2 John sendeth his disciples to Christ. 7 Christ’s testimony concerning John. 18 The opinion of the people, both concerning John and Christ. 20 Christ upbraideth the unthankfulness and unrepentance of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum. 25 and praising his Father’s wisdom in revealing the gospel to the simple. 28 he calleth to him all such as feel the burden of their sins.
ND it came to pass, when Jesus had made an end of commanding his twelve disciples, he departed then to teach and to preach in their cities.
Douay Rheims Version
John sends his disciples to Christ, who upbraids the Jews for their incredulity, and calls to him such as are sensible of their burdens.
ND it came to pass, when Jesus had made an end of commanding his twelve disciples, he passed from thence, to teach and to preach in their cities.
4. And Jesus making answer said to them: Go and relate to John what you have heard and seen.
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.
And it came to pass, &c. He passed from thence: That means, He separated Himself from His Apostles, whom He sent to preach the Gospel by themselves, both that they might prepare the way for Christ who was about to follow them, and that they might make trial of themselves and their courage in this Mission, being separated from their Master. What the Apostles did when thus sent forth by Christ, S. Matthew is silent upon, but S. Luke relates it (ix. 6), and so does S. Mark (vi. 12).
That they should teach and preach in their cities: i.e., in the cities of the Jews and the Galilæans, to whom He sent them. Note the Hebraism here. For the Heb. frequently leaves unexpressed the antecedent of the relative, or demonstrative pronoun, but leaves it to be understood from the circumstances of the case by the reader or hearer. There are similar instances to be found in Psalms xcix. 8, 2 Kings xvii. 24, &c.
When John had heard in the prison, Vulg. in chains. When He had heard from his disciples, as Luke says (vii. 18), from whence it is equally plain that there is here a hysterlogia, and that what S. Matthew here relates concerning John, from the 2nd to the 20th verse, happened before the Mission of the Apostles, to which he himself referred.
In chains, Syr. in the house of those who are bound, that is when Herod had shut him up because he reproved his adultery with Herodias.
John then, a little before his martyrdom, sent these disciples to Christ in the thirty-second year of Christ’s age, which was the second year of His preaching, when He was becoming famous by His doctrine and miracles, that they might learn from Himself that He was the very Messiah, or Christ, that when John was dead they might go to Him. For otherwise they might have made a schism from Christ, and preferred John as their master to Christ. For that they thought more highly of John than of Christ is plain from Matt. ix. 14. As therefore the runners in the Stadium hand on the lamp to the runner who succeeds them in the course, so did John-when he had fulfilled his office and ministry, resign it to Christ. And, as the dayspring dies away into the rising sun, so did John pale before Christ. For John was the morning star of the sun of righteousness. Wherefore, not only did he not envy Christ His rising glory when his own was setting, but rejoiced at it. Yea, he desired to set, that Christ might arise, for he was ambitious not of his own glory, but of God’s and Christ’s glory. Wherefore he said, “It behoveth Him to increase, but me to decrease.”
And saith, &c. He that should come, Gr.ό ε̉ρχόμενος, the coming one, namely, that great Prophet, the Redeemer of Israel, the Saviour of the World, the Messias promised by all the Prophets, and most ardently longed for by the Fathers, who at this time, now that the prophecies concerning Hirn are fulfilled, is by all looked for as coming. He alludes to the prophecy of the Patriarch Jacob, “The sceptre shall not be taken away from Judah,” &c. Gen. xlix. 10.
From these words of John, Tertullian (De Baptism, c. 10) and Justin (Quest. 38 ad Orthodox) think that John doubted concerning Jesus whether He were the Christ or not, but falsely, for John had already seen the Spirit descending upon Him in the form of a dove, and had heard the Father’s voice saying, This is my beloved Son. And John had already given the clearest testimony to Him, when he said, Behold the Lamb of God.
Others think that John did not doubt whether Jesus were the Christ, but only asked whether, after death, He would come into Limbus, and visit and deliver the Fathers who were detained there. So S. Jerome, “He did not say, Art Thou He who hast come, but art Thou He who wilt come? And the meaning is, Tell me, since I am about to descend into Hades, whether also I shall announce Thee to the shades below, as I have announced Thee in the upper world? Or, is it not fitting that the Son of God should taste of death, and wilt Thou send another for these mysteries?” So, too, S. Gregory. But this opinion is little apposite or probable.
I say, therefore, that John sends his disciples, and asks Jesus whether He be the Coming One, i.e., the Messias, not as doubting about Him, but because, being near death, he wished his hesitating disciples to be instructed concerning Him, that they might be led to Christ. So SS. Hil., Chrys., Cyril. Observe, too, the prudence of S. John. He in his own name asks Jesus if He be the Christ, because his disciples would not, of themselves, have dared to propose such a question. For he is the best physician who, to cure a sick man, acts as though he were sick himself, and takes nauseous medicine. So S. Paul says, “Who is weak, and I am not weak?”
And Jesus answering, &c. These miracles which ye have seen Me perform are the marks of the true Messiah, given by Isai. xxxv. 5, and lxi. 1. This is why S. Luke adds, In the selfsame hour He healed many of their diseases and plagues and evil spirits, and to many that were blind He gave sight. For neither Elijah, nor Elisha, nor any other prophet did so many and such great miracles as Christ. Wherefore S. Cyril (lib. 2 Thesaur. c. 4) says, “Christ, both by the greatness and the multitude of His miracles, shewed Himself to be the Messiah.” You may add, by His beneficence. For although Moses shewed many miracles in the ten plagues of Egypt, yet did he not heal the Egyptians, but afflicted and slew them. But “Christ went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil.” Wherefore His hands are said to be “versatile” (Cant. v. 14, Vulg.), that is, active in doing good to all; and “full of hyacinths” (Vulg.), i.e., of heavenly works, miracles and kindnesses.
The blind see, &c. He alludes to Is. xxxv. 4. “Our God Himself shall come and save us.” (Vulg.): “then shall the eyes of the blind be opened, &c.” Also to Is. lxi. 1.
The poor have the Gospel preached, &c. Theophylact and Euthym. take the verb ευ̉αχχελίξονται, actively, meaning, the poor Apostles preach the Gospel. But the verb is passive, and so the Syriac translates it. The meaning is, “I evangelize the poor, I preach the Gospel to them, and they receive it eagerly, though the rich reject it.” He alludes to, indeed he quotes, Is. lxi. 1, “He hath sent me to announce to the meek,” where the LXX., instead of anavim, the meek, read aniim, the poor: and trans., he hath sent me to evangelize the poor, not the poor by necessity, but those who are poor in spirit, and consequently, meek and gentle. More simply, by the poor, you may understand such as the Apostles and the multitudes. For Christ preached to them that He might shew that the souls of the poor are equally precious before God with those of the rich; and therefore God made both equal in the Gospel. Dost thou then wish to imitate Christ? Teach the poor, guide, solace, help them.
And blessed is he, &c, i.e., who shall not be offended at my lowly conversation. The Syriac is, Blessed is he who shall not stumble at Me. For as S. Greg. says (Horn. vi.), “I do indeed marvellous things, but I do not disdain to suffer shameful things.” There is a tacit reference to the disciples of John, who were offended at His lowliness; and He intimates that he beheld the secrets of their hearts. So S. Jerome says, “He aims not at John, but at his disciples.” And S. Hilary says, “Because the cross was about to be a stumbling block to many, Christ pronounced them blessed to whom His cross, His death, His burial, would bring no trial of their faith.”
And as they were going away. (Gr. and Vulg.) That the multitude might not think that Christ was flattering John, and aiming at His favour, as S. Chrys. says, if He had praised him in the presence of his disciples: therefore He permitted them to depart, and then He praised him.
Jesus began to say, &c. Shaken, Gr. σαλευόμενον, waving and fluctuating, like a wave of the sea. By a similar metaphor we speak of the corn waving, when impelled to and fro by the wind. Christ would remove any suspicion which might arise among the people from this message of John, that he had changed his opinion concerning Christ—that whereas he had formerly thought him to be the Messiah, he had now changed his opinion, and had sent his disciples to interrogate Him, because he was in doubt about him. So Jesus, as it were said, “Suppose not, 0 ye Jews, that John thinks any other of Me than he thought before. For John is not a reed to be shaken backwards and forwards by the wind, that he should lightly assert a thing, and afterwards retract it on account of what men say. John is like an oak, which stands unmoved in faith and stedfastness against every blast, whether of those who praise or those who blame. What he before testified of Me, when he was at liberty, he testifies with equal fortitude now that he has been shut up by Herod in prison: and he has sent his disciples to Me that they themselves may see by My miracles that his testimony concerning Me was true.”
Tropologically, a reed, is a light man, inconstant, tossed to and fro: at one time impelled by the words of flatterers, he asserts something: again being driven by detractors, he denies it, as a reed is blown in different directions by different winds. 2. A reed is one who is devoid of truth, virtue, and consistency, as a reed has no strength, or stamina. 3. A reed is he who has no fruit of good works to show, since a reed bears no fruit. 4. It is he who is delighted with, and feeds upon, the fluctuating pleasures of the world. For a reed is dry: yet it grows beside the waters. Whence it is called, “the river weed.” On this S. Austin writes piously and elegantly on the words of Ps. cxxxvii. 1. “Above the rivers of Babylon, there we sat and wept, when we remembered Sion.” (Vulg.) “The rivers of Babylon,” he says, “are all things which here are loved, and pass away. Sit above the rivers; sit not in the stream, nor under the stream. Behold in Babylon there are fair things to detain thee: let them not detain thee, let them not deceive thee.”
Hear S. Greg. (Hom. vi. in Evang.) “What else but the carnal mind is signified by the reed? But such was not John, for favour could not flatter him, nor could the anger of any detraction make him harsh.”
Hear also S. Ambrose (lib. 5 in c. 7 Luc. v. 24): “The Lord denies that we must go forth into the desert—that is, into the world—lest we should think those are to be imitated by us who are of a carnal mind, whom, being obnoxious to the storms of this world, an unsettled life disquiets; who are rightly compared to a reed, in whom is no solid fruit of justice, men with their long hair, with forensic trappings, implicated in knotty points, sonorous with empty mouthings, with no benefit to themselves, but often with harm, follow after things inwardly worthless, outwardly specious. We are reeds when we are not rooted with any natural strength. If any light gale of prosperity blow upon us, we beat our neighbours with idle motion: we are useless to help, facile to injure. Reeds love rivers, as the fading and transitory things of the world delight us. If, however, anyone shall pluck up this reed from the earth, and strip off its useless parts—spoiling the old man with his deeds—and guide it by the hand of a scribe writing quickly, it begins to be no more a reed, but a pen, which impresses the precepts of the heavenly Scriptures on the hidden places of the mind, and writes them on the tables of the heart.”
Afterwards S. Ambrose adds, that Christ is the good reed of whom Isaiah prophesied (c. xlii.)—“A shaken reed he will not break,” (Vulg.)—because the flesh which sins had shaken He made firm by the power of the Resurrection. The good reed is the Flesh of Christ, which nailed the serpent’s head, and the enticements of worldly cupidity, to the gibbet of the Cross.
But what went ye out, &c. But John is not soft and delicate. He is not clothed in palatial garments, but in sackcloth of camels’ hair. For pleasures are the mistresses of flattery and lies, but hardness is the teacher of truth and sanctity.
But what went ye out for to see? More than a prophet. Syriac, one more excellent than a prophet. You may object that John himself denied that he was a prophet (Jo. i. 21). I reply, He said that out of humility, but in a true sense. For a prophet is, strictly speaking, one who foretells future events. But John did not foretell of Christ as about to come, but pointed to Him as present. He was therefore, rather the finger-post, as it were, than the prophet of Christ, and therefore Christ said that he was more than a prophet. In the next place, he, through the Divine Spirit, illustrated Christ, and knew the economy of Christ in the Flesh more clearly, fully, and perfectly than any of the prophets. 3. John was the angel, that is, the ambassador and precursor of Christ Himself, and immediately sent by Him, and that in His presence and before His face, according to the words of Malachi: “Behold I send My angel before Thy face, who shall prepare Thy way before Thee.” (Vulg.) 4. He himself was altogether greater than all the prophets, as Christ asserts, verse
For this is he of whom, &c. Christ cites the words of Malachi iii. 1. See what I have there said. I have there collected the reasons and analogies why John is called an angel. And many indeed thought that he was not really a man, but an angel, as Eusebius shews (lib. 1, De monst. c. 5). hence Auctor Imperfecti on this place says, “Marvellous was he who surpassed in human nature the sanctity of angels, and by the grace of God obtained what by nature he had not.”
Verily I say unto you, &c. Luke adds the word prophet (vii. 27): There hath not arisen a greater prophet. Whence Toletus from SS. Ambrose and Hilary observes that Jesus does not use the word greater of John absolutely, but as restricted by the word prophet. For the Apostles were greater, or certainly in every, way the equals of John. But, on the contrary, I should say that by the expression Prophet, Christ leaves it to be understood that there had been no person who was greater than John, for the prophets were accounted in the olden time, and really were, the most holy of men. So that as none of the prophets were greater than John, it may be gathered that there was no one else who was greater.
Christ therefore tacitly here calls John the greatest of all men, for otherwise He would not conclude from thence that he was more than a propbhet, which He proceeds to prove. This must be understood of the worthies of the Old Testament—that is to say, of all time prior to Christ. John, therefore, is not here compared with Christ Himself, or the Blessed Virgin, or the Apostles, who followed Christ and who (by reason of their Apostolic dignity) were not less than John, but rather indeed greater than he. You may say that Moses was greater than John, because it was said of him (Deut. xxxiv. 11), “And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses.” I reply, that it goes on, “Whom the Lord knew face to face, in all the signs and the wonders which the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt.” Which means, that there was no prophet like unto Moses in his familiar converse with God, and the power by which he smote Egypt with plagues. But in other things John was equal with, yea greater than, Moses and the rest of the prophets.
Besides other distinguishing characteristics and prerogatives of John, his spirit, prophetic office, life, and actions were more sublime than those of the other prophets, as S. Jerome asserts, and S. Austin (lib. 2, contr. advers. leg. et proph. c. 5). For John was, as it were, a standing miracle in his conception, in the womb, in his birth, in his angelic life. He was conceived, by a miracle, of barren parents; by a miracle he recognized Christ in the womb; and saluted and adored him; by a miracle, when he was born he communicated universal gladness; by a miracle, at his circumcision he restored the use of speech to his dumb father; by a miracle, he went when a boy into the desert, and there lived like an angel all his life. Whence the Church sings of John—
O boundlessly happy, of merit most lofty,
Of purity snow-white, pollution thou hatest:
O martyr most valiant, of deserts the lover,
Of seers the greatest.
And so John has the crowns of virginity, prophecy, and martyrdom, in addition to the crown of a doctor.
But he that is least, &c. 1. The least of the blessed in heaven is greater, that is, more blessed and more perfect, more excellent and glorious than John, who was still a mortal traveller. Christ adds these words that He may stir up His hearers to follow after the blessedness of His salvation by means of the evangelic law which He himself brought in. For this is the Kingdom of Heaven from which Christ began and continued His preaching.
2. With greater propriety and force, you may say with S. Chrysostom and others, that Christ here opposes, and in one sense places Himself lower than John, but in other respects prefers Himself to John. He says, “I have declared that among those born of women there is not a greater in the Old Testament than John; but lest ye should think that he is the greatest of all, and the Messias, I add, that Christ, who is younger than John, is, nevertheless, greater than he.” It is as though Christ said, “I, Christ, who in age, and in the opinion of the common people, am less than John in preaching, in the kingdom of Heaven am greater than he, because I so preach that I at the same time inspire grace, by which believers in Me may indeed attain this kingdom.” Whence it seems that a comma should be placed after the word least, not after kingdom of heaven. In the Gr. Christ is here called ό μικρότερος, i.e., less than, junior to John. The Heb. would be. kaccaton, or the litlte one, that is to say, the least, the 1owliest, as Christ was when He said, “As for me, I am a worm and no man, the very scorn of men, and the outcast of the people.” The comparative is often put for the superlative.
3. Our Maldonatus explains thus: The less, that is, the least Christian in the kingdom of Heaven, or the Church, which preaches and leads to the kingdom of Heaven is greater, that is, of higher dignity than John. Greater, I say, by reason of the status of the Church; and he is able to be greater from the nature of the Gospel, than John was. For the new law of Christ is the law of grace, which we are always able to increase. Whence John the Baptist and all the old fathers received their grace from Christ and the new law.
Symbolically, S. Cæsarius says (dialog. 3), “The least, or the youngest of the Apostles was John the Evangelist, who is greater than John the Baptist, because the Apostle leant upon the bosom of Christ.”
From the days of John the Baptist, &c. This pertains to the praise of John, and shews that he was more than a prophet, because he first began to preach the kingdom of heaven. And so efficacious was his preaching joined to his holy life, that many who were baptised by him repented, and changed their course of life, and with great zeal strove for the kingdom of heaven. And now, I succeeding to John, promote this zeal by Myself and My Apostles, yea and will more and more promote it.
Wherefore the kingdom of heaven now (βιάξεται, i.e.) suffers force, is invaded, is seized by force. 1. Because men in vast multitudes, being stirred up by the preaching of John run to obtain it with zeal, with avidity, one pushing before another, as though it were some rare merchandise.
2. Because the kingdom is now compassed by all, not by natural instinct, as the Jews would maintain, but by the supernatural power of grace. The kingdom is, as it were, invaded, in such sort that sinners, publicans, harlots, Gentiles, by the fervour of their repentance, take it beforehand, as it were, seize it by force, away from the Pharisees and Jews, who thought that it belonged to them alone as the children of Abraham. It is as though He said, the Pharisees and Christians contend for the kingdom of Heaven, but the Christians seize it from the Pharisees by force. Whence SS. Hilary and Amb. say, “Christ is seized, since He, born among one sort of people, is chosen by others.” Amb. adds, “The Church has taken away the kingdom from the synagogue. Christ is my kingdom. The kingdom of Heaven is taken by force when Christ is denied by those of His own household, and is worshipped by the Gentiles. He is taken by force when he is rejected by the former, but cherished by the latter.”
3. Because for the kingdom of Heaven’s sake worldly men do violence to themselves by the cultivation of repentance, poverty, continence, mortification.
In the Lives of the Fathers there is related the vision of a certain anchorite who beheld that a disciple of his merited seven crowns in Heaven in a single night, because he had seven times bravely withstood evil thoughts. By this he perceived that as often as any one struggles against sinful thoughts and desires he merits a crown from God. For it is written, The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.
Beautifully does S. Ambrose comment on this passage, “We do violence to the Lord, not by compelling Him, but by weeping before Him, not by provoking by injuries, but by entreating with tears; not by blaspheming through pride, but by sorrowing through humility. 0 blessed violence which is not chastised with indignation, but is condoned in mercy—blessed violence, I say, which draws forth the goodness of Him who suffers the violence, and contributes to the profit of him who uses violence. An evil thing is done, and no one is blamed: violence is suffered, and religion is advanced. Whosoever shall do most violence to Christ shall be accounted most religious by Christ. We come upon the Lord in the way, for indeed He is the way, and after the manner of robbers, we endeavour to spoil Him of what is His. We desire to take His kingdom, His riches and His life. And He is so rich and so liberal that he does not resist. He does not deny, and after He has given all, He still possesses all.” Afterwards he speaks of the manner and the weapons of this violence, saying, “We attack him, not with swords, nor staves, nor stones, but with meekness, good works, chastity. These are the weapons of our faith, by which we strive in our contest. But in order that we may be able to make use of these arms in doing violence, let us first use a certain violence to our own bodies, let us carry by storm the vices of our members, that we may obtain the rewards of valour. For to seize the Saviour’s kingdom we must first reign in ourselves.”
And the violent, &c. Those who invade the kingdom of Heaven in the sense in which I have just spoken. He alludes to an opulent city set upon a mountain, which must be stormed by great force, which is in fact stormed by soldiers who covet its riches. He alludes especially to the kingdom of Canaan, or the Promised Land, which the Hebrews under Joshua conquered by force of arms. This was a type of the kingdom of Heaven. In like manner Heaven is to be won by the sons of earth climbing up on high by their heavenly conversation. The empyrean sky is so lofty, so far above the earth, that were any one to live for 8000 years, and were every day to climb in perpendicular height a hundred thousand miles, yet would he not reach the top, as I have shewn on Gen. ii. 16. And because this is impossible to mortals, God has granted that what we cannot climb with corporeal feet we should reach by the affections of our minds.
In the life of S. Perpetua and her fellow-martyrs, we read that she was forewarned of her martyrdom in a dream. She beheld a golden ladder reaching from earth to heaven, which was hedged in and surrounded on all sides by knives and sharp swords. By this ladder they had to climb up to heaven. At its foot lay a horrible dragon who sought to hinder the climbers. She saw moreover one of her companions, Satyrus by name, bravely mounting the ladder, and inviting his companions to follow him. When she had related her vision they all understood that they were to suffer martyrdom. And so indeed it befell. Thus let each believer consider that with his utmost energy he must struggle up to Heaven by means of a ladder hedged about with knives.
For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied, &c. This sentence is expressed more clearly in Luc. xvi. 16—The Law and the prophets (i.e., prophesied), until John: since that time the Kingdom of God is preached and every one uses violence to it. (Vulg.) The Law of Moses and all the Prophets prophesied up to the time of John: i.e., darkly and by enigmas they foretold and promised Christ and His heavenly kingdom, by promising terrestial good things, such as abundance of corn and wine and oil, and a rich and peaceful earthly kingdom like that of Solomon, which was a figure and a type of the celestial kingdom to be brought in by Christ. But John was the first who clearly and openly began to preach this heavenly kingdom of Christ, and to point out Christ as it were with his finger to the Jews.
Again the Old Testament which consists of the Law, or Pentateuch, and the Prophets, under which are the Hagiographical books, such as the Psalms, prophesied until John, that is, they taught the ignorant Jews not so much to love as to fear God, by the hope of temporal rewards, and to worship Him by means of sacrifices, and external rites and ceremonies, which were shadows and types of Christ. But John began to preach the new doctrines of repentance and the love of God, through hope in the kingdom of Heaven, and of obtaining celestial good things by means of internal acts of contrition, piety, and the worship of God, by which we are truly and perfectly justified through Christ.
Christ here compares and parallels prophecy with prophecy, i.e., the doctrine of John’s prophecy with the doctrine of the Law and the Prophets. For John was a mean between the Old and New Testaments, as it were the horizon of both, dividing and determining the New from the Old, as Salmeron says. He was the morning star of the Gospel who put an end to the shadows and the obscure night of the old Law, and ushered in the clear day of the new Law.
And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, &c. That is if ye wish to receive John, and to believe him, as ye ought to do. Whence the Syriac translates by the imperative—If ye wish, receive ye. For he shall be Elias unto you, because he being endowed with the spirit and power of Elias, shall convert you to God and Christ, in the same way that Elias shall convert your children and descendants at the end of the world by a like zeal and purity of life to the same Christ. Thus S. Jerome says, “John is Elias which is for to come, not because the same soul was in both, as the heretics think, but because they had the same grace of the Holy Spirit. John was girded as Elias was. Like Elias he lived in the desert. He suffered from Herodias as Elias did from Jezebel. And as Elias shall be the precursor of the Second Advent, so was John of the Lord when He came in the flesh to save us.”
There is a reference to Mal. iv. 5, “Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet.” The Jews even to this day are eagerly expecting Elias from this prophecy of Malachi, that he may shew Christ unto them, and explain all the doubtful matters of the Law; and therefore they hold him in great account. This was why Christ compared and equalled John to him.
He that hath ears to hear. Gr. of hearing, i.e., to understand and obey. The Arabic has, hearing ears. For the Heb., which has a deficiency of compound words, uses simple in the place of compound words, as hear instead of obey. The meaning is, He that hath a teachable and obedient mind, let him hear, understand and obey the things which I say, namely, let him believe John to be a prophet and more than a prophet, when he declares that I am the Messiah, and henceforth let him receive and worship Me as the Son of God and the Saviour of the world. There is special reference to Christ’s declaration that John is Elias. For this is mystical, and requires intelligence, as S. Jerome says. Christ was wont by this phrase to rouse the attention of His hearers to important subjects.
To what shall I liken, &c. This generation means the Scribes and Pharisees, who despised the counsel of God and the preaching and baptism of John.
They are like unto boys, &c. There was in that age, says Theophylact on the seventh chapter of S. Luke, and S. Cyril, a game of this description. Boys divided themselves into two parties, and made as it were two choirs. Thus they represented human life on a sort of stage. One party, like Heraclitus, were always lamenting; the other side were always, like Democrittis, laughing, at it. By the one set all that we do was made the food for lamentation, by the other for jokes. They of the one choir kept wailing, those opposite to them played on pipes; but the choir which was wailing took no notice of the opposite choir, which was singing, neither, on the other hand, did the pipe-players take any notice of the mourners. And the lookers on heard like spectators at a comedy, but were neither moved by the wailing nor the dancing.
The meaning of the parable is plain from what follows. It is this: as though Christ said, “You may perceive in this generation of the Scribes and Pharisees something similar to the boyish games, as concerns the spectators who look on at their ease. For they cannot be induced to change their life and be converted, either by the example of the austere life of John, or by the less stern life of Christ.” He likens the parable, as a whole, to the whole thing signified by it, and not a part to a part. Elegantly and wisely says S. Ambrose (lib. 2, de Penitentia)—Not that dancing which is the companion of pleasures and luxuries is here spoken of, but that whereby a man lifts himself on high, nor suffers the members to drag lazily along the ground. Thus S. Paul danced spiritually, when for our sakes he stretched himself out, and forgetting the things which were behind, and reaching forth unto those which were before, he strove for the prize of Christ. Thou likewise, when thou comest to baptism, be admonished to lift up thine hands, and to have feet that are swift to mount to things eternal. Dancing like this is the associate of faith, the companion of grace. This, then, is the mystery. We have sung unto you, as it were, the song of the New Testament, and ye have not danced—that is, ye have not lifted up your minds unto heavenly grace. We have lamented, and ye have not wept, i.e., ye have not repented. There is an allusion to Ezek. xxxiii. 32: “Thou art unto them as a song of music which is very sweetly sung. And they hear thy words, but they will not do them.”
Allegorically, S. Ambrose (lib. 4, Epist. 30), “The Son of God hath said, ‘We have sung unto you, and ye have not danced,’ &c. The Jews who did not dance were forsaken. They knew not how to clap their hands. The Gentiles were called, who gave spiritual praise to God. Here is the glorious dancing of the wise, the dance which David danced. Therefore, in the sublimity of his spiritual dancing, he ascended to the throne of Christ, that he might hear and see the Lord saying to his Lord, ‘Sit thou at My right hand. ’”
For John came neither eating, &c. That is to sty, not eating, or living in pleasure, like other men, but living austerely, fasting, and feeding on locusts; that by this means he might arouse the Scribes to compunction, and affright them. Yet the Scribes say of him, He hath a devil. The Arabic has, devils are with him. That is, John was possessed by a devil, by whose power and energy he was sustained, so as to be able to lead so rigorous a life. Thus, the very austerity of John, which for their sakes he had lived, since from his purity and innocence it was not needed for his own sake, they attributed to a demon. Such was their extraordinary ingratitude and wickedness.
Observe then, how Christ applies this parable. John’s austere life is signified by the troop of boys lamenting. But Christ living less austerely, and conversing with the world more familiarly, is denoted by the chorus of boys who piped. The Scribes and Pharisees laughed at, derided both of them, because they wished to be free from any reprover of their pleasures and licentious mode of life.
The Son of Man came eating, &c. (at a common table, living after the manner of ordinary men, and conversing familiarly with them), And they say (i.e., the Scribes and Pharisees in their obstinate wickedness), Behold a gluttonous man, &c.
John led an austere life in the desert, Christ led the ordinary life of men, that His affability might allure those whom John’s austerity would terrify. For Christ came into this world in order that he might afford to all men a perfect example of humility and every other virtue, an example which every one might imitate in their several ranks and stations. But especially did He come that sinners might be converted from their sins to God. Wherefore it was necessary that He should converse with them, eat and drink with them, and thus draw them to love and follow Him. So S. Thomas. S. Aug. gives another reason (Lib. 3, de Doctr. Chtist. C. 12). It was, that Christ might show in all such things, namely, food, drink, clothing, &c., that it is not the things themselves, but the inordinate love of using them, which is in fault. And so He taught that rich men may live religiously in their riches, and be saved.
But wisdom is justified of her sons. Syr. of her servants. To justify is used in two senses, viz., to make just and to declare just. The wisdom of God is justified, i.e., is pronounced and declared just, unblameable, fully and entirely perfect, as she manifested herself in John and Christ, because she left nothing untried that would conduce to the salvation of men. That they might have a pattern of an austere life and penance, she gave them John. Again, lest many should be terrified by this austerity, and despair of virtue and salvation, she gave them in Christ an example of ordinary life and virtue. Of her children, namely, those who were desirous of virtue and wisdom, such as those who believed in Christ, and who heard and obeyed John. Therefore, the wisdom of God, which the proud Scribes and the foolish Jews despised in John and Christ, was justified, i.e., honoured and praised by all the truly wise. If, therefore, any perish, they perish by their own fault, because they will not believe and obey John and Christ. Thus they may impute their ruin to themselves, and justify God, according to the words of Ps. li. “That Thou mayst be justified in Thy sayings, and overcome when Thou art judged.” In a similar sense, the Apostle says to Timothy (1. Tim. iii.), “Great is the sacrament of piety, which was manifested in the flesh, justified in the spirit” (Vulg.), i.e., was declared and shown to the world to be just, holy and wise, and that the work and mystery of the incarnation of the WORD was worthy of God. That this is the meaning is plain from Luke vii. 29, who thus relates the occasion of this parable, and by means of the preamble, as it were, sets forth the scope and intention of the parable. “And all the people and the publicans who heard him, justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John. But the Pharisees and the lawyers despised the counsel of God against themselves, not being baptized of him.” And presently He subjoins the parable of the boys piping and lamenting, as I have already expounded it.
S. Aug. (lib. 2 de doctr. Christ.) expounds the passage as follows: Wisdom is justified of her own sons, because “the holy Apostles perceived that the kingdom of God did not consist in meat and drink, but in the equanimity of endurance, forasmuch as they were such as neither abundance lifted up, nor want depressed.”
Lastly, S. Jerome in this passage, and S. Ambrose, remark that various Gr. codices read Wisdom is justified by her works. Because, says S. Jerome, “wisdom seeks not the testimony of the mouth, but of deeds.”
Then began He to upbraid, &c. Then namely, when He sent the Apostles to preach throughout Galilee, and He preached by Himself, though with little fruit and few conversions. He began o upbraid the extreme ingratitude and obstinate wickedness of these cities, viz, those in which most of His mighty works, i.e., His miracles, were done. These were the miracles by which He confirmed His teaching. And He upbraided the cities because after so many miracles, and so many exhortations, so many threats of hell, so many promises of the Kingdom of Heaven, they had not repented.
Woe unto thee, Chorazin, &c. Chorazin was a renowned city of Galilee, which was numbered amongst the ten more celebrated towns of Decapolis. It was situated over against Capernaum, on the Sea of Galilee, where the Jordan flows into it. It was about two miles distant from Capernaum. Wherefore Christ, who had fixed his home and settled abode at Capernaum, frequently made excursions to preach in Chorazin and Bethsaida, and the neighbouring towns. Chorazin, or Cozorain in Chaldee, is the same as Co, i.e., here, and raya, i.e., a secret. Appropriately, because Christ here preached the arcana, or secrets of the faith. S. Jerome, in his work on Hebrew places, testifies that in his time Corozain, as it is spelt in the Vulgate, was deserted. There are still some ancient ruins remaining on its site. Some persons are of opinion that Antichrist will be born at Chorazin, and brought up there, though others think he will be born in Babylon, according to the words of Jeremiah (cap. 1.), “From Babylon shall all evil be opened out.” But both these opinions are extremely doubtful.
Bethsaida: Bethsaida also was one of the chief cities of Galilee, adjacent to the sea, and distant from Capernaum about three hours’ journey. It received its name from being inhabited by fishermen. Beth means a house, and saida is fishing, צור sud in Heb. means to hunt, but in Syriac to fish, because fishing is hunting in the sea, whence saida means fishermen. So Franc. Lucas. It is probable that the home of Peter and Andrew was in this city, where Christ healed Peter’s mother in law, who was sick of a fever. But see what I have said on viii. 14. Here, also, Christ placed spittle in the eyes of a certain blind man, and restored him to perfect sight (see Mark, c. viii.) Wherefore, Christ deservedly upbraids Bethsaida, because, though its people had seen so many miracles of His, they did not believe in Him. And so he threatens it with destruction, future as well as present; and this really happened to them. For this city formerly so abounding in prosperity, and so populous, is so deserted that it scarcely cntains six houses. (See Adrichomius, Descrip. Terræ Sanct. p. 137.)
For if the mighty works had been done in Tyre, &c. We must understand, if the inward grace of God had accompanied the outward miracles: that is to say, if there, had been an illumination of the understanding, and an influencing of the will, agreeable and proportionable to those, such as God is wont ordinarily to give. For without inward grace to influence the mind, all outward preaching is vain and worthless.
They would long ago have repented, &c. Theologians gather from this passage that God knows certainly conditional events, which depend on free will, even although those events will never happen, forasmuch as the condition does not exist in the nature of things. Christ here asserts positively that the Tyrians and Sidonians would have repented if they had seen the miracles of Christ, yet they did not see these miracles, and consequently did not repent. The reason a priori is, the infinite nature of the Divine Mind, the immeasurable scope and activity of the Divine understanding, which wholly comprehends, penetrates and perfectly beholds all things, even those that are the most secret, and what is called the liberty of man, and his free thoughts and volitions. Therefore it is omniscient, and nothing is able to escape it, so that it should not thoroughly behold and perceive it. For the object of the Divine omniscience is all truth, past, present, and future, and that either conditional or absolute. In future conditional events, one half of a contradiction is true, as in absolute propositions. For with the condition, that which is said will either be, or will not be. See what I have said on Jer. xxxviii. 17., also on Wisdom iv. on the words, “He was taken away, lest wickedness should change his understanding.”
Again, S. Aug. (lib. de bono perseveran. caps. 9 and 10), refutes by means of this passage the Semipelagians who said that God predestinates such and such men, because He foresees they will use well grace, if it be given them. For the Tyrians would have used grace well, if it had been given, yet it was not given.
Lastly, from this place do not gather that to the Tyrians was wanting sufficient grace, but such copious and abundant grace as the Galilæans had.
Verily I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable: Arabic, there shalt be greater remission for Tyre, &c. For the Tyrians and Sidonians shall be punished on account of their own wickednesses, but you, 0 ye Galilæans shall be more severely punished: 1. Because ye had greater knowledge of God’s law, and virtue. 2. Because ye have often heard Me preaching and exhorting to repentance, and have beheld Me doing many miracles, none of which things the Tyrians have either seen or heard.
Moraliter: In like manner, Christians shall be more heavily punished in the day of judgment than the Jews; the citizens of Rome, than the inhabitants of India; priests, than laymen; religious, than seculars, if the former classes have lived sinful lives; forasmuch as they have received greater degrees of grace and knowledge from God, and would not make use of them, but abused them to their own greater damnation.
And thou, Capernaum, &c. Thou, which art exalted through My miracles and doctrine and preaching, rather than by thy merchandise and thy wealth, and who hast been made glorious and famous with God and man, shalt thou, I say, be always exalted? Not so: but in the day of judgment thou shalt be thrust down to hell . Thou shalt descend into its lowest pit; that beneath the Tyrians and Sidonians who have sinned less than thou hast, thou mayst abide in the very centre of Gehenna, and there mayest feel more than others its fiery burnings. Thou shalt be tormented and burnt up, because very many of thy citizens shall be cast into hell. Hence S. Aug. (Serm. 42 de Sanc.) explains exalted, as follows. “Forasmuch as thou seemest to thyself to be very happy, very powerful, very proud, and so dost despise Me, and all who admonish thee, this is the very cause why thou rushest on thine own destruction.”
For if the mighty works which have been done in thee had been done in Sodom, it would perchance, as the Vulg. here hath it: (forte) &c. But this word forte, peradventure, or perchance, does not in this place denote doubt, or hesitation. It represents the α̉ν of the Gr. text, α̉ν being here an expletive, or a particle expressing confirmation, and signifies, certainly, verify. The translation omits to render α̉ν in v. 21., and various other passages, where it is found in the Greek. Indeed α̉ν is only translated forte, perhaps, in four places, viz., here; in John v. 46; in Ps. lxxxi. 15; and in 2 Cor. vii. 5. In all the other passages, which are very numerous, in which α̉ν occurs in the Greek, it is not translated in the Vulgate, but the passage is rendered affirmatively, as in Matt. iii. 18, v. 18, vi. 5, x. 12, and very many other places, as you may perceive from a Greek Concordance. This is the reason why Vatablus and others omit the perchance in this passage, and trans. simply, it would have remained. The perchance does not mean that Christ had any doubt about Sodom’s remaining, but that although it certainly would have remained, yet this remaining would have been free, i.e. of its own free will, therefore the word α̉ν denotes that he foresaw what would have happened, as it were fortuitously. Thus Terence says in the Andria, “Perchance I behold a soldier: I approach the man.” Also Livy (lib. 1.), “Perchance it fell out.” The meaning therefore is, If the Sodomites had heard My preaching, and had beheld as many miracles, as you have, 0 ye inhabitants of Capernaum, in confirmation of that preaching, verify they would have felt compunction and would have repented, and would have remained until this very day. Understand; unless they themselves or their descendants had after their repentance again relapsed into the same, or similar sins, and had again provoked the anger of God to bring upon them a like destruction. But if they had continued in their repentance and change of life, they would have remained until this day. All this is intimated by the word, perchance, here. And this is why Franc. Lucas renders α̉ν έμειναν, by the potential mood, they might have remained.
Verily I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable: Arabic, it shall find greater forgiveness: Syriac, they shall be more tranquil.
At that time Jesus answered and said, &c. What Christ now says, agrees well with what has gone before, for Christ here gives the reason why the Capernaites, the Scribes, the priests, and the Pharisees, despised Him, and His preaching, because, in truth, they were proud, and seemed, in their own eyes, wise and prudent. Wherefore they would not bend their proud necks to the humility of Christ and the Gospel, but the Apostles and the disciples and the multitude did bow their necks. This sentence also expresses that Christ soothed the grief which He felt because of their proud incredulity by a consideration of, and complacency in, the just judgment and the Divine decree, whereby God hid these things from the proud as unworthy of them, and revealed them to little ones, i.e., to the lowly. Whence Luke adds. He exulted in the Holy Spirit (Vulg.) i.e., He rejoiced through the Holy Ghost, which had suggested to Him this consideration, and the joy which arose out of it. Therefore he praised and thanked God. We too can do as Christ did, that when we lose our labour with the proud and the unworthy, we may quell our grief by considering the Divine Will and Providence, which despises the proud, and chooses the humble, and lifts them to His grace and glory.
I confess (Vulg). That is, I praise and give thanks. This is the meaning of the Heb. ידא, yada, in Hiphil, viz., הורה, hoda, from which comes תורה, a sacrifice, viz., of confession, i.e., of praise, and giving thanks. Thus, too, we constantly find in the Psalms such expressions as, “I will confess to Thee with my whole heart,” i.e., I will praise Thee; and, “Confess to the Lord, for He is good,” i.e., praise the Lord.
To Thee, 0 Father, who lovest Me with a peculiar love, and who disposest all things to Thy and My glory. He adds this lest any one should attribute it to want of power in Christ that He did not subdue to Him the proud Capernaites and Pharisees. It is as though He had said, “Thou, 0 my Father, forasmuch as Thou art Lord of Heaven and earth, hast the hearts of all men in Thy hands, and couldst bend them by a single nod, and subdue them before Me, but this, by Thine holy ordinance, Thou wouldst not do.”
Moreover, under the name of Heaven and earth, all creatures—all men and angels are signified. By which it is intimated—1. That God has care for and rules, and calls to the grace of the Gospel and salvation by Christ, not the Jews only, but the Gentiles also. 2. That God is drawing His faithful ones from earth to Heaven, inasmuch as He is Lord of Heaven equally with earth, and therefore opens heaven to His friends. 3. That in like manner as God has separated the lowly Apostles from the proud Pharisees on earth, so in like manner has He separated the humble angels from proud Lucifer and his adherents in heaven.
Listen to Tertullian (lib. 1, contra, Marc. c. 13): “There is the fulness of the Deity itself setting forth perfect God, Father and Lord, Father by clemency, Lord by discipline, Father by sweet power, Lord by severity: a Father to be affectionately loved, a Lord to be necessarily feared: to be loved because He prefers mercy before sacrifice; to be feared because He will not tolerate sin: to be loved because He prefers the repentance to the death of a sinner; to be feared because He will not accept sinners who do not repent. Therefore, the Law prescribes both: thou shalt love God, and thou shalt fear God. He proposes the one to him who follows Him, the other to him who goes astray from Him.”
And hast revealed them unto babes, Gr. νηπίοις, or infants. So the Arabic, meaning to ignorant, unskilled, and uneloquent men (such as the Apostles, who seemed to the Scribes and worldly persons to be rude, and as foolish as children), in order that Thou mayest exhibit in them the power of Thy grace and Thy light, by which Thou hast made the tongues of these infants eloquent, so that their sound is gone out into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world. There is an allusion to Ps. viii. 3: “Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings Thou hast perfected praise, that Thou mightest destroy the enemy and the avenger.” For the election and disposition of God are clean contrary to the world. For the world courts and chooses the rich, the wise, the proud. God chooses the poor, the ignorant, the weak; and He makes them rich, wise, and powerful in spirit above all the worldly.
From this passage, S. Augustine (de prædest. Sanct. c. 6, et de Bono Perseveran. c. 8), and S. Gregory (25 Moral. c. 13) teach, that when some believe the preached Gospel and others believe not, it is the effect of the grace and justice of God. For they who believe are so congruously illuminated in their minds by the grace of God, that they do believe; but they who believe not, on account of their pride and other sins, are not so congruously illuminated by God, that they do, in fact, believe; although if they would consent to, and co-operate with, the illumination which God affords them, they could believe, and in truth would believe.
Even so Father, &c. The Gr. is ναὶ ό Πατήρ; for the Greeks often use the nominative for the vocative. The meaning is, Truly, 0 Father, what Thou hast done, most rightly hast Thou done, in that it hath pleased Thee to humble the proud, and exalt the lowly. Christ teaches that the original cause of the predestination and election of the faithful, as well as the reprobation of unbelievers and the wicked is nothing else save God’s good pleasure. Wherefore, we ought to rest in that, and not seek for other reasons, since that one thing is sufficient for the faithful, and worth a thousand reasons. Hence the Blessed in Heaven, when they see their children and parents condemned for their demerits, do not lament, but approve and laud the just judgment of God.
All things are delivered unto Me, &c. Christ said that the Almighty God was His Father, and that He—as Lord of Heaven and earth—rejected the proud Pharisees, but revealed Himself and His grace to His lowly Apostles: but now, lest any one should suppose that Christ was inferior to the Father, He teaches the converse, namely, that the Father giveth all He hath to the Son—yea, that through the Son alone He worketh, teacheth, and bestoweth His gifts.
Moreover, this expression, all things have been delivered unto Me by the Father, ought to be thus understood, that nevertheless, Christ ought to be considered to possess all things by nature. “For like as He is, according to His nature, life, He is said to be quickened by the Father; and although He is the Lord of Glory, He is said to have received glory,” says the Council of Ephesus. The meaning therefore is, all things which the Father hath, viz., the divine nature, dominion and power, say SS. Hilary and Augustine, and consequently, what Christ here more particularly refers to, all things, i.e., the dominion, power, and government of all things, but chiefly of men, have been granted unto Me by the Eternal Father, as to His Son by eternal generation, and in time the same things have been given to Me, as man, by the Hypostatic Union, that I may choose, illuminate, predestinate, save, whom I will, such as the Apostles; and reject and condemn, whom I accept not, such as the proud Capernaites. For in My hand is the predestination, or reprobation, the salvation or damnation of all men; for as much as I have been appointed by God the Father the Saviour and Redeemer of the World, and in My hand the Father hath placed all things, that I should repair and renew them. That as by Me as God He created all things, so also by Me in the flesh which I have assumed, He may re-create and restore all things. To this end I came, and for this I was made man. These mysteries therefore have been hidden from the wise, I mean My Mission, My Incarnation, the end of My advent, My work, but they have been already, in part, revealed to little ones, and shall hereafter be perfectly revealed.
And no one knoweth the Son, &c., Luke X. 22, has, no one knoweth who the Son is, save the Father; nor who the Father is save the Son, &c. He means, I have been sent by the Father to be the Teacher and Saviour of the World, that I should teach men the truth and the way to God the Father, who is uncreated health and felicity. For this felicity, since it is supernatural, cannot be naturally known by man or angel. Wherefore, as no one knoweth the Son except the Father, and he to whom the Father shall reveal Him, so likewise no one knoweth the Father except the Son, and he to whom the Son shall reveal Him. For as the Father communicates His nature, so likewise He communicates the knowledge of Himself and all things which He hath to the Son, and by Him to the rest of mankind. He, therefore, who desires to draw near to the truth, grace and salvation, which are in God the Father, must draw near through Me, and believe in Me. For I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. My doctrine is the doctrine of God the Father. By Me, therefore, ye shall have access to the Father.
Now although it is said, except the Son, the Holy Ghost is not excluded; much less, when it is said, except the Father, is the Son excluded. For the rule of Theologians is, that exclusive particles, added to one of the Divine Persons in essential attributes do not exclude the other two Persons, but creatures only, or whatsoever is of a different essence. Thus S. Aug. (lib. 6. de Trin. c. 9.) S. Cyril, and the rest of the Fathers and Schoolmen. Observe that Christ, in the first place, revealed the knowledge of the two first Persons, viz., the Father and the Son, and afterwards, just before His death, faith in the third Person, viz., the Holy Ghost, as is plain from John, xvi. 7.
S. Chrysostom wisely observes (Hom. 39.) that it is not said, to whom He has been commanded by the Father to reveal, but to whom He will reveal, in order that the Son may be shown to be equal to the Father in dominion and power. For, although Christ reveals as man, or by means of His human nature, yet this nature subsists in the Divine person, and therefore this man Christ is God, and equal to God the Father.
Moreover, SS. Chrysostom and Irenæus (Lib. 4. c. 14.) answer Marcion, who rejected the Old Testament and its God, and said, if God the Father was not known before the revelation of Christ Incarnate, therefore He was not known in the Old Law, therefore its author andGod was not the true God. Thus they expound the words, no one knoweth the Father except the Son of the Divine knowledge by which the Son qua God, comprehends the Father, and the Father the Son. You may, however, better understand it concerning the knowledge communicated to the human nature of Christ: for this revealed His mysteries to the prophets and fathers, even the mysteries of the Divinity and the Trinity. Thus He revealed the same things after His Incarnation to the Apostles and faithful, qua man. For no one is a believer and a Christian except by Christ, and through Christ Incarnate. For, says St. Jerome, it is one thing to know what thou knowest by equality of nature, as the Son knoweth the Father; another, by the condescension of Him who reveals, as we know God by the revelation of Christ.
Come unto Me all, &c. Syriac, who are weary and bear burdens. Arabic, who are worn with labour and heavily burdened. After He has shown the Majesty and Deity, lest any one should be affrighted at it, Christ adds the Humanity, and most kindly invites all to Him.
Come, not with the feet of the body, but with the affections of faith, hope, love, religion, devotion, and piety.
All who labour, none are excluded. For there is no one who does not labour under some disease, and need Christ’s medicine. Therefore Christ offers Himself to all, that they may receive from Him health and safety. Thus did He kindly correct and heal Magdalen, Matthew, Paul, and Peter. Thus even now, in the Eucharist, He inviteth all and saith, Come unto me, ye infirm, hungry, afflicted ones I will refresh you.
Who labour. Gr. οί κυπιω̃ντες, i.e., who suffer trouble and are burdened, &c., who are fatigued and depressed, and are sinking under the burden, both of sins (as SS. Chrysostom, Jerome, and Augustin say), as well as of the law of Moses (as Theophylact), and also of the troubles and temptations of this life.
And I will refresh you. Gr. α̉ναπαύσω, i.e., I will give rest to the weary, as the Syriac translates. I will place you in all quietness, says St. Chrysostom, by most soothing words, by Sacraments, as most efficacious medicines, by grace, and most sweet inward consolations; lastly by most felicitous glory in Heaven.
Take, Syr., bear, My yoke. He means, ye have borne a heavy and well nigh intolerable yoke, and the burden of the old law of sin and concupiscence. Come unto Me, I will take it away, and will change it into the sweet yoke of the evangelical law of grace and charity. I will refresh you by My yoke, which indeed is a yoke because it is a law binding the soul, but at the same time it is medicine, yea a bed, in which ye may sweetly rest, especially, by means of the humility which it teaches and commands. For it is the one and only medicine of all diseases, both of soul and body, and the alleviation and rest of all burthens. For nothing is harsh to the meek, nothing difficult to the lowly, says S. Leo. For as wool receives cannon balls and breaks their force by its softness, so meekness and humility break and soften all hard and rugged things. This yoke, therefore, is the gospel of Christ, and the law of grace. Whence S. Bernard (Serm. 15. in Ps. 91) says, “He invites those who labour to refreshment. He calls those who are laden to rest; and yet He does not take away either burden or labour, but He exchanges them for another burden, another labour, but a light burden, a sweet yoke, wherein rest or refreshment, even though it appear not, nevertheless is found.”
And learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, i.e., in the affection of the heart, viz., will, says S. Bernard (Serm. 49 in Cant). For many are lowly in word, few in heart. And ye shall find, &c. Listen to S. Augustine. “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of Me, not to frame a world, not to create all things, visible and invisible, not to do miracles in the world and to raise the dead; but that I am meek and lowly in heart. Dost thou wish to be great, begin from the least. Thou art thinking of constructing a mighty fabric of loftiness, think first of the foundation of humility. And as great as each one wishes to build up his edifice, the greater the building, so much the more deeply let him dig his foundation." Wisely says Climacus (Gradu 25). "Humility is a grace of the soul without a name, being named by those alone who have made trial of it, an inexhaustible treasure, having obtained a name from God, a singular gift of God. Learn, He says, not of an angel, not of a man, not out of a book, but from Me, that is, from My dwelling in you, and working in you, because I am meek and lowly in heart, and in thought, and in sense, and ye shall find rest from internal conflicts in your souls.
2. And better, Auctor Imperf. and Maldonat. Learn of Me, i.e., do not fear to come to Me, and to take the yoke of My gospel on your neck, for if ye come and receive it, ye shall indeed learn that I am no tyrant, nor a severe and rigid King, but a lowly, meek, element and benign Lord.
Moreover, Christ was of so great humility and meekness in bearing with the Scribes, His disciples, and the multitude, in bearing injuries, derision, the scourge, the cross and death, that even if He had wrought no miracle He would, by such meekness, have proved sufficiently, and more than sufficiently, that He was the Man from Heaven and the true Prophet sent from God. I verify admire more Christ’s meekness, than His miracles and His raising the dead.
Moraliter. Learn from hence how great, and how dear to Christ is humility. It is as if He said, learn of Me not to create a world, not subtilely to dispute concerning God and the Holy Trinity, not to perform Herculean labours, but that I am meek and lowly in heart.
2d. Humility is the secret of peace. There is no rest for the mind, save in humility. Do you wish for rest? Embrace humility, a lowly place, a lowly office, humble food, clothing, &c. It is impossible for the proud to have peace of soul, because they always desire great things, and often are unable to attain them.
3d. Humility takes from man every labour and all burdens. Humility is the alleviator of every labour, and the renewer of strength: as a certain Doctor has well said, humility is a medicine against all diseases; and health of soul and body. Moreover, Hippocrates hath said, Creatures without gall are long lived, i.e., animals which have no gall, such as stags, live long. The meek, therefore, and the humble, are healthy and long lived; for meekness brings into due order both the mental character and the humours of the body, which bile disorders, hence diseases.
4th. Humility is the virtue of Christ. Learn of Me, He says. This is mine own especial virtue, dear to Me above all others, which, by descending from Heaven to this lower world, and by stooping to the shameful death of the cross, I manifested in such a manner that none should be more illustrious and more wonderful in My life and in My death. Thus on the contrary, pride is the sin of Lucifer. Humility, therefore, makes us most like Christ. What more worthy? What more desirable?
Well says S. Augustine (Epist. 112). “They who have learnt of the Lord Jesus to be meek and lowly in heart make greater progress by praying and meditating, than by reading and hearing.”
Finally, Christ here joins meekness with humility, because they are, as it were, twin sisters, or as mother and daughter. Whence S. Bernard (Sermon 2, on those words in the Apocalypse, cap. 12, A great sign) says, Like as naughtiness is the mother of presumption, so true meekness proceeds only from true humility.
Hear Climacus (Gradu. 24). The light of dawn goes before the sun, meekness precedes humility. Therefore, let us hear first Christ the Light, who disposes those things, as it were, by steps. Learn, He says, of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart. After that, He thus defines meekness: Meekness is the immutable state of the mind which preserves an equable frame in good fortune and in disgrace. Meekness is sincerely and ex animo to pray for those who trouble you without being troubled yourself. Meekness is a jutting rock against the fury of the sea, which breaks all its waves, whilst itself remains unmoved and unbroken. Meekness is the prop of patience, the gate of charity, yea its very parent, the proof of prudence. For He will teach, saith the Lord, the meek His ways. It is the procurer of pardon, the confidence of sinners in prayer, the habitation of the Holy Spirit. “For upon whom shall I look, save upon the meek and quiet person?” (Psalm 66, Vulg.)
For My yoke is sweet (Vulg.). The yoke and burden of Christ is the gospel, say SS. Hilary, Bede, and others. The law of the gospel, therefore, is a yoke, because it binds us to discipline, lest any one should depart from justice. The Gr. for sweet is not γλυκὺς, i.e., sweet like sugar, but χρηστὸς, i.e., benefical, humane, kind (Arab.), good in comparison with the old law. 1st Because it has fewer and easier precepts; 2d. Because it gives greater grace, which much lightens the burden of the command; 3d. Because it rules us as sons, not by fear, as servants, like the ancient law; 4th because it does not threaten, nor bring in death, like the old law, but takes it away; 5th Because it promises to those who keep it the most felicitous life, and as it were, leads them by the hand to the sweetness of celestial joys, according to the words, “They shall be satisfied with the fulness of Thy house: Thou shalt give them drink of thy pleasures as out of a river.” Psalm xxxvi. 9.
He says, therefore, take My yoke upon you, because in the yoke of Divine servitude, perfect consolation and refreshment are included. Whence S. Ambrose (Lib. de Helia et jejun. Cap. 22): Receive, therefore, the yoke of Christ, do not fear because it is a yoke. Make haste, because it is light. It doth not bruise the neck, but dignifies it. Why do ye doubt? Why delay? It does not bind your neck with chains, but couples it with grace. It does not constrain of necessity, but directs the will to good works.
My, because indeed I, Christ, lay it upon you, yea, indeed, I beat it with you, and put My neck under the burden, yea I bear and carry all the burden, and you yourself with it. For that is called a yoke, which two beasts joined together bear. Christ then places one portion only of the yoke, i.e., the Evangelical Law, upon our neck; He himself bears the other and heavier part, and therefore He draws this yoke with us, and infuses strength and courage into us to draw it, both by His grace and by His example. So lately there was a certain priest in Japan of the Society of Jesus, who generously endured a dreadful death for Christ’s sake, who was often wont to say. “Christ therefore makes the yoke putrescent before the face of the oil.” Is. x. 27. (Vulg.)
We may apply what we read in the life of S. Mechtildes, who when she was tormented with fearful headaches and could find no rest, heard these words from Christ as He showed her the wound in His side, enter now, and be at rest. This straightway she did, and entered in with gladness. And it seemed to her that He had as many silken pillows as she had felt pangs of headache. And the Lord said, “Silk worms carry silk, and of Me it has been written, I am a worm and no man. Hitherto thou hast served Me devotedly in labours; from henceforth thou shall study to serve Me in pleasing exercises of virtues by My example; and the things which shall be insupportable to thee, I will carry with thee.”
This yoke, therefore, of Christ is not so much a yoke as a silken pillow, because it does not press us with trouble, but releases us from the weight of earthly things, and raises us to Heaven.
Wherefore S. Bernard appositely compares this burden to the plumage of birds. Thus he writes to the monks (Epist. 341), “In the way of life the more swiftly, the more easily we run; and the larger the Saviour’s light burden grows, the more portable it becomes. Does not the quantity of plumage a bird has lighten, rather than weigh it down? Take away its feathers, and what remains of it is borne down to the ground by its own weight.”
Thus, likewise, is Christ’s discipline, thus His sweet yoke, thus His light burden; if we lay it down, we are ourselves depressed, because He carries us rather than is carried by us. S. Ambrose adds (in Ps. cxix. Serm. 3), “To carry the yoke of Christ is sweet, if you consider it an ornament to your neck, not a burden. Lift up, therefore, thine eyes to the Lord thy God, seek God, and thou shalt find Him. Erect thy neck; thou earnest a necklace, not a chain. Many creatures delight in a necklace, and seem to themselves to be adorned rather than made naked; like as the cheeks of the turtle-dove will bear the marks of her modesty, the necklace of her neck will raise the presumption of her liberty. There is nothing more glorious than that yoke of Christ.” Lastly, S. Bernard (Serm. 15 in Ps. Qui habitat) by yoke and burden understands the load of God’s gifts and favours, because the burden of the law which is imposed is the gift of grace, the perfect observance of which brings all other gifts into the mind. "God burdens us when He unburdens us. He lades us with benefits when He unlades us of our sins. This is the voice of him who is burdened, “What shall I render unto the Lord for all the benefits that He hath done unto me?” The voice of him who is burdened, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” Moreover, to the proud and carnal, the yoke of Christ and the law of humility, abstinence, continence, mortification, seems very heavy and intolerable, because they are devoid of the Spirit, and only love and think of the flesh and fleshly things. Truly says S. Chrysostom (Hom. 14, in 1 ad Cor.), “Virtue is rugged if it be compared with our weakness; for that it is easy and light, hear Christ testifying, My yoke is sweet, and My burden is light. But if thou dost not understand, let not wonder seize thee, for thou art not of a brave mind: for as, when strength of mind is present heavy things become light, so when it is absent, light things become heavy. What, I ask, was sweeter than manna? What readier to their hand? Nevertheless the Jews murmured when they were feeding on delicacies. What more dreadful than the hunger and the other labours which Paul endured? Nevertheless he rejoiced and was glad, saying, Now I rejoice in mine infirmities. What, then, was the cause of these things? Diversity of mind, which, if thou wouldst make it such as it ought to be, thou wouldst discern the easiness of virtue.”