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HAYDOCK CATHOLIC BIBLE COMMENTARY ON THE NEW TESTAMENT
Ver. 1. Before this time the 12 were called disciples, and not apostles. But now he selects these from the disciples, and makes them, as it were, masters and interpreters of the ways of God to man. He sent afterwards 72 other disciples, (Luke x. 1,) but these 12 only to the whole world. A. — His twelve, &c. Christ chose 12 apostles, that they might correspond to the number of the Jewish patriarchs, by whom they may be said to have been prefigured; and that as the whole Jewish people were descended according to the flesh from the 12 patriarchs, so the whole Christian people might be descended according to the spirit from the 12 apostles. M. — Others say he chose 12, neither more nor less, to correspond with the 12 prophets of the old law, with the 12 fountains in Elim; and the 12 stones selected from the river Jordan, and preserved in the ark of the testament. Others compare the 12 apostles to the 12 months of the year, and the four evangelists to the four seasons: thus Sedulius, l. i. carm.
Quatuor hi proceres una te voce canentes,
Tempora ceu totidem latum sparguntur in orbem.
Sic et apostolici semper duodenus honoris
Fulget apex numero menses imitatus, et horas,
Omnibus ut rebus semper tibi militet annus.
Ver. 2. First, Simon. Simon was the first of the apostles, not in the time of his vocation, as his brother Andrew was called to the apostleship before him, but in dignity, in as much as he was constituted the vicar of Christ, and the head of the Church. M. —Who is called Peter. When he first came to our Saviour, (Jo. i. 42,) he said, Thou art Simon, son of Jonas, (or John) thou shalt be called Peter; in Chaldaic, Cephas; that is to say, a rock, designing to make him the first fundamental stone or head of his whole Church. See also Matt. xvi. 18. Beza, without any grounds, would have the word first to be an addition. But it is found in all Greek MSS. as well as in the ancient fathers. Wi.
Ver. 3. James, the son of Zebedee, called James the greater, put to death by Herod. Acts xii. 2. He was brother to John the Evangelist. The other James was called the less, also James of Alpheus, and the brother of the Lord, bishop of Jerusalem, martyred there about the year 61. Wi. — Some take Bartholomew to be the same as Nathaniel. Bartholomew signifies son of Tholmew; and he might have been called Nathaniel, son of Thalmew. V.
Ver. 5. Go not into the way of the Gentiles, or among the Gentiles. In this first mission, the apostles were ordered to preach to the Jews only, or to the children of the kingdom. Matt. vii. 12. See also Matt. xv. 24. and Acts xiii. 46. Wi. — These twelve Jesus sent. In this mission of the apostles we may observe three things: first, whither Jesus sent them; secondly, what he ordered them to teach; and thirdly, what they were to do. As to the first, he tells them not to go in the way of the Gentiles, nor enter into the city of the Samaritans; but to go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. We must here take notice that this commandment, given by Christ to the apostles, of confining their preaching to the house of Israel, does not contradict one related in Matthew, (c. xxviii.) Go teach all nations, &c. We observe that these two commandments were given at two very different times; the first indeed, (the subject of our present annotation) the apostles received before the resurrection of Christ; the other after. It was necessary first to warn the Jews of the arrival of the Messias amongst them; otherwise they might have excused themselves for having rejected him, by saying, "He had sent his apostles to preach, not to them but to the Gentiles and Samaritans." S. Jerom. — S. Chrysostom assigns another reason why the apostles were sent first to preach in Judea, viz. that having withstood the opposition of one nation, they might be more prepared to hold out against the attacks, which they would no doubt have afterwards to sustain, in their endeavours to convert the whole world. S. Chrysos. — He forbids them to preach to the Gentiles, because it was proper that the word of God should first be announced to the Jews, children of the kingdom. Vide Acts c. xiii, v. 46. M.
Ver. 7. And going, &c. What the apostles were to preach, is the second thing to be taken notice of in their mission. We here learn what it is, viz. that The kingdom of heaven is at hand. We here behold the great dignity to which the apostles were raised, when sent to preach. For, says S. Chrysostom, they are not sent to announce sensible things, like Moses and the prophets, but something wholly new, and before unheard of. They are not like the prophets, to confine themselves to the preaching of temporal things, their doctrine is wholly heavenly; they are sent to announce the good things of eternity. S. Thos. Aquin.
Ver. 8. Heal the sick, &c. This verse contains the third observation respecting the mission of the apostles: Christ not only gave them power to preach, but also to work miracles, in order, says S. Gregory, that works might give force and efficacy to their words, that as their doctrine was new, so their works might be new, and such as were before unheard of. S. Jerom also says, men would never have given any credit to the apostles, unlearned and illiterate as they were, had they not been able to work miracles in proof of the great promises they made to them of heaven. It was necessary that the greatness of their work should confirm the greatness of their promises. S. Jerom. — Gratis you have received. Here our Saviour admonishes his apostles not to work for the sake of lucre; but having themselves received gratuitously the light of faith, they should in the same manner communicate it to others. S. Jerom. — S. Thos. also observes on this passage, that our Saviour probably wished to repress the avarice of Judas, who as he kept the common purse, might be tempted to increase their stock, by receiving pecuniary rewards for their labours. S. Thos. Aquin. — S. Chrysos. says, that the apostles were warned by this admonition of our Saviour against two vices, to which they might be tempted on account of the great favours and graces they had received from heaven, viz. pride and avarice: 1st. Against pride, gratis you have received; i.e. whatever you have received is the gift of God, without any merit of yours: 2ndly. Against avarice, gratis give; that is, since every thing you have received has been given you gratuitously; so if you make use of the same gifts for the good of others, act also gratuitously, without expecting any temporal reward from them. S. Chrys. hom. xxxiii.
Ver. 10. Nor two coats, nor shoes; i.e. provide not yourselves with another coat for a reserve, but go like poor people, who have but just what is necessary. They were not to wear shoes, but they were allowed sandals, or soles with tops tied to their feet. Mark vi. 9. — Nor a staff. So Luke, C. ix. v. 3: yet S. Mark says, but a staff only. To reconcile these expressions, some distinguish betwixt a staff necessary to walk with (which even the poorest people had) and another staff for their defence, which at least they were not to seek for. And the meaning of these admonitions is that they were to go on their mission, not regarding whether they had a staff or not, unless it were necessary for them to walk with. Wi. — In many Greek MSS. we read staffs in the plural, so that Jesus Christ orders them not to take any other than the one in their hand.
Ver. 11. And there abide, &c. That is, stay in the same house as long as you remain in the same city; remove not from house to house, as it is said Luke x. 7, but be content with what you meet with. Wi. — S. Chrysostom gives three reasons for this precept: 1st. that they might not afflict those whom they left; 2ndly. that the apostles might avoid the accusation of inconstancy; 3rdly. of gluttony also. Baradicet. Into whatsoever, &c. Lest the apostles should be induced to think, by what our Saviour had said in the preceding verse, viz. the workman is worthy, &c. that every door would be open for their entrance, he here tells them to inquire at their entry into any city, who amongst the inhabitants were worthy. S. Chrysostom, hom. xxxiii. — And since they could not be expected to know who in every city were worthy, they were to be informed of this by the report and opinion of the people, that so their dignity and great character of apostles might not be defamed by the bad characters of any who might receive them. S. Jerom, in S. Thos. Aquin. — But, if such was the rule given by Christ to the apostles, some one will perhaps ask, why did not Christ also follow the same maxim, since we read in Scripture, he entered into the house of Zacheus, the publican? S. Chrysostom answers, Zacheus was made worthy by his conversion to Christ. S. Chrysostom, in S. Thos. Aquin.
Ver. 12. Peace be to, &c. Heb. shalom, "peace be to you." The custom of salutation here recommended by our Saviour to his disciples, as S. Jerom informs us, was very prevalent among the Hebrews and Syrians. — This was an ordinary salutation among the Jews, by which they wished happiness and prosperity. Wi.
Ver. 13. And if that house, &c. i.e. if it be worthy to receive your peace. In S. Luke (C. x, v. 6) it is written, And if the son of peace be there: that is, a lover of peace, or one worthy of peace and prosperity. Thus a son of death means one deserving of death. M. — Your peace shall come upon it. If men will not hearken to your instructions, you have this comfort and peace of mind, that you have discharged your duty. Wi.
Ver. 14. Shake off the dust from your feet. It was common enough with the Jews, or at least with the preachers and prophets, to use some extraordinary outward actions, to make what they said more taken notice of by the people, as here the shaking off the dust from their feet was to denote to the obstinate unbelievers, that the very dust which their feet had contracted, in coming to preach to them the gospel, should hereafter rise in judgment against them. Wi. By this, the apostles were to testify that they took nothing away with them belonging to these reprobate cities. They likewise shewed the long and painful journeys they had undertaken for their salvation. S. Chrysostom, hom. xxxiii. — He orders them to do this, to shew that they would have nothing in common with them, since they left them even their dust. Or it may be to shew, that the dust which they had gathered in their journey, would be a testimony against them in the day of judgment, because they had refused to receive them, as the Jews were accustomed to perform some remarkable action, for some great crime committed; thus, when they heard blasphemy, they tore their garments. M.
Ver. 16. Wise as serpents, &c. It is a proverbial way of speaking; and an admonition to be circumspect and discreet, but harmless, innocent, sincere in all our actions and dealings. Wi. — Simple. That is, harmless, plain, sincere, and without guile. Ch. — In the midst of wolves. Although Christ sent his apostles not only against wolves, but even into the very midst of wolves, still he commands them to behave with the meekness of sheep, and simplicity of doves. Thus he evinces the greatness of his power, in overcoming the wolves by the sheep, which were continually exposed to be devoured and torn in pieces by them, still never failing to change the fierce nature of the ravenous wolf into their own nature, in mildness and innocence. As long as we retain the nature of sheep, we easily overcome our adversaries; but no sooner are we changed into wolves, than we become the derision of our enemies: the supreme Pastor, who superintends the sheep, not the wolves, withdrawing from us the powerful protection of his grace, and leaving us to the misery of our own weakness. — Our Saviour, in his infinite wisdom, knew full well the nature of things; passion was not to be overcome by passion, but by meekness only. Thus the apostles did, when the Jews having apprehended them, said, Have we not again and again commanded you not to teach in this name? Acts, C. iv. Though they had the power of working the greatest miracles, yet they let nothing harsh, nothing severe, escape them, either in words or actions. With simplicity they made answer, Judge ye, if it be just to hear you rather than God; and at the same time shewed their prudence, saying, We cannot but speak what we have heard and seen. S. Chrysostom, hom. xxxiv. — As sheep, &c. He compares them to sheep, not only because of their innocence, but also because they were sent unarmed and destitute of all human support. M. — Wise, &c. That you may guard against the snares of your enemies. The prudence of the serpent is celebrated, because when it cannot escape, it strives at least to preserve its head free from hurt, whilst it leave the rest of its body exposed. Thus Christians, who have Christ for their head, must preserve his faith and religion, though with the loss of every thing else. M.
Ver. 17. They will deliver you up in councils. Christ, in this and the following verse, warns his apostles of the many troubles and persecutions to which the preaching of the faith would expose them. S. Chrysostom assigns several reasons for him choosing to foretell them such sufferings: 1st. that he might shew that he had the gift of prophecy; 2nd. that they might not think such evils came upon them on account of his weakness; 3rd. that knowing beforehand the great trials to which they would be exposed, they might not be discouraged when they happened. S. Chrysostom, in S. Thos. Aquin.
Ver. 18. For a testimony to them, &c. That is, that by suffering with fortitude and constancy, you may bear testimony of me, as men must know, that it is not any vain thing for which they see you are prepared to die. Or the sense may be, that this may be for you a testimony against them in the day of judgment, and may render them inexcusable, since they will be unable to say that they have not heard the gospel. M.
Ver. 19. Be not thoughtful, with too great a concern of mind. Wi. — That the apostles might not be discouraged at the description, which our Saviour gave them in the two preceding verses, of the troubles which they would have to sustain in their ministry, he now endeavours to console them. When you are called before councils, says he, do not think how or what to speak, for it shall be given you in that hour what to speak. A truly comfortable thought for all who should afterwards engage in the ministry of Christ. Whatever troubles, whatever persecutions may fall to your lot, if even you should be cited before kings and councils to answer for your faith, do not be troubled. You engage in the conflict, I will fight: you speak, but I will tell you what you ought to say. A.
Ver. 22. He that shall persevere, &c. We are here told, that to be saved it is not sufficient that we were once virtuous, we must persevere to the end. We are also assured of the same truth in Ezechiel. If the just man shall turn away from his justice, and shall commit iniquity, he shall die in his sins, and his justice which he hath done shall not be remembered. C. iii, v. 20. A. — Some, says S. Chrysostom, are accustomed to be fervent at the beginning of their conversion, but afterwards grow remiss; of what advantage are seeds that flourish in the beginning, but afterwards wither and die? S. Chrysos. S. Thos. Aquin.
Ver. 23. Flee into another. Tertullian, with some others, held it never lawful to fly in the time of persecutions, against both the doctrine and example of our Saviour, Christ. — You shall not finish, &c. S. Chrys. thinks the sense of these words is, you shall not go through, and have finished your preaching in all the cities of Israel, till I, who follow you, shall come, and join you again. Others expound it, till the coming of me, your Messias, shall be published, and owned after my resurrection. Wi.
Ver. 24. The disciple is not above, &c. If we therefore are disciples of Christ, we ought to embrace with joy, opprobrious and evil language, willingly receive and bear with patience all those things which our noble Lord and Master underwent for us. But if we will not bear these things with patience, how shall we dare to call ourselves his followers, his disciples, his servants, his children, or his domestics. S. Austin.
Ver. 25. Beelzebub. In the Greek Beelzeboul. It was the name the Jews gave to the greatest of the devils, and also to the idol of Accaron. The word signifies the lord of flies; either because of the multitude of flies that were in the temple of that idol, or because the people used to sacrifice to this idol, when they were molested with flies. Wi.
Ver. 26. For there is nothing hid, &c. Even in this life, for truth, however much oppressed, is yet accustomed at length to rise superior to oppression. What Christ therefore says here is, although the wicked persecute you, yet your virtue shall at length be known. M. — Patience for a while, and soon your charity, which is now unknown, shall be renowned throughout the whole earth. You shall be blessed by all as the greatest benefactors, and the cultivators of virtue, while the words of your adversaries shall be heard with the greatest contempt. S. Chrysos. hom. xxxv.
Ver. 27. That which I tell you, &c. We must not suppose that our Saviour was accustomed to deliver his instructions to his apostles in the secret of the night, or teach them in private by whispers. But here he uses a figure of speech, to convey to the minds of his apostles the insignificancy of Judea, where he was speaking in comparison of the whole world, which they were to instruct; and the low whisper of his voice, compared to the sound which they shall send forth to the ends of the earth. S. Chrysos. hom. xxxv. — Upon the house-tops. The tops of the houses in Palestine were flat, and the inhabitants were accustomed to assemble on them and discourse together in great numbers. To preach, therefore, on the top of a house, is the same as to preach where there is a great concourse of people. M.
Ver. 28. Fear not those that, &c. Men are afraid of a prison, yet they are not afraid of hell fire. They fear temporal punishments, but dread not the torments of eternal fire. S. Austin in Baradius. — He who continually fears hell, will never fall into it; but he who is negligent, will undoubtedly fall. S. Chrys. in Baradius.
Ver. 29. Are not two sparrows? The sense is, sparrows are of very small value, and yet divine Providence defends and feeds them; how much more, therefore, will not God take care of you, who so far excel them? No one, therefore, will be able to rob you of life without God's permission. M.
Ver. 30. The very hairs, &c. God numbers not the hairs of our heads after the manner of men: but by this our Saviour shews the infinite knowledge the Almighty has of all things, and the goodness of his Providence, watching over every, even the most minute part of the creation. S. Chrysostom. hom. xxxv.
Ver. 31. Fear not therefore, &c. Here Christ admonishes us, in our greatest undertakings, to put our trust in God. S. Bernard.
Ver. 34. I came not to send, &c. That is, dissension and war, in order that the false peace of sinners may be destroyed, and that those who follow me, may differ in morals and affections from the followers of this world. The sword, therefore, is the gospel, which separates those parents who remain in infidelity, &c. &c. &c. M. — It must be observed, that the gospel does not necessarily of itself produce dissensions amongst men, but that Christ foresaw, from the depravity of man's heart, that dissensions would follow the propagation of the gospel. The blame of this, however, does not attach to the gospel itself, since those who embrace it, after their conversion sought more than ever to keep peace with all men, even with their most bitter persecutors; whilst those who rejected the gospel, forgetting even the ties of kindred, persecuted even to death the followers of Christ. A. — Send peace, &c. Indeed before Christ became man, there was no sword upon the earth; that is, the spirit had not to fight with so much violence against the flesh; but when he became man, he shewed us what things were of the flesh, and what of the spirit, and taught us to set these two at variance, by renouncing always those of the flesh, which constantly endeavour to get master over us, and follow the dictates of the spirit. Origen.
Ver. 35. I am come to set a man at variance, &c. Not that this was the end or design of the coming of our Saviour; but that his coming, and his doctrine would have this effect, by reason of the obstinate resistance that many would make, and of their persecuting all such as should adhere to him. Ch. — Not that Christ came for this end, to cause divisions between father and son, &c. On the contrary, the Scriptures teach us to love every one without exception, and especially our kindred; but this is to shew, and foretell what would happen in the same families, when some of them were Christians. We have divers instances of the truth of this in the Lives of the Saints. Wi. — No one can be connected with the earth and joined to heaven. Those who wish to enjoy the peace of heaven, must not be united to the lovers of this world by any connection. Baradius.
Ver. 36. And a man's enemies, &c. He here alludes to our own passions of love, hatred, anger, envy, &c. which are our greatest enemies; and it is against these that we must make use of the sword our Saviour came to send amongst men. Baradius.
Ver. 37. Is not worthy of me, &c. That is, is not worthy to be my disciple, and to enjoy my kingdom. M.
Ver. 38. He that, &c. There are two kinds of crosses which our Saviour here commands us to take up: one corporal, and the other spiritual. By the former, he commands us to restrain the unruly appetites of the touch, taste, sight, &c. By the other, which is far more worthy our notice, he teaches us to govern the affections of the mind, and restrain all its irregular motions, by humility, tranquillity, modesty, peace, &c. Precious indeed in the sight of God, and glorious is that cross, which governs and brings under proper rule the lawless passions of the mind. S. Austin.
Ver. 39. He that findeth, &c. Behold the great losses that befall such as love their souls above measure; and on the contrary, the advantages that follow from hating them as they ought. S. Chrys. hom. xxxvi. — That is, he that findeth in this life pleasures and comforts, and places his affections upon them, will certainly soon lose them. For Isaias says, (C. xl, v. 6,) All flesh is grass, and all the glory thereof as the flower of the field. The grass is withered, and the flower is fallen. So man's glory seems to flourish and appears great, but falls away and dies before it has come to its full bloom; for what duration is there in the flesh? and what stability in the pleasures of this world? To-day you may behold a young man, strong, beautiful, healthy, admired, and flourishing in virtue; and to-morrow you will find him quite changed, oppressed with either sin, labour, want, or sickness. S. Ambrose. — But if he continues moderately happy as to temporal concerns till death, and places his affections on them, he hath found life here, but shall lose it in the next world. But he that shall, for the sake of Christ, deprive himself of the pleasures of this life, shall receive the reward of a hundred fold in the next. A.
Ver. 41. The reward of a prophet. That is, shall be partaker of the reward of a prophet, or shall receive the same reward as a prophet; as, according to the law of David, (1 Kings, C. xxx, v. 24,) He who descended to the battle, and he who remained with the baggage, shared equally. So Saul, whilst he kept the clothes of those who stoned Stephen, stoned him by the hands of them all, as S. Austin observes. M.