Friday, 31 January 2014

Matthew 12:1-21

St Matthew 12 includes some of those robust exchanges with the Pharisees, involving some name calling on the part of Our Lord (ye brood of vipers, etc) that tends to be somehow bypassed by the WWJD/tolerance and niceness crowd.  Today's section of the text sets the scene, with a discussion (and demonstration) of what it is lawful to do on the sabbath:

In illo tempore abiit Jesus per sata sabbato: discipuli autem ejus esurientes cœperunt vellere spicas, et manducare. 2 Pharisæi autem videntes, dixerunt ei: Ecce discipuli tui faciunt quod non licet facere sabbatis. 3 At ille dixit eis: Non legistis quid fecerit David, quando esuriit, et qui cum eo erant: 4 quomodo intravit in domum Dei, et panes propositionis comedit, quos non licebat ei edere, neque his qui cum eo erant, nisi solis sacerdotibus? 5 aut non legistis in lege quia sabbatis sacerdotes in templo sabbatum violant, et sine crimine sunt? 6 Dico autem vobis, quia templo major est hic. 7 Si autem sciretis, quid est: Misericordiam volo, et non sacrificium: numquam condemnassetis innocentes: 8 dominus enim est Filius hominis etiam sabbati. 9 Et cum inde transisset, venit in synagogam eorum. 10 Et ecce homo manum habens aridam, et interrogabant eum, dicentes: Si licet sabbatis curare? ut accusarent eum. 11 Ipse autem dixit illis: Quis erit ex vobis homo, qui habeat ovem unam, et si ceciderit hæc sabbatis in foveam, nonne tenebit et levabit eam? 12 Quanto magis melior est homo ove? itaque licet sabbatis benefacere. 13 Tunc ait homini: Extende manum tuam. Et extendit, et restituta est sanitati sicut altera.14 Exeuntes autem pharisæi, consilium faciebant adversus eum, quomodo perderent eum. 15 Jesus autem sciens recessit inde: et secuti sunt eum multi, et curavit eos omnes: 16 et præcepit eis ne manifestum eum facerent. 17 Ut adimpleretur quod dictum est per Isaiam prophetam, dicentem: 18 Ecce puer meus, quem elegi, dilectus meus, in quo bene complacuit animæ meæ. Ponam spiritum meum super eum,et judicium gentibus nuntiabit. 19 Non contendet, neque clamabit, neque audiet aliquis in plateis vocem ejus: 20 arundinem quassatam non confringet, et linum fumigans non extinguet, donec ejiciat ad victoriam judicium: 21 et in nomine ejus gentes sperabunt.

And in English:

At that time Jesus went through the corn on the sabbath: and his disciples being hungry, began to pluck the ears, and to eat. [2] And the Pharisees seeing them, said to him: Behold thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do on the sabbath days. [3] But he said to them: Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and they that were with him: [4] How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the loaves of proposition, which it was not lawful for him to eat, nor for them that were with him, but for the priests only? [5] Or have ye not read in the law, that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple break the sabbath, and are without blame? [6] But I tell you that there is here a greater than the temple. [7] And if you knew what this meaneth: I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: you would never have condemned the innocent. [8] For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath. [9] And when he had passed from thence, he came into their synagogues. [10] And behold there was a man who had a withered hand, and they asked him, saying: Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days? that they might accuse him.[11] But he said to them: What man shall there be among you, that hath one sheep: and if the same fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not take hold on it and lift it up? [12] How much better is a man than a sheep? Therefore it is lawful to do a good deed on the sabbath days. [13] Then he saith to the man: Stretch forth thy hand; and he stretched it forth, and it was restored to health even as the other. [14] And the Pharisees going out made a consultation against him, how they might destroy him. [15] But Jesus knowing it, retired from thence: and many followed him, and he healed them all. [16] And he charged them that they should not make him known. [17] That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaias the prophet, saying: [18] Behold my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved in whom my soul hath been well pleased. I will put my spirit upon him, and he shall shew judgment to the Gentiles. [19] He shall not contend, nor cry out, neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets. [20] The bruised reed he shall not break: and smoking flax he shall not extinguish: till he send forth judgment unto victory. [21] And in his name the Gentiles shall hope. 


In reflecting on  this passage, St John Chrysostom first adds the summary of the teaching from this incident provided in St Mark's Gospel:

After this He mentions another reason likewise; For the Son of man, says He, is Lord of the Sabbath day; Matthew 12:8 speaking it of Himself. But Mark relates Him to have said this of our common nature also; for He said, The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. Mark 2:27

The point is that the sabbath is meant to benefit us, not hurt:

For indeed the Sabbath did at the first confer many and great benefits; for instance, it made them gentle towards those of their household, and humane; it taught them God's providence and the creation, as Ezekiel says; Ezekiel 20:12 it trained them by degrees to abstain from wickedness, and disposed them to regard the things of the Spirit.

For because they could not have borne it, if when He was giving the law for the Sabbath, He had said, Do your good works on the Sabbath, but do not the works which are evil, therefore He restrained them from all alike for, You must do nothing at all, says He: and not even so were they kept in order. But He Himself, in the very act of giving the law of the Sabbath, did even therein darkly signify that He will have them refrain from the evil works only, by the saying, You must do no work, except what shall be done for your life. And in the temple too all went on, and with more diligence and double toil. Numbers 28:9-10 Thus even by the very shadow He was secretly opening unto them the truth.

St John goes on to argue that far from abolishing the sabbath rest, Christ enhanced it in ways consistent with the law of grace:

Did Christ then, it will be said, repeal a thing so highly profitable? Far from it; nay, He greatly enhanced it. For it was time for them to be trained in all things by the higher rules, and it was unnecessary that his hands should be bound, who was freed from wickedness, winged for all good works; or that men should hereby learn that God made all things; or that they should so be made gentle, who are called to imitate God's own love to mankind (for He says, Be merciful, as your Heavenly Father); Luke 6:36 or that they should make one day a festival, who are commanded to keep a feast all their life long; (For let us keep the feast, it is said, not with old leaven, neither with leaven of malice and wickedness; but with unleavened bread of sincerity and truth); 1 Corinthians 5:8 as neither need they stand by an ark and a golden altar, who have the very Lord of all for their inmate, and in all things hold communion with Him; by prayer, and by oblation, and by scriptures, and by almsgiving, and by having Him within them. Lo now, why is any Sabbath required, by him who is always keeping the feast, whose conversation is in Heaven?

Let us keep the feast then continually, and do no evil thing; for this is a feast: and let our spiritual things be made intense, while our earthly things give place: and let us rest a spiritual rest, refraining our hands from covetousness; withdrawing our body from our superfluous and unprofitable toils, from such as the people of the Hebrews did of old endure in Egypt. 

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Matthew 11:20-30

St Matthew 11 concludes with a call to conversion and penance, with its concluding words perhaps most familiar in their setting by Handel, where the libretto links the Gospel text with the prophecies it refers back to in the opening verses from Isaiah.

Matthew 11

20 Tunc cœpit exprobrare civitatibus, in quibus factæ sunt plurimæ virtutes ejus, quia non egissent pœnitentiam: 21 Væ tibi Corozain, væ tibi Bethsaida: quia, si in Tyro et Sidone factæ essent virtutes quæ factæ sunt in vobis, olim in cilicio et cinere pœnitentiam egissent. 22 Verumtamen dico vobis: Tyro et Sidoni remissius erit in die judicii, quam vobis. 23 Et tu Capharnaum, numquid usque in cælum exaltaberis? usque in infernum descendes, quia si in Sodomis factæ fuissent virtutes quæ factæ sunt in te, forte mansissent usque in hanc diem. 24 Verumtamen dico vobis, quia terræ Sodomorum remissius erit in die judicii, quam tibi.25 In illo tempore respondens Jesus dixit: Confiteor tibi, Pater, Domine cæli et terræ, quia abscondisti hæc a sapientibus, et prudentibus, et revelasti ea parvulis. 26 Ita Pater: quoniam sic fuit placitum ante te. 27 Omnia mihi tradita sunt a Patre meo. Et nemo novit Filium, nisi Pater: neque Patrem quis novit, nisi Filius, et cui voluerit Filius revelare.28 Venite ad me omnes qui laboratis, et onerati estis, et ego reficiam vos. 29 Tollite jugum meum super vos, et discite a me, quia mitis sum, et humilis corde: et invenietis requiem animabus vestris. 30 Jugum enim meum suave est, et onus meum leve.

And the English:

[20] Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein were done the most of his miracles, for that they had not done penance. [21] Woe to thee, Corozain, woe to thee, Bethsaida: for if in Tyre and Sidon had been wrought the miracles that have been wrought in you, they had long ago done penance in sackcloth and ashes. [22] But I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment, than for you. [23] And thou Capharnaum, shalt thou be exalted up to heaven? thou shalt go down even unto hell. For if in Sodom had been wrought the miracles that have been wrought in thee, perhaps it had remained unto this day. [24] But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee. [25] At that time Jesus answered and said: I confess to thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them to the little ones. [26] Yea, Father; for so hath it seemed good in thy sight. [27] All things are delivered to me by my Father. And no one knoweth the Son, but the Father: neither doth any one know the Father, but the Son, and he to whom it shall please the Son to reveal him. [28] Come to me, all you that labour, and are burdened, and I will refresh you. [29] Take up my yoke upon you, and learn of me, because I am meek, and humble of heart: and you shall find rest to your souls. [30] For my yoke is sweet and my burden light.


What is the connection between the dire warnings on the fate of evil cities, and the injunction to rest in Christ?  St John Chrysostom explains, in Homily 38 on St Matthew:

Next, having brought them by His words to an earnest desire, and having signified His unspeakable power, He after that invites them, saying, Come unto me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28 Not this or that person, but all that are in anxiety, in sorrows, in sins. Come, not that I may call you to account, but that I may do away your sins; come, not that I want your honor, but that I want your salvation. For I, says He, will give you rest. He said not, I will save you, only; but what was much more, I will place you in all security.

Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart; and you shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Matthew 11:29-30 Thus, be not afraid, says He, hearing of a yoke, for it is easy: fear not, because I said, a burden, for it is light.

And how said He before, The gate is narrow and the way strait? Matthew 7:13 Whilst you are careless, while you are supine; whereas, if you duly perform His words, the burden will be light; wherefore also He has now called it so.

But how are they duly performed? If you have become lowly, and meek, and gentle. For this virtue is the mother of all strictness of life. Wherefore also, when beginning those divine laws, with this He began. Matthew 5:3 And here again He does the very same, and exceeding great is the reward He appoints. For not to another only do you become serviceable; but yourself also above all you refresh, says He. For you shall find rest unto your souls...

And how, some one may say, is the burden light, when He says, Except one hate father and mother; and, Whosoever takes not up his cross, and follows after me, is not worthy of me: and, Whosoever forsakes not all that he has, cannot be my disciple: when He commands even to give up our very life? Matthew 16:25 Let Paul teach you, saying, Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Romans 8:35  And that, The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us. Romans 8:18 Let those teach you, who return from the council of the Jews after plenty of stripes, and rejoice that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for the name of Christ. Acts 5:41 And if you are still afraid and tremblest at hearing of the yoke and the burden, the fear comes not of the nature of the thing, but of your remissness; since if you are prepared, and in earnest, all will be easy to you and light. Since for this cause Christ also, to signify that we too must needs labor ourselves, did not mention the gracious things only, and then hold His peace, nor the painful things only, but set down both. Thus He both spoke of a yoke, and called it easy; both named a burden, and added that it was light; that you should neither flee from them as toilsome, nor despise them as over easy...

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Notes on Matthew 11:1-19

The first section of St Matthew 11 returns us to the ministry of St John the Baptist.  St John is now in prison, but the exchanges between him and Jesus go the prophesies fulfilled in each.  Verses 2-10 are the Gospel for the Second Week of Advent:

Et factum est, cum consummasset Jesus, præcipiens duodecim discipulis suis, transiit inde ut doceret, et prædicaret in civitatibus eorum. 2 Joannes autem cum audisset in vinculis opera Christi, mittens duos de discipulis suis, 3 ait illi: Tu es, qui venturus es, an alium exspectamus? 4 Et respondens Jesus ait illis: Euntes renuntiate Joanni quæ audistis, et vidistis. 5 Cæci vident, claudi ambulant, leprosi mundantur, surdi audiunt, mortui resurgunt, pauperes evangelizantur: 6 et beatus est, qui non fuerit scandalizatus in me.7 Illis autem abeuntibus, cœpit Jesus dicere ad turbas de Joanne: Quid existis in desertum videre? arundinem vento agitatam? 8 Sed quid existis videre? hominem mollibus vestitum? Ecce qui mollibus vestiuntur, in domibus regum sunt. 9 Sed quid existis videre? prophetam? Etiam dico vobis, et plus quam prophetam. 10 Hic est enim de quo scriptum est: Ecce ego mitto angelum meum ante faciem tuam, qui præparabit viam tuam ante te. 11 Amen dico vobis, non surrexit inter natos mulierum major Joanne Baptista: qui autem minor est in regno cælorum, major est illo. 12 A diebus autem Joannis Baptistæ usque nunc, regnum cælorum vim patitur, et violenti rapiunt illud. 13 Omnes enim prophetæ et lex usque ad Joannem prophetaverunt: 14 et si vultis recipere, ipse est Elias, qui venturus est. 15 Qui habet aures audiendi, audiat. 16 Cui autem similem æstimabo generationem istam? Similis est pueris sedentibus in foro: qui clamantes coæqualibus 17 dicunt: Cecinimus vobis, et non saltastis: lamentavimus, et non planxistis. 18 Venit enim Joannes neque manducans, neque bibens, et dicunt: Dæmonium habet. 19 Venit Filius hominis manducans, et bibens, et dicunt: Ecce homo vorax, et potator vini, publicanorum et peccatorum amicus. Et justificata est sapientia a filiis suis.

And in the Douay-Rheims translation:

And it came to pass, when Jesus had made an end of commanding his twelve disciples, he passed from thence, to teach and preach in their cities. [2] Now when John had heard in prison the works of Christ: sending two of his disciples he said to him: [3] Art thou he that art to come, or look we for another? [4] And Jesus making answer said to them: Go and relate to John what you have heard and seen. [5] The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead rise again, the poor have the gospel preached to them.[6] And blessed is he that shall not be scandalized in me. [7] And when they went their way, Jesus began to say to the multitudes concerning John: What went you out into the desert to see? a reed shaken with the wind? [8] But what went you out to see? a man clothed in soft garments? Behold they that are clothed in soft garments, are in the houses of kings. [9] But what went you out to see? a prophet? yea I tell you, and more than a prophet. [10] For this is he of whom it is written: Behold I send my angel before thy face, who shall prepare thy way before thee. [11] Amen I say to you, there hath not risen among them that are born of women a greater than John the Baptist: yet he that is the lesser in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. [12] And from the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent bear it away. [13] For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John: [14] And if you will receive it, he is Elias that is to come. [15] He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.[16] But whereunto shall I esteem this generation to be like? It is like to children sitting in the market place. [17] Who crying to their companions say: We have piped to you, and you have not danced: we have lamented, and you have not mourned. [18] For John came neither eating nor drinking; and they say: He hath a devil. [19] The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say: Behold a man that is a glutton and a wine drinker, a friend of publicans and sinners. And wisdom is justified by her children.


Why does St John send messengers to Jesus:

JEROME; Therefore he does not ask as being himself ignorant. But as the Savior asks where Lazarus is buried, in order that they who showed Him the sepulcher might be so far prepared for faith, and believe that the dead was verily raised again - so John, about to be put to death by Herod, sends his disciples to Christ, that by this opportunity of seeing His signs and wonders they might believe in Him, and so might learn through their master's inquiry. But John's disciples had somewhat of bitterness and jealousy towards the Lord, as their former inquiry showed, Why do you and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples fast not? 

CHRYS. Yet whilst John was with them he held them rightly convinced concerning Christ. But when he was going to die, he was more concerned on their behalf. For he feared that he might leave his disciples a prey to some pernicious doctrine, and that they should remain separate from Christ, to whom it had been his care to bring all his followers from the beginning. Had he said to them, Depart from me, for He is better than me, he would not have prevailed with them, as they would have supposed that he spoke this in humility, which opinion would have drawn them more closely to him. What then does he? He waits to hear through them that Christ works miracles. Nor did he send all, but two only, (whom perhaps he chose as more ready to believe than the rest,) that the reason of his inquiry might be unsuspected, and that from the things themselves which they should see they might understand the difference between him and Jesus. 

HILARY; John then is providing not for his own, but his disciples' ignorance; that they might know that it was no other whom he had proclaimed, he sent them to see His works, that the works might establish what John had spoken; and that they should not look for any other Christ, than Him to whom His works had borne testimony. 

CHRYS. So also Christ as knowing the mind of John, said not, I am He; for thus He would have put an obstacle in the way of those that heard Him, who would have at least thought within themselves, if they did not say, what the Jews did say to Christ, You bear witness of yourself. Therefore He would have them learn from His miracles, and so presented His doctrine to them more clear, and without suspicion. For the testimony of deeds is stronger than the testimony of words. Therefore He straightway healed a number of blind, and lame, and many other, for the sake not of John who had knowledge, but of others who doubted; as it follows, And Jesus answered and said to them, Go and tell John what you have heard and seen; The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the Gospel preached to them. 

How then, should we treat St John's example of austerity:

JEROME; This teaches that an austere life and strict preaching ought to shun kings' courts and the palaces of the rich and luxurious. 

GREG; Let one suppose that there is nothing sinful in luxury and rich dress; if pursuit of such things had been blameless, the Lord would not have thus commended John for the coarseness of his raiment, nor would Peter have checked the desire of fine clothes in women as he does, Not in costly raiment. 

AUG. In all such things we blame not the use of the things, but the lust of those that use them. For whoever uses the good things in his reach more sparingly than are the habits of those with whom he lives, is either temperate or superstitious. Whoever again uses them in a measure exceeding the practice of the good among whom he lives, either has some meaning therein, or else is dissolute. 

JEROME; Mystically; The desert is that which is deserted of the Holy Spirit, where there is no habitation of God; in the reed is signified a man who in outward show lives a pious life, but lacks all real fruit within himself, fair outside, within hollow, moved unclean with every breath of wind, that is, with every impulse of unclean spirits, having no firmness to remain still, devoid of the marrow of the soul; by the garment wherewith his body is clothed is his mind strewn, that it is lost in luxury and self-indulgence. The kings are the fallen angels; they are they who are powerful in this life, and the lords of this world. Thus, They that are clothed in soft raiment are in kings' houses; that is, those whose bodies are enervated and destroyed by luxury, it is clear are possessed by demons 

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Notes on Matthew 10:24-42

Today's section of St Matthew's Gospel (selections of which are used in the Masses of a martyr) continues Jesus' instructions to the disciples before sending them out on mission:

24 Non est discipulus super magistrum, nec servus super dominum suum: 25 sufficit discipulo ut sit sicut magister ejus, et servo, sicut dominus ejus. Si patremfamilias Beelzebub vocaverunt, quanto magis domesticos ejus? 26 Ne ergo timueritis eos. Nihil enim est opertum, quod non revelabitur: et occultum, quod non scietur. 27 Quod dico vobis in tenebris, dicite in lumine: et quod in aure auditis, prædicate super tecta. 28 Et nolite timere eos qui occidunt corpus, animam autem non possunt occidere: sed potius timete eum, qui potest et animam et corpus perdere in gehennam. 29 Nonne duo passeres asse veneunt? et unus ex illis non cadet super terram sine Patre vestro. 30 Vestri autem capilli capitis omnes numerati sunt. 31 Nolite ergo timere: multis passeribus meliores estis vos. 32 Omnis ergo qui confitebitur me coram hominibus, confitebor et ego eum coram Patre meo, qui in cælis est. 33 Qui autem negaverit me coram hominibus, negabo et ego eum coram Patre meo, qui in cælis est.34 Nolite arbitrari quia pacem venerim mittere in terram: non veni pacem mittere, sed gladium: 35 veni enim separare hominem adversus patrem suum, et filiam adversus matrem suam, et nurum adversus socrum suam: 36 et inimici hominis, domestici ejus. 37 Qui amat patrem aut matrem plus quam me, non est me dignus: et qui amat filium aut filiam super me, non est me dignus. 38 Et qui non accipit crucem suam, et sequitur me, non est me dignus. 39 Qui invenit animam suam, perdet illam: et qui perdiderit animam suam propter me, inveniet eam. 40 Qui recipit vos, me recipit: et qui me recipit, recipit eum qui me misit. 41 Qui recipit prophetam in nomine prophetæ, mercedem prophetæ accipiet: et qui recipit justum in nomine justi, mercedem justi accipiet. 42 Et quicumque potum dederit uni ex minimis istis calicem aquæ frigidæ tantum in nomine discipuli: amen dico vobis, non perdet mercedem suam.

Here is the Douay-Rheims version:

[24] The disciple is not above the master, nor the servant above his lord. [25] It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the goodman of the house Beelzebub, how much more them of his household? [26] Therefore fear them not. For nothing is covered that shall not be revealed: nor hid, that shall not be known. [27] That which I tell you in the dark, speak ye in the light: and that which you hear in the ear, preach ye upon the housetops. [28] And fear ye not them that kill the body, and are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him that can destroy both soul and body in hell. [29] Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and not one of them shall fall on the ground without your Father. [30] But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. [31] Fear not therefore: better are you than many sparrows. [32] Every one therefore that shall confess me before men, I will also confess him before my Father who is in heaven. [33] But he that shall deny me before men, I will also deny him before my Father who is in heaven. [34] Do not think that I came to send peace upon earth: I came not to send peace, but the sword. [35] For I came to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. [36] And a man' s enemies shall be they of his own household. [37] He that loveth father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than me, is not worthy of me. [38] And he that taketh not up his cross, and followeth me, is not worthy of me. [39] He that findeth his life, shall lose it: and he that shall lose his life for me, shall find it. [40] He that receiveth you, receiveth me: and he that receiveth me, receiveth him that sent me. [41] He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet, shall receive the reward of a prophet: and he that receiveth a just man in the name of a just man, shall receive the reward of a just man. [42] And whosoever shall give to drink to one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, amen I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.


There is so much packed into this brief set of verses that we could spend many days on it!  But one point that strikes me as particularly important in our times is the injunction not to fear those who would kill us, so much as those who would kill the soul.

We live in a society where fear of death has become so overwhelming that it seeks to avoid any pain through options like euthanasia.  Where the life of animals - those many sparrows - is elevated above that of man.  Consider then, what St John Chrysostom has to say on the subject:

"Then, because He had lifted them up on high, He again gives warning of the perils also, adding wings to their mind, and exalting them high above all. For what says He? Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul. Matthew 10:28 Do you see how He set them far above all things, persuading them to despise not anxiety only and calumny, dangers and plots, but even that which is esteemed of all things most terrible, death? And not death alone, but by violence too? And He said not, you shall be slain, but with the dignity that became Him, He set this before them, saying, Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear Him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell; bringing round the argument, as He ever does, to its opposite. For what? Is your fear, says He, of death? And are you therefore slow to preach? Nay for this very cause I bid you preach, that you fear death: for this shall deliver you from that which is really death. What though they shall slay you? Yet over the better part they shall not prevail, though they strive ten thousand ways. Therefore He said not, Who do not kill the soul, but, who are not able to kill. For wish it as they may, they shall not prevail. Wherefore, if you fear punishment, fear that, the more grievous by far.

Do you see how again He does not promise them deliverance from death, but permits them to die, granting them more than if He had not allowed them to suffer it? Because deliverance from death is not near so great as persuading men to despise death. You see now, He does not push them into dangers, but sets them above dangers, and in a short sentence fixes in their mind the doctrines that relate to the immortality of the soul, and having in two or three words implanted a saving doctrine, He comforts them also by other considerations.

Thus, lest they should think, when killed and butchered, that as men forsaken they suffered this, He introduces again the argument of God's providence, saying on this wise: Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And one of them shall not fall into a snare without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Matthew 10:29-30 For what is viler than they? says He; nevertheless, not even these shall be taken without God's knowledge. For He means not this, by His operation they fall, for this were unworthy of God; but, nothing that is done is hid from Him. If then He is not ignorant of anything that befalls us, and loves us more truly than a father, and so loves us, as to have numbered our very hairs; we ought not to be afraid. And this He said, not that God numbers our hairs, but that He might indicate His perfect knowledge, and His great providence over them. If therefore He both knows all the things that are done, and is able to save you, and willing; whatever ye may have to suffer, think not that as persons forsaken ye suffer. For neither is it His will to deliver you from the terrors, but to persuade you to despise them, since this is, more than anything, deliverance from the terrors."

Monday, 27 January 2014

Notes on Matthew 10: 1-23

This week I plan to look at  St Matthew's Gospel, chapters 10-12, dealing with chapter 12 in three parts, and so aiming to finish it next Monday.

Chapter 10 of St Matthew deals with the first preaching mission for the Twelve:

Et convocatis duodecim discipulis suis, dedit illis potestatem spirituum immundorum, ut ejicerent eos, et curarent omnem languorem, et omnem infirmitatem. 2 Duodecim autem Apostolorum nomina sunt hæc. Primus, Simon, qui dicitur Petrus: et Andreas frater ejus, 3 Jacobus Zebedæi, et Joannes frater ejus, Philippus, et Bartholomæus, Thomas, et Matthæus publicanus, Jacobus Alphæi, et Thaddæus, 4 Simon Chananæus, et Judas Iscariotes, qui et tradidit eum.5 Hos duodecim misit Jesus, præcipiens eis, dicens: In viam gentium ne abieritis, et in civitates Samaritanorum ne intraveritis: 6 sed potius ite ad oves quæ perierunt domus Israël. 7 Euntes autem prædicate, dicentes: Quia appropinquavit regnum cælorum. 8 Infirmos curate, mortuos suscitate, leprosos mundate, dæmones ejicite: gratis accepistis, gratis date. 9 Nolite possidere aurum, neque argentum, neque pecuniam in zonis vestris: 10 non peram in via, neque duas tunicas, neque calceamenta, neque virgam: dignus enim est operarius cibo suo. 11 In quamcumque autem civitatem aut castellum intraveritis, interrogate, quis in ea dignus sit: et ibi manete donec exeatis. 12 Intrantes autem in domum, salutate eam, dicentes: Pax huic domui. 13 Et siquidem fuerit domus illa digna, veniet pax vestra super eam: si autem non fuerit digna, pax vestra revertetur ad vos. 14 Et quicumque non receperit vos, neque audierit sermones vestros: exeunte foras de domo, vel civitate, excutite pulverem de pedibus vestris. 15 Amen dico vobis: Tolerabilius erit terræ Sodomorum et Gomorrhæorum in die judicii, quam illi civitati.16 Ecce ego mitto vos sicut oves in medio luporum. Estote ergo prudentes sicut serpentes, et simplices sicut columbæ. 17 Cavete autem ab hominibus. Tradent enim vos in conciliis, et in synagogis suis flagellabunt vos: 18 et ad præsides, et ad reges ducemini propter me in testimonium illis, et gentibus. 19 Cum autem tradent vos, nolite cogitare quomodo, aut quid loquamini: dabitur enim vobis in illa hora, quid loquamini: 20 non enim vos estis qui loquimini, sed Spiritus Patris vestri, qui loquitur in vobis. 21 Tradet autem frater fratrem in mortem, et pater filium: et insurgent filii in parentes, et morte eos afficient: 22 et eritis odio omnibus propter nomen meum: qui autem perseveraverit usque in finem, hic salvus erit. 23 Cum autem persequentur vos in civitate ista, fugite in aliam. Amen dico vobis, non consummabitis civitates Israël, donec veniat Filius hominis.

And in the Douay Rheims translation:

And having called his twelve disciples together, he gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of diseases, and all manner of infirmities. [2] And the names of the twelve apostles are these: The first, Simon who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, [3] James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, Philip and Bartholomew, Thomas and Matthew the publican, and James the son of Alpheus, and Thaddeus, [4] Simon the Cananean, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him. [5] These twelve Jesus sent: commanding them, saying: Go ye not into the way of the Gentiles, and into the city of the Samaritans enter ye not.[6] But go ye rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. [7] And going, preach, saying: The kingdom of heaven is at hand. [8] Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out devils: freely have you received, freely give. [9] Do not possess gold, nor silver, nor money in your purses: [10] Nor scrip for your journey, nor two coats, nor shoes, nor a staff; for the workman is worthy of his meat.[11] And into whatsoever city or town you shall enter, inquire who in it is worthy, and there abide till you go thence. [12] And when you come into the house, salute it, saying: Peace be to this house. [13] And if that house be worthy, your peace shall come upon it; but if it be not worthy, your peace shall return to you. [14] And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words: going forth out of that house or city shake off the dust from your feet. [15] Amen I say to you, it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city.[16] Behold I send you as sheep in the midst of wolves. Be ye therefore wise as serpents and simple as doves. [17] But beware of men. For they will deliver you up in councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues. [18] And you shall be brought before governors, and before kings for my sake, for a testimony to them and to the Gentiles: [19] But when they shall deliver you up, take no thought how or what to speak: for it shall be given you in that hour what to speak. [20] For it is not you that speak, but the Spirit of your Father that speaketh in you.[21] The brother also shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the son: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and shall put them to death. [22] And you shall be hated by all men for my name' s sake: but he that shall persevere unto the end, he shall be saved. [23] And when they shall persecute you in this city, flee into another. Amen I say to you, you shall not finish all the cities of Israel, till the Son of man come.


We live in a time with much talk about the need for the 'New Evangelization', but very little actual practical action.  Indeed, I've often heard it suggested that door to door evangelisation is not particularly 'catholic'.  In a world where virtually everyone was Catholic, such an attitude might be understandable; in a world where even the baptised are mostly uncatechized, rather less so!  Bishops (and priests) are responsible for all those who live within their territories, not just those that turn up at at their church.  So perhaps more of our bishops should take to heart the example of the sending out of the Apostles...

Here is some of what the Catena Aurea has to say on the subject:

"GLOSS; Because the manifestation of the Spirit, as the Apostle speaks, is given for the profit of the Church, after bestowing His power on the Apostles, He sends them that they may exercise this power for the good of others; These twelve Jesus sent forth. 

JEROME; This passage does not contradict the command which He gave afterwards, Go and teach all nations; for this was before His resurrection , that was after. And it was necessary the coming of Christ to be preached to the Jews first, that they might not have any just plea, or say that they were rejected of the Lord, who sent the Apostles to the Gentiles and Samaritans. 

CHRYS; Also they were sent to the Jews first, in order that being trained in Judea, as in a palaestra, they might enter on the arena of the world to contend; thus He taught them like weak nestlings to fly. 

GREG; Or He would be first preached to Judea and afterwards to the Gentiles, in order that the preaching of the Redeemer should seem to seek out foreign lands only because it had been rejected in His own. There were also at that time some among the Jews who should be called, and among the Gentiles some who were not to be called, as being unworthy of being renewed to life, and yet not deserving of the aggravated punishment which would ensue upon their rejection of the Apostles' preaching. 

GLOSS; Having told them to whom they should go, He now introduces what they should preach; Go and preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. 

RABAN; The kingdom of heaven is here said to draw nigh by the faith in the unseen Creator which is bestowed upon us, not by any movement of the visible elements. The saints are rightly denoted by the heavens, because they contain God by faith, and love Him with affection. 

CHRYS; Behold the greatness of their ministry, behold the dignity of the Apostles. They are not to preach of any thing that can be an object of sense, as Moses and the Prophets did; but things new and unhooked for; those preached earthly goods, but these the kingdom of heaven and all the goods that are there. 

GREG; The Holy Church daily does spiritually, what it then did materially by the Apostles; yea, things far greater, inasmuch as she raises and cures souls and not bodies. 

REMIG; The sick are the slothful who have not strength to live well; the lepers are the unclean in sin and animal delights; the demoniacs are they that are given up under the power of the Devil. 

JEROME; And because spiritual gifts are more lightly esteemed when money is made the means of obtaining them, He adds a condemnation of avarice; Freely you have received, freely give; I your Master and Lord have imparted these to you without price, do you therefore give them to others in like manner, that the free grace of the Gospel be not corrupted. 

GREG; For He knew before that there would be some that would turn the gift of the Spirit which they had received into merchandise, and pervert the power of miracles into an instrument of their covetousness.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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)