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Catena Aurea by St. Thomas Aquinas
1. And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret,
2. And saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets.
3. And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon’s, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship.
AMBROSE. When the Lord had performed many and various kinds of cures, the multitude began to heed neither time nor place in their desire to be healed. The evening came, they followed; a lake is before them, they still press on; as it is said, And it came to pass, as the people pressed upon him.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. 25. in Matt.) For they clung to Him with love and admiration, and longed to keep Him with them. For who would depart while He performed such miracles? who would not be content to see only His face, and the mouth that uttered such things? Nor as performing miracles only was He an object of admiration, but His whole appearance was overflowing with grace. Therefore when He speaks, they listen to Him in silence, interrupting not the chain of His discourse; for it is said, that they might hear the word of God, &c. It follows, And he stood near the lake of Gennesaret.
BEDE. The lake of Gennesaret is said to be the same as the sea of Galilee or the sea of Tiberias; but it is called the sea of Galilee from the adjacent province, the sea of Tiberias from a neighbouring city. Gennesaret however, is the name given it from the nature of the lake itself, (which is thought from its crossing waves to raise a breeze upon itself,) being the Greek expression for “making a breeze to itself.” (quasi a γιννάω et ἀὴρ.) For the water is not steady like that of a lake, but constantly agitated by the breezes blowing over it. It is sweet to the taste, and wholesome to drink. In the Hebrew tongue, any extent of water, whether it be sweet or salt, is called a sea.
THEOPHYLACT. But the Lord seeks to avoid glory the more it followed Him, and therefore separating Himself from the multitude, He entered into a ship, as it is said, And he saw two ships standing near the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets.
CHRYSOSTOM. This was a sign of leisure, but according to Matthew He finds them mending their nets. For so great was their poverty, that they patched up their old nets, not being able to buy new ones. But our Lord was very desirous to collect the multitudes, that none might remain behind, but they might all behold Him face to face; He therefore enters into a ship, as it is said, And he entered into a ship, which was Simon’s, and prayed him.
THEOPHYLACT. Behold the gentleness of Christ; He asks Peter; and the willingness of Peter, who was obedient in all things.
CHRYSOSTOM. After having performed many miracles, He again commences His teaching, and being on the sea, He fishes for those who were on the shore. Hence it follows, And he sat down and taught the people out of the ship.
GREGORY NAZIANZEN. (Orat. 37.) Condescending to all, in order that He might draw forth a fish from the deep, i. e. man swimming in the everchanging scenes and bitter storms of this life.
BEDE. Now mystically, the two ships represent circumcision and uncircumcision. The Lord sees these, because in each people He knows who are His, and by seeing, i. e. by a merciful visitation, He brings them nearer the tranquillity of the life to come. The fishermen are the doctors of the Church, because by the net of faith they catch us, and bring us as it were ashore to the land of the living. But these nets are at one time spread out for catching fish, at another washed and folded up. For every time is not fitted for teaching, but at one time the teacher must speak with the tongue, and at another time we must discipline ourselves. The ship of Simon is the primitive Church, of which St. Paul says, He that wrought effectually in Peter to the Apostleship of circumcision. (Gal. 2:8.) The ship is well called one, for in the multitude of believers there was one heart and one soul. (Acts 4:32.)
AUGUSTINE. (de Quæst. Ev. 1. 2. c. 2.) From which ship He taught the multitude, for by the authority of the Church He teaches the Gentiles. But the Lord entering the ship, and asking Peter to put off a little from the land, signifies that we must be moderate in our words to the multitude, that they may be neither taught earthly things, nor from earthly things rush into the depths of the sacraments. Or, the Gospel must first be preached to the neighbouring countries of the Gentiles, that (as He afterwards says, Launch out into the deep,) He might command it to be preached afterwards to the more distant nations.
4. Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught.
5. And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net.
6. And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake.
7. And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. Having sufficiently taught the people, He returns again to His mighty works, and by the employment of fishing fishes for His disciples. Hence it follows, When he had left off speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. 6. in Matt.) For in His condescension to men, He called the wise men by a star, the fishermen by their art of fishing.
THEOPHYLACT. Peter did not refuse to comply, as it follows, And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all night and have taken nothing. He did not go on to say, “I will not hearken to thee, nor expose myself to additional labour,” but rather adds, Nevertheless, at thy word I will let down the net. But our Lord, since he had taught the people out of the ship, left not the master of the ship without reward, but conferred on him a double kindness, giving him first a multitude of fishes, and next making him His disciple: as it follows, And when they had done this, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes. They took so many fishes that they could not pull them out, but sought the assistance of their companions; as it follows, But their net brake, and they beckoned to their partners who were in the other ship to come, &c. Peter summons them by a sign, being unable to speak from astonishment at the draught of fishes. We next hear of their assistance, And they came and filled both the ships.
AUGUSTINE. (de Con. Ev. lib. 4. c. 6.) John seems indeed to speak of a similar miracle, but this is very different from the one he mentions. That took place after our Lord’s resurrection at the lake of Tiberias, and not only the time, but the miracle itself is very different. For in the latter the nets being let down on the right side took one hundred and fifty-three fishes, and these of large size, which it was necessary for the Evangelist to mention, because though so large the nets were not broken, and this would seem to have reference to the event which Luke relates, when from the multitude of the fishes the nets were broken.
AMBROSE. Now in a mystery, the ship of Peter, according to Matthew, is beaten about by the waves, (Matt. 8:24.) according to Luke, is filled with fishes, in order that you might understand the Church at first wavering, at last abounding. The ship is not shaken which holds Peter; that is which holds Judas. In each was Peter; but he who trusts in his own merits is disquieted by another’s. Let us beware then of a traitor, lest through one we should many of us be tossed about. Trouble is found there where faith is weak, safety here where love is perfect. Lastly, though to others it is commanded, Let down your nets, to Peter alone it is said, Launch out into the deep, i. e. into deep researches. What is so deep, as the knowledge of the Son of God! But what are the nets of the Apostles which are ordered to be let down, but the interweaving of words and certain folds, as it were, of speech, and intricacies of argument, which never let those escape whom they have once caught. And rightly are nets the Apostolical instruments for fishing, which kill not the fish that are caught, but keep them safe, and bring up those that are tossing about in the waves from the depths below to the regions above. But he says, Master, we have toiled the whole night and have caught nothing; for this is not the work of human eloquence but the gift of divine calling. But they who had before caught nothing, at the word of the Lord inclosed a great multitude of fishes.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. Now this was a figure of the future. For they will not labour in vain who let down the net of evangelical doctrine, but will gather together the shoals of the Gentiles.
AUGUSTINE. (ut sup.) Now the circumstance of the nets breaking, and the ships being filled with the multitude of fishes so that they began to sink, signifies that there will be in the Church so great a multitude of carnal men, that unity will be broken up, and it will be split into heresies and schisms.
BEDE. The net is broken, but the fish escape not, for the Lord preserves His own amid the violence of persecutors.
AMBROSE. But the other ship is Judæa, out of which James and John are chosen. These then came from the synagogue to the ship of Peter in the Church, that they might fill both ships. For at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, whether Jew or Greek.
BEDE. Or the other ship is the Church of the Gentiles, which itself also (one ship being not sufficient) is filled with chosen fishes. For the Lord knows who are His, and with Him the number of His elect is sure. And when He finds not in Judæa so many believers as He knows are destined to eternal life, He seeks as it were another ship to receive His fishes, and fills the hearts of the Gentiles also with the grace of faith. And well when the net brake did they call to their assistance the ship of their companions, since the traitor Judas, Simon Magus, Ananias and Sapphira, and many of the disciples, went back. And then Barnabas and Paul were separated for the Apostleship of the Gentiles.
AMBROSE. We may understand also by the other ship another Church, since from one Church several are derived.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. But Peter beckons to his companions to help them. For many follow the labours of the Apostles, and first those who brought out the writings of the Gospels, next to whom are the other heads and shepherds of the Gospel, and those skilled in the teaching of the truth.
BEDE. But the filling of these ships goes on until the end of the world. But the fact that the ships, when filled, begin to sink, i. e. become weighed low down in the water; (for they are not sunk, but are in great danger,) the Apostle explains when he says, In the last days perilous times shall come; men shall be lovers of their own selves, &c. (2 Tim. 3:1, 2.) For the sinking of the ships is when men, by vicious habits, fall back into that world from which they have been elected by faith.
8. When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.
9. For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken:
10. And so was also James, and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon. And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men.
11. And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him.
BEDE. Peter was astonished at the divine gift, and the more he feared, the less did he now presume; as it is said, When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. For calling back to his consciousness the crimes he had committed, he is alarmed and trembles, and as being unclean, he believes it impossible he can receive Him who is clean, for he had learnt from the law to distinguish between what is defiled and holy.
GREGORY OF NYSSA. When Christ commanded to let down the nets, the multitude of the fishes taken was just as great as the Lord of the sea and land willed. For the voice of the Word is the voice of power, at whose bidding at the beginning of the world light and the other creatures came forth. At these things Peter wonders, for he was astonished, and all that were with him, &c.
AUGUSTINE. (de con. Ev. lib. ii. 17.) He does not mention Andrew by name, who however is thought to have been in that ship, according to the accounts of Matthew and Mark. It follows, And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not.
AMBROSE. Say thou also, Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord, that God may answer, Fear not. Confess thy sin, and the Lord will pardon thee. See how good the Lord is, who gives so much to men, that they have the power of making alive. As it follows, From henceforth thou shalt catch men.
BEDE. This especially belongs to Peter himself, for the Lord explains to him what this taking of fish means; that in fact as now he takes fishes by the net, so hereafter he will catch men by words. And the whole order of this event shews what is daily going on in the Church, of which Peter is the type.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. 14. in Matt.) But mark their faith and obedience. For though they were eagerly engaged in the employment of fishing, yet when they heard the command of Jesus, they delayed not, but forsook all and followed Him. Such is the obedience which Christ demands of us; we must not forego it, even though some great necessity urges us. Hence it follows, And having brought their ships to land.
AUGUSTINE. (ubi sup.) Matthew and Mark here briefly state the matter, and how it was done. Luke explains it more at large. There seems however to be this difference, that he makes our Lord to have said to Peter only, From henceforth thou shalt catch men, whereas they related it as having been spoken to both the others. But surely it might have been said at first to Peter, when he marvelled at the immense draught of fishes, as Luke suggests, and afterwards to both, as the other two have related it. Or we must understand the event to have taken place as Luke relates, and that the others were not then called by the Lord, but only it was foretold to Peter that he should catch men, not that he should no more be employed in fishing; and hence there is room for supposing that they returned to their fishing, so that afterwards that might happen which Matthew and Mark speak, of. For then the ships were not brought to land, as if with the intention of returning, but they followed Him as calling or commanding them to come. (Matt. 4:20, Mark 1:18.) But if according to John, Peter and Andrew followed Him close by Jordan, how do the other Evangelists say that He found them fishing in Galilee, and called them to the discipleship? Except we understand that they did not see the Lord near Jordan so as to join Him inseparably, but knew only who He was, and marvelling at Him returned to their own.
AMBROSE. But mystically, those whom Peter takes by his word, he claims not as his own booty or his own gift. Depart, he says, from me, O Lord. Fear not then also to ascribe what is thy own to the Lord, for what was His He has given to us.
AUGUSTINE. (de Quæst. Ev. lib. ii. c. 2.) Or, Peter speaks in the character of the Church full of carnal men, Depart from me, for I am a sinful man. As if the Church, crowded with carnal men, and almost sunk by their vices, throws off from it, as it were, the rule in spiritual things, wherein the character of Christ chiefly shines forth. For not with the tongue do men tell the good servants of God that they should depart from them, but with the utterance of their deeds and actions they persuade them to go away, that they may not be governed by the good. And yet all the more anxiously do they hasten to pay honours to them, just as Peter testified his respect by falling at the feet of our Lord, but his conduct in saying, Depart from me.
BEDE. But the Lord allays the fears of carnal men, that no one trembling at the consciousness of his guilt, or astonished at the innocence of others, might be afraid to undertake the journey of holiness.
AUGUSTINE. (ubi sup.) But the Lord did not depart from them, shewing thereby that good and spiritual men, when they are troubled by the wickedness of the many, ought not to wish to abandon their ecclesiastical duties, that they might live as it were a more secure and tranquil life. But the bringing their ships to land, and forsaking all to follow Jesus, may represent the end of time, when those who have clung to Christ shall altogether depart from the storms of this world.
12. And it came to pass, when he was in a certain city, behold a man full of leprosy: who seeing Jesus fell on his face, and besought him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.
13. And he put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will: be thou clean. And immediately the leprosy departed from him.
14. And he charged him to tell no man: but go, and shew thyself to the Priest, and offer for thy cleansing, according as Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.
15. But so much the more went there a fame abroad of him: and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by him of their infirmities.
16. And he withdrew himself into the wilderness, and prayed.
AMBROSE. The fourth miracle after Jesus came to Capernaum was the healing of a leprous man. But since He illumined the fourth day with the sun, and made it more glorious than the rest, we ought to think this work more glorious than those that went before; of which it is said, And it came to pass, when he was in a certain city, behold a man full of leprosy. Rightly no definite place is mentioned where the leprous man was healed, to signify that not one people of any particular city, but all nations were healed.
ATHANASIUS. (Ep. ad Adelph. 3.) Now the leper worshipped the Lord God in His bodily form, and thought not the Word of God to be a creature because of His flesh, nor because He was the Word did he think lightly of the flesh which He put on; nay rather in a created temple he adored the Creator of all things, falling down on his face, as it follows, And when he saw Jesus he fell on his face, and besought him.
AMBROSE. In falling upon his face he marked his humility and modesty, for every one should blush at the stains of his life, but his reverence kept not back his confession, he shews his wound, and asks for a remedy, saying, If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. Of the will of the Lord he doubted, not from distrust of His mercy, but checked by the consciousness of his own unworthiness. But the confession is one full of devotion and faith, placing all power in the will of the Lord.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. For he knew that leprosy yields not to the skill of physicians, but he saw the devils cast out by the Divine authority, and multitudes cured of divers diseases, all which he conceived was the work of the Divine arm.
TITUS BOSTRENSIS. Let us learn from the words of the leper not to go about seeking the cure of our bodily infirmities, but to commit the whole to the will of God, Who knows what is best for us, and disposes all things as He will.
AMBROSE. He heals in the same manner in which He had been entreated to heal, as it follows, And Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him, &c. The law forbids to touch the leprous man, but He who is the Lord of the law submits not to the law, but makes the law; He did not touch because without touching He was unable to make him clean, but to shew that he was neither subject to the law, nor feared the contagion as man; for He could not be contaminated Who delivered others from the pollution. On the other hand, He touched also, that the leprosy might be expelled by the touch of the Lord, which was wont to contaminate him that touched.
THEOPHYLACT. For His sacred flesh has a healing, and life-giving power, as being indeed the flesh of the Word of God.
AMBROSE. In the words which follow, I will, be thou clean, you have the will, you have also the result of His mercy.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. (Thes. 12. c. 14.) From majesty alone proceeds the royal command, how then is the Only-begotten counted among the servants, who by His mere will can do all things? We read of God the Father, that He hath done all things whatsoever He pleased. (Ps. 115:3; 135:6.) But He who exercises the power of His Father, how can He differ from Him in nature? Besides, whatsoever things are of the same power, are wont to be of the same substance. Again; let us then admire in these things Christ working both divinely and bodily. For it is of God so to will that all things are done accordingly, but of man to stretch forth the hand. From two natures therefore is perfected one Christ, for that the Word was made flesh.
GREGORY OF NYSSA. (Orat. 1. in Resur. Christ.) And because the Deity is united with each portion of man, i. e. both soul and body, in each are evident the signs of a heavenly nature. For the body declared the Deity hidden in it, when by touching it afforded a remedy, but the soul, by the mighty power of its will, marked the Divine strength. For as the sense of touch is the property of the body, so the motion of the will of the soul. The soul wills, the body touches.
AMBROSE. He says then, I will, for Photinus, He commands, for Arius, He touches, for Manichæus. But there is nothing intervening between God’s work and His command, that we may see in the inclination of the healer the power of the work. Hence it follows, And immediately the leprosy departed from him. But lest leprosy should become rife among us, let each avoid boasting after the example of our Lord’s humility. For it follows, And he commanded him that he should tell it to no one, that in truth he might teach us that our good deeds are not to be made public, but to be rather concealed, that we should abstain not only from gaining money, but even favour. Or perhaps the cause of His commanding silence was that He thought those to be preferred, who had rather believed of their own accord than from the hope of benefit.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. Though the leper was silent, the voice of the transaction itself was sufficient to publish it to all who acknowledged through him the power of the Curer.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. 26. in Matt.) And since frequently men, when they are sick, remember God, but when they recover, wax dull, He bids him to always keep God before his eyes, giving glory to God. Hence it follows, But go and shew thyself to the Priest, in order that the leprous man being cleansed might submit himself to the inspection of the Priest, and so by his sanction be counted as healed.
AMBROSE. And that the Priest also should know that not by the order of the law, but by the grace of God above the law, he was cured. And since a sacrifice is commanded by the regulation of Moses, the Lord shews that He does not abrogate the law, but fulfil it. As it follows, And offer for thy cleansing according as Moses commanded.
AUGUSTINE. (de Qu. Ev. l. ii. qu. 3.) He seems here to approve of the sacrifice which had been commanded through Moses, though the Church does not require it. It may therefore be understood to have been commanded, because not as yet had commenced that most holy sacrifice which is His body. For it was not fitting that typical sacrifices should be taken away before that which was typified should be confirmed by the witness of the Apostles’ preaching, and the faith of believers.
AMBROSE. Or because the law is spiritual He seems to have commanded a spiritual sacrifice. Hence he said, As Moses commanded. Lastly, he adds, for a testimony unto them. The heretics understand this erroneously, saying, that it was meant as a reproach to the law. But how would he order an offering for cleansing, according to Moses’ commandments, if he meant this against the law?
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. He says then, for a testimony unto them, because this deed makes manifest that Christ in His incomparable excellence is far above Moses. For when Moses could not rid his sister of the leprosy, he prayed the Lord to deliver her. But the Saviour, in His divine power, declared, I will, be thou clean. (Numb. 12:13.)
CHRYSOSTOM. (ubi sup.) Or, for a testimony against them, i. e. as a reproof of them, and a testimony that I respect the law. For now too that I have cured thee, I send thee for the examination of the priests, that thou shouldest bear me witness that I have not played false to the law. And although the Lord in giving out remedies advised telling them to no one, instructing us to avoid pride; yet His fame flew about every where, instilling the miracle into the ears of every one, as it follows, But so much the more went there a fame abroad of him.
BEDE. Now the perfect healing of one brings many multitudes to the Lord, as it follows, And great multitudes came together that they should be healed. For the leprous man that he might shew both his outward and inward cure, even though forbid ceases not, as Mark says, to tell of the benefit ho had received.
GREGORY. (Mor. xxviii. c. 13.) Our Redeemer performs His miracles by day, and passes the night in prayer, as it follows, And he withdrew himself into the wilderness, and prayed, hinting, as it were, to perfect preachers, that as neither they should entirely desert the active life from love of contemplation, so neither should they despise the joys of contemplation from an excess of activity, but in silent thought imbibe that which they might afterwards give back in words to their neighbours.
BEDE. Now that He retired to pray, you would not ascribe to that nature which says, I will, be thou clean, but to that which putting forth the hand touched the leprous man, not that according to Nestorius there is a double person of the Son, but of the same person, as there are two natures, so are there two operations.
GREGORY NAZIANZEN. (26.) And His works He indeed performed among the people, but He prayed for the most part in the wilderness, sanctioning the liberty of resting a while from labour to hold converse with God with a pure heart. For He needed no change or retirement, since there was nothing which could be relaxed in Him, nor any place in which He might confine Himself, for He was God, but it was that we might clearly know that there is a time for action, a time for each higher occupation.
BEDE. How typically the leprous man represents the whole race of man, languishing with sins full of leprosy, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; (Rom. 3:23.) that so by the hand put forth, i. e. the word of God partaking of human nature, they might be cleansed from the vanity of their old errors, and offer for cleansing their bodies as a living sacrifice.
AMBROSE. But if the word is the healing of leprosy, the contempt of the word is the leprosy of the mind.
THEOPHYLACT. But mark, that after a man has been cleansed he is then worthy to offer this gift, namely, the body and blood of the Lord, which is united to the Divine nature.
17. And it came to pass on a certain day, as he was teaching, that there were Pharisees and doctors of the law sitting by, which were come out of every town of Galilee, and Judæa, and Jerusalem: and the power of the Lord was present to heal them.
18. And, behold, men brought in a bed a man which was taken with a palsy: and they sought means to bring him in, and to lay him before him.
19. And when they could not find by what way they might bring him in because of the multitude, they went upon the housetop, and let him down through the tiling with his couch into the midst before Jesus.
20. And when he saw their faith, he said unto him, Man, thy sins are forgiven thee.
21. And the Scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, Who is this which speaketh blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?
22. But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answering said unto them, What reason ye in your hearts?
23. Whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Rise up and walk?
24. But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power upon earth to forgive sins, (he said unto the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy couch, and go unto thine house.
25. And immediately he rose up before them, and took up that whereon he lay, and departed to his own house, glorifying God.
26. And they were all amazed, and they glorified God, and were filled with fear, saying, We have seen strange things to day.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. The Scribes and Pharisees who had become spectators of Christ’s miracles, heard Him also teaching. Hence it is said, And it came to pass on a certain day, as he was teaching, that there were Pharisees sitting by, &c. And the power of the Lord was present to heal them. Not as though He borrowed the power of another, but as God and the Lord He healed by His own inherent power. Now men often become worthy of spiritual gifts, but generally depart from the rule which the giver of the gifts knew. It was not so with Christ, for the divine power went on abounding in giving remedies. But because it was necessary where so great a number of Scribes and Pharisees had come together, that something should be done to attest His power before those men who slighted Him, He performed the miracle on the man with the palsy, who since medical art seemed to fail, was carried by his kinsfolk to a higher and heavenly Physician. As it follows, And behold men brought him.
CHRYSOSTOM. But they are to be admired who brought in the paralytic, since on finding that they could not enter in at the door, they attempted a new and untried way. As it follows, And when they could not find by what way they might bring him in, they went upon the housetop, &c. But unroofing the house they let down the couch, and place the paralytic in the midst, as it follows, And they let him down through the things. Some one may say, that the place was let down, from which they lowered the couch of the palsied man through the things.
BEDE. The Lord about to cure the man of his palsy, first loosens the chains of his sins, that He may shew him, that on account of the bonds of his sins, he is punished with the loosening of his joints, and that unless the former are set free, he cannot be healed to the recovery of his limbs. Hence it follows, And when he saw their faith, &c.
AMBROSE. Mighty is the Lord who pardons one man for the good deed of another, and while he approves of the one, forgives the other his sins. Why, O man, with thee does not thy fellowman prevail, when with God a servant has both the liberty to intercede in thy behalf, and the power of obtaining what he asks? If thou despairest of the pardon of heavy sins, bring the prayers of others, bring the Church to pray for thee, and at sight of this the Lord may pardon what otherwise He might deny to thee.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. 29. in Matt.) But there was combined in this the faith also of the sufferer himself. For he would not have submitted to be let down, had he not believed.
AUGUSTINE. (de con. Ev. lib. ii. c. 25.) But our Lord’s saying, Man, thy sins are forgiven, conveys the meaning that the man had his sins forgiven him, because in that he was man, he could not say, “I have not sinned,” but at the same time also, that He who forgave sins might be known to be God.
CHRYSOSTOM. (ubi sup.) Now if we suffer bodily, we are enough concerned to get rid of the hurtful thing; but when there has harm happened to the soul, we delay, and so are neither cured of our bodily ailments. Let us then remove the fountain of evil, and the waters of sickness will cease to flow. But from fear of the multitude, the Pharisees durst not openly expose their designs, but only meditated them in their hearts Hence it follows, And they began to reason, saying, Who is this which speaketh blasphemies?
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. By this they hasten the sentence of death, for it was commanded in the law, that whoever blasphemed God should be punished with death. (Lev. 24:16.)
AMBROSE. From the Pharisees themselves therefore the Son of God receives testimony. For it is both more powerful evidence when men confess unwillingly, and a more fatal error when they who deny are left to the consequence of their own assertions. Hence it follows, Who can forgive sins, but God only? Great is the madness of an unbelieving people, who though they have confessed that it is of God alone to forgive sins, believe not God when He forgives sins.
BEDE. For they say true, that no one can forgive sins but God, who yet forgives through those to whom He gives the power of forgiving. And therefore Christ is proved to be truly God, for He is able to forgive sins as God.
AMBROSE. The Lord wishing to save sinners shews Himself to be God, by His knowledge of the secret thoughts; as it follows, But that ye may know.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. As if to say, O Pharisees, since ye say, Who can forgive sins, but God alone? I answer you, Who can search the secrets of the heart, but God alone, Who says by His prophet, I am the Lord, that searcheth the hearts, and trieth the reins. (Jer. 17:10.)
CHRYSOSTOM. (ubi sup.) If then you disbelieve the first, (i. e. the forgiveness of sins,) behold, I add another, seeing that I lay open your inmost thoughts. Again, another that I make whole the body of the palsied man. Hence He adds, Whether is it easier? It is very plain that it is easier to restore the body to health. For as the soul is far nobler than the body, so is the forgiveness of sins more excellent than the healing of the body. But since you believe not the former, because it is hid; I will add that which is inferior, yet more open, in order that thereby that which is secret may be made manifest. And indeed in addressing the sick man, He said not, I forgive thee thy sins, expressing His own power, but, Thy sins are forgiven thee. But they compelled Him to declare more plainly His own power to them, when He said, But that you may know.
THEOPHYLACT. Observe that on earth He forgives sins. For while we are on earth we can blot out our sins. But after that we are taken away from the earth, we shall not be able to confess, for the gate is shut.
CHRYSOSTOM. (ubi sup.) He shews the pardon of sins by the healing of the body. Hence it follows, He says unto the sick of the palsy, I say unto thee, Rise. But He manifests the healing of the body by the carrying of the bed, that so that which took place might be accounted no shadow. Hence it follows, Take up thy bed. As if He said, “I was willing through thy suffering to cure those who think that they are in health, while their souls are sick, but since they are unwilling, go and correct thy household.”
AMBROSE. Nor is there any delay, health is present; there is but one moment both of words, and healing. Hence it follows, And immediately he rose. From this fact it is evident, that the Son of man has power on earth to forgive sins; He said this both for Himself and us. For He as God made man, as the Lord of the law, forgives sins; we also have been chosen to receive from Him the same marvellous grace. For it was said to the disciples, Whose sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them. (John 20:23.) But how does He not Himself forgive sins, Who has given to others the power of doing so? But the kings and princes of the earth when they acquit homicides, release them from their present punishment, but cannot expiate their crimes.
AMBROSE. They behold him rising up, still disbelieving, and marvel at his departing; as it follows, And they were all amazed.
CHRYSOSTOM. (ubi sup.) The Jews creep on by degrees, glorifying God, yet thinking Him not God, for His flesh stood in their way. But still it was no slight thing to consider Him the chief of mortal men, and to have proceeded from God.
AMBROSE. But they had rather fear the miracles of divine working, than believe them. As it follows, And they were filled with fear. But if they had believed they had not surely feared, but loved; for perfect love casteth out fear. But this was no careless or trifling cure of the paralytic, since our Lord is said to have prayed first, not for the petition’s sake, but for an example.
AUGUSTINE. (l. ii. qu. 4.) With respect to the sick of the palsy, we may understand that the soul relaxed in its limbs, i. e. its operations, seeks Christ, i. e. the meaning of God’s word; but is hindered by the crowds, that is to say, unless it discovers the secrets of the thoughts, i. e. the dark parts of the Scriptures, and thereby arrives at the knowledge of Christ.
BEDE. And the house where Jesus was is well described as covered with tiles, since beneath the beggarly covering of letters is found the spiritual power of grace.
AMBROSE. Now let every sick person have those that will pray for his salvation, by whom the loosened joints of our life and halting steps may be renewed by the remedy of the heavenly word. Let there be then certain monitors of the soul, to raise the mind of man, though grown dull through the weakness of the external body, to higher things, by the aid of which being able again easily to raise and humble itself, it may be placed before Jesus worthy to be presented in the Lord’s sight. For the Lord beholdeth the humble.
AUGUSTINE. (ubi sup.) The men then by whom he is let down may signify the doctors of the Church. But that he is let down with the couch, signifies that Christ ought to be known by man, while yet abiding in his flesh.
AMBROSE. But the Lord, pointing out the full hope of resurrection, pardons the sins of the soul, sets aside the weakness of the flesh. For this is the curing of the whole man. Although then it is a great thing to forgive the sins of men, it is yet much more divine to give resurrection to the bodies, since indeed God is the resurrection. But the bed which is ordered to be taken up is nothing else but the human body.
AUGUSTINE. (ubi sup.) That the infirm soul may no more rest in carnal joys, as in a bed, but rather itself restrain the carnal affections, and tend toward its own home, i. e. the resting-place of the secrets of its heart.
AMBROSE. Or it may reseek its own home, i. e. return to Paradise, for that is its true home, which first received man, and was lost not fairly, but by treachery. Rightly then is the soul restored thither, since He has come Who will undo the treacherous knot, and reestablish righteousness.
27. And after these things he went forth, and saw a Publican, named Levi, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he said unto him, Follow me.
28. And he left all, rose up, and followed him.
29. And Levi made him a great feast in his own house: and there was a great company of Publicans and of others that sat down with them.
30. But their Scribes and Pharisees murmured against his disciples, saying, Why do ye eat and drink with Publicans and sinners?
31. And Jesus answering said unto them, They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick.
32. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
AUGUSTINE. (de con. Ev. l. ii. c. 26.) After the healing of the sick of the palsy, St. Luke goes on to mention the conversion of a publican, saying, And after these things, he went forth, and saw a publican of the name of Levi, sitting at the receipt of custom. This is Matthew, also called Levi.
BEDE. Now Luke and Mark, for the honour of the Evangelist, are silent as to his common name, but Matthew is the first to accuse himself, and gives the name of Matthew and publican, that no one might despair of salvation because of the enormity of his sins, when he himself was changed from a publican to an Apostle.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. For Levi had been a publican, a rapacious man, of unbridled desires after vain things, a lover of other men’s goods, for this is the character of the publican, but snatched from the very worship of malice by Christ’s call. Hence it follows, And he said unto him, Follow me. He bids him follow Him, not with bodily step, but with the soul’s affections. Matthew therefore, being called by the Word, left his own, who was wont to seize the things of others, as it follows, And having left all, he rose, and followed him.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. 30. in Matt.) Here mark both the power of the caller, and the obedience of him that was called. For he neither resisted nor wavered, but forthwith obeyed; and like the fishermen, he did not even wish to go into his own house that he might tell it to his friends.
BASIL. (Reg. fus. tract. 8.) He not only gave up the profits of the customs, but also despised the dangers which might occur to himself and his family from leaving the accounts of the receipts uncompleted.
THEOPHYLACT. And so from him that received toll from the passers by, Christ received toll, not money, but entire devotion to His company.
CHRYSOSTOM. (ubi sup.) But the Lord honoured Levi, whom He had called, by immediately going to his feast. For this testified the greater confidence in him. Hence it follows, And Levi made him a great feast in his own house. Nor did He sit down to meat with him alone, but with many, as it follows, And there was a great company of Publicans and others that sat down with them. For the publicans came to Levi as to their colleague, and a man in the same line with themselves, and he too glorying in the presence of Christ, called them all together. For Christ displayed every sort of remedy, and not only by discoursing and displaying cures, or even by rebuking the envious, but also by eating with them, He corrected the faults of some, thereby giving us a lesson, that every time and occasion brings with it its own profit. But He shunned not the company of Publicans, for the sake of the advantage that might ensue, like a physician, who unless he touch the afflicted part cannot cure the disease.
AMBROSE. For by His eating with sinners, He prevents not us also from going to a banquet with the Gentiles.
CHRYSOSTOM. (ubi sup.) But nevertheless the Lord was blamed by the Pharisees, who were envious, and wished to separate Christ and His disciples, as it follows, And the Pharisees murmured, saying, Why do you eat with Publicans, &c.
AMBROSE. This was the voice of the Devil. This was the first word the Serpent uttered to Eve, Yea hath God said, Ye shall not eat. (Gen. 3:1) So they diffuse the poison of their father.
AUGUSTINE. (de con. Ev. lib. ii. c. 27.) Now St. Luke seems to have related this somewhat different from the other Evangelists. For he does not say that to our Lord alone it was objected that He eat and drank with publicans and sinners, but to the disciples also, that the charge might be understood both of Him and them. But the reason that Matthew and Mark related the objection as made concerning Christ to His disciples, was, that seeing the disciples ate with publicans and sinners, it was the rather objected to their Master as Him whom they followed and imitated; the meaning therefore is the same, yet so much the better conveyed, as while still keeping to the truth, it differs in certain words.
CHRYSOSTOM. (ubi sup.) But our Lord refutes all their charges, shewing, that so far from its being a fault to mix with sinners, it is but a part of His merciful design, as it follows, And Jesus answering said unto them, They that are whole need not a physician; in which He reminds them of their common infirmities, and shews them that they are of the number of the sick, but adds, He is the Physician. It follows, I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. As if He should say, So far am I from hating sinners, that for their sakes only I came, not that they should remain sinners, but be converted and become righteous.
AUGUSTINE. (ubi sup.) Hence He adds, to repentance, which serves well to explain the passage, that no one should suppose that sinners, because they are sinners, are loved by Christ, since that similitude of the sick plainly suggests what our Lord meant by calling sinners, as a Physician, the sick, in order that from iniquity as from sickness they should be saved.
AMBROSE. But how does God love righteousness, and David has never seen the righteous man forsaken, if the righteous are excluded, the sinner called; unless you understand that He meant by the righteous those who boast of the law, (Ps. 11:7, Ps. 37:25.) and seek not the grace of the Gospel. Now no one is justified by the law, but redeemed by grace. He therefore calls not those who call themselves righteous, for the claimers to righteousness are not called to grace. For if grace is from repentance, surely he who despises repentance renounces grace.
AMBROSE. But He calls those sinners, who considering their guilt, and feeling that they cannot be justified by the law, submit themselves by repentance to the grace of Christ.
CHRYSOSTOM. Now He speaks of the righteous ironically, as when He says, Behold Adam is become as one of us. (Gen. 3:22.) But that there was none righteous upon the earth St. Paul shews, saying, All have sinned, and need the grace of God. (Rom. 3:23.)
GREGORY OF NYSSA. Or, He means that the sound and righteous need no physician, i. e. the angels, but the corrupt and sinners, i. e. ourselves do; since we catch the disease of sin, which is not in heaven.
BEDE. Now by the election of Matthew is signified the faith of the Gentiles, who formerly gasped after worldly pleasures, but now refresh the body of Christ with zealous devotion.
THEOPHYLACT. Or the publican is he who serves the prince of this world, and is debtor to the flesh, to which the glutton gives his food, the adulterer his pleasure, and another something else. But when the Lord saw him sitting at the receipt of custom, and not stirring himself to greater wickedness, He calls him that he might be snatched from the evil, and follow Jesus, and receive the Lord into the house of his soul.
AMBROSE. But he who receives Christ into his inner chamber, is fed with the greatest delights of overflowing pleasures. The Lord therefore willingly enters, and reposes in his affection; but again the envy of the treacherous is kindled, and the form of their future punishment is prefigured; for while all the faithful are feasting in the kingdom of heaven, the faithless will be cast out hungry. Or, by this is denoted the envy of the Jews, who are afflicted at the salvation of the Gentiles.
AMBROSE. At the same time also is shewn the difference between those who are zealous for the law and those who are for grace, that they who follow the law shall suffer eternal hunger of soul, while they who have received the word into the inmost soul, refreshed with abundance of heavenly meat and drink, can neither hunger nor thirst. And so they who fasted in soul murmured.
33. And they said unto him, Why do the disciples of John fast often, and make prayers, and likewise the disciples of the Pharisees; but thine eat and drink?
34. And he said unto them, Can ye make the children of the bridechamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them?
35. But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days.
36. And he spake also a parable unto them; No man putteth a piece of a new garment upon an old; if otherwise, then both the new maketh a rent, and the piece that was taken out of the new agreeth not with the old.
37. And no man putteth new wine into old bottles; else the new wine will burst the bottles, and be spilled, and the bottles shall perish.
38. But new wine must be put into new bottles; and both are preserved.
39. No man also having drunk old wine straightway desireth new: for he saith, The old is better.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. As soon as they have received the first answer from Christ, they proceed from one thing to another, with the intent to shew that the holy disciples, and Jesus Himself with them, cared very little for the law. Hence it follows, Why do the disciples of John fast, but thine eat, &c. (Lev. 15, prævaricationis.) As if they said, Ye eat with publicans and sinners, whereas the law forbids to have any fellowship with the unclean, but compassion comes in as an excuse for your transgression; why then do ye not fast, as they are wont to do who wish to live according to the law? But holy men indeed fast, that by the mortification of their body they may quell its passions. Christ needed not fasting for the perfecting of virtue, since as God He was free from every yoke of passion. Nor again did His companions need fasting, but being made partakers of His grace without fasting they were strengthened in all holy and godly living. For when Christ fasted for forty days, it was not to mortify His passions, but to manifest to carnal men the rule of abstinence.
AUGUSTINE. (de Con. Ev. l. ii. c. 27.) Now Luke evidently relates that this was spoken not by men of themselves, but by others concerning them. How then does Matthew say, Then came unto him the disciples of John, saying, Why do we and the Pharisees fast; unless that they themselves also came, and were all eager, as far as they were able, to put the question to Him?
AUGUSTINE. (de Qu. Ev. l. ii. q. 18.) Now there are two fasts, one is in tribulation, to propitiate God for our sins; another in joy, when as carnal things delight us less, we feed the more on things spiritual. The Lord therefore being asked why His disciples did not fast, answered as to each fast. And first of the fast of tribulation; for it follows, And he said unto them, Can ye make the children of the bridegroom fast when the bridegroom is with them?
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. 30. in Matt.) As if He should say, The present time is one of joy and gladness, sorrow must not then be mixed up with it.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. For the shewing forth of our Saviour in this world was nothing else but a great festival, (πανήγυρις) spiritually uniting our nature to Him as His bride, that she who was formerly barren might become fruitful. The children of the Bridegroom then are found to be those who have been called by Him through a new and evangelical discipline, but not the Scribes and Pharisees, who observe only the shadow of the law.
AUGUSTINE. (de Con. Ev. ii. c. 27.) Now this which Luke alone mentions, Ye cannot make the children of the bridegroom fast, is understood to refer to those very men who said that they would make the children of the Bridegroom mourn and fast, since they were about to kill the Bridegroom.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. Having granted to the children of the Bridegroom that it was not fitting that they should be troubled, as they were keeping a spiritual feast, but that fasting should be abolished among them, He adds as a direction, But the days shall come when the Bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast in those days.
AUGUSTINE. (de Qu. Ev. ii. qu. 18.) As if He said, Then shall they be desolate, and in sorrow and lamentation, until the joy of consolation shall be restored to them by the Holy Spirit.
AMBROSE. Or, That fast is not given up whereby the flesh is mortified, and the desires of the body chastened. (For this fast commends us to God.) But we cannot fast who have Christ, and banquet on the flesh and blood of Christ.
BASIL. The children of the Bridegroom also cannot fast, i. e. refuse nourishment to the soul, but live on every word which proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
AMBROSE. But when are those days, in which Christ shall be taken away from us, since He has said, I will be with you alway, even unto the end of the world? But no one can take Christ away from you, unless you take yourself away from Him.
BEDE. For as long as the Bridegroom is with us we both rejoice, and can neither fast nor mourn. But when He has gone away through our sins, then a fast must be declared and mourning be enjoined.
AMBROSE. Lastly, it is spoken of the fast of the soul, as the context shews, for it follows, But he said, No man putteth a piece of a new garment upon an old. He calleth fasting an old garment, which the Apostle thought should be taken off, saying, Put off the old man with his deeds. (Col. 3:9.) In the same manner we have a series of precepts not to mix up the actions of the old and new man.
AUGUSTINE. (ubi sup.) Or else, The gift of the Holy Spirit being received, there is a kind of fast, which is of joy, which they who are already renewed to a spiritual life most seasonably celebrate. Before they receive this gift, He says they are as old garments, to which a new piece of cloth is most unsuitably sewed on, i. e. any part of the doctrine which relates to the soberness of the new life; for if this takes place, the very doctrine itself also is in a measure divided, for it teaches a general fast not from pleasant food only, but from all delight in temporal pleasures, the part of which that appertains to food He said ought not to be given to men still devoted to their old habits, for therein seems to be a rent, and it agreeth not with the old. He says also, that they are like to old skins, as it follows, And no one putteth wine into old skins.
AMBROSE. The weakness of man’s condition is exposed when our bodies arc compared to the skins of dead animals.
AUGUSTINE. (ubi sup.) But the Apostles are compared to old skins, who are more easily burst with new wine, i. e. with spiritual precepts, than contain them. Hence it follows, Else the new wine will burst the skins, and the wine will be spilled. But they were new skins at that time, when after the ascension of the Lord they received the Holy Spirit, when from desire of His consolation they were renewed by prayer and hope. Hence it follows, But the new wine must be put into new bottles, and both are preserved.
BEDE. Inasmuch as wine refreshes us within, but garments cover us without, the garments are the good works which we do abroad, by which we shine before men; wine, the fervour of faith, hope, and charity. Or, The old skins are the Scribes and Pharisees, the new piece and the new wine the precepts of the Gospel.
GREGORY OF NYSSA. (Orat. de Deit. Filii et SS.) For wine newly drawn forth, evaporates on account of the natural heat in the liquor, throwing off from itself the scum by natural action. Such wine is the new covenant, which the old skins because of their unbelief contain not, and are therefore burst by the excellence of the doctrine, and cause the grace of the Spirit to flow in vain; because into an evil soul wisdom will not enter. (Sap. 1:4.)
BEDE. But to every soul which is not yet renewed, but goes on still in the old way of wickedness, the sacraments of new mysteries ought not to be given. They also who wish to mix the precepts of the Law with the Gospel, as the Galatians did, put new wine into old bottles. It follows, No man also having drank old wine straightway desireth new, for he saith, the old is better. For the Jews, imbued with the taste of their old life, despised the precepts of the new grace, and being defiled with the traditions of their ancestors, were not able to perceive the sweetness of spiritual words.
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