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HAYDOCK CATHOLIC BIBLE COMMENTARY ON THE NEW TESTAMENT
Ver. 1. And when he was come down from the mountain. S. Matthew says, that Jesus Christ ascended the mountain, and sat down to teach the people; while S. Luke affirms, that he descended, and stood in a plain place. But there is no contradiction; for he first ascended to the top of the mountain, and then descended to an even plain, which formed part of the descent. Here he stood for a while, and cured the sick, as mentioned by S. Luke; but afterwards, according to the relation of S. Matthew, he sat down, which was the usual posture of the Jewish doctors. S. Aug.
Ver. 2. As the three evangelists relate the cure of the leper in nearly the same words, and with the same circumstances, we may conclude they speak of the same miracle. S. Matthew alone seems to have observed the time and order of this transaction, viz. after the sermon of the mount; the other two anticipate it. The Bible de Vence seems to infer, from the connection S. Matthew makes between the sermon of the mount and the cure of the leper, that it was not the same leper as that mentioned, Mark i. 40. Luke v. 12. V. — Adored him. In S. Mark it is said, kneeling down, c. i. 40. In S. Luke, prostrating on his face. It is true, none of these expressions do always signify the adoration or worship which is due to God alone, as may appear by several examples in the Old and New Testament; yet this man, by divine inspiration, might know our blessed Saviour to be both God and man. Wi. — "Make me clean;" literally, "purify me;" the law treated lepers as impure. V. — The leper, by thus addressing our Saviour acknowledges his supreme power and authority, and shews his great faith and earnestness, falling on his knees, as S. Luke relates it. Chry. hom. xxvi. Our prayer should be such with great faith and confidence, qualified with profound humility, and entire diffidence of self.
Ver. 3. Jesus, stretching forth his hand, touched him. By the law of Moses, whosoever touched a leper, contracted a legal uncleanness: but not by touching in order to heal him, says Theophylactus. Besides, Christ would teach them that he was not subject to this law. Wi. — "Touched him." To shew, says S. Cyprian, that his body being united to the Divinity, had the power of healing and giving life. Also to shew that the old law, which forbad the touching of lepers, had no power over him; and that so far from being defiled by touching him, he even cleansed him who was defiled with it. S. Ambrose. — When the apostles healed the lame man, they did not attribute it to their own power, but said to the Jews: Why do you wonder at this? Or, why look you at us, as if by our power or strength we have made him walk? But when our Saviour heals the leper, stretching out his hand, to shew he was going to act of his own power, and independently of the law, he said: "I will. Be thou clean;" to evince that the cure was effected by the operation of his own divine will. Chry. hom. xxvi.
Ver. 4. For a testimony to them. That is, when the priest finds thee truly cured, make that offering which is ordained in the law. Wi. — He did this to give us an example of humility, and that the priests, by approving of his miracle, and being made witnesses to it, might be inexcusable, if they would not believe him. M. — He thus shews his obedience to the law, and his respect for the diginity of priests. He makes them inexcusable, if they can still call him a transgressor of the law, and prevaricator. He moreover gives this public testimony to them of his divine origin. Chry. hom. xxvi. S. Chrysostom, in his third book on the priesthood, says: "the priests of the old law had authority and privilege only to discern who were healed of leprosy, and to denounce the same to the people; but the priests of the new law have power to purify, in very deed, the filth of the soul. Therefore, whoever despiseth them, is more worthy to be punished than the rebel Dathan and his accomplices." Our Saviour willeth him to go and offer his gift or sacrifice, according as Moses prescribed in that case, because the other sacrifice, being the holiest of all holies, viz. his body, was not yet begun. S. Aug. l. ii. & Evang. ii. 3. & cont. adver. leg. & Proph. l. i. c. 19, 20.
Ver. 5. A centurion. The same who (Luke vii. 3,) is said to have sent messengers to our Saviour. But there is no contradiction: for what a man does by his servants, or friends, he is many times said to do himself. He came not in person out of humanity, but by his message shewed an extraordinary faith. Wi. — The centurion shews a much stronger faith in the power of Christ, than those who let down the sick man through the roof, because he thought the word of Christ alone sufficient to raise the deceased. And our Saviour, to reward his confidence, not only grants his petition, as he does on other occasions, but promises to go with him to his house to heal his servant. Chry. hom. xxvii. The centurion was a Gentile, an officer in the Roman army. According to S. Luke he did not come to him in person, but sent messengers to him, who desired him to come down and heal his servant, whereas he seems here not to wish him to come: "Lord, I am not worthy," &c. These difficulties may be easily removed. A person is said to appear before the judge, when his council appears for him; so he may be said to have come to Jesus, when he sent his messengers. Or it may be that he first sent his messengers, and afterwards went himself. As to the second difficulty, it may be said the messengers added that of their own accord, as appears from the text of S. Luke. M. — S. Augustin is of opinion that he did not go himself in person, for he thought himself unworthy, but that he sent first the ancients of the Jews, and then his friends, which last were to address Jesus in his name and with his words. l. ii de cons. Evang. c. xx. Thus we see that the request of the two sons of Zebedee was made by themselves to Jesus Christ, according to S. Mark; (x. 35,) and by the mouth of their mother, according to S. Matthew, xx. 20.
Ver. 7. On this occasion our Saviour does what he never did before: every where indeed he meets the will of his supplicants, but here he runs before his request, saying: "I will come;" and this he does to teach us to imitate the virtue of the centurion.
Ver. 8. Origen says, when thou eatest and drinkest the body and blood of our Lord, he entereth under thy roof. Thou also, therefore, humbling thyself, say: Domine, non sum dignus; Lord, I am not worth, &c. So said S. Chrysostom in his mass, Litturg. Græc. sub finem; and so doth the Catholic Church say at this day in every mass. See S. Augustin. Ep. cxviii. ad Janu. B. — See Luke vii. 6.
Ver. 10. Christ here compares the faith of the centurion with that of the people in general, and not with that of his blessed mother and the apostles, whose faith was beyond a doubt much greater. M. — The Greek says, "neither in Israel." — Jesus hearing this, marvelled. That is, by his outward carriage, says S. Aug. seemed to admire: but knowing all things, he could not properly admire any thing. — I have not found so great faith in Israel. This need not be understood of every one, but of those whom he had cured. Wi.
Ver. 11. In consequence of the faith of this Gentile, Jesus Christ takes occasion to declare that many Gentiles would be called to sit at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven, which is frequently represented under the figure of a feast. See chap. xxii. 2. Luke xiii. 29. xvi. 16. Apoc. xix. 9. In ancient times, the guests were reclined on beds when they took their meals. V.
Ver. 12. Whilst the Jews, who glory in descending from the patriarchs, and who, on this title, are children and heirs of the celestial kingdom which had been promised them, shall be excluded for having rendered themselves unworthy by their unbelief. V. — Shall be cast out into exterior darkness. This is spoken so as to imply a comparison to a supper in a great room, with a number of lights, when they who are turned out in the night, stand without, starving, weeping, and gnashing their teeth. Wi.
Ver. 14. Into Peter's house. That is, which had been Peter's house; for now he had quitted house, and all things to follow Christ. Wi. — According to S. Mark, (i. 29,) and S. Luke, (iv. 38,) the cure of Peter's mother-in-law seems to have been performed previously to the sermon on the mount, of which St. Luke makes mention in chap. vi. We may suppose that S. Matthew mentions it in this order, on occasion of the miracle performed in the same place on the centurion's servant. V.
Ver. 17. In the Greek of the seventy-two interpreters, for infirmities we have amartiaV, sins; but the evangelist refers this to our bodily infirmities, because, as S. Chrysostom observes, diseases are the punishment of sins, and frequently arrive from the diseases of the soul. M. — The text of Isaias here quoted, regards the Messias literally. V. — He took our infirmities. The words signify both the distempers of the body and the infirmities of the soul, for Christ cured both. Wi.
Ver. 20. By the fox is meant craft and cunning, by the birds pride. Thus then our blessed Lord answered him; pride and deceit dwell in your heart, but you have left no place for the Son of Man to rest his head, who can rest only in the meek and humble. S. Augustin. — Jesus Christ rejected this scribe, because he wished to follow Jesus rather through the desire of glory and wealth, hoping to be great in his kingdom, than with the design of perfecting himself in virtue; so that our Saviour answers him: You cannot expect riches from me; who am poorer than the beasts of the field, or birds of the air; they have a place of rest, whereas I have none. M.
Ver. 22. Let the dead bury their dead. The first words, let the dead, cannot mean those that were dead by a corporal death; and therefore must needs be understood of those who were spiritually dead in sin. Wi. — Two similar answers are mentioned in Luke ix. 57, 60. Jesus Christ may have given the same answers on two different occasions. V. — God will not suffer us to go and bury a deceased parent, when he calls us to other employments. S. Chry.
Ver. 23. This bark is the Catholic Church. The sea denotes the world, the winds and tempests shew the attempts of the wicked spirits to overturn the Church. The Lord seems to sleep, when he permits his Church to suffer persecution and other trials, which he permits, that he may prove her faith, and reward her virtue and merits. Chry. hom. xxiii. in Mat. viii. The apostles had followed their divine Master. They were with him, and executing his orders, and it is under these circumstances they are overtaken with a storm. If their obedience to Jesus Christ, if his presence did not free them from danger, to what frightful storms do those persons expose themselves, who undertake the voyage of the present life without him? What can they expect but to be tossed to and fro for a time, and at last miserably to founder? Faithful souls ought, from the example here offered them, to rise superior to every storm and tempest, by invoking the all-powerful and ever ready assistance of heaven, and by always calling in God to their help before they undertake any thing of moment. A.
Ver. 25. Should God appear to sleep, with the apostles, we should approach nearer to him, and awaken him with our repeated prayers, saying: "Lord, save us, or we perish." A. — Had our Saviour been awake, the disciples would have been less afraid, or less sensible of the want of his assistance: he therefore slept, that they might be better prepared for the miracle he was about to work. Chry. hom. xxviii.
Ver. 26. Why are you fearful, having me with you? Do you suppose that sleep can take from me the knowledge of your danger, or the power of relieving you? A. — He commanded the winds. Christ shewed himself Lord and Master of the sea and winds. His words in S. Mark (iv. 39,) demonstrate his authority: Rising up he rebuked the wind, and said to the sea: Peace, be still. Wi. — As before our Lord restored Peter's mother-in-law on the spot, not only to health, but to her former strength; so here he shews himself supreme Lord of all things, not only by commanding the winds to cease, but, moreover, by commanding a perfect calm to succeed. Chry. hom. xxix. How many times has he preserved his Catholic Church, when (to all human appearance, and abstracting from his infallible promises) she has been in the most imminent danger of perishing? How many times by a miracle, or interposition of his omnipotence, less sensible indeed, but not less real, has he rescued our souls, on the point of being swallowed up in the infernal abyss? A. — He commands the mute elements to be subservient to his wish. He commands the sea, and it obeys him; he speaks to the winds and tempests, and they are hushed; he commands every creature, and they obey. Man, and man only, man honoured in a special manner by being made after the image and likeness of his Creator, to whom speech and reason are given, dares to disobey and despise his Creator. S. Aug. hom. in Mat.
From this allegory of the ship and the storm, we may take occasion to speak of the various senses in which the words of Scripture may be occasionally taken. . . . The sense of Scripture is twofold, literal and spiritual. The literal is that which the words immediately signify. The spiritual or mystic sense is that which things expressed by words mean, as in Genesis xxii, what is literally said of the immolation of Isaac, is spiritually understood of Christ; and in Coloss. ii. 12, by the baptism of Christ, S. Paul means his burial. The spiritual sense in its various acceptations, is briefly and accurately given in the following distich:
Littera gesta docet, quid credas allegoria,
Moralis quid agas, quo tendas anagogia.
Ver. 28. Two that were possessed with devils. S. Mar. (c. v.) and S. Luke (c. viii.), in the same passage, mentions but one man, who is also said to be possessed with a legion of devils. Those evangelists seem to make mention only of one of them, because he might be much more fierce and famous than the other. Wi. — These sepulchres were caverns excavated in the rocks, which served them as places of retreat. V.
Ver. 29. Before the time which God has marked to drive us from the world, and to bury us for ever in the prison of hell. V. — What have we to do with thee? Or what hast thou to do with us? what harm have we done thee? Art thou come hither to torment us before the time? That is, before the time and day of judgment, after which the torments and punishments of the devils will be increased. Wi.
Ver. 30. And not far from them. In all Greek copies at present we read, There was afar off. Beza himself here owns, that the Latin Vulgate is to be preferred before all Greek copies and MSS. Wi. — The Greco-Latin MS. of Cambridge has not the word non in the Latin; but in the Latin of the ancient Vulgate it occurs. V.
Ver. 31. "Send us into the herd of swine." According to S. Luke, they begged of him two things; the first, that they might not be sent into hell, there to be tormented with more grievous torments, as they will be at the end of the world; the second, that they might be permitted to go into the herd of swine, that these being destroyed, the inhabitants of that country might be ill affected towards our Saviour, and refuse to receive him. The event seems to confirm this opinion. M.
Ver. 32. Many reasons might be brought why our Saviour suffered the devils to enter into the swine: 1. To shew that the devils had no power even over swine without his permission. 2. That such as were freed from their power, might acknowledge the greatness of the favour done them, by seeing from how great a multitude they were liberated. 3. To punish those Jewish citizens, who fed upon swine's flesh contrary to their law. And, 4. To shew how willingly the devils dwell in the hearts of those who are addicted to the voluptuous and carnal life, aptly designated by the swine. M. — S. Chrysostom says that our Saviour permitted the devils to enter the swine, not for their own sakes, but for our instruction. 1. That we might know how very desirous the enemy of our salvation is to bring upon us the greatest evils. 2. That the devil has not any power, even over swine, without the permission of God. And, 3. That these cruel fiends would, if the Almighty allowed them, inflict still more grievous torments on their unhappy slaves. Hom. xxix. Jesus Christ here confutes the Sadducean doctrine, which denies the existence of spirits, good or bad. A.
Ver. 34. That he would depart from their coasts. S. Jerom thinks these people did this out of a motive of humility, looking upon themselves unworthy of his presence: others judge that the loss of the swine made them apprehend lest Christ, being a Jew, might do them greater damages. Wi. — The fear lest his presence might cause them some fresh loss, seems to have overbalanced, in their estimation, the advantages they might have expected from his visit. V. — How often has our good Lord wished to visit us, to honour us with his sacred presence, to enrich us with his divine inspirations; and how often, like these Gerasens, have we desired him to depart from our territories? Some worldly interest, sensual enjoyment, or supine listlessness on our part, has occasioned us to neglect the proffered advantages. Oh! can there be more marked ingratitude than this! Oh! how shall we one day grieve for having lost, by our culpable indifference, immense spiritual treasures, which have been made over to others far more deserving than ourselves! Yes, the day will certainly arrive, when we shall value a single additional degree of the divine favor and grace, infinitely more than all the united honours, riches, and pleasures of this world. A.