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HAYDOCK CATHOLIC BIBLE COMMENTARY ON THE NEW TESTAMENT
Ver. 1. Over all devils; so that none should be able to resist them. For all were not equally easy to be expelled, as we shall see in this same chapter, in the person of a possessed child, whom the apostles could not heal, because they did not use prayer and fasting against it; and because their faith was not sufficiently strong and ardent. Calmet.
Ver. 4. And depart not from thence. In the ordinary Greek copies we find, and depart from thence. The sense appears, by the other evangelists, (Matt. x. 11. and Mark vi. 10.) that Christ gave this admonition to his disciples, not to change their lodging from house to house; but while they staid in a town, to remain in the same house. And though the negative be here omitted in the Greek, interpreters bring it to the same, by telling us that the sense is, stay here, and depart from thence; i.e. stay in that house, so that leaving the town, you may depart from the same house. Wi.
Ver. 8. Risen from the dead. Herod was perplexed and in suspense about the report, that it was John that was risen from the dead. . . . . . From this it appears, that some of the Jews, and Herod himself, believed in some kind of metempsychosis, or transmigration of souls. Josephus says, (Antiq. lib. xviii, c. 2.) that the Pharisees believed the soul to be immortal; and after death, to depart to some subterraneous places, where they received the recompense of good, or evil, according to their actions. There the souls of the wicked remain for ever, without the power of departing thence. The souls of the good sometimes returned, and entered other bodies. Herod probably thought that the soul of John Baptist was united to that of Christ, in the same body, and was thence enabled to perform new and more extraordinary functions. Such were the reveries of some of the Rabbins; who, as S. Jerom remarks, abused the passages of the gospel we are now explaining, in support of this Pythagorean doctrine. Most of the Jews believed the true doctrine of the resurrection, viz. that of the body; which must one day be renewed to life by the same soul which now animates it: and this is the doctrine of faith and of the Church, which she teaches you from both the Old and New Testament, instead of that transmigration of souls, which has no foundation or appearance of truth. It is probable that this error was widely diffused among the Jews, in our Saviour's time. It was a doctrine suited to the taste of the Orientals. Some think they can see traces of it in the history of Elias. That prophet being taken away, and the Jews seeing Eliseus perform the same miracles, said, that the spirit of Elias had rested on him. Calmet.
Ver. 18. As he was alone praying: i.e. remote from the people, though his disciples are said to have been with him. Wi.
Ver. 27. Kingdom of God. This is generally understood of the transfiguration, in which Christ shewed to the three disciples an essay of his glory. Calmet.
Ver. 28. Mountain, &c. — Since Christ has ascended the mountain, both to pray and to be transfigured, all of us who hope for the fruit of his resurrection, and long to see the king in his glory, must dwell in heaven by our thoughts, and apply our minds to continual prayer. Ven. Bede.
Ver. 30. And behold two men. Moses and Elias, by ministering to our Lord in his glory, shewed him to be the Lord of both the Old and New Testament. The disciples also, upon seeing the glory of their fellow-creatures, would be filled with admiration at the condescension of their divine Master; and considering the delights of future happiness, be stirred up to a holy emulation of those who had laboured before them, and be fortified in their ensuing conflicts; for nothing so much lightens the present labour, as the consideration of the future recompense. S. Cyril.
Ver. 31. They spoke of his decease, or his departure out of this world. S. Peter useth the same Greek word for his death. 2 Pet. i. 15. Wi.
Ver. 33. It is good for us. It is not good, O Peter, for Christ to remain always. Should he have remained there, the promise he had made thee would never have been fulfilled. Thou wouldst never have obtained the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and the reign of death would not have been destroyed. Seek not for joys before the time, as Adam sought to be made like God. The time will come, when thou shalt for eternity behold him, and reign with him who is life and light. Damasus Orat. de Transfigurat. Domini. — Three tabernacles. The Lord does appoint thee the builder, not of tabernacles, but of his whole Church. Thy disciples, thy sheep, have fulfilled thy desire, by erecting tabernacles for Christ and his faithful servants. These words of S. Peter, let us make, &c. were not spoken of himself, but by the prophetic inspiration of the Holy Ghost. Therefore it is added, he knew not what he said. Damasus, ut supra. — S. Peter knew not what he said, because by proposing to make three tabernacles for these three personages, he improperly ranked together, the servants and their Lord, the creature and the Creator. Titus Bostrensis.
Ver. 35. And a voice, &c. This is the voice of the Father from the cloud, as if he should say, "I call him not one of my sons, but my true and natural Son, to the resemblance of whom all others are adopted. S. Cyril. — Not Elias, not Moses, but he whom you see alone, is my beloved Son. S. Ambrose. — Therefore, it is added: and when the voice was heard, Jesus was alone, lest any one should imagine these words, This is my beloved Son, were addressed to Moses or Elias." Theophylact.
Ver. 45. They understood not this word. They understood well enough what was meant by being delivered into the hands of his enemies, and being put to death; but they could not comprehend how Jesus Christ, whom they knew to be the Messias, and the Son of God, and whom they believed to be immortal, and eternal, could suffer death, or affronts and outrages from men. These ideas seemed incompatible; they perceived in them some mystery, which they could not penetrate. Calmet.
Ver. 46. And there entered a thought, &c. It is improbable that all the disciples had fallen into this fault: but the evangelist, that he might not point out any in particular as guilty of it, says indiscriminately, that this thought had entered among them. S. Cyril. ex D. Thom.
Ver. 49. We forbade him. S. John having the most love for his Lord, and being particularly beloved by him, thought all were to be excluded from these gifts, who were not obedient to his divine Master. S. Aug. — But we must remember, that not the minister is the author of these miracles, but the grace which is in him, who performs these wonders by virtue of the power of Christ. S. Cyril. — How wonderful is the power of Christ, who by his grace works miracles in the persons of the unworthy, and those that are not disciples; as men are sanctified by the priest, though the priest should not be in the state of grace! Theophylact.
Ver. 50. Forbid him not. Our Lord is not moved by this event, to teach us that perfect virtue entertains no thoughts of revenge, and that anger cannot be found where the fulness of charity reigns. The weak must not be driven away, but assisted. Let the breast of the religious man be ever unmoved by passion, and the mind of the generous undisturbed by desires of revenge. S. Ambrose.
Ver. 51. The days of his assumption, i.e. of his ascension into heaven. See the same Greek word. Mar. xvi. 19. and Acts i. 11. — He steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem, or literally, he fixed his countenance to go up to Jerusalem. — And (v. 53.) because his face was of one going to Jerusalem. These expressions come from the style of the Hebrews. See 4 Kings xii. 17. Jerem. xlii. 15. Ezech. iv. 3. The sense is, that the Samaritans perceived that he and his company were going up to adore in Jerusalem, at which they were displeased, having an antipathy against the Jews and their temple. Wi. — It is not here said, as some interpreters have believed, that his journey to Jerusalem was the last of his life, in which he was crucified. It appears from the context, that there were still many months before the death of Christ, and that this journey was probably for the feast of Pentecost. But that year was the last of the life of Jesus Christ and he already knew the dispositions of the Jews, and what was to befall him shortly. These words, he set his face, are often used in Scripture for obstinacy and hardness in evil. Prov. vii. 13. 21. 29. Jeremy xlii. 15. &c. But we may likewise take them to signify a strong resolution, and intrepid and inflexible firmness, to perform what you have resolved. Jesus Christ shewed by his air, by his conduct and discourse, that notwithstanding the malice of his enemies, he was determined to go to Jerusalem. Calmet.
Ver. 52. Messengers, &c. S. Jerom believes that Christ sent true angels before him to announce his coming. The Greek word aggeloV, generally signifies an angel; but it likewise means a messenger. Most interpreters believe he sent James and John, to prepare what was necessary for provisions and lodging. This precaution was necessary, as he was always followed by great crowds. The history, from verse 51 to the end of the chapter, is mentioned by none of the evangelists, except S. Luke. Calmet.
Ver. 54. Wilt thou that we command fire, &c. In the Greek is added as Elias did. These words might be first in the margin, and thence by transcribers taken into the text. The two apostles, called the sons of thunder, knew their Master was greater than Elias; and therefore they are for calling for fire from heaven, as he had done. Wi. — It was probably this trait in the life of James and John, which gained them the name of boanerges, the sons of thunder. Their too great zeal for the glory of Jesus Christ, and the spirit of revenge, of which they were not yet healed, caused them to make this petition; which seemed in some manner justified by the example of Elias, 4th book of Kings, chap. i. 10. Many editions have the addition of these words, as Elias did. Calmet.
Ver. 55. You know not of what spirit you are, i.e. that my Spirit, which you ought to follow, is the Spirit of mercy, mildness, and patience. Wi.
Ver. 56. But to save souls. It might be translated, to save men's lives; but is seems better here to stick to the letter, especially since in most Greek copies we read, the souls of men. Wi.
Ver. 57. Follow thee, &c. Although the Sovereign Lord of all is most munificent, yet he does not lavish his gifts on all without distinction, but bestows them on the worthy only. When, therefore, this man offered to follow Christ, he answers him by telling him, that all who follow him, must daily take up their cross, and renounce the conveniences of this life. Thus he mentions what was reprehensible in his person. There appears likewise great presumption in his conduct, as he did not petition to be admitted, as other Jews did, but seems to claim the honour of the apostleship; an honour which none must assume, but such as are called by God. Heb. v. S. Cyril in Divo Thoma.
Ver. 60. Bury their dead, &c. Though this was an act of religion, yet it was not permitted him; that we may learn to prefer always the concerns of God to all human considerations. S. Ambrose. — However necessary this might appear, however easy, however short the time which it would take up, might be, it is not permitted him. Not the least delay can be allowed, although a thousand impediments stand in the way; for spiritual things must be preferred to things even the most necessary. Chrys. hom. xxviii. on S. Matt.
Ver. 62. Putting his hand to the plough. A proverb and metaphor, to signify that nothing must hinder a man from God's service. Wi. — Christ seems here to allude to the call of Eliseus by Elias. The former was at the plough, and the latter called him. Immediately Eliseus quits his plough, runs with Elias's permission to bid adieu to his father and mother, sacrifices two of his oxen, roasts them with the wood of the plough, and joins the company of the prophets. Jesus Christ wishes that all who follow him, should in like manner think of nothing else. Calmet.