the Pharisee in the Gospel says: “I pay tithes out of all I possess”—while they neglected the most important ordinances.

“Blind guides.” It is a great misery, when men, who are themselves “blind.” far from seeking a guide, presume to guide others. “Strain out a gnat,” &c., is a proverbial form of expression, more strongly conveying the preceding idea, that they were very exact about small things, and negligent in regard to great and important matters. The words, “straining out a gnat,” contain an allusion to the custom among the Jews, as well as the Greeks and Romans, of passing through a strainer, wines which in southern countries, and Palestine particularly, bred a certain species of gnats or insects peculiar to wine (Amos 6:6). The opposition is rendered more clear and forcible by comparing the smallest insect with the largest animal. The Pharisees, in their excessive punctuality regarding trifles and their neglect of most important matters, resembled those men who strained their wines for fear of swallowing small insects, but opened wide their throats to swallow down a camel.

Mt 23:25. He here instances another case of hypocrisy. In their anxiety to present a good exterior before men, while neglecting to cleanse and purify their souls, the Pharisees, &c., resembled men, who wash the outside of their cups and dishes, but mind not their contents, or what is placed in them; and, as exterior cleanliness of cups, &c., cannot serve the body, if the contents be impure; so, neither can their bodily ablutions serve their souls. “You make clean the outside of the cup,” out of which you drink—“and of the dish,” from which you take your food. In this is contained the comparison above alluded to. “But within you are full of rapine,” &c. Here, passing from the language of metaphor, he applies the comparison. “Within,” in your souls and consciences, while your exterior is specious and showy before men. “You are full of rapine,” the guilt of extortion practised on the poor, whom you plunder, pollutes your souls. “And uncleanness,” all sorts of crime arising from your repeated violations of God’s law (αδικιας). Some MSS. have (ακρασιας), intemperance, as if He referred to their intemperance in the use of meat and drink. There is a difference of reading in MSS. In some MSS., the comparison, or figure, is observed throughout, thus: “but within they (viz., the cups and dishes), are full of rapine and intemperance,” that is, the contents of the cups are the fruit of rapine and excess of every sort. It may be, that our Lord alludes to their great anxiety to observe the Pharisaical ordinances, regarding the repeated washing of cups, &c., among the Jews, while they cared not for the interior purity, of which these exterior ablutions were but mere symbols.

Mt 23:26. This would seem to be an application of the foregoing comparison. “Blind Pharisee.” Thou, who presumest to guide others, and art blind thyself. “First make clean the inside of the cup.” First, purify thy conscience, which is represented by the interior of the cup and of the dish. “That the outside may become clean,” that, in the sight of God, and, in truth, what appears clean outside, or your whole exterior, may be really edifying and blameless; since, it is from the interior virtues and purity, our exterior appearance derives any value; and without interior purity, exterior decorum or appearance of virtue is only a practical lie.

Mt 23:27. This is another similitude, tending to the same end, having for object, to show the hypocrisy and exterior affectation of sanctity, on the part of the Pharisees, while they were devoid of all sanctity and virtue before God, who sees the heart. The comparison hardly needs any explanation.

“Whitened sepulchres.” The Jews whitened the exterior of their sepulchres annually, in order that they might be known, and clearly seen, and the pollution caused by touching, or walking over them, avoided.

Mt 23:28. “Inwardly you are full of hypocrisy,” owing to their lying affectation of sanctity, which they did not possess; “and iniquity,” total disregard of God’s law.

Mt 23:29. “Build the sepulchres of the prophets,” that is, restored them, and raised them from a state of dilapidation. “And adorn the monuments of the just,” conveys the same idea as the former, in a different form of words. “The just,” are the same as “the prophets;” and “sepulchres,” the same as “monuments.” The Jews, in order to show their veneration for the persecuted just of old, and to testify their abhorrence of the cruelty they underwent for justice’ sake, ornamented and rebuilt their sepulchres. This was, in itself, praiseworthy, and deserving of commendation, nor does our Redeemer pronounce woe upon them on this account. But what He censures in them is, their hypocrisy, in affecting a horror of the crimes of their fathers, who persecuted the prophets, when, at the same time, they proved themselves to be “sons,” faithful imitators, not of the virtuous Abraham, but of these same fathers, who killed the prophets, while harbouring the wicked design of persecuting unto death the Lord of the prophets, to whom the prophets all bore testimony.

Mt 23:30. Our Redeemer shows, that He sees into the secrets of their hearts, their wicked designs against Himself, to cover which they pretended to honour the memory of the prophets, and to abhor the wicked deeds of those who persecuted them. They pretended that far from sharing in these wicked deeds, had they lived in the days of their fathers, they would rather have been faithful imitators of the prophets, acting a part quite different from that acted by their fathers.

They affected this external respect and veneration for the prophets, solely with a view of concealing their malice, in regard to Jesus Christ, whom, by this pretended reverence for the prophets of old, they wished to make the people regard neither as a just man, nor as a prophet.

Mt 23:31. “Wherefore,” by the very fact of their admitting that they would not have joined their “fathers,” had they lived in their day, in the persecution of the prophets, they bore testimony “against themselves,” or, as the Greek has it, εαυτοις, unto, or regarding themselves, that they were the “sons of them that killed the prophets.” The force of the inference contained in “wherefore,” is founded on the relation of “sons,” conveyed by the word, “fathers.” No doubt, the Scribes and Pharisees did not erect or adorn the monuments, for the purpose of expressing their approval of the deeds of their fathers, who killed the prophets, as appears (v. 30)—although St. Chrysostom, very improbably, however, thinks they erected those monuments as trophies, commemorative of the courage of their fathers, who would not permit themselves to be rebuked by the prophets—quite the contrary; they wished to show, externally, their reverence for the “prophets,” and their abhorrence of their murderers. But, as the act of raising monuments was susceptible of being construed into a testimony of respect for either those who slew others, or those who were slain, our Redeemer, who knew the hearts of the Pharisees, construes their act in the very opposite sense of what they intended it to bear, as if it were an approval of their fathers’ misdeeds, since they were, in reality, not merely children, by nature, of these selfsame parents, but true followers of them, by the imitation of then vices.

“You are witnesses against yourselves.” St. Luke has (Lk 11:48), “Truly you bear witness that you consent to the doings of your fathers: for, they killed them (the prophets), and, you build their sepulchres.” It is not so much on their external conduct, in building the monuments of the prophets, and their professions, that our Redeemer’s inference is founded. It is rather upon the knowledge which He had, as God, of their inward feelings in regard to Himself and His Apostles; and God sometimes interprets men’s actions, not according to the meaning they would have attached to thorn, but according to the true sense that accords with their interior dispositions, which the infallible light of His omniscience penetrates. Thus, the Prophet Amos (Am 5:25-26), charges the Jews, during the forty years’ sojourn in the desert, with having offered up sacrifices only to Moloch and the stars; because, no matter what were their external professions during that time, their heart was borne towards the false worship of idols. In like manner, whatever might have been the external professions of the Pharisees, in the erection of monuments to those slain by their fathers, our Redeemer takes their act in a sense quite different from what they wished—a sense, however, quite in accordance with truth and their interior feelings and dispositions. Their act, no matter how accompanied with professions of respect for the prophets, was also susceptible of being construed into an approval of those who slew them. For, men never wished to perpetuate the deeds of their fathers, except such as they deemed worthy of commendation, and this construction of their act being in accordance with their internal feelings, as known to our Redeemer, He draws the conclusion, founded on truth, the very opposite, however, of what they hypocritically meant to be deduced from it. The conclusion is not derived from their external act, and their professions regarding the intention they had in raising the monuments, which were really praiseworthy; but, from the knowledge our Redeemer had of their feelings towards Himself, and the just of the New Law, quite the same as those of their fathers, whose worthy descendants they proved themselves to be.

Mt 23:32. “Fill ye up, then,” &c. “Then,” since your dispositions as regards the just are the same as those of your fathers, perfect their work, of killing the prophets of the Lord, by putting to death, as you are resolved on, the Lord of the prophets; as if He said: Complete what is wanting of impiety, to move God, in His indignation, utterly to ruin you.

The word, “measure,” contains an allusion to things sold by certain measure. It is only after the full measure is given, the full price is paid. So, there is a measure of guilt and iniquity, as well in the case of individuals as of entire nations, after which God pouring out the full vial of His wrath, utterly and inexorably ruins them. Thus, He waited for the murder of His eternal Son, before He utterly ruined Jerusalem. For, although He often chastised the Jews from time to time, for their ingratitude, their continual murmurings, their frequent relapses into idolatry, the murder of His prophets, still, these chastisements were tempered with mercy; and it was only when they had consummated the iniquity of their race, by putting to death His eternal Son, that God utterly abandoned and destroyed His people. In like manner (Gen. 15:16), God says of the Amorrhites, that “their iniquities were not yet the full.” Four hundred years more elapsed before their iniquities were completed, and the whole race utterly destroyed by Moses and Josue. Similar was the treatment of the Amalecites, on account of the crimes of their fathers, and their unceasing hostility to the Jews (1 Sam 15:16). The children and their ancestors are, in civil estimation, regarded as one. Hence, the merits or demerits of the parents redound to the children, when they imitate their example; and then, when the measure of iniquity is filled up, they suffer the full punishment of the mass of iniquity which had been accumulating for ages. Not that the children are punished more severely than their sins deserve; but, the circumstance of their having completed the measure of iniquity, pre-ordained by God for punishment, of their having accumulated crime upon crime, so as to reach a certain height, causes God to regard them and their parents as one moral person, and to inflict on them, in the rigours of His justice, the punishment justly due, which He might have otherwise paternally withheld, “that may come on you the blood shed” (Mt 23:35), as if the children morally participated in the crimes of the parents, whom they imitated.

From this verse, theologians deduce, that, in God’s decrees, a certain measure and number of sins, a certain height of iniquity, is permitted, both to kingdoms, cities, and private individuals, before He fully and completely punishes them. But, after this is reached, then will He fully punish them. His vengeance, if slow, is always sure, and when long-deferred, it is fully compensated by the severity of the stroke. Who, then, should not tremble at the commission of sin, lest, by tilling up the defined measure of guilt, he should set bounds, as it were, to the Divine mercy, and force God, by the consummation of guilt—and this applies as well to entire nations as to individual sinners—to abandon him, and give him over to a reprobate sense. In case of relapse, after former forgiveness, the same may apply. “De propitiato peccato noli esse sine metu.”

The words, “fill up,” do not convey a precept. They are an instance of what might be termed an ironical permission, frequently met with in SS. Scripture. They convey a prediction of what is most certainly to happen the Pharisees, &c., owing to their hardened malice. A like example is found in the case of Judas, “quod facis, fae citius” (John 13:27).

Mt 23:33. Our Redeemer here boldly denounces against these wicked men, with the view of deterring others from following their perverse example, the eternal torments of hell, which they had been earning for themselves, by their misdeeds, of which they had no idea of repenting.

“Serpents, generation of vipers.” The “viper” was the most venomous of serpents. Here, our Redeemer taxes the fiendish cunning—allusive to the old serpent—the deadly malignity and wickedness of the Scribes and Pharisees. This malignity was especially evinced in their calumniating, and persecuting unto death, good and holy men; nay, the Redeemer of the world Himself, as the old serpent calumniated God. (Gen. 3)

“How will you escape the judgment of hell?” Not, but they could do so, by doing penance for their sins; but in this our Redeemer predicts their final impenitence and obduracy in sin, as if He said: You may here escape, for a time, the judgment of men; but, you shall not be able to escape the judgment of hell, since you are determined to continue incorrigible and impenitent, notwithstanding all My miracles, teaching, threats, and promises.

Mt 23:34. “Therefore.” Some regard this as merely denoting transition, having no reference to what preceded; others say, it has reference to the words, “generation of vipers,” and to the following words, “and some of them you will put to death,” &c., as if He said: Because, then, you are the “generation of vipers,” the bad offspring of the worst parents, and are determined on filling up the measure of your fathers; you, as the faithful imitators of the murderers of the ancient prophets, notwithstanding your ostentatious display of justice, will persecute and put to death the Apostles, &c., whom I shall send to you; as your fathers, whom you surpass in wickedness, treated the saints and prophets of their day.

The word, “therefore,” according to this connexion, does not assign the cause of his sending the “prophets” &c.; but, rather, it assigns the cause why the Jews were to persecute them.

“I send you.” I, who am God, to whom alone it belongs to send the prophets, shall “send,” &c., after My Resurrection and glorious Ascension, when sitting at the glorious right hand of My Father. In St. Luke (Lk 11:49), the form of expression is different. “Therefore, also the Wisdom of God, said, I will send to them prophets,” &c. By “the Wisdom of God,” is meant, Christ, the Wisdom, or Word of the Father. It is the same as, “I send.” Most likely, however, that the form recorded by St. Luke, of which St. Matthew gives the sense, was that used by our Redeemer. And He employed that ambiguous form to escape the odium of making Himself God. Following the form adopted by the ancient prophets, “hæc dicit Dominus,” our Redeemer uses the phrase, “dixit (that is, decrevit), Dei sapientia,” without, however, quoting from any of the ancient prophets, since He Himself was the Divine Interpreter of God’s will, and saw into the secrets of futurity.

“Prophets, and wise men, and Scribes.” These different titles are given by our Redeemer to His Apostles and their successors, in accommodation to the titles with which the Jews designated their teachers, whose places were pre-eminently filled by His Apostles, and the preachers of the Gospel. Our Redeemer sometimes applied the Jewish titles to His followers (Mt 13:52); St. Paul (1 Cor. 1:20). He bestowed on His Church the several gifts here referred to. Some of the Apostles were gifted with “prophecy,” properly so called (see Apocalypse of St. John, and several predictions of SS. Peter and Paul). The word might also bear the meaning often attached to it, viz., the gift of extraordinary interpretation of the Divine will, although this is contained in the following: “Wise men,” endowed not with human, but heavenly wisdom, which none of their adversaries could resist or gainsay (Luke 21:15).

“Scribes,” profoundly versed in the law of God, able to bring forth the treasure of the new and the old (Mt 13:52). St. Luke (Lk 11:49), for, “wise men and Scribes,” has simply, “Apostles,” because the Apostles were all at once “prophets,” from their predicting future things; “wise men,” owing to the knowledge God gave them of His only Son; and “Scribes,” or doctors, owing to their intimate acquaintance with the SS. Scriptures, and the Divine law.

“Some of them you will put to death,” &c. Herod Agrippa put to death James the Greater, with the approbation of the Jews (Acts 12:2). They stoned Stephen (Acts 7:58); precipitated James the Lesser from the temple (Eusebius, Lib. 2, Hist. c. 23). They crucified Simeon, son of Cleophas, second Bishop of Jerusalem (Hegesippus apud Euseb. Lib. 3, c. 16). They scourged St. Peter and the Apostles (Acts 5:40); St. Paul (2 Cor. 11:24). They “persecuted from city to city,” Paul and Barnabas. (Acts 13; 14).

Although, by the murder of the Son of God, the Jews would seem to have filled up the measure of their iniquity; still, as His death had redeemed the world, He offered it for them, and gave them the last chance of salvation, by sending His representatives, whose persecution and rejection by them, showed their excessive obstinacy and impenitence.

Mt 23:35. “That,” expresses not the cause, but the consequence. As if He said: Thus it shall come to pass, that “upon you may come,” or you may suffer punishment for, “all the just blood,” or the blood of all the just and innocent men, “shed upon the earth, from the blood of Abel the just,” slain by Cain, whose children and faithful imitators you are, whose wicked example you are determined, too faithfully to imitate, in the murder of Me, and your brethren, the Apostles of the Lord. Cain was not, strictly speaking, by origin, the father of the Jews, although connected with them, as the brother of Seth, of whom were descended Abraham and the Jewish people; however, he might be said to be their mystical father, and they his children, by imitation, as the haughty and impious are said to be the children of the devil.

“Even to the blood of Zacharias,” &c. Who was he? Some say, the father of the Baptist, whom, according to a tradition, the Jews slew in the temple, for defending the virginity of the Blessed Virgin, when she entered the temple, after giving birth to her Divine Son. (Origen, &c.) Some also assert, he was slain for having predicted the coming of Christ. “Et tu puer propheta altissimi,” &c. But, St. Jerome rejects these traditions as apocryphal. Others say, it refers to Zacharias, one of the lesser prophets, who is called the son of Barachias (Zech. 1:1). But, there is no account of his “being slain between the porch and the altar.” The most generally received opinion, is that adopted by St. Jerome, who understands it of Zacharias, the son of Joiada, the High Priest, of whose murder, by the Jews, at the instigation of king Joas, for calling back the people from the worship of idols, there is mention made (2 Chron. 24:2). The only difficulty against this opinion, viz., that he was the son of Joiada, and not of Barachias, as here, is solved by St. Jerome, thus: he says, that, probably, Joiada had two names, Joiada and Barachias, as was usual among the Jews; or, that, probably, our Redeemer calls him by an appellative, and not by his proper name. Barachias means, the “blessed of the Lord,” a title which Joiada eminently deserved for his superior sanctity. In confirmation of this opinion, St. Jerome says, he himself found in the Hebrew Bible used by the Nazarenes, the reading of this passage, “Zacharias, the son of Joiada.” He was stoned by the Jews, in the hall of the Priests, which was between the sample or the vestibule of the Sanctum, and the altar of Holocausts, which altar was located in the hall of the Priests. Our Redeemer, then, selects him as the last of those slain, and Abel as the first; because, their blood alone is said, in SS. Scripture, to cry for vengeance (Gen. 4:10; 2 Chron. 24:22). Moreover, although many prophets were slain since the days of Zacharias, the son of Joiada, he is the last whose murder by the Jews, is recorded in the SS. Scriptures, which, therefore, the Jews could not call in question or gainsay. Others say, there is reference to a certain Zacharias, the son of Baruch (or Barachias), whom, as Josephus informs us, (De Bel. Jud. Lib. 5 c. l), the Jewish zealots slew in the hall of the temple, after he had been acquitted by the seventy Judges, shortly before the final destruction of Jerusalem. According to these, the words of our Redeemer, “you slew,” although the act was future, were uttered in the spirit of prophecy.

This latter opinion is embraced by Calmet, and it derives great probability from the circumstance, that if there be reference to any of the others, a very long interval should have elapsed between the murder of any of them, and the verification of the threat of Christ, regarding the final ruin of their city and race; whereas, in reference to this latter Zacharias, everything is verified—the place, the name, the time, immediately before the menaced ruin of Jerusalem. From the character of sanctity given by Josephus (Lib. 5, c. 1, de Bel. Jud.), of this Zacharias, it is to be supposed he was a Christian, since every trace of goodness had, at that time, abandoned the reprobate synagogue.

Mt 23:36. “All these things.” All these past crimes, or, rather, the punishment so long deferred of those past crimes, particularly of all the innocent blood that was shed, “Shall come upon this generation,” now living, when they shall be dispersed throughout the earth, and their city utterly ruined by Titus and Vespasian. Many of those whom our Redeemer addressed, lived to see the siege of Jerusalem, of which we have here a clear prophecy, as well as of the utter desolation of Judea, which began thirty-three years after this. This did not exceed one “generation.” Our Redeemer adds this to strengthen His menace, and to induce them to strive to escape these threatened evils, by embracing the faith, and returning to penance.

Mt 23:37. “Jerusalem, Jerusalem,” &c. Turning from the Scribes and Pharisees, whom He denounces in the preceding, our Redeemer now turns to the entire people of Jerusalem, represented by the multitude present (Mt 23:1), and in accents the most pathetic, which show the excess of His love, of His sorrow and commiseration, He bewails the inefficacious result of all His toils and labours in their behalf, and predicts, as a consequence, their utter and irreparable ruin. This sublime, impassioned apostrophe was uttered, according to St. Luke (Lk 13:34), not in Jerusalem, but elsewhere. However, it may be that our Redeemer employed it twice, or the Evangelist may have recorded it without reference to the place where it was uttered.

“Jerusalem,” refers to the people of the city, and the repetition of the word indicates the impassioned state of our Redeemer’s feelings. It also suggests the magnitude of the blessings conferred on the Jewish people, preferably to all the other nations of the earth, as if He said: O Jerusalem, beloved of God, singularly favoured, endowed with special privileges of grace, both external and internal, which thou hast so signally abused, by killing and stoning to death the prophets and all those that have been sent to reclaim thee.

“Thou that killest the prophets,” as if He said: Among thy other distinctive marks, may be reckoned, that thou hast been constantly slaying the prophets of the Lord. Hence, our Redeemer says (Luke 13:33), “It cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem.” The Greek words for, “killest” and “stonest” (ἥ αποκτείνουσα … και λιθοβολουσα), denotes permanent action, past, present, and future, which the article prefixed shows to be of a distinctive character.

“How often.” By the ministry of the prophets in former days, by My own preaching, and by that of My disciples in these latter days, and by the interior inspirations of My heavenly grace.

“Would I have gathered together,” into My bosom, and brought back to the faith and true worship of one God, and have placed under My own paternal care and solicitude. “Thy children,” thy citizens, and all inhabitants of Judea, of which thou art the capital, and to which thou shouldst be a model in serving and worshipping the true God, and bringing back those who are dispersed abroad, wandering through all the mazes of error, and crooked paths of sin, and precipitating themselves into hell. “Gather together,” contains an allusion to the metaphor of the hen collecting her chickens under her wings to protect and shelter them.

“As the hen doth gather her chickens,” &c. This affecting and touching similitude, feelingly expresses the loving care and solicitude our Redeemer always felt for the unhappy Jerusalem, and the many efforts He made to save her, as in Mt 22:3, &c., “He weeps over Jerusalem with the affection of a father” (St. Jerome). The will of God, in reference to the salvation of the Jews, is what theologians term the voluntas signi, manifested by the adoption of means amply and abundantly sufficient to effect the object wished for. This He often showed, “quoties volui,” from the very beginning, by sending His prophets, by employing mandates, threats, and promises. The Divine nature of our Redeemer is here tacitly implied and hinted at.

“And thou wouldst not,” shows, that it is through his own fault, in not corresponding with Grace, man perishes; that man’s will is free, and that it is by freely opposing God’s will, he brings ruin on himself.

How applicable is not this impassioned apostrophe of our Divine Redeemer to many a Christian soul—symbolized by the unhappy Jerusalem—upon whom God bestowed singular and abundant graces, and whom He repeatedly invited and pressed to return to Him, “revertimini, revertimini, et quare moriemini?” but over whose infidelity, ingratitude, and resistance to heavenly grace the angels of peace weep bitterly.

Mt 23:38. “Behold,” shows, that what He menaces shall soon come to pass. “Your house.” By this, St. Jerome understands the Temple of Jerusalem, in which the Jews gloried and placed so much confidence (Jer. 7:4); and, although before this, it was always called the house of the Lord, still, now, in consequence of its soon becoming the scene of impiety and murder, soon to be deserted by God, and destroyed for their sins, it is called, “their house.” (St. Jerome, &c.) Others, more probably, understand it, of the city of Jerusalem, and the entire land of Judea, the temple also included. To this David refers when alluding to the sufferings of Christ—which our Redeemer insinuates here to be the cause of their misfortunes—he says, “fiat domus corum deserta.”

“Desolate,” deserted by its inhabitants, and laid waste by the Romans; or, perhaps, it rather refers to their being abandoned by God’s grace, which was to be transferred to the Gentiles. This would seem to be implied in the following verse, where a reason is assigned for this desertion; or rather, where the manner of its accomplishment, is described: “For, I say to you,” &c. (v. 39), and the spiritual abandonment and reprobation by God to be followed by their temporal ruin, which was effected by the Romans. To this Jeremias refers: “Reliqui domum meam, dimisi hereditatem meam.” Judea was to become the synagogue of Satan, and afterwards the prey of the Roman eagle; its people to be dispersed, and scattered throughout the earth, by Titus and Vespasian.

Mt 23:39. “For, I say to you,” &c. This cannot refer to the acclamations of the Jews on His entering Jerusalem. For, these acclamations occurred on the preceding Sunday (Palm Sunday). The words now uttered by our Lord are described as spoken on the following Tuesday, three days before His Passion. Whether St. Matthew records these words out of place, by inserting them here, although spoken elsewhere, because well suited to this passage, matters but little; although, it would be expected of him to observe a consistent narrative in his history.

Patrizzi (Lib. 1 de Evang. Matth. Quæstie iv. § 1), is of opinion, that these words refer to our Redeemer’s entrance into Jerusalem, on Palm Sunday. According to him, St. Matthew did not follow the exact order of time in this, as happens to him, in several other occurrences in the life of our Redeemer. Hence, St. Luke, narrates this prediction of our Redeemer (Lk 13:35), as uttered, long before the words referred to were spoken (Lk 19:38). The words are commonly understood, of His coming to judgment. Then, the great bulk of the Jewish nation, whom He addresses in the word “you,” shall be converted to the faith; and our Redeemer means to convey, that, after the time at which He now addresses them, they shall not again see Him corporally, until the end of the world, when they shall be converted, and shall, in the fulness of faith and spiritual joy, exclaim “Blessed is He,” &c. Others, who also understand the passage of His last coming in judgment, say, the words mean: you shall not again see Me corporally, until the time I shall come in My glory, when you shall be reluctantly forced to pay Me the homage you now wilfully refuse, and obliged to admit, I am the Blessed One of the Lord whom you now reject, “videbunt in quem transfixerunt.” Our Redeemer was wont to refer to His second coming, when dealing with those who attended not to His first coming. Hence, in His Passion, he says, “verumtamen videbunt filium hominis,” &c. (Matt. 26:64).

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Matthew Chapter 22

Posted by Dim Bulb on November 20, 2018

ANALYSIS OF MATTHEW CHAPTER 22

In this chapter, our Redeemer conveys, under the figure of a royal nuptial feast—to which, those who were invited in the first instance, refused to come, nay, even maltreated and abused the king’s messengers sent to repeat them—the rejection of the Jews, their utter and irreparable ruin, and the vocation of the Gentiles, represented by those who, in crowds, obeyed the invitation and filled the banquet hall. He next represents to us, the holy fear with which even those of His Church should work out their salvation, in the sad punishment of the man who, though within the banquet hall, was found not to have the nuptial garment of charity and persevering grace to the end (Mt 22:1–14). We have next an account of our Lord’s consummate prudence in His reply to the captious and insidious question of the Pharisees, touching the lawfulness of giving tribute to Cæsar, thus utterly crushing them and reducing them to silence (Mt 22:15–22). He next, in reply to an objection of the Sadducees against the doctrine of the Resurrection, founded on a case warranted by the Law of Moses, which, in their minds, would prove the utter absurdity of this doctrine, shows their objection to arise from the ignorance of the power of God, and the Sacred Scriptures; and He then proves the doctrine of the Resurrection (Mt 22:23–34). In reply to the question of a Pharisee, “a Doctor of the Law,” who came to tempt Him, He says, that the great commandments of the law, which are an abstract of all the duties it prescribes are, the love of God, and the love of our neighbour (Mt 22:34–40). Our Lord, in turn, becomes interrogator. He questions the assembled Pharisees, in presence of the people, whom He means to instruct regarding the Divinity of their Messiah, and shows, from the Psalms of David, the utter absurdity of regarding Him in any other light than that of being God. While He was David’s Son, He was infinitely David’s superior. The utter confusion which His question caused the Pharisees, saved Him from any further captious questions in public (Mt 22:41–46).

Mt 22:1. “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, &c.), 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.

Mt 22:2. “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 (v. 4, &c.), 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, &c.) 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.

Mt 22:3. 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.

Mt 22:4. “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.

Mt 22:5. 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.

Mt 22:6. 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.

Mt 22:7. “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, &c.; Jer. 25:9, &c.) 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.

Mt 22:8. “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, &c.); and, also, Acts 13:45, &c.

Mtt 22:9. 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. (Psa. 17) “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.

Mt 22:10. 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.

Mt 22:11. 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; Coloss. 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.

Mt 22:12. “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”

Mt 22:13. “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.

Mt 22:14. “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.

Mt 22:15. “Then the Pharisees consulting,” &c. From the other Evangelists it would seem it was those whom He had been addressing previously, viz., the Chief Priests and ancients (Mt 21:23), that did so. However, the Pharisees were included in the others, and especially under the term, “Scribes.” But the Pharisees are in a special manner said to be the instigators or concocters of this scheme, to insnare our Redeemer, both, because they were most hostile to Him, and among them, especially the following captious question was agitated. Instead of being struck with feelings of dread at the punishment menaced by our Redeemer, and conceiving feelings of true sorrow, they become more hardened in their iniquity, and endeavour to insnare Him.

Mt 22:16. “They sent their disciples”—St. Mark, “some of the Pharisees” (Mk 12:13); St. Luke calls them, “spies” (Lk 20:20). They do not question Him themselves, as they were well known to Him, and their object would be at once seen through. They join with these some of their own disciples, whom they supposed to be unknown to our Redeemer. “The Herodians.” Who these were, cannot be known for certain. Some say, they refer to that class among the Jews, who were in favour of paying tribute to Cæsar, and they were called “Herodians,” after Herod, who, being the creature of the Romans, favoured their cause, and promoted it by all possible means. These the Pharisees bring with them to consult our Redeemer on this delicate and agitated question, in order to insure His denunciation to the Roman authorities, in case He expressed on opinion against the payment of taxes (Luke 20:20). Others say, they were the soldiers and domestics of Herod Antipas, who was then at Jerusalem, on the occasion of the celebration of the Pasch. Others say, they were the public officers, appointed by Herod, to collect the Roman tribute in Judea. Others maintain, that they belonged to the sect of the Sadducees, whose doctrines were embraced by Herod. Finally, it is maintained by others, that they formed a peculiar religious sect among the Jews, who maintained, that Herod the Great was the Messias, the sceptre having in his time passed from the tribe of Juda (Gen. 49:10) Herod favoured this class very much. In order to uphold these false notions, he slew the holy Innocents, and built a magnificent temple, rivalling that of Solomon.

“Master,” &c. Full of deceit and dissimulation, they approach our Redeemer with affected feelings of the greatest respect, and they address to Him the language of the grossest flattery, thus hoping to throw Him off his guard, and to elicit from Him the desired answer, unfavourable to the payment of tribute. “Master,” signifies not only a teacher of the law, but a lending personage vested with authority. “True,” i.e., sincere, candid, “speaker.” “The way of God,” that is, the will, the law of God, which conducts us to God, to grace, and glory. “In truth,” without any admixture of error. “Neither carest Thou for any one,” &c., that is, Thou art not afraid of any one, however powerful, so as to be deterred from courageously announcing the truth. In this it is insinuated, that others were deterred, by the fear of Cæsar, from giving utterance to their real sentiments, on the subject of paying tribute to the Romans.

“Not regard the person of men.” For the meaning of having “respect of persons” (see Rom. 2:11), where it is shown, that in His dealing with men, God can never be liable to this charge. In these hollow, hypocritical praises, bestowed by the Pharisees on our Divine Redeemer, they pronounced their own condemnation; for, if He were such as they affected to believe, why reject His teaching.

Mt 22:17. The question proposed by the Pharisees was a most captious one, and calculated to involve our Redeemer in a dilemma, whichever answer He would give. If He answered in the negative, that it was not lawful to give tribute to Cæsar, then, the Herodians were present to give evidence against Him to the Governor (Luke 20:20), and charge Him with preaching sedition and disaffection to the reigning authorities (Luke 23:5). If He replied in the affirmative, then they would render Him odious with the people, who hated the rule of the Romans, and regarded it as unbecoming in the people of God, to be subject, or pay tribute to infidels and unbelievers. They would thus damage His ministry, by bringing it into disrepute; and by charging Him with favouring the hated dominion of the Romans, they would endeavour to show, that He was indifferent in regard to the spiritual interests and exalted privileges of the people of God; that, far from having any claim to be considered their true King, their long-expected Messias, He was only a false Messias, the enemy of the Jewish people. The discussion about the lawfulness of paying tribute to Cæsar, originated about thirty years before this, with a certain Judas of Galilee. History clearly attests the cause that gave rise to the subjection of the Jews to the Romans, and the consequent payment of tribute to them. The disputes for the office of High Priest, between Hyrcanus and Aristobulus, the nephews of Simon, the High Priest, who was brother to Judas Machabeus, caused them to solicit the mediation of Pompey, then at the head of the Roman armies in the East. Pompey having adjudicated in favour of Hyrcanus, the elder of the two brothers, Aristobulus resisted both Hyrcanus and Pompey. The consequence was, that Hyreanus, being of himself unable to maintain his power, handed it over to the Romans, and this cession was ratified by the chief men among the Jews, such a course being, in their minds, the only safeguard against anarchy and bloodshed Pompey imposed a tax, which, although not a fixed annual one, was to be paid occasionally, according to the wants of the Republic, whenever it was exacted by the Romans. It was only in the time of Augustus, after the enrolment under Cyrinus, about the period of our Redeemer’s birth, that this casual taxation was changed into a fixed annual tax, levied by capitation, to be paid in coin, bearing the name and image of the reigning Emperor. The imposition of this tax, in connexion with subjection to the Romans, was by no means relished by the Jewish nation. Hence, in the time of Augustus, about thirty years before this, a certain Judas of Galilee (Acts 5:37; Josephus, Lib. 18, Antiq.), raised the standard of revolt. He asserted, that it was unworthy of the people of God, the true sons of the faithful Abraham, who owed tribute to God alone, to be subject, or pay taxes to infidels and idolatrous Gentiles. Both himself and his followers all perished, at the hands of the Romans. However, the spirit he evoked had, to some extent, survived him, and no question was more fiercely agitated among the Jews, than whether or not, it was lawful to give tribute to Cæsar. The Pharisees and the bulk of the people, held the unlawfulness, as far as they could securely do so. The Herodians and the followers of the Romans, on the other hand, maintained its lawfulness. This sect of Galileans, followers of Judas, had raised several tumults in Judea, and provoked the chastisement of the ruling powers. It is to them, most likely, allusion is made (Luke 13:1). It was in vindication of their false and erroneous principles, that, after this, they rose in rebellion against the Romans, which ended in the utter ruin of their chief city, and the irreparable destruction and dispersion of the Jewish race, under Titus and Vespasian. Our Redeemer and His Apostles, being Galileans, might readily be suspected of favouring the false principles of this Judas. Hence, our Redeemer, by His own example, and the teaching of His Apostles, inculcates so clearly the obedience due to temporal powers (Rom. 13; 1 Peter 2:13).

Mt 22:18. “But Jesus, knowing their wickedness, said,” &c. Our Redeemer shows Himself superior to the artifices whereby it was sought to entrap Him. They thought to insnare Him by their false, hollow professions of respect, and by captious questions. On the other hand, He exposes their hypocrisy, while, in affecting to exhibit respect for Him, and to ascertain the truth, they only wished to lay snares for Him. They were thus quite different from what they pretended to be. “Ye hypocrites.” Hence, showing His omniscience, He exposes their inmost thoughts, and proves that He Himself was, in reality, what they affected to believe Him to be—a truthful, fearless teacher, who is not deterred by any persons from announcing the truth, as He does here in regard to them.

“Why do ye tempt Me?” to give utterance to sentiments opposed to the submission due to the ruling powers in the State; or, rather, why desire to catch Me in My words, while affecting respect for Me, and a desire of knowing the truth?

Mt 22:19. “Show me the coin of tribute,” that is, the coin which Cæsar exacts in tribute from each person. The other Evangelists (Mark 12:15; Luke 20:24), say, He told them to bring Him “a penny;” but, probably, these Evangelists expressed themselves thus, because a penny, or denarius, was the coin showed to our Redeemer; although, most likely, He expressed Himself, as is here described by St. Matthew. “The coin of tribute” was a certain description of money which the Roman Emperors got struck off, as the coin to be paid in tribute. It was a penny, a Roman denarius, and, most likely, it was of a larger or smaller size, according to the amount levied on each individual. This coin must have come from the Roman mint, inasmuch as the Jews would not have impressed the image of any man, according to their law, much less of a Pagan and idolater, on any of their coins. It was silver; for, we are informed by Pliny (Lib. 33, c. 3), that the Romans exacted tribute in silver, not in gold. The value of this denarius, in our currency, is not easily ascertained. Those who hold that in (Mt 17:23) there is question of a tax paid to the Romans, say, that the didrachma, being nearly equivalent to two denarii, the tax demanded of each was a penny or denarius doubled, or two denarii, unless we say, that the size and value of each denarius varied, according to circumstances, and that Tiberius got struck off denarii, to be paid by the Jews, of a size equalling two drachmæ each. So that, according to the increase or decrease of the tribute, denarii were struck off, of lesser or greater size and value. But, as we maintained, that in c. 17, there is question of quite a different tax, the question does not concern us.

Mt 22:20. The image of the reigning princes was usually stamped on the current coins of their respective realms, as we find to be now the universal practice. Our Redeemer, although He already know whose image was impressed, now asks the question, partly with a view of having them solve their own question, by the answer He would elicit from them; and partly, to show that earthly wealth was of no concern to Him.

Mt 22:21. “Cæsar’s.” Tiberius Cæsar, who was then in the eighteenth year of his reign.

“Render, therefore, to Cæsar, the things that are Cæsar’s,” &c. This would seem to be a conclusion suggested by the exhibition of tax money bearing, impressed on it, the image of Cæsar; a conclusion evidently insinuating, although not expressing it, that tribute might lawfully be paid to Cæsar; for, their question was not, whether it was their bounden duty, or whether it was an obligation on them to pay tribute to Cæsar. Hence, in His answer, He altogether abstracts from the fact, whether the Romans were their lawful sovereigns, or had acquired a just, legitimate dominion over them or not. The question was, whether the Jews, the chosen people of God, were justified in paying tribute to infidels and idolaters. It arose out of the heresy propounded by Judas and his followers, regarding the privileges of the Jews, and their exemption from earthly sovereignty, as the chosen people of God. Hence, they ask, is it “lawful to give?” &c. Our Redeemer’s answer embraces the question expressed, and its implied reason, and, without directly answering their question, He so frames His reply, as to utterly baffle them, and confound their malice.

Some say, that our Redeemer’s answer means, that it was lawful to pay this tribute. “Give to Cæsar.” No doubt, this is implied, and easily inferred; but, still, the admiration which His answer elicited (v. 22), evidently shows, the Pharisees, &c., did not regard Him as expressly saying so; for, He would have thus fallen into the snare they laid for Him, and incurred the odious alternative, intended by them, of rendering Himself obnoxious to the people.

The connexion of our Redeemer’s conclusion, “Render, therefore, unto Cæsar,” &c., and the mode in which it is deduced from the foregoing is differently explained. According to some, by the very fact of the Jews using the money, stamped with the Emperor’s image, and this for the purpose of paying tribute, “numisma census,” they acknowledged themselves to be Cæsar’s subjects; and, hence, they should pay him tribute. This reasoning does not seem conclusive to others (although there is some force in the words, “numisma census”) inasmuch as one nation may, for commercial purposes, use the money coined under the sovereign of a different State, as the Jews, most likely, used Roman as well as Greek coin, before their subjection to the Romans. Hence, they explain it thus: As the money they used was Roman coin, there can be nothing unlawful, or opposed to the law of God, in giving back, “rendering” “reddite Cæsari,” &c., to the Romans, Roman coin. The question proposed, regarded not the claim of Cæsar to receive tribute, but the lawfulness of giving it to him, on the part of the Jews.

Our Redeemer, at the same time, in order to meet the charge of neglecting the interests of God’s people, to which the foregoing answer might render Him liable, adds, “and unto God the things that are God’s,” in which He would seem tacitly to hint, that the Pharisees were quite indifferent about the interests of God, the paying Him tithes, &c., rendering honour and reverence, which seemed to cause them so much anxiety, and in defence of which they affected to have some scruples about paying tribute to Cæsar.

Others (among the rest, Jansenius Iprensis), hold, that no inference can be drawn from our Redeemer’s answer, as to whether tribute was to be paid to Cæsar or not.

As the Pharisees insidiously proposed to Him a captious question, with a view of insnaring Him, He, therefore, avoids giving them any definite answer; and He so shapes His reply, that they could not infer what the things were which they should pay unto Cæsar, whether it was tribute, or honour, or obedience; at the same time, He propounds Cæsar’s rights, whatever they were; and thus, without involving Himself with the Jews, or running counter to their prejudices on the subject of paying tribute (for in the words, “the things that are Cæsar’s,” He makes no mention of tribute), He avoids coming in collision with the temporal authorities. Neither can they deduce anything definite from His answer to the second part, “and unto God,” &c.

One conclusion, however, is clearly deducible from our Redeemer’s words, viz., that the discharge of the obligations, due to temporal authority, is by no means inconsistent with those we owe Almighty God, or His Church, which is His direct, immediate, and supernaturally constituted representative on this earth, and vice versa. All Christians, of whatever rank, order, or degree, who are not themselves the occupants of supreme power, owe, without exception, civil allegiance to secular authority, and are bound to discharge the duties which it entails, be the occupants of power, Pagan or Christian, Protestant or Catholic; and this, not only from fear of punishment, but also from motives of conscience. However, this duty of obedience, which is entailed by civil allegiance, has its limits. (See Rom. 13; Titus 3; 1 Peter 2:13; Commentary on.) Circumstances may also arise where, under certain conditions, resistance to civil authority, and, if necessary, the deposition of unjust, tyrannical rulers, even of these legitimately established, is allowable. (See Murray, “Annual Miscellany,” vol. ii.) These conditions, it is generally agreed upon, are—1. If the tyranny be excessive and intolerable. 2. If it be manifest to men of probity and good sense. 3. If the evils actually endured exceed those that would ensue from resisting and deposing a tyrant. 4. If resistance be the only available means to get rid of tyranny and its evils. 5. If there be a moral certainty of success. But, as these conditions are seldom found to concur; hence, practically, it is but very rarely allowable to have recourse to the extreme remedy of resistance to legitimately constituted authority, even when acting tyrannically. (See St. Thomas, Lib. 1, do regimine Principum; also 2da 2dæ Quest. 42, Art. 2, ad 3m; St. Augustine, Lib. 17; de civitate Dei, et de Unit. Eeclesiæ, c. 21; Suarez, De. fid. Lib. 6, c. 4, &c.)

The Church, the Divine spouse of Christ, united to her Divinely-appointed head, who is the vicegerent of Christ on earth, on whom has been bestowed the full power of binding and loosing, and the exceptional privilege of infallibly deciding questions of faith and morals, should be regarded as the direct guardian of the interests of God. From him she derives, directly and immediately, all the powers and privileges which He supernaturally bestowed on her. The duty of obedience we owe her, as the immediate representative of God, belongs to another order, and is different from that which we owe temporal authority. The civil authority of the State, and the spiritual authority of the Church, are independent in their respective spheres; confined to their proper bounds, they can never clash. Both come from God, who assigns to each its proper limits, its distinct rights and prerogatives. In the words, “render unto God the things that are God’s,” temporal rulers and governors are restrained from intermeddling in the spiritual concerns of God and His Church. If they do, they are to be regarded as detestable tyrants; and their ordinances, particularly if they enjoin anything opposed to the law of God, and the inalienable independence of His Church, are to be disobeyed as a matter of duty, and resisted, at the sacrifice of personal liberty, of all the goods of fortune, nay, even of life itself. Of this, the history of the Church in all ages, furnishes us with the most edifying examples, in the persons of those fearless champions, who regarded life itself of little value, when the defence of the liberties of the Church, and the interests of religion, were in question. At this very moment, is not the entire Church edified by the fearless intrepidity exhibited by the aged prisoner of the Vatican, whose unchanging reply to every insidious overture that might compromise the liberties of the Church, and the rights of the Holy See, is “non possumus;” and of those holy confessors, the victims of German despotism, who, from the depths of their prison cells, bear testimony to the truth?

The words, “render unto God the things that are God’s,” forcibly remind each individual of his obligation to observe the Commandments, and execute the holy will of God, so as to render his soul agreeable in His sight, and so to cultivate all its faculties as to promote, in all things, the greater glory of God. As “the coin of the tribute” was stamped with the image of Cæsar, which showed his claim to the payment of tribute; so, have our souls impressed upon them God’s image and likeness, assimilated to Him in their spiritual power, and reflecting Him in the triple faculty of memory, understanding, and will. All the faculties, therefore, of our souls, all their operations, should tend to God, in whom alone, after all the sorrows, and turmoil, and warfare of this life, they are ultimately to find eternal rest, peace, and happiness. Have we so disposed all our thoughts, words, and actions, as to render them subservient to God’s greater glory? Have we rendered unto God, in the several circumstances of life, all that are “His?” All things that we have are from Him, therefore, all that we have or are, should be, in turn, referred back to Him.

Mt 22:22. “They wondered,” at the wisdom He displayed in fully answering their question, while He, at the same time, escaped the snares laid for Him, and the consequences of the dilemma in which they meant to involve Him, thus verifying the words of Scriptures, “there is no wisdom, there is no prudence, there is no counsel against the Lord” (Prov. 21:30); “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,” &c. (1 Cor. 1:19); “Their foot hath been taken in the very snare which they hid” (Psa. 9:16).

Mt 23:23. The Sadducees, far from profiting by the discomfiture which the Pharisees suffered at our Redeemer’s hands, endeavoured to involve Him in a difficulty. The history and doctrines of this sect have been already explained (3:7). They were a sort of free thinkers, sensual materialists in matters of religion. They denied the immortality of the soul, and, consequently, the resurrection of the body (Josephus, Lib. 18, Antiq. c. 2). They denied the existence of angels and of spirits (Acts 23:8). They could conceive no other state save that of sensual, carnal indulgence. As the Pharisees inclined to the tenets of the Platonists and Pythagoreans; so did the Sadducees, to those of the Epicureans. They were thought less of by the people than were the Pharisees, to whom they were opposed. Though hostile to the Pharisees, they still join them in opposing our Divine Redeemer. Their wicked example in this, has been too faithfully copied by heretics in every age, who, while tearing each other in pieces, are sure to unite in opposing the Church of God. Having heard our Redeemer preach the doctrine of the Resurrection, and inculcate penance and sanctity of life, as necessary to enjoy promised happiness in the world to come, they now cite a case, either real or fictitious, which, in their minds, clearly demonstrated the absurdity of the doctrine of the Resurrection.

Mt 22:24. “Moses said” (Deut. 25:5), “if a man die,” &c. This custom existed even before the time of Moses, as is clear from the case of Thamar, the daughter-in-law of Juda. (Genesis 38) The motive of this law was, to console the dying, by satisfying the desire natural to all, of leaving a representative after them; or, in other words, of living in the persons of their sons, and of retaining their inheritance without confusion. This law was not to be confined to brethren only; it extended to very near relations, as appears from the Book of Ruth.

“And raise up issue to his brother.” The first-born son was to be called by the name of the deceased brother, and to be regarded as his heir and representative, “that his name be not abolished out of Israel” (Deut. 25:6).

Mt 2:25–27. This may have really happened, or it may be only imaginary. In any case it would answer the intended purpose just as well.

Mt 22:28 “In the resurrection.” At the resurrection of the dead, when the seven brothers and their wife shall, according to our Redeemer’s teaching, rise again, and during the eternity which is to succeed.

“Whose wife shall she be of the seven?” &c. The Sadducees thought to confound our Redeemer by this question; whatever answer He gave, they supposed, would show the absurdity of the doctrine of the Resurrection. If He said, she should be adjudged to only one; then, the others who married her in succession, would be wronged. Such a decision would be the source of discord and divisions, and envy, on the part of the six others, each of whom would seem to have an equal right to her, in the other life. For, the carnal and sensual Sadducees supposed that, after the Resurrection, men lived with their wives, as in the present life. If He said, she belonged equally to all, then our Redeemer’s doctrine would savour of the most incestuous and unnatural concession.

Or, if He said, she would belong to neither, then, they would suppose it a great hardship that these seven men, who acted in obedience to the law in espousing this woman, should lead single lives, while others were allowed to live with their wives, in the life to come.

Mt 22:29. St. Chrysostom remarks, that our Redeemer, in His reply, does not reproach the Sadducees, as He did the Pharisees (v. 18), because, although they were, to some extent, influenced by malice; still, ignorance, on this subject, was their predominant failing. Hence, He charges them with error, not with hypocrisy, and merely says, “You err,” in denying the Resurrection, and in being ignorant of the manner of its accomplishment; since, they supposed that things would be there just as they exist here. Hence, they denied it altogether. Their error arose from a two-fold source, viz., from their ignorance of “the Scriptures,” from which they quote so flippantly, and which clearly establish the doctrine of the Resurrection; and from not knowing “the power of God,” since, being unable to conceive how the same bodies could be resuscitated after putrefaction, looking merely to natural causes, ignoring God’s Providence and Almighty Power, they looked upon the effects of God’s power as no greater than those produced by the ordinary laws of nature. Hence, they understood the doctrine of the Resurrection, in a metaphorical sense, like those heretics referred to by St. Paul (2 Tim. 2:17).

Mt 22:30. He first treats of the latter source of error, and answers their chief ground of objection, by a reference to the state of things different from the present, brought about by the power of God, which will effect, that, although the same bodies, the same flesh, as to substance, shall be resuscitated; still, these bodies shall be endowed with glorious qualities, as is described by St. Paul. (1 Cor. 15) Although they shall have the same members, the same flesh; still, these members and this flesh shall be freed from the baneful consequences of sin. They shall be freed from animal wants and inclinations. Everything in these bodies shall be subject to the soul, and the soul shall be subject to God, and ingulfed in the excess of His boundless bliss. They shall be partakers of the sovereign beatitude, in a manner so admirable, that our Redeemer compares them to “the Angels of God in heaven.” This is what He wishes to convey to the Sadducees, when He says, “they know not the power of God.”

“Marry nor he given in marriage,” refers to both sexes. The men shall not “marry” women; nor shall the women “be given in marriage” to men. The propriety of the Latin language is not strictly observed in the Vulgate, in the translation from the Greek. For, although γαμουσι applies to men as well as women, still, “nubent,” is generally applied to women; we are told, however, by Nonius Marcellus, that “nubo,” applied indifferently to men and women. The true meaning of the phrase is that now given. St. Luke (Lk 20:36), adds, as a reason, “for they cannot die any more,” in allusion to the reason of the ordinance of Moses (Deut. 25), which had for object, to succour human mortality, and repair the losses occasioned by it. When death shall be swallowed up in victory, then, shall the object of marriage cease.

“But shall be as the Angels of God in heaven,” as regards immortality, perfect beatitude, purity and freedom from all the passions, appetites, wants, and desires of animal life; but, not so in every respect, or, as regards the possession of flesh or bodies, since the just shall have the same bodies, but with quite different qualities and attributes; whereas, the Angels have no bodies at all. The comparison is confined to the point at issue, regarding marriage, and carnal gratification in the life to come. St. Luke adds, “they are children of God, being the children of the resurrection” (20:36), and, as such, free from all passions, sure of a blessed immortality, which shall render marriage altogether unnecessary.

Mt 22:31. “And concerning the Resurrection,” &c. In proof of the Resurrection, or, that the dead shall be raised again, “have you not read that which was spoken by God?” (Exod. 3:6–16.) Having refuted their objection to the Resurrection, founded on the gross error they wore in regarding the state of things after it, caused by their depreciation of, or rather, disbelief in the power of God, our Redeemer now undertakes to prove the doctrine of the Resurrection from the same portion of SS. Scripture, the writings of Moses, on which the perplexing case already quoted, was founded, and shows, that they were ignorant of the Scriptures, from their boasted knowledge of which they derived their objection against this fundamental doctrine.

Mt 22:32. “I am the God,” &c., that is, the protector and bountiful rewarder “of Abraham,” &c., the celebrated ancestors of the Hebrews, whom I now commission you to liberate (Exod. 3:6).

“He is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” The common Greek is, “God is not the God of the dead,” &c. The reasoning of our Divine Redeemer is this: In addressing Moses, and vesting him with authority, to lead the Hebrews out of the Egyptian bondage (Exod. 3:6), God declares Himself to be, at the time He spoke “to Moses, at the bush” (Mark 12:26; Luke 20:37), the God of Abraham, Isaac, &c., although they had died long before then. He does not say, “I was the God,” &c.; but, “I am the God” (for, this is implied in the original Hebrew, where the personal verb is wanting), to denote eternity and undying existence. Now, “God is not the God of the dead,” &c. Therefore, Abraham, &c., are still alive with God—“for, all live to Him” (Luke 20:38)—since, the relations of protection and remuneration existing between them and God, which is the meaning of the words, “I am the God of Abraham,” &c., could not subsist if they were not existing. Hence, they must now exist, and consequently rise again. For, their existence as to their souls would be only a half, or imperfect existence, inconsistent with the protection and remuneration which God, whose works are perfect, extends to them, when, He calls Himself their “God.” Now, if they rise again, the same must apply to all others Their resurrection shows, the existence of a future state. Objection—But, even supposing that the Patriarchs would never rise again, might they not, still, be said to be “living,” as to their souls? Hence, He might be called their God.

The answer is twofold (Jansenius Iprensis)—1st. When it is said, He is “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,” by Abraham, &c., are meant, not mere disembodied souls, existing separately; but, men, composed of soul and body. Hence, they exist, both as to soul and body, before God. For, supposing the decree of God to reanimate their bodies, as the interval between their death and resurrection is so short, that it might be called a mere sleep, which is often said of death in the SS. Scriptures (Matt. 9:25; John 11:11), their bodies, although dead to us, may be said to live before God. Hence, St. Luke (20:38) says, “they all live to Him,” just as Adam, after God’s decree of death was pronounced against him, might be said to be dead, before God, since his dissolution was soon to take place. In this sense, our Redeemer would immediately prove the resurrection of the body, taking the words, “Abraham, Isaac,” &c., to designate their persons, composed of soul and body. Our Redeemer, by the word, “living,” means, full, perfect life of the entire man; full, perfect life, worthy of God, the great author of life and source of happiness, whose works are complete, and whose rewards exceed all merit. Now, God in calling Himself “the God of Abraham,” &c., conveys, He was their bountiful rewarder, and would make them perfectly happy. But, this perfect happiness implies perfect, entire life, of soul and body. For, a man existing only as to his soul, could only be said to be half existing. Hence, to insure perfect happiness and full existence, worthy of God, the body must again be resuscitated and united to the soul.

2ndly. Others reply thus: They say, our Redeemer employs an argument founded on the teaching and tenets of the Sadducees, who denied the immortality of the soul. According to them, the sold became extinct with the body (Josephus, Lib. 18, Antiq. c. 2). Now, as our Redeemer establishes the existence of the souls of Abraham, &c., because, God calls Himself their God; hence follows the resurrection of their bodies, the form of their souls, which would be ever kept in a violent state without their bodies. The Sadducees and the Philosophers, who denied the resurrection of the body, denied the immortality of the soul; while, on the other hand, those who admitted the immortality of the soul, admitted the resurrection of the body. Hence, from the denial of the resurrection of the body, St. Paul (1 Cor. 15) infers, the annihilation of the soul; and the Holy Spirit (2 Machabees 12:44), infers, that prayers for the departed would be of no use unless the dead rose again.

Whatever interpretation may be put upon the passage, matters but little; or, rather, in whatever way we may endeavour to explain the reasoning and deduction of our Divine Redeemer, matters but little, so far as our accepting His conclusion is concerned. He says that the words of God to Moses prove the resurrection of the body. That is enough for us. He might have adduced other texts, in which the resurrection would seem to be more clearly referred to. (Isa. 26:19; Dan. 12:2, &c.) But, most likely, He preferred quoting from Moses, as it was from Moses the Sadducees sought to confound Him. Some, moreover, say, that the Sadducees admitted the Books of Moses only. This is denied by others, nor is there any clear evidence on record, that they rejected the other books; as, in that case, they would have been clearly heretics, and treated as such by the Jews, and excluded from the synagogue, where the Psalms of David were sung and the Books of the Prophets read (Luke 4:16; Acts 13:15); whereas, we find some men of that sect occupying the highest spiritual offices among the Jews. Ananias, the High Priest, was a Sadducee (Acts 22:12). So were other High Priests too.

Mt 22:33. “When the multitude heard this,” that is, His answer to the Sadducees, “they were in admiration of His doctrine,” His solid, ready, and prudent reply to these questions which caused others such perplexity. They admired His use of Scriptural quotations in proof of His teaching, and also His doctrine concerning: the future state of the resuscitated, regarding which they, most likely, were imbued with erroneous notions. For, though maintaining the doctrine of the Resurrection, the Pharisees, probably, misunderstood the manner of existence that followed it, which they supposed to be carnal; whereas, our Redeemer shows it to be a state exempt from all the necessities of animal life, and free from all carnal indulgence, like unto that of the Angels in heaven. St. Luke (Lk 20:39) says, “some of the Scribes” commended our Redeemer’s answer to the Sadducees. St. Mark (Mk 12:32) says, one of them commended His teaching, after He had replied to the following question regarding the love of God. This St. Luke omits, as he had recorded a similar question and its answer (Lk 10:25). The words of St. Luke (Mt 20:40), “after that they durst not ash Him,” &c., may either refer to the Sadducees, or, if it refer to all, it has reference to the period subsequent to His answer to the following question.

Mt 22:34. “Silenced.” The original word, “εφιμωσε,” literally signifies, “to put a muzzle on their lips.”

The Pharisees had heard that He silenced the Sadducees. From this, St. Matthew leaves us to inter, that although the Pharisees were glad of the discomfiture of their opponents, the Sadducees, still, they did not imitate the people in their admiration of our Redeemer; on the contrary, stung with envy at His success, and forgetful of their own shameful defeat on the question of the tribute, they hope to confound Him by their subtle questions, and to lower Him with the multitude. “They came together,” to deliberate about the question they, in their turn, would propose, as the Sadducees had done already.

Mt 22:35. “And,” at their instigation, “one of them (the Pharisees) a doctor of the law.” whose occupation it was to expound the law. St. Mark (Mk 12:28) says, He was “a Scribe.” Hence, a Pharisee might sometimes be a Scribe. “Asked Him, tempting Him,” that is, making an experiment whether He would answer his question on the practical precepts of the law, as well as He had answered the Sadducees on a speculative point; for, “He had heard them,” our Redeemer and the Sadducees, “reasoning together” (Mark 12:28). Most likely, he interrogated our Redeemer, not so much in a captious spirit, as with a view of obtaining information, “seeing that He had answered them (the Sadducees) well.” Hence, our Redeemer says of him (Mark 12:34), “thou art not far off from the kingdom of God.” Others think, he commenced in an evil, captious spirit. Hence, they take “tempting,” in a bad sense; but, that he left better disposed (St. Chrysos. in Matth. Hom. 72).

Mt 22:36. “The great commandment,” that is, the greatest commandment among those propounded by Moses, compared with which others are not great, the commandment whose fulfilment is most agreeable to God. The Hebrew has no superlative; hence, the Greek phrase here partakes of the Hebrew idiom. The interpreter (v. 38) renders it, the greatest. It is observed by Von. Bede (in Matth. 12), that it was a question much debated among the Scribes and Pharisees, which was the greatest commandment among those delivered by Moses, some giving a preference to those which related to the offering of gifts and sacrifices. Hence, they placed them before those that related to honouring our parents (Mt 15:4, 5, &c.). Others gave the preference to the precepts, which had immediately for object, the love of God and of our neighbour. Hence, the Scribe praises our Lord’s answer on the subject (Mark 12:32–34).

Mt 22:37. “Jesus said to him: Thou shalt love the Lord,” &c. In Mark (Mk 12:29), our Redeemer quotes, in substance, from Deut. 6:4, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord thy God is one God.” (In Deut. it is, “the Lord our God is one Lord”), as if to convey, that the faith in God, as Lord of all things, would lead us to love Him above all things; and as “one God,” would show, He alone was to be loved in this supreme way. Hence, to be loved “with our whole (undivided) heart.” This oneness has reference to the Divine nature. The word, for “Lord,” is Jehovah, derived from the verb, to be. It has, therefore, reference to the Divine nature. The plurality of persons is insinuated in the triple repetition—1st, “the Lord;” 2nd, “thy God;” 3rd, “is one God.” Similar are the words of the Psalmist, “Benedicat nos Deus, Deus noster, benedicat nos Deus.” “Deus noster,” is put in the second place, because by His Incarnation, the Second Person is peculiarly our God. The same is observed in the words of Deuteronomy 6:4, “the Lord (1) our God (2) is one Lord” (3).

“Thou shall love,” is the same as an imperative form, love thou. “With thy whole heart,” &c. In Deuteronomy (Deut 6:5) it is, “with thy whole heart, with thy whole soul, and with thy whole strength.” The words, “with thy whole mind,” are omitted. In Mark (Mk 12:30), Luke (Lk 10:27), four members are expressed—“thy whole heart, thy whole soul, thy whole mind, thy whole strength.” Some expositors distinguish these several members, and endeavour to assign to them a distinct meaning. St. Thomas (2da 2dæ Article 4), by the heart, understands the will; and by the three others, the principles of action, which are moved by the will, viz., the intellect, signified by the “mind;” the inferior appetite, expressed by “soul” (ψυχη); and the external power of action, denoted by “strength.” Hence, God is to be so loved by us, that our entire intention should be borne towards Him (ex corde); our intellect subject to Him; our sensual appetite regulated according to Him; our entire external course of action obedient to Him, and rendered conformable to His will and precepts. Others give different significations to the several members of the sentence; but, the general and more commonly received opinion is, that it matters but little whether there be four or only three members in the sentence; that there is no use in seeking for a distinct meaning for each, since they all signify the same as the words, “with thy whole heart.” They are added, and the same idea conveyed in different words, to intensify the sense For, that in the words, “with thy whole heart,” all the others are included, appears clear from this, that in SS. Scripture, at times, the words, “with thy whole heart,” alone are employed to express the great love of God; at times, a second member only is added, “from thy whole soul,” to express the same thing; and sometimes a third member, “with thy whole strength.” Thus, David is said to have followed the Lord “with his whole heart.” (1 Kings 1) Josias (2 Kings 23:3) made a covenant for the people, that they would keep His commandments, “with all their heart, and with all their soul;” and he himself is said (verse 25), to have “returned to the Lord with all his heart, and all his soul, and all his strength.” Hence, these several words are used, or rather, the same idea is expressed in different words, for greater emphasis’ sake. For, the word, “heart,” embraces the affections, expressed by “soul;” and intellect, expressed by “mind” (διανοια); and, moreover, in order that a man could be said to do a thing “with all his heart,” he should use his utmost exertions, as far as his strength would allow. Hence, is added, “with all thy strength.” The whole precept may be, then, summed up briefly, in the words, “thou shalt love the Lord … with thy whole heart.” The question next is, what these words mean. They certainly cannot refer to our actually and constantly loving God with all the energies of our soul, so that we should be constantly engaged in acts of love, that we should love nothing but Him, and love Him as much as He deserves to be loved. In this sense, the precept can only be fulfilled in the life to come. In this sense, we can only hope to arrive at the love of God, as the term of our fruition in heaven. In this sense, it might be suited to the angels; but, it would be impossible for us, poor weak mortals here on earth. It is in this sense, that St. Augustine, speaking in certain portions of his works, both of this precept of loving God, and of the precept, “thou shalt not covet,” says, they are not accomplished in this life, but only to be fulfilled in the life to come. The most probable meaning of them, then, is, that our love of God should be comparatively supreme; that we should be so habitually disposed, that we would bestow our love on no object opposed to God; that we would share His love with no other being, but love every one else for Him; that we should love Him, not merely with our lips, but with our hearts, unlike those who loved Him with their mouth, but their heart was not right with Him. (Psa. 78:36-37.) We should, then, love Him from our heart, and our entire heart, not coldly nor remissly, nor with a divided affection. 2ndly. It should be finally supreme. In other words, God should be the ultimate end of our actions, so that we should observe all His ordinances, and refer all we do to His honour and glory. Hence, we should love what He loves; love whatever tends to His honour, and hate and detest whatever is an obstacle to His glory, whatever derogates from it, whatever offends Him. 3rdly. It should be appreciatively, not intensitively supreme. In other words, we should not appreciate or value anything else in creation, so much as God. We should be prepared to make any sacrifice, be it of life, fortune, friends, &c., sooner than do anything opposed to His love. This may be regarded as a general precept, prescribing not only internal acts of love, to be exercised now and then, but habitual love, and external acts as well; the same as is conveyed in the second precept regarding our neighbour, whom we are to love in “work and truth.” For, on these two, our Lord says, “dependeth the whole Law and the Prophets;” so that a man may be said to fulfil the precept when He retains habitual love in all his actions, wishes for, and does nothing contrary to, the love of God.

Mt 22:38. “The greatest.” In the Greek it is, ἡ μεγάλη … εντολη—“the great … commandment.” But the interpreter conveyed the sense; since, the love of God “with our whole heart” has, for object, the most important and noblest virtue—the end of the entire law. From it spring the virtue of religion, and all the moral virtues. It is also the “first,” the most exalted in dignity and excellence; since, its object is God Himself, the first and supreme Good.

Mt 22:39. “The second,” not in order of legislation—for many other precepts were issued before it by God—but, in point of importance and dignity, “is like to this.” He does not say, equal to it; but, like to it in its object, which is, love; in point of dignity; in its mode of accomplishment; in its comprehensiveness, being a practical compendium of the precepts of the second table of the law, as the love of God, with our whole heart, is of those of the first. Our Redeemer answers more than He was questioned about. He not only tells what is “the great commandment,” but, in order to deliver the entire doctrine, in a brief form, regarding the greatest commandments, one of which depended on the other, one of which cannot be observed without observing the other; and, moreover, in order to show them, that they could not rest satisfied with loving God, and indulge in excessive love of self, while, at the same time, they neglected their neighbour—He thus meant to cure their inordinate self-love—nay, to show the grievousness of the hatred they bore His own Divine person, He adds, what is the next commandment in point of dignity As in the foregoing precept, of loving God, He points out two things as requisite, viz., the love of God, and its mode (ex toto corde, &c.), so, also, in this, which is found in Leviticus (19:18), He prescribes the love of our neighbour; and again, its mode, viz., as we love ourselves. He does not command us to love him as much as we love ourselves, or to the same degree, but, in the same manner. St. Thomas (2da 2dæ Quest. 44, Art. 7) says, this mode is, to love him, sancte, that is, for God’s sake, as we ought to love ourselves for God’s sake; juste, that is, we ought to love him in what is good, not loving him in reference to evil things; vere, for our neighbour’s sake, and not for our own. The mode of loving our neighbour “as ourselves,” may be said to consist in this, that, as we love ourselves, following the dictates and judgment of right reason, in such a way as to wish for all that would really promote our good, and tend to our final happiness, and would wish to remove from ourselves, and avert the evils that would obstruct these ends and objects; so, in like manner, we should also wish to promote our neighbour’s good, and avert from him the evils that would really injure him, and obstruct his present natural enjoyment and future happiness. This is clearly expressed in a positive form by our Redeemer (Matt. 7:12), “all things whatsoever you would that men would do to you,” &c. In this He explains, in what the precept of loving our neighbour consists, “For this is the Law and the Prophets.” Similar are His words here (verse 40), “On these two commandments dependeth the whole Law and the Prophets.” Similar are the words of St. Paul (Rom. 13:8). The same precept of loving our neighbour, or rather, the mode of its fulfilment, is conveyed in a negative form by Tobias (Tob 4:16), “See thou never do to another what thou wouldst hate to have done to thee by another.”

It is supposed here by our Redeemer, that our love of ourselves is within due bounds, not excessive, nor tending to objects which might be unlawful or finally ruinous; for, He first supposes we love God as we ought, in which love of God is contained the love of ourselves. This latter, our Redeemer does not here prescribe, but pre-supposes. For, if we love not God, or love ourselves otherwise than for God, we hate ourselves; as it is, on the other hand, in the love of Him that the greatest and most perfect love of ourselves consists. Hence, our Redeemer calls the love of our neighbour the “second,” and not the third, commandment; since, the love of ourselves, which He supposes, is contained in the love of God. The inordinate, excessive love of ourselves, is guarded against in the first precept, “Thou shall love the Lord thy God,” &c. In this the proper love of ourselves, which is the model of the love of our neighbour, is supposed. As the words, “thou shalt love,” &c., in the precept, relating to God, implies, not merely acts of love at times, and habitual feelings of love at all times, with the exclusion of all feelings opposed to this love; but also, its practical manifestation by good works; so the same applies to the words, “thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,” &c. They convey to us, that we are not merely to elicit acts of love of our neighbour at times, and entertain habitual feelings of love for him at all times, exclusive of hatred or any feelings opposed to the love of him; but also, that we should practically manifest the sincerity of this love in our actions, since it is thus we love ourselves. We should endeavour to promote whatever advances his temporal or spiritual interests, and remove whatever would obstruct them. As the love of God is shown by keeping the Commandments; so, is the love of our neighbour tested and manifested by works—“Let us love, not in word or in tongue; but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18).

In a word, the love of our neighbour, like unto that which we bear ourselves, should be such, that we would do, in his regard, whatever we should reasonably expect to be done to us, and treat him as we would reasonably expect to be treated by him, in the same circumstances.

Mt 22:40. “On these two commandments dependeth the whole Law and the Prophets.” By “the Law and the Prophets,” are meant, the contents of the entire Old Testament. The Jews understood, by “the Law,” the Books of Moses, and by “the Prophets,” all the other books, viz., Kings, Chronicles, Psalms, &c. The meaning of the words is, that in these two precepts, of loving God and our neighbour, are contained, summarily, as conclusions in principles or in their premises, all the precepts given by God to man, which are briefly summed up in the Decalogue. These two precepts are the epitome, and brief compendious summary, of the whole Scriptures, of all the other precepts of God, whether positive or negative. The precepts regarding God are contained in the love of God; hence, to this the first three precepts of the Decalogue, contained in the first table of the Commandments, have reference. The precepts regarding our neighbour, whether positive or negative, are contained in loving our neighbour as ourselves. To it the several precepts of the second table of the Decalogue have reference. Hence, St. Paul says on this subject, that “love (of our neighbour) is the fulfilling of the Law” (Rom. 13:10).

On these two precepts all the others “depend.” They hang from them, as branches from the main trunk of a tree. All the works of mercy, and the precepts of the other virtues, natural and supernatural, are referred to these two precepts, of the love of God and our neighbour. The precepts of faith, hope, charity, and religion, are contained in the precept of the love of God. The precepts of justice, truth, fidelity, mercy, gratitude, &c., are contained in the precept of the love of our neighbour (A. Lapide). Our Redeemer here intimates to us, that we should always keep these precepts before our eyes, and that to them we should refer, and by them regulate and guide all our thoughts, words, and actions. In Deuteronomy (6:5–9), the same is expressly enjoined in reference to the great precept of loving God.

Mt 22:41. “The Pharisees being gathered together” (see verse 34, where the object of their assembling is expressed). From St. Mark (Mk 12:35), it appears it was in the temple, where Jesus was teaching, this occurred. “Jesus asked them,” viz., the Pharisees, who boasted so much of their knowledge of the Holy Scriptures. After they had exhausted all their useless, captious questions, our Redeemer, now seeing them assembled before Him, becomes interrogator in turn; but, His question, far from being captious or useless, had for object, to instruct the entire people in the necessary, saving faith, in His own Divinity, without which it would be impossible to please God, or be justified. As He had in His answer to their question, pointed out the rule of conduct they should follow; so here, He proposes, what they should believe. The Pharisees had repeatedly made it a subject of accusation against Him, that He made Himself the Son of God, notwithstanding the clearest evidence of miracles adduced by Him in proof of this fundamental truth (John 5:18; 10:33; 19:7; 8:58). Our Redeemer now proves, from SS. Scripture, that the Messiah was not merely a man, or a mere earthly conqueror, who would extend the kingdom of Israel to the ends of the earth, and raise it to a state of earthly grandeur, magnificence, and glory, of which its condition, under Solomon, was a mere shadow, as the Jews believed and expected; but, that He would be God also.

Mt 22:42. “What think you of Christ?” &c. In Mark (Mk 12:35), Luke (Lk 20:41), the question is proposed in a different way, as if our Redeemer asked, not in the second person, as here, “What think you of Christ?” but in the third person, “How do the Scribes (Luke, ‘they’) say, that Christ is the son of David?” But, there is no difference in sense. Most likely, St. Matthew gives the precise mode in which the question was put to them in the second person; but the other Evangelists, without precisely giving the identical words, give the sense; for, many of the Pharisees were Scribes, or, at least, they answered according to the teachings and opinions of the Scribes. Or, it may be said, that our Redeemer, having asked the Pharisees, as here, “what think you … whose son is He?” They answered, the Scribes or Doctors of the Law say, He is the son of David; and then our Redeemer asked, as in Mark, “How do the Scribes say, that Christ is the son of David?” The answer is ascribed to the Scribes, the Doctors of the Law and expounders of the SS. Scripture; since, it was not clearly or expressly stated in SS. Scripture that He was the son of David, but only implied and deduced from Scripture by reasoning. In Isaias (8) it is said, He was to sit on the throne of David. In Michah (5) it is said, He was to be born in Bethlehem, &c. Our Redeemer’s object in proposing this question was, to confute the opinion of the Scribes regarding the paternity of Christ. For, although He was really, according to the flesh, the son of David; still, He was not exclusively so, as they imagined. He wishes to enlighten them on His Divine nature and eternal generation; and from the very SS. Scriptures which they themselves admitted, He proves that He must be more than mere man; more than the mere son of David. For, as such, He would not be David’s superior or “Lord.” No son, as such, is the superior of his own father. From the fact of David calling Him his “Lord,” it is inferred, He was something more than the “son of David.” He proposes the same question to His Apostles, distinctly referring to Himself, “quem vos dicitis me esse;” but, here, He refrains from putting the question in this form, as the Pharisees would, undoubtedly, blaspheme, and say He was a seducer, an enemy of God.

Mt 22:43. “He saith to them,” in presence of the entire people, whom He wished to instruct on this important fundamental point of faith.

“How then doth David in spirit?” &c. He shows, that their answer was quite an inadequate reply; and that, if they adhered to it exclusively and conceived nothing of Christ more elevated than that He was mere man, they could not understand of account for the words which were uttered by David, in the Psalms; uttered by him, under the influence of inspiration and the dictation of God’s “Spirit,” which, therefore, were perfectly true. The words, “David in spirit,” are very emphatic, as they imply, that it was the “Spirit” who possessed David, rather than David himself, that spoke.

Mt 22:44. “The Lord said to my Lord,” &c. The words mean, “the Lord (God the Father) said to my Lord,” viz, Christ, His eternal Son. “Sit on my right hand,” after having vanquished all Thine enemies, death, and the devil, by Thy death, by Thy glorious Resurrection and Ascension. Then, His Father placed Him “above all principality, and power … and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come” (Eph. 1:21).

“Until I make Thy enemies.” “Until,” does not imply that after that time, He would cease to sit at His right hand. It only signifies, that the event of putting His enemies under His feet, was most certainly to happen, which is clearly expressed by St. Paul (Heb. 10:13), “From henceforth expecting, till His enemies be made His footstool.” The word, “until,” has the meaning of, “even until,” and implies, a continual, uninterrupted reign, even at the time when there might be a doubt as to His sitting at the right hand of God, viz., before all His enemies were utterly prostrated. For after this period, there could be no doubt of His reigning. So, the words mean, “Sit at My right hand,” even during the period which may elapse, before I utterly subject all Thine enemies. For, afterwards, there can be no doubt of your reigning.

“Thy footstool,” implies, the utmost humiliation and prostration. The idea is borrowed from a cruel custom sometimes resorted to by conquerors, of putting their foot on the neck of the vanquished, as a mark of utter subjugation. It is recorded of some fierce conquerors, that they made their royal captives footstools when about to mount on horseback. Sapor treated the Emperor Aurelian thus; and Tamerlane, the haughty Tartar Emperor, treated Bajazet, the Emperor of the Turks, in the same way.

This will be fulfilled in regard to Christ, in the Day of Judgment. (1 Cor. 15:24, &c.) Our Redeemer quotes these latter words, “until I make Thine enemies,” &c., which did not immediately concern the answer to His question, for the purpose of conveying to His enemies the utter discomfiture, humiliation, and eternal misery they would one day have to endure, as the result of their opposition to Himself.

Mt 22:46. “And no man was able to answer Him,” &c. His objection so utterly disconcerted them, that they were reduced to silence. The silence of the Pharisees shows, how utterly absurd it is to understand Psalm 109, of any other than our Divine Lord. The Pharisees, at the time, understood it of Him. So did the whole Jewish Church; otherwise, they would have replied, that David did not refer to Him at all; and hence, that it was not necessary to understand the words, “my Lord,” of Him. Moreover, it is of Him alone, certain passages of the same Psalm could be understood v.g., “Thou art a Priest for ever according to the order of Melchisedech.” Hence, the absurdity of understanding the Psalm of either David, or Melchisedech, or Eleazar, &c., as some modern Jews do. The force of our Redeemer’s argument is not precisely, that He is called, “my Lord,” since, these words might be applied to one who is not God. Thus, David calls Saul “his lord” (1 Kings 26); but, in this, that David calls his own son “his Lord,” which implies, that He must be David’s superior and master, which would be verified only in the supposition, that He was more than man. Thus, for instance, Philip of Macedon, would not call Alexander the Great, who was far more powerful than his father, “his lord,” because, Philip was not subject to Alexander. Now, David, on whose throne Christ was to sit, and this, at a distant day, calls Him “his Lord,” which, of course, refers to His being his Saviour, as God-man.

“Neither durst any man,” &c., of the class who were silenced by Him. “Ask Him any more questions,” of a captious nature, as they were in the habit of doing. “From that day forth,” during His public ministry. From this, it is clear, He taught publicly afterwards. For if He did not publicly teach later on, what wonder, if no one put to Him questions under the circumstances referred to? His disciples, after this, asked Him some questions, and He was questioned privately, in the house of Caiphas, on some points, by His enemies.

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Matthew 24:15-35

Posted by Dim Bulb on November 18, 2018

Mat 24:15 When therefore you shall see the abomination of desolation, which was spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place: he that readeth let him understand.

When, therefore you shall see,” &c. “Therefore,” would seem not so much to express a conclusion, as a continuation of the discourse, and to indicate that our Redeemer was passing on to another topic, or to another sign of the “end,” concerning which they questioned Him. Having described or pointed out the signs, common to the destruction of Jerusalem, and of the world, indifferently, in the foregoing, He now proceeds to give the distinctive signs of the destruction of Jerusalem, in reply to the first question, “When shall these things be?” as far as verse 29; and then, He commences to give the distinctive marks of the approaching destruction of the world, to the close of the chapter. In giving the signs of both indifferently in the foregoing, our Redeemer wishes to impress upon us the dreadful nature of the evils and woes that shall befall the wicked at the end of the world; since, of these, the shocking evils inflicted on Jerusalem, the bare recital of which, even at this remote period, makes us shudder, were but a mere figure—evils, the very sight of which, forced Titus, this hardened man of blood, at the head of the iron legions of Rome, stretching forth his hands, to invoke Heaven as witness, that he was in no way responsible for these unutterable woes. (Josephus de Bel. Jud. Lib. v. c. 10, &c.)

The abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the Prophet.” In these words, there is allusion to Daniel (9:27), “there shall be in the temple abomination of desolation: and the desolation shall continue even to the consummation, and to the end,” because, the temple, no matter what efforts may be made, never can be rebuilt. In 12:11, “the abomination unto desolation shall be set up,” &c., Daniel speaks of the end of the world, whereas in 9:27, he speaks of the destruction of Jerusalem, to which our Redeemer distinctly refers here. Commentators are greatly divided as to what “the abomination of desolation,” means. Those who say, there is allusion here to the end of the world, (Irenæus, &c.), mean by it, Antichrist, who “shall sit in the temple of God … as if he were God” (2 Thess. 2:4). But, it is clear from St. Luke (21:20), where, for “abomination of desolation,” we read, “when you shall see Jerusalem compassed about with an army, then know that the desolation thereof is at hand,” that our Redeemer distinctly refers to the destruction of Jerusalem, of which He here gives a premonitory sign in reply to the question of the disciples; and, moreover, in the passage quoted from Daniel, there is no allusion to the reign of Antichrist, but only to the desolation of Jerusalem; hence, various interpretations of the words, in connexion with this event, are given. By it, some understand, the statue of Cæsar, placed by Pilate, in the temple; or, the equestrian statue of Adrian, which, St. Jerome tells us, was placed in the sanctum sanctorum. But, although a statue or idol was an abomination with the Jews (see 1 Mach. 1:57, where the Greek for, “abominable idol of desolation,” is the same as here, βδέλυγμα τῆς έρημώσεως), and the words, “standing in the holy place,” would suit this interpretation; still, neither statue could be referred to, as a sign of the devastation of Jerusalem. For, the placing of Cæsar’s statue happened before our Redeemer spoke these words (if it was placed there at all by Pilate, which is questioned by some, as Josephus says nothing about it), and that of Adrian was placed there after the destruction of Jerusalem, and could not, therefore, serve as a warning, to leave a city that was to be destroyed. Hence, some commentators understand by it, the army of the Romans, who, in approaching and entering Jerusalem, in a hostile spirit, would not hesitate to display their idols on their banners, and offer sacrifice to their gods. These things were an abomination to the Jews, and this abomination portended desolation and utter ruin. And they would “stand on the holy place,” that is, Jerusalem, which the Evangelist calls, the holy city (4:5). It was such as yet, not having been yet wholly abandoned by God. This refers to the time of Cœstius Gallus, prefect of Syria, who surrounded Jerusalem with an army; but afterwards, raised the siege, and retired inglorious from before the walls of Jerusalem. It could not refer to the final destruction, under Titus, as then, there was no opportunity for escaping. Others, by “abomination of desolation,” understand, the occupation of the temple by seditious Jews and turbulent malefactors (the Zealots), who got possession of the temple at the time of Cœstius, and held it for three years and a half, in spite of the Jews themselves, until its final destruction by Titus. These made the sacred enclosures of the holy house, a place of carnage and a citadel of defence. They were guilty of the greatest atrocities within its walls, and filled the different halls with pools of innocent blood, sparing neither priests nor people. (Josephus de Bel. Jud., Lib. iv. c. 3, 5, 6, &c.) This seems to be the most probable interpretation, because these really stood in the temple, as Daniel predicted. They profaned it, and committed atrocities there, and this was both the sign and immediate cause of its destruction. For, had they given it up, the Romans would have spared it. Perhaps, however, it might be better to understand the words, of the Roman invading army, and of the Jewish Zealots, who defended the temple. For, the besiegers and defenders of Jerusalem were an abomination. The Romans, on account of their idols; the Zealots, on account of their crimes, and the carnage they were guilty of. Both stood in the holy place, where they “ought not” (Mark 13:14). (The Hebrew for holy place means, “super alam”—“above the wing,” or extremity of Jerusalem and the temple, “there shall be desolating abominations.”) Both stood at the extremity of Jerusalem and the temple; nay, in the very temple. The Zealots, who made it a citadel, and its halls, places of carnage; the Romans, by undermining, burning, consuming it, and slaughtering the Jews there like cattle, and introducing their standards, adorned with, images, of their false gods. The union of both the former interpretations in this one, will fully explain the entire passage; particularly, if we understand it, of the attack of Cœstius, which preceded that of Titus, and of the defence made against him by the Zealots. The Hebrew of the Prophet Daniel, which has “abominations” in the plural, would seem to refer to the abomination on the part of the Romans, and that on the part of the Jews themselves. It was in consequence “of an old tradition among the Jews, that the city would be destroyed, whenever the hands of the Jews themselves would profane their temple” (Josephus, Lib. v. c. 2), that many of the better classes among the Jews fled from Jerusalem, as from a sinking vessel, after the withdrawal of Cœstius; and relying on the same tradition, but particularly on the prophetic warning of our Lord, the Christians, and among them, St. Simeon, Bishop of Jerusalem, who lived till the time of Trajan, fled to the territories of king Agrippa, and to the city of Pella in particular, beyond the Jordan.

Maldonatus understands by, “the abomination of desolation,” or, “the abominable or horrid desolation,” the desolation itself; and he says it was not given as a sign, by any means, of the desolation, since it could not be a sign of itself. Our Redeemer gave, as a sign, the surrounding of Jerusalem by an army. For, Maldonatus holds, that our Redeemer used both phrases, “when you shall see Jerusalem compassed about by an army” (Luke 21:20)—which was a sign of impending destruction—and, “when you shall see the abomination of desolation,” &c. When you witness these two events, then you are to conclude, that the prophecy of Daniel, regarding the utter ruin of Jerusalem, is fulfilled. According to him, the words of this verse, “when you see the abomination,” &c., are not connected with the words of next verse, “then, they that are in Judea,” &c., nor is their sense any way suspensive or dependent on them. The sentence concludes fully with the words of this verse, “he that readeth, let him understand.” The interpretation, however, which makes them dependent on the following verse, is the one more commonly adopted. Hence, the words mean: “When you shall see Jerusalem surrounded with an army,” viz., of Cœstius, and immediately after, or in connexion with it, an abominable band of brigands establish themselves in the temple, or, “the holy place,” “where they should not” (Mark 13:14). Then, “he that reads, let him understand,” that is, whoever has sense, let him understand that the words of Daniel (9:27), “and there shall be in the temple the abomination of desolation,” &c., are fulfilled. Some interpreters (Patrizzi, Lib. 1, cap. 1, de Ev. M., §§ 2, &c.), understand these to be the words, not of our Lord, but of the Evangelist, encouraging the faithful to understand the verification of the words of Daniel. In this interpretation, the words are parenthetical, containing an allusion to the words of Daniel (9:25), and the sense of the foregoing suspended until the sentence is completed in the next verse, thus: “When you shall see,” &c., verse 15 (he that heareth let him understand), “then, they that are in Judea,” &c., verse 16.

Mat 24:16 Then they that are in Judea, let them flee to the mountains:

Then,” when you shall see all this happening, it shall be a signal for you to escape, with all haste, for your lives. “Those who are in Judea,” where Jerusalem is situated. It includes all the land of Israel and Galilee, which were first destroyed by Vespasian. “Fly to the mountains,” places difficult of access, and a safe retreat from an enemy. St. Luke (21:21) adds, “and those who are in the midst thereof depart out; and let those who are in other countries not enter into it.” Maldonatus refers, “then,” to all the preceding signs, viz., when you shall hear of wars, &c., and see the other signs of the devastation of Jerusalem, “then,” fly with as much speed as possible.

Mat 24:17  And he that is on the housetop, let him not come down to take any thing out of his house: 

House-top,” is allusive to the flat roofs of the houses in Judea, where the people used to walk, &c. The houses were provided with two staircases—one inside; the other, outside on the street. By the latter, or, as some suppose, over the flat roofs of the other houses, to the city walls, they are recommended to fly. “Let him not come down,” &c. Descending in the most expeditious way possible, let him make no delay, by entering the house, to take anything out of it for his approaching flight. Let him busy himself only about the most expeditious way of accomplishing his escape.

Mat 24:18  And he that is in the field, let him not go back to take his coat. 

He that is in the field,” whether walking or labouring, “let him not go back to take his coat,” however necessary for his journey; but, let him fly as quickly as possible, in whatever costume he may chance to be at the time. In southern countries, husbandmen, when at work, used to leave their upper garments, the cloak and coat, at home.

The words of this, and of the preceding verses, 16 and 17, are proverbial or hyperbolical forms of expression, conveying the imminent nature of the danger, and the necessity of immediate and speedy flight, as well as the magnitude of the evils that were approaching, since men should sacrifice everything sooner than encounter or endure them. Although six months elapsed between the raising of the siege, by Cœstius, and the march of Vespasian into Galilee, and a still longer period between it and the siege of Jerusalem, by Titus; still, this would be very short, when we consider the lingering delays that oftentimes embarrass those who are leaving their beloved country for ever. Hence, our Redeemer urges them to the greatest expedition and haste in their flight, on their beholding the signs He gives them of the ruin and unutterable woes that were to befall the unhappy Jerusalem.

St. Luke (21:22) adds, as the cause of all this urgent admonition—“For, these are the days of vengeance, that all things may be fulfilled, that are written,” in the book of Daniel, and the other prophets, concerning the ruin of Jerusalem, and the vengeance to be inflicted on the Jews, for all the just blood they shed, from that of Abel downwards.

Mat 24:19  And woe to them that are with child and that give suck in those days.

Those who are with child, or that give suck,” cannot fly with sufficient speed; nor can they leave their charge behind, as easily as those can, who leave their money, &c., on account of the strong natural affection of a mother for her offspring. They shall be, therefore, caught and butchered by the Romans. Our Redeemer selects them, in preference to the aged and decrepit; both, because, of the happiness and ease they are wont to enjoy, and which shall now be converted into the greatest tribulation; and also to show the fearful havoc and indiscriminate slaughter that shall take place, since the pregnant and nursing women, who are ordinarily spared in war, shall meet with no mercy from the Romans. Perhaps, also, he alludes to the straits to which some unhappy mothers were to be reduced in the siege of Jerusalem, when, as we learn from Josephus, they devoured their own children, to appease hunger.

Mat 24:20  But pray that your flight be not in the winter or on the sabbath. 

As in the preceding, He refers to two classes of persons; so here he refers to two periods of time, unsuited for flight. “In winter,” the state of the weather, and of the roads, render flight very troublesome and inconvenient. “Or on the Sabbath,” when the converted Jews, although the Mosaic ceremonies were then abolished, would still observe the law, regarding a Sabbath-day’s journey, and would, under no circumstances, transgress it, although, in cases of necessity, or danger of life, this did not oblige; still, some Jews did not admit even this exception. At this time, the converted Jews were permitted, though not bound, to observe the Mosaic ceremonies, and our Redeemer here speaks in accommodation to their well-known feelings on the matter. The words of this verse mean: Pray to God, that you may escape these dreadful evils, and that nothing may obstruct your flight; and they also convey to us, by a familiar illustration, an idea of the menaced calamities, which would be such, that they should fervently pray for any circumstances that might mitigate their severity. St. Luke tells us the reason (21:23), “For, there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon the people.” History fully testifies to the fearful fulfilment of this sad prediction (Josephus, de Bel. Jnd., Lib. 3–7).

Mat 24:21  For there shall be then great tribulation, such as hath not been from the beginning of the world until now, neither shall be. 

For there shall be great tribulation,” &c. St. Augustine says (Epistle 8), that while it would be difficult to determine, from St. Matthew or St. Mark, whether there was reference here to the Day of Judgment or to the siege of Jerusalem, St. Luke determines it as referring to the latter, just as he clearly points out what “the abomination of desolation” refers to. He explains in what these dreadful evils shall consist: “they shall fall by the edge of the sword … Jerusalem shall be trodden down,” &c. (21:24.) The word, “for,” shows it refers to the foregoing. It is assigned as a reason for their rapid flight.

Great tribulation, such was not from the beginning of the world, nor shall be.” Any one who reads the account, given by Josephus, of the dreadful and almost incredible calamities which befell the unhappy Jews, in the siege of Jerusalem, may clearly see how this was fulfilled. And although, it may be, that during the persecuting reign of Antichrist, the sufferings may be more general; yet, hardly shall any fall so heavily, in point of horror and intensity, on any particular race or people, as those are said to be which were inflicted on the Jews. Moreover, the tribulation of the faithful, under Antichrist, shall not be such a tribulation of vengeance as that of the Jews. For, as their crime of Deicide, coupled with their obstinate resistance to grace, and their monstrous ingratitude, far exceeded the guilt of any other nation; so, was the vengeance more severe. Hence, even the punishment inflicted on Sodom, in this life, which was but a type of that inflicted on it, in the other, was not so severe as the protracted misfortunes inflicted on the Jews, in the siege of Jerusalem, which were only a feeble type of the eternal misfortunes in store for these miserable and ungrateful Deicides, who invoked the blood of the Son of God “on themselves, and on their children.”

Mat 24:22  And unless those days had been shortened, no flesh should be saved: but for the sake of the elect those days shall be shortened. 

Unless these days,” employed in the siege of Jerusalem, “had been shortened,” and rendered fewer, than the anger of the Romans called for, and the iniquities of the Jews merited, for which no punishment, however protracted or intense, was too severe, “no flesh,” no person from out the Jewish nation, “should be saved,” from utter ruin and destruction. Had the Romans met with greater resistance and delay, and had they endured more hardships and sufferings, for any protracted time, as the natural strength and powerful fortifications of Jerusalem would give grounds to apprehend, the likelihood is, that, not only would every living soul within the precincts of Jerusalem be put to the sword; but, by a general edict, which would be carried out cheerfully by all other peoples throughout the earth, by whom the Jews were held in hatred, the Romans, then all-powerful, would decree the utter extirpation of the Jews, and abolish for ever the name of Jew, throughout the entire earth, almost all then subject to the dominion of Rome. Hence, there would be no Jews from whom “the elect” would be descended. The words, “no flesh,” refer to the Jews exclusively. From this we see, how God ordains everything for the good of His elect.

But for the sake of the elect,” those whom God had, by His eternal decree, elected to grace and glory among the Jews, whether these living and converted, or those to be afterwards converted, or to be born in course of time of the Jews then existing. “But for the sake of the elect,” lest the merciful decrees and designs of God on them should be frustrated, “those days shall be shortened.” St. Mark says (13:20), “But, for the sake of the elect, which He (the Lord) hath chosen, He hath shortened these days.” In truth, such was the strength of Jerusalem, that, were it not, that the Zealots were blinded by Divine justice, to destroy the stores of provisions, which would have served for years (Josephus, Lib. 6, c. 1), and were also seized with unusual fear to abandon their strong fortifications, and weaken, by their cruel carnage and bloodshed, the strength of the city, Jerusalem might have held out for years against the Romans. Hence, Josephus (Lib. 3, c. 11), and elsewhere, attributes the success of the Romans to the interposition of God. And the same historian informs us (Lib. 7, c. 16), that Titus, on entering the stronghold of Sion, and beholding the strength of the place, declared, it was God that assisted the Romans, who could not otherwise succeed; and going round, and, seeing the ramparts filled with corpses, raising his hands, he called God to witness, that this was none of his doing. Hence, he refused a golden crown, presented to him by the neighbouring nations, stating, that not he, but God, who was angry with the Jews, was the cause of these wonderful successes (Baronius, a.d. 72, ex Philostrate).

St. Chrysostom (in Matth. 77), extols the Providence of God, who makes the three other Evangelists, who did not live till the siege of Jerusalem, the narrators of these events. St. John, who survived it, says nothing of it, in order to strengthen our faith in the predictions of our Redeemer. And, doubtless, it was with the same providential design, God employed Josephus, himself a Jew, and no Christian, to chronicle the fulfilment of these predictions, so minute in details. The words of this verse, although directly and immediately meant for the time preceding the destruction of Jerusalem, apply also to the persecution of Antichrist, who shall be allowed to “tread under foot the holy city” (Apoc. 11:2), that is, the Church of Christ, “two and forty months,” that is, three years and a half; “and, to make war with the saints, and to overcome them” (Apoc. 13:7). His persecuting reign, which would destroy the whole human race, and would seduce almost all, shall be shortened to the above period of three and one-half years, “for the sake of the elect.”

Mat 24:23  Then if any man shall say to you, Lo here is Christ, or there: do not believe him. 

Some commentators say, that our Redeemer here pauses to treat distinctly of the events, that are to occur after the ruin of Jerusalem, and between that period and the end of the world; and that He refers, in a particular way, to what shall take place before the end of the world, of which the ruin of Jerusalem was a type and figure. (Maldonatus, Jansenius, &c.) Others hold, that He continues to treat of the events, that are to precede the destruction of Jerusalem, and of those which are to precede the Day of Judgment, indifferently—the former being a type of the latter—as far as verse 29, where He directly and specially treats of the events connected with the Day of Judgment.

It would seem, that the words of our Redeemer, as far as verse 29, apply to the time preceding the siege of Jerusalem, and may be easily explained regarding it. They can be also explained of the events that are to take place, before the final end of all things, prefigured by what preceded the ruin of Jerusalem. Hence, it could be maintained, that, in the following six verses, our Redeemer treats of both events.

Then,” that is, during the wars of the Romans, preceding the siege of Jerusalem. It may also refer to the period intervening between the taking of Jerusalem and the end of the world; and particularly to the time approaching the last end of all things; and, although thousands of years may elapse between both events, still, it may be said to have happened “then;” taking into account the measure of time with God, with whom “a thousand years are as one day” (2 Peter 3:8); “a thousand years in Thy sight are as yesterday,” &c. (Psa. 89) And our Redeemer, when addressing the Apostles, and, through them, the faithful of all succeeding ages (for, St. John, alone, among them, lived till even the time of the destruction of Jerusalem), speaks in such a way, as to leave them uncertain as to the near approach of the Day of Judgment, thus to keep them always in readiness for its approach. Hence, although “then,” were referred to the period of the general judgment, it could be explained as above; in the same way as the advocates of the other opinion are forced to explain the words, “immediately after the tribulation of those days” (v. 29). But, in this verse, I would take “then” to refer immediately and directly to the times preceding the capture of Jerusalem, without excluding the other in a secondary and subordinate sense. “If any man shall say to you,” My faithful followers, who shall be alive then; for, the Apostles shall be dead, Lo! here is Christ,” who is come to save and liberate His people from all their evils; “or there, do not believe Him.” The Jews were aware that the time of the Messiah was at hand, from the fulfilment of the prophecy of Jacob, regarding the passing of the sceptre from the tribe of Juda. Hence, some flattering Vespasian said, that he, as the conqueror of Judea, was the Messiah. (Suetonius in Vespas.) Others, flattered Herod in the same way. Each of the three leaders of the Jewish factions then at Jerusalem, Eleazar, son of Simon; John, son of Levi; and Simon, son of Goria, gave himself out for the Messiah. So did a certain impostor, in the reign of Adrian, who wished to be called Barchochabas. Son of the Star, as if he were the star referred to in the words, “orietur stella in Jacob.”

This shall most clearly take place in the days of Antichrist also. “Do not believe him,” that is, do not hearken to any such false rumours, so injurious to the true Messiah, whom you believe Me to be. These are words of warning, addressed to such of the faithful as might have been slow in attending to the admonitions of our Redeemer, about leaving Judea, and might have lingered at Jerusalem, or the neighbouring places, until it would be too late to betake themselves to flight.

Mat 24:24  For there shall arise false Christs and false prophets and shall shew great signs and wonders, insomuch as to deceive (if possible) even the elect. 

He tells them not to believe such false statements, and that such statements shall be circulated, our Redeemer assures us. “For, there shall arise false Christs,” men who shall pretend to be Christ, the Saviour of their people; “and false prophets,” who shall aid these impostors, by proclaiming among the people, as their agents and instruments of seduction, that they are the true Christ. As Christ had His true prophets to prepare the people for His coming, so shall these false Christs have their false prophets too.

And shall work great signs,” &c. By the aid of magic, they shall perform great prodigies, as the seal of their mission and teaching. They shall perform these false miracles, by the aid of the demon, the father of lies, “insomuch as to deceive,” by their plausibility, “(if possible) even the elect.” By “elect,” are meant, those elected to final and eternal happiness. Although the “elect” are not impeccable, and may (as they sometimes freely do) fall away from faith and grace during life; still, considering the infallible purpose of God’s decree, predestinating them to final glory, to be attained by the free exercise of good works, and the free co-operation with His efficacious graces, it is not possible, they would continue in sin, or die in sin. God’s infallible purpose of Divine election shall so guard, guide, protect, and assist their free will by His efficacious graces, that, though they may be and are free to sin, and to persevere in sin to the end (for “not to be able to sin, is not a gift of this life, but the reward of the other,” says St. Augustine, (de corruptione et gratia, c. 11), still, they will not sin always unto the end; but, they will freely repent, if in sin, and dio in God’s grace and favour. Hence, the perseverance of the elect is necessary, not by an absolute necessity, or in sensu diviso; but, by a kind of moral necessity, in sensu composito; and, supposing the Divine decree predestinating them, necessitate, as logicians say, non consequentis; sed consequentiæ. None of God’s elect shall perish; “no one can snatch them out of His hand” (John 10:28).

The words, “to deceive (if possible) the elect,” show the magnitude of the temptation; and how it shall tell upon others. This shall be particularly true of the times of Antichrist. (2 Thess. 2:9; Apoc. 13:13, &c.)

Mat 24:25  Behold I have told it to you, beforehand. 

I have foretold it to you,” that is, to such of My followers as shall be then alive, in order to guard against them, and to stimulate His followers to flight, so far as the ruin of Jerusalem was in question; and by good works, to make sure their election, since, it is only on the prevision of good works is founded God’s predestinating decree; and should anyone grow remiss, on account of supposing, that he was of the elect (of which no one can be absolutely certain in this life, without a revelation), such a person would give good grounds for supposing, that he is not of the elect. Moreover, if one were certain he was elected, this should be no reason for sinning; on the contrary, he should, by obeying God’s Commandments, manifest his gratitude, and increase the treasure of merit and degree of happiness in store for him.

Mat 24:26  If therefore they shall say to you, Behold he is in the desert: go ye not out. Behold he is in the closets: believe it not. 

He more fully explains the words of verse 23, “here, or there.” By mentioning two places, the most opposite—the open desert, and the inmost recesses of a house—he wishes to convey, that, no matter in what place, or in what character, any such pretender should appear, he is not to be heeded. Some say, the word, “desert,” where this false Messiah was supposed to gather his forces, to free his people, has reference to Simon, the son of Goria, who, after collecting immense multitudes of every class, in deserted and mountainous places, after reducing Idumea to subjection, was admitted into Jerusalem, and tyrannically oppressed the citizens. The word, “closets,” is thought to have reference to Eleazar and John, the leaders of the Zealots, who, before the destruction of Jerusalem, successively got possession of the interior of the temple. (Josephus de Bel. Lib. vi. &c.)

Mat 24:27  For as lightning cometh out of the east and appeareth even into the west: so shall also the cowling of the Son of man be. 

In order to guard you against the deceitful wiles of these impostors, take this for a certain sign of My second coming, which alone the faithful can expect—since, they believe in My first coming already—it shall not be confined to any one place, or obscure locality; it shall not be, like My first coming, in humility, confined to an hidden corner of Judea, and the obscurity of night; but, like the lightning of heaven, which at once appears brilliant, effulgent, and dazzling, at the same moment, in the opposite parts of the heavens; so shall My coming be sudden, glorious, and seen from afar, visible to the entire earth, dazzling all mankind by its splendour and brilliancy, when it shall make itself known, not merely in one part of the earth, but throughout the vast expanse of the heavens, so that it shall convince the world at once, of the truth of My appearance. Whosoever, therefore, shall appear in any one place, or corner, and pretend to be the Messiah, is convicted, from this sign, of being an impostor. Perhaps, these words are also intended to correct the carnal notions, which the Apostles formed of the glorious coming of our Redeemer, whose kingdom, they imagined, would commence in Judea. Our Redeemer, on the contrary, conveys to them, that it would be heavenly, and all celestial, different altogether from what they imagined it would be.

Mat 24:28  Wheresoever the body shall be, there shall the eagles also be gathered together. 

The words of this verse are supposed by many to be allusive to the passage of (Job 39:30), where, treating of the eagle, God says, “wheresoever the carcass shall be, she is immediately there.” By some the words are supposed to be a Hebrew proverb, conveying, that no very great exertion or labour is needed for uniting those that are naturally united, and have a natural and irresistible tendency towards each other. He compares Himself to the carcass (the Greek for body is, πτωμα, a dead body), on account of His death, endured for our sakes, to procure glory for us, like that of His own glorified body. He compares His elect to “eagles,” because, as the eagle, this noble and royal bird, harmlessly escapes the lightning, so shall the elect escape unhurt, and stand in great constancy amidst the woes and lightnings of the last day. Moreover, as the eagles scent from an incredible distance, a dead body, and are carried aloft through space in quest of it, so, shall the elect be borne aloft in the air to meet Christ (1 Thess. 4:16), the great centre of attraction. To this St. Luke alludes (17:36).

The words of this verse would seem to be an answer to an implied complaint which might arise in the minds of His Apostles, viz., if Thy reign be thus brilliant, heavenly and passing, like the lightning, how can we enjoy it? He says, that His elect shall be permanently gathered to Him, so as to remain with Him, to enjoy Him. As the eagle, which is instinctively attracted to a carcass, floats aloft in air, crossing seas to enjoy it; so, shall they, after the resurrection from the tomb, renovated in youth like the eagle, be drawn to Him to enjoy Him, to feast with Him, and continue with Him for ever. The words, according to the Greek, ὅπου γαρ το πτωμα, &c., “for, where the body is,” &c., may be also regarded as illustrative, in a certain sense, of the preceding. They are a proverbial form of expression, showing, that a thing cannot be concealed. For, as the eagles scent their prey from afar, and make towards it; so, My glorious coming into the world shall not be hidden, but known to all. Wherefore, the faithful, like eagles of acutest sense, shall perceive My Divine presence, shall be attracted towards Me, and refreshed by My glory for ever. Hence, then, there shall be no need to inquire where is Christ; since, His coming shall be conspicuous and known to the entire world. Our Lord compares His elect to “eagles;” because, the reprobate shall not be borne aloft to meet the Judge, nor attracted to Him. They shall be reluctantly forced to appear at judgment.

St. Hilary infers from this verse, that our Redeemer will judge mankind in the place where His sacred body was raised on the cross, buried, and rose again. Thither shall all mankind proceed to be judged, near Jerusalem, in the valley of Josaphat, as the Prophet Joel teaches (Joel 3:2).

Mat 24:29  And immediately after the tribulation of those days, the sun shall be darkened and the moon shall not give her light and the stars shall fall from heaven and the powers of heaven shall be moved. 

Immediately after the tribulation of these days.” This refers, according to those who hold, that in the preceding verses our Redeemer is treating of the time preceding the end of the world, to the persecutions by “false Christs and false prophets,” especially Antichrist. According even to those, who hold, that in the preceding, He is treating of the incredible woes, that, from several sources, are to precede the destruction of Jerusalem, the word, “immediately,” is to be explained in the sense given already to “then,” in verse 23, that the interval between the taking of Jerusalem and the end of the world, of which there is question in this verse, however long, in a human point of view, and according to human calculations, is, according to God’s view and measure, but an instant. (2 Peter 3:8; Psa. 89). Hence, in the New Testament, the whole term of the New Law is termed, “the last hour.” St. Peter says, the end of all “is at hand” (1 Ep. 4:7). Even in human calculations it is very short for each individual, since it virtually takes place for each one at death, when his eternal doom is sealed. Moreover, by “immediately,” our Redeemer means to convey, that no other remarkable change in religion, which would concern the faithful, is to occur between the ruin of Jerusalem and the end of all things. Hence, in the early ages, many imagined the Day of Judgment to be at hand, which forced St. Paul to correct this error. (2 Thess. 2 &c.)

The sun shall be darkened,” &c. This shall occur before the coming of the Judge (Luke 21:25–27; Joel 2:21). Many understand those words, in a metaphorical and spiritual sense, to refer to the Church and her condition, to the events that shall take place in her, and the persecutions she shall endure, at the end of the world. But, by comparing St. Luke (21:25–27) with St. Matthew, it is quite clear, the words are to be understood literally, of the physical and stupendous phenomena, which shall take place both in the skies and on the earth, previous to the glorious coming of Christ to judgment. The sun shall withhold its light, as happened at the death of Christ. It shall become “black as sackcloth of hair” (Apoc. 11:12). As its first light pointed out a newly created world; so, shall its darkness indicate the final end of the same. “The signs in the sun and the moon and the stars” (Luke 21:25), are what is here referred to by St. Matthew, about the darkening of the sun, &c. “The moon shall not give her light.” She shall have none to give, on account of the darkness of the sun, from which she borrows her light; “she shall be as blood” (Apoc. 6:12).

The stars shall fall from heaven;” that is, they shall be so obscured from the sight of men, that they would seem to fall from heaven (Isaias 13:10). Besides, this may be understood literally; because comets and other stars generated in the air shall fall (Joel 2:30; Apoc. 6:13). St. Augustine (de Civit. Dei, c. 24), says: “Ignited exhalations, like to stars, shall be discharged from sky to earth, more wonderfully than happens now.”

And the powers of heaven shall be moved.” By these, are commonly understood, the heavenly bodies or stars, which are frequently termed in SS. Scripture, “militia cœli, the army or host of heaven.” (Deut. 17:3; 4 Kings 17:16; 21:3–5; Isa. 24:21, &c.; Jer. 8:2, &c.) These “shall be moved,” from their place, and shall cease to perform their usual courses and functions, of giving light, heat, &c. According to this class of interpreters, these words express, in a general way, what is expressed in a particular way, in the preceding words, “the sun shall be darkened, the moon refuse her light,” &c. The same idea is repeated in this verse, in a general way, for greater emphasis’ sake. On seeing these different signs and changes, which shall precede the coming of the Judge, men shall be seized with fear and consternation, at the prospect of the evils that are about to fall upon the world. Others, by “the moving of the powers of heaven,” understand, an extraordinary movement and agitation of the entire machine of the heavens, a shaking of their very foundations and hinges, as it were, which, by their disorderly movement, shall exhibit symptoms of an expiring world. It is the idea conveyed by Job, when he says, “the pillars of heaven tremble at His nod” (Job 26:11). These “powers” are called “the poles of the world” (Prov. 8:26). The same idea is conveyed by St. Peter (2 Peter 3:10), “the heavens shall pass away with great violence.” Estius understands, by the “moving of the powers of the heavens,” the ceasing of the heavens to exert any influence on the earth, so that on the earth, and in the condition of the seasons, we shall witness the most strange changes; we shall see the summer, cold; and the winter, hot. The signs in the heavens shall be accompanied with corresponding signs in the sea, on the earth, and in the elements—all calculated to inspire men with dread and terror. The opinion, which understands, by “powers,” the Angels, meaning the same as the words, cœli cœlorumque virtutes, is now commonly rejected as utterly improbable.

Mat 24:30  And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven. And then shall all tribes of the earth mourn: and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with much power and majesty. 

And then,” immediately after the preceding signs. “The sign of the Son of man.” The most commonly received interpretation, understands this of the cross of our Redeemer, which alone could be termed, “the sign” (τὸ σημεῖον), His certain, well-known standard, whereby He achieved the victory over death and hell, and merited glory for Himself and us. Hence, the Church chaunts, in the Office of the Holy Cross, “hoc signum crucis erit in cœlo, cum Dominus ad judicandum venerit.” It was by the cross He was known, and rendered celebrated throughout the world. This standard of the cross shall be borne aloft by angels before the Judge descending to pass judgment, as a trophy of victory, as the royal ensign of power and authority. Thus shall it be shown, that by His cross, Christ merited glory and judiciary power, that those are ungrateful and inexcusable, who spurned the charity which He displayed when He submitted to be crucified for the salvation of all; now, the humble followers of the cross shall be seated with Him; and its enemies hurled to the abyss of hell. Whether the real cross, on which Christ died, shall appear, after its several parts have been collected and united by the power of God; or, merely an image or resplendent figure of it, formed in the air, is disputed. The latter opinion seems, to some, the more likely, as thus we shall avoid the useless multiplication of miracles, in the collection of the scattered particles of the wood of the true cross. Besides, the word, “sign,” favours this latter view. Some commentators hold the opinion, which, however, does not exceed the bounds of probability, as the SS. Scripture and the Church are silent upon it, that the other instruments of our Saviour’s Passion—the nails, the scourges, the thorns, &c., shall also appear with the cross on that day, shining resplendent in the heavens.

And then shall all the tribes,” that is, all the impious and infidels, who refused to receive our Lord, or obey His Commandments, and the Jews particularly, of whom it is said, “videbunt in quem transfixerunt” (John 19:37). The elect cannot be referred, to. Far from mourning, those who conformed their lives to the model of Christ suffering on the cross, shall be filled with ineffable joy and consolation. “They shall, then, stand in great constancy,” viz., the just, “who love His coming” (1 Tim. 4:8). When, then, it is said, “all the tribes of the earth shall mourn,” there is an example of what logicians term, distributio pro generibus singulorum, and not pro singulis generum. The Greek word for “mourn” (κοψονται), conveys the idea of striking their breasts. The words of this verse are allusive to Zacharias (12), as appears from Apocalypse (1:7). The passage from Zacharias, most likely, referred to the wailing of the faithful Jews over the death of Christ, to which their sins gave occasion, according to St. Jerome. Still, it is, by accommodation, applied by our Redeemer to the unavailing wailings of the infidels, on beholding Christ, whom they slew and rejected; just as the words which St. John (19:37), quotes from Zacharias (12:10), “and they shall look upon Him whom they have pierced,” although originally referring to the faithful Jews, who were to regard our Redeemer in a spirit of faith, and upon whom was poured out “the spirit of grace and of prayer” (Zacharias 12:10), are, by accommodation, applied to the unbelieving Jews, who shall, on the last day, behold Him exhibiting His wounds; so, that having before refused voluntarily to believe in Him and bewail His death, they shall then be forced to look on Him involuntarily, and indulge in unavailing regrets.

And they shall see,” immediately after the preceding signs, “the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven.” These words are allusive to Daniel (7:13), “ecce in nubibus quasi filius hominus veniebat.” After our Lord had ascended, and had been taken up by the Angels in a cloud into heaven, it was said by them, “sic veniet, quemadmodum vidistis rum,” &c. (Acts 1:11.) He shall come now, a second time, clothed with human nature, not, however, retaining its mortality or infirmities; but, “in the clouds of heaven,” which shall symbolize His glory, by their brightness, and serve as a triumphal car, on which He shall appear seated. No longer shall He appear in lowliness, or poverty, or debasement, as at His first coming; but, “with much power and majesty.” The Greek is, with “much power and glory.” His power will be seen from the resuscitation of all the dead, at His sole word of command; from their suddenly assembling in one place; from His irrevocably passing sentence on all, according to their deserts; from His receiving the homage of every creature, in heaven, earth, and hell, including angels, men, and devils, who shall acknowledge Him as their Lord and Judge. His “glory,” or “majesty,” shall appear from the glorious brightness of His body; from the hosts of Angels accompanying Him, and heralding in His approach; from His appearing seated on the clouds of heaven; and from the sounds of trumpets; from the thunders, lightning, and earthquakes which shall precede His coming (Apoc. 6:15, 16).

Mat 24:31  And he shall send his angels with a trumpet and a great voice: and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the farthest parts of the heavens to the utmost bounds of them. 

Send His Angels,” &c. Similar is the description (1 Cor. 15:52; 1 Thess. 4:15, 16). He says, “His Angels,” to convey, that He is their Lord and Master; they, His messengers.

With a trumpet and a great voice.” Whether this shall be a real trumpet or not is disputed. The most commonly received opinion is, that it refers to a noise, louder than thunder, which, by the instrumentality of Michael and the other Angels, the Son of God shall cause to reverberate throughout creation. Its effect shall be, to rouse the dead from their long slumber, owing to the efficacious power of God. The word, “and,” means, that is, “a great voice,” the latter words being explanatory of the former. In the Greek it is, “with a trumpet of great voice.” What words shall be uttered by it, is uncertain. It is commonly supposed, that it shall distinctly announce the words, “Arise, ye dead, and come to judgment,” or the words, “Behold, the Bridegroom cometh, go ye forth to meet Him” (26:6). Others suppose the passage to simply mean, that by the efficacious power and will of God, the dead shall rise from their tombs, and be awakened from their long sleep, as those who are asleep are roused by the noise of a loud trumpet. The former is most likely. This trumpet, which shall proclaim the descent of the Son of God to final judgment, had been prefigured in the Old Testament; in the first place, by that which proclaimed the majesty of God when promulgating His law on Mount Sinai; again, by the trumpets with which the people were wont to be summoned by the Priests to the Tabernacle of the Covenant. (Num. 10, &c.) The sound of trumpets is usually employed to usher in the approach of kings and great princes. The metaphor is borrowed from war, where a trumpet is employed to gather the soldiers, and terrify the enemy; here, it is conveyed, that the sound of trumpets shall be employed to announce the approach and majesty of the Sovereign Judge, to gather the human race, and inspire the enemies of God with terror and alarm.

And they shall gather together His elect from the four winds,” that is, from the four quarters of the earth, east, west, north, and south, the principal points from which the winds blow. The words, “from the four winds,” are a Hebrew form, denoting, all quarters of the globe. The “winds,” according to the Hebrew notions, denoted not only the cardinal points of the heavens; but, they also marked the regions, in the direction from which any of them blew.

From the farthest parts of the heavens to the utmost boundaries,” &c. The Greek word for “farthest parts,” and “utmost boundaries,” is the same, ακρων; απʼ ἄκρων οὐρανων ἕως ἄκρων, &c. It denotes, from the utmost part of the earth, to the utmost part of heaven (απʼ ἄκρου γης ἕως ακρου ουρανου), as St. Mark has it (13:27). The phrase is but a fuller and more explanatory repetition of the preceding. It signifies, the extreme points of the heavens farthest asunder, such as east and west, right and left, including all the intermediate space—not so fully expressed in the preceding words—where the earth and sky would seem to meet. From all parts under heaven shall the elect be gathered; not carried by Angels, as was the Prophet Habacuc (Dan. 14:35); but, in virtue of the glorious gift of agility, they shall be, at once, transported into the air to meet the Judge. Similar are the phrases (Deut. 4:32), “From one end of heaven to the other end thereof.” Also in the Psalm (18:7), “His going out is from the end of heaven; and His circuit even unto the end thereof” that is, from the extreme cast to the extreme point of the west. The reprobate, being devoid of this gift of agility, shall be carried by Angels, like Habacue. “And He shall send His Angels, and they shall gather all scandals from His kingdom.” But, having addressed Himself to his disciples, in order to console them, He makes mention only of “the elect.” Some commentators think the words contain an allusion to the souls of the just, which shall be transferred from the highest heavens, to reanimate their resuscitated bodies, and shall proceed to the place of judgment. The former interpretation is, however, the more probable, as it accords better with the words of St. Mark, and the allusion to “the four winds.”

Mat 24:32  And from the fig tree learn a parable: When the branch thereof is now tender and the leaves come forth, you know that summer is nigh. 

And from the fig-tree learn a parable.” “Parable,” here means, an illustration. The fig-tree was very common in Judea; and hence, any allusion to it, or illustration borrowed from it, was quite intelligible. Whenever it put forth its leaves, it was a sign that summer was nigh. This is accounted for on physical grounds, and is known from experience. St. Luke (21:30), says, “when they now shoot forth their fruit.” But, by “fruit,” he means, the young shoots and leaves, the same as is here expressed by St. Matthew.

Mat 24:33  So you also, when you shall see all these things, know ye that it is nigh, even at the doors. 

Know that it is nigh even at the doors.” What “it” refers to, what it is that is, “at their doors,” would not be so clear were it not that St. Luke clearly expresses it. It is, their redemption, their perfect exemption from all evils and fears, when in the full enjoyment of God’s glorious and heavenly “kingdom” (Luke 21:28–31). “It” does not refer to the coming of the Son of man. For, among “all these things,” already described, “the sign of the Son of man appearing in heaven,” is mentioned. Hence, it refers to the near or immediate approach of their redemption, when, after the reprobate shall be in great terror and alarm, and shall weep, His elect may “look up and lift up their heads” (Luke 21:28), at the prospect of hearing the consoling invitation, to “come and take possession of the kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world,” which is to succeed these precursory signs, already described. This is the perfect redemption of the glorified sons of God, after which inanimate creation itself sighs and groans, like a mother longing to be delivered from the painful throes of childbirth (Rom. 8:19–22).

Mat 24:34  Amen I say to you that this generation shall not pass till all these things be done. 

Amen I say to you, that this generation shall not pass,” &c. What, “this generation,” refers to, is not easily seen. Some understand by it, with St. Jerome, the human race, and particularly, the Jewish people, whom our Redeemer frequently calls, “this generation” (Luke 17:25; Matt. 23:36). And our Redeemer’s object would be, if we limit the word to the Jewish people, to convey, that while other nations and tribes and peoples would pass away, before the Day of Judgment, without a vestige of them being left, the Jewish people would be preserved, as a testimony of their foolish expectation of their Messiah, according to the false conceptions they had regarding Him; and also, as an argument of God’s mercy, in calling them at the end of the world, to the faith, by sending one “from Sion, who would turn away iniquity from Jacob” (Rom. 11:26). His object in saying it, if we understand the words of the human race, would be, to assure us, that the world would not end till all these things would happen, so certain was His assertion; and this is conveyed in words of the following verse: “Heaven and earth shall pass away,” &c. Others, with St. Chrysostom, understood, “this generation,” of the new generation of faithful believers, begotten by Christ; as if He said: that, no matter what evils would arise, what persecutions it had to encounter, the Christian religion would continue for ever to flourish on earth, until the Church militant would exchange her state for that of the Church triumphant. Others say, that it refers to the generation of men whom He was addressing; and, then, these give “all these things” a restricted meaning. As in the preceding, our Redeemer had been referring to the precursory signs and accompanying events, both of the destruction of Jerusalem, and of the Day of Judgment—the former being a type and figure of the latter—these expositors confine “all these things” to the signs and events relating to the destruction of Jerusalem, which happened, before all the generation He then addressed, had passed away, that is, they happened in the lifetime of some of them. The chief objection to this interpretation is, that it restricts, without any seeming justification, the words, “all these things,” to only a part of the things referred to, viz., those relating to the destruction of Jerusalem. It might, perhaps, be said, that as the signs and events relating to the destruction of Jerusalem, were types of those which shall precede, and take place on, the Day of Judgment, all shall take place on the former occasion, viz., the events relating to Jerusalem, literally; and those having reference to the Day of Judgment, typically, during the lifetime of some men, who were living at the time our Redeemer uttered those words.

Others, by generation (γενεαν) understand age, or period of time, thereby meaning, the period of time which was to elapse between Christ’s first and second coming, which is termed the last age of the world, and hence, termed by St. John, “the last hour,” and by St. Paul, “the ends of the world” (1 Cor. 10:11), being the last period of time within which any remarkable change in religion shall take place, until the end of all shall arrive. Hence, the words may mean, all these things shall happen, before the final end of this age on which we have entered shall have arrived. The coming of the Son of man shall put an end to the age on which we have entered. No other remarkable religious change shall take place until His final coming.

Mat 24:35  Heaven and earth shall pass: but my words shall not pass.

Heaven and earth shall pass away” as to their present external form, “transit figura hujus mundi” (1 Cor. 7:31); but, not as to substance; for, they shall be transformed into a “new heaven and a new earth.” “But My words shall not pass,” without being fully accomplished. The words may also moan, sooner shall the heavens—which, “He hath established for ever, and for ages of ages” (Psa. 148:6)—and the earth, “which standeth for ever” (Eccles. 1:4); sooner shall these things, which the Scripture itself describes as eternal and immoveable, pass away, than My words be unaccomplished. This meaning is fully warranted by the words of St. Luke (16:17), “It is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than for one tittle of the law to fail.”

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Matthew Chapter 21

Posted by Dim Bulb on November 18, 2018

ANALYSIS OF MATTHEW CHAPTER 21

In this chapter, we have an account of our Lord’s triumphal entry, on Palm Sunday, into Jerusalem. The preparation He made for it, by sending two of His disciples to fetch two asses from a neighbouring village, informing them, beforehand, of what the owner of the asses would do (Mt 21:1–3). The fulfilment of the prophecy of Zacharias. The acclamations of the multitude, saluting Him with loud hosannas, as the son of David, the long-expected Messiah (Mt 21:4–9). We have next an account of the ejection of the profane traffickers out of the temple—the indignation of the Chief Priests, on witnessing our Lord’s triumphal entry, and the exercise of His authority—and the rebuke administered to them by our Lord (Mt 21:10–16). He retires to Bethania, and on His return, on one of the following days, to Jerusalem, He curses the barren fig tree, thereby conveying, in act, a prophetic parable, indicating the rejection and reprobation of the Jewish people, who failed to produce the expected fruits of good works (Mt 21:17–20). He takes occasion, from the withering of the barren fig tree, to inculcate the efficacy of prayer, and of confidence in God (Mt 21:21–22). Being interrogated by the Chief Priests, &c., as to His authority for acting as He did, He meets their captious question, by referring them to the testimony of John the Baptist, regarding His Divine authority; and as their prevaricating answers render them unworthy of a direct reply, He declines giving one; and thus avoids the pit dug for Him (Mt 21:23–28). By a twofold parable, one derived from a father, who had two sons, of whom the one, although refusing obedience, first in words, obeyed afterwards, in act—the other, although promising in words, disobeyed in act (Mt 21:28–32); another, from a householder, who let his vineyard to husbandmen, who refused to give any return—nay, in the end, murdered his son (Mt 21:33–40), both which parables were clearly applicable, and applied by our Lord Himself (Mt 21:43) to the Jews, He points out their reprobation, their final and irreparable ruin, long before foretold by the Psalmist, in punishment of their rejecting our Lord (Mt 21:41–42). The Chief Priests, clearly seeing the drift of these parables, and their intended application to themselves, would have laid violent hands on Him on the spot, only they feared the people. They did so, however, a few days afterwards (Mt 21:43–46).

Mt 21:1. “And were come to Bethphage,” that is, were come nigh to Bethphage, as St. Luke expresses it (Lk 19:29). This Bethphage was a sacerdotal village, situated, as we are informed by St. Jerome, at the foot of Mount Olivet, to the east, which mount was a mile, or, a Sabbath-day’s journey from Jerusalem (Acts 1:12). St. Mark (Mk 11:1), says, “they were drawing near to Jerusalem and Bethania.” St. Luke (19:29), “when He was come nigh to Bethphage and Bethania.” We know, however, from St. John (Jn 12:1–12), that our Redeemer rested the preceding evening at Bethania, which He left on the day referred to here (Palm Sunday) for Jerusalem. Hence, the words of Mark and Luke may mean: when He was near unto Bethania, which He had just left, after sleeping there the preceding evening, for Bethphage, on His way to Jerusalem. Bethania was two miles distant from Jerusalem. The Greek word, ηγγισε, will bear this interpretation. Or, it may be said, that the Evangelists recorded these circumstances of places without any regular order, as to leaving or approaching them. Thus, when St. Mark says, “they were drawing nigh to Jerusalem and Bethania,” or, as the Greek of St. Mark has it, “to Jerusalem, to Bethphage, and Bethania,” Jerusalem should be placed last, being farthest off. However, the Greek word, ηγγιζουσιν, may mean, when they were nigh unto these places.

Bethphage being a sacerdotal possession, it is supposed, that the Priests brought in from it the Paschal lamb, and the other victims for the altar. Hence, the Lamb of God, of whom these were so many figures, passes through Bethphage on His way, to be immolated for the sins of the world, at Jerusalem. He also passes in triumph amidst Hosannas of joy through the Valley of Josaphat, which lay between Jerusalem and Mount Olivet, to give some idea, beforehand, of the glorious triumph He is one day to consummate, when He shall come in majesty to judge the assembled nations of the earth.

“Two disciples.” Who these were cannot be fully ascertained.

“Mount Olivet,” or “Mount of Olives” (το ὀρος των ελαιων), because, thick set with olive trees.

Mt 21:2. “The village.” The Greek word (κωμη) shows, it could not denote Jerusalem. Moreover, Mount Olivet intervened between them and Jerusalem. “Which is over against you” (την κατεναντι υμιν), means, opposite, in sight of you. He, probably, pointed it out to them. It may refer to Bethphage, which they were approaching, or some other village in the neighbourhood.

“And immediately”—on your entrance—“you shall find an ass tied and a colt with her.” The other Evangelists only mention the “colt, on which no man ever sat” (Mark 11:2; Luke 19:30), because it was only on the colt our Redeemer rode. But, St. Matthew mentions all that occurred, and gives a full account of the matter. He speaks of the “ass,” as well as of the “colt,” as reference is made to both in the words of the Prophet (v. 5).

Our Redeemer departs on this occasion from His usual custom of making His journeys on foot. This He does, as son and heir of David, with the view of exhibiting on entering the metropolis of Judea, His royal power and dignity, which, unlike the exhibition of pomp on the part of earthly potentates, was still blended with that great meekness and humility, which so well accorded with His first coming amongst us, and the spiritual kingdom He came to establish. His kingly power and character were manifested in the fact of the owners of the asses giving them up, at the mere expression of His will, to the Apostles, whom He informed beforehand of the several circumstances connected with the entire event; in the applause, with which He was received, notwithstanding the prohibition on the part of the Pharisees, that any one should confess Him to be the Christ; in His curing the lame and the blind on entering the temple; and in His having cast out the profane traffickers, which inspired His enemies with terror. At the same time, He wished this royal pomp to be tempered with humility. This was exhibited in all the circumstances of His triumphal entrance—the animal on which He rode—the description of persons who accompanied Him and paid Him homage—the poor and lowly, not the great or noble—the humble trappings, consisting of the garments of the poor, which covered the animal on which He sat, to show that His kingdom was not earthly, but of another order—spiritual and heavenly. All this was circumstantially described beforehand by the Prophet, so that the Apostles and the Jewish people might acknowledge Him in the midst of all this outward humility, as their promised, long-expected Messiah. It was not without some mystical reason our Redeemer selected the tenth day of the first month for His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. This was the day on which the Jews were commanded to take, each, home the Paschal lamb, to be immolated on the evening of the 14th day. Hence, the true Paschal Lamb, by whom we were to be liberated from the dominion of the infernal Pharaoh, enters Jerusalem on this day. It was on the octave of this day He was to rise triumphant from the grave, the conqueror of death and hell, and to inaugurate His heavenly reign. Hence, on this day, He gives a faint outline, in His triumphal entry, of what that spiritual and heavenly kingdom was to be. It was also on the 10th day of the first month that Josue, who, both in his name and office, was a type of our Divine Redeemer, introduced the Israelites into the promised land; and, on the 14th, celebrated the solemn feast of the Pasch. (Josue 4)—Jansenius Gandavensis.

Our Redeemer, now that His time was come, entered Jerusalem in this triumphal manner, so as to give the Jews, whom this circumstance would exasperate, an opportunity of executing the Divine decree in regard to putting Him to death. He, moreover, wished by this to show the emptiness of human applause. For, these very men who now greeted Him with loud Hosannas, cried out on the Friday following, “Crucify Him,” thus entailing ruin on themselves, and their doomed city, over which our Redeemer bitterly wept (Luke 19:4).

Mt 21:3. Our Lord here displays His prescience and omnipotence, as well as His supreme dominion. “The Lord” (ὅ κυριος), of the universe, and Sovereign Master of all things, who is shortly to display His royal power in favour of such as expect the salvation of Israel.

“And forthwith He will let them go.” The Greek words, αποστελει αυτους, may refer, either to our Lord, who, after using the asses, would send them back to their owners, and may be regarded as a portion of the words which He tells His disciples to address to the owners in question; or, to the owners of the asses, regarding whom our Redeemer predicts, that they would deliver up the asses to the Apostles for His use. This latter is the more probable interpretation; for, in describing the fulfilment of our Lord’s prediction on the subject, St. Mark says, that when the owners were informed that our Lord wanted the asses, “they let them go with them” (Mk 11:6).

“They,” refers to the owner of the asses, as also to his family, his wife and children.

Mt 21:4. “All this,” viz., His sending for the asses, for the purpose of mounting them, “was done,” not from curiosity, nor from accident, nor from fatigue; but, “that it might be fulfilled,” &c. “That,” may signify, the event. So that, as a consequence, the prophecy was fulfilled; or, the cause, He did so, for the purpose of fulfilling the prophecy of Zacharias, and thus leaving the Jews no excuse for their incredulity and obstinate rejection of Him, since, in no other king of Judea were these words verified. St. Chrysostom asks the Jews (Hom. 67, in Matth.), What other king ever entered Jerusalem, as our Lord did, on this occasion or who else fulfilled the prediction of the Prophet?

Mt 21:5. “Tell ye the daughter of Sion,” &c. In Zacharias (Zech 9:9), whence these words are taken, the reading is different, both in the Hebrew and Septuagint. Instead of “Tell ye,” it is, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Sion, shout for joy, O daughter of Jerusalem.” Hence, some expositors think, that the first words of the quotation, “Tell ye,” is taken from Isaias (Isa 62:11), where it is read, “tell the daughter of Sion, behold thy Saviour cometh.” St. John (Jn 12:15) follows the quotation from Zacharias, in substance, “Fear not, daughter of Sion,” which, in substance, is equivalent to “rejoice” and “shout for joy,” which are feelings the opposite of fear. By “Sion,” is meant Jerusalem, of which Mount Sion was the citadel and stronghold; and “the daughter of Sion” refers, in the first place, and in the literal signification of the words, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all the Jewish people, who acknowledged the reign of David, whose rule was from Sion. Thus, by “the daughter of Tyre” (Psa. 45), and “daughter of Babylon” (Psa. 137), are meant, the citizens, the people of these cities. But, in the mystical sense, which is the one chiefly intended by the Prophet, “the daughter of Sion” signifies, the Spiritual Jerusalem, the Christian Church, where Christ the true David reigns, rescuing His people from their enemies, and meekly pardoning their sins.

“Behold thy King cometh to thee, meek.” “Behold,” arrests attention, and invites them to the consideration of some great event, some joyous news. “Thy King,” whom thou hast been so long expecting, “cometh to thee,” for thy sake, to redeem thee, and make thee sharer in many blessings. The Greek word for “cometh” (ερχεται), may also bear a future signification, “will come.” “Meek.” The Hebrew version followed by St. Jerome, has, “poor.” However, the sense is the same; since the poor are usually meek. Both words are nearly alike in Hebrew, and come from the same root. They differ only in a Hebrew vowel. The word for “meek” is, hani; for, poor, hanau. In Zacharias are found the words, “the just and Saviour;” but, they are omitted by St. Matthew, as not bearing on the subject of the quotation.

“And sitting upon an ass, and a colt, the foal of her,” &c. As the other Evangelists all concur in saying, our Redeemer sat upon the colt (Mark 11:7; Luke 19:35; John 12:15), it is disputed by commentators whether He sat on the dam and foal in turn, as is here insinuated by St. Matthew, who more fully quotes the Prophet Zacharias, than the other Evangelists; or on the foal only, as is inferred from the other three Evangelists, who make mention only of the colt. It is a question not easily decided. St. Jerome, and others, in a very decided way, reject the former opinion These say, the ass is mentioned, because she accompanied the wild colt, and both are mentioned, although only one was used, by a figure common to all languages, which employs oftentimes the singular for the plural number, and vice versa. Thus, it is said of the thieves on the cross, “they mocked Him,” &c., although only one did so. These say, the Greek word for ass (ονος), may signify, a colt, and then, the words will mean, sitting upon an ass, “and” (that is), which is, at the same time, “a colt, the foal of her,” &c. However, the Greek, in v. 3 (ὅνον δεδεμενην), is opposed to this. Hence, the former explanation is preferable.

St. Matthew, having quoted the Prophet more largely than the others, refers to the ass and the foal, as the Prophet had done so, although the words of the Prophet, according to the advocates of this latter opinion, are not necessarily to be understood of two animals. For, they say, the Hebrew word, chamor, used by the Prophet, means, a he-ass, the word for a she-ass being, athom. This is denied by others, who say, the word, chamor, applies to the female animal also. This, however, is a question not easily decided. It is not without reason the Evangelists, Mark and Luke, state, that. He rode “upon a colt upon which no man sat,” probably, to symbolize the Gentiles, hitherto unaccustomed to the yoke; while the she-ass represents the Jews. By riding on this wild colt, our Redeemer displayed His power, in taming this animal. As the words of the Prophet may be so rendered as to apply to two different animals, or only to one, so St. Matthew employs a similar form of language.

“Of her used to the yoke” (υποζυγιον), means, any beast of burden, such as a horse, an ass; but, in the New Testament, it applies specially to the latter.

Mt 21:6. The contents of this verse are more fully and circumstantially described by St. Mark (Mk 11:4–6); Luke (Lk 19:32–34). Every thing our Redeemer predicted, regarding the asses and their owners; was fulfilled to the letter.

Mt 21:7. “Garments”—outer garments (ιματια)—“on them,” the ass and the colt. They place their garments on both, in order to honour our Lord the more; and, also, because they did not know on which of them our Lord meant to sit. “And made Him sit thereon.” “Thereon” (επανω αυτων), may refer, either to the ass and the colt, upon which He may have sat in turn; or, to the “garments,” the word immediately preceding. Hence, in this latter interpretation, preferred by Beelen (Grammatica Græcitatis, N.T.), there is no necessity for supposing that our Lord sat on both animals. It would seem more likely, that our Lord sat successively on the ass and the colt, using the ass in ascending and descending the hills, and entering the city mounted on the colt, to typify his rule over the Jews, accustomed to the yoke, and over the Gentiles, who had not yet been subjected hitherto to the sweet yoke of God’s law.

Mt 21:8. A great many among the crowd, vying with the disciples, whom they saw placing their garments on the asses, out of respect for their Divine Lord, took off their outer garments, and “spread them on the way,” as the greatest mark of respect they could show their King. It was an Oriental custom, observed also among the Greeks, to strew the road, on which their kings passed, on public occasions, with emblems of joy. These people, having no other ornaments to cast under our Lord’s feet, as He passed along, “spread their garments on the way.” Others cut down boughs of olives and palms, with which Mount Olivet, as St. Jerome informs us, abounded, and strewed them along the ground, as a symbol of joy and triumph; while others, with the same object, came out to meet Him with branches in their hands (John 12:13). The Jews were wont to carry palm-branches in their hands, at the Feast of Tabernacles (Levit. 23), and on other occasions of rejoicing. (1 Macc. 13:51; 2 Macc. 10)

Mt 21:9. Many came out from Jerusalem, on hearing of our Lord’s approach, to meet Him (John 12:13), carrying palms in their hands; others followed Him, He Himself occupying the centre of the procession. This multitude cried out, “Hosanna to the son of David: Blessed is He,” &c. The most probable meaning of Hosanna, or, rather, Hosianna, is that given by St. Jerome (Ep. ad Damasum), “Save, I beseech,” or, “Save, now.” The word in the original Hebrew is, “hosianna,” and St. Jerome attributes it to ignorance, that with both the Greeks and us, it is read, Hosanna, by the elision of the vowel (i), instead of Hosianna, compounded of hoscia (save), and na (now, or, I beseech). But some of the best Hebrew scholars say, it may be written, hosca, as well as hoscia, and is so read (Psa. 85:2).—Jansenius Gandav. This phrase, Hosianna, is found in Psalm 117:25, to which this passage is clearly allusive—“Blessed is He,” &c. It is expressive of joy and gladness, of thanksgiving for past benefits, and of petition for their continuance. Hence, in Psalm 117, are subjoined the words, “hæc dies quam fecit Dominus, exultemus,” &c. St. Luke, looking to the feelings of those who used it, rather than to the strict etymological meaning of the words, says they uttered, “peace in heaven, and glory on high” (19:38). Here, the people, by Divine instinct, young and old (v. 16; Luke 19:40), proclaim that the true David, the true King of Israel, of whom the kingly Prophet referred to in Psalm 118 was but a mere type, was entitled to all these royal acclamations, on His triumphant entry into His royal city.

“Hosanna to the son of David.” “Save, I beseech, the son of David.” By a Hebrew idiom, the word, “save,” governs a dative case. It is the same as if he said: Hosanna, the son of David—“salva quæso filio,” that is, filium David. It conveys the joyous acclamations of the people, wishing long life and prosperity to the Royal Heir of the throne of David, as we say, Vivat Rex—“God save the King.” Hence, the Greek has the article, τω υιω, the Son, long expected. They are commonly understood to be addressed to God by the people, praying Him to grant long life and prosperity to the Royal Heir to the throne of David, and also to grant Him the power and the virtue of imparting life and salvation to the people, over whom He is now about to inaugurate His spiritual reign. Hence, as if to convey this, the Vulgate uses the dative case—filio David—grant life and prosperity, together with the power of imparting these blessings to others, to the son of David, whom we have been anxiously expecting for thousands of years, as the rightful Heir of that kingdom, which is to have no end (A. Lapide). Others think, the words are addressed to Christ Himself, directly, by the people, entreating Him to save them: “Save us, we beseech Thee, O son of David.” The former interpretation is considered by far the more probable.

Most likely, as St. Jerome informs us, the Psalm (118), and the verse in question particularly, was read and sung by the Jews, in their synagogues, as having reference to the Messiah; and hence, while the more learned among the people loudly uttered the words, as referring to the Messiah, the rest of the crowd took up the words from them, and this they did from a kind of Divine instinct (Luke 19:40). Hosanna was a form of joyous exclamation in use among the Jews, as alleluia is with us; and hence, the Evangelists retain it in its Hebrew form. The modern Jews, in their solemn prayers on the Feast of Tabernacles, employ Hosanna, after reciting the name, attributes, epithets of God, as we use in our litanies, “Hear us, we beseech Thee,” “Deliver us, O Lord.”

“Blessed,” that is, may He be blessed of God, may His reign prosper, and be happy, as we say of a king whose reign is inaugurated, Vivat Rex—“Long live the King.” This is more clearly expressed by St. Mark, who adds, “Blessed be the kingdom of our Father David that cometh.”

“That cometh” (ὁ ερχομενος), a title of the Messiah, as was also, “the son of David”—although present, may have a future signification—ille venturus, that is, He, who was long expected to come, to redeem and establish the kingdom of Israel.

“In the name of the Lord,” not from Himself, or self-commissioned; but, as the representative of the Lord, with His power and authority, destined and commissioned by Him to exercise authority, and visit His people.

“Hosanna in the highest,” is understood by some, as if there was an ellipse of ὁ ων (who art), to mean, “save the son of David,” our new king, “in the highest” (ὁ ων αν ὑψιστοις), Thou who dwellest in the highest heavens, as if the words referred to God dwelling in heaven. The word, “Hosanna,” is repeated, from feelings of intense affection. But, the more common interpretation gives “in,” the meaning of “from,” which is not unusual in SS. Scripture. (Exod. 12:43; Lev. 8:32, &c.) The words, then, mean, from the highest heavens save, protect, and grant a prosperous reign to the son of David. Hence, for these words, St. Luke has (19:38), “peace in heaven, and glory on high” to God, who sent us such a Saviour. Similar are the words recited by the Angels at His birth, “gloria in altissimis Deo et in terra pax hominibus.” Such were the canticles and cries of joy, which all this multitude, as well those who preceded as those who followed Him, made resound to the praises of Jesus Christ; canticles like to those sung by the Angels at His birth. From them may be clearly perceived, that God, who spoke by the mouth of this multitude, had also inspired them with the belief, that this was the promised son of David, who was destined to rule over Israel. In receiving these honours from the Jewish people, it was not, as St. Chrysostom observes (Hom. 67), by any love of earthly pomp our Lord was actuated—since, from His very birth, He manifested His love for humility and power—but, for the fulfilment of the prophecies which regarded Him, and to show that, in the very humiliations He afterwards underwent, He was still all-powerful; since, He secured these honours in despite of the power of the Pharisees and of all His enemies.

St. Hilary takes occasion here to note the inconstancy and changeableness of all human applause. On this occasion, the multitude exclaimed “Hosanna;” again, “Crucify Him.” Now, “Blessed is He that cometh,” &c.; again, “Away with Him; crucify Him.” Now, He is addressed, as King; again, they have no king but Cæsar. Now, He is presented with green boughs of palms; again, with the hard and knotty wood of the cross, and with a crown of sharp thorns. Now, taking off their own garments, they cast them beneath His feet; again, they ignominiously strip Him of His own garments, and cast lots for them. How opposite their conduct, their treatment of our Blessed Redeemer; how contradictory their language regarding Him, even in the space of one short week. Who, then, should set any value on human applause? We should, therefore, ever seek His favour, who never changes, and is sure to reward us in the end.

Mt 21:10. “The whole city,” &c., most likely, regards those who, either from indifference or jealousy, or fear of His enemies, did not go forth to meet our Redeemer, and refrained from doing Him honour, including the Pharisees, the Priests, the Doctors of the law, and all the others who shared in their views regarding Him; or, it may regard the entire population of the city, whom these new and unexpected acclamations of the multitude agitated with feelings of fear, hope, approval or disapproval, according as each, one was affected. Those who accompanied our Lord, were chiefly strangers from other parts of Judea, who came to the festival (John 12:12), and who did not share in the prejudices of the Priests and Pharisees of Jerusalem. Our Redeemer wept, on the occasion of this triumphant approach, over the unhappy Jerusalem (Luke 19:40). He did not weep when persecuted by the Jews, lest He might seem to be actuated by feelings of resentment; but now He weeps, from feelings of true, heartfelt sorrow.

“Who is this?” They knew Him well, as He had been often before amongst them. But this is uttered in a scornful spirit, as if such a man, this “carpenter, and carpenter’s son,” could be entitled to any honour, as if He had any right thus to enter Jerusalem publicly, with royal honours paid Him.

Mt 21:11. “The people said,” i.e., the crowds who accompanied Him, who went before and followed Him. These crowds, by Divine instinct, taught the haughty Priests and Pharisees, and their followers, who were left ignorant of the true meaning of these public acclamations, and of the true sense of the ancient prophecies, that this was no other than the true King of Israel, this son of David, promised and expected for so many ages, whose throne was to last for ever. “This is Jesus,” prefigured by the others who bore His name, and who bestowed only temporal salvation on Israel.

“The Prophet,” by excellence, whom, as Moses predicted, the Lord was to raise up amongst them (Deut. 18:15). The words of Deuteronomy are understood of Christ, by St. Peter (Acts 3:22), and by Stephen (Acts 7:37). Him the Jews should obey and acknowledge as the Prophet, even though He came from “Nazareth of Galilee,” out of which, according to what passed as a proverb among the Jews, nothing good was likely to come (John 1:46).

St. Luke (Lk 19:39) informs us, that on this triumphal march, some of the Pharisees, who were among the crowd, called upon Him to restrain His disciples by whom they either meant, all His followers in general, or His immediate attendants, who were, most likely, among the foremost in proclaiming His glory; and that our Redeemer replied, that if these were silent, the very “stones would cry out,” thus giving them to understand, that the multitude could not help doing what they did, acting from Divine impulse; and that the Pharisees were harder and more insensible than the very rocks. The stones did, in a certain sense, cry out, when, at His death, the very rocks were rent; and, in a mystical sense, when the Gentile world—these children, whom God raised up to Abraham from the very stones and hardness of unbelief—proclaimed Him to be a Saviour, from the rising to the setting sun.

Mt 21:12. “And Jesus went into the temple of God.” On entering Jerusalem, our Redeemer makes straight for the temple, the house of His Father, the palace of His spiritual kingdom, rather than to Mount Sion, the citadel of the earthly Jerusalem; and He enters at once on the exercise of His spiritual authority, by purging it of the defilements of which it was made the theatre. By “the temple of God,” is meant, the whole edifice, with its several courts. The portion of it in which the events here recorded took place, was the Court of the Gentiles, to which they, as well as the Jews who laboured under legal defilement, had access, for the purpose of prayer. This court was very ample. It by no means refers to the temple, strictly so-called, comprising the Holy and Holy of Holies. Into the Holy, only the Priests, and into the Holy of Holies, only the High Priest could enter. It is a subject of controversy among commentators, whether this happened on the first day of our Redeemer’s entry into Jerusalem, as is here seemingly stated by St. Matthew; for, he relates that it occurred in connexion with the people’s singing their hosannas and songs of joy, which caused the Priests and Scribes to remonstrate with Him (Mt 21:15-16). Or, whether it happened on the second day, as is apparently deducible from St. Mark, who distinctly states, that on the first day of our Saviour’s entrance, He merely entered the temple late in the evening, when the money-changers, &c., had ceased from the business of the day, and “having viewed all things round about, went out to Bethania” (Mk 11:11).

Some commentators, following St. Augustine, adopt the order of St. Matthew, guided chiefly by the words of Mt 21:17, from which it would appear, that it was after expelling the profaners from the temple, He went out to Bethania. The words of this verse might, however, refer to the same occurrence referred to by St. Mark (Mk 11:19), which took place the day following His triumphal entry into Jerusalem.

The advocates of this opinion say, that St. Mark, who seems to refer these events to the second day, recapitulates what occurred on the first day.

Others maintain, that the order adopted by St. Mark is the true one; for, St. Matthew confounds with the events of the second day of our Saviour’s arrival at Jerusalem, what St. Mark distinctly states to have occurred on the third day after He arrived, viz., the wonder expressed by the disciples regarding the withering of the fig tree (Mk 11:20). Hence, it is probable that, in narrating the events of the first day of our Saviour’s arrival, St. Matthew also mentioned some of the things which happened only on the second day. St. Matthew’s narrative is such, that one would suppose our Redeemer came from Bethania to Jerusalem only two successive days, and that the events which took place only happened on two successive days; whereas, St. Mark distinctly states, that the events, in connexion with the ejection of the buyers and sellers from the temple, occurred on three successive days. Cajetan is of opinion, that our Lord cast out the profane traffickers on both days, Sunday and Monday.

“And cast out all who were buying and selling in the temple,” &c. As the Jews had but one place of sacrifice, viz., the Temple of Jerusalem, such as came from afar to the temple on the occasion of the great Paschal solemnity, in order to avoid the great inconvenience of carrying with them the required victims, bought for the price of the same victims which they sold at home, according to the provisions of the law (Deut. 14:24, &c.), the victims which each one was expected, according to his circumstances in life, to present in the temple. The proper place for such purchases was the public market-place. Either the Priests themselves and their servants carried on a traffic in the outer court of the temple, ostensibly for the accommodation of strangers, in the several kinds of victims destined for sacrifice; or, they rented the place to merchants for the purpose. “Overthrew the tables of the money changers.” These were a kind of money brokers, who exchanged foreign for Jewish coin, or larger for smaller coin, and this, probably, at a rate of usury, that could not be approved of. They were called κολλυβιστοὶ from κολλυβος, a small coin. There were also chairs placed there, on which these sat who sold doves; these were generally women, who could not remain very long in a standing position. They sold “doves,” the offerings exacted from the poor. All this traffic, owing to the avarice which dictated it on the part of the Priests, the lying frauds committed in it, and the tumult it gave rise to at the very entrance of the house of prayer, was unworthy of the sanctity of the temple; and hence, our Redeemer, animated with a zeal for the glory of His Father’s house, on this second occasion, as He had done before, at the very commencement of His mission (John 2:14), drives them out ignominiously, and justifies His conduct from Sacred Scripture (Isa. 56:7; Jer. 7:11). Most likely, He used a scourge of cords to drive out the cattle, as He did on a former occasion (John 2:15). It is not likely, however, that He scourged the people, since, after driving out the cattle, He says, “auferte ista,” &c., which supposes the people to remain.

Mt 21:13. “My house.” My temple, specially dedicated to the Divine Service, where God Himself specially resides, and is specially accessible. (2 Chron 7:12, &c.)

“The house of prayer,” exclusively devoted to all the things appertaining to God’s service. This quotation from Isaias (56:7) which directly applies, and is intended immediately to refer, to the spiritual temple, or Church of God, is accommodated by our Lord to the material Temple of Jerusalem, a type of the Church, into which all the Gentiles were admitted, “cunctis populis”—for all nations. And even into the material Temple of Jerusalem the Gentiles at this time had access. By “prayer,” are understood sacrifices, &c.

“But you have made it a den of thieves,” is taken from Jeremias (Jer 7:11). In the passage referred to, the Almighty calls His house “a den of robbers,” because it was the place of resort for those who were guilty of robbery, idolatry, adultery, &c. Here, it is called, “a den of robbers,” because, in it, men had carried on a traffic, intent solely on temporal spoil and gain—like robbers, who plunder from this motive. Again, because the Priests and Pharisees made the plea of religion a lurking pretext for avarice; like robbers, hiding in a cave, they had solely in view to plunder and rob the poor. The avaricious and robbers are both alike in this, that both carry on their iniquitous projects for temporal gain and plunder. Hence, our Redeemer indignantly chastises the conduct of those who, like robbers, make His temple the lurking place of men, and lie in wait, for the purposes of plunder and temporal emolument. The quotation from Jeremias was also calculated to suggest to the Jews, that as the first temple to which the Prophet refers in that chapter (7), as about to be destroyed, owing to the crimes of the people, was razed to the ground by the Babylonians; so also, the temple in which they carried on their nefarious traffic, might also be one day destroyed, as we know it afterwards was, by the Romans under Titus. St. Jerome regards this chasing from the temple as one of the greatest miracles recorded of our Redeemer—greater than the raising of Lazarus, or the cure of the man who was born blind; and so it seems to be, considering all the circumstances of our Redeemer’s person, and the power of His enemies; and St. Jerome accounts for His enemies permitting it and the traffickers obeying Him, on the ground, that from our Redeemer’s eyes there darted forth beams of bright rays of heavenly majesty, which lit up His features with an irresistible splendour, that overawed the beholders, “igneum enim quiddam atque sidereum radiabat ex oculis ejus, et divinitatis majestas lucebat in facie.”

If God was thus jealous for the sanctity of the typical Temple of Jerusalem, how much more in regard to our Christian temples, where He personally resides, in the adorable Sacrament. If He thus severely, taxed the avarice of the Jewish Priests, and cast them out of the temple, how much more rigorously shall He punish those who make spiritual ministrations subservient to the purposes of avarice, and cast them out from the society of the Saints; and it is to be borne in mind, that their participation in holy things, far from rendering them more holy, only causes them to be regarded as robbers before God, whose temple they make “a den of thieves,” a mart of sacrilegious traffic.

And, as our souls are the temples of God (1 Cor. 3:16, &c.; 1 Cor 6:15, &c.), we can estimate, from this passage, how much more jealous God is regarding the sanctity of our souls, His interior temples, than regarding that of the material temple, and with how much greater rigour they shall be punished who violate the temple of their own souls (1 Cor. 3:16). From this, we see the necessity of having our souls continually devoted to God’s service, “domus mea domus orationis est.” We render our souls abodes of prayer, according to St. Augustine, by continual longing after God; by perpetual sighs, caused by the knowledge of our miseries, the view of the manifold perils our salvation is exposed to, and our exile from Him, who is alone capable of satiating all the desires of our hearts. St. Hilary remarks on the passage (in Matth. 21), that, as the Holy Ghost is represented chiefly under the figure of a dove in SS. Scriptures, and the chairs denote power, so our Redeemer, in overturning the tables of those who sold doves, points out the rigour of the chastisements He will inflict on those who, raised to the dignity of the Priesthood, make a traffic of the spiritual gifts of the Holy Ghost. St. Jerome makes a similar remark on this passage.

Origen says, by the three classes of men cast out of the temple, are signified, three classes of avaricious men, unworthy of the society of the Saints. The buyers and sellers, those who, among the Christian people, are intent solely on amassing gain. The money changers, those who abuse the ecclesiastical wealth destined for the poor, and from them heap up treasures for themselves; and the sellers of doves, those who make sale of the gifts of the Holy Ghost.

Mt 21:14. After having displayed the rigours of His justice against the profaners of His temple, our Redeemer now displays His mercy and benevolence. He cures the lame and the blind, in the temple. He thus exhibits His Divine power, and gives a further proof, that He was the long-expected Messiah, whose coming, as was long before foretold, was to be characterized by the miracles which our Redeemer now performs. “Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as a hart,” &c. (Isa. 35:5, 6)

Mt 21:15. “The wonderful things He had done,” viz., the miracle of driving the profane traffickers out of the temple, curing the lame and the blind, His royal entry into Jerusalem, “and the children crying out in the temple, and saying, Hosanna to the son of David, were moved with indignation,” when they should rather be moved, by the miracles and the undoubted signs of Divine power He exhibited, to acknowledge Him as their long-expected Messiah. Their hearts were, inconsequence, as a punishment of resistance to grace, hardened. The mysteries of grace revealed to the little ones, the humble and the docile, were concealed from them; and hence, they were filled with wrath and indignation.

Mt 21:16. “Hearest Thou not what these say?” The Pharisees suppress their feelings as long as these loud acclamations were uttered by the crowd. But, now, when the enthusiasm had died away, and these acclamations were uttered only by the children, they endeavour to tax Him with aspiring to Divine honours, that thus they might have matter for accusing Him. “Hearest Thou not?” &c., as if to say, canst Thou allow these to render Thee the honour due to God alone? to attribute to Thee what belongs only to the King of Israel, the long expected Messiah? Our Redeemer, as St. Chrysostom remarks, could have retorted, and asked them, “Do you hear these things?” Do you not see that the Holy Spirit Himself speaks through these, and unchains their tongues to give utterance to what they understand not? But He only evades giving a direct answer. If He admitted that He was entitled to these honours, they would charge Him with disloyalty; if He denied it, they would charge the multitude with falsely attributing to Him what He was not entitled to. Our Redeemer, employing the same heavenly prudence which He had resorted to on another and similar occasion (Mt 22:17), without replying to their captious question, says, “yes.” I do hear the children; but, without giving any direct answer as to whether they were right or wrong, He replies to them in the language of the SS. Scriptures, “have you never read”—you, who glory in your knowledge of the Divine Scriptures—“out of the mouth of infants and sucklings Thou hast perfected praise?” These words are quoted from Ps 8:3. According to the Septuagint version, the Hebrew for “perfected praise” is, üssadta oz—“Thou hast founded strength,” but there is no difference in meaning. By speaking through the mouth of infants, and unchaining the tongues of suckling babes, He has displayed His power, and rendered it most deserving of all praise and glory, by having, through such weak and inadequate means, accomplished great ends. The words of the Psalm, in their literal sense, refer to the glory and magnificence of God, as displayed in the works of creation, “quoniam videbo cœlos tuos,” &c., or, rather, to the power of God displayed in these works. But in this passage, they are, by accommodation, referred to the power of God displayed in the work of Redemption, the second creation, whereby He renewed the face of the earth. Hence, in a more prominent sense, they apply to Christ, the first amongst the sons of men, and to Him, in a special manner, do the characters and qualities mentioned in this Psalm refer. But, what was said of man in general, or of our Divine Redeemer, and the redemption accomplished by Him, and the instruments employed by Him, in particular, is here accommodated by our Redeemer to His present case; and He thus confutes His adversaries, by showing—1st. That these children spoke from the inspiration of God; that it was He impelled them to give utterance, by their lips, to what they had hardly comprehended in their minds, “ex ore infantium,” &c.; and hence, He would not resist the inspiration, or voice of God, by silencing those children. 2ndly. He insinuates, that this was done to confute them, and show forth their folly; for, immediately after the words here quoted, the Psalmist subjoins, “ut destruas inimicum et ultorem,” that is, catch them in their craftiness, and destroy their wisdom. But, for fear of exasperating His enemies too much, our Redeemer omits quoting these latter words. His answer almost amounts to this: I do hear what they say; but, do you wish Me to order those be silent whose mouths God Himself has opened to perfect His praise, to give due glory to His power, and to confute the enemies of His name, among whom you are to be reckoned? He thus refutes them without giving a direct reply to their captious question. It is disputed whether there is question here of babes and sucklings, for whom it would amount to a miracle, to utter these words, and fill the temple with their acclamations, or, of young boys, who imitated what they heard from the crowd; and now, under Divine impulse, gave fresh utterance to it, on beholding the miraculous cures of the lame and the blind.

Some are of the former opinion, as the words literally mean this: and it would redound more to the glory of Christ, if the very babes and sucklings spoke. (St. Chrysostom, Theophylact, &c.) The words of St. Luke (19:40), are corroborative of this, “if these shall hold their peace, the stones will cry out.” Others adopt the latter opinion. The children are termed, παιδας, boys. The Pharisees, who see and hear the children, do not regard their shouts as miraculous. “Hearest Thou what these (boys) say?” If they regarded it as miraculous, their first attempt would be to throw discredit on the miracle, as they often did before. Moreover, the Psalm, from which the words are quoted, may be understood of children older than mere babes or sucklings.

Mt 21:17. “Leaving them,” confounded, rather than convinced, owing to their envy and rage on account of the honours which the people paid Him, as also on account of the manner in which He summarily ejected the traffickers from the temple, the cures He performed, and the praises and acclamations of the children.

“He went out of the city into Bethania,” where He remained with Martha and Mary. This, as St. Jerome observes, was an expressive type of the rejection and reprobation of the Jews, and of the calling of the Gentiles. Some, also, with St. Jerome, comment unfavourably on the ingratitude and fickleness of the crowd, none of whom offered Him the shelter of hospitality for the night. This latter observation is not, however, much attended to by others, who attribute His leaving the city to other causes; among the rest, lest He might be suspected of plotting during the night with His followers, as to the mode of securing royal power, &c.

Mt 21:18. “In the morning … He was hungry.” Some say, this was natural hunger, consequent on His having spent the night in watching and prayer, which He usually did, and is to be presumed to have done on this occasion (Luke 21:37-38). Others say, the hunger, though real, was voluntarily assumed by our Redeemer, in order to give occasion to the following miracle, which He wrought, for the instruction of His disciples.

Mt 21:19. “Seeing a certain fig-tree by the way side.” St. Mark (Mk 11:13) says, “He had seen it afar off.” Both accounts are perfectly reconcilable. “He came to it.” St. Mark says (Mk 11:13), “if perhaps He might find anything on it.” This he adds, because men are wont to act so; or, possibly, St. Mark only expresses what the disciples supposed His object to be, as is observed by St. Chrysostom. “And found nothing on it but leaves only.” St. Mark adds (Mk 11:14), “that the time for figs had not yet arrived.” He then cursed it. “May no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And immediately the fig-tree withered away.” It would be the sheerest folly to suppose, that our Redeemer cursed the fig-tree out of mere passion or impulse for not finding fruit on it when no fruit could be expected. But, as He prophesied by words, so did He also by action—a thing quite usual with the ancient Prophets, who, conforming to the Oriental usages, often expressed things by symbolical actions. The whole occurrence here may be regarded as a prophetic parable. Our Redeemer, who had hitherto performed all His miracles as so many proofs of His merciful benevolence, now, in order to confirm the faith of His disciples, displays the rigours of His justice, in the malediction of the barren fig-tree, which clearly typified His justice on the sinners who bring forth not the expected fruits of grace. For, although man could not expect fruit from a tree except in due season; still, God has a right to expect from us, at all times, the fruits of justice and solid piety, of which those that might be expected from the fig-tree were but a type and lively image; and, in punishment of our sterility, God will strike us with still greater spiritual barrenness and decay. This transaction was a prophetic menace, intended to instruct the Jews and His disciples. The fig-tree did not merit the curse pronounced upon it; it did so, however, relatively, in regard to the people, of whom it was a type or symbol. The fig-tree represented the Jewish synagogue, and the malediction pronounced on it by our Lord, represented the malediction pronounced against the synagogue for its sterility. The hunger of our Lord, represented the ardent desire to find the synagogue bring forth fruit corresponding with the many miracles and instructions and other graces by which He wished to attract it to Himself. The leaves of the fig-tree represented the ceremonies, sacrifices, external worship of the ancient law, in which the Jews so much gloried over so many nations, without producing the internal works of justice. The withering of the tree, represents the reprobation of the synagogue. And, although the Jewish people will be saved in the end of the world, “when the fulness of the Gentiles shall have come in, all Israel shall be saved” (Rom. 11:25), still, this does not militate against the malediction of our Lord; for the words, εις τον αιωνα, as St. Jerome remarks, does not necessarily imply, it should be for ever cursed; or, we may say, that if Israel is saved, it is not from the helps furnished by the synagogue, but, by the grace of the Church of the New Law. Moreover, everything in the type does not necessarily correspond with the thing typified. Commentators here admire the goodness of our Redeemer, who, whenever He wishes to manifest His saving power, and give an example of spiritual salvation, wrought by Himself, selects men for the objects of His benevolence, proposing to them the hope of future blessings, and indicating the cure of their souls by the present cure of their bodies; but, when He wishes to display His vindictive power, and admonish the reprobate Jews, who yield no fruit, of the punishments in store for them, He selects, as a type, an inanimate object, whereon to display His just vengeance.

Mt 21:20. “And the disciples seeing it,” &c. This happened the following Tuesday morning, as appears from St. Mark (Mk 11:20). The curse pronounced by our Redeemer on the preceding day, had imperceptibly produced its effect, so that the following morning the tree was withered up. Hence, the wonder on the part of the Apostles.

Mt 21:21. Our Redeemer takes occasion, from the circumstance of the withering of the barren fig-tree, to inculcate on His disciples the powerful efficacy of prayer and confidence in God.

“Amen, I say to you.” St. Mark (Mk 11:22) says, our Redeemer told them, “Have the faith of God.” “If you shall have faith, and stagger not.” The Greek for “stagger” (διακριθητε), means, to judge, discern, as to the power of God and the facility or difficulty of accomplishing the work. “Faith,” that extraordinary degree of intense faith, accompanied with confidence in God, and the gift of miracles, fides miraculorum. “as a grain of mustard seed” (Mt 17:19). It is to this kind of faith He refers here. For, as to “staggering,” or doubting, every degree of true faith excludes all doubt; but here the word means, extraordinary confidence.

“But also if you shall say to this mountain,” &c. This is a proverbial form of expression, and means, that, on occasions when the glory of God would require it, such an event would be accomplished. It by no means implies, that this would take place on ordinary occasions, or without utility, or from an ostentatious display of power. Our Redeemer Himself never exercised His miraculous powers for display or ostentation.

Mt 21:22. These words are, of course, to be received with the proper limitations and restrictions. As regards things appertaining to salvation, they are to be asked for absolutely. As regards other things, they are to be sought for conformably to God’s holy will. Besides faith, St. Mark lays down another condition necessary for securing the efficacy of our prayers, viz., forgiveness of injuries (Mk 11:25). For the conditions of prayers (see Commentary on 1 Jn 5:14).

Mt 21:23. Our Redeemer employed the day-time in instructing the people, and at night He retired to Mount Olivet; “and all the people came early in the morning … to hear Him” (Luke 21:37, 38). “It came to pass on one of these days.” On the third day after His triumphal entry, viz., Tuesday, after Palm Sunday, “as He was teaching the people in the temple, and preaching the Gospel (Luke 20:1), the Chief Priests (St. Luke adds, ‘and Scribes’) and ancients of the people came to Him,” &c. “By what authority” (εξουσια), whether of yourself, or derived from others, “dost Thou these things?” viz., preaching to the people; receiving the honour due to the Messiah alone; making a triumphal entry into the temple; casting out the victims destined for the altar, &c. SS. Mark and Luke repeat the question, “Who hath given Thee this authority to do these things?” The question was grounded on the justly-received principle, that no one can assume to himself the ministry of religious teaching, unless he received authority to do so from God directly, or, through the hands of those commissioned by Him, “nec quisquam sibi assumat honorem sed qui vocatur a Deo tanquam Aaron” (Heb. 5:4). The question was meant captiously, in the present instance. For, although the Priests, &c., had a right to ask the question, because the ordinary permission to teach in the temple was derived from them, and they had the power of inquiring into the pretensions of a Prophet; still, in this instance, our Redeemer had already proved His mission by the incontestable miracles He wrought, and from the prophecies of SS. Scripture, verified in His regard. His enemies hoped to involve Him in a difficulty, by the answer they expected. They wished to involve Him in the guilt of schism and sedition, by intruding Himself, unsent, into a ministry, to which the Messiah alone could have pretensions; and, if He said He was the Messiah, they would have, probably, charged Him with blasphemy. Our Redeemer had already sufficiently replied to this question, by acts. The miracles He alone performed, left them no excuse, and had already proved Him to be the Messiah, and showed the authority, in virtue of which He acted. He declines answering them directly, on this occasion, not from fear (as the parables He subjoins clearly demonstrate), but from the deliberate design of confounding them, by proposing a question calculated to baffle them. With consummate wisdom, He destroys their cunning, by having recourse to a method familiar to both Jews and Greeks, of answering by interrogation, and solving one question by proposing another, which, if candidly answered, would solve the former one, and serve to condemn themselves; if the question were evasively answered, it would prove them to be unworthy of receiving a reply from Him. It was a perfectly fair course to ask a question, the answer to which would solve the question proposed by them.

Mt 21:25. “The baptism of John,” including his doctrine and preaching; was it “from Heaven or from men?” Did John act in virtue of a Divine commission, or only from human authority?

“They thought within themselves, saying.” They discussed the question apart among themselves, probably out of the hearing of our Redeemer. The Greek word, διαλογιζοντο, means, they reasoned, among themselves.

Mt 21:26. “Why, then, did you not believe him?” by receiving the baptism of penance, at his preaching, or, rather, by believing his testimony, in regard to Me, whom he proclaims to be the promised Messiah, “the Lamb of God,” &c. “We are afraid of the multitude (‘lest they stone us,’ Luke 20:6), for all held John as a prophet,” or one Divinely commissioned to preach and baptize.

Mt 21:27. To avoid the consequences of a direct answer, they have recourse to a lie, by which they condemned themselves; for, they, the teachers of others, should not be ignorant of what the whole people were convinced of, and which they should know, in virtue of their office, which warranted them in thus questioning our Redeemer’s authority.

“We know not.” Our Redeemer does not imitate their example, by uttering a falsehood, and saying, I know not by what authority I do these things; but, as they were unworthy of an answer, He tells them He will not declare by what authority He acted. He will not answer their question, as they were unwilling to answer His, which, if answered by them, would convey a reply to their own. For, if they acknowledged John’s preaching to be from God, then they could not doubt that our Redeemer was the Messiah, and thus, His Divine authority was at once declared.

Mt 21:28. Affecting ignorance of what they knew well, as to whether John’s baptism was from Heaven or not, the Pharisees would not answer our Redeemer’s question. He, then, before dismissing the allusion to John the Baptist, takes occasion, from their evasive answer, to propose a parable, the application of which was quite evident, and while He supposed the Divine mission of John, clearly proved them guilty of incredulity, the imputation of which they were anxious to avoid. He wishes to humble their pride, who were inflated with a sense of their own dignity, and the affectation of superior knowledge, and false science. This He does in a most telling way, by proposing a case, or a question, in the form of a parable, the answer to which, as well as its application to themselves, was quite clear. Out of their own mouth, He condemns them, and shows that “the publicans and harlots shall precede them in the kingdom of God.” The parable, in its literal meaning, is quite clear. Its application is equally so. The man in question refers to Almighty God, the common Father of all. The two sons refer to the Pharisees, on the one hand, and the public sinners among the Jews, as is clear from Mt 21:31, “the publicans and harlots,” &c. The son who refused to obey his father’s injunctions, in the first instance, but afterwards obeyed in act, refers to the “publicans and harlots,” the public sinners of either sex among the Jews, who, by their sins, disobeyed God, refused to observe His law, rejected His call to cultivate, by penance, the spiritual vineyard of their souls, but afterwards were converted to penance, and embraced God’s holy law. The son who promised obedience, in the first instance, but afterwards disobeyed, in act, represented the Pharisees, who had always on their lips the law of God, made an external profession of piety, but were destitute of its spirit, failed in its practices, disobeyed God’s law preached to them by John the Baptist, despised his baptism, and refused to believe in Christ, to whom he bore testimony.

Mt 21:31. “Jesus said to them, Amen I say to you,” &c. Without dwelling on the meaning of the parable, which clearly applied to the Pharisees, our Redeemer at once announced the conclusion to be derived from their own admission. The man who did, in act, what His Father commanded, obeyed; while the other, who promised obedience in word, but did not carry it out in act, disobeyed. Hence, “the publicans and harlots”—the public sinners of either sex among the Jews—“shall go into the kingdom of God before you,” that is, shall be admitted into the enjoyment of God’s bliss, before you, who, having refused the way of penance, preached by John the Baptist, shall be altogether excluded from that kingdom of bliss, to which penance conducts. The same is conveyed in the parable of the two sons, in the Gospel of St. Luke (Lk 15:11), where the younger son represented the public sinners. The same are represented here by the first-born, because such sinners, on doing penance, are first before God, and precede those who seem to themselves just. Thus, “the last shall be first,” &c. The Greek for, “Go before you,” is, “shall precede you,” as if conveying, that they go before them in the road to heaven, by penance and faith, and shall be admitted there before them. For, they shall be utterly excluded.

The parable may also, in a secondary sense, regard the Gentile and Jewish peoples; the former, represented by those among the Jews, who were converted from their sins, and did not promise to obey God’s word, but did so, in act; the latter, by those who remained obstinate, after having promised to Moses (Ex 19:8), “all whatsoever, the Lord shall speak to us, we shall do,” still continued obstinate in their incredulity, and resistance to God’s law. Theirs was only lip service, without obedience in act, depending solely on the justice of the law, and not on faith. Hence, they arrived not at the law of justice, but stumbled against the rock of offence (Rom. 9:30), &c.

Mt 21:32. “John came to you,” in preference to all other peoples, “in the way of justice,” exhibiting true justice, by a holy, irreproachable life, exemplifying in his conduct, the lessons of penance and humility which he taught, thus showing himself what all, except the haughty Pharisees, believed him to be, viz., a Prophet, truly sent from God.

“You did not believe him,” either by obeying the precepts of penance, which he announced, or by receiving the Messiah, to whom he bore testimony.

“But the publicans and harlots believed him,” which adds to the condemnation of the Pharisees, who, not only were unmoved by the holy life and teaching of John, but still remained obstinate, and refused to enter on a life of penance, even after the example of these sinful men and women was placed before them, to stimulate them.

“You … did not even afterwards repent,” that is, you did not follow their example, whom you should precede, in doing penance, “that”—under the influence of holy penance—“you might believe him,” and thus follow his precepts, and admit his testimony regarding the Son of God.

Our Redeemer censures two things in the Pharisees—their incredulity in regard to the testimony of John, and their contumacious obstinacy in that incredulity, even after the example of the greatest sinners, who became converted, had been placed before them.

Mt 21:33. Our Redeemer, having censured the obstinate incredulity of the Scribes and Pharisees, in the application of the preceding parable, now employs another parable, in which He notes some of their most grievous crimes, and the ruin which such crimes was to entail on them. St. Jerome remarks (in hunc locum), that the Chief Priests and princes of the people, who sought to surprise in His words, Him who is Eternal Wisdom itself, and had arrogantly demanded of Him to show His authority for the things He did (Mt 21:23), are now vanquished by their own arms; since, He proposes to them, under the veil of parables, what they did not deserve to have explained to them openly. They are caught in their own snares, whereby they wished to surprise Him; and, without perceiving at first to what the several comparisons tended, they are forced to pronounce their own condemnation.

The scope of the parable, of which the literal sense needs no explanation, is clearly expressed by our Redeemer Himself (Mt 21:43).

“The householder,” who is the same as “the man who had two sons” (v. 28), denotes God the Father, the Father of the entire human family, who governs and upholds all living creatures.

“Who planted a vineyard,” that is, His people Israel, in the land of Chanaan, after having transferred them from Egypt, and chased the Gentiles, “vineam de Egypto transtulisti,” &c. (Ps 80:9.) From the Prophet Isaias, our Redeemer borrows this similitude (Isa. 5:1), in order to bring greater conviction to their minds, and to impress them the more. For, Isaias not only employs the parable; but, he also predicts that our Redeemer would employ it (Isa 5:1), and in the same passage the Holy Ghost explains what “the vineyard” meant. “For, the vineyard of the Lord of Hosts is the house of Israel” (Isa 5:7). And what the expected fruits meant, is clearly explained: “I looked that He should do judgment, and behold iniquity; and to do justice and behold a cry” (Isa 5:7).

“Made a hedge … winepress … tower.” It is observed by some of the most distinguished interpreters of SS. Scripture, among the rest, by Grotius, that it is not necessary to explain in detail what these words signify; since, our Redeemer, as well as the Prophet, from whom He borrows the idea, only mean to denote by them, in a general way, all the things which served to ornament and protect the vineyard, or to help in gathering in the expected fruit. However, we may explain this “hedge and tower,” of the all powerful protection of the Lord; since the Royal Prophet declares to God, in the midst of the persecutions he suffered, at the hands of Saul, that he was a “tower of strength against the face of the enemy;” and his son, Solomon, expresses the same, “The name of the Lord is as an impregnable tower” &c. (Prov. 18:10); and when the Lord menaces His people with the withdrawal of His protection, He employs the same figurative and expressive language (Isa. 5:5), “I will take away the hedge thereof and it shall be wasted,” that is, He shall take away His powerful protection, which is the greatest misfortune that can befall, either an entire people, or a particular soul. The same idea is conveyed by the demon when, addressing God in the case of Job he says, “nonne tu vallasti eum?” &c. St. Jerome, however, understands by the “tower,” in a more special way, the Temple of Jerusalem, the strength of the Jewish people, in which they reposed their chiefest confidence. In it, they dwelt who were to watch over the interests of the vineyard. By the “hedge,” some understand the Mosaic Law, which separated them from the other nations, and prescribed the limits beyond which they should not pass; others, the protection of God, through His Angels, and the rulers of the people. By the “winepress,” is signified the altar of holocausts, from which the blood of the victim flowed on all sides, as the wine flows under the pressure of the winepress. However, if the principal scope of the parable be attended to, there is no necessity for explaining its several parts in detail.

“And let it out to husbandmen,” that is, He charged the princes, priests and magistrates to cultivate it with care, and to guard it according to the rank which each one held, and the functions each one exercised. The word, “let,” implies, that He kept to Himself the right and dominion over it.

“Went into a strange country.” Not by change of place, as St. Jerome observes, (in hunc locum), since He fills all space by His glorious immensity; but, in order to leave to the husbandmen free will to labour or not, He withdrew, in appearance, by withholding the visible and remarkable signs of His presence, such as He exhibited in the time of Moses and Josue, and the first rulers of the Jewish people; as a man in a distant country, cannot oversee the husbandmen, but, leaves them to themselves.

Mt 21:34. “The time of the fruit,” means, according to some, the time of David, Solomon, Ezechiel, &c., when the Jews had rested in the land of promise, and were expected to exhibit the fruits of virtue and legal observances; others hold, that as God had always expected from His people the fruits of justice, consisting in the love of God and their neighbour, and the fulfilment of all His ordinances, that this is introduced merely as an ornamental part of the parable, and our Redeemer employs this form of speech to conform to the figurative language of the parable of the vineyard, according to which there is a special time for collecting the fruit thereof. “The time of the fruits,” which He sent His servants to collect, shows the great patience of God in waiting for His people; and the duty of those in charge of them, to exhibit the fruit of good works, fidelity in observing His ordinances.

By “the servants,” are meant the Prophets sent at different times to remind the people and their rulers, by salutary admonitions, of their duty and their obligation, to cultivate the vineyard, by performing works worthy of penance, and not seek their own exclusive profit, but the profit, that is to say, the glory of its Master. We read of these Prophets being occasionally sent to rouse the faith and piety of the Jewish people—Isaias, Jeremias, Ezechiel, Zacharias, &c. These illustrious heroes of faith, in discharging their ministry, were more jealous of the interests of their Heavenly Master than of their own; nay, even His interests were more precious to them than their own lives.

Mt 21:35. But, far from rendering the expected fruit, “the husbandmen,” that is, the princes, priests, doctors, &c., to whom the Lord confided the culture of the vineyard, laid violent hands on the “servants.” “One they beat,” Jeremias; “another they killed,” Isaias; “another stored,” Zacharias, the son of Barachias, whom they killed between the temple and the altar. From St. Matthew, it would appear, that these three servants here referred to, were sent simultaneously; while Luke and Mark say, they were sent successively.

Mt 21:36. His sending His servants in greater numbers, after the treatment inflicted on the others, would seem to be with a view of offering a holy violence to the husbandmen, to induce them to render the expected fruits. This exhibits, in the clearest manner, the patience and long-suffering of God, which human malice could not overcome.

“And they did to them in like manner.” This is eloquently described by St. Paul to the Hebrews. (Heb 11:35, &c.)

Mt 21:37. But the excessive patience and goodness of God is manifested more clearly still, in sending “His Son,” or, as St. Mark has it, His “one Son most dear to Him” (Mk 11:6). St. Luke (Lk 20:13), says, He asked, “What shall I do? I will send My beloved Son.” These words do not imply any doubt in God. They may, probably, be merely an ornamental part of the parable, or, rather, they convey the excessive love of God for man, when desirous of leaving nothing undone for their reparation, He thinks of the last expedient, viz., sending His Son.

“They will reverence my son.” These words, any more than the former, employed by St. Luke (Lk 20:13), “it may be … they will reverence him,” do not imply any ignorance on the part of God. They merely express what the clear duty of the husbandmen was, and the great crime they committed in violating this clear duty. Moreover, they are spoken, in accommodation to the parable; and they seem to denote the exercise of human liberty, with which God’s prescience nowise interferes. How often does not God expect, in vain even from Christians, “they will reverence My Son.” At least, should He not expect, that out of gratitude towards Him, who has done and suffered so much for them, they would observe His ordinances, and thus show their love for Him? Would, that even in approaching the Holy Altar, those whom He has chosen as His friends and special confidants, when about to receive the Lamb without spot, always remembered these words, “they will reverence My Son.” With what fervour of soul and purity of conscience, would they not approach the altar; with what reverence would they perform the most Divine of all works, “verebuntur filium meum.” What of those Christians who receive Him into hearts polluted with mortal sin—the abodes of the devil? Do they reverence the Eternal Son of God, when they thus betray Him into the hands of His enemies?

Mt 21:38. “But the husbandmen”—now about “to fill up the measure of their fathers” (Mt 23:32), who had slain, and in different ways maltreated the Prophets—“seeing the son, said among themselves: This is the heir,” &c. By “the son,” as was evident, even to the Pharisees, against whom the parable is directed, is meant our Redeemer Himself, the Eternal Son of God. How it is the Jews recognised Him for the Son of God, is not so easily seen; since, we are assured, they would not have crucified Him, had they known it (1 Cor. 2), and “they had slain the Author of life in ignorance” (Acts 3:15–17).

But, all the words of a parable are not to be applied in their strict sense. Hence, these words may be understood to mean, that they had sufficient evidence, from the testimony of the Baptist, who proclaimed Him to be the Son of God, and from the doctrine and miracles of our Redeemer Himself, to know Him to be such; and hence although “their own malice blinded them, and they knew not the secrets of God” (Wisdom 2:21, &c.), still, they may be said to know Him to be the Son of God in a certain sense, inasmuch as they had the clearest evidence to this effect, and, it is owing to their own voluntary blindness, they did not expressly know Him. It may be also said, that the princes did know Him; for, the texts from 1 Cor. 2, and Acts 3:17, only prove, they did not know the wisdom of the mystery of His death, or the consequences that were to follow from it.

When, then, He came to demand the fruits of the vineyard, the fruits of penance and good works, which redounded to God’s glory, and which His Father expected (John 15:8), they conspired amongst themselves, and resolved to put Him to death, in order to keep “His inheritance,” that is, in order to retain the hold they had of the people; to secure the emolument and reverence resulting therefrom to themselves, without any regard to the glory of God. They had also in view, to prevent the Romans from coming, “and taking away their place and nation.” They preferred subjecting Him to death, who preached the truth, rather than embrace the truth which He preached. The celebrated passage from the Book of Wisdom (Wis 2:12-20), which is understood by all the ancients to refer to the outrage committed by the Jews against our Blessed Lord, throws great light on the preceding exposition. In fact, it almost describes beforehand what is recorded in the Gospel The impious are there represented as conspiring against the just man, since he is “contrary to their doings, and uporaideth them with transgressions of the law,” &c. Hence, they say, “if He be the true Son of God, He will defend Him,” &c., Hence, they are represented as doubting our Lord’s Divinity. Similar are the words of the Jews, St. Matthew (Mt 27:42), “if He be the King of Israel, let Him come down from the cross,” &c. But although they should have regarded Him as the Son of God, from His miracles and doctrine, from the testimony of the Prophets, still, “their own malice blinded them, and they knew not the secrets of God” (Wisdom 2:21, 22).

Mt 21:39. “They east him out of the vineyard,” &c., is allusive to the mode in which our Redeemer was put to death, outside the gates of Jerusalem. (Heb. 13:12, &c.)

Mt 21:40-41. “They say to him: He will bring these evil men,” &c. This is the conclusion for which the parable was chiefly intended. This menaced ruin was inflicted by Titus here, and will be inflicted by the demons of hell hereafter. St. Luke (Lk 20:15, &c.), says, it was our Redeemer said this, and the Pharisees answered, “God forbid.” Both accounts are true. Most likely, the Pharisees answered, as is stated here by St. Matthew, not seeing the tendency of their answer; and our Redeemer repeated this answer, and approved of it, as is stated by St. Luke, so that they perceived, from His manner of expressing it, its full application, and the sentence they had unconsciously pronounced against themselves. Hence, on perceiving this, they replied, “God forbid,” meaning to repudiate the application of the parable to themselves, and the punishment entailed by the crimes referred to. They could not deny the wicked dispositions they were in regarding the murder of the Son of God, the Heir of the vineyard. For, St. Luke says, they “sought to destroy Him” (Lk 19:47).

The words, “He will let out his vineyard to other husbandmen,” &c., as St. Chrysostom remarks, denote the reprobation of the Jews and the calling of the Gentiles. However, they more immediately regard the Doctors of the Law, on the one hand; and the Apostles and the first teachers of the Gospel, on the other; to whom the vineyard was to be let to cultivate it, and to present the expected fruit in due season. This fruit was exhibited in the conversion of the entire world to the faith, and to a life of Christian sanctity, and in the heroic constancy of so many virgins and martyrs. It also, in a certain sense, regarded each soul in particular; since, every one is bound to labour, by good works, to save his own soul, and by cultivating this spiritual vineyard, to edify his neighbour. It is let to each one of us, on condition of bringing forth fruit in due time, according to the several circumstances of life in which we may be placed.

Mt 21:42. The connexion of this with the preceding can easily be seen, when we look to the reading of St. Luke (Lk 20:16). It arises out of their repudiation of the conclusion drawn in verse 41, as applicable to themselves, “absit:” “God forbid” (Luke 20:16), although, indeed, the same is implied in the interrogative form used by St. Matthew here, and by St. Mark, “Have you never read?” &c. Our Redeemer, looking on them, in order to add to their confusion, with an air of stern severity, refers them, in proof of the truth and applicability of the conclusion they would fain reject and deny, to the SS. Scriptures, in the knowledge of which they gloried; and He shows that in these same Scriptures, that was predicted which they denied, they said, “God forbid,” viz., that they would reject Christ, the Son of God; that they would be destroyed, and the vineyard transferred to other hands. The first and third points He shows here; the second, viz., that they would be destroyed, He shows in Mt 21:44.

“The stone which the builders rejected.” Our Redeemer exhibits the same idea under the different similitudes, of workmen, vine-dressers, labourers. Here, the idea is borrowed from that of architects. This latter is frequently employed by St. Paul. (1 Cor. 3:9, &c.)

By “the stone rejected by the builders,” is meant, as we are informed by St. Peter (1 Pet 2:4, &c.), our Lord Himself. The idea is, that, like a stone cast aside as worthless by the builders of one edifice, and made the chief binder, the corner stone in another; Christ was rejected by the Pharisees and Doctors of the Old Law, in the building up of the synagogue and house of God, of which they were the chief builders; but, He was chosen by God to be set in Sion with honour, as the chief corner and foundation stone. This He became, when He united two peoples in one, connecting and cementing them in His Blood, reconciling them by His Cross. There is a tacit opposition conveyed here between God’s selecting Him, and men’s rejecting Him.

“By the Lord this has been done,” as if to say, this economy in assigning the honourable place in the building of His Church to Christ, who had been rejected by the Jews, the builders of the synagogue, was not accomplished by man, as it was in opposition to human power; but, against all human exertions, it was brought about by the power of God alone, who, by an admirable disposition of His providence, made the malice of His enemies the means of exalting Christ; thus, drawing good, out of evil. It is all divine. The means employed are altogether independent of human strength or wisdom. Hence, this admirable display of Divine power and wisdom, through means, humanly speaking, weak and foolish, “is wonderful in our eyes,” that is, in the eyes of the believers, who regard Christ, crucified and rejected, as “the wisdom and power of God” (1 Cor. 1) This transferring of the Gospel to the Gentiles—a mystery hidden for ages in the bosom of God (Eph. 3:9), and unknown even to the Prince of the Apostles himself, till he was shown it in the vessel let down from heaven, in the form of a great linen sheet, &c. (Acts 10:11)—is what was “wonderful in their eyes.”

Mt 21:43. In this verse, without any ambiguity whatsoever, He directly applies to them this parable, as well as the two preceding ones, of the disobedient son and wicked husbandmen, and He points out the punishment of their obstinacy and ingratitude. “Therefore,” as the direct consequence of the fulfilment of the Scripture testimony, that the stone which was to be made the head of the corner, was rejected by them, and as a punishment of their ingratitude, “the kingdom of God,” viz., all the marks which distinguished them as the people of God, having God for their king, viz., the ceremonies of the Old Law, the sacrifices, the temple and city of Jerusalem, which constituted the glory of the entire Jewish nation, were to be destroyed. The words, “kingdom of God,” may also refer to the Church, where God reigns, by faith and grace, which is the entrance to heaven, where He reigns in glory, as also the Gospel law and privileges, whereby the dominion of the devil is destroyed. These “shall be taken away from you,” and in order to excite their jealousy the more, “given,” or transferred, by the gratuitous goodness of God, “to a nation yielding the fruits thereof,” that is, to a nation, to whom, by a mysterious dispensation, the ingratitude and infidelity of the Jews would be made the occasion of imparting God’s grace, and of rendering them His chosen people. “The fruits thereof,” that, is, of the kingdom of God.

Mt 21:44. It is clear, the different parts of this verse denote a fall of greater or lesser destructiveness. They have reference to the punishment of greater or lesser magnitude, to be inflicted on the Pharisees, whom our Redeemer here addresses. The idea is borrowed from frail, brittle vessels, to which men are sometimes compared in SS. Scripture, as well here as elsewhere, either falling from a lofty eminence against a hard rock, or upon which a rock falls from some lofty elevation. The injury done in the former case is not beyond all hopes of reparation; while, in the latter case, when the stone falls on the brittle object, the ruin is supposed to be irreparable, and the object broken in pieces. In these words, our Redeemer proves against the Pharisees one of the points denied by them, when they cried out, “God forbid” (Luke 20:16), viz., that they would be utterly destroyed.

Commentators are not, however, agreed as to the precise meaning of the words, and difference of the two antithetical members of the sentence. By those, “who shall fall upon this stone, and shall be broken,” some, with Jansenius, &c., understand those who, in this life, haughtily raising themselves against this mystical stone, wish to despise it and trample it under foot, thus injuring only themselves, both in mind and body. This injury, however, is not of such a nature as not to be reparable by penance. This class refer to the persecutors of the name of Christ, who enter on a course very injurious to themselves, and impossible as regards success. To them apply the words, “durum est tibi contra stimulum calcitrare.” By those, “on whom it shall fall and grind them to powder,” they understand, those on whom God shall execute His vengeance from heaven, without any hopes of reparation. This was illustrated in the utter ruin and dispersion of the Jews by Titus; and it will be illustrated in a still clearer way, when, on the last day, He shall consign the reprobates to everlasting flames. The idea of designating utter ruin by the breaking of earthen vessels, is frequent in SS. Scripture. (Isa. 30:14; Jer. 19:11, &c.) Others understand the words, “whosoever shall fall on this stone,” to refer to the class who were scandalized at our Redeemer when here on earth; at His poverty, humiliation, and doctrine. Such were those to whom He was speaking. They fell against this Divine stone, and were broken before God, owing to their pride and envy. On the other hand, by those on whom it fell, utterly “grinding them to powder,” are meant, those who, after our Redeemer’s death and ascension into heaven, obstinately resisted His doctrine and the truth of His resurrection. Such were the Jewish Doctors in opposing the Apostles, in persecuting them, now that our Lord sat in heaven at the right hand of His Father. Upon these and their children, the weight of His vengeance and rigorous justice had fallen from the height of heaven. This was exemplified in their utter destruction by Titus; and their dispersion as vagabonds on the face of the earth unto the present day.

Others think, that to “fall on this stone,” means, incredulity, the refusal to believe in Christ. To these unbelievers, He is a rock of offence. This is the meaning attached to the words, rock of offence by St. Paul (Rom. 9:33; 1 Peter 2:7, 8) By the words, “on whomsoever it shall fall,” these understand, the coming of Christ from heaven to judge them irrevocably, and condemn them to the frightful punishments of the life to come, as if the whole verse meant: they shall be miserable in this life, and shall undergo the first death, who refuse to believe in Christ; “whosoever shall fall … shall be broken;” and they shall be more miserable still in the life to come, where “this stone shall fall” upon them, “and grind them to powder,” when Christ shall condemn them to the second and everlasting death (Rev 2:20; 6:14, &c.; 21:8).

Mt 21:45. From our Redeemer’s significant manner and gestures, as also from the Scriptural quotations, they understood Him to speak of themselves.

Mt 21:46. Far, however, from being seized with holy fear, and falling down and adoring Jesus Christ, as they should have done, they were blinded with malice, and planned His destruction, which they accomplished three days after.

The preceding parable, although directly addressed to the Jews, whose ingratitude to God had provoked the most signal chastisements, temporal and eternal, is still pregnant with instruction for all Christians, who have reason to apprehend like punishment, should they also be guilty of like crimes, by proving unfaithful to grace, and by not rendering the fruits of justice and sanctity in due time. This dreadful judgment has, in fact, unhappily, been executed on entire kingdoms, who have lost the faith. And the same has happened, and happens every day, to private individuals, who, in punishment of their obstinacy and neglect of God’s grace, are left to themselves, and delivered over to a reprobate sense. God frequently sent the Jewish people His holy Prophets to instruct them; His heavenly lights and inspirations to point out their duty, and stimulate them to perform it. These they repeatedly spurned, which ended in their trampling under foot the Son of God, and crucifying Him. Christians act a similar part, when they commit mortal sin, and offer an affront to the Spirit of Grace. The grace which is denied these haughty, ungrateful souls, is bestowed on the meek and humble of heart.

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Matthew Chapter 20

Posted by Dim Bulb on November 16, 2018

ANALYSIS OF MATTHEW CHAPTER 20

In this chapter, our Lord illustrates His assertion contained in last verse of preceding chapter, that “many that are first shall be last, and the last first,” by the parable of the householder, who hired men at different hours of the day to labour in his vineyard, of which parable many parts are merely ornamental; and He then draws the conclusion He wished to prove and illustrate (Mt 20:1–16). He next foretells His Passion and Resurrection (Mt 20:17–19). He rebukes the sons of Zebedee, who employed their mother to ask for them priority and pre-eminence in His kingdom (Mt 20:20–23), and He inculcates humility, on several grounds (Mt 20:24–28). He restores their sight to two blind men in the neighbourhood of Jericho (Mt 20:29–34).

Mt 20:1. “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 (Mt 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 (Mt 20:16). 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” (Mt 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 119th 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” (Mt 20:6, 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” (Psa. 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)

“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; 11:7, 8; 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.

“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.”

Mt 20:15. 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; Sir 31:14; Mark 7:22).

Mt 20:16. “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 (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.

Mt 20:17. Here close the acts of the third year of our Redeemer’s preaching. For, shortly after treating of the parable of the workmen, He raised Lazarus from the dead. This resuscitation of Lazarus occurred in the month of March, the same in which He was crucified, in the 34th year of his age. Hence, all that St. Matthew records in the following chapters, not descriptive of His Passion, took place on the eve of, or at least shortly before, His Passion, the history of which commences (Mt 26:1).

“Going up to Jerusalem.” We are informed by St. John (11:54), that, after having raised Lazarus from the dead, our Redeemer, in order to avoid the fury of the Jews, retired to the city of Ephraim, near the desert, and thence went up to Jerusalem, as is recorded here, in order to fulfil the decree of His Eternal Father, regarding His death and sufferings for the redemption of mankind.

“Took the twelve disciples apart and said to them.” Our Redeemer wished to make His disciples acquainted, beforehand, with the circumstances of His death and Passion, in order to confirm them in the faith, when they saw that He died freely and voluntarily, “oblatus quia ipse voluit,” and thus to arm them, on remembering His predictions, against the scandal of His Passion, and the shock it might otherwise naturally occasion to their faith. He informed them “apart,” because it was sufficient for Him to make it known to them who were to be witnesses of the accomplishment of His predictions, but He did not wish to do so publicly, lest it might interfere with the economy of redemption.

Mt 20:18. “Behold,” to arrest their attention in regard to an event which was soon to occur. Our Redeemer now foretells His Passion, for the third time. The nearer the period arrives, the more minutely He details its different circumstances. St. Luke (18:31), informs us, that our Lord, on this occasion, referred to the necessity of fulfilling the predictions of the Prophets, regarding the Son of man.

“We go up to Jerusalem,” which was built on high ground.

“The Son of man.” He so calls Himself whenever He refers to any of the actions or modifications immediately appertaining to His human nature, as here. “Betrayed.” He does not say by whom. This He reserves for the Last Supper.

“Condemn Him to death.” When, in the hall of Caiphas, they cried out with one accord, “He is guilty of death” (26:66).

19. “The Gentiles,” viz., the Romans, Pilate and his satellites. The handing over of one to the Gentiles was regarded among the Jews as a most opprobrious punishment (Calmet). Pilate says, “Thy own nation, and the Chief Priests have delivered Thee up to me” (John 18:35).

“Mocked, and scourged, and crucified.” The Jews only called for His death and crucifixion, which they had no power to inflict. “Nobis non licet oocidere quenquam.” They did not call for His flagellation, or scornful treatment. But, this was a consequence of His having been delivered up to Pilate. Hence, “mocked and scourged,” only express the consequence of His being delivered up, but not the intention of the Jews, although they might be said, in a certain sense, to have intended it, inasmuch, as in their charge against Him, as mock king, they afforded grounds to have Him derided by the soldiery. This mocking of Him preceded His cruel flagellation, which they may be said to have intended, as they knew it usually preceded crucifixion. Mocking, scourging, and crucifixion were the principal parts of our Redeemer’s Passion.

“And,” that is, but, “the third day,” &c. This He adds, to furnish grounds for consolation in the midst of the sorrows caused by His sufferings.

St. Luke (Lk 18:34), adds, “they understood none of these things, and this word was hid from them.” There is a great diversity of opinion as to the meaning of these words. It is quite clear, that the disciples understood our Lord on the several occasions He spoke of His Passion, to refer to His death. Hence, the mistaken zeal of Peter (Mt 16:22). Hence, the grief which the announcement caused the Apostles on another occasion (Mt 17:22). What they did not understand, were the circumstances of His Passion, its end, its consequences. While understanding Him to speak of His death, they could not understand, why He, who was the Eternal Son of God, should voluntarily, and of His own free accord, submit to sufferings which He might have escaped. They could not understand the object, or necessity, or utility of such sufferings. The wisdom of God, displayed in the economy of Redemption, was to them a mystery.

Mt 20:20. “Then.” Most likely, after our Lord had spoken of His approaching Passion and Resurrection on His way to Jerusalem. The word may mean, about that time.

“Came to Him the mother of the sons of Zebedee.” Her name was Salome (Matt. 27:56; Mark 15:40).

He calls her, “the mother of the sons,” &c., rather than the wife of Zebedee, probably, because she might have been a widow at the time. Moreover, the following narrative directly concerned the sons of Zebedee, who were well known in the Gospel history. “With her sons,” James and John, the same who were present at the Transfiguration. “Worshipping Him.” Exhibiting profound veneration, with the view of gaining His good-will. “And asking something.” Making a general request at first, in order to bind Him by His promise to grant the particular request she wanted. Probably, she anticipated a refusal if she mentioned, in the first place, the particular thing she wanted.

St. Mark (Mk 10:35), says, that it was John and James themselves that addressed Him in very general terms, asking Him to grant whatsoever they would desire. However, there is no contradiction; for, they may be said to have asked themselves, what they employed their mother to ask on their behalf. It was likely, they availed themselves of their mother’s good offices in this matter, thinking it might be the most successful way of obtaining their request; and if there was anything deordinate or indelicate in it, the mother’s love and partiality for her children, would render it more excusable; and the claims of the mother, on the grounds of her having been among the pious females who attached themselves to our Lord (Matt. 27:55, 56), they imagined to be such as to render her a most successful intercessor. Some even say, she had claims of consanguinity on our Blessed Lord. This, however, is denied by others.

Mt 20:21. Our Redeemer, before committing Himself to any, even general promise, wishes beforehand, to ascertain what she wanted, thereby leaving His followers an example of wisdom in such circumstances.

“She said: Grant that these my two sons,” &c. This strange petition, on the part of this mother, was occasioned, probably, by our Redeemer having said, that in the glorious manifestation of His reign, the Apostles would sit on twelve thrones, as assessors at judgment, and from His having said, on the present occasion, that He was to rise again, three days after His death. From this they at once concluded, that His glorious reign was nigh. It was the settled impression on the minds of the Apostles, that this glorious reign which they imagined would resemble, or, rather exceed, in external pomp and show, all earthly kingdoms, was near at hand (Luke 19:11; Acts 1:6). This accounts for the strange petition of the mother of the sons referred to here. Not unlikely, they apprehended that Peter might be preferred before them, notwithstanding the particular regard manifested towards them by our Lord. Hence, they wished to be beforehand in preferring this petition, to occupy the highest position in the new kingdom, next Himself, signified by sitting on His right and left (St. Chrysostom). It is disputed whether it was worldly pre-eminence, in His earthly kingdom, or spiritual pre-eminence, in His heavenly and eternal kingdom, they had in view. The opinion of St. Chrysostom, who maintains the former view, seems the more probable. Our Redeemer’s answer, which would seem to refer to His heavenly kingdom, is perfectly reconcileable with this; for, He turns the subject from earthly to heavenly and spiritual pre-eminence. The words in St. Mark (Mk 10:37), “in Thy glory,” may be understood, of the glory of His temporal kingdom, which alone they seemed at this time to appreciate.

Mt 20:22. Our Redeemer, with His usual meekness, excuses the carnal and inordinate ambition of His two Apostles, on the ground of ignorance. Addressing themselves directly, since He knew their mother had spoken at their instance, He says, “You know not what you ask;” on several grounds—first, because they mistook the nature of the kingdom in which they sought pre-eminence. They took the kingdom of our Lord for an earthly, temporal kingdom. Again, they imagined themselves fit for it with their present dispositions, whereas they should become other men in order to be fit for it. Moreover, they mistook the means for gaining pre-eminence; they imagined that our Redeemer could bestow it on whom He pleased, on the grounds of friendship or preference, as happens in earthly kingdoms, without any regard to merit. Hence, it is, that in order to correct their erroneous notions, in the two former respects, He asks, “Can you drink?” &c.; and He corrects the latter erroneous notion, by saying, “To sit on My right hand … is not Mine, but for whom it is prepared,” &c.

“Can you drink the chalice?” &c. The word, “chalice,” the container for the thing contained, the portion of wine placed for each one at table, is frequently used in SS. Scripture, to denote the lot marked out for each one by Divine Providence, whether good and agreeable, as in Psa. 16:5; 23:5; or bitter and evil, as in Psa. 11:7; 75:9; Isa. 51:17–22; Jer. 25. Adopting this well-known form of speech, our Redeemer asks them, “Can you,” are you willing and prepared, have you sufficient strength and power of endurance, “to drink the chalice that I shall drink?” In other words, have you strength to share in the sufferings, the ignominy, the bitter death, that I have before me, as marked out in the decrees of my Eternal Father; and thus establish some claim, on the grounds of merit, to the pre-eminence you ask for? The metaphor of the “chalice,” as designating man’s destiny, is, according to some, derived from the ancient custom of giving men, condemned to death, a cup of poison, as in the case of Socrates; or, according to others, from the custom prevalent among the Jews, on the part of the master of the feast, of tempering the wine as he wished, and of assigning to each of his guests his portion—to some a better, to others a loss desirable portion.

The Greek adds, “and to be baptized with the baptism with which I am to be baptized.” St. Mark (Mk 10:38), has the same in the Vulgate version. The idea, conveyed in such baptism, is the same as that conveyed in the metaphor of the chalice. It refers to His sufferings and death, as in Luke (Lk 12:50), “I have a baptism,” &c. The metaphor of baptism, designating sufferings, is, probably, owing to the prevalent notion, that waters were expressive of suffering. Thus we find (Psa. 144:7), “Libera me de aquis multis;” also (69:3), “Infixus sum in profundi limo, veni in altitudinem maris et tempestas demersit me;” also (124:5), “Our soul hath passed through a torrent,” &c.

“They say to Him: We can.” According to some expositors, James and John understood what our Redeemer referred to. But, having foolishly ambitioned what they knew not, now owing to their avidity to obtain it, they are prepared to accept any conditions; and forgetful of their own weakness and cowardice, of which the apprehensions they felt already on going to Jerusalem should have convinced them, they rashly assert, they are prepared for any sufferings. According to others, they knew not what our Redeemer meant, but they promised, from an impulse of ardent love, to join our Redeemer in any sufferings He might undergo.

Mt 20:23. “My chalice, indeed, you shall drink.” St. James was put to death by Herod; St. John, after being scourged, like the other Apostles, by the Jews, was cast, by the orders of Domitian, into a cauldron of boiling oil, which would have caused death, had he not been miraculously saved. He was afterwards exiled into Patmos (St. Jerome).

The words might be regarded, not so much as a prediction of future suffering, as a concession on the part of our Redeemer as if He said: “I can grant you to drink of My chalice, but to sit at My right hand, I cannot grant you.” The drinking of His chalice, and the sitting at His right hand, seem to be antithetical, the granting of one contrasted with the refusal of the other (Maldonatus).

“But to sit at My right hand … is not Mine to give you.” Some lay stress on the word “you,” as if He said, I can give it to others who may merit it, according to the disposition of My Father, but to you, irrespective of merit, and in your present dispositions, I cannot give it. This interpretation would not leave the shadow of objection to the Arians against our Lord’s Divinity, the comparison instituted being, not between the power of the Father and that of the Son; but, between the persons who may be worthy or unworthy to receive pre-eminence from either the Father or the Son, who always act in concert and harmony.

Although the word, “you,” is not in the Greek; still, some of the Fathers, who adopt the Greek reading, interpret the passage in the above sense, warranted by the Vulgate (St. Chrysostom, Cyril, Theophylact, &c.), thus: it is not mine to give, after the manner or from the motives you suppose, viz., favouritism, friendship, or consanguinity.

“But, to them for whom,” &c. The words, “it shall be given,” or some such, are understood to complete the sense, thus: “but it shall be given to them … by My Father,” whose providence has awarded it solely to merit. Our Redeemer does not say, it is not Mine to give it; but it belongs to My Father to do so. No; He only says, it is not Mine to grant it to any but those for whom it is prepared by My Father; thereby insinuating, that He was still the bestower of it; but, only on conditions determined by His Father, as in Luke 22:29; Rev 3:21. Although all external works, such as granting the pre-eminence in question, be common to the Trinity; still, by appropriation, certain external effects are ascribed to the several Persons of the Trinity. Power to the Father; wisdom to the Son, &c. Hence, the granting of pre-eminence being an act of power, may, by appropriation, be attributed to the Father. “Not mine,” might also mean, “not mine,” as man, without reference to My Father’s providence and ordination. The meaning will be quite clear, if “but” (αλλα) be interpreted, “except” (ει μη), as in Mark 9:8; 2 Cor. 2:5, &c.

Mt 20:24. Although, probably, at some distance from our Redeemer and the mother of the sons of Zebedee, the ten other Apostles understood, however, from our Redeemer’s reply, what the conversation referred to; subject still to carnal affections and ambitious notions (for the Holy Ghost had not yet descended on them); they may have each of them expected for himself this pre-eminence. Our Redeemer, with His usual meekness, quietly bore with this outburst of carnal indignation without any severe expression of censure.

Mt 20:25. He adduces two examples of a very dissimilar nature, in order to correct their false notions and cure their pride—the one derived from the conduct of earthly princes, whose principles being quite opposite to theirs, they should not, therefore, follow or adopt; the other (Mt 20:28), from His own conduct, whom they should imitate, as their Divinely appointed model.

“The princes of the Gentiles,” who know not God, and, unlike the princes among the Jews, confined by the law of God within certain bounds, are governed by no law, save their own capricious wills; men, whose conduct is the opposite of what you should follow.

“Lord it over them.” The Greek word (κατακυριευουσιν) signifies, to exercise authority against “them,” that is, the Gentile peoples subject to their control, whom they rule tyrannically with a high hand, not for the good of their subjects, which should be the end of all authority, but for their own selfish purposes, to gain honour or emolument.

“And they that are the greater” (ὅι μεγαλοι), the magnates vested with power. “Exercise power upon them,” practise tyranny, and unlawfully domineer over their subjects. In these words, our Redeemer wishes to convey to His Apostles, that, in thus expressing indignation, arising from inordinate ambition, they are only following the perverse example of Gentile rulers. In this there is no argument against the stern exercise of authority, civil or ecclesiastical, whenever the good of the community requires it. St. Paul inculcates obedience to civil rulers, even on the grounds of conscience. (Rom. 13) We find the same Apostle exercising spiritual authority against a scandalous sinner. (1 Cor. 5) He also expresses His readiness to repress every disobedience, and exercise power unto edification. (2 Cor. 13) St. Peter exercises authority, with effect, in the case of Ananias and Sapphire. What our Redeemer censures here, is the tyrannical exercise of power, with the vain display of authority, on the part of rulers, over their subjects. This is plainly denoted by the Greek, for, “exercise power” and “lord it.” It is the same that St. Peter prohibits in the rulers of the Church, in regard to their spiritual subjects (1 Peter 5:3).

Mt 20:26. “It shall not be so among you; but whosoever will be the greater among you, let him be your minister.” In these words, is conveyed a line of conduct, the opposite of what is referred to in the words of the preceding verse, “and they that are greater, exercise power upon them.”

Mt 20:27. “And he that will be first among you … your servant.” In these words is conveyed the opposite of what is conveyed in the words, “the princes of the Gentiles lord it over them.” The idea conveyed Mt 20:26-27, is the same. There is a great diversity of opinion as to their scope and meaning. Some, with St. Jerome, hold, that the words express the mode in which we should exercise preeminence and primacy, not in the Church, but in the sight of God, and this mode is, the practice of humility and submission. The more humble we are, the higher we are in God’s sight. If any man wishes to be exalted, and to obtain pre-eminence in the sight of God, let him practice humility, and act as if he were the servant of others. From the whole context, however, it would rather seem, that the scope of our Lord is to show, not how pre-eminence and primacy are to be obtained, and sought for; but rather, how those who hold the first place of pre-eminence in the Church, should show and exercise the authority conferred on them. For, He places before them an example of persons who actually enjoy power, whose conduct in exercising power they should not imitate; and He next subjoins His own Divine example, which they should imitate, in the exercise of authority. Hence, the words mean: whosoever amongst you means to obtain pre-eminence, let him, when he obtains it, so exercise it as to be the minister and servant of all, that is, let him act with such meekness, as if those placed under him were his masters; and let him refer everything to the advantage and salvation of his people, and not to his own honour or emolument. Our Redeemer, while pointing out the manner of exercising authority and pre-eminence, employs language which would apparently apply to the manner of seeking, or, the way of arriving at power; because, this was most applicable to the circumstances of the Apostles, who ambitioned pre-eminence and power.

Mt 20:28. Our Redeemer proposes Himself, who was the first in His kingdom, the prince and founder of the Ecclesiastical hierarchy, as the model whom His Apostles and all vested with power, should imitate. “Even as the Son of man is not come to be ministered unto, but to minister.” Similar are His words (Luke 22:26, 27). He came not to seek His own glory, or honour, or emolument; but, the glory of His Father, and the advantage and salvation of others, going among them, doing good, ministering to their temporal and spiritual wants, with the greatest meekness and humility. And He showed how much He had the salvation and good of others at heart, when He “gives His life,” by undergoing the most ignominious death, “a redemption” (λυτρον), a ransom, a price of atonement, or redemption, which, owing to the union of the Divine Person with human nature, thus imparting infinite value to the acts performed, through His assumed nature, was not only sufficient, or abundant, but a superabundant price. By His ignominious death, He disarmed the wrath of His Father, outraged by sin, and rescued us from the power of the devil, to whom God handed us over as slaves, to be tormented. “For many.” The word, “many,” means, all mankind, who are many. St. Paul (1 Tim. 2:6) says, “He gave Himself a redemption for all.” The word, “many,” frequently bears this meaning (Mt 20:16; Rom. 5:19; Isa. 53), “multorum peccata tulit.” And St. Paul expressly states, that Christ died for all (2 Cor. 5:14; 1 John 2:2), “a propitiation for the sins of the whole world.” Or, if we take “many” in a limited sense, so as not to embrace all; then, the words will mean, that, although He died for all, in the sense that He wished to save all, and for this end furnished them with sufficient graces; still, this did not actually profit all unto salvation, but only the just, who persevered and died in grace. These though not comprising all, are many.

Mt 20:29. On His way from Ephraim to Jerusalem, He passed through Jericho; and great multitudes followed Him, attracted by the fame of His doctrine and miracles. Possibly, the idea that His glorious reign was nigh at hand (Luke 19:11), might have attracted in still greater crowds those who were witnesses of the miracle He was soon to perform.

Mt 20:30. “And behold, two blind men,” &c. It is generally agreed upon, that there is reference here to the same miracle recorded (Mark 10:46). St. Mark, however, speaks only of one blind man, called, Bar-Timeus, the son of Timeus. It is likely, He speaks of him, omitting all mention of the other, as being so well known in the country. It is a subject much disputed, whether reference is made to the same by St. Luke (Lk 18:35). For, according to him, the miracle which he records took place when our Redeemer “drew nigh, to Jericho;” whereas here, the miracle is said to have occurred when He was leaving Jericho. Hence, it is supposed by some, that there is question of two distinct miracles. (St. Augustine, Jansenius, &c.) Others maintain, that there is reference to the same miracle here and in St. Luke; since the account is, in every respect, identical, except in the circumstance relating to the approach to or departure from Jericho; but these maintain, that the contradiction in this latter point is more apparent than real; since, it might happen, that on our Redeemer’s approaching Jericho, the blind men presented themselves, and being unheeded by our Lord, they might again have presented themselves, as He was leaving, and been then cured (A. Lapide). Others reconcile both narratives, by giving the word, “approach,” the meaning of, being near to, Jericho.

“Son of David, have mercy on us.” These blind men proclaim aloud, that they regarded Him as the promised Messiah, who was to be born of the seed of David, and whom the Jewish people were anxiously expecting, at this time, owing to the several circumstances predicted by the Prophet regarding Him, having been fulfilled. (John 4:25; Luke 3:15). Their minds having been interiorly enlightened by faith, they call aloud: Lord, whom we believe to be the long-expected Messiah, the son of David, Thou seest our great misery in not being able to see the sun of heaven, “have mercy on us,” and remove our blindness. They doubt not His power. They proclaim His human nature, “son of David;” and His Divine nature also, “have mercy on us.” Confessing His Divine power, they proclaim that all He wanted was the will to cure them.

Mt 20:31. The crowd, who accompanied our Lord, imagining that the excessive importunity of these men might be offensive to Him, as He did not, at first, seem to attend to them; and thinking they were only asking for an ordinary alms, “rebuked them.” It might be, that some among the crowd felt hurt at these blind men addressing Him as “the son of David.” But, these cried out the louder, “Son of David,” &c.

Mt 20:32. Our Lord seemed not to attend to the cries of these blind men, at first, in order to teach us to persevere in prayer; and also to show, that He was not anxious to perform the miracle from any empty display; and by deferring its performance, He wished to render the evidence of its having taken place, the more indisputable. He, then, as if overcome by the importunity, perseverance, and strong faith of these wretched men, called them, and asked what they wanted. This He knew already; however, their answer would render the miracle less liable to cavil, by their admitting that they were blind, and wanted to have their sight restored.

Mt 20:33. “Lord, that our eyes be opened,” which Thou hast power to do, if Thou wilt, and thus, Thou shalt exhibit the signs of the Messiah, “tunc aperientur oculi cæcorum” (Isa. 35:5).

Mt 20:34. “Having compassion.” The Greek word, σπλαγχνιθεις, expresses inward visceral compassion, which, most likely, displayed itself in His eyes and countenance. “He touched their eyes, and immediately they ran and followed Him,” like the rest of the crowd; thus, giving the clearest proof of the reality of the miracle that was performed on them.

This was the fifth instance of the cure of blind men by our Redeemer. The first is recorded, Matt. 9:27; second, Matt. 12:22; third, Mark 8:24; fourth, John 9; fifth, here; sixth, Matt. 21:14.

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Father McEvilly’s Commentary on Matthew Chapter 19

Posted by Dim Bulb on November 16, 2018

ANALYSIS OF MATTHEW CHAPTER 19

In this chapter, we have an account of several miraculous cures performed by our Lord in Judea, whither He had come from Galilee, on His last journey to Jerusalem, at the approach of His sacred Passion (Mt 19:1–2). In reply to the captious questions of the Pharisees on the question of divorce, then so warmly debated by their rival schools, He points out the imperfection of the Mosaic Law, which was, of necessity, accommodated, for the avoidance of greater evils, to their hard-heartedness, and He perfects the Old Law on this subject, by establishing the indissolubility of the marriage tie, in every case, of marriage among Christian parties, once consummated Mt 19:(3–9). He shows a preference for continence, which is practicable, by the aid of God’s grace (Mt 19:10–12). He imposes hands on little children presented to Him, and blesses them (Mt 19:13–15). He recommends a young man, who consults Him, to practise the counsels of Evangelical perfection, and takes occasion to point out the difficulty, on the part of the rich, to attain salvation, which, however difficult or impossible, considering human frailty, is still possible, with the grace and assistance of God (Mt 19:16–23). He points out the great reward and special privileges in store for such as renounce this world, for His sake, and the precedence to be awarded them in God’s kingdom (Mt 19:27–30).

Mt 19:1. “He departed from Galilee,” probably, for the last time. Our Redeemer had often before gone up to Jerusalem, on festival days, as appears from St. John, but this journey is mentioned here specially, as it was His last before He prepared for His sacred Passion. “And came into the coasts of Judea beyond the Jordan,” thus verifying His promise (Mt 16:21). He is preparing for His approaching death, which the Jews were planning (John 7:1). Matthew and Mark omit here a good deal of what our Redeemer did and said, which are recorded. (John 7:1, &c.) “Beyond the Jordan.” Judea and Galilee were both “this side of the Jordan” (“cis Jordanem”), relatively to Jerusalem. But the Jews spoke of Judea, as “beyond the Jordan” (“trans Jordanem”), retaining the form of speech used by them when coming up from Egypt. To one coming up from Egypt, Judea was, “trans Jordanem,” the other side of the Jordan. Or, more likely, here, our Redeemer went from Capharnaum to Jerusalem, not directly, but through Perea, which was beyond the Jordan. This route He took, from motives of privacy, to escape public observation. The words, “He came,” are to be construed, as is clear from the Greek of St. Mark (Mk 10:1), not with “the coasts of Judea,” but with “beyond the Jordan,” which, in the Greek of Mark (δια ποῦ περαν ποῦ Ἰορδανου) means, “through the (country) beyond the Jordan.”

It is most likely that the three other Evangelists who record this departure from Galilee, on His way to Jerusalem (Mark 10:1–32), follow the same order, and employ almost the same words as St. Matthew. St. Luke (Lk 9:51), says, “He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem,” through Samaria; and this, towards the close of His mortal career, when His Ascension was nigh; that is to say, “when the days of His Assumption were accomplishing.” St. John (7), refers to His final departure from Galilee for Judea. While, on former occasions, he mentions His return to Galilee from Judea, he makes no mention whatever of it now. According to St. John, our Redeemer privately ascended to Jerusalem, at the Feast of Tabernacles (in the month of September). He afterwards remained in Judea, and proceeded to the parts beyond the Jordan, as Matthew and Mark relate—and finally, six months after, in the month of March, He entered Jerusalem in triumph, immediately before His Passion. The three Evangelists say, our Redeemer left Galilee for Judea. When? They omit mentioning. St. John says, it was at the Feast of Tabernacles. It was to celebrate that feast He came to Jerusalem. After this, He left Jerusalem; and coming to the extreme confines of Judea, He crossed the Jordan, where great multitudes followed Him.

Mt 19:2. When His arrival at any place became known, crowds flocked around Him, to receive instruction, and obtain the cure of such as were infirm.

“And He healed them there,” that is, where they met Him, or, rather, beyond the Jordan. St. Mark adds—“And He taught them again, as He was accustomed to do.” It was usual with our Redeemer, on performing a miracle, to deliver some point of doctrine, to which the miracle would give greater weight with the people, thus proving to them that such doctrine was of Divine origin.

Mt 19:3. While others were cured of their bodily distempers, and their minds enlightened by His heavenly doctrines, the Pharisees, filled with rage and envy at the glorious works and heavenly teachings of our Blessed Lord, alone remained blind and incurable. Hence, they come to Him, not for the purpose of receiving instruction; but, of “tempting Him,” that is, involving Him, by their captious questions, with the people, or the authorities. They, therefore, propose a question much discussed at the time, viz., “Is it lawful for a man?” &c. If He answered in the affirmative, they would charge Him with contradicting His own teaching on the subject (Mt 5:32), and bring Him into odium with the female portion of the community, for sanctioning and perpetuating the odious law of divorce; and besides, they would cast discredit on His law, as imperfect, and injurious to the stability of the marriage contract. If He answered in the negative, they would arraign Him as opposing the law of Moses, which allowed the husband to put away his wife “for some uncleanness” (Deut. 24:1, &c.); and, moreover, it would bring Him into disfavour with many among the rich and carnal Jews, whose unrestrained licence He would confine within just bounds. Forgetting the many times our Redeemer had put them to shame on former occasions, by turning their captious questions against themselves, and made them retire in confusion, they now propose the question so much agitated among the Jews regarding the lawfulness of divorce, and the nature of the causes which would justify it. “For every cause.” They do not ask, was it lawful for a man to put away his wife, for some grave reason. This, it would seem, was not questioned by any party among the Jews. But the question then warmly agitated between the rival schools of Hillel and Schamai was, whether any cause, be it ever so trifling, if the wife did not please her husband, would warrant the husband to do so; or, whether a just and lawful cause, which could be no other than adultery, was required. The school of Hillel maintained the former opinion, relying on the words of the law, “if she hath not found favour in his eyes” (Deut. 24:1). The school of Schamai held the latter, relying on the words “propter aliquam fœditatem,” which they interpreted of adultery (see Dixon’s “Introduction,” vol. ii. p. 295).

Mt 19:4. Our Redeemer, in order to avoid the dilemma, in which they wished to involve Him, referred them to the law of Moses for an answer, or a decision of their case, His object being to explain to them the law touching divorce, which they had so strangely perverted from its original purpose. “Have ye not read?” &c. The reply of our Redeemer is recorded differently by St. Mark (Mk 10:3). According to him, our Redeemer at once asks, what was the ordinance of Moses on the subject: “What did Moses command you?” and after their reply, He assigned the cause of this precept, and recalled marriage to its original institution. Here, according to St. Matthew, He first shows the indissolubility of marriage from its primeval institution; and, then, after the reply of the Pharisees regarding the ordinance of Moses, assigns the cause of that ordinance (Mt 19:8). However, there is no real difference; since, it is quite usual with one Evangelist to narrate what was omitted by another; and the order of narrative may be different from the order in which things were done or spoken, without any detriment to the truthful accuracy of the Evangelists. St. Mark records our Redeemer’s question touching the ordinance of Moses, which St. Matthew omitted; and, on the other hand, St. Matthew records the Pharisees’ interrogative on the same point, which St. Mark omitted. The most probable arrangement of what occurred on this occasion would be, to place first the question proposed by our Redeemer (Mark 10:3), “What did Moses command you?” Then, after their answer (Mark 10:4), our Redeemer quotes an ordinance still more ancient than that of Moses, on which they so much relied—an ordinance made by God Himself from creation (Matt. 19:4, &c.); and after this they asked Him in turn (Mt 19:7), “Why did Moses command to give a bill?” &c. So, that the order of the narrative, or of events, as given in St. Matthew is to be followed, except that the question of our Redeemer (Mark 10:3), and the reply to it (Mt 19:4), are to be prefixed to verse 4 of this chapter. It is deserving of remark, that when our Redeemer interrogates the Pharisees (Mark 10:3), He uses the word, “command,” while they, in reply, use the word, “permit” (v. 4); while in this chapter they, in their question, employ the word, “command” (Mt 19:7), and He, in reply, uses the word, “permit.” In the questions on both sides, “command” is used, In the answers on both sides, “permit” is used. “Command” and “permit” are used thus indiscriminately, because, the ordinance relating to divorce contained a “command” and a “permission.” It permitted the husbands to divorce their wives on certain conditions; but it commanded them, in case they availed themselves of this permission, to grant a bill of divorce. The permission entailed the command; and the command involved the permission.

When the Pharisees quoted the ordinance of Moses (Mark 10:4), on which the custom of divorcing their wives was grounded, for this custom they could assign no cause whatever. Our Redeemer condemns this vague liberty, on several grounds. The first is founded on the designs of God, in the creation of human nature, and on the original institution of marriage. Among the faithful followers of Christ, things should be recalled to their original and perfect pattern, set before them by God Himself from the beginning. Now, the Pharisees, who boasted so much of their knowledge of SS. Scriptures, should know, that from the very creation, God made only one woman, and not more than one woman, and one man, in order to show ns by this act, that it was not His design that man should unite to himself, either simultaneously or successively, by divorce, more than one woman; and that the marriage tie was, therefore, intended to be indissoluble. He thus proposes an older ordinance, of God Himself, to which the Mosaic ordinances should yield. “Have you not read, that He who made man?” “Man,” is not in the original Greek, which is, ὅ ποιησας (Vatican MS., ὅ, κτισας, the Creator of all things). “From the beginning made them male and female.” The words, “from the beginning,” are to be construed with, “made them male and female,” as in Mark (10:6), “from the beginning of the creation, God made them a male and a female.”

“And he said.” “He,” may refer to God or to Adam, speaking under the influence of inspiration, whose words thus spoken are the words of God.

Mt 19:5. “For this cause,” &c. This quotation contains another reason, condemnatory of the vague, unrestrained license, with which the Jews practised divorce, founded on the strict, indissoluble union, which exists between a man and his wife, a union far more strict than any other that exists between parties, however near or dear to one another. “She is bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh” (Gen. 2:23). “Therefore, shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife.” “Shall cleave,” that is, be most intimately united. “And they two shall be in one flesh.” (In the Greek, εις σαρκα μιαν, “into one flesh”), or, become “one flesh,” just as we say, “Adam was made into a living soul,” that is, “made a living soul.” “One flesh,” one person, by love and carnal union—in which latter sense, St. Paul says (1 Cor. 6:16), “he that is joined to a harlot, is made one body”—and by the right they mutually acquire to each other’s person (1 Cor. 7:4).

Mt 19:6. “Therefore, now they are not two, but one flesh.” These words show, that the phrase in the preceding verse, “in one flesh,” means, they become one, and only one flesh. It is a conclusion derived by our Redeemer from the foregoing, wherein He indirectly insinuates the pertinent conclusion, that, looking to the original institution of marriage, it is against nature itself to cause a division, or separation, in that which is one.

“What, therefore, God hath joined together,” &c. This is a second conclusion, directly bearing on the subject in hand, showing that divorce was not only against nature, as indirectly shown in the preceding; but, also against the positive law and ordinance of God.

“What God hath joined together.” “What,” to show they were joined together in one. “Let not man put asunder.” This, of course, refers to the cases of marriage established by the ordinance of God, and embraces marriage entered into in a state of sin, no less than those contracted in a state of justice, since the reason of the Divine ordinance applies equally to both. The conclusion, however, does not militate against cases not contemplated here by our Redeemer, wherein God Himself dispenses, or establishes an exception, such as the case of the Apostle (1 Cor. 7:7), “if the unbeliever depart, let him depart” (see Commentary on), or the case of entering into religion, “religionis ingressus ante consummatum matrimonium”.

It may be, that in verses 4, 5, our Redeemer does not mean to introduce any argument against divorce, and in favour of the indissolubility of marriage; and that He merely refers to the creation of the first man and woman, and to the original institution of marriage, quoting the Scriptures having reference thereto, only with the view of pointing out the Divine origin of marriage, and the primeval ordinance regarding it, in order to serve as the basis of the twofold argument, or conclusion, established in this verse—one derived from the opposition of divorce to nature itself, in dividing, or making two of what is one; and the other, from its opposition to the original ordinance of the Creator; the former, founded on the words, “they shall be two,” &c.; the other, on the words, “a man shall leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife,” a union which God establishes, and which, therefore, man should not attempt to abolish, or put asunder.

Mt 19:7. The Pharisees, finding themselves unable to reply to the arguments of our Blessed Lord, derived, on the authority of SS. Scripture, from the laws of Nature and God, shelter themselves under the authority of Moses. If marriage be thus indissoluble, what sayest Thou to the ordinance of Moses, who “commands to give a bill of divorce, and put away?” This they object, in the hope that He would have no reply to give; or, that He might speak against Moses, and thus expose Himself to the fury of the people. The question was also a captious one, since the ordinance of Moses did not command, but only permitted, the sending away of one’s wife. The only thing it commanded was, to give a bill of divorce, in case of sending her away; and this Moses did, in order to afford the repudiating husband time for deliberation, and by the difficulties and formalities which the act of repudiation, or the bill of divorce would involve, to deter men altogether from resorting to it. But, the Pharisees, who before employ the word, “permitted” (Mark 10:4), now use the word, “command,” to render their objection more forcible, as if Moses could have commanded anything against the law of God, which our Redeemer’s argument, according to them, would imply. The Pharisees confound two things, which were contained in the act of divorce; the one was the sending away one’s wife. This was not commanded, but permitted. The other was the giving of a written deed, or act of repudiation, a bill of divorce. This was commanded; it was in favour of the repudiated wife, and was an obstacle to divorce.

Mt 19:8. Our Redeemer carefully distinguishes these two things. Moses only “permitted” (not commanded) them to put away their wives, nor did he ever grant this permission freely and voluntarily; He did it from a kind of necessity, “because of the hardness of their hearts.” He did it in condescension to the well-known obstinacy and stiff-necked perversity which would impel them to disobey, if this relaxation were not granted them, and would hurry them on to the greater excesses of either apostatizing or maltreating and killing their wives. For the prevention, then, of these greater evils, Moses permitted them to separate from their wives. “Hardness of heart” (σκληροκαρδια), is a mental obstinacy, whereby men are prevented from believing another, when suggesting what is true, or obeying him when inculcating what is good. The Jewish people were often reproached on this head. (Ezek3:7; Ex 32:9, &c.) Moses, therefore, could not be quoted in favour of a practice which he merely tolerated, or permitted, being, as is assorted by many, in existence before his time, and this out of condescension to their obstinacy, knowing, in case it were not permitted, greater evils would be the consequence. But this permission was not in accordance with the original institution of marriage, or with what took place “from the beginning,” when men’s minds were not perverted by passion, “ab initio non fuit sic.” Hence, they should look rather to the primeval ordination of God, than to the forced permission, on the part of Moses. It was not permitted to Adam, nor to his children, to repudiate their wives. According to the account left by Moses, in Genesis (2), the tie of marriage was most binding; and if Moses afterwards referred to divorce, it was as a matter of necessity, and as a mere permission. By His prudent reply, our Redeemer eluded all the captious snares of His enemies. They hoped that, by quoting the ordinance of Moses, He would be forced either to make some admission, at variance with the perfection of His law, and His former teaching on the subject of divorce, or to disregard the authority of this great legislator, and censure him. He, on the other hand, vindicates the authority of His law, and His former teaching, by referring to the original law of God, as proposed in the SS. Scriptures; and, far from censuring or condemning Moses, He excuses him, and commends his prudence, and says that any fault or blame that could attach to his legislation, was imputable to the Jews themselves.

Mt 19:9. “And I say to you.” “I,” the Legislator of the New Law, who wishes to establish marriage in its original perfection, and to recall it to the condition it had been in “from the beginning” (Mt 19:8), “that whosoever putteth away his wife (except it be for fornication), and shall marry another,” &c. The words of this verse are often misquoted by modern infidels, against the doctrine of the Catholic Church, on the subject of the indissolubility of the marriage tie between Christians, once their marriage is consummated. It is taught by the Council of Trent (§§ xxiv. Can. vii.), and it has been the teaching, at all times, in the Church, from the beginning, that the marriage of Christians, once consummated, cannot be dissolved, save by the death of either party. This is most clearly laid down in SS. Scripture. St. Mark (Mk 10:11), St. Luke (Lk 16:18), declare this, in the most express terms, without any exception whatever. St. Paul, referring to a case where a wife goes away for just reasons, gives her no option, but to remain unmarried, or be reconciled, and return to her husband (1 Cor. 7:11). Hence, he supposes the vinculum of marriage to subsist in this case (see Commentary on). The same Apostle (Rom. 7:3) declares the woman to be an adulteress who marries another while her husband is alive; and this, without any exception. This would not be true, if the vinculum, or tie, of marriage could, in any case, be dissolved. For, though an unmarried party might sin, still, it would not be the sin of adultery. Equally explicit are his words on the same subject (1 Cor. 7:39), “A woman is bound by the law, as long as her husband liveth: but if her husband die, she is at liberty: let her marry to whom she will: only in the Lord.” In these words, the Apostle clearly establishes, in the most formal manner, the indissolubility of the consummated marriage of Christians, in reply, it would seem, to the question of the Corinthians on the subject.

The same is clear from the teaching of our Redeemer in this passage. The Pharisees ask Him, if “any cause,” light or heavy, would justify a man to send away or divorce his wife. In reply, after reminding them of the law of marriage, as it existed “from the beginning,” and recalling it to its original perfection in His more perfect evangelical dispensation, and abolishing the practice of divorce, as it existed by Divine permission, and temporary dispensation among the Jews, He carefully distinguishes between the two things involved in the divorce among the Jews, viz., the putting away of one’s wife, and the marrying another; the latter, viz., remarrying, He declares to be, in His new dispensation, allowable in no case whatsoever; the former, viz., putting away one’s wife, He allows only in one case, viz., that of fornication, or rather of adultery, since there is question of a carnal sin committed by a married person, on which account the Greek word, πορνεια (fornication), is commonly understood to mean, adultery. “And I say to you.” “I”—the Legislator, for a more perfect and ever enduring dispensation—“say to you,” in reference to the dispensation or covenant I mean to establish, whatever may have been the practice hitherto sanctioned among the Jews, or tolerated, which I now mean to displace, “that whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication,” that is to say, this putting away of one’s wife is not allowed, except in case of fornication; or, if we take the phrase, “except it be for fornication,” not exceptively, but negatively, after St. Augustine (de Adulterinis Conjug., Lib. 1, c. ix.), it will run thus: Whosoever shall put away his wife, when she is not guilty of adultery, nothing being affirmed or implied in regard to putting away an adulterous wife, “and shall marry another, committeth adultery,” which shows the marriage tie to be still subsisting otherwise, by marrying another, whatsoever sin he might be guilty of by so doing, he would not be guilty of adultery. But, what renders the argument still stronger, is the following assertion, “and he that shall marry her that is put away, committeth adultery.” Here, there is no exception whatever placed, any more than in Mark (Mk 10:2), Luke (Lk 16:18), regarding re-marriage, either of wife or husband. Our Redeemer, in the most general and unrestricted terms, declares, that the man who marries a woman put away from her husband, is guilty of adultery, which proves the marriage tie to be indissoluble. The exception, “unless it be for fornication,” if exception it be, cannot apply to the second member of the sentence, regarding re-marriage; for, if so, apart from the stimulus this would furnish to discontented parties to commit adultery, in order to re-marriage, the condition of the adulterous would be far better than that of the innocent, guiltless party; since, the latter would be deprived of the privilege of marrying again, which would be granted, in the supposition made, to the former. This has been very pointedly put by a modern writer (Quarterly Review, July 1857), who observes, “The re-marriages of those divorced for adulteries have been innocent; but, the re-marriages of those who had been innocent, have been adulteries.” The same writer, by a very striking example, shows the utter absurdity, on syntactic or grammatical grounds, of making the exceptive clause, “except it be for fornication,” affect the second member of the sentence: “Whosoever shall flog his son, except it be for disobedience, and put him to death, shall be punishable by law.” What should we think of the interpreter who founded on this sentence the position that a father might, for disobedience, flog his son to death? If he meant to convey that, he would have said, “except it be for disobedience, whosoever shall flog his son, and put him to death,” &c.; or, “whosoever shall flog his son, and put him to death, except it be for disobedience, shall be punishable,” &c. St. Matthew, in both passages, where he employs the exceptive clause, would be guilty of the same absurdity, if he meant this exception, as it stands, to affect the second clause relative to re-marriage. In the Catholic interpretation of the passage, which gives permission to put away the wife in case of adultery, but not to re-marry, every difficulty is removed, and the apparent contradiction between the three Evangelists at once solved and reconciled. I said in the preceding, if exception it be, because the words, ει μη επι πορνεια, “except it be for fornication” (which, in the Vatican MS., and in the reading adopted by Lachman, is, παρεκτος λογου πορνειας—outside the case of fornication), are understood by some, not exceptively, so that, according to logical strictness, the attribute of the excepted individual case would be the contradictory of the attribute of the general rule or proposition; but negatively, so to speak, in an abstracted sense, so as to mean, apart from, or, without reference to the case of fornication. It is thus understood by St. Augustine (Lib. 1, c. 9, de Adulterinis Conjugiis). Then the words would mean: I say, in reply to your question, it is not lawful to send away one’s wife in every case. It is not lawful to send away a wife not guilty of adultery. But whether it be lawful to send even her away in case of adultery, on this case I say nothing; from this question I altogether abstract at present. In answering thus, our Redeemer would have acted very prudently. He would have fully answered their question, whether it was lawful to send away one’s wife for any cause, by saying, it was not lawful to send her away, if she were not guilty of adultery, but whether it was, even in that case. He does not say. They were not in a position to profit by a full exposition of His doctrine on this subject; and when His hearers were not disposed, our Redeemer often refrains from a full explanation of His doctrine. Although, from what He said regarding the primeval institution of marriage, they might have inferred, that in no case was it lawful to send away one’s wife, and marry another; still, He did not wish to furnish them with a pretest for calumniating Him, by saying so expressly. But, when alone, and interrogated by the Apostles privately, He makes no exception as to divorce or re-marriage (Mark 10:11-12).

But, it may be said, if the clause be taken in a strictly exceptive sense, does not the permission to send away one’s wife for adultery, by implication, contain a permission to re-marry? By no means. St. Paul (1 Cor. 7:10, 11) expressly commands a woman who departed from her husband, no doubt for just cause, such as adultery on his part, either to remain unmarried, or become reconciled to him. In no case does he allow her to marry again; and the Apostle says expressly in the same chapter, that in reference to the marriage rights, the husband and wife are placed on an equality in the Christian dispensation; so that, what he says of the wife equally applies to the husband regarding re-marriage.

As regards the word, πορνεια, which, strictly speaking, means fornication (the Greek word for adultery is, μοιχεια), it is commonly interpreted to mean, adultery, as there is question of the carnal sin of a married party. Some interpreters understand the word, of spiritual fornication, or heathenism, or apostasy from God, a sense the word bears (Rev 2:22), μοιχευοντας μετ αυτης. This interpretation would involve the case referred to by St. Paul (1 Cor. 7:10, 11), which is made an exception to the law of indissolubility here promulgated, commonly termed casus Apostoli (see Commentary on).

The perfect agreement between the three Evangelists, as to the adultery of which either of the married parties would be guilty by re-marriage, which they express, without doubt or ambiguity, clearly establishes the Catholic doctrine on the indissolubility of the marriage tie, while either of the parties is alive. The same is expressed with equal clearness by St. Paul (Rom. 7:2). The words of St. Mark and St. Luke must be true, independently of any restriction or extension from the words of St. Matthew. The three Evangelists wrote at different times, and for different classes of persons. Even the language used by St. Matthew, viz., the Syro-Chaldaic, was different from that employed by the two other Evangelists. We have no evidence that the Gospel of St. Matthew was known to those who first used the Gospels of the two others. Most likely it was not. Hence, it is, that any positive proposition or assertion, absolutely put forward by either of them, must be absolutely true. Although the Evangelists may differ in their narrative, one omitting what the other asserts, and vice versa, still, they cannot assert anything which is not true, or which could lead to error. Then, as St. Mark and St. Luke absolutely assert, the indissolubility of the marriage tie, in every case, without exception, or giving us any clue to any such exception, and the exceptive clause mentioned by St. Matthew, is at best, but of doubtful construction (nor is it even that); the only conclusion, which common sense and common fairness would force on us is, to adhere to the doctrine unexceptionally propounded by St. Mark and St. Luke. In truth, there is no contradiction between the three Evangelists. The Catholic interpretation renders them perfectly consentient. St. Matthew alone in his narrative states, the question as to the sending away of one’s wife “for any cause.” Hence, he alone records our Lord’s reply regarding fornication, it is the only cause for divorce, quoad mensam et cohabitationem, that directly affects the marriage contract, the only cause that is permanent in its effects. The other causes commonly assigned for such separation, are common to marriage with other contracts. They are but temporary, and warrant a separation of the parties only while they last; while adultery, even if repented of, gives permanent ground for separation. The innocent party need not receive back the adulterous party, no matter how reformed, if he be so minded.

A question is sometimes raised in connexion with the subject of divorce, as existing among the Jews, viz., whether the giving a bill of divorce dissolved the former marriage, not only in foro externo, about which there is no question; but also, in foro interno, et coram Deo. There is no difficulty whatever as regards the external dissolution of marriage in the eyes of the Mosaic Law; for, the law supposes that the repudiated wife can marry another, and in Lev 21:7, it is declared to be unlawful for the priests to marry one that was divorced, which implies, that it was lawful for others. In order to render the practice of divorce more difficult, the former husband could not again marry her whom he sent away, if she married again, which supposes the former marriage to be dissolved, and the repudiated wife contracted legal uncleanness in regard to her former husband. As regards the question referred to, it seems the more probable opinion, that a bill of divorce did actually dissolve the tie of the former marriage, Coram Deo. It would sound very harsh to say, after the clear and ample permission granted the Jews by God, of repudiating their wives, and of marrying again, that they committed sin in so doing, especially as it is very doubtful, before the teaching of our Lord on this subject, whether divorce was merely a permission or a precept; and even, if a mere permission, it was by no means clear that it regarded a thing in itself evil (Maldonatus). Moreover, while the Prophets often reproached the Jewish people with crimes of lesser magnitude, they never reproached them for these second marriages, of frequent occurrence among them, which would be adulterous, unless the marriage tie was dissolved.

Mt 19:10. His disciples, as we learn from St. Mark (Mk 10:10), again questioned our Redeemer privately at home about this subject of divorce; and then, our Redeemer, in the clearest and most unrestricted terms declares, that, in no case, is it lawful for a man, after dismissing his wife, to marry another woman, or for the repudiated woman to marry another man. The disciples then say, “If the case of a man,” &c., if the relations of a man with his wife be so strict, that in no case can he again marry; if he be placed in the painful position of living with a wife who may prove disagreeable to him and make his life unhappy, or of having no one else; if the yoke of matrimony be so pressing and so heavy, as we know it is, since Thou hast so ordained and so declared it—the particle, “if,” does not imply any doubt of what our Redeemer says; it means, “whereas, since.” “It is not expedient to marry,” it is better not to engage in a state entailing such an intolerable burthen The disciples tacitly convey, that such a course would be opposed to the designs of God regarding the propagation of the human race.

Mt 19:11. Our Redeemer so prudently tempers His reply, that without condemning matrimony, as entailing the inconveniences implied by the disciples in their question, He at the same time gives the preference, absolutely speaking, to continence as a state. He says, no such inconvenience is to be apprehended, because “all men take not this word.” The word, “take” (χωρουσι), denotes capacity, like that of a vessel to contain liquor. The words are thus interpreted by some: All do not understand or comprehend, practically, this saying, viz., “that it is not expedient to marry;” others, all men do not embrace, or approve and relish taking upon themselves so arduous a thing as perpetual continence, but those alone do so to whom this gift is granted by God. It is a wrong rendering of the words to say, “all cannot take this word.” The Greek will not admit of it, and, moreover, it is false, in a certain sense; for, all can, if they only pray fervently for this gift; as in the case of just men, all of them have not the gift of actual perseverance, whereby they actually do persevere in justice; but all have the gift of perseverance, in the sense that they may persevere if they wish. In like manner, all men have not the actual gift of continence, but they have it in actu primo, whereby they may be continent, if they sincerely wish it, by having recourse to fervent, constant prayer, mortification, flight of occasions, unceasing labour, &c. Our Redeemer here, as well as St. Paul (1 Cor. 7:7), counsels continence to all, but they would counsel nothing which was not in man’s power, with the grace of God, which He prepares and offers to every one who asks it of Him (A. Lapide).

Mt 19:12. In order to show, that there are some to whom is given this gift of continence, which cannot, therefore, be beyond human strength, aided by God’s grace, He refers to three classes of men who practise continence; and to give us an idea of who they are to whom it is given, “to take this word,” and what is meant by this gift, He instances three classes of men, to the latter of whom only the words just quoted refer; and by referring to the two former classes, who are continent from necessity, He wishes to show what is the nature of continency practised by the third, which alone is a source of merit. “For, there are eunuchs,” &c., as if He said, there are persons to whom it is given to receive this word, viz., not those who, from nature, are incapable of coition; nor those who have been deprived of the faculty of doing so, by men; but those, who, like the former, are continent, and are such by their own free will and choice; and it is in thus voluntarily renouncing all sensual indulgence in “making themselves eunuchs,” that they reduce to practice this gift which comes from God alone, “For the kingdom of heaven’s sake.” This points out the motives of voluntary continence, which are not precisely to avoid the temporal inconveniences of matrimony, or other motives equally low, such as, vain glory, human applause, as in the case of the philosophers, vestal virgins, &c., but the more easily to serve God with undivided heart (1 Cor. 7); and, thus, the more easily to secure the possession of the kingdom of heaven. This is the meaning attached by the holy Fathers to the words, “kingdom of heaven.” It is the meaning contained in the words of St. Paul (1 Cor. 7), who says, an unmarried person can devote his exclusive and undivided attention to the things of God, and his own salvation. The Apostles, in their question to our Divine Redeemer, considered the abstinence from marriage, expedient on the grounds of the heavy obligation the marriage state entailed. He proposes a still higher and more exalted spiritual motive, viz., the more easy attainment of the kingdom of heaven. Of course the words of this verse can never be taken literally. The act of Origen mutilating himself in order to preserve chastity, has been condemned, and justly so. He uses the past tense castraverunt, “made themselves eunuchs,” to convey to us, that he refers to those who, by one act, the act of vowing their chastity to God, become eunuchs of the King of heaven, as by one act of violence, others are made eunuchs of earthly masters, who thus have them mutilated for prudential reasons.

“He that can receive it, let him receive,” i.e., He refers not to absolute power; for, every one that pleases and sincerely and determinedly wishes for the gift of continence, can receive it by fervent prayer, &c. The words here mean: whosoever, free from previous matrimonial engagements, which give each party conjugal rights, wishes to practise continence, to adopt the means necessary thereunto, and after maturely considering his own strength, can prudently judge that he can practise it, after the example of this class of voluntary eunuchs whom He commends, let him do so. These words show us, that no one can practise this virtue unless God gives it, and that it is not a matter of precept, but of counsel, to such as can embrace it. These words evidently contain a counsel and encouragement to the practice of continency. St. Jerome (contra Jovin. Lib. 1), writes, “The Master of the games (agonothetes), holds forth the reward, invites us to the course, holds in hand the prize of virginity,” &c. The man who can dilate and open wide his heart, and embrace this great virtue of virginity, ὁ δυναμενος χωρειν, χωρειτω. This is the voice of the Lord, encouraging His soldiers, and inviting them to the contest. The words, “qui potest,” show that, aided by God’s grace, celibacy is in every one’s power. They denote, that celibacy is arduous, and that whosoever wishes generously to offer violence to himself, should do so and embrace it. Thus the word, “can,” means, not the absolute, but the immediate power and will, just as a person asked to do something very arduous, would say, I cannot, i.e., I do not wish or desire to do so.

Mt 19:13. “Then, were little children presented to Him.” When this occurred is a matter of dispute. Some say, it occurred after the discourse regarding continency. But, as it would seem from St. Mark (10), that this discourse was delivered in private, hence, others say the time cannot be precisely defined, and that, “then,” means, at that time, or when He was engaged in the Gospel ministry.

“Little children.” St. Luke says, “infants,” but the period of infancy might last for six or seven years; and so, both accounts perfectly agree. It may be, that among these “little children,” infants, too, were presented. “That He should lay His hands upon them and pray.” The parents or nurses of these children, seeing the blessings that were conferred on all who came in contact with our Blessed Redeemer, the several cures He was pleased to perform by expelling demons, &c., were desirous of presenting their children to Him, in order that they might be freed from all harm, and from the power of evil spirits, by the imposition of His hands, and by His prayers and benediction. It was customary with the Jews to present their little children to holy men for their blessing, which they bestowed by extending their hands over them, as we see in the case of Jacob extending his hands over the children of Joseph, and blessing them. (Gen. 48:14, &c.)

“And the disciples rebuked them.” They did so, from a feeling of false zeal and respect for their Master’s honour, regarding it as beneath the dignity of so great a Prophet to descend from the lofty eminence of preaching the Gospel, and accommodate Himself to the trifles of children. On this account it was, that they rebuked the parents of the children, as trifling with the dignity, and unseasonably obtruding on the time of their Divine Master.

Mt 19:14. “But Jesus said to them.” St. Mark (Mk 10:14), says, “He was much displeased” at the conduct of His disciples, “and said to them: Suffer the little children to come to Me, and forbid them not.” Here St. Matthew adds, “and forbid them not to come to Me, for the kingdom of heaven is for such,” i.e., destined for little children only, and adults who are like them, in innocence and humility of heart. Similar are the words (Mt 19:18), “unless you be concerted and become as little children,” &c.

St. Mark says, our Redeemer added on this occasion (Mk 10:15), “Amen, I say to you, whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, shall not enter into it,” i.e., whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God, or, rather, the means conducting thereto, such as the preaching of Gospel, grace, &c., with the humility of a little child, by reducing his intellect to captivity, unto the obedience of Christ, shall never enter the kingdom of God’s glory. The interpretation of others (Bede), who by “the kingdom of heaven,” understand, the preaching of the Gospel, comes to the same. The idea is the same as that conveyed (18:3). The Redeemer was displeased with the false zeal of His Apostles for His honour, and He wishes to inculcate a lesson of humility.

Mt 19:15. “When He had laid His hands on them,” thus blessing them, and most likely, He prayed for them, “He departed,” &c. Our Redeemer, in thus blessing these little children, the fruit of lawful wedlock, showed that, while He preferred continency, He did not condemn marriage. No doubt, this imposition of our Redeemer’s hands, was replete with all spiritual and temporal benedictions, and it is to be presumed, all those little children, who were thus singularly favoured, became men eminent for sanctity. Nicephorus relates that St. Ignatius Martyr, afterwards the celebrated Bishop of Antioch, was one of these little children. This condescension and paternal kindness of our Blessed Lord, to these innocent little children, shows the great care we should bestow on the young; since, upon the early education of children, will depend, in a great measure, their future conduct in life. According as the twig is bent, will it grow. “A young man, according to his way, even when he grows old, shall not depart therefrom” (Proverbs 22:6).

Mt 19:16. “And behold one came and said to Him.” St. Mark (Mk 10:17), tells us, this happened when “He was gone forth into the way,” from which it may be fairly inferred, that the children were blessed by Him in the house. This man, it would seem, was a man of position and of some consideration among the Jews. St. Luke (Lk 18:18), calls him “a ruler”—princeps (αρχων). He was also exceedingly rich (Mt 19:22). From St. Mark, it would also appear that he came up to our Redeemer in the most respectful way, “kneeling before Him,” from which circumstance, as also from the fact, that “he went away sad,” (Mt 19:22), after hearing our Redeemer’s teaching, it is clearly inferred, that he did not come to tempt our Lord; the same is inferred from its being said, that our Redeemer “loved him” (Mark 10:21), owing to his candour and innocence, so different from the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, whom He hated. Hence, he is not to be confounded with the lawyer (Luke 10:25), who proposed a similar question for the purpose of tempting Him. Moreover, St. Luke himself describes them as different persons; for, he speaks of this man in chapter 18; of the lawyer, in chapter 10.

“Good Master.” He employs this respectful form of address, in order to gain our Saviour’s good-will. He approached our Redeemer as a great Prophet, who delivered holy instructions to the people, and cured their many diseases. Hence, he calls Him “Master,” who had been distinguished for doing good.

“What good shall I do that I may have life everlasting?” Moses proposed to us as the reward of obeying the Commandments, long life and temporal advantages, “qui fecerit ea vivet in eis.” Thou proposest constantly, not earthly, but heavenly blessings—not a temporal, but everlasting life. What, then, am I to do in order to gain that life?

Mt 19:17. Our Redeemer, seeing that this young man, however respectful and well disposed, was rather weak in faith, or, rather, had addressed Him as a mere man, distinguished for goodness and sanctity, wishes to bring him to a knowledge and faith in his Divinity, and turning the word, “good,” to His purpose, by employing it in a different and a more exalted signification, and giving it a meaning different from that which the young man intended—a thing not unusual with Him, as in the phrase, “sinite mortuos sepelire mortuos”—He says, “Why askest thou Me concerning good? One is good, God,” that is, God alone is “good,” of Himself essentially good, the source of all goodness in creatures, “non respuens bonitatis nomen si sibi hoc, tanquam Deo, deputaretur” (St. Hilary de Trin. Lib. 9, n. 16). Our Redeemer wishes to intimate to this young man, that, in addressing Himself as “good,” he merely regarded Him as good in a limited sense; whereas, he should consider Him as essentially good, possessing, as God, that attribute of essential goodness, which belongs to God alone; that he should either believe Him to be God, or cease addressing Him by the title of “good,” since goodness could not be attributed to Him in any sense inferior to that applied to God. In a word, having addressed our Redeemer, as good in a human, limited, participated sense, our Lord corrects him, and wishes him to regard Himself as good in a different sense, viz., possessing essential goodness, as an attribute belonging to Him as “true God.” The Greek for “good” (ὅ αγαθος), means, “the good Being,” one essentially good. The ordinary Greek has, “Why callest thou Me good?” Similar is the question (Mark 10:18; Luke 18:19), and the answer, “one is good,” &c., for which the other Evangelists have, “none is good, but God,” better suits this reading. The likelihood is that both readings are correct; that our Redeemer replied, “Why callest thou Me good?” and “Why asked thou Me concerning good?” The young man called Him, “Good Master,” and asked, “what good?” &c., to which a twofold appropriate reply is given here. In this reply, our Redeemer teaches us, that, whenever we are commended for any good, we should refer the glory of all to God, the source of all good, in whom alone we should glory; and again, after performing the best and most deserving works, like the young man in question, we should refer them all to God. It may be, that our Redeemer wishes to remind this young man, who observed the Commandments, that he still needed faith, whereby he believed God alone to be true and good; and every man to be a liar. (Jan. Gan.)

“But if thou wilt enter into life, keep the Commandments.” This is the reply to the question, “Quid boni faciam.” The good he must do in order to gain life eternal is, to observe God’s Commandments. It is remarked, that our Redeemer says, not, “life everlasting;” but, “life,” as if to convey to us, that eternal life could alone be properly called, “life,” the life, compared with which every temporary existence is but a kind of death. Moreover, it alone is the life, or the term for which we are all destined. The words of this verse contain a most satisfactory refutation of the doctrine of justification by faith only; since, good works, consisting in the observance of God’s Commandments, in avoiding evil and doing good, of which the several applications and instances are contained in the Decalogue, are here declared by our Divine Redeemer, as necessary for obtaining eternal life.

Mt 19:18. And he said to Him: Which?” This young man, who, it is clear, from all the circumstances already referred to, approached our Redeemer, not in a captious, overbearing spirit; but, in a mild, humble manner, imagining that something new, beyond what was prescribed by the law of Moses, would be required and commanded by the New Legislator, for obtaining life eternal, asks, “which” Commandments did He refer to? Our Redeemer at once quotes the precepts of the second table of the Decalogue, not in order, but in such a way as to intimate to this young man, who was versed in SS. Scripture, that He referred to the moral precepts of the law of Moses. He quotes the precepts of the second table, relating to our neighbour; because, their observance, from the proper motives, involves the observance of those that regard God, “plenitudo ergo legis est dilectio,” (Rom. 13:8–10; Gal. 5:14). Moreover, the observance of the second table is for us more easy and natural; hence, our Redeemer and the Apostle conduct us from the second table of the law as more easy and natural of observance, to the first table, which is the more difficult. St. Mark adds to the negative precepts contained in this verse, “do no fraud” (Mk 10:19), μὴ αποστερησης. This may refer to the last precept of the Decalogue, “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house,” &c. (Ex 20:17); or, it may have been taken from Leviticus (Lev 19:13), where, instead of “thou shalt not oppress thy neighbour by violence;” the Hebrew means, thou shalt not plunder. The Septuagint has, μηδε αρπασεις. From the same chapter, 5:18, are taken, the words of the next verse “thou shalt love thy friend (that is to say, neighbour), as thyself.”

Mt 19:19. To the several negative precepts is added, the positive one, “Honour thy father,” &c., under which is contained the precept of obeying and honouring all lawful superiors, of obeying the laws and ordinances of the Church, and of civil rulers, when in accordance with natural justice. And then, is finally, given the general precept, “love thy neighbour as thyself,” in which, according to St. Paul (Gal. 5:14), are recapitulated and summed up, all the precepts relating to our neighbour.

Mt 19:20. “All these things I have kept from my youth.” Some of the holy Fathers think, he told a lie, as it is clear he did not love his neighbour as himself, since he did not wish to part with his numerous possessions (St. Jerome); others think he was guilty of arrogance (St. Augustine). However, from our Redeemer’s loving him, owing to the candour of his inquiries, and the sincere desire he manifested of saving his soul, as evidenced by his question, “What yet is wanting to me?” it is likely he observed this Commandment, as far is Jewish perfection required it, by not injuring his neighbour in any way; but not in the perfect way which Christianity required, in relieving his neighbour’s wants; or, it may be said, that the fact of his having possessions (Mt 19:22), proves nothing against him, since he might have extensive possessions, as had Abraham, and other holy men; and, still, he might observe this general precept regarding the love of his neighbour.

Mt 19:21. “If thou wilt be perfect.” In these words, our Redeemer invites him from the imperfection of legal justice, to the highest degree of Christian justice attainable in this life. He does not say, “if thou wilt enter into life, go, sell,” &c., because, for eternal life, the observance of the Commandments sufficed. But, as the young man, by his question, seemed to insinuate, that he was prepared for more than the observance of the Commandments, “what still is wanting to me?” Hence it is, that our Redeemer proposes to Him the observance of the Evangelical counsel of poverty; and tells him, that if he wished to secure eternal life with greater certainty and facility, and to be in a position to observe the Commandments more readily, he should superadd the Evangelical counsels, “go, sell,” &c. It might be also said, that in reference to this young man, whose heart was evidently attached inordinately to riches, our Redeemer counselled this selling of his goods, as the most effectual means of detaching him from this inordinate love of riches. It may be objected, whereas the greatest perfection of this life is charity, embracing the love of God and of our neighbour, which will securely lead us to the end of our being, viz., eternal life, what more perfection then, can be required? No doubt, charity is the perfection of every one here below; but, the observance of the Evangelical counsels is the surest and most efficacious means towards obtaining this charity in the most perfect degree here, and for obtaining degrees of glory hereafter, proportioned to our charity and merits in this life. According to St. Thomas (2da 2dæ Quest. 184, Article 3), perfection consists essentially in the observance of the two precepts of charity; but, it consists, secondarily and instrumentally, in the observance of the Gospel counsels, because, these help us most securely to observe the precepts of charity, and to remove all opposing obstacles and incumbrances which may be in our way, in observing God’s Commandments.

“Go, sell what thou hast.” This is a counsel, not a precept. From the words of this verse, St. Augustine refutes certain Pelagian heretics, who maintained, that men were bound to sell all their property and give it to the poor. For, here, this is left optional, “si vis perfectus esse.” It is not required for eternal life, but for Evangelical perfection. The same is also clear from St. Paul (1 Tim. 6), who in treating of the duties of the rich, does not prescribe selling off their goods.

“And give to the poor.” Get rid of your riches at once, and become free from all the cares and solicitudes they entail, and distribute them, not among your relatives, as such, or rich friends—this could not be reputed an act of virtue, or perfect renunciation of riches—but, among the poor, one’s poor relatives included, who will consume them without any prospect of temporal retribution.

“And thou shalt have treasure in heaven.” The word, “treasure,” shows the exceeding great reward in store for them. By these words, our Redeemer encourages the young man to comply with the counsel He gives, assuring him that, far from losing, he shall be a gainer of riches, in superabundance. “A treasure,” as far exceeding worldly possessions, be they ever so great, as the heavens are exalted above the earth. “He that hath mercy on the poor, lends to the Lord” (Prov. 19:17). “In heaven,” shows the security of these possessions; “where thieves cannot break through nor steal,” as also their stability and incorruptibility (St. Chrysostom in Matth. Hom. 64).

“And come, follow Me.” This He adds, for fear it might be imagined, that the mere giving up of riches, would entitle one to a heavenly treasure. For many, says St. Jerome (in hunc locum), give up riches and follow not our Lord. The perfection, of which our Lord speaks here, consists, not in giving up riches, but in the humble following unto death and imitation of Christ, “walking as He walked” (1 John 2:6), practising the virtues He practised and in the perfect union of our will with His. The renunciation of earthly goods is a very secure way, and a sure means of arriving at the perfection referred to. In this chapter, our Redeemer proposes the three principal Evangelical counsels, viz., chastity (v. 12), poverty (v. 21), and obedience, in the words, “follow Me,” that is, be obedient to Me and My ordinances unto death.

Mt 19:22. Hearing the counsel given him by our Divine Redeemer, this young man, who approached with the best dispositions, and whom our Lord Himself loved for his candour and innocence, finding this counsel too arduous, because of the thorns of riches which entangled him, in consequence of his inordinate attachment to them, he gave up his good desires, and “went away sad.” The abundance and love of riches did not permit him to embrace the state of perfection recommended to him by our Divine Redeemer. The more we possess of them, the more does the love of them increase. “He had great possessions,” to which he was inordinately attached; hence, the seed which our Blessed Lord had cast into his heart, was choked up by them (St. Jerome). Avarice tyrannizes most over those who possess most. The curse of riches is, that cupidity is inflamed in proportion to what we possess, so that the richer we are, the poorer we become, and the more our wants are increased and our desires unsatisfied.

Mt 19:23. “Then Jesus said,” &c. We are informed by St. Mark (Mk 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.

Mt 19:24. 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” (Isaias 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.

Mt 19:25. “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.

Mt 19:26. 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