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

Here, we have account of the mission of the seventy-two disciples, and the instructions given them (1–16). Their return, and our Lord’s remarks on their having seemingly gloried in their success (17–20). God reveals Himself to the humble only (21–24). The Parable of the good Samaritan (25–37). The account of Martha and Mary her sister on the occasion of our Lord’s stopping at their house (38–42).

1. “And after these things,” that is, after our Lord had left Galilee, and after the other occurrences recorded in the latter part of the preceding chapter, on seeing the spiritual destitution of the people in Judea where He had hitherto hardly preached at all, save for a very short time after His baptism—His preaching hitherto having been almost exclusively confined to Galilee—

“The Lord appointed,” or selected out of the large number of his followers—“also”—as He had done in the case of the twelve Apostles, “other seventy-two,” or rather, “seventy-two others,” as the word “others” is allusive to the election and mission of the Apostles who were not seventy-two, but only twelve. Some Expositors maintain, that the mission here refered to was appointed when our Lord was in Samaria on His way to Jerusalem (chap. 9:51)—Calmet, hic.

Almost all the Latin versions have, with the Vulgate, the reading, “seventy-two.” Most Greek copies and the Syriac have “seventy.” The Vulgate “seventy-two” seems the most probable reading. For, as our Lord had heretofore appointed twelve Apostles, twelve Patriachs of the twelve Tribes of spiritual Israel—an apostle for each tribe, as its chief and ruler—so it is likely He now appoints an equal number of inferior teachers—six from each tribe—to assist the Apostles. This He did in imitation of Moses, who by the command of God, had chosen seventy-two ancients of the people to bear with him the burden of the government (Numbers 11:16, 17); and although the number is said to be seventy (Numbers 11:16–25); still, it is clear there were seventy-two of them, because, in addition to the seventy whom Moses brought to the door of the Tabernacle, two remained in the camp on whom the same Spirit descended that was imparted to the seventy (v. 26)—Moses selected six from each tribe, to avoid jealousy and to beget confidence in their acts. Hence, there were six twelves, or seventy-two. It was not unusual with the Jews to set down round numbers in their calculations even when some more might be counted, as seventy for seventy-two. Thus, speaking of the seventy-two interpreters, who by the command of Ptolemy Philadelphus, rendered the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, although six from each tribe were selected, as we are informed by Josephus (Lib. Antiq. 12, c. 2); still, they are called the seventy (Septuaginta), even by Josephus himself (loco citato). The number, seventy-two, might be called seventy; but seventy could never be called seventy-two.

These seventy-two were chosen by our Lord, and sent to prepare the way for Him, in every part of Judea where He was to exercise His mission during the short interval that was to elapse before His Passion. They were inferior, in point of rank, to the twelve, as appears from the fact, that one of them, St. Matthias, was raised to the rank of Apostle (St. Clement, of Alexan. apud Eusebium, Lib. 1, c. 14 Histor.), and also from the priority of selection and the smaller number of Apostles. The bishops have succeeded the Apostles; and the clergy of the second order, the seventy-two; as is taught by Pope Anacletus, Ep. 2, St. Jerome ad Marcellam, Bede in Lucam 15, &c.); and though of inferior rank, still, with due subordination to their superiors, the bishops, they share in the work of the sacred ministry. Out of the seventy-two, the Apostles, afterwards ordained some to be Apostles, Matthias (Acts 1:26), Barnabas (Acts 16:3); some, deacons (Acts 6:6), and no doubt, others bishops and priests, who like the ancients above referred to, were formerly termed, Presbyteri.

“He sent them two and two,” for mutual support, protection, and edification; in order also, that they might be witnesses of each other’s demeanour, and their testimony rendered more credible, “in ore duorum vel trium testium stabit omne verbum” (Deut. 19:15). Our Lord observed this prudent course in the several commissions confided to His Apostles. He always sent them “two and two.” The same heavenly prudence has been inculcated in the rules of religious communities when sending any of their members on legitimate business. To religious, in their dealing with the world, will apply, in a particular manner, “væ soli” (Eccles. 4:10).

2. (See Matthew 9:37, 38, where similar words are employed.)

3. (See Matthew 10:16.)

4. (Matthew 10:10.)

“And salute no one by the way.” Our Lord by no means prohibits the exercise of courtesy and urbanity, in returning salutations on the road. He refers to useless and long discourses that might mar the efficiency of their ministry. Similar was the instruction given by Eliseus to his servant Giezi, when putting his staff into his hand, and sending him to raise to life the son of the Sunamitess, he said, “And if any man shall meet thee, salute him not; and if any man salute thee, answer him not” (4 Kings 4:29), meaning that he should execute his commision with all possible despatch, without any unnecessary delay.

5, 6. (See Matthew 10:12, 13.)

7. (Matthew 10:10, 11.)

8. Content with whatever may be placed before them, they should not ask for delicacies, superfluities, or good cheer—a line of conduct suited to the Apostolic life, on which they were about entering.

9. (Matthew 10:8.)

10, 11, 12. (Matthew 10:14, 15.)

13, 14, 15. (Matthew 11:21–24.)

16. (Matthew 10:40.) The honour or contempt shown the legate—the capacity in which the disciples are here considered by our Lord, being sent in the name and by the authority of God—is shown to Him whom he represents.

17. “And the seventy-two returning,” &c. As St. Mark (chap. 6) and St. Luke (9), after recording the mission of the Apostles, subjoin a statement of their return to our Lord, in order to render Him an account of their success, and refer all the glory of it to Him, to whom alone it was due—“in Thy name”—so, St. Luke here, also records the return of the “seventy-two,” after they had discharged their mission, omitting all mention of what they, as well as our Lord Himself, who sent them to prepare the way for Him, had done, save what is said of Him (13:22). “And He went through the cities and towns teaching, and making His journey to Jerusalem,” Most likely, He traversed all the country between Samaria and Bethania, near Jerusalem, of which there is mention made towards the close of this chapter (v. 38).

The disciples returned “with joy,” at the great success of the mission, telling Him, among other things, of which St. Luke makes no mention, “Lord, the devils also are subject to us in Thy name.” The generality of Commentators understand “also” to have reference to the powers expressly given them of “healing the sick,” as if they said: Not only have we successfully healed the sick; but, even the very devils went out of the bodies of the possessed, on our invoking your name and authority. Maldonatus, who maintains that the power of casting out devils was given to the seventy-two, as well as to the Apostles, gives “also” this signification: Not only have we done the more easy things confided to our power; but, we have accomplished what was even more difficult—we even cast out devils; or it may imply, that not only men, but even devils were subject to them.

18. “I saw Satan as lightning.” This is commonly understood of the sudden fall of Lucifer in heaven, when the “third part of the stars of heaven” (Apoc. 12:4), that is, of the angels, committed the sin of pride with him, and joined in his rebellion against God (Isaias 14:12–15). From bright angels, they were transformed into hideous devils, and, with the rapidity of lightning, hurled from their blissful seats in heaven. Our Lord, according to this interpretation, alluding to His Divine nature, by which He saw and knew all things—“I saw Satan,” &c.—refers to the fall of Lucifer, to warn His disciples against the fatal effects of pride, which precipitated Lucifer from his place in heaven. This interpretation supposes that the disciples felt a vain, human complacency in their success, although in words they referred this to Him, “in nomine tuo.” Hence, in verse 20, our Lord says, “that spirits are subject unto you,” without adding, “in My name,” as if they took complacency in their own actions. Therefore, he says: Beware of pride, that hurled Lucifer from a state of glory in heaven. I have seen him precipitated in the abyss, with the rapidity of lightning. Take care lest a similar fate—the punishment of pride—should ultimately await you. It is said, that envy caused by the hypostatic union, and the glory to be thereby conferred on human nature, was the cause of Satan’s fall and rebellion against God. Thus, our Lord “saw” his rebellion and fall. Hence, the disciples should beware of pride and self-complacency. This is St. Jerome’s interpretation (contra Jovin), St. Ambrose (de fuga Sæculi, c. 7), St. Cyprian (de Jejunio Christi), St. Gregory (Moral, Lib. 23, c. 7), St. Chrysostom, Bede, St. Bernard, &c.

Others, who exonerate the disciples from all sin and censure, say the words mean: You tell me nothing new, nothing I did not well know before. For, from the instant of my Incarnation, at the very moment I sent you, I saw that Satan’s power over this world, and over the children of unbelief, was about being completely shattered. “Falling from heaven,” that is, from the high power he exercised over the bulk of mankind. The former interpretation seems preferable; although both might be united, the former being literal, the latter allegorical. “I, as God, saw fall from heaven Satan,” whom I precipitated, as my rival. Also, at my Incarnation as man, I saw him precipitated from the places wherein he was adored as God, by the preaching of the Apostles and My disciples, who taught the world to adore the true God (A. Lapide).

19. “Behold, I have given you,” &c. As if He said, As it was not from himself Satan derived all his power, and the gifts, which he abused and took vain complacency in, but from God; so, it is to Me, and not to yourselves, you owe all the power and success of which you speak. “I have given you,” and I still continue to give you (the Greek is in the present, διδωμί, I give) “power to tread upon serpents and scorpions.” These are understood by some of several species of devils. “And upon all the power of the enemy,” and the whole army of the infernal spirits. Others understand the words literally, as in Mark (16:17).

20. “Rejoice not.” This is taken in a comparative sense—“rejoice not” (so much) “in this, that spirits are subject to you.” He does not censure their rejoicing in the gifts of God, but He tells them not so much to rejoice in this—a power coming to them from without—as in having “their names written in heaven”—as in their eternal salvation, which they should hope to be in store for them. The former gift, common to the elect and reprobate (Matthew 7:22, &c.), is given for the good of others; but, the latter has for object their own personal sanctification, and their enjoyment of eternal glory, should they persevere and die in grace. One’s name may be “written in heaven,” or “in the Book of Life,” to which reference is made (Exodus 32:32, 33; Psalm 68:29; Philip. 4) in two ways—either in the eternal predestination of God, which is unchangeable and absolute, and one’s name thus inscribed cannot be blotted out; or, conditionally, on our persevering, in which case we may fall away from justice, and forfeit eternal glory. It is likely it is in this latter sense our Lord speaks here. He wishes His disciples to rejoice in the gifts of grace and friendship of God, now plentifully bestowed on them, as so many pledges of future glory, which they will surely obtain, if they persevere. It is not likely, that our Lord would tell the seventy-two, that they were all, without exception, predestined for glory, when, even among the twelve, there was an exception: “Have I not chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?” (John 6:70). It is even said, that the seven first deacons were taken from the seventy-two disciples, of whom one, Nicolaus, was the founder of the Nicolaites (St. Jerome, Ep. 48, c. 3). When our Lord, addressing the twelve, said, they “would sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel,” He meant to speak conditionally—if they persevered and died in grace. We know that the traitor, Judas, did not persevere, and died miserably by his own hand (Acts 1:18).

21, 22. (See Matthew 11:25–27.)

23, 24. (See Matthew 13:16, 17.)

25. “And behold,” at some time when our Lord was delivering instructions. We need not necessarily connect this in consecutive order with the preceding; and it matters not much in what order the things recorded by the Evangelists were spoken, or in what order they were written by the Evangelists, since the principal object was to record what would serve for our instruction, without too closely attending in some cases to the order of time.

While our Lord was on some occasion engaged in teaching the multitudes, “a certain lawyer,” νομικος, who is generally supposed to be different from the person of the same profession, referred to in Matthew (22:35), as the circumstances in both cases are quite different. For, in the latter case, our Lord Himself answers the question; not so, here. “Stood up,” after having, in a sitting posture, heard our Lord speak of the joys of the life to come, before the multitudes.

“Tempting Him,” which some understood in a bad sense, as if the lawyer, from a bad motive, wanted to confound Him, and elicit from Him some reply inconsistent with His former teaching, or at variance with the law of Moses, or the teachings of the expounders of the law; others, understanding the word in a good sense, suppose, from the respectful tone of His address, “Master,” that the lawyer only wished to see for himself, if all he heard spoken in praise of our Lord’s superior teaching were true.

“To possess eternal life” (see Matthew 19:16). The law of Moses only promised temporal life to those who observed it. But, our Lord frequently spoke of eternal life to His followers. The Jews themselves had hopes of another life, as is clear from several passages of the Scripture, written before and after the captivity. The Pharisees held this doctrine of a future life. The Sadducees, who denied it, were ranked by religious Jews among the Epicureans (Calmet). Hence, the lawyer asks what is he to do, in order to securely possess the promised happiness in the world to come.

26. Our Lord, unwilling to answer directly, interrogating His questioner, refers to the law, and elicits the answer from himself. He asks what are the works he is to do, in order to gain eternal life. Our Lord asks in turn, what are the chief duties prescribed for him to do by the law, in which he was so well versed, without any mention of eternal life, of which the law did not expressly speak. He says, “quid faciam?” Our Lord asks what does the law tell him to do.

27. (See Matthew 22:36–40.)

28. Our Lord approving of the lawyer’s answer, tells him, if he observes the two leading precepts, which are a summary of the entire law, he shall secure eternal life.

29. “To justify himself,” that is, to clear himself, by proposing a more difficult question, of the imputation of captiously desiring to embarrass our Lord, by the question so easily answered by himself—or, wishing to show, that he was right in proposing the question now answered, as it would lead to a more difficult one—which he desired to have solved—regarding which, there had been so much controversy and such erroneous notions among the Jews. For, they imagined, that our “neighbour,” whom we are bound, by the law, to love and serve in his necessities, comprised only those of the Jewish race, and even among these only the just, and those observant of the law. The above seems to be the most probable meaning of the word, “justify,” in this passage, although others understand it to mean, wishing to “show himself just,” desirous to know and fulfil the law, in which the justice he wished to show himself anxious about, consisted.

“And who is my neighbour?” whom I am to love as myself, to treat as I should reasonably expect to be treated by him in turn, and whom I should be, therefore, bound to serve and relieve in his necessities? The words of our Lord, “this do,” &c., conveyed a precept, and delivered instructions more of a practical, than of a speculative character, as the question of the lawyer referred more to a practical duty in regard to our neighbour, than to a speculative point of knowledge.

30. Our Lord shows, by an edifying example of the practical discharge of the duties we owe our neighbour, who our neighbour is, whom we are bound to love. In this example, He is commonly supposed to refer not to an imaginary occurrence, but to a fact, that actually occurred, and, therefore, carried with it more weight. Our Lord’s answer (v. 37), supposes it to be a fact. From the example adduced, our Lord means to convey, that our neighbour, in relation to the practical exhibition of charity, comprised not only a co-religionist, or a just man, as the Jews erroneously imagined;—hence, the false gloss on the words, “diliges proximum, odio habebis inimicum”—but extended also to all men, even our enemies, as the case of the Samaritan, who was at variance with the Jews, shows here.

“A certain man,” generally supposed to be a Jew or Israelite (St. Augustine, Sermo. 37, de Verbis Domini), and also a citizen of Jerusalem (Bede, in Commentario).

“Went down,” on some business, “from Jerusalem to Jericho.” Jerusalem was situated on hilly ground. Hence, the words, “went down.” We often, for a like reason, hear it said in the Gospel, “we go up to Jerusalem.” “Jericho” was on the extreme confines of Judea, on the river Jordan. The road between Jerusalem and Jericho was infested with robbers, as we are informed by St. Jerome (in Epist. ad Eustochium Virginem), who tells us, that a certain part of the road was called Adommim, or, the way of blood, in consequence of the blood frequently shed, and the murders committed there by robbers.

“Fell among robbers, who also stripped him.” Not only did they capture him and take away his money and means, but they “stripped him” of his very clothes. “Wounded him,” &c., leaving him in a pitiable plight, unable to succour himself, or seek aid from others, and, therefore, certain to die, unpitied and unaided, by the road-side. This sad picture of his miserable condition, places in a clearer light, the inhumanity of those who refused to succour him. The robbers treated their victims with all this gratuitous inhumanity, probably, to escape pursuit and apprehension.

31. “It chanced”—humanly speaking, though, as regards God, it was arranged by His all-seeing Providence—“a certain priest,” who was, above all others, bound to succour his neighbour in distress, and give an example in this respect to others. Our Lord here taxes the hard-heartedness of the Jewish priesthood, who placed all their reliance on sacrifices and ceremonies, neglecting the primary dictates of the natural law itself in regard to the exercise of mercy and humanity. “Passed by.” The Greek signifies, “passed to the opposite side.” This conduct was the more inexcusable, considering the enactment of the law of Moses regarding even the fallen beast of an enemy (Exodus 23:5).

32. The above observations apply to the Levite also, who should give an example of the strict observance of the law of God.

33. The inhumanity of both is placed in a still stronger light, by the contrast with the charitable conduct of the Samaritan.

“A certain Samaritan.” (For a description of the Samaritans, see Matthew 10:5, Commentary on.)

“Came near him,” did not turn away in disgust, as the others did. “Was moved with compassion,” notwithstanding the deadly hostility of race.

34. “Pouring in,” that is, after he had poured in. For, he had done so, before binding up his wounds.

“Wine and oil,” which he probably carried with him as his viatic for the journey. “Wine,” had the effect of cleansing the wounds from the clotted blood with which they were saturated; “oil,” soothed his pains. Brought him “on his own beast,” after having himself dismounted, “to an inn,” the next he met on the road, and cared him himself, sparing neither expense nor trouble.

35. Being obliged to leave on business, he did not neglect to have provision made for this wretched man, in his absence.

“Two pence.” It is not easy to say what was the actual value of these two pence. They were equivalent to a labourer’s hire for two days (Matthew 20:9), and sufficed for the temporary relief of the patient in question.

“Whatever thou shalt spend over and above,” &c. While obliged to leave on business, he provides for the wounded man, and conveys that he meant to have him restored to perfect health, before he left him after his return.

The Holy Fathers are fond of dwelling on the clear mystical sense contained in this passage, which, they describe as having reference to the fall of man, and his merciful reparation through Jesus Christ. (Ambrose, Theophylact, Chrysostom, Augustine, &c.) By “the man who went down,” they understand, Adam; by Jerusalem, Paradise; by Jericho, the world; by the robbers, the demons; by the priest, the Old Law; by the Levite, the prophets; by the Samaritan, our Blessed Lord; by the wounds, disobedience; by the “beast” that carried the wounded man, our Lord’s Body, in which He, becoming Incarnate, bore our sins and infirmities; by “the inn,” the Church, ready to receive all who wish to enter; by the “wine” and “oil,” the Sacraments of the Church, wine and oil being employed in the administration of the chief Sacraments; by the master of the inn, the Sovereign Pontiff, who liberally dispenses the treasures of the Church; by the “two pence,” Origen understands the knowledge of the Father and of the Son; St. Ambrose, the two Testaments; St. Augustine, the two leading precepts of charity with which our Lord inspires the pastors of the Church, to exercise pastoral care over their people; by the return of the Samaritan, our Lord’s second coming to judgment, when He will reward our good actions, especially our care of the poor and afflicted.

36. “Which of these three in thy opinion was neighbour to him?” &c., that is, which of them acted the part of neighbour practically, carrying out the precept, “thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” The question of the lawyer “who is my neighbour,” whom I am commanded to love as myself? would suggest that our Lord’s question would directly be, who is neighbour to these three men referred to? Was it not the man who needed their aid in his extreme distress, bleeding on the road side? But, in reality, the solution comes to the same. For as St. Augustine observes, the word “neighbour” is a relative term, having its correlative, “proximi nomen est ad aliquid nec quisquam esse proximus nisi proximo potest” (St. Augustine de doc. Christiana, chap. 30), and our Lord put the question to the lawyer in the correlative sense, “who was neighbour to him,” &c., instead “who was the neighbour of these three men,” as in the latter form, the lawyer following the preconceived prejudices of his race, might answer, “their neighbour was confined exclusively to their own race and religion;” whereas, by putting it in the form he employs, our Lord, with wonderful wisdom, forces the lawyer to admit that the two others, while according to the Jews themselves, neighbours of the wounded Jew, neglected their duty in his regard; and the Samaritan acted the part of neighbour towards the distressed Jew, who was his enemy; that, therefore, all mankind, according to his own admission, including our enemies, are our neighbours, in the sense of the Divine precept commanding us to love him as ourselves, and relieve him in his necessities. Hence, our Lord subjoins His approval of the answer, and tells him and us, to act a similar part, that is, to regard and treat all mankind without distinction, our enemies included, as our neighbours.

38. “As they went,” as Jesus and His Apostles were passing through the several places and cities of Judea, whither He had sent the seventy-two disciples before Him, “He entered into a certain town”—in the Greek, κωμη, a village—no doubt, accompanied by His Apostles. This is generally supposed to be Bethany, about two miles from Jerusalem, “the town of Mary and Martha” (John 11:1).

“And a certain woman named Martha received Him into her house,” that is, hospitably entertained Him and His Apostles. Unquestionably, Martha was duly sensible of the exalted honour conferred on her in being privileged to be the hostess of the Son of God. “The servant received her Lord; the sick one, her Saviour; the creature, her Creator; the one that needed spiritual repast, Him who needed corporal support, owing to the condition he condescended to assume.”—St. Augustine (Sermon 26, de Verbis Domini).

Although Mary and Lazarus lived in the same house with Martha, the latter only is said to have entertained Him and His followers; probably, because being the elder sister (St. Bernard, Serm. 3 de Assumptione), to whom the house and possessions there belonged as her portion, she exclusively managed the household concerns; whereas, Mary had been away in Galilee, whence she followed our Lord (8:2). Hence, her great anxiety on this occasion to prepare everything in a manner worthy of so distinguished a guest.

39. “Named Mary,” viz., Mary Magdalen, of whom there is question (chap. 7:37–48; John 11:1, &c.; 12:3, &c.) “Who sitting also at the Lord’s feet,” &c. “Also,” may mean, that she did this in fixed purpose; she not only heard Him in a passing way, but she also with fixed, immoveable determination, “sat at His feet,” a phrase denoting that she became an attentive listener to Him as teacher. Disciples are, by a Jewish idiom, said to sit at the feet of their teachers. “Also,” may mean, that she, as well as His disciples and other women, listened attentively to His instructions and discourses; or, “also,” may have reference to our Lord—He sat teaching, she also sat, but it was at His feet, listening as a disciple to His heavenly teaching.

“Heard His word.” Our Lord omitted no opportunity of imparting instruction. He never lost time; even while food is being prepared for Him, He is engaged in His Father’s business. What an example to all who are engaged in the Apostolical ministry. They should be always employed in the business of their calling. “Hæc meditare, in his esto,” is the injunction of St. Paul to all ministers of the Gospel (1 Tim. 4:15).

40. “Martha was busy,” or distracted, “with much serving,” that is, with the multiplicity of business she had on hands, moving here and there in endeavouring worthily to provide a repast for our Lord and His followers.

“Who stood and said, Lord, hast thou no care?” &c. Martha, wearied from work, and possibly finding herself unequal, if unaided, to the task of providing for our Lord and His followers, sweetly appeals to Him in terms of the greatest respect,—“Lord”—to advise her sister to come to her assistance. She knew that if she were to appeal directly to her sister, she would do so in vain, so engrossed was she, and so intensely bent on listening to the words of her Divine Lord. “Hast thou not care?” &c., is simply intended to arrest our Lord’s attention, so that He might see the hardship of her case, and His commiseration might be excited. “Speak to her, therefore, to help me.” Martha’s anxiety to have everything properly prepared for our Lord was such, that without her sister’s aid, be the other attendants ever so numerous, she considered herself to be left alone. She bore testimony to the obedient spirit of her sister; since our Lord had only to say it, and she would comply at once.

41. “Martha, Martha.” The repetition of the name indicates affection, or perhaps was meant to invite attention (St. Augustine, Ser. 26, de verbis Domini). “Thou are careful.” The Greek word—μεριμνας—means mental anxiety, “and art troubled about many things,” distracted with a multiplicity of cares.

42. “But one thing is necessary.” The Greek is, “of one thing, there is necessity.” Some Expositors explain this to mean, “thou art uselessly and unnecessarily troubling thyself in preparing many dishes; whereas, only one dish, one kind of food alone is necessary.” But the comparison evidently conveyed in the following words, “Mary hath chosen,” &c., renders this interpretation very improbable. Hence, “the one thing” declared to be “necessary,” is, seeking and securing the salvation of our souls—the essential end of our creation, of our coming into this world—secure this, all is well; lose or forfeit this, every thing else is lost. This alone is “necessary.” Every thing else is useless, save as far as it conduces to secure this end, this priceless good. Every thing else, every other gain or acquisition is loss, nay, noxious, if it, in any way, mar this essential end. No doubt, Martha by serving, labouring, and ministering to our Lord, was adopting the means of reaching this great end. But, this multiplicity of occupations was distracting, and exposed her to the danger of deflecting from the right and straight path, that led thereto. Whereas, Mary while attending to one thing, the sweet converse of her Lord, was not in such danger of going astray or turning aside from the straight path, as was Martha. She found Him whom “her soul loved; she held Him and would not let Him go” (Cant. 3:2).

“Mary hath chosen the better part,” &c. Our Lord does not find fault with the course Martha was pursuing. He only gives the preference to the course Mary followed. She had chosen the part of meditating on the things of God, of attending to His inspirations, of having her mind constantly fixed on Him. This is the more secure way of attaining to heavenly bliss. It is a foretaste of this bliss to come, which consists in the beatific vision, in the knowledge, love, and contemplation of God. Hence, in the life to come, Mary’s occupation will continue the same, but in a more intense, exalted, and perfect degree; whereas, worldly cares and interests will pass away with time. The contemplative life is, then, preferred here by our Lord to the active. We are not, however, to infer from this, that those whose duties appertain to the active life, are warranted in abandoning them in order to devote themselves exclusively to contemplation and prayer. The union of the active life with the contemplative is the most perfect of all, such as was followed by our Lord, His Apostles, and all their followers in the ecclesiastical state, and in the ministry of saving souls. Every one should faithfully discharge the active duties of the state of life in which Providence has placed him; and manage so, in the midst of active occupations, as to turn to God by prayer and contemplation, and refer, by a pure intention of pleasing Him, all his actions to His greater glory. Thus, and thus only, will he securely attain the great end of his existence, the “one thing necessary.”

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