Saturday, 25 January 2014

Gospel for the Third Sunday after Epiphany


Jean-Marie Melchior Doze, 1864

I actually provided some notes on today's Gospel (the Third Sunday after Epiphany), from Chapter 8 of St Matthew's Gospel, earlier in the week.  Those notes focused on an aspect of the Centurion's story.  Accordingly today I'll look at the other miracle of this text, the healing of a leper.  Here is the text again:

1 Cum autem descendisset de monte, secutæ sunt eum turbæ multæ: 2 et ecce leprosus veniens, adorabat eum, dicens: Domine, si vis, potes me mundare. 3 Et extendens Jesus manum, tetigit eum, dicens: Volo: mundare. Et confestim mundata est lepra ejus. 4 Et ait illi Jesus: Vide, nemini dixeris: sed vade, ostende te sacerdoti, et offer munus, quod præcepit Moyses, in testimonium illis.5 Cum autem introisset Capharnaum, accessit ad eum centurio, rogans eum, 6 et dicens: Domine, puer meus jacet in domo paralyticus, et male torquetur. 7 Et ait illi Jesus: Ego veniam, et curabo eum. 8 Et respondens centurio, ait: Domine, non sum dignus ut intres sub tectum meum: sed tantum dic verbo, et sanabitur puer meus. 9 Nam et ego homo sum sub potestate constitutus, habens sub me milites, et dico huic: Vade, et vadit: et alii: Veni, et venit: et servo meo: Fac hoc, et facit. 10 Audiens autem Jesus miratus est, et sequentibus se dixit: Amen dico vobis, non inveni tantam fidem in Israël. 11 Dico autem vobis, quod multi ab oriente et occidente venient, et recumbent cum Abraham, et Isaac, et Jacob in regno cælorum: 12 filii autem regni ejicientur in tenebras exteriores: ibi erit fletus et stridor dentium. 13 Et dixit Jesus centurioni: Vade, et sicut credidisti, fiat tibi. Et sanatus est puer in illa hora.

And the English:

1] And when he was come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed him: [2] And behold a leper came and adored him, saying: Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. [3] And Jesus stretching forth his hand, touched him, saying: I will, be thou made clean. And forthwith his leprosy was cleansed. [4] And Jesus saith to him: See thou tell no man: but go, shew thyself to the priest, and offer the gift which Moses commanded for a testimony unto them. [5] And when he had entered into Capharnaum, there came to him a centurion, beseeching him,[6] And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, and is grieviously tormented. [7] And Jesus saith to him: I will come and heal him. [8] And the centurion making answer, said: Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldst enter under my roof: but only say the word, and my servant shall be healed. [9] For I also am a man subject to authority, having under me soldiers; and I say to this, Go, and he goeth, and to another, Come, and he cometh, and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it. [10] And Jesus hearing this, marvelled; and said to them that followed him: Amen I say to you, I have not found so great faith in Israel. [11] And I say to you that many shall come from the east and the west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven: [12] But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into the exterior darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. [13] And Jesus said to the centurion: Go, and as thou hast believed, so be it done to thee. And the servant was healed at the same hour.

Commentary

Here is St Jerome's Sermon on the story of the Leper, from the Third Nocturn readings at Matins in the Benedictine Office, from the translation provided at Divinum Officium (you can find it by selecting Divino Afflatu rubrics):

"When the Lord was come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed Him. They were not able to follow Him when He went up. And first there came a leper. This poor creature's disease had prevented him from hearing the Saviour's long sermon on the Mount. Let it be noted that he is the first person specially named as being healed. The second was the Centurion's servant; the third was Peter's wife's mother, who was sick of a fever at Capernaum; the fourth were they who were brought unto Christ as being troubled with evil spirits, from whom He by His word cast out the evil spirits, at the same time that He healed all that were sick.

And, behold, there came a leper, and worshipped Him, saying Properly after preaching and doctrine cometh occasion for a sign, that the power of the miracle might confirm in the hearers the truth of the teaching that had gone before. Lord, if Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean. He that prayeth the Lord to have the will, doubteth not but that He hath the power. 

And Jesus put forth His hand, and touched him, saying I will; be thou clean. As soon as the Lord put forth His Hand the leprosy departed. Let us remark how lowly and unbragging is the Lord's language. The leper had said, If Thou wilt; the Lord answereth, I will. The leper, Thou canst make me clean, the Lord, Be thou clean. Most Latin readers, misled by the identity of form in that language between the Present Infinitive Active and the Second Person Singular Present Imperative Passive of the Verb, read Christ's answer as if it were, I will to make thee clean. This is wrong. The sentences are separate. First cometh the expression of volition, I will, then the command, Be thou clean.

And Jesus saith unto him See thou tell no man. What need was there to tell what his body showed? But go thy way, show thyself to the Priest. There were divers reasons why Christ should send him to the Priest. First, for humility's sake, that He might show reverence to God's Priest. Then there was a command in the law that they that were cleansed of leprosy should make an offering to the Priests. Moreover, that, when the Priests saw the leper cleansed, they might either believe in the Saviour, or refuse to believe; if they believed, that they might be saved, and, if they believed not, that they might have no excuse. Lastly, that He might give no ground for the accusation that was so often brought against Him, that He was unobservant of the law."

Notes on Matthew 9:18-38



The second half of Chapter 9 of St Matthew's Gospel covers the healing of the woman with the issue of blood and the raising to life of a daughter of a ruler (Gospel for the Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost); the healing of two blind men; and the healing of a man unable to speak.

It concludes with a section of particular contemporary relevance, on the lack of good shepherds to guide the flock:

18 Hæc illo loquente ad eos, ecce princeps unus accessit, et adorabat eum, dicens: Domine, filia mea modo defuncta est: sed veni, impone manum tuam super eam, et vivet. 19 Et surgens Jesus, sequebatur eum, et discipuli ejus. 20 Et ecce mulier, quæ sanguinis fluxum patiebatur duodecim annis, accessit retro, et tetigit fimbriam vestimenti ejus. 21 Dicebat enim intra se: Si tetigero tantum vestimentum ejus, salva ero. 22 At Jesus conversus, et videns eam, dixit: Confide, filia, fides tua te salvam fecit. Et salva facta est mulier ex illa hora. 23 Et cum venisset Jesus in domum principis, et vidisset tibicines et turbam tumultuantem, dicebat: 24 Recedite: non est enim mortua puella, sed dormit. Et deridebant eum. 25 Et cum ejecta esset turba, intravit: et tenuit manum ejus, et surrexit puella. 26 Et exiit fama hæc in universam terram illam.27 Et transeunte inde Jesu, secuti sunt eum duo cæci, clamantes, et dicentes: Miserere nostri, fili David. 28 Cum autem venisset domum, accesserunt ad eum cæci. Et dicit eis Jesus: Creditis quia hoc possum facere vobis? Dicunt ei: Utique, Domine. 29 Tunc tetigit oculos eorum, dicens: Secundum fidem vestram, fiat vobis. 30 Et aperti sunt oculi eorum: et comminatus est illis Jesus, dicens: Videte ne quis sciat. 31 Illi autem exeuntes, diffamaverunt eum in tota terra illa. 32 Egressis autem illis, ecce obtulerunt ei hominem mutum, dæmonium habentem. 33 Et ejecto dæmonio, locutus est mutus, et miratæ sunt turbæ, dicentes: Numquam apparuit sic in Israël. 34 Pharisæi autem dicebant: In principe dæmoniorum ejicit dæmones.35 Et circuibat Jesus omnes civitates, et castella, docens in synagogis eorum, et prædicans Evangelium regni, et curans omnem languorem, et omnem infirmitatem. 36 Videns autem turbas, misertus est eis: quia erant vexati, et jacentes sicut oves non habentes pastorem. 37 Tunc dicit discipulis suis: Messis quidem multa, operarii autem pauci. 38 Rogate ergo Dominum messis, ut mittat operarios in messem suam.

And the English:

[18] As he was speaking these things unto them, behold a certain ruler came up, and adored him, saying: Lord, my daughter is even now dead; but come, lay thy hand upon her, and she shall live. [19] And Jesus rising up followed him, with his disciples. [20] And behold a woman who was troubled with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment. [21] For she said within herself: If I shall touch only his garment, I shall be healed. [22] But Jesus turning and seeing her, said: Be of good heart, daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour. [23] And when Jesus was come into the house of the ruler, and saw the minstrels and the multitude making a rout, [24] He said: Give place, for the girl is not dead, but sleepeth. And they laughed him to scorn. [25] And when the multitude was put forth, he went in, and took her by the hand. And the maid arose. [26] And the fame hereof went abroad into all that country. [27] And as Jesus passed from thence, there followed him two blind men crying out and saying, Have mercy on us, O Son of David. [28] And when he was come to the house, the blind men came to him. And Jesus saith to them, Do you believe, that I can do this unto you? They say to him, Yea, Lord. [29] Then he touched their eyes, saying, According to your faith, be it done unto you. [30] And their eyes were opened, and Jesus strictly charged them, saying, See that no man know this.[31] But they going out, spread his fame abroad in all that country. [32] And when they were gone out, behold they brought him a dumb man, possessed with a devil. [33] And after the devil was cast out, the dumb man spoke, and the multitudes wondered, saying, Never was the like seen in Israel. [34] But the Pharisees said, By the prince of devils he casteth out devils. [35] And Jesus went about all the cities, and towns, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every disease, and every infirmity.[36] And seeing the multitudes, he had compassion on them: because they were distressed, and lying like sheep that have no shepherd. [37] Then he saith to his disciples, The harvest indeed is great, but the labourers are few. [38] Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he send forth labourers into his harvest.

Commentary

The Fathers naturally link Jesus' concern over the lack of shepherds to the problem of the hireling, and outright wolves in sheep's clothing that he articulated in the Sermon n the Mount,  Number of priests and other workers for Christ, in other words, in themselves are not enough:

REMIG; Herein Christ shows in Himself the disposition of the good shepherd and not that of the hireling. Why He pitied them is added, Because they were troubled, and sick as sheep that have no shepherd - troubled either by demons, or by diverse sicknesses and infirmities. 

GLOSS; Or, troubled by demons, and sick, that is, benumbed and unable to rise; and though they had shepherds, yet they were as though they had them not. 

CHRYS; This is an accusation against the rulers of the Jews, that being shepherds they appeared like wolves; not only not improving the multitude, but hindering their progress. For When the multitude marveled and said, It was never so seen in Israel, these opposed themselves , saying, He casts out demons by the prince of the demons.

Rather what is needed is those genuinely committed to the task, and our support in prayer for vocations and more abundant grace for those wlaking this path:

GLOSS; The harvest are those men who can he reaped by the preachers, and separated from the number of the damned, as grain is beaten out from the chaff that it may be laid up in granaries. 

JEROME; The great harvest denotes the multitude of the people; the few laborers, the want of instructors. 

REMIG; For the number of the Apostles was small in comparison of so great. crops to be reaped. The Lord exhorts His preachers, that. is, the Apostles and their followers, that they should daily desire an increase of their number; Pray therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth laborers into his harvest. 

CHRYS; He privately insinuates Himself to he the Lord; for it is He Himself who is Lord of the harvest. For if He sent the Apostles to reap what they had not sown, it is manifest that He sent them not to reap the things of others, but what He had sown by the Prophets. But since the twelve Apostles are the laborers, lie said, Pray the Lord of' the harvest, that he would send laborers into his harvest; and notwithstanding lie added none to their number, but rather He multiplied those twelve many times, not by increasing their numbers, but by giving them more abundant grace. 

CHRYS; He shows us that it is a great gift that one should have the power of rightly preaching, in that He tells them that they ought to pray for it. Also we are here reminded of the words of John concerning the threshing-floor, amid the fan, the chaff, and the wheat. 

HILARY; Figuratively; when salvation was given to the Gentiles, then all cities and towns were enlightened by the power and entrance of Christ, and escaped every other sickness and infirmity. The Lord pities the people troubled with the violence of the unclean Spirit., and sick under the burden of the Law, and having no shepherd at hand to bestow on them the guardianship of the Holy Spirit. But of that gift there was a most abundant fruit., whose plenty far exceeded the multitude of those that drank thereof; how many ever take of it, yet an inexhaustible supply remains; and because it is profitable that there should be many to minister it, He bids us ask the Lord of the harvest, that God would provide a supply of reapers for the ministration of that gift of the Holy Spirit which was made ready; for by prayer this gift is poured out upon us from God.

The need for labourers in the vineyard means more than just more good priests though, for the Church needs those who teach, those who pray, and those who work.  St Benedict, for example, applies this passage to those who would join his monasteries:

And the Lord, seeking his workman among the multitudes to whom he thus crieth, saith again: What man is he that desireth life and would fain see good days? And if hearing him thou answer, "I am he," God saith to thee: If thou wilt have true and everlasting life, keep thy tongue from evil and thy lips that they speak no guile. Turn away from evil and do good: seek after peace and pursue it. And when you have done these things, my eyes will be upon you and my ears open unto your prayers. And before you call upon me, I shall say to you, "Lo, here I am." What can be sweeter to us, dearest brethren, than this voice of our Lord inviting us? Behold in his loving mercy the Lord showeth us the way of life. (McCann translation, Prologue to the RB)

Friday, 24 January 2014

Notes on Matthew 9:1-17

Caravaggio - Calling of St Matthew

Chapter 9 of St Matthew's Gospel opens with a dispute with the Scribes, who accuse Jesus of blasphemy for claiming to forgive sins.  His response, to show that he truly is God, was to heal a paralysed man.  Verses 1-9 are the Gospel for the Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost (in the EF).  The next section of the text, which is where I'll focus my attention today, covers the calling of St Matthew, and a discussion on why Jesus' disciples weren't adopting the asceticism associated with St John the Baptist's:

Et ascendens in naviculam, transfretavit, et venit in civitatem suam. 2 Et ecce offerebant ei paralyticum jacentem in lecto. Et videns Jesus fidem illorum, dixit paralytico: Confide fili, remittuntur tibi peccata tua. 3 Et ecce quidam de scribis dixerunt intra se: Hic blasphemat. 4 Et cum vidisset Jesus cogitationes eorum, dixit: Ut quid cogitatis mala in cordibus vestris? 5 Quid est facilius dicere: Dimittuntur tibi peccata tua: an dicere: Surge, et ambula? 6 Ut autem sciatis, quia Filius hominis habet potestatem in terra dimittendi peccata, tunc ait paralytico: Surge, tolle lectum tuum, et vade in domum tuam. 7 Et surrexit, et abiit in domum suam. 8 Videntes autem turbæ timuerunt, et glorificaverunt Deum, qui dedit potestatem talem hominibus.9 Et, cum transiret inde Jesus, vidit hominem sedentem in telonio, Matthæum nomine. Et ait illi: Sequere me. Et surgens, secutus est eum. 10 Et factum est, discumbente eo in domo, ecce multi publicani et peccatores venientes, discumbebant cum Jesu, et discipulis ejus. 11 Et videntes pharisæi, dicebant discipulis ejus: Quare cum publicanis et peccatoribus manducat magister vester? 12 At Jesus audiens, ait: Non est opus valentibus medicus, sed male habentibus. 13 Euntes autem discite quid est: Misericordiam volo, et non sacrificium. Non enim veni vocare justos, sed peccatores.14 Tunc accesserunt ad eum discipuli Joannis, dicentes: Quare nos, et pharisæi, jejunamus frequenter: discipuli autem tui non jejunant? 15 Et ait illis Jesus: Numquid possunt filii sponsi lugere, quamdiu cum illis est sponsus? Venient autem dies cum auferetur ab eis sponsus: et tunc jejunabunt. 16 Nemo autem immittit commissuram panni rudis in vestimentum vetus: tollit enim plenitudinem ejus a vestimento, et pejor scissura fit. 17 Neque mittunt vinum novum in utres veteres: alioquin rumpuntur utres, et vinum effunditur, et utres pereunt. Sed vinum novum in utres novos mittunt: et ambo conservantur.

And in the Douay-Rheims translation:

And entering into a boat, he passed over the water and came into his own city. [2] And behold they brought to him one sick of the palsy lying in a bed. And Jesus, seeing their faith, said to the man sick of the palsy: Be of good heart, son, thy sins are forgiven thee. [3] And behold some of the scribes said within themselves: He blasphemeth. [4] And Jesus seeing their thoughts, said: Why do you think evil in your hearts? [5] Whether is easier, to say, Thy sins are forgiven thee: or to say, Arise, and walk? [6] But that you may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then said he to the man sick of palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go into thy house. [7] And he arose, and went into his house. [8] And the multitude seeing it, feared, and glorified God that gave such power to men. [9] And when Jesus passed on from hence, he saw a man sitting in the custom house, named Matthew; and he saith to him: Follow me. And he rose up and followed him. [10] And it came to pass as he was sitting at meat in the house, behold many publicans and sinners came, and sat down with Jesus and his disciples.
[11] And the Pharisees seeing it, said to his disciples: Why doth your master eat with publicans and sinners? [12] But Jesus hearing it, said: They that are in health need not a physician, but they that are ill. [13] Go then and learn what this meaneth, I will have mercy and not sacrifice. For I am not come to call the just, but sinners. [14] Then came to him the disciples of John, saying: Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but thy disciples do not fast? [15] And Jesus said to them: Can the children of the bridegroom mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then they shall fast.[16] And nobody putteth a piece of raw cloth unto an old garment. For it taketh away the fullness thereof from the garment, and there is made a greater rent. [17] Neither do they put new wine into old bottles. Otherwise the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish. But new wine they put into new bottles: and both are preserved.

Commentary

These verses can serve as a salutary reminder that the Church is made up of (hopefully reformed) sinners ,not just saints!  It is easy to become depressed over the sorry state of the Church today.  But Christ's special calls go to whom he wills, not necessarily who appears to our eyes to be worthy.

St John Chrysostom, for example, points out that Matthew's calling came rather later than the other disciples  because Matthew needed the evidence of Jesus' miracles:

CHRYS; But why did He not call him at the same time with Peter and John and the others? Because he was then still in a hardened state, but after many miracles, and great fame of Christ, when He who knows the inmost secrets of the heart, perceived him more disposed to obedience, then He called him. 

GLOSS; Matthew places his calling among the miracles; for a great miracle it was, a Publican becoming an Apostle. 

CHRYS; Why is it then that nothing is said of the rest of the Apostles how or when they were called, but only of Peter, Andrew, James, John, and Matthew? Because these were in the most alien and lowly stations, for nothing can he more disreputable than the office of Publican, nothing more abject than that of fisherman.

The Fathers suggest that Jesus' association with sinners was not aimed at showing 'tolerance' or simply outreach for the sake of outreach to the marginalised, but rather was aimed at the conversion of sinners:

GLOSS; The Publicans were they who were engaged in public business, which seldom or never can be carried on without sin. And a beautiful omen of the future, that he that was to be an Apostle and doctor of the Gentiles, at his first conversion draws after him a great multitude of sinners to salvation, already performing by his example what He was shortly to perform by word. 

JEROME; But they had seen the Publican turning from sins to better things, and finding place of repentance, and on this account they do not despair of salvation. 

CHRYS. This they came near to our Redeemer, and that not only to converse with Him, but to sit at meat with Him; for so not only by disputing, or healing, or convincing His enemies, but by eating with them, He often times healed such as were ill-disposed, by this teaching us, that all times, and all actions, may be made means to our advantage... 

Of course, coming back to the current state of the Church, when Jesus explains the reasons for his disciples failure to follow the strict regime of John's, these reasons clearly no longer apply today:

JEROME; Christ is the Bridegroom and the Church the Bride of this spiritual union the Apostles were born; they cannot mourn so long as they see the Bridegroom in the chamber with the Bride. But when the nuptials are past, and the time of the passion and resurrection is come, then shall the children of the Bridegroom fast. The days shall come when the bridegroom shall be taken from them and then shall they fast. 

CHRYS; He means this; The present is a time of joy and rejoicing; sorrow is there fore not to be now brought forward and fasting is naturally grievous and to all those that are yet weak; for to those that seek to contemplate wisdom, it is pleasant; He therefore speaks here according to the former opinion. He also shows that this they did was not of gluttony but of a certain dispensation. 

JEROME; Hence some thing that a fast ought to follow the forty days of Passion althought the say of Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit immediately bring back our joy and festival. From this text accordingly, Montanus, Prisca, and Maximilla enjoin a forty days' abstinence after Pentecost, but it is the use of the Church too come to the Lord's passion and resurrection through humiliation of the flesh, that by carnal abstinence we may better be prepared for spiritual fullness. 

AUG; Otherwise; Every one who rightly fasts, either humbles his soul in the groaning of prayer, and bodily chastisement, or suspends the motion of carnal desire by the joys of spiritual meditation. And the Lord here makes answer respecting both kinds of fasting; concerning the first, which is in humiliation of soul, He says, The children of the bridegroom cannot mourn. Of the other which has a feast of the Spirit, He next speaks, where He says, No man puts a patch of undressed cloth. Then we must mourn because the Bridegroom is taken away from us. And we rightly mourn if we burn with desire of Him. Blessed they to whom it was granted before His passion to have Him present with them, to inquire of Him what they would, to hear what they ought to hear. Those days the fathers before His coming sought to gee, and saw them not, because they were placed in another dispensation, one in which He was proclaimed as coming, not one in which He was heard as present. For in us was fulfilled that He speaks of; The days shall come when you shall desire to see one of these days, and shall not be able. Who then will not mourn this? Who will not say, My tears have been my meat day and night, while they daily say to me , Where is now your God? With reason then did the Apostle seek to die and to be with Christ. 

HILARY; Figuratively; this His answer, that while the Bridegroom was present with them, His disciples needed not to fast, teaches us the joy of His presence, and the sacrament of the holy food, which none shall lack, while He is present, that is, while one keeps Christ in the eye of the mind. He says, they shall fast when He is taken away from them, because all who do not believe that Christ is risen, shall not have the food of life. For in the faith of the resurrection the sacrament of the heavenly bread is received. 

JEROME; Or; When He has departed from us for our sins, then is a fast to be proclaimed, then is mourning to be put on. 

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Notes on Matthew 8:18-34



The second half of Matthew 8 takes us through another series of instructions, starts with some hard sayings on those falsely claiming to be disciples, and the true death that comes from unbelief.  It then turns to the miracles of the calming of the seas and expulsion of demons.

The Latin:

18 Videns autem Jesus turbas multas circum se, jussit ire trans fretum. 19 Et accedens unus scriba, ait illi: Magister, sequar te, quocumque ieris. 20 Et dicit ei Jesus: Vulpes foveas habent, et volucres cæli nidos; Filius autem hominis non habet ubi caput reclinet. 21 Alius autem de discipulis ejus ait illi: Domine, permitte me primum ire, et sepelire patrem meum. 22 Jesus autem ait illi: Sequere me, et dimitte mortuos sepelire mortuos suos. 23 Et ascendente eo in naviculam, secuti sunt eum discipuli ejus: 24 et ecce motus magnus factus est in mari, ita ut navicula operiretur fluctibus: ipse vero dormiebat. 25 Et accesserunt ad eum discipuli ejus, et suscitaverunt eum, dicentes: Domine, salva nos: perimus. 26 Et dicit eis Jesus: Quid timidi estis, modicæ fidei? Tunc surgens imperavit ventis, et mari, et facta est tranquillitas magna. 27 Porro homines mirati sunt, dicentes: Qualis est hic, quia venti et mare obediunt ei?28 Et cum venisset trans fretum in regionem Gerasenorum, occurrerunt ei duo habentes dæmonia, de monumentis exeuntes, sævi nimis, ita ut nemo posset transire per viam illam. 29 Et ecce clamaverunt, dicentes: Quid nobis et tibi, Jesu fili Dei? Venisti huc ante tempus torquere nos? 30 Erat autem non longe ab illis grex multorum porcorum pascens. 31 Dæmones autem rogabant eum, dicentes: Si ejicis nos hinc, mitte nos in gregem porcorum. 32 Et ait illis: Ite. At illi exeuntes abierunt in porcos, et ecce impetu abiit totus grex per præceps in mare: et mortui sunt in aquis. 33 Pastores autem fugerunt: et venientes in civitatem, nuntiaverunt omnia, et de eis qui dæmonia habuerant. 34 Et ecce tota civitas exiit obviam Jesu: et viso eo, rogabant ut transiret a finibus eorum.

And the English:

[18] And Jesus seeing great multitudes about him, gave orders to pass over the water. [19] And a certain scribe came and said to him: Master, I will follow thee whithersoever thou shalt go. [20] And Jesus saith to him: The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air nests: but the son of man hath not where to lay his head. [21] And another of his disciples said to him: Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. [22] But Jesus said to him: Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead. [23] And when he entered into the boat, his disciples followed him: [24] And behold a great tempest arose in the sea, so that the boat was covered with waves, but he was asleep. [25] And they came to him, and awaked him, saying: Lord, save us, we perish. [26] And Jesus saith to them: Why are you fearful, O ye of little faith? Then rising up he commanded the winds, and the sea, and there came a great calm. [27] But the men wondered, saying: What manner of man is this, for the winds and the sea obey him? [28] And when he was come on the other side of the water, into the country of the Gerasens, there met him two that were possessed with devils, coming out of the sepulchres, exceeding fierce, so that none could pass by that way. [29] And behold they cried out, saying: What have we to do with thee, Jesus Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the time? [30] And there was, not far from them, an herd of many swine feeding. [31] And the devils besought him, saying: If thou cast us out hence, send us into the herd of swine. [32] And he said to them: Go. But they going out went into the swine, and behold the whole herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea: and they perished in the waters. [33] And they that kept them fled: and coming into the city, told every thing, and concerning them that had been possessed by the devils. [34] And behold the whole city went out to meet Jesus, and when they saw him, they besought him that he would depart from their coasts.

Commentary

What are we to make of Jesus turning away the Scribe?  The Catena Aurea commentaries tell us that this was a case of false pride, not a true desire to follow Christ:

JEROME; This Scribe of the Law who knew but the perishing letter, would not have been turned away had his address been, 'Lord, I will follow You.' But because He esteemed the Savior only as one of many masters, and was a man of the letter (which is better expressed in Greek,) not a spiritual hearer, therefore He had no place where Jesus might lay His head. It is suggested to us that He sought to follow the Lord, because of his great miracles, for the sake of the gain to be derived from them; and was therefore rejected; seeking the same thing as did Simon Magus when he would have given Peter money. 

CHRYS. Observe also how great his pride; approaching and speaking as though he disdained to be considered as one of the multitude; desiring to show that he was above the rest. 

HILARY; Otherwise; This Scribe being one of the doctors of the Law, asks if he shall follow Him, as though it were not contained in the Law that this is to whom it were gain to follow. Therefore He discovers a feeling of unbelief under the diffidence of his inquiry. For the taking up of the faith is not by question but by following. 

CHRYS. So Christ answers him not so such to what He had said, but to the obvious purpose in his mind. Jesus says to him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man has not where to lay it is head?; as though He had said; 

JEROME; Why do you seek to follow me for the sake of the riches and gain of this world, when my poverty is such that I have neither lodging nor home of my own? 

CHRYS. This was not to send him away, but rather to convict him of evil intentions at the same time permitting him if he would to follow Christ with the expectation of poverty. 

AUG. Otherwise The Son of man has not where to lay his head; that is, in your faith The foxes have holes, in your heart, because you are deceitful. The birds of the air have nests, in your heart, because you are proud. Deceitful and proud follows me not; for how should guile follow sincerity? 

GREG. Otherwise; The fox is a crafty animal, lying hid in ditches and dens, and when it comes abroad never going in a straight path, but in crooked windings; birds raise themselves in the air. By the foxes then are meant the subtle and deceitful demons, by the birds the proud demons; as though He had said; Deceitful and proud demons have their abode in your heart; but my lowliness finds no rest in a proud spirit. 

AUG. He was moved to follow Christ because of the miracles; this vain desire of glory is signified by the birds; but he assumed the submissiveness of a disciple, which deceit is signified by the foxes. 

Similarly, the instruction to let the dead bury the dead is a reminder that without faith we are truly dead and beyond help:

RABAN. Heretics confiding in their art are signified by the foxes, the evil spirits by the birds of the air, who have their holes and their nests, that is, their abodes in the heart of the Jewish people. Another of his disciples says to him, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. 

JEROME; in what one thing is this disciple like the Scribe? The one called Him Master, the other confesses Him as his Lord. The one from filial piety asks permission to go and bury his father; the other offers to follow, not seeking a master, but by means of his master seeking gain for himself. 

HILARY; The disciple does not ask whether he shall follow Him; for he already believed that he ought to follow, but prays to be suffered first to bury. his father 

AUG. The Lord when He prepares men for the Gospel will not have any excuse of this fleshly and temporal attachment to interfere, therefore it follows; Jesus said to him, Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their dead. 

CHRYS. This saying does not condemn natural affection to our parents, but shows that nothing ought to be more binding on us than the business of heaven; that to this we ought to will apply ourselves with all our endeavors, and not to be slack, however necessary or urgent are the things that draw us aside. For what could be more necessary than to bury a father? What more easy? For it could not need much time. But in this the Lord rescued him from much evil, Weeping, and mourning, and from the pains of expectation. For after the funeral there must come examination of the will, division of the inheritance, and other things of the same sort; and thus trouble following trouble, like the waves, would have borne him far from the port of truth. But if you are not yet satisfied, reflect further that oftentimes the weak are not permitted to know the time, or to follow to the grave; even though the dead be father, mother, or son; yet are they not charged with cruelty that hinder them; it is rather the reverse of cruelty. And it is a much greater evil to draw! One away from spiritual discourse; especially when there were who should perform the rites; as here, Leave the dead to bury their dead. 

AUG. As much as to say; Your father is dead; but there are also other dead who shall bury their dead, because they are in unbelief 

CHRYS This moreover shows that this dead man was not his; for, I suppose, he that was dead was of the unbelieving. If you wonder at the young man, that in a matter so necessary he should have asked Jesus, and not have gone away of his own accord, for much more that he abode with Jesus after he was bidden to depart; which was not from lack of affection, that he might not interrupt a business yet more necessary. 

HILARY; Also, because we are taught in the beginning of the Lord's prayer, first to say, Our Father, who art in heaven; and since this disciple represents the believing people; he is here reminded that he has one only Father in heaven, and that between a believing son and an unbelieving. father the filial relation does not hold good. We are also astonished that the unbelieving dead are not to be mingled with the memories of the saints, and that they are also dead who live out of God; and the dead are buried by the dead, because by the faith of God it behoves the living to cleave to the living (God.) 

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Notes on Matthew 8:1-17



The first half of Chapter 8 of St Matthew's Gospel presents us with three healing miracles: the cure of a leper; the Centurion's servant, cured of the palsy; and St Peter's mother-in-law, cured of a fever.  Verses 1-13 are the Gospel for this coming Sunday, the third after Epiphany.

1 Cum autem descendisset de monte, secutæ sunt eum turbæ multæ: 2 et ecce leprosus veniens, adorabat eum, dicens: Domine, si vis, potes me mundare. 3 Et extendens Jesus manum, tetigit eum, dicens: Volo: mundare. Et confestim mundata est lepra ejus. 4 Et ait illi Jesus: Vide, nemini dixeris: sed vade, ostende te sacerdoti, et offer munus, quod præcepit Moyses, in testimonium illis.5 Cum autem introisset Capharnaum, accessit ad eum centurio, rogans eum, 6 et dicens: Domine, puer meus jacet in domo paralyticus, et male torquetur. 7 Et ait illi Jesus: Ego veniam, et curabo eum. 8 Et respondens centurio, ait: Domine, non sum dignus ut intres sub tectum meum: sed tantum dic verbo, et sanabitur puer meus. 9 Nam et ego homo sum sub potestate constitutus, habens sub me milites, et dico huic: Vade, et vadit: et alii: Veni, et venit: et servo meo: Fac hoc, et facit. 10 Audiens autem Jesus miratus est, et sequentibus se dixit: Amen dico vobis, non inveni tantam fidem in Israël. 11 Dico autem vobis, quod multi ab oriente et occidente venient, et recumbent cum Abraham, et Isaac, et Jacob in regno cælorum: 12 filii autem regni ejicientur in tenebras exteriores: ibi erit fletus et stridor dentium. 13 Et dixit Jesus centurioni: Vade, et sicut credidisti, fiat tibi. Et sanatus est puer in illa hora.14 Et cum venisset Jesus in domum Petri, vidit socrum ejus jacentem, et febricitantem: 15 et tetigit manum ejus, et dimisit eam febris, et surrexit, et ministrabat eis. 16 Vespere autem facto, obtulerunt ei multos dæmonia habentes: et ejiciebat spiritus verbo, et omnes male habentes curavit: 17 ut adimpleretur quod dictum est per Isaiam prophetam, dicentem: Ipse infirmitates nostras accepit: et ægrotationes nostras portavit.

And the English:

1] And when he was come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed him: [2] And behold a leper came and adored him, saying: Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. [3] And Jesus stretching forth his hand, touched him, saying: I will, be thou made clean. And forthwith his leprosy was cleansed. [4] And Jesus saith to him: See thou tell no man: but go, shew thyself to the priest, and offer the gift which Moses commanded for a testimony unto them. [5] And when he had entered into Capharnaum, there came to him a centurion, beseeching him,[6] And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, and is grieviously tormented. [7] And Jesus saith to him: I will come and heal him. [8] And the centurion making answer, said: Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldst enter under my roof: but only say the word, and my servant shall be healed. [9] For I also am a man subject to authority, having under me soldiers; and I say to this, Go, and he goeth, and to another, Come, and he cometh, and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it. [10] And Jesus hearing this, marvelled; and said to them that followed him: Amen I say to you, I have not found so great faith in Israel. [11] And I say to you that many shall come from the east and the west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven: [12] But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into the exterior darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. [13] And Jesus said to the centurion: Go, and as thou hast believed, so be it done to thee. And the servant was healed at the same hour. [14] And when Jesus was come into Peter' s house, he saw his wife' s mother lying, and sick of a fever: [15] And he touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she arose and ministered to them.[16] And when evening was come, they brought to him many that were possessed with devils: and he cast out the spirits with his word: and all that were sick he healed: [17] That it might be fulfilled, which was spoken by the prophet Isaias, saying: He took our infirmities, and bore our diseases.

Commentary

St Matthew places these three stories in the context of the fulfillment of a prophecy of Isaiah: the healing miracles foreshadow Christ's salvific death on the Cross.  But he also draws out the importance of the Centurion's story (most familiar to us, perhaps from the words used as the preparatory prayer before communion in the Mass) in terms of the election of the gentiles.

Though the words are directed at the Jews, there is a hard truth in this for us too: we are not justified simply by our adherence to laws, whether of the Church, the State or self-imposed.  Such laws, and practices such as fasting, may be essential aids to our growth in sanctity, but in the end it is our faith, demonstrated in our practical actions, that counts.  St John Chrysostom comments:

"For now from this time forth He proceeds to make known to all, that salvation is by faith, not by works of the law. And this is why not to Jews only, but to Gentiles also the gift so given shall be proffered, and to the latter rather than to the former. For think not, says He, by any means, that so it has come to pass in regard of this man alone; nay, so it shall be in regard of the whole world. And this He said, prophesying of the Gentiles, and suggesting to them good hopes. For in fact there were some following Him from Galilee of the Gentiles. And this He said, on the one hand, not letting the Gentiles despair, on the other, putting down the proud spirits of the Jews.

But that His saying might not affront the hearers, nor afford them any handle; He neither brings forward prominently what He has to say of the Gentiles, but upon occasion taken from the centurion; nor does He use nakedly the term, Gentiles: not saying, many of the Gentiles, but, many from east and west: Matthew 8:11 which was the language of one pointing out the Gentiles, but did not so much affront the hearers, because His meaning was under a shadow.

Neither in this way only does He soften the apparent novelty of His doctrine, but also by speaking of Abraham's bosom instead of the kingdom. For neither was that term familiar to them: moreover, the introduction of Abraham would be a sharper sting to them. Wherefore John also spoke nothing at first concerning hell, but, what was most apt to grieve them, He says, Think not to say, we are children of Abraham. Matthew 3:9

He is providing for another point also; not to seem in any sense opposed to the ancient polity. For he that admires the patriarchs, and speaks of their bosom as an inheritance of blessings, does much more than sufficiently remove also this suspicion...

For not at all among Jews only may one see this taking place, but also among them that have believed. For Judas too was a child of the kingdom, and it was said to him with the disciples, You shall sit on twelve thrones; Matthew 19:28 yet he became a child of hell; whereas the Ethiopian, barbarian as he was, and of them from the east and west, shall enjoy the crowns with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob. This takes place among us also now. For many, says He, that are first shall be last, and the last first. Matthew 19:30 And this He says, that neither the one may grow languid, as unable to return; nor the others be confident, as standing fast. This John also declared before from the beginning, when he said, God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. Matthew 3:9 Thus, since it was so to come to pass, it is proclaimed long before; that no one may be confounded at the strangeness of the event. But he indeed speaks of it as a possible thing (for he was first); Christ on the other hand as what will surely be, affording the proof of it from His works."

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Notes on Matthew 7:13-29

Pieter Mieler II, ca. 1680.

The final section of the Sermon on the Mount contains a set of warnings all too pertinent to our times:  namely that getting into heaven is not easy; that many false preachers will attempt to lead us astray; and that simply claiming to be a Christian is not enough.  Verses 7-21, on false shepherds, feature on the Seventh Sunday after Pentecost.

The Latin:

13 Intrate per angustam portam: quia lata porta, et spatiosa via est, quæ ducit ad perditionem, et multi sunt qui intrant per eam. 14 Quam angusta porta, et arcta via est, quæ ducit ad vitam: et pauci sunt qui inveniunt eam!15 Attendite a falsis prophetis, qui veniunt ad vos in vestimentis ovium, intrinsecus autem sunt lupi rapaces: 16 a fructibus eorum cognoscetis eos. Numquid colligunt de spinis uvas, aut de tribulis ficus? 17 Sic omnis arbor bona fructus bonos facit: mala autem arbor malos fructus facit. 18 Non potest arbor bona malos fructus facere: neque arbor mala bonos fructus facere. 19 Omnis arbor, quæ non facit fructum bonum, excidetur, et in ignem mittetur. 20 Igitur ex fructibus eorum cognoscetis eos. 21 Non omnis qui dicit mihi, Domine, Domine, intrabit in regnum cælorum: sed qui facit voluntatem Patris mei, qui in cælis est, ipse intrabit in regnum cælorum. 22 Multi dicent mihi in illa die: Domine, Domine, nonne in nomine tuo prophetavimus, et in nomine tuo dæmonia ejecimus, et in nomine tuo virtutes multas fecimus? 23 Et tunc confitebor illis: Quia numquam novi vos: discedite a me, qui operamini iniquitatem.24 Omnis ergo qui audit verba mea hæc, et facit ea, assimilabitur viro sapienti, qui ædificavit domum suam supra petram, 25 et descendit pluvia, et venerunt flumina, et flaverunt venti, et irruerunt in domum illam, et non cecidit: fundata enim erat super petram. 26 Et omnis qui audit verba mea hæc, et non facit ea, similis erit viro stulto, qui ædificavit domum suam super arenam: 27 et descendit pluvia, et venerunt flumina, et flaverunt venti, et irruerunt in domum illam, et cecidit, et fuit ruina illius magna.28 Et factum est: cum consummasset Jesus verba hæc, admirabantur turbæ super doctrina ejus. 29 Erat enim docens eos sicut potestatem habens, et non sicut scribæ eorum, et pharisæi.

The English (Douay-Rheims):

Enter ye in at the narrow gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there are who go in thereat. [14] How narrow is the gate, and strait is the way that leadeth to life: and few there are that find it! [15] Beware of false prophets, who come to you in the clothing of sheep, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.[16] By their fruits you shall know them. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? [17] Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit, and the evil tree bringeth forth evil fruit. [18] A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can an evil tree bring forth good fruit. [19] Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit, shall be cut down, and shall be cast into the fire. [20] Wherefore by their fruits you shall know them.[21] Not every one that saith to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven: but he that doth the will of my Father who is in heaven, he shall enter into the kingdom of heaven. [22] Many will say to me in that day: Lord, Lord, have not we prophesied in thy name, and cast out devils in thy name, and done many miracles in thy name? [23] And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity. [24] Every one therefore that heareth these my words, and doth them, shall be likened to a wise man that built his house upon a rock, [25] And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and they beat upon that house, and it fell not, for it was founded on a rock. [26] And every one that heareth these my words, and doth them not, shall be like a foolish man that built his house upon the sand, [27] And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and they beat upon that house, and it fell, and great was the fall thereof. [28] And it came to pass when Jesus had fully ended these words, the people were in admiration at his doctrine. [29] For he was teaching them as one having power, and not as the scribes and Pharisees.

Commentary

For those committed to Benedictine spirituality, it is verses 24 to 27 that will have an especial resonance, for St Benedict uses them in the Prologue to his Rule.

St John Chrysostom's commentary provides a useful analysis of their spiritual meaning:

"By rain here, and floods, and winds, He is expressing metaphorically the calamities and afflictions that befall men; such as false accusations, plots, bereavements, deaths, loss of friends, vexations from strangers, all the ills in our life that any one could mention. But to none of these, says He, does such a soul give way; and the cause is, it is founded on the rock. He calls the steadfastness of His doctrine a rock; because in truth His commands are stronger than any rock, setting one above all the waves of human affairs. For he who keeps these things strictly, will not have the advantage of men only when they are vexing him, but even of the very devils plotting against him. And that it is not vain boasting so to speak, Job is our witness, who received all the assaults of the devil, and stood unmoveable; and the apostles too are our witnesses, for that when the waves of the whole world were beating against them, when both nations and princes, both their own people and strangers, both the evil spirits, and the devil, and every engine was set in motion, they stood firmer than a rock, and dispersed it all...Wherefore also He made His argument more expressive, by trying its force in a parable; for it was not the same thing to say, The virtuous man shall be impregnable, but the wicked easily subdued, as to suppose a rock, and a house, and rivers, and rain, and wind, and the like.  And every one, says He, that hears these sayings of mine, and does them not, shall be likened to a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand."

St Benedict's take on the verses though, is particularly comforting, I think, for having warned us that the way is not easy, and it is all too easy for us to be mislead, St Benedict makes it clear that it is not yet too late for us to amend, indeed, we are still alive for just this reason:

"Wherefore the Lord also saith in the Gospel: He that heareth these my words and doth them, shall be likened to a wise man that built his house upon a rock. The floods came and the winds blew, and they beat upon that house, and it fell not, for it was founded upon a rock. Having given us these instructions, the Lord daily expects us to make our life correspond with his holy admonitions. And the days of our life are lengthened and a respite allowed us for this very reason, that we may amend our evil ways. For the Apostle saith: Knowest thou not that the patience of God inviteth thee to repentance? For the merciful Lord saith: I will not the death of a sinner, but that he should be converted and live."(trans: J McCann)

Monday, 20 January 2014

Notes on Matthew 7: 1-12 - Who am I to judge?



Today's section of St Matthew's Gospel is jam-packed with important teaching.  The first few verses have gained some prominence in recent times amongst those who urge us not to be 'judgmental' about their public sins, such as advocacy of homosexuality and other secularist touchstones, and that is where I will focus my attention.

The other themes here, though, are very important.  Verse 6 is a warning about prudence concerning the audience for our messages.  Verses 7 to 11 deal with petitionary prayer.  And the section ends with a restatement of the Golden Rule.

The Latin

1 Nolite judicare, ut non judicemini. 2 In quo enim judicio judicaveritis, judicabimini: et in qua mensura mensi fueritis, remetietur vobis. 3 Quid autem vides festucam in oculo fratris tui, et trabem in oculo tuo non vides? 4 aut quomodo dicis fratri tuo: Sine ejiciam festucam de oculo tuo, et ecce trabs est in oculo tuo? 5 Hypocrita, ejice primum trabem de oculo tuo, et tunc videbis ejicere festucam de oculo fratris tui.6 Nolite dare sanctum canibus: neque mittatis margaritas vestras ante porcos, ne forte conculcent eas pedibus suis, et conversi dirumpant vos.7 Petite, et dabitur vobis: quærite, et invenietis: pulsate, et aperietur vobis. 8 Omnis enim qui petit, accipit: et qui quærit, invenit: et pulsanti aperietur. 9 Aut quis est ex vobis homo, quem si petierit filius suus panem, numquid lapidem porriget ei? 10 aut si piscem petierit, numquid serpentem porriget ei? 11 Si ergo vos, cum sitis mali, nostis bona data dare filiis vestris: quanto magis Pater vester, qui in cælis est, dabit bona petentibus se?12 Omnia ergo quæcumque vultis ut faciant vobis homines, et vos facite illis. Hæc est enim lex, et prophetæ.

The Douay-Rheims translation

[1] Judge not, that you may not be judged, [2] For with what judgment you judge, you shall be judged: and with what measure you mete, it shall be measured to you again. [3] And why seest thou the mote that is in thy brother' s eye; and seest not the beam that is in thy own eye? [4] Or how sayest thou to thy brother: Let me cast the mote out of thy eye; and behold a beam is in thy own eye? [5] Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam in thy own eye, and then shalt thou see to cast out the mote out of thy brother' s eye. [6] Give not that which is holy to dogs; neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest perhaps they trample them under their feet, and turning upon you, they tear you. [7] Ask, and it shall be given you: seek, and you shall find: knock, and it shall be opened to you. [8] For every one that asketh, receiveth: and he that seeketh, findeth: and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened. [9] Or what man is there among you, of whom if his son shall ask bread, will he reach him a stone? [10] Or if he shall ask him a fish, will he reach him a serpent? [11] If you then being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children: how much more will your Father who is in heaven, give good things to them that ask him? [12] All things therefore whatsoever you would that men should do to you, do you also to them. For this is the law and the prophets.

Commentary

The injunction 'judge not lest ye be judged' is often used, these days, in support of the new, entirely secularist virtue of tolerance.  But it has never been understood that way by the Church's tradition.

The key message is surely that we should always remember firstly that we too are sinners who could never survive final judgment if it came only to our own merits, thus should show mercy and compassion.  Secondly it is a reminder that we are not God: we can judge external actions, but we can't see into men's minds and judge their motivations and intentions, which form an essential element in ascertaining whether or not something is a sin.  And finally, in seeing what others do, we must always give priority to the need to address our own sins, and should forgive others freely for those they commit against us.  

But this is surely not an injunction not to act to ignore public scandal or the actions of those leading others into sin, particularly on the part of those entrusted by virtue of their office, such as priests and bishops, to doing just that.

Here is a selection of commentaries from the Catena Aurea:

JEROME; But if He forbids us to judge, how then does Paul judge the Corinthian who had committed uncleanness? Or Peter convict Ananias and Sapphira of falsehood? 

PSEUD-CHRYS. But some explain this place after a sense, as though the Lord did not herein forbid Christians to reprove others out of good will, but only intended that Christians should not despise Christians by making a show of their own righteousness, hating others often on Suspicion alone, condemning them, and pursuing private grudges under the show of piety. 

CHRYS. Wherefore He does not say, 'Do not cause a sinner to cease,' but do not judge; that is, be not a bitter judge; correct him indeed, but not as an enemy seeking revenge, but as a physician applying a remedy. 

CHRYS. Otherwise; He does not forbid us to judge all sin absolutely, but lays this prohibition on such as are themselves full of great evils, and judge others for very small evils. In like manner Paul does not absolutely forbid to judge those that sin, but finds fault with disciples that judged their teacher, and instructs us not to judge these that are above us. 

AUG. I suppose the command here to be no other than that we should always put the best interpretation on such actions as seem doubtful with what mind they were done. But concerning such as cannot be done with good purpose, as adulteries, blasphemies, and the like, He permits us to judge; but of indifferent actions which admit of being done with either good or bad purpose, it is rash to judge, but especially so to condemn. There are two cases in which we should be particularly on our guard against hasty judgments, when it does not appear with what mind the action was done; and when it does not yet appear, what sort of man any one may turn out, who now seems either good or bad. Wherefore we should neither blame those things of which we know with what mind they are done, nor so blame those things which are manifest, as though we despaired of recovery. Here one may think there is difficulty in what follows, with what judgment you judge you shall be judged. If we judge a hasty judgment, will God also judge us with the like? Or if we have measured with a false measure, is there with God a false measure whence it may be measured to us again? For by measure I suppose is here meant judgment. Surely this is only said, that the haste in which you punish another shall be itself your punishment. For injustice often does no harm to him who suffers the wrong; but must always hurt him who does the wrong. 

Lectio plan for the week

This week on this blog I plan to look at St John's Gospel Chapters 7-9.

Chapter 7 completes the Sermon on the Mount, while chapters 8-9 cover the calling of St Matthew, as well as a number of key miracles.

Rest of the Bible

For those following the (est of the Bible) in a year program, the suggested reading is Leviticus: you should be up to chapter 14 by now, and aiming to finish it by Friday.  The next book to get started on, from Saturday, is Sirach.

If you are struggling on Leviticus, yes, it is fairly tough going, and is probably best read fairly quickly, but it is important nonetheless.

It contains lots of detailed laws from which at one level we can only be glad that we have been freed! And its definitely not a book to listen to over lunch!

But it contains some key messages that are important for us to keep in mind, such as the importance of even the tiniest detail of liturgical action; the value of law for our good; the seriousness with which we should take the worship of God; and the motive for our quest for sanctity, namely God’s holiness.

Most of all though, Leviticus needs to be read symbolically as foreshadowing Christ and his saving sacrifice. It is essential pre-reading for Hebrews in particular, and needs to be read in the light of it.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Second Sunday after the Epiphany: John 2: 1-11


Today's Gospel is the story of the wedding at Cana, Our Lord's first public miracle.

The Latin:

1 Et die tertia nuptiæ factæ sunt in Cana Galilææ, et erat mater Jesu ibi. 2 Vocatus est autem et Jesus, et discipuli ejus, ad nuptias. 3 Et deficiente vino, dicit mater Jesu ad eum: Vinum non habent. 4 Et dicit ei Jesus: Quid mihi et tibi est, mulier? nondum venit hora mea. 5 Dicit mater ejus ministris: Quodcumque dixerit vobis, facite. 6 Erant autem ibi lapideæ hydriæ sex positæ secundum purificationem Judæorum, capientes singulæ metretas binas vel ternas. 7 Dicit eis Jesus: Implete hydrias aqua. Et impleverunt eas usque ad summum. 8 Et dicit eis Jesus: Haurite nunc, et ferte architriclino. Et tulerunt. 9 Ut autem gustavit architriclinus aquam vinum factam, et non sciebat unde esset, ministri autem sciebant, qui hauserant aquam: vocat sponsum architriclinus, 10 et dicit ei: Omnis homo primum bonum vinum ponit et cum inebriati fuerint, tunc id, quod deterius est. Tu autem servasti bonum vinum usque adhuc. 11 Hoc fecit initium signorum Jesus in Cana Galilææ; et manifestavit gloriam suam, et crediderunt in eum discipuli ejus.

The English:

And the third day, there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee: and the mother of Jesus was there. [2] And Jesus also was invited, and his disciples, to the marriage. [3] And the wine failing, the mother of Jesus saith to him: They have no wine. [4] And Jesus saith to her: Woman, what is that to me and to thee? my hour is not yet come. [5] His mother saith to the waiters: Whatsoever he shall say to you, do ye. [6] Now there were set there six waterpots of stone, according to the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three measures apiece. [7] Jesus saith to them: Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. [8] And Jesus saith to them: Draw out now, and carry to the chief steward of the feast. And they carried it. [9] And when the chief steward had tasted the water made wine, and knew not whence it was, but the waiters knew who had drawn the water; the chief steward calleth the bridegroom, [10] And saith to him: Every man at first setteth forth good wine, and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse. But thou hast kept the good wine until now. [11] This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee; and manifested his glory, and his disciples believed in him. 

Commentary

Today's Gospel, the story of the wedding at Cana, attests to several key truths of the faith, including the role of Our Lady as intercessor with her son, and the elevation of matrimony to the status of a sacrament.

In addition, the changing of the water into wine is often viewed as a type of transubstantiation, while the keeping of the good wine to last can be seen as a reference to the superiority of the new dispensation of grace over that of the law and the prophets.

There is one other key piece of typology though that can be derived from this text, on Christ as the true bridegroom, that I would like to focus on today.

In the readings for Matins today St Augustine comments:

"Neither are those without nuptials who vow their virginity to God.  They have thereby attained to an higher degree of honour and holiness in the Church, for they, together with the whole Church participate in those nuptials in which the Spouse is Christ."

It has become fashionable, in our time, to denigrate and attack celibacy and/or virginity for the sake of the kingdom, with even many within the Church seeing the recognition of this as a  higher calling as somehow denigrating the sacrament of marriage.  Nothing could be further from the case, for this is a case of 'good/better/best', as St Bede comments:

"But because conjugal chastity is good, and better still the continence of the bereaved spouse, and virginal perfection best of all, and so he may approve the choosing of all three grades of life."

Yet the state of virginity is exulted in Our Lady because it most closely mirrors the relationship between God and us, and it is that broader imagery of Christ as the bridegroom that echoes through the propers of today's Mass.  Dom Gueranger comments, for example that the Introit (Psalm 65:1-2, 4) "proclaims the joy of this day, which shows us human nature espoused to the Son of the eternal Father..."

Let us meditate then, on that mystical mystical marriage to which Christ invites us through his bride the Church.