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HAYDOCK CATHOLIC BIBLE COMMENTARY ON THE NEW TESTAMENT
Ver. 1. The cure of the paralytic (v. 2), is generally supposed to have been anterior in point of time, to the cure of two possessed persons, chap. viii. Carrieres supposes the contrary. V. — Into his own city. Not of Bethlehem, where he was born, nor of Nazareth, where he was brought up, but of Capharnaum, says S. Chrysostom, where he is said to have dwelt since he began to preach. See Matt. iv. 13. Wi. — S. Jerom understands this city to be Nazareth, which was Christ's own, because he was conceived there. S. Austin, S. Chrysos. Euthy. Theophylactus, think it was Capharnaum, because this miracle was performed at the last mentioned place, according to S. Mark's relation; and S. Matthew calls it Christ's own city, because after leaving Nazareth, he chose Capharnaum for the chief place of his abode. If S. Jerom's interpretation be admitted, we must suppose that S. Matthew having told us that Christ came to his own city, Nazareth, and omitting to relate what happened there, passed immediately to the history of the cure of the paralytic, which took place at Capharnaum. Such omissions and change of place without the reader's being informed of the transition, are not unfrequent in the evangelists. We must likewise observe that they frequently invert the order of facts, as to the time of their happening. Jansen. — Christ may be said to have had three cities: Bethlehem, in which he was born; Nazareth, in which he was educated; and Capharnaum, in which he most frequently resided, during his sacred ministry. It is most probable, and most generally understood, that in this place of the Scripture Capharnaum is meant; though several understand it of Nazareth, and some few with Sedulius, li. 3. carm.
Intravit natale solum, quo corpore nasci
Se voluit, patriamque sibi pater ipse dicavit.
Ver. 2. Thy sins are forgiven thee. We do not find that the sick man asked this; but it was the much greater benefit, and which every one ought to prefer before the health of the body. Wi. — He says this, because he wished to declare the cause of the disease, and to remove it, before he removed the disease itself. He might also desire to shew the paralytic, what he ought to have prayed for in the first place. M. — The sick man begs for corporal health, but Christ first restores to him the health of his soul, for two reasons: 1st. That be might insinuate to the beholders, that the principal intent of his coming into the world was to cure the evils of the soul, and to let them know that the spiritual cure ought most to be desired and petitioned for. Corporal infirmities, as we learn in many places of the sacred text, are only the consequences of the sins of the patient. In S. John (ch. iii.), Christ bids the man whom he had healed, to sin no more, lest something worse should befall him; and S. Paul says, that many of the Corinthians were afflicted with various diseases, and with death, on account of their unworthily receiving the body of the Lord. A second reason why Christ forgave the sick man his sins, was, that he might take occasion from the murmurs of the Pharisees, to speak more plainly of his power and divinity, which he proved not only by restoring the man instantaneously to health, but by another miracle equally great and conclusive, which consisted in seeing the thoughts they had never expressed; for the evangelist observes, that they murmured in their hearts. He afterwards cures the sick man to shew, says he, that the Son of man has power to forgive sins. Jansen. — We may here observe likewise, that when Christ afterwards gave his apostles their mission, and empowered them to preach to the whole world, he communicates this same power to them, and seems to refer to the miracles which he had wrought, to prove that he himself had the power which he gave to them. All power, says he, is given to me in heaven and on earth. As the Father sent me, so I send you. . . . Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven. A. — Seeing their faith. It does not follow from hence, as Calvin would have it, that faith alone will save us. For S. Chrysos. says, "Faith indeed is a great and salutary thing, and without it there is no gaining salvation." But this will not of itself suffice without good works; for S. Paul admonishes us, who have made ourselves deserving a participation of the mysteries of Christ, thus, (Heb. c. iv.) "Let us hasten, therefore, to enter into that rest." He tells us to hasten, that is, faith alone will not suffice, but we must also strive all our life by good works to render ourselves worthy to enter the kingdom of heaven: for if those Israelites, who murmured and would not bear the calamities of the desert, were not, on that account, permitted to enter the land of promise, how can we think ourselves worthy of the kingdom of heaven, (figured by the land of promise) if we will not in this world undergo the labours of good works. S. Chrysos. — From hence S. Ambrose concludes, that our Saviour is moved to grant our petitions through the invocation of saints, as he even forgave this man his sins through the faith of those that brought him. Of how much greater efficacy then will not the prayers of the saints be? Barardius. — Christ does not always require faith in the sick who desire to be cured, but seems to have dispensed with it on many occasions; for example, in the cases of those he cured possessed by the devil. S. Chrys. — Son, &c. O the wonderful humility of the God-man! Jesus looks with complacence on this miserable wretch, whom the Jewish priests disdain to look upon, and in the midst of all his miseries calls him his son. S. Tho. Aquin. — They had read what Isaias had said: I am, I am he who destroyeth thy sins: ego sum, ego sum ipse, qui deleo iniquitates tuas, xliii. 25.: but they had not read, or, at least they had not understood what the same prophet says, liii. 6. The Lord hath heaped upon him the iniquity of us all: posuit Dominus in eo iniquitatem omnium nostrum. Nor had they remembered the testimony of the Baptist: behold the Lamb of God, behold him who taketh away the sins of the world. John i. 29. Mald.
Ver. 3. This man blasphemeth, by pretending to have a power to forgive sins, which none but God can do; and they looked upon Jesus as a man only. It is true, and what all Catholics teach, that God alone hath power of himself to forgive sins. But Christ, who was both God and man, could, and did communicate this power of forgiving sins in his name, to bishops and priests, as his ministers and instruments in the sacraments of baptism and penance. We have Christ's clear words for it, (Jo. xx. 23.) whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them, &c. Wi. — And behold some of the scribes. The Jewish rulers wished to defame the character of our divine Redeemer, but by this means they rendered the miracle much more famous, and Christ turned their wicked designs to their own confusion. S. Chrys. — For Christ says, Why do you think evil in your hearts? in which words Jesus plainly evinces to them the reality of his divinity; for who knows the secrets of man's heart, but God alone? S. Jerom.
Ver. 4. Jesus seeing their thoughts. By shewing that he knew their hidden thoughts, as well as by healing the man, to confirm his words and doctrine, he gave them a proof of his divine power. Wi. — Not because they betrayed them by any exterior sign, but, as S. Mark says, knowing in his spirit that they so thought within themselves, because he was God, in whose hands are our hearts, (Prov. c. xv. and c. xxi,) and to whose eyes all things are naked and open. Tostatus. — Had not our Saviour been truly God, and equal to his Father, he would have rebuked the scribes, for attributing that to God only which he exercised. But so far from denying their assertion, he immediately admits the truth of it, and answers them by another no less wonderful act of his almighty power. He tells them publicly the evil they had thought in their hearts, whilst the Scriptures repeatedly affirm that God alone can know the secrets of hearts. Thou alone knowest the hearts of the children of men, 3 Kings, c. viii. and 2 of Philip. c. vi. v. 30. And man seeth those things that appear, but the Lord beholdeth the heart. And 1st of Kings, c. xvi, v. 7, The searcher of reins and hearts is God. Psalm vii, v. 10, The heart is perverse above all things, and unsearchable. Who can know it? I am the Lord that search the heart and prove the reins. Jeremias, c. xvii, v. 9. and 10.; and innumerable other texts of Scripture might be brought to prove that God only can know the minds and thoughts of men. Our Saviour, therefore, shews himself to be equal to his Father, by thus revealing to all, the malicious murmurs of his enemies, who for fear of the multitude, dared not to publish themselves what their wicked hearts devised. S. Chrys. hom. xxx. — Said: Why do you think, &c. Here S. Cyril exclaims, Oh! thou Pharisee, who sayest, who is able to forgive sins, except God alone! I will answer thee; who is able to search into the secrets of the heart but God alone, who calls himself, by his prophet, the searcher of the hearts and the reins of men! S. Cyril. — If thou art incredulous about my power of remitting sin, behold I exercise another, whilst I lay open thy interior. S. Chrysos.
Ver. 5. The power of working miracles, and of forgiving sins, is proper to God, but can be communicated by God to man equally in the sacraments of baptism and penance. A. — Which is easier. It is more difficult to remit sins than restore the health of the body. S. Austin remarks, (tract. lxxii in Joannem) it is more difficult to justify a man than to create the heavens and the earth; but Christ speaks thus, because the Pharisees might otherwise have said, that as he could not confer visible health upon the body, he had recourse to the invisible remission of sins, and that it was easy to grant in words, what no one could discern whether it was really granted or not. In this sense, therefore, the word, "Be thou healed," is more difficult than simply to say, "Thy sins are forgiven thee;" which any one could say, though he might not effect what his word implied. M. — Doubtless the healing of the body was easier, for as much as the soul is more excellent than the body, so much is the healing of the soul more difficult and more excellent than that of the body. But since the one is visible, the other invisible, therefore he performs the less, but more evident miracle, in testimony of the performance of the other more excellent, but less evident exertion of his power. Thus he truly verifies what the Baptist said of him, "This is he that taketh away the sins of the world." S. Chrysos. hom. xxx.
Ver. 6. But that you may know. This may be understood differently, either as spoken by Christ to the Jews present, or by the evangelist to the people to whom he wrote his gospel. S. Thom. Aquin. — Thus Christ proves that he had the power of remitting sins; as a falsity cannot be confirmed by a miracle, since in this case God would bear testimony to a falsity. M. — Take thy bed, &c. This doubtless was commanded him, to convince the whole world that this was no phantom, and to add still greater credibility to the fact, and he rose, &c. — He who was pleased to become man, is truly the Son of God; and, in this quality, he possesses all power. This he proves by the double exercise of his power over both soul and body. A. — Surge, tolle, and vade, Christ added these words for the greater evidence of the cure. Maldonatus.
Ver. 8. Feared, and glorified God. Here it may be observed, that the people, before they praised, feared God, for the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. And S. Basil says, that fear, as a good guide, necessarily leads us to piety; and charity takes us, after having been exercised a little in fear, makes us perfect men. S. Basil.
Ver. 9. Named Matthew. 'Tis remarked by S. Jerom, that the other evangelist, out of respect to this apostle, did not call him Matthew, (the name he generally went by) but Levi; whereas he, in his own gospel, to shew the goodness of God who from a publican had made him an apostle, styles himself Matthew the publican. S. Thos. Aquin. — S. Austin. de Concor. Evan. It is most probable, says S. Austin, that S. Matthew does not mention what had happened to him, before he began to follow Jesus; for it is supposed that this evangelist was called antecedent to the sermon on the mount; for S. Luke named the 12 that were chosen, and calls them apostles. S. Matthew mentions his vocation to the apostleship as one of the miracles that Jesus performed, for certainly it was a great miracle for a publican to become an apostle. — Rose up, and followed him. When we hear the voice of God calling us to virtue, we must not delay. The devil, says S. Basil, does not advise us to turn entirely from God, but only to put off our conversion to a future time. He steals away our present time, and gives us hopes of the future. But when that comes, he steals that also in the same manner; and thus by giving us present pleasure, he robs us of our whole life. S. Basil. — Sitting in the custom-house. Jesus called S. Matthew with two words only, follow me; and presently he left all, and became his disciple; doubtless by a particular inspiration and motion of divine grace. Wi.
Ver. 12. They that are in health. The explication of which is, I converse with sinners, that I may heal their souls from incredulity. M.
Ver. 13. I am not come. The just appear to be mentioned ironically, as it is said in Genesis, Behold Adam is become as one of us: and if I hunger, I will not tell thee. Psalm xlix. For S. Paul asserts, that none on earth were just: all have sinned, and need the glory of God. Rom. iii. S. Chrysos. hom. xxxi. — Christ came to call all men, both just and unjust, since he called Nathanael, who was a just man. But the meaning of these words is, I came not to call you, Scribes and Pharisees, who esteem yourselves just, and despise others, and who think you have no need of a physician; but I came to call those who acknowledge themselves sinners. Theophylactus. — Or the meaning may be, "I came not to call the just to penance, of which they have no need;" thus in S. Luke, (c. v.) I came not to call the just, but sinners to repentance. Or again, the meaning may be, I came not to call the just, because there are none just of themselves, and who stand not in need of my coming. S. Paul says, All have sinned, as above. M. — Mercy, and not sacrifice. Christ here prefers mercy to sacrifice; for, as S. Ambrose says, there is no virtue so becoming a Christian as mercy, but chiefly mercy to the poor. For if we give money to the poor, we at the same time give him life: if we clothe the naked, we adorn our souls with the robe of justice: if we receive the poor harbourless under our roof, we shall at the same time make friends with the saints in heaven, and shall afterwards be received by them into their eternal habitations. S. Ambrose. — I will have mercy and not sacrifice: these words occur in the prophet Osee, c. vi. The Pharisees thought they were making a great sacrifice, and acceptable to God, by breaking off all commerce with sinners; but God prefers the mercy of the charitable physician, who frequents the company of sinners; but merely to cure them. V.
Ver. 14. Then came. When the Pharisees in the prior question had been discomfited. By S. Mark, (xi. 18,) we learn that the Pharisees joined with the disciples of the Baptist, and thus is reconciled what we read in S. Luke v. 33, who only mentions the Pharisees. V. — Why do we, and the Pharisees fast. It is not without reason that the disciples of S. John should ask this question, fasting being always esteemed a great virtue, witness Moses and Elias; the fasts which Samuel made the people observe in Masphat, the tears, prayers, and fasting of Ezechias, of Judith, of Achab, of the Ninivites, of Anna, the wife of Eleana, of Daniel, of David, after he had fallen into the sin of adultery. Aaron, and the other priests, also fasted before they entered into the temple. Witness also the fasts of Anna, the prophetess, of S. John the Baptist, of Christ himself, of Cornelius the centurion, &c. &c. &c. St. Jerom. — This haughty interrogation of S. John's disciples was highly blameable, not only for uniting with the Pharisees, whom they knew their master so much condemned, but also for calumniating him, who, they knew was foretold by John's own testimony. S. Jerom. — S. Austin is likewise of opinion, that John's disciples were not the only persons that said this, since S. Mark rather indicates that it was spoken by others. S. Thos. Aquin.
Ver 15. Can the children of the bridegroom. This, by a Hebraism, signifies the friends or companions of the bridegroom, as a lover of peace, is called a child of peace: he that deserves death, the son of death, &c. Wi. — the disciples had not yet ascended to the higher degrees of perfection, they had not yet been renewed in spirit; therefore they required to be treated with lenity; for had the higher and more sublime mysteries been delivered to them without previous preparation, they would never, not even in the natural course of things, have been able to comprehend them. I have many things to say to you, said our Saviour, but you cannot bear them now. S. John xvi. Thus did he condescend to their weakness. S. Chrys. hom. xxxi.
Ver. 16. A piece of raw cloth. By the Greek is signified new-woven cloth, that has not yet passed the hands of the fuller. Wi. — And no one putteth, &c. Christ, by these similitudes, justifies the manner of life which he taught his disciples, which at first was adapted to their understandings; lest, if in the beginning, he had required them to fast contrary to what they had been accustomed, they might have been frightened at the austerity of his institute, and deserted him. He compares, therefore, his disciples to an old garment, and to old bottles; and an austere mode of life to new clothes and new wine. And he argues, that if we do not put new cloth to an old garment, because it tears the garment the more, nor put new wine into old bottles, because by its fermentation it would easily break them, so in like manner his disciples, who had been accustomed to a less rigid mode of life, were not at once to be initiated into an austere discipline, lest they should sink under the difficulty, and relinquish the pursuit of a more perfect life. M.
Ver. 17. New wine into old bottles. These vessels were made of skins, or were leather bottles, in which wine used to be carried and kept. Wi. — They were made of goat-skins prepared and sewed together, as is common in Spain and other southern countries to this day. A. — They were to wait till they were renewed by the Holy Ghost, before they could enter with advantage on the hard ways of penance. V.
Ver. 18. A certain ruler. Lit. a prince of a synagogue. He is called Jairus. Mark v. Luke viii. — My daughter is just now dead: or, as the other evangelists express it, is at the point of death; and her father having left her dying, he might think and say she was already dead. Wi. — In effect, news was shortly after brought him that she was dead. It is thus that some commentators explain the apparent difference found in Mark v. 22, and Luke viii. 41. — But come, lay thy hand, &c. Let us admire and imitate the humility and kindness of our Redeemer; no sooner had he heard the request of the ruler, but rising up, he followed him. Though, says S. Chrysostom, he saw his earthly disposition, requesting him to come and lay his hand upon her.
Ver. 20. And behold a woman. This woman, according to Eusebius, came from Cæsarea Philippi, who, in honour of her miraculous cure, afterwards erected a brazen monument, descriptive of this event, before the door of her house in Cæsarea Philippi. Euseb.
Ver. 22. EpistrafeiV kai idwn, turning about and seeing, as if he were ignorant, and wished to see who it was that had touched him, as the other evangelists relate. In S. Mark (v. 29,) we see she was cured on touching the garment; and Jesus only confirms the cure by what he says in verse 34. — But Jesus turning about. Our divine Saviour, fearing lest he might alarm the woman by his words, says immediately to her, Take courage; and at the same time calls her his daughter, because her faith had rendered her such. S. Chrysos.
Ver. 23. And when Jesus . . . saw the minstrels. It was a custom among the Jews at funerals to hire persons to make some doleful music, and great lamentations. Wi. — Ovid also mentions the lugubrious music attendant on funerals.
Cantabat mœstis tibia funeribus. 4. Fast.
Ver. 24. The girl is not dead. Christ, by saying so, insinuated that she was not dead in such a manner as they imagined; that is, so as to remain dead, but presently to return to life, as if she had been only asleep. Wi. — But sleepeth. In the xi. chapter of S. John, Christ again calls death a sleep. Our friend Lazarus sleepeth. Thus he teaches us to be no longer in dread of death, since it was reduced to the condition of a sleep. If you believe this, why do you vainly weep? why do you afflict yourself? this the Gentiles do, who have not faith. Your child is asleep, not dead, is gone to a place of rest, not to destruction. Therefore the royal prophet says, "Turn, O my soul, into thy rest, for the Lord hath been bountiful to thee." Psalm cxiv. If then it is a kindness, why should you weep? what else could you do at the death of an adversary, an enemy, the object of your greatest aversion? S. Chrysos. hom. xxxii. — Christ here asserts that the girl is only asleep, to shew that it was as easy for him to raise her from death as from sleep. Theophylactus.
Ver. 25. He took her by the hand, and as in his hands is the key both of life and death, (Apoc. i. 18,) so he commanded the soul to return and the girl to arise. A. — And when the crowd, &c. That is, if after a sinful and worldly life we wish to rise again, and be cleansed from the miserable condition of moral sin, denoted by the girl who was dead, we must cast out of our minds the great multitude of worldly concerns; for whilst these have possession, the mind is unable to recollect itself and apply seriously to consideration. S. Gregory.
Ver. 27. Son of David, have mercy on us. The blind men style our Saviour Son of David, to shew the great respect they had for him. Thus the prophets also did, when they addressed those kings to whom they wished to testify particular respect and esteem. S. Chrysos. hom. xxxiii.
Ver. 30. And Jesus strictly charged them. Although our Saviour strictly charged them to keep the miracle silent, they nevertheless published it throughout all that country; not being able to contain themselves, they became the evangelists and publishers of what they were commanded to conceal. Thus we are admonished not only to keep silent ourselves whatever is to our own commendation, but likewise to endeavour to hinder others from publishing it; to act otherwise would be to render ourselves odious to men, and abominable in the sight of God. But if we are silent, we shall obtain greater glory in the sight both of God and men. On the other hand, whatever redounds to the glory of the Almighty, we must ourselves publish, and exhort others to make it known to the whole world. Therefore it is said, Go and relate the glory of God. S. Chrysos. hom. xxxiii.
Ver. 31. Spread his fame abroad. Unable to confine their gratitude within the narrow limits of humility prescribed them by Jesus Christ. A.
Ver. 32. A dumb man. The Greek rather signifies a deaf man: but these defects generally go together, because he that is deaf cannot learn to speak. Wi.
Ver. 34. By the prince of the devils. What more foolish ever entered the mind of man. Is it possible, as he afterwards says, that devils should be expelled by devils? They assist and strengthen, not weaken and destroy one another. Moreover, he did not only cast out devils, but he cleansed the lepers, raised the dead, appeased the storm, forgave sins by his own power, preached the eternal felicity of heaven, and brought back man to God: all which the devil never could, never would bestow upon mankind. S. Chrysos. hom. xxxiii.
Ver. 36. He had compassion on them. The bowels of his compassion yearned to see multitudes cast down and oppressed, like sheep that are without a shepherd. The Pharisees indeed were their shepherds; but they acted the part of ravenous wolves, not only neglecting to lead the people to virtue, but even hindering, as much as they could, their advancement in good; for when the admiring multitude cried out, "Never did the like appear in Israel," they immediately decried it, saying, "By the prince of devils he casteth out devils." S. Chrysos. hom. xxxiii.