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HAYDOCK CATHOLIC BIBLE COMMENTARY ON THE NEW TESTAMENT
Ver. 1. What S. Luke here gives till v. 10, is mentioned purposely to shew on what occasion, and by what miracle, Peter, Andrew, James, and John, were called. Maldon.
Ver. 2. Washing their nets. See S. Matt. iv. 18. and S. Mark i. 16, where it is said, that Christ saw them when they were casting their nets; i.e. some of them were casting, others washing, or mending, their nets. Wi.
Ver. 3. Why is it mentioned that there were two ships; that one of them was Simon Peter's, that Christ went into that one, and sat down in it, and sitting he taught out of that ship? No doubt, answer many of the ancient commentators, to shew that the Church was figured by the bark of Peter, and that in it is the chair of Christ, a permanent authority, prefigured by Christ's sitting down, and the true word of God.
Ver. 4. Epanagage eiV to baqoV. Put back from whence you have just now returned. Where you failed without Christ, with Christ you will prove successful. Now is the proper time, when you act in my presence, and according to my orders; before it was not, when you followed your own, and not my will. Maldon. — S. Austin interprets the text, Launch out into the deep, as spoken of distant nations, to whom the gospel was afterwards delivered: tolle signum in gentes, ad eas, quæ propè, et ad eas quæ longè. Isai. v. 26. and xi. 12.
Ver. 5. Though these words of S. Peter seem to express his little hope of success, as he had been toiling (kopiasanteV) the whole night, the most favourable time for fishing, yet they were intended by S. Peter to shew his great confidence, that notwithstanding his bad success, he was willing to obey; he relied on his words, and let go his net in the same place where before he had been disappointed; and the event proved that the obedience and confidence of Peter were not in vain. Maldon. &c.
Ver. 6. When Christ commanded Peter to let go the net, as great a quantity of fishes were taken as this Lord of the land and sea wished. For the voice of the Lord is the voice of power, at the command of which, in the beginning of the world, light and every created thing sprang into existence. This it was that so much astonished Peter. S. Greg. Naz. c. xxxi. — The net is broken, but the fishes are not lost, because the Lord preserves his servants among the scandals (schisms and heresies) of his enemies. Ven. Bede.
Ver. 7. The other ship was probably at such a distance from them, that they could not be heard, had they called out to them; and this also is another proof of the greatness of the miracle, that though the other ship was fishing in the same place, though a little removed, they could catch nothing. Maldonatus. — This also shews that Peter was to call in other co-labourers, and that all were to come into Peter's ship. S. Ambrose in Luc.
Ver. 8. Such was the excess of S. Peter's humility, that he judged himself unworthy the presence of Christ, and by this rendered himself more worthy. So the centurion, for a similar act of self-abasement, merited to hear from Truth itself, that he was preferred to all Israel. Euthymius is however of opinion, that S. Peter desired Christ to leave him through fear, lest some evil should befall him, because he was not worthy of his presence. In the same manner as the widow of Sarepta thought her son had died, because she was not worthy of the presence of Elias. 3 Kings xvii. 18. Maldonatus.
Ver. 10. Jesus Christ answers the thought of S. Peter, that instead of any loss or evil coming to him, he should, on the contrary, receive a great reward, by being appointed a fisher of men; and, as he had taken so many fishes by the divine assistance, so he should take in his net innumerable souls, not so much by his own industry, as by the divine grace and assistance. Maldonatus.
Ver. 11. We may suppose that these four apostles, like Andrew, followed Jesus Christ at the first call, but without attaching themselves to him; and that now they attached themselves to him, never to leave him more.
Ver. 12. By falling on his face, he shewed his humility and modesty, that all men might learn to be ashamed of the stains of their lives; but this, his bashfulness, did not prevent him from confessing his misery; he exposed his wound, he solicits a cure: Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. He did not doubt the goodness of the Lord, but in consideration of his own unworthiness, he durst not presume. That confession is full of religion and faith, which places its trust in the will of God. S. Ambrose.
Ver. 13. The law forbade lepers to be touched; but he, who is the Lord of the law, dispenses with it. He touches the leper, not because he could not cleanse him without it, but in order to shew that he was not subject to the law, nor to fear of any infection. At the touch of Christ leprosy is dispelled, which before communicated contagion to all that touched it. S. Ambrose.
Ver. 14. Because men in sickness generally turn their thoughts towards God, but when they recover, forget him, the leper is commanded to think of God, and return him thanks. Therefore is he sent to the priest, to make his offering, (Lev. xiv. 4.) that, committing himself to the examination of the priest, he might be accounted among the clean. S. Chrys. hom. xxvi. in Matt. — By this our Saviour would testify to the priest, that this man was healed not by the ordination of the law, but by the power of grace, which is above the law. He likewise shews that he did not come to destroy, but to fulfil the law. S. Amb. — Jesus Christ seems here to approve of the legal sacrifices, which the Church does not receive; and this he did, because he had not yet established that most holy of all holy sacrifices, the sacrifice of his own body. The figurative sacrifices were not to be abrogated, before that, which they prefigured, was established by the preaching of the apostles, and the faith of Christian believers. S. Austin, quest. ii. b. 3. de quæst. evang. — By this leper is represented the whole human race, which was covered with a spiritual leprosy, and languishing in the corruption of sin; for all have sinned, and need the glory of God; (Rom. iii.) therefore he stretched forth his hand, i.e. he clothed himself with our human nature, that we might be cleansed from our former errors, and might offer in return for this favour our bodies, a living sacrifice to God. Ven. Bede.
Ver. 16. Christ did not stand in need of this retirement, since, being God, he was free from every stain, and likewise present in every place. But, by this his conduct, he wished to teach us the time most proper, both for our active employments, and for the more sublime duties of prayer and contemplation. S. Greg.Naz. Orat. xxviii. — hn upocwrwn, he withdrew after his great prodigies, to avoid the praise of the multitude, and to pray assiduously, and with fresh instance, for the salvation of man.
Ver. 17. But the fame of Jesus had now spread far and wide. It was for this reason that it is here said, the Pharisees and doctors of the law came out of every town in Galilee, &c. not indeed through any intention of becoming his disciples, but through a spirit of envy; as they now saw every one leaving them, and following our Saviour. Perhaps also to calumniate him, as we often find them to have done, when they beheld him making converts from them. D. Dion. Carth.
Ver. 19. Let us learn from this example, how diligent we should be in procuring spiritual health, both for ourselves and for our friends. A.
Ver. 20. Great is the Lord, who pardons men on account of the merits of others. If you are diffident of the pardon of your grievous sins, have recourse to the Church. She will pray for you; and the Almighty, at her intercession, will grant you that pardon he might have denied to your prayers. S. Ambrose, l. v. in Luc.
Ver. 21. How great is the madness of this unbelieving people, who confessing that God alone can forgive sins, will not believe God when he grants pardon. S. Ambrose. — They indeed spoke the truth, for none can forgive sins but God only, who forgives our offences by the ministry of others, to whom he has committed this power, both in baptism and penance. But Christ, by forgiving sins as God, i.e. with his own power, clearly proves to all his divinity. Ven. Bede.
Ver. 24. The Son of man . . on earth. By which act, says S. Cyril, it is clear that the Son of man hath power on earth to remit sins; which he said both for himself and us. For he, as God-man, the Lord of the law, forgiveth sins; and we also have obtained by him that wonderful grace when he said to his disciples: Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them. John xx. 23. And how should he not be able to remit sins, who gave others the power to do the same? B.
Ver. 26. At the sight of the exertion of divine power, the Jews would rather fear than believe; for had they believed they would never have feared, but rather loved; for perfect love excludes fear. S. Ambrose.
Ver. 28. The profane Julian charged S. Matthew with levity, in leaving all and following a stranger at one word. But hereby is seen the marvellous efficacy of Christ's word and internal working, which in a moment can alter the heart of man, and cause him to despise what before was most near and dear to him. And this was done not only whilst Christ was living on earth, but daily in his Church. Thus S. Anthony, S. Francis, and others, hearing this word in the Church, forsook all and followed Jesus. S. Jer. in Matt. ix. S. Athan. in vita. S. Anton. August. Confess. l. viii. c. 11. Bonav. in vit. S. Francisci.
Ver. 29. And Levi made him a great feast, to testify his gratitude to Jesus for the favour he had done him. It appears that both S. Mark and S. Luke affect, through consideration for S. Matthew, to designate him here by his less known name of Levi; whereas he designates himself, through humility, in this same circumstance, by his more known appellation of Matthew. See Matt. ix. 9. V.
Ver. 31. Jesus Christ gives them here to understand, that they were of the number of those who languished under a severe indisposition, and that he was come to act as their Physician. S. Chrysos. hom. xxxi. in Matt.
Ver. 33. S. Matt. says, it was S. John's disciples themselves that objected this to Christ. Most probably both they and the Pharisees endeavoured all they could to press this objection. S. Austin de cons. Evang. l. ii. c. 27. — Why do you not fast, as is customary with all that wish to regulate their lives according to the law? The reason why the saints fasted was, that they might, by afflicting their bodies, subdue their passions. Jesus Christ, therefore, had no need of fasting, being God, and of course free from every, the least, disorderly motion of concupiscence. Neither did his attendants stand in need of fasting, for being enriched with his grace, they were strengthened in virtue, without the help of fasting. When, therefore, Christ fasted forty days, he fasted to set an example to carnal men. S. Cyril. — As long as the Spouse is with us, we are in joy, we cannot fast, we cannot mourn. But when he has been driven away by sin, then we must both fast and weep. Ven. Bede.