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An Exposition Of The Gospels by The Most Rev. John Macevilly D.D.

After silencing the Scribes and Pharisees, and seeing them still incorrigible and obdurate, our Lord, in order to guard His disciples and the people against being seduced by them, publicly denounces them for their vices. Before doing so, however, He distinguishes their public official teaching from their private vices, and tells the people to attend to their teaching in their official capacity, but by no means to imitate them in their wicked conduct, which He describes (1–7). He takes occasion, from the pride of the Pharisees, for which He severely reprehends them, to inculcate humility, both interior and exterior (8–12). He next pronounces woes and maledictions against the Scribes and Pharisees, which He repeats eight times, on account of their detestable lives, and the vices, which they shamelessly indulged in (13–33). After predicting their maltreatment of the Apostles, and the preachers of the Gospel, He foretells the utter ruin of themselves and their city, notwithstanding His special love, repeatedly manifested to, but as often spurned and undervalued by, the unhappy Jerusalem (34–39).

1. “Then,” after He had reduced to silence His adversaries, and had employed all possible remedies in vain, to effect the conversion of the Scribes and Pharisees; after He had adduced the most cogent reasons to prove the truth of His doctrine, and had sealed the Divinity of His Heavenly mission by incontestable miracles; after He had privately reprehended them for their wickedness; seeing them still incorrigible, and become more hardened and obdurate, “then,” in order to guard the multitude and His disciples against being seduced by their wicked example, He publicly upbraids them for their vices.

2. Before doing so, however, He distinguishes between their public teaching, when interpreting the law of Moses, or their public authority, and their private errors, and personal vices; and guards against the charge of being the enemy of the law of Moses, and a subverter of constituted authority. In the former character, He wishes the people to respect and follow them, since they were the legitimate representatives of the authority Divinely constituted by Moses; and, as the New Law, which was to succeed the Old, and the Gospel ministry, which was to be substituted for that of Aaron and his sons, were not yet established, the people were still bound to obey the existing spiritual authority.

Have sitten upon the chair of Moses.” By this “chair of Moses,” is meant, the authority Divinely instituted, and exercised by Moses, of teaching the people and expounding to them the law of God, and of ruling them in all things appertaining to the Divine worship; just as by the chair of Peter, cathedra Petri, is meant, the authority Divinely granted him to teach and rule the entire Church. To sit in the chair of Peter is to succeed to the fulness of his authority, that is, to “the full power of feeding, ruling, and governing the universal Church.” Hence, to “sit in the chair of Moses,” means, to exercise, by legitimate succession, the teaching and authority of Moses, in expounding the doctrine of God. The words are allusive to the posture which teachers were generally in the habit of assuming in authoritatively delivering instruction to their hearers; the custom, however, among the Jews in delivering instructions, or expounding the SS. Scripture, in their synagogues, was to do so in a standing posture (Luke 4:16; Acts 13:16). So also Esdras read the law in a standing posture (2 Esdras 8:4). The Greek for “sit” (εκαθισαν), means, have sitten, and do still sit (Beelen).

The Scribes and the Pharisees.” The Scribes were the doctors and interpreters of the law. It was their duty to propound and explain the law of Moses to the people (see 2:4). The Pharisees ruled the people, and filled the office of magistrates and rulers. The same person often filled the office of Scribe, and belonged to the sect of Pharisees. And, most likely, all the Scribes, most of whom were Pharisees, were Priests or Levites, whose duty it was to explain the law to the people (Mal. 2), “labia sacerdotis,” &c. But, although the Scribes and Pharisees were priests; still, our Redeemer, out of reverence for the Priestly character, refrains from referring to them, as such, to show us the respect due to the Priestly office, even where some of its occupants act in a way not befitting their exalted character. What an example to the modern Pharisees, whose entire occupation it would seem to be, to indulge in unnecessary censures on the action and motives of the Priests of God, even in presence of children, whose minds they thus corrupt. Would that some Priests, themselves the followers of Judas, who, thank God, are very few, were not the first to criticise the best actions, and endeavour to blacken the character, and impair the influence of, God’s zealous ministers, whose edifying lives are a reproach to these false brethren.

3. “All things, therefore, whatsoever they shall say to you, do,” &c. The word, “therefore,” shows the source of the obligation here imposed by our Divine Redeemer. It is in virtue of their public ministerial character, as successors to the authority of Moses.

All things whatsoever.” Some interpreters give these words a wide extension, so as to embrace not only the commandments and precepts contained in the law of Moses, and expounded by them from it; but also, all the ordinances and precepts, even of an indifferent nature, imposed by the Scribes and Pharisees, not opposed to the law of Moses, as those would be regarding the honour due to parents (15:4), and those regarding perjury (v. 16); also, their teaching, regarding our Redeemer, which was manifestly opposed to Moses. These, and all such, are clearly excepted from the words, “all things whatsoever,” Thus, when the Apostle commands children to obey their parents, “in all things,” he manifestly, from the very nature of things, excepts obedience when they command evil. The universal form of the words, “all things whatsoever,” with the limitation already assigned, is in favour of this interpretation. (Jansenius, &c.) Others, with Maldonatus, restrict the words to the precepts contained in the law of Moses, and taught from it, or to the doctrine of Moses; and this would seem to be implied in the words, “sit in the chair of Moses,” as if he said, all things, then, that they command, while expounding the law of Moses, or, rather, all things which the law of Moses prescribes, the Pharisees being its expounders, do and observe. In this interpretation, there is not even the appearance of contradiction between the commands of our Redeemer here, and the caution He gives (c. 16), “cavete a fermento Pharisærum,” as in this latter place, He means to guard them against the errors which the Pharisees taught, opposed to the law of Moses. In such circumstances, they did “not sit on the chair of Moses.”

Whether the Jewish Church was gifted with infallibility, or not, is a point not quite agreed upon. At all events, it seems to have never, as such, whatever might have been the perverse teachings of individuals, erred in faith, until the time it rejected and condemned Christ. Then, however, it had ceased; it was of merely temporary duration, and any promises made to it could only regard the time of its existence. But, in reference to the Christian Church, the gift of infallibility has been secured to it until the end of time, until the consummation of ages. (See Luke 22:32).

But, according to their works do ye not.” Our Redeemer here carefully distinguishes their private doctrines, personal conduct, and, likely, also their private teaching, from their utterances in their public ministerial capacity. It was the more necessary to caution the people against being imitators of their wicked conduct, as men are apt to attend to, and imitate the practice, rather than the doctrine, of their teachers.

For they say, and do not.” This is the first subject of reproach, on the part of our Lord, against the Scribes and Pharisees. Their conduct is not in accordance with their teaching. The man who delivers precepts, binding on all, and himself violates them, commits a threefold sin—1st. By transgressing the law, which he is bound to observe. 2ndly. By not correcting others, as he should. 3rdly. By rendering his teaching odious, thus injuring his hearers.

4. “For, they bind,” i.e., collect into bundles, “heavy … burdens”—the second subject of reproach. These words are allusive to the practice, resorted to sometimes, of tying and binding up heavy loads, to be carried by beasts of burden. “Insupportable.” The Greek, δυσβάστακτα, means, hard to be carried. This has reference to the multiplied ceremonial precepts, which constituted a heavy burden, “which neither they, nor their fathers, have been able to bear” (Acts 15:10). To this, add the traditions of the ancients, and their own. St. Chrysostom, however, remarks, that, in this, our Redeemer does not refer to the Jewish Ceremonial Law, which Christ had not, as yet, abrogated; but, to the traditions of the Scribes and Pharisees, and the laws they imposed, contrary to Scripture. It may be, He refers, both to the heavy load of the Ceremonial Law, to which they superadded a great multiplicity of human traditions. To this, add their rigid interpretation of the letter of the Divine Law, the stern severity with which they enforced it. All this rendered their precepts “insupportable.” The rigour with which they enforced the observance of the Sabbath may serve as an example of the latter. The words, “lay them on men’s shoulders,” conveys an idea of the haughty, authoritative tone, assumed by these men.

But with a finger of their own,” &c. A proverbial form of expression, common to both Greek and Latin writers, conveying, that one has no inclination or disposition whatever to take part in any labour one imposes on others. The word, “finger,” is opposed to “shoulder,” and the whole phrase conveys, that these men did not use the least exertion to render, by their own example, the observance of these ordinances light for those upon whom they imposed them.

Whether He refers here to the peculiar traditions of the Scribes and Pharisees, or to the multitude of the precepts of the Old Law, which they rendered still more intolerable by the excessive rigour with which they enforced their strict observance—and this latter seems more likely, as the Pharisees were most observant of their own traditions, while they neglected the law—St. Chrysostom observes, that our Redeemer prefers a twofold charge against the Pharisees: 1st. That of being too exacting, as regards others. 2ndly. Of being too indulgent in regard to themselves.

5. In the foregoing, our Redeemer cautions His followers against imitating the Pharisees, &c., in their violations of God’s law; here, He cautions them against imitating them, in the good they seem to do; since, even in this, their motives are corrupt. They perform all their external good works, such as prayer, fasting, alms-deeds, &c., from a vicious motive, for the purpose of gaining human applause, rather than of promoting the glory of God. In this, they are not to be imitated.

For, they make their phylacteries broad.” These “phylacteries,” literally, preservatives, to remind them to keep the law; safeguards or charms against evil, were strips or scrolls of parchment, on which were written the Ten Commandments, or some sentences from the law. These the Jews bound round their foreheads, their left wrist, or arm, while at prayer (Josephus Antiq. iv. 8–13), to remind them of their duty. St. Jerome assures us, that, up to his own time, the Jews wore them in India, and among the Persians and Babylonians. This custom took its rise from a too literal, instead of a spiritual, interpretation of the text (Deut. 6:8), “Thou shalt bind them as a sign on thy hand, and they shall be, and shall move as a sign between thy eyes.” What was commanded here, was, that the Jews should be always mindful of God’s Commandments, that they should make them the rule of their conduct, and meditate on them day and night. But the Jews took the words literally, and acted accordingly. It is not the use of them our Redeemer here condemns; but, the ostentatious display of them by the Pharisees, in order to appear more religious than others.

And enlarge their fringes.” We read Numbers 15:38; Deut. 22:12), that Moses commanded the Jews “to make to themselves fringes,” or, to make strings in the them, at the four corners of their cloaks. These fringes, or tassels, which hung from the four corners of their cloaks, which were square in front and behind, had each a distinguishing thread of deep blue—the colour of the heavens—to remind them, of their obligation to observe God’s Commandments, and also to keep before their minds, that they were segregated from all other nations. St. Jerome informs us, that, in his time, some Jews inserted sharp-pointed thorns, whose puncture, when they either walked or sat down, would remind them of their duty. What our Redeemer here censures is, the ostentatious display of the Pharisees, who enlarged these tassels, in order to appear more religious than others. They affected all this external show of piety in their garments, while they denied its spirit, and despised its ordinances, in the regulation of their own lives.

6. “They love,” that is, inordinately and eagerly ambition. “The first places at feasts.” Among the Jews, the first place was at the top of the table; among the Greeks and Romans, the middle of the triclinium. Our Redeemer does not so much censure them for actually obtaining these places—since those placed in exalted station should get a preference; and God, whose representatives they are, is honoured in them—as for their ambitious and vainglorious anxiety in regard to such distinctions; and it was with a view of receiving those marks of honour and distinction, they affected the exterior sanctity of manners referred to in the preceding words.

And the first chairs in the synagogues.” The most honourable seats in these places of public meeting, assigned to the seniors and the learned, with their backs to the desk of the reader, and their faces to the people. They would thus be in a position to exhibit the most profound humility and simplicity.

7. “And salutations,” profound marks of reverence and respect due to them, as pre-eminently holy, and observant of the law, in places of public resort. This reverence, so much coveted by the Scribes, &c., was, probably, rendered by the people with uncovered head, and bended knee.

And to be called by men, Rabbi.” The word, “Rabbi,” signifies, “my master.” It is repeated in the ordinary Greek, “Rabbi, Rabbi” (but not repeated so in the Vatican MS.) This was an epithet applied by Judas to our Lord (Matt. 26:49), and also to John the Baptist, by his disciples (John 3:26). It is not the title itself that our Redeemer censures, but the vainglorious assumption and pride of the Pharisees, who were delighted with the frequent repetition of the term.

8. “Be you,” My followers and disciples, whom I wish to be altogether free from the vices and passions of these Scribes and Pharisees—“you”—whose morals I wish to be, in every respect, the opposite of theirs.

Be not called Rabbi,” &c., that is, neither vaingloriously affect nor desire such titles of pre-eminence and distinction, nor take foolish complacency in them, should they be bestowed on you, nor on this account prefer yourselves to others. It is quite clear, that our Redeemer does not here condemn the use and bestowal of these titles; since, St. Paul calls himself the doctor of the Gentiles, and the father of the Galatians, in the faith; and we are all obliged to show honour and respect to our fathers and superiors, on earth. In order to see what our Redeemer here censures, we must look to the scope or end of His observations, and this clearly is, to inculcate humility and simplicity of life, on the part of His followers, so opposed to the pride and vain, ostentatious assumption of these titles by the Scribes, &c., thus despising all others.

For one is your Master.” His disciples should acknowledge that there is but “One,” who is strictly entitled to the appellation of “Master;” that, although others may be “masters,” in an inferior degree, they are still but the ministers and instruments employed by that “one Master,” who alone can, by excellence be termed such. He alone, of Himself, possesses all knowledge; He alone can impart fruit to the teaching of others; He alone can speak to the heart, and interiorly communicate light and knowledge; compared with Him, none others can strictly be termed “masters.” From Him, they borrow all their knowledge. All they have, “is received” from Him, and all the glory of their labour should be referred to Him alone. Hence, those who affect to glory in this, or similar titles, assume what is not theirs, and derogate from what is due to Him. In this sense, our Redeemer tells us not to wish to be called “Rabbi,” as compared with God; as implying superiority in a prohibited sense, over others; “and, all you are brethren,” all, whether in an humble or exalted station, learned or unlearned, all, are one in Christ, all children of the same Heavenly Father, members of the same Christian family. No one should, therefore, assume superiority over others, in the sense that anyone has anything from himself, since all our gifts are received. This, however, does not interfere with due subordination, or with the relations which should exist between the governed and governing parties (1 Cor. 4:15), or with the gradation established by God, in His mystic body, so absolutely necessary for its well-being and existence (1 Cor. 12:14–27).

The words, then, mean: Do not vaingloriously aspire to the title of doctor or teacher, as if you had, of yourselves, any claim to this title; as if you were entitled to derive honour therefrom, as is done by the Pharisees. For, there is only One who can strictly be termed such, viz., Christ; or, as if you could, therefore, despise others, who may not be thus privileged; for, they are become your equals in Christianity. “You are all brethren.”

9. “And call none your father upon earth,” in the sense, of referring all we possess to them, as the principal cause, viz., our existence, our possessions; or, all we hope for, by way of inheritance. In this sense, we have but “one Father, who is in heaven.” To Him alone are we are indebted for everything—our life, our persons, all our faculties and senses, our corporal and spiritual privileges, our claims to eternal happiness. It is the vainglorious affectation of this and the other titles, on the part of the Scribes, for the purpose of pride and ostentation, that our Redeemer here condemns, as opposed to the glory and honour of God, the great source of all good, “of whom is named all paternity, in heaven and earth” (Eph. 3:15). He, by no means, however, censures or prohibits Christians from bearing and bestowing, in a dependent and subordinate sense, these titles, which superiority of office, station, or talent, may confer, and which may contribute to the subordination due by others. “As there is, by nature, but one God, and one Son, yet others are called sons of God, by adoption; so, there is but one Father and Master; yet, others, in a less strict sense, are styled fathers and masters” (St. Jerome).

10. Most likely, our Redeemer here repeats what He inculcated (v. 8), to show His detestation of pride, and to eradicate it the more effectually from the minds of His Apostles, whom He had appointed to be teachers and doctors of the entire earth; or, it may be, that a different idea is conveyed here, tending, however, to the same end. “Rabbi”—derived from Rab, signifying, the multitude—may refer to the multiplied variety of learning one possesses for teaching others. “Master” (καθηγητης), may refer to the same, under a different relation, as “leader, guide, director;” and Christ is to be called so pre-eminently, as being alone, “the way, the truth, and the life.”

11. This shows the scope of the preceding. Our Redeemer supposes that there is to be pre-eminence and superiority enjoyed in His Church, and authority exercised by some over others. This order and subordination is required in every well-regulated body, for its very continuance in existence. But, supposing this, our Redeemer points out the true and proper way of exercising this superiority. (See 20:27, &c.)

12. “Whosoever,” no matter who, “shall exalt himself,” through pride, and shall attribute to himself what he has not, or, shall glory in what he may have, as if it were not received, and shall thus usurp the glory of God’s gifts, and despise others, such a man shall be humbled, debased, and degraded, for all eternity. Man has a natural aversion to whatever debases him, and since he sinned, he only merits humiliation and debasement. But, God, who is goodness itself, and knows man’s weakness, obliges him to humble himself, only with a promise of solid and enduring elevation; and, in prohibiting him to exalt himself, it is with a threat of eternal humiliation. In thus addressing His disciples, our Lord traces an image of the folly of the Pharisees, who exalted themselves above others; since, the measure of their humiliation, at a future day, shall be that of their self-elevation at present. For this reason, He hurls against them the following woes and maledictions, to inspire others with a horror of their criminal conduct, and thus deter them from imitating their vicious example.

13. It is observed by commentators, that as our Redeemer pronounces eight beatitudes on His followers, so here He pronounces eight woes against His enemies. In this, the Legislator of the New Law, imitates Moses, the Legislator of the Old, who proposes to those who keep his law, many benedictions; and threatens its violaters with as many maledictions (Deut. 27:12–26).

You shut the kingdom of heaven.” Christ came to preach the near approach of “the kingdom of heaven,” shut for 4000 years; and to open it to mankind by His death and Passion. The immediate portal or doorway leading to this kingdom (whether we understand by it, the Church of Christ, or the kingdom of bliss, to which latter it more probably refers), is faith in Christ. For, He is the door; only through faith in Him, can one enter. The Scribes and Pharisees, who, not only themselves, refused to believe in Christ, but did their utmost to prevent others from believing in Him, or becoming His followers, closed it, or kept it closed “against men,” or, in the face of many who were about to enter (εμπροσθεν ανθρωπων). By denouncing the doctrine of Christ, by representing Him as an impostor, and His miracles as performed from the influence of Satan, they prevented men who were about to enter the Church, and embrace the faith of Christ, from doing so.

While as priests and pastors, it was their duty to save from ruin those who were on the brink of the abyss, these acted as poisoners and corrupters of souls. They not only refused themselves to embrace the faith; but, by all means, in their power, nay, even by threats among the rest, to cast out of the synagogue any one who would believe in Christ, they deterred many from entering the Church, which is alone the entrance to the kingdom of bliss. When the shepherd turns wolf, the state of things becomes desperate. It may be, that, in this verse, our Redeemer charges them with keeping concealed from the people, the true import of the prophecies that regarded Christ, from the clear fulfilment of which, both as regards doctrine and miracles, they would see He was the promised Messiah; and by the false interpretation of those prophecies of which they were the legally appointed expositors, and by their calumnious and blasphemous accounts of His Divine miracles, they kept others from embracing the faith. It is in this sense, most likely, He says of the lawyers (Luke 11:52), where the allusion is the same as here, “they have taken away the key of knowledge,” &c.

The metaphor is clearly allusive to those who, having the key of a house, take it away, so that others cannot enter. They concealed from the people the true knowledge of the prophecies regarding Christ, and perverted them, out of jealousy towards Him, and a vain desire to uphold their own authority, to their own ruin and that of others. Similar is the reproach of Osee (c. 4), against the Prophets and Priests of his day, who did not announce, but rather, concealed from the people, the knowledge and ways of the Lord.

14. “Because you devour the houses.” “Houses,” signifies, the substance and means “of widows”—a class of whom you should rather be the protectors and defenders, as is prescribed in the law. The circumstances of their circumventing poor, defenceless widows, who are more liable to be deceived by the external appearance of sanctimony, and have no husbands or protectors to guard them, aggravated their crime, and showed more clearly, the inhuman heartlessness of the Scribes and Pharisees.

Making long prayers.” The Greek has, και προφασει μακρά προσευχομενοι. “And praying long under pretence,” as if He said, under pretence of offering up long prayers, which was only an hypocritical pretext for gratifying their avarice, by taking advantage of the piety and weakness of these women, who, having the disposal of their property, reduced themselves to want, in order to enrich these heartless traffickers in religion. For, it was not prayer these hypocrites had in view; but, the gratification of avarice. Hence, they prevailed on these artless, unprotected women, who easily became the prey of such canting hypocrites, to give them, or what came to the same, to make over in vows or offerings to the temple in whose wealth they participated, large sums of money, in order to be recommended to the Divine protection, in these long prayers, the real object of which was avarice and ostentation. It may be, too, that there is allusion here, to the avaricious practices of the Pharisees, in regard to praying for the dead. It was customary, from the remotest antiquity, to pray in the synagogue for the souls of the departed. (2 Mach. 12) This is rendered probable, from the fact, of our Redeemer mentioning “widows,” as the parties whom they robbed, under pretence of long prayers, most likely offered up for their deceased husbands. It might be said, however, that they are specially mentioned, in order to aggravate the heartlessness of the Pharisees. Others, understand the words to mean, that their prayers and religious exercises, protracted by them to a great length, served as a pretext for visiting the houses of widows, who easily shared their wealth with their guests. Our Redeemer does not condemn long prayers, since He, Himself, devoted whole nights to prayer; and so did many of the Saints. He only condemns the hypocritical affectation and abuse of them.

For this, you shall receive the greater judgment,” or, a heavier condemnation. They were guilty of a threefold sin, viz., avarice; perversion of sacred things to bad purposes; oppression of those, whom they should specially protect.

This verse has not been interpreted by St. Jerome, nor by Origen and others. Hence, it is omitted in some Latin versions. But, it is found in all Greek versions, with the order somewhat inverted in some, this being placed before verse 13. Its genuineness is generally admitted. It is found in Mark 12:40; Luke 20:47.

15. “You go around about sea and land,” traverse the entire earth; a proverbial form of expression common among the Greeks and Romans, implying the greatest activity and exertions. Even the Heathen writers allude to the zeal of the Jews for making proselytes (Hor. Sat. i. 4), so much so, that it was interdicted by the “constitutions of the Emperors.” “Proselyte,” immediately derived from the Greek, the same as the Latin term, advena, or, adventitius, denotes a person who, having belonged before to one form of religion, leaves it, and comes to join another. It signifies here, the opposite of one who was born of Jewish parents. The Scribes and Pharisees left nothing undone to make as many converts to Judaism as possible; and, thus, endeavoured to gain a character for extraordinary religious zeal. But, in reality, these “hypocrites” had in view, to advance their own ambitious and avaricious ends, by sharing in the profits accruing from the sacrifices, or victims which these converts would present in the temple. Some understand the word to mean, not so much a convert to Judaism, as a convert to the peculiar sect of the Pharisees. “A child of hell,” deserving hell, “twofold more than yourselves,” worse than the Pharisees themselves, even in the proportion of two to one. How this happens our Redeemer does not say; but, it is supposed to occur in one of two ways: either, that the converts, scandalized at the hypocrisy and wicked lives of the Pharisees, or, disgusted with the yoke of the law, to which were superadded Pharisaical traditions, again returned in disgust to the worship of idols, and thus sinned more grievously than before; since, they sinned with greater light and knowledge, and added the crime of apostasy to their other sins, thus selling their souls doubly to the devil. Or, it may be, that seeing the wicked lives of their instructors, they wished to outstrip them in wickedness. For, as St. Chrysostom remarks (in Matth. Hom. 74), with difficulty do we follow good teachers; and, as regards wicked instructors, not only do we follow their perverse example; but, we also endeavour to surpass them in wickedness, owing to our strong natural tendency to evil. It is not the zeal of the Pharisees our Redeemer here censures; but, the end to which they conducted their proselytes, the bad example and instruction they gave them. How applicable are not these words of our Redeemer to these modern Pharisees, these unprincipled traffickers in human souls, who infest this country, seeking some unhappy victims of misery and wretchedness, not to console them, like the good Samaritan, with the wine and oil of gladness, irrespective of religion, but, to corrupt them first with bribes, and then seduce them to abjure, against conscience, all they hold most sacred, in order to join their sect, not caring what they become, if, after the voice of conscience is stifled, they can be brought to blaspheme God’s Holy Church, the Angels and Saints of heaven; and above all, the Glorious and Immaculate Queen of the Saints, so dear to every Christian heart. Thus, they render their wretched dupes children of hell, worse, if possible, than themselves.

16. “Blind guides.” The following is one of the false traditions introduced by the Pharisees, contrary to God’s law, and in promulgating which, they did not sit on the chair of Moses. “Blind.” The crimes which provoked the preceding woes proceeded from hypocrisy. But, the crimes now denounced, proceeded from blindness of heart, resulting from avarice, from a desire to stimulate the people to offer gifts, of which they themselves were sharers.

Guides,” teachers and instructors, pointing out to the people the way in which they should walk. “It was not the fear of God, but the love of gold,” says St. Jerome, that influenced them. They impressed the people with greater respect for the sanctity of the oblations in which they had an interest, than for the sanctity of the place in which they were presented, or of the altar consecrated for victims.

Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing.” The Pharisees, seeing that it was commanded in the Old Law, to swear by the name of God, regarded all oaths by the name of creatures, as not binding. But, in consequence of the immediate connexion existing between God and the gifts offered to Him, they excepted oaths made by these gifts. They held, that one was bound to fulfil such oaths. This blindness, on their part, was caused by avarice, as they were enriched by the gifts presented to the treasury of the temple. It was the same motive that made them regard the fulfilment of a vow, to give a gift to the sanctuary (Corban), more binding than the precept of “honouring one’s parents.” Our Redeemer first refutes their error regarding the superior sanctity of the gifts offered in the temple, or on the altar, beyond that of the altar or temple itself. He shows, the temple to be holier than the gift offered on it; and He next draws a conclusion, diametrically opposite to that deduced by them from these false premises, viz., that, as the gifts, &c., wore more holy than the places where they were presented, the oaths, by these gifts, were more binding than those by the places where they were offered. Our Redeemer first shows, that the altar and temple are holier than the gifts. In truth, as these gifts, viewed in themselves materially, are profane, without any sacredness, it is solely from the circumstances of their being presented in the temple, or, on the altar, that any sacredness or extrinsic sanctity, consisting in their being separated from profane uses, and set apart to be dedicated to Divine purposes, is imparted to them; and therefore, the altar and the temple, “which sanctify them,” by imparting a kind of extrinsic sanctity to them, are greater than these gifts, which are sanctified.

20. Having refuted their error, He now draws an opposite conclusion. “Therefore”—as the altar and the temple are holier and greater than the gifts offered in them—“he that sweareth by the altar, sweareth by it, and by all things that are upon it.” He swears by all the gifts presented on the altar, and, therefore, the oath by the altar, is as binding as that by the gifts on it.

21. Such a man swears openly by God Himself, who, in a special manner, dwells in the temple. Such an oath is directly referred to God Himself, from whom these things cannot be considered to be separated.

22. The same is equally true of an oath by heaven, since God dwells there in a still more special manner. Hence, the oaths by creatures are binding; since in them, whether common or sacred, God is present; and they are His creatures, either by the title of creation or consecration. For, when we swear by mute creatures, as they cannot be invoked as witnesses of the truth, unless we suppose some divinity inherent in them, which no believer ever imagines, we must swear by God, and invoke Him as witness, as He exists, and is acknowledged in them. For, to swear, is to call God to witness. Whosoever, therefore, swears, is convicted of calling on God as witness of the truth. How many among Christians follow the false teaching of the Pharisees? How many among them make light of swearing by God Himself, of calling Him directly to witness, while they regard, with the greatest reverence, an oath on the Gospels, which are sanctified by God’s name; nay, even hold in higher reverence an oath or assertion by false human honour? This preposterous conduct is, unfortunately, to be met with every day among Christians.

23. “You tithe” (αποδεκατουτε, decimatis), may mean, either to pay or receive tithes. He here taxes them with another instance of hypocrisy. The Pharisees wished to appear so exact in the observance of the law, that they paid the tithes of the smallest herbs, which were either not enforced by the law; or, at best, were not binding under grievous sin. “Mint, anise, and cummin,” herbs growing in the land of Judea. The law prescribed, that “all tithes of the land, whether of corn, or of the fruits of trees, are the Lord’s” (Lev. 27:30). In Hebrew, for “corn,” it is, “the seed of the earth.” Hence, rigorously speaking, it might be, that tithes should be exacted from the herbs, which might be classed among the seeds of the earth. But, by a mild interpretation, they were regarded as not obligatory, nor was the payment of tithes from them observed or enforced among the Jews. Hence, the Pharisee in the Gospel says, that he, as contrasted with the publican and the other classes among the Jews, “gave tithes of ALL he possessed.” Our Redeemer does not censure the Pharisees for paying tithes from these herbs; since, if not prescribed, it was, at least, conformable to the law. What He does censure them for is, that while they attended to small things with the utmost punctuality, in order thus to acquire a character for greater exactitude and more perfect observance of the law, they, with consummate hypocrisy, neglected the most important precepts, viz., “judgment,” which may mean, in a general way, their neglect to render to their neighbour what was his due, or, their neglect, in their capacity of judges of the people, to pass a just sentence, according to the merits of each case. For, this office of judges was exercised by the Pharisees. They favoured their friends and those who gave them bribes. There is hardly any crime which the SS. Scripture so strongly condemns as the passing of unjust judgments. “Seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge for the fatherless, defend the widow” (Isa. 1:17).

And mercy.” They rigorously exact their dues from the poor, victims from widows, &c., and neglect, at the same time, to succour the indigent, and to show charity to their neighbours. Whereas, God “prefers mercy to sacrifice” (Osee 6:6).

And faith,” that is, fidelity, truth in their dealings, promises, and compacts. It may also refer to their rejection of the faith of Christ—the root and foundation of all true justice, of which they wished to be accounted most zealous.

These things you ought to have done,” that is, to have observed, viz., “the weightier things,” the more important precepts of the law, judgment, &c., “and not to leave those,” viz., the paying of tithes, “undone.” From these latter words, it is inferred by some, that the payment of tithes, out of the herbs above-mentioned, was prescribed by law. However, it may be said, that “those” refers, not to tithes out of “mint, anise,” &c., but to the precepts of paying tithes in general, and this our Redeemer prescribes, lest He might pass for an enemy of the law; or, the word, “ought,” in reference to the latter phrase, may simply mean, it was convenient and right, as being conformable to the law, though not necessary.

Some expositors, with St. Jerome, interpret the words, “you tithe” (decimatis), to mean, you exact tithes. The Greek, as well as the Latin word, will mean, either to pay, or, to receive tithes. In this latter interpretation, He taxes the avarice of the Pharisees, and it would refer to such of the Pharisees as were of the Levitical Tribe. The eleven other Tribes paid tithes to the Tribe of Levi; and those of the inferior families of Levi paid tithes of their tithes to the Pontiff and the Priests. (St. Jerome, in Ezech. 45; see Numbers 18).

However, as it is to the Pharisees our Redeemer addresses Himself, and not to the Priests, it is most likely, that the word means, to pay tithes. These hypocrites affected the greatest exactitude, and such zeal for the law, as to pay tithes even out of the most trifling things—hence, the Pharisee in the Gospel says: “I pay tithes out of all I possess”—while they neglected the most important ordinances.

Blind guides.” It is a great misery, when men, who are themselves “blind.” far from seeking a guide, presume to guide others. “Strain out a gnat,” &c., is a proverbial form of expression, more strongly conveying the preceding idea, that they were very exact about small things, and negligent in regard to great and important matters. The words, “straining out a gnat,” contain an allusion to the custom among the Jews, as well as the Greeks and Romans, of passing through a strainer, wines which in southern countries, and Palestine particularly, bred a certain species of gnats or insects peculiar to wine (Amos 6:6). The opposition is rendered more clear and forcible by comparing the smallest insect with the largest animal. The Pharisees, in their excessive punctuality regarding trifles and their neglect of most important matters, resembled those men who strained their wines for fear of swallowing small insects, but opened wide their throats to swallow down a camel.

25. He here instances another case of hypocrisy. In their anxiety to present a good exterior before men, while neglecting to cleanse and purify their souls, the Pharisees, &c., resembled men, who wash the outside of their cups and dishes, but mind not their contents, or what is placed in them; and, as exterior cleanliness of cups, &c., cannot serve the body, if the contents be impure; so, neither can their bodily ablutions serve their souls. “You make clean the outside of the cup,” out of which you drink—“and of the dish,” from which you take your food. In this is contained the comparison above alluded to. “But within you are full of rapine,” &c. Here, passing from the language of metaphor, he applies the comparison. “Within,” in your souls and consciences, while your exterior is specious and showy before men. “You are full of rapine,” the guilt of extortion practised on the poor, whom you plunder, pollutes your souls. “And uncleanness,” all sorts of crime arising from your repeated violations of God’s law (αδικιας). Some MSS. have (ακρασιας), intemperance, as if He referred to their intemperance in the use of meat and drink. There is a difference of reading in MSS. In some MSS., the comparison, or figure, is observed throughout, thus: “but within they (viz., the cups and dishes), are full of rapine and intemperance,” that is, the contents of the cups are the fruit of rapine and excess of every sort. It may be, that our Lord alludes to their great anxiety to observe the Pharisaical ordinances, regarding the repeated washing of cups, &c., among the Jews, while they cared not for the interior purity, of which these exterior ablutions were but mere symbols.

26. This would seem to be an application of the foregoing comparison. “Blind Pharisee.” Thou, who presumest to guide others, and art blind thyself. “First make clean the inside of the cup.” First, purify thy conscience, which is represented by the interior of the cup and of the dish. “That the outside may become clean,” that, in the sight of God, and, in truth, what appears clean outside, or your whole exterior, may be really edifying and blameless; since, it is from the interior virtues and purity, our exterior appearance derives any value; and without interior purity, exterior decorum or appearance of virtue is only a practical lie.

27. This is another similitude, tending to the same end, having for object, to show the hypocrisy and exterior affectation of sanctity, on the part of the Pharisees, while they were devoid of all sanctity and virtue before God, who sees the heart. The comparison hardly needs any explanation.

Whitened sepulchres.” The Jews whitened the exterior of their sepulchres annually, in order that they might be known, and clearly seen, and the pollution caused by touching, or walking over them, avoided.

28. “Inwardly you are full of hypocrisy,” owing to their lying affectation of sanctity, which they did not possess; “and iniquity,” total disregard of God’s law.

29. “Build the sepulchres of the prophets,” that is, restored them, and raised them from a state of dilapidation. “And adorn the monuments of the just,” conveys the same idea as the former, in a different form of words. “The just,” are the same as “the prophets;” and “sepulchres,” the same as “monuments.” The Jews, in order to show their veneration for the persecuted just of old, and to testify their abhorrence of the cruelty they underwent for justice’ sake, ornamented and rebuilt their sepulchres. This was, in itself, praiseworthy, and deserving of commendation, nor does our Redeemer pronounce woe upon them on this account. But what He censures in them is, their hypocrisy, in affecting a horror of the crimes of their fathers, who persecuted the prophets, when, at the same time, they proved themselves to be “sons,” faithful imitators, not of the virtuous Abraham, but of these same fathers, who killed the prophets, while harbouring the wicked design of persecuting unto death the Lord of the prophets, to whom the prophets all bore testimony.

30. Our Redeemer shows, that He sees into the secrets of their hearts, their wicked designs against Himself, to cover which they pretended to honour the memory of the prophets, and to abhor the wicked deeds of those who persecuted them. They pretended that far from sharing in these wicked deeds, had they lived in the days of their fathers, they would rather have been faithful imitators of the prophets, acting a part quite different from that acted by their fathers.

They affected this external respect and veneration for the prophets, solely with a view of concealing their malice, in regard to Jesus Christ, whom, by this pretended reverence for the prophets of old, they wished to make the people regard neither as a just man, nor as a prophet.

31. “Wherefore,” by the very fact of their admitting that they would not have joined their “fathers,” had they lived in their day, in the persecution of the prophets, they bore testimony “against themselves,” or, as the Greek has it, εαυτοις, unto, or regarding themselves, that they were the “sons of them that killed the prophets.” The force of the inference contained in “wherefore,” is founded on the relation of “sons,” conveyed by the word, “fathers.” No doubt, the Scribes and Pharisees did not erect or adorn the monuments, for the purpose of expressing their approval of the deeds of their fathers, who killed the prophets, as appears (v. 30)—although St. Chrysostom, very improbably, however, thinks they erected those monuments as trophies, commemorative of the courage of their fathers, who would not permit themselves to be rebuked by the prophets—quite the contrary; they wished to show, externally, their reverence for the “prophets,” and their abhorrence of their murderers. But, as the act of raising monuments was susceptible of being construed into a testimony of respect for either those who slew others, or those who were slain, our Redeemer, who knew the hearts of the Pharisees, construes their act in the very opposite sense of what they intended it to bear, as if it were an approval of their fathers’ misdeeds, since they were, in reality, not merely children, by nature, of these selfsame parents, but true followers of them, by the imitation of then vices.

You are witnesses against yourselves.” St. Luke has (11:48), “Truly you bear witness that you consent to the doings of your fathers: for, they killed them (the prophets), and, you build their sepulchres.” It is not so much on their external conduct, in building the monuments of the prophets, and their professions, that our Redeemer’s inference is founded. It is rather upon the knowledge which He had, as God, of their inward feelings in regard to Himself and His Apostles; and God sometimes interprets men’s actions, not according to the meaning they would have attached to thorn, but according to the true sense that accords with their interior dispositions, which the infallible light of His omniscience penetrates. Thus, the Prophet Amos (v. 25, 26), charges the Jews, during the forty years’ sojourn in the desert, with having offered up sacrifices only to Moloch and the stars; because, no matter what were their external professions during that time, their heart was borne towards the false worship of idols. In like manner, whatever might have been the external professions of the Pharisees, in the erection of monuments to those slain by their fathers, our Redeemer takes their act in a sense quite different from what they wished—a sense, however, quite in accordance with truth and their interior feelings and dispositions. Their act, no matter how accompanied with professions of respect for the prophets, was also susceptible of being construed into an approval of those who slew them. For, men never wished to perpetuate the deeds of their fathers, except such as they deemed worthy of commendation, and this construction of their act being in accordance with their internal feelings, as known to our Redeemer, He draws the conclusion, founded on truth, the very opposite, however, of what they hypocritically meant to be deduced from it. The conclusion is not derived from their external act, and their professions regarding the intention they had in raising the monuments, which were really praiseworthy; but, from the knowledge our Redeemer had of their feelings towards Himself, and the just of the New Law, quite the same as those of their fathers, whose worthy descendants they proved themselves to be.

32. “Fill ye up, then,” &c. “Then,” since your dispositions as regards the just are the same as those of your fathers, perfect their work, of killing the prophets of the Lord, by putting to death, as you are resolved on, the Lord of the prophets; as if He said: Complete what is wanting of impiety, to move God, in His indignation, utterly to ruin you.

The word, “measure,” contains an allusion to things sold by certain measure. It is only after the full measure is given, the full price is paid. So, there is a measure of guilt and iniquity, as well in the case of individuals as of entire nations, after which God pouring out the full vial of His wrath, utterly and inexorably ruins them. Thus, He waited for the murder of His eternal Son, before He utterly ruined Jerusalem. For, although He often chastised the Jews from time to time, for their ingratitude, their continual murmurings, their frequent relapses into idolatry, the murder of His prophets, still, these chastisements were tempered with mercy; and it was only when they had consummated the iniquity of their race, by putting to death His eternal Son, that God utterly abandoned and destroyed His people. In like manner (Gen. 15:16), God says of the Amorrhites, that “their iniquities were not yet the full.” Four hundred years more elapsed before their iniquities were completed, and the whole race utterly destroyed by Moses and Josue. Similar was the treatment of the Amalecites, on account of the crimes of their fathers, and their unceasing hostility to the Jews (1 Kings 15:16). The children and their ancestors are, in civil estimation, regarded as one. Hence, the merits or demerits of the parents redound to the children, when they imitate their example; and then, when the measure of iniquity is filled up, they suffer the full punishment of the mass of iniquity which had been accumulating for ages. Not that the children are punished more severely than their sins deserve; but, the circumstance of their having completed the measure of iniquity, pre-ordained by God for punishment, of their having accumulated crime upon crime, so as to reach a certain height, causes God to regard them and their parents as one moral person, and to inflict on them, in the rigours of His justice, the punishment justly due, which He might have otherwise paternally withheld, “that may come on you the blood shed” (v. 35), as if the children morally participated in the crimes of the parents, whom they imitated.

From this verse, theologians deduce, that, in God’s decrees, a certain measure and number of sins, a certain height of iniquity, is permitted, both to kingdoms, cities, and private individuals, before He fully and completely punishes them. But, after this is reached, then will He fully punish them. His vengeance, if slow, is always sure, and when long-deferred, it is fully compensated by the severity of the stroke. Who, then, should not tremble at the commission of sin, lest, by tilling up the defined measure of guilt, he should set bounds, as it were, to the Divine mercy, and force God, by the consummation of guilt—and this applies as well to entire nations as to individual sinners—to abandon him, and give him over to a reprobate sense. In case of relapse, after former forgiveness, the same may apply. “De propitiato peccato noli esse sine metu.”

The words, “fill up,” do not convey a precept. They are an instance of what might be termed an ironical permission, frequently met with in SS. Scripture. They convey a prediction of what is most certainly to happen the Pharisees, &c., owing to their hardened malice. A like example is found in the case of Judas, “quod facis, fae citius” (John 13:27).

33. Our Redeemer here boldly denounces against these wicked men, with the view of deterring others from following their perverse example, the eternal torments of hell, which they had been earning for themselves, by their misdeeds, of which they had no idea of repenting.

Serpents, generation of vipers.” The “viper” was the most venomous of serpents. Here, our Redeemer taxes the fiendish cunning—allusive to the old serpent—the deadly malignity and wickedness of the Scribes and Pharisees. This malignity was especially evinced in their calumniating, and persecuting unto death, good and holy men; nay, the Redeemer of the world Himself, as the old serpent calumniated God. (Gen. 3)

How will you escape the judgment of hell?” Not, but they could do so, by doing penance for their sins; but in this our Redeemer predicts their final impenitence and obduracy in sin, as if He said: You may here escape, for a time, the judgment of men; but, you shall not be able to escape the judgment of hell, since you are determined to continue incorrigible and impenitent, notwithstanding all My miracles, teaching, threats, and promises.

34. “Therefore.” Some regard this as merely denoting transition, having no reference to what preceded; others say, it has reference to the words, “generation of vipers,” and to the following words, “and some of them you will put to death,” &c., as if He said: Because, then, you are the “generation of vipers,” the bad offspring of the worst parents, and are determined on filling up the measure of your fathers; you, as the faithful imitators of the murderers of the ancient prophets, notwithstanding your ostentatious display of justice, will persecute and put to death the Apostles, &c., whom I shall send to you; as your fathers, whom you surpass in wickedness, treated the saints and prophets of their day.

The word, “therefore,” according to this connexion, does not assign the cause of his sending the “prophets” &c.; but, rather, it assigns the cause why the Jews were to persecute them.

I send you.” I, who am God, to whom alone it belongs to send the prophets, shall “send,” &c., after My Resurrection and glorious Ascension, when sitting at the glorious right hand of My Father. In St. Luke (11:49), the form of expression is different. “Therefore, also the Wisdom of God, said, I will send to them prophets,” &c. By “the Wisdom of God,” is meant, Christ, the Wisdom, or Word of the Father. It is the same as, “I send.” Most likely, however, that the form recorded by St. Luke, of which St. Matthew gives the sense, was that used by our Redeemer. And He employed that ambiguous form to escape the odium of making Himself God. Following the form adopted by the ancient prophets, “hæc dicit Dominus,” our Redeemer uses the phrase, “dixit (that is, decrevit), Dei sapientia,” without, however, quoting from any of the ancient prophets, since He Himself was the Divine Interpreter of God’s will, and saw into the secrets of futurity.

Prophets, and wise men, and Scribes.” These different titles are given by our Redeemer to His Apostles and their successors, in accommodation to the titles with which the Jews designated their teachers, whose places were pre-eminently filled by His Apostles, and the preachers of the Gospel. Our Redeemer sometimes applied the Jewish titles to His followers (13:52); St. Paul (1 Cor. 1:20). He bestowed on His Church the several gifts here referred to. Some of the Apostles were gifted with “prophecy,” properly so called (see Apocalypse of St. John, and several predictions of SS. Peter and Paul). The word might also bear the meaning often attached to it, viz., the gift of extraordinary interpretation of the Divine will, although this is contained in the following: “Wise men,” endowed not with human, but heavenly wisdom, which none of their adversaries could resist or gainsay (Luke 21:15).

Scribes,” profoundly versed in the law of God, able to bring forth the treasure of the new and the old (13:52). St. Luke (11:49), for, “wise men and Scribes,” has simply, “Apostles,” because the Apostles were all at once “prophets,” from their predicting future things; “wise men,” owing to the knowledge God gave them of His only Son; and “Scribes,” or doctors, owing to their intimate acquaintance with the SS. Scriptures, and the Divine law.

Some of them you will put to death,” &c. Herod Agrippa put to death James the Greater, with the approbation of the Jews (Acts 12:2). They stoned Stephen (Acts 7:58); precipitated James the Lesser from the temple (Eusebius, Lib. 2, Hist. c. 23). They crucified Simeon, son of Cleophas, second Bishop of Jerusalem (Hegesippus apud Euseb. Lib. 3, c. 16). They scourged St. Peter and the Apostles (Acts 5:40); St. Paul (2 Cor. 11:24). They “persecuted from city to city,” Paul and Barnabas. (Acts 13; 14).

Although, by the murder of the Son of God, the Jews would seem to have filled up the measure of their iniquity; still, as His death had redeemed the world, He offered it for them, and gave them the last chance of salvation, by sending His representatives, whose persecution and rejection by them, showed their excessive obstinacy and impenitence.

35. “That,” expresses not the cause, but the consequence. As if He said: Thus it shall come to pass, that “upon you may come,” or you may suffer punishment for, “all the just blood,” or the blood of all the just and innocent men, “shed upon the earth, from the blood of Abel the just,” slain by Cain, whose children and faithful imitators you are, whose wicked example you are determined, too faithfully to imitate, in the murder of Me, and your brethren, the Apostles of the Lord. Cain was not, strictly speaking, by origin, the father of the Jews, although connected with them, as the brother of Seth, of whom were descended Abraham and the Jewish people; however, he might be said to be their mystical father, and they his children, by imitation, as the haughty and impious are said to be the children of the devil.

Even to the blood of Zacharias,” &c. Who was he? Some say, the father of the Baptist, whom, according to a tradition, the Jews slew in the temple, for defending the virginity of the Blessed Virgin, when she entered the temple, after giving birth to her Divine Son. (Origen, &c.) Some also assert, he was slain for having predicted the coming of Christ. “Et tu puer propheta altissimi,” &c. But, St. Jerome rejects these traditions as apocryphal. Others say, it refers to Zacharias, one of the lesser prophets, who is called the son of Barachias (Zach. 1:1). But, there is no account of his “being slain between the porch and the altar.” The most generally received opinion, is that adopted by St. Jerome, who understands it of Zacharias, the son of Joiada, the High Priest, of whose murder, by the Jews, at the instigation of king Joas, for calling back the people from the worship of idols, there is mention made (2 Paralip. 24:2). The only difficulty against this opinion, viz., that he was the son of Joiada, and not of Barachias, as here, is solved by St. Jerome, thus: he says, that, probably, Joiada had two names, Joiada and Barachias, as was usual among the Jews; or, that, probably, our Redeemer calls him by an appellative, and not by his proper name. Barachias means, the “blessed of the Lord,” a title which Joiada eminently deserved for his superior sanctity. In confirmation of this opinion, St. Jerome says, he himself found in the Hebrew Bible used by the Nazarenes, the reading of this passage, “Zacharias, the son of Joiada.” He was stoned by the Jews, in the hall of the Priests, which was between the sample or the vestibule of the Sanctum, and the altar of Holocausts, which altar was located in the hall of the Priests. Our Redeemer, then, selects him as the last of those slain, and Abel as the first; because, their blood alone is said, in SS. Scripture, to cry for vengeance (Gen. 4:10; 2 Par. 24:22). Moreover, although many prophets were slain since the days of Zacharias, the son of Joiada, he is the last whose murder by the Jews, is recorded in the SS. Scriptures, which, therefore, the Jews could not call in question or gainsay. Others say, there is reference to a certain Zacharias, the son of Baruch (or Barachias), whom, as Josephus informs us, (De Bel. Jud. Lib. 5 c. l), the Jewish zealots slew in the hall of the temple, after he had been acquitted by the seventy Judges, shortly before the final destruction of Jerusalem. According to these, the words of our Redeemer, “you slew,” although the act was future, were uttered in the spirit of prophecy.

This latter opinion is embraced by Calmet, and it derives great probability from the circumstance, that if there be reference to any of the others, a very long interval should have elapsed between the murder of any of them, and the verification of the threat of Christ, regarding the final ruin of their city and race; whereas, in reference to this latter Zacharias, everything is verified—the place, the name, the time, immediately before the menaced ruin of Jerusalem. From the character of sanctity given by Josephus (Lib. 5, c. 1, de Bel. Jud.), of this Zacharias, it is to be supposed he was a Christian, since every trace of goodness had, at that time, abandoned the reprobate synagogue.

36. “All these things.” All these past crimes, or, rather, the punishment so long deferred of those past crimes, particularly of all the innocent blood that was shed, “Shall come upon this generation,” now living, when they shall be dispersed throughout the earth, and their city utterly ruined by Titus and Vespasian. Many of those whom our Redeemer addressed, lived to see the siege of Jerusalem, of which we have here a clear prophecy, as well as of the utter desolation of Judea, which began thirty-three years after this. This did not exceed one “generation.” Our Redeemer adds this to strengthen His menace, and to induce them to strive to escape these threatened evils, by embracing the faith, and returning to penance.

37. “Jerusalem, Jerusalem,” &c. Turning from the Scribes and Pharisees, whom He denounces in the preceding, our Redeemer now turns to the entire people of Jerusalem, represented by the multitude present (v. 1), and in accents the most pathetic, which show the excess of His love, of His sorrow and commiseration, He bewails the inefficacious result of all His toils and labours in their behalf, and predicts, as a consequence, their utter and irreparable ruin. This sublime, impassioned apostrophe was uttered, according to St. Luke (13:34), not in Jerusalem, but elsewhere. However, it may be that our Redeemer employed it twice, or the Evangelist may have recorded it without reference to the place where it was uttered.

Jerusalem,” refers to the people of the city, and the repetition of the word indicates the impassioned state of our Redeemer’s feelings. It also suggests the magnitude of the blessings conferred on the Jewish people, preferably to all the other nations of the earth, as if He said: O Jerusalem, beloved of God, singularly favoured, endowed with special privileges of grace, both external and internal, which thou hast so signally abused, by killing and stoning to death the prophets and all those that have been sent to reclaim thee.

Thou that killest the prophets,” as if He said: Among thy other distinctive marks, may be reckoned, that thou hast been constantly slaying the prophets of the Lord. Hence, our Redeemer says (Luke 13:33), “It cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem.” The Greek words for, “killest” and “stonest” (ἥ αποκτείνουσα … και λιθοβολουσα), denotes permanent action, past, present, and future, which the article prefixed shows to be of a distinctive character.

How often.” By the ministry of the prophets in former days, by My own preaching, and by that of My disciples in these latter days, and by the interior inspirations of My heavenly grace.

Would I have gathered together,” into My bosom, and brought back to the faith and true worship of one God, and have placed under My own paternal care and solicitude. “Thy children,” thy citizens, and all inhabitants of Judea, of which thou art the capital, and to which thou shouldst be a model in serving and worshipping the true God, and bringing back those who are dispersed abroad, wandering through all the mazes of error, and crooked paths of sin, and precipitating themselves into hell. “Gather together, contains an allusion to the metaphor of the hen collecting her chickens under her wings to protect and shelter them.

As the hen doth gather her chickens,” &c. This affecting and touching similitude, feelingly expresses the loving care and solicitude our Redeemer always felt for the unhappy Jerusalem, and the many efforts He made to save her, as in 22:3, &c., “He weeps over Jerusalem with the affection of a father” (St. Jerome). The will of God, in reference to the salvation of the Jews, is what theologians term the voluntas signi, manifested by the adoption of means amply and abundantly sufficient to effect the object wished for. This He often showed, “quoties volui,” from the very beginning, by sending His prophets, by employing mandates, threats, and promises. The Divine nature of our Redeemer is here tacitly implied and hinted at.

And thou wouldst not,” shows, that it is through his own fault, in not corresponding with Grace, man perishes; that man’s will is free, and that it is by freely opposing God’s will, he brings ruin on himself.

How applicable is not this impassioned apostrophe of our Divine Redeemer to many a Christian soul—symbolized by the unhappy Jerusalem—upon whom God bestowed singular and abundant graces, and whom He repeatedly invited and pressed to return to Him, “revertimini, revertimini, et quare moriemini?” but over whose infidelity, ingratitude, and resistance to heavenly grace the angels of peace weep bitterly.

38. “Behold,” shows, that what He menaces shall soon come to pass. “Your house.” By this, St. Jerome understands the Temple of Jerusalem, in which the Jews gloried and placed so much confidence (Jer. 7:4); and, although before this, it was always called the house of the Lord, still, now, in consequence of its soon becoming the scene of impiety and murder, soon to be deserted by God, and destroyed for their sins, it is called, “their house.” (St. Jerome, &c.) Others, more probably, understand it, of the city of Jerusalem, and the entire land of Judea, the temple also included. To this David refers when alluding to the sufferings of Christ—which our Redeemer insinuates here to be the cause of their misfortunes—he says, “fiat domus corum deserta.”

Desolate,” deserted by its inhabitants, and laid waste by the Romans; or, perhaps, it rather refers to their being abandoned by God’s grace, which was to be transferred to the Gentiles. This would seem to be implied in the following verse, where a reason is assigned for this desertion; or rather, where the manner of its accomplishment, is described: “For, I say to you,” &c. (v. 39), and the spiritual abandonment and reprobation by God to be followed by their temporal ruin, which was effected by the Romans. To this Jeremias refers: “Reliqui domum meam, dimisi hereditatem meam.” Judea was to become the synagogue of Satan, and afterwards the prey of the Roman eagle; its people to be dispersed, and scattered throughout the earth, by Titus and Vespasian.

39. “For, I say to you,” &c. This cannot refer to the acclamations of the Jews on His entering Jerusalem. For, these acclamations occurred on the preceding Sunday (Palm Sunday). The words now uttered by our Lord are described as spoken on the following Tuesday, three days before His Passion. Whether St. Matthew records these words out of place, by inserting them here, although spoken elsewhere, because well suited to this passage, matters but little; although, it would be expected of him to observe a consistent narrative in his history.

Patrizzi (Lib. 1 de Evang. Matth. Quæstie iv. § 1), is of opinion, that these words refer to our Redeemer’s entrance into Jerusalem, on Palm Sunday. According to him, St. Matthew did not follow the exact order of time in this, as happens to him, in several other occurrences in the life of our Redeemer. Hence, St. Luke, narrates this prediction of our Redeemer (13:35), as uttered, long before the words referred to were spoken (19:38). The words are commonly understood, of His coming to judgment. Then, the great bulk of the Jewish nation, whom He addresses in the word “you,” shall be converted to the faith; and our Redeemer means to convey, that, after the time at which He now addresses them, they shall not again see Him corporally, until the end of the world, when they shall be converted, and shall, in the fulness of faith and spiritual joy, exclaim “Blessed is He,” &c. Others, who also understand the passage of His last coming in judgment, say, the words mean: you shall not again see Me corporally, until the time I shall come in My glory, when you shall be reluctantly forced to pay Me the homage you now wilfully refuse, and obliged to admit, I am the Blessed One of the Lord whom you now reject, “videbunt in quem transfixerunt.” Our Redeemer was wont to refer to His second coming, when dealing with those who attended not to His first coming. Hence, in His Passion, he says, “verumtamen videbunt filium hominis,” &c. (Matt. 26:64).

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