1 Christ preacheth repentance upon the punishment of the Galileans, and others. 6 The fruitless fig tree may not stand. 11 He healeth the crooked woman: 18 showeth the powerful working of the word in the hearts of his chosen, by the parable of the grain of mustard seed, and of leaven: 24 exhorteth to enter in at the strait gate, 31 and reproveth Herod and Jerusalem.
HERE were present at that season some that told him of the Galilæans, whose blood Pilate had mingled, with their sacrifices.
Douay Rheims Version
The necessity of penance. The barren fig tree. The cure of the infirm woman. The journey to Jerusalem.
ND there were present, at that very time, some that told him of the Galileans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.
11. And behold there was a woman who had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years. And she was bowed together: neither could she look upwards at all.
12. Whom when Jesus saw, he called her unto him and said to her: Woman, thou art delivered from thy infirmity.
15. And the Lord answering him, said: Ye hypocrites, doth not every one of you, on the sabbath day, loose his ox or his ass from the manger and lead them to water?
16. And ought not this daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day?
30. And behold, they are last that shall be first: and they are first that shall be last.
31. The same day, there came some of the Pharisees, saying to him: Depart, and get thee hence, for Herod hath a mind to kill thee.
Ver. 1.—Whose blood Pilate mingled. That is, whom while they were sacrificing in Mount Gerizim in Samaria, Pilate slew. He slew them that their blood might be mingled with the blood of their victims. Josephus relates the whole at length (Antiq., book xviii. chap. 7), as also does Hegesippus on the destruction of Jerusalem. Josephus says, “A certain impostor incited the people to assemble on Mount Gerizim, a mountain which they held very sacred, by the promise of shewing them certain vessels which Moses had deposited there and he had dug up. They credulously took arms and occupied the village Tirathaba, awaiting the arrival of others that they might ascend the mountain in force. But Pilate seized it before them, and held it with cavalry and foot soldiers. These attacked the Samaritans in the village, killing some and putting the rest to flight. He also took many prisoners, the chief and most powerful of whom he put to death.”
It may be said, “Josephus asserts them to have been Samaritans; how then does Christ call them Galileans?” The answer is, “They were called Samaritans from their country and nation, but Galileans from their sect and heresy.” So says Baronius. To explain the matter, observe that Judas of Galilee, as St. Luke says, Acts v. 37, was the author of the sect of Galileans who rebelled against Cæsar, saying that it was not lawful for the Jews, who were a faithful people, and worshipped the true God, to be subject to Caesar, a Gentile, and an idolater, and to give him tribute; for they ought to acknowledge and obey no other lord but God. So S. Cyril in the Catena, Theophylact, Euthymius, and Titus. Hence Pilate sent a force and destroyed them. This sect arose about the time of Christ. Hence Christ and the Apostles, being Galileans by nation, were accused of the same, and they therefore carefully taught in opposition that tribute ought to be given to kings and to Cæsar, even if Gentiles. Francis Lucas thinks that these Galileans were slain by Pilate in Jerusalem, when they were sacrificing in the Temple, because Pilate was Procurator of Judæa and not of Samaria. But Josephus plainly says that they were killed in Mount Gerizim, which is in Samaria. The Samaritans, moreover, were a schism from the Jews, and would not go into the Temple at Jerusalem, but built another in their own power on mount Gerizim, as we find from S. John iv. 20. Pilate therefore attacked these Samaritans as rebels, and put them to death in Samaria, as open enemies to Cæsar. When the slaughter of the Samaritans was frequently repeated, there were different opinions on the subject, many affirming that they were wicked men and hated by God; their sacrifices not only being rejected but also mixed with their blood. They related this to Christ and asked His opinion of the matter, but, Christ made a wise use of this occasion, and drew from it an argument to rouse them to repentance, lest a similar vengeance should fall upon them. The preacher should follow this example, and when public slaughter, pest, famine, or wars befall, exhort his people to repentance, that they may escape such inflictions and, with them, the torments of Gehenna.
Ver. 2.—And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye, &c. They did suppose this, but wrongly, for God often corrects those who sin less heavily, to make them an example and a terror to others, and so incite them to penitence. So Bede, Titus, and others.
Ver. 3.—I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. “Likewise”—that is, by a similar death, none excepted, says Maldonatus; and so Wisdom vi 8: “He hath made the small and great, and careth for all alike. For He cares for all without exception, though for some more and for others less.” Secondly, and more simply, You shall equally perish, though by another kind of death, by an eternal instead of a temporal one, or even by a temporal. Thirdly, and properly, Jansenius says, “By a similar death; the destruction and vengeance of God.” For the Jews were besieged by Titus at the time of the Passover, when they were sacrificing; and, when the city was taken, many were slain in the temple, where they were sacrificing, and accustomed to sacrifice. So Euthymius, S. Thomas, Hugo, N. de Lyra, S. Cyril in the Catena.
Observe that Christ here teaches us, in like calamities, to give our minds to the thought of our sins, and to repentance, that we fall not into the like punishments of God.
Symbolically, Bede says that Pilate means, the mouth of the hammerer, (os malleatoris) that is, the Devil, who is always ready to destroy. “Blood”—that is, sin and concupiscence. The sacrifices are good actions which the Devil, either for the delight of the flesh, or from the ambition of human praise, or some other evil motive, pollutes.
Ver. 4.—Or of those eighteen upon whom the tower of Siloam fell. There was a fountain, or rather pool, near Jerusalem of which Isaiah speaks, “This people refuses the waters of Shiloah that go softly,” viii. 6. Near this fountain was a tower also called Siloë, from it, which in the time of Christ fell down, either from the force of the wind, or from lightning, or an earthquake, or some other like cause, and destroyed eighteen persons who were either in it, or standing near. This, if we only regard secondary causes, may have happened by chance; but if we consider the one primary one, that is, God, it was done by His appointed Providence, who determines to punish some and to terrify others. For with God nothing is fortuitous, but everything is certainly foreseen and prepared, that nothing in His Kingdom should, as Boethius says, be ascribed to chance or temerity. God, then, orders these events for the chastisement and correction of man, that others, seeing their neighbours killed by the fall of a tower or some other sudden accident, may fear lest something similar happen to themselves, and so may repent and reconcile themselves to God, lest they be overwhelmed by His judgments and condemned to Gehenna. This is what God said by the prophet Amos, “Shall there be evil in the city, and the Lord hath not done it?” iii. 6; and by Isaiah, “I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create evil” xlv. 7. The poets and philosophers saw the same through a shade:
—0 qui res hominumque Deumque,
“0 Thou who dost the affairs
And Plutarch (In Moral.), “As if a blind man should fall against a person, and call that person blind for not avoiding him, so we make Fortune blind, whereas we stumble against her from our own want of sight. For this very ‘Fortuna fortunans,’ which is, in truth, no other than God Himself, and the Providence of God is most keen of sight, and has many more eyes than Argus.”
Symbolically. “The tower,” says Bede, “is Christ, Siloë, that is, He who is sent by the Father into the world, and who crushes to powder all the wicked upon whom He falls, through the sentence of His condemnation.”
Think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? “Sinners”—the Arabic has culpabiles; the Chaldaic, chare bim, i.e. debtors (for a debtor owes his soul, that is 10,000 talents, S. Matt. xviii. 24, to God). Christ shows clearly that these eighteen who were killed by the fall of the tower of Siloam, were sinners, though not, perhaps, the worst and greatest that were in Jerusalem.
Ver. 5.—I tell you, Nay; but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. “This shows,” says S. Chrysostom, “that these eighteen were appointed as an example and terror to the others; though each was punished for his own sins. This was made wholesome matter for others, that the fool might be made wiser by the event. For God does not punish all here, but He leaves a time for repentance. Again, he does not leave all for a future punishment, lest many should deny His Providence.”
Verses 6, 7.—He spake also this parable. “Cumbereth”—the Greek is κατάζγει, that is, loads with a useless burthen, nay, renders the ground barren and fruitless, as well by its shade as by its roots, which keep the earth’s moisture from the other trees. The Syriac says, “keeps it idle;” for άζγον, is idle, inert, devoid of strength.
In the letter the fig-tree represents the synagogue of the Jews, which God planted through Moses; to which Christ came by the Incarnation, to cultivate it by His preaching. Christ, therefore, is the keeper of the vine, that is, of the synagogue, to whom God said, “Cut it down, for now for three years in which Thou hast preached to it, I have looked for the fruit of faith and good works, and I find none, from the unbelief, perverseness, and malice of the Jews.” Christ intercedes for it, that the Father would allow Him to tend it by His preaching for one year more, or, at least, for half an one; and then, if it gave no fruit, it might be cut down. So it came to pass: for the Jews, in the fourth year of Christ’s preaching, at the Passover, adding sin to sin, and becoming more and more perverse, crucified Him; so that, a few years after, Titus was sent by God as His avenger, and took Jerusalem, and destroyed all Judæa. What remains are additions belonging to the finish of the parable, which it is unnecessary to apply to what is signified by it.
S. Ambrose observes, that the fig-tree is an apt symbol of the Synagogue: first, because it was a tree with abundance of leaves, but which disappointed its owner in his hope of fruit. Secondly, while the doctors of the Synagogue were fruitless of good works and boasted only of words like redundant leaves, the vain shadow of the law flourished exuberantly, but the false hope of the expected produce deceived the prayers of the people.
Secondly, as the fig puts out a green, that is an immature, fig (grossum) instead of blossoms, which soon falls, and then produces a savoury and solid fruit, so the Synagogue firstly put forth the Jews, like green and evanescent fruit, and then, through Christ, gave Christians, like mature and savoury figs. So Pliny, viii 7, “Figs are produced late, if the green fruit, when exceeding the size of a bean, are taken away, for then are produced figs that ripen later.”
Tropologically. The fig is any individual person, especially a believer; the gardener is Christ, the Apostles, and the like; the Lord is God the Father, or the Holy Trinity. Our own Salmeron (tom. vii., tract 21), gives various reasons and analogies, why the faithful are compared to a fig. 1. The fig produces sweet fruit, which seems to be purses of honey and sugar, and the righteous produce the like. 2. As the fig tree increases little in height but is always short, so the righteous cast themselves down, and humble themselves. 3. The fig, instead of blossoms, gives fruit, and that twice; namely, the early ripe in the summer, and in the autumn the later—for the fig bears twice a year, as the righteous is ever plentifully bringing forth the fruit of good works. 4. As the fig makes a shade with its ample leaves, so the righteous defends and protects others by his charity. 5. The fig is never grafted, into another tree, because of its exceeding sweetness, which cannot leave it. So the righteous rests in no man, but in God alone and his own conscience. 6. The, fig tree, if stripped of its bark, gives no fruit, but withers away; and .the righteous, unless protected by the bark of honest conversation, modesty, and outward decency, will bring no fruit with his neighbours. 7. The fig has medical properties, and heals diseases, as Isaiah healed Hezekiah by means of a fig (Isa. xxxviii. 21). Pliny also says that the fig alone, of trees, has medical virtues. So the righteous, because he is perfect and mature in virtue, ministers to the infirmities of others, by teaching, advising, and living holily. He adds that lopping and pruning it remedies its too great luxuriousness; as the righteous by circumcising and cutting off the desire of honour above, and the appetites of the senses below, by meditations on death and burial, is rendered fruitful in virtue and good works, and converts many of his neighbours to God.
Behold these three years I come seeking fruit. This alludes to the nature of the fig tree, which sometimes gives fruit in its third year. If not then, it commonly does not give it at all.
Symbolically, these three years, according to Euthymius, signify the three policies or political status of the Jews, under the judges, Kings, and the High Priests, namely the Maccabees. St. Ambrose says “He came to Abraham, He came to Moses, He came to Mary; that is, He came in circumcision, He came in the Law, He came in the body. We acknowledge His Advent from His benefits to us. In the first, Purification; in the second, Sanctification; in the third, justification—Circumcision purified, the Law sanctified, Grace justified—one in all, and all in one; no one can he cleansed but one who fears God: no one deserves to receive the Law but one who is purified from sin: no one comes to Grace but he who knows the Law.” So also St. Cyril: “God sought the nature of the human race before the Law, under the Law, and under Grace by waiting, admonishing, visiting; but some are not corrected by the natural law, nor taught by precept, nor converted by miracle.”
Tropologically, these three years, says Theophylact, are the three ages of man—childhood; full manhood; and old age. For every one ought at all times to bring forth the fruits of virtue to God, as is fitting and proportionate to every age. God, who would have no age of man idle, requires these of every one.
And He, namely, the dresser of the Vine, Christ and the Apostles, answering said unto him. Christ and the Apostles, says the Interlineator, knowing that some of the Jews could be saved, pray God to delay the avenging of the Lord’s cross, that is, the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus.
And if it bear fruit. Understand, “It shall be well, it shall be safe, and it shall be saved.” It is an aposiopesis. The Arabic adds, “For it has brought forth fruit.” The Synagogue formerly gave fruit under Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, and others.
And if not, then after that thou shall cut it down. As God cut down the Jews by the Romans.
Mystically, S. Augustine (De Verb. Dom.) says: “He who intercedes is all holy; who, within the Church, prays for those who are without.” To dig about the conscience is to teach humility and patience, and to engraft on the mind the consideration of heaven and heavenly things, lest, as S. Ambrose says, the heap overwhelm the root of earthly wisdom and of earthly desires and hide it from view.
And dung it. This is, as S. Ambrose says, the feeling of humility, and S. Augustine (De Verb. Dom.): “Dung is filth, but it causes fruitfulness. The filth of the vine-dresser is the grief of the sinner.” And S. Gregory, “Dung is the sins of the flesh, from which the mind is roused to good works.”
Ver. 10.—And He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. The Sabbath was a festival on which the Jews came to the synagogue to hear the Law and its interpretation, as Christians on the Lord’s day come together to hear mass and the sermon. Christ chose this time and place for the following miracle, that it might be public, and that He might confute and instruct the Pharisees, when speaking against it on account of the Sabbath.
Ver. 11.—And behold there was a woman. “The spirit of infirmity, that is, an infirmity sent by the evil one,” says de Lyra. Euthymius, “The devil of weakness not suffering her to live.” The Arabic reads, “With whom was a spirit of infirmity for eighteen years, and she was bowed together and was not able to stand up by any means.” This infirmity was a curving and bending of the whole body, so that the woman was compelled always to walk bent and stooping. Observe that diseases are often sent by the devils, through the permission of God, for sins of other reasons. Ver. 16 shows the cause of this infirmity, “This daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound,” Thus the devil afflicted Job with various diseases, chap. ii. The same is seen in Ps. lxxviii. 49, and Matt. ix. 23. The devil, therefore, made this woman crooked and bent, to compel her always to look down upon the earth.
Eighteen years. It was, therefore, an inveterate and incurable disease, and as such could not be healed by the physicians.
And was bowed together. Looking towards the ground, (cernua) crooked, with her head and back bent downwards—nay, she was less able even than a beast to look up at the sun and heavens, but must always look down at the rocks and the earth. For at the creation (Gen. i.)
Os homini sublime dedit, cœlumque
“God gave to man a lofty countenance,
that he might look up at the sun and the heavens, and, by a heavenly life, journey towards God on high, and be received, into heaven and there enjoy the blessedness of the divine vision; for, as S. Basil says in the Catena, “We should seek heavenly things, and rise above those of earth.” The devil, then, to turn men from heaven, makes them look downwards, so that they see, love, and pursue only earthly things.
Ver. 12.—And when Jesus saw her (the Arabic has “Jesus looked upon her;” with the eyes, that is, of both body and mind; with the eyes of grace, pity, and mercy), He called her to Him, and said to her, Woman, thou art loosed, &c. “Loosed,” that is, thou shalt be dismissed; thou art healed; healed by Me, through the laying on of My hands, as followed. For Christ seems to have done two things at the same time: to have laid His hands upon her, and so healed her, and to have said, Thou art loosed. He said, “Thou art loosed,” and not “I loose thee,” to sharpen the woman’s faith. For Christ often ascribes healing and salvation to His touch, to show the virtue of His word and contact, for in the same moment in which He touched this woman, He healed her. “There was a divine virtue,” says S. Cyril in the Catena, “in the flesh of Christ, by which in an instant He worked great and wonderful miracles. As when He said ‘This is My Body,’ He transmuted the bread into His Body, as He transubstantiates it daily in the Mass. For, to have said, This is My body, is to have made it so; as in the words, ‘He spake and it was done.’” Hence, Titus, “By a word, assuredly most divine, and by a most perfect heavenly power, He removed the infirmity of this woman.” Lastly, the words “Thou art loosed,” that is, thou art freed, shows that the woman had been bound by Satan, constrained, kept down, as by a chain, so that her head appeared fixed to her knees and thighs. This bond Christ loosed, and thus made her erect. For Christ came to destroy the works of the devil.
Ver. 13.—And He laid His hands on her. The hands signify the power of Christ, His authority, rule over diseases and devils; and equally His loving-kindness and beneficence, by which He conferred the benefit of healing upon the woman, through the beneficence of His touch.
Ver. 14.—And the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation. With indignation, because he envied Jesus the glory of a miracle by which He had shown Himself, before the whole synagogue and people, to be greater than the ruler. This man made religion and zeal for the observation of the Sabbath the cloak of his feeling. He is therefore called a hypocrite by Christ. So S. Cyril in the Catena, “When the ruler of this ungrateful synagogue saw the woman made suddenly erect by a mere touch, and celebrating the great acts of God, he sullied his zeal for the glory of the Lord with envy, and censured the miracle as if he would show himself solicitous for the Sabbath.” Observe the word “ungrateful.” He ought to have been grateful to Christ and to have given Him thanks for having honoured himself and the synagogue, and distinguished it by this miracle. But envy had so blinded him, that he thought the glory of Christ his own dishonour and disgrace, for he was unable to perform such and so great acts, himself. So Saul ought to have given thanks to David for slaying Goliath, the dread of himself and of all Israel. But envy made him so perverse that he thought the glory of David his own ignominy, imagining that David was preferred to himself, and that he himself, though the king, was placed below him. This is the living image of envy—the mask of religion—veiled and cloaked.
Ver. 15.—The Lord then answered him, and said, Thou hypocrite. Hypocrites who feign sanctity abroad, when within they are full of envy and malice. S. Chrysostom in the Catena: “Christ rightly called him a hypocrite, because he had the face of one who observed the law carefully, but the mind of cunning and envy. He was not disturbed for the Sabbath and its violation, but because of Christ, because He obtained glory.” I have treated the subject at length, Ecclus. i. 37, on the words ne fueris, and ii. 14, Væ duplici.
This daughter of Abraham. The argument of Christ is most applicable and forcible, showing that the healing was not a servile act, but one liberal and divine, and therefore, not only not unworthy, but rather most worthy, of the Sabbath—for the Sabbath, nay, even God Himself, the author of it, was wonderfully sanctified and made glorious, as S. Irenæus shows when he says that, “Christ, in healing the sick on the Sabbath day, acted not contrarily but according to the law.” Christ then compares, opposes, and prefers the bond and release of the woman to the bond and release of the ox and ass.
Again, every word contains a pregnant antithesis. In the first Christ compares, and prefers the woman, as a daughter of Abraham, to the ox or ass. 2. He compares and prefers the spiritual bond and deliverance of the woman to those of the ox and ass. 3. The woman had suffered this bondage for eighteen years. The ox had borne its tether, and therefore its thirst, only an hour or two. 4. The setting of the ox free was a long and troublesome work, but the healing of the woman was the act of a moment, in which the obligation of the Sabbath could in no way be violated. 5. By this release the woman was restored to perfect health and sanctity, but the ox only drank a little draught of water. Lastly, He convicts the ruler and the Pharisees of inhumanity, because, in the words of Bede, “he postponed the healing of a human being to care of cattle.”
The glorious things that were done by Him. The Syraic—In all the miracles which were done by His hand.
Ver. 18.—Then said He. The word “then” is illative, as is shown by what precedes and follows. Christ saw that He had silenced His enemies, the Pharisees, by His wisdom, and that the people rejoiced and praised both Himself and His word. When He saw them thus rightly disposed, He proposed to them the parable of the kingdom of heaven; for He saw that the way was now prepared for proclaiming this, and for His preaching—that He might incite all to attempt its attainment, and therefore to receive His evangelical doctrine and life. I have explained the parable on S. Matt. xiii. 31.
Ver. 23.—Then said one unto Him, Lord, are there few that be saved? Christ answered in the affirmative that few should be saved, as S. Luke signifies and S. Matt. plainly states, vii. 14. Isaiah speaks to the same effect, x. 22; xxiv. 13. Understand “few” by a comparison of all the inhabitants of the whole world; or of the faithful with the unbelieving, for all the latter are condemned for their unbelief, and equally many of the faithful for their wicked lives. The faithful alone are saved, and not all of these. But whether the greater number of them are saved or lost is the question. Some think that the greater number are saved, through the holy sacraments (which very many of them only receive at the end of their lives). Others think that most are lost because they live in a state of mortal sin. The rule of S. Augustine is that as men have lived, so they die. Of these opinions I have shown which is the true one, on S. James ii. 13, on the words “Mercy rejoiceth against judgment.” The judgment of S. Chrysostom, Homily xl. to the Antiochenes, who numbered 100,000 or more, is formidable. “In our city,” he says, “among so many thousands, scarcely can 100 be found who will be saved, for in the youngers is great wickedness, and in the elders deadness.” And S. Augustine (Bk. iv. ch. 53, against Dresconius) compares the Church to a threshing-floor, on which there is much more chaff than grain, i.e. more reprobate than elect.
Ver 31.—The same day there came certain of the Pharisees, saying, Herod will kill Thee, as he slew John Thy forerunner. Christ seems not to have preached in Galilee at this time, as He had previously left it (Matt. xix.), but in Peræa in Judæa, for Herod ruled over Peræa as well as Galilee. So thinks F. Lucas. Maldonatus and others, however, suppose that these things were done in Galilee, that S. Luke may now insert by recapitulation what had been done there previously, as we find in ver. 24 and chap. ix. 51.
Moreover the Pharisees, by this falsehood, pretended that Herod was hostile to Christ; that they might banish Him from among them, or at least that they might test His freedom and conscience and depress Him by implanting in his mind the fear of Herod, and might thus drive Him out of their country. “Lest,” says Euthymius, “by His presence and miracles He might gain fame and attract a multitude.” And perhaps, when going from Peræa to Judæa, He might fall into the hands of the chief Priests, whom they knew to be contriving His death, as is plain from S. John vii. 20. 25. Herod, indeed, was not opposed to Christ, for he desired to see Him and His miracles, as in chap. ix. 9; nay, he would not condemn Christ when Christ was sent to him by Pilate, but sent Him back to Pilate clad in a white (alba, Vulg., λάμπζος, Greek) robe, as if He were worthy of ridicule and not death, chap. xxiii. So Jansenius, Maldonatus, F. Lucas and others.
Ver.32.—And He said to them. Christ answered the Pharisees freely and loftily when they brought up the fear of Herod. He said that He feared neither Herod, nor the Pharisees, nor the rulers, but He would continue to preach, though against the will of them all, until the day appointed by the Father for His death. He called Herod “a fox,” because he was cunning, crafty, (versipellis) and false, for he killed John the Baptist by fraud and falsehood. Such are heretics the type of whom was Herod, for they seek to kill those who believe, in Christ.
But Christ here rather addresses the Pharisees, and calls them all foxes because they would have instilled a false fear of Herod into His mind, that in flying from Judæa He might be taken by the rulers and put to death. Titus says that “He appears, as some think, to direct the whole force of His words against Herod alone, but He turns them against the wickedness of the Pharisees rather than Herod, for He did not say ‘that fox,’ but ‘this fox.’” In fact, to show that the Pharisees resembled foxes by their pretended fraud, He carefully used a middle term, and, as S. Theophylact says, “with intention,” for by saying “fox” in the singular He, made them think that He meant Herod, but by the addition of the demonstrative pronoun “this,” He signified that they themselves were the crafty ones.
Thus Emmanuel Sà: “The word ‘that’ may apply either to Herod or to him who invented the falsehood that Herod wished to kill Christ; and who must have been one of the Pharisees, the enemies of Christ. The meaning then is, You Pharisees, like crafty and deceitful foxes, would fill Me with the fear of Herod, that I may no longer preach among you; but I forewarn you that I fear neither you nor Herod, nor will I, for any reason, cease to preach; for I am sure that my Father will not suffer Me to be taken and put to death before the day appointed by Him shall have arrived.”
Behold, I cast out devils—I proceed to perform my work against the will not only of Herod but of you—to-day and to-morrow, that is, for some time yet, and the third day, that is, in a short time, when I shall have finished my ministry and preaching, I shall be perfected, i.e. “I shall receive my consummation in a glorious death on the cross, undergone by me willingly and courageously for the salvation of men,” as the Apostle says, Hebrews xi.
Observe the Hebraism by which an indefinite time is put for a definite, as in Hosea vi. 2. So S. Cyril and Theophylact. Euthymius says, “To-day; and therefore to-morrow; that is, for some time yet, though a short one, that is about three months,” for Christ appears to have said this a little before the Feast of Dedication, which is kept upon the 25th of the month Casleu, which answers to part of our November and December, and He was crucified in the following March.
Christ therefore boldly said this to the Pharisees to show, 1. That He feared not death but sought it. 2. To show His Divine Power, by which He would live among men, and teach them, even against their will, as long as the Father and Himself pleased and determined. 3. To increase the vexation of the perverse Pharisees, for they already wished for His destruction.
Christ also calls His death “a consummation,” because in it and by it He consummated the whole œconomy of His Incarnation, and the whole work of the mission on which He was sent by the Father, that is, the expiation of all sins, the redemption of the human race, the salvation of the elect; as in Hebrews x. 14.
Ver. 33.—Nevertheless I must walk. “Must,” says S. Bonaventure, “not from compulsion but from Divine decree.” So S. Cyril, and Titus. Christ repeats this (which He had said in the preceding verse) to show that He was constant in fearing neither Herod nor the Pharisees, and in His determination to preach, against their will, for a short time still, to the day appointed by the Father. The meaning is: “To-day and to-morrow, and the third day following I must walk in the towns and villages, and preach, and on that third day following, that is soon after, be perfected by death on the cross, as I have already said. I now add that on the third day I shall do the same, for although I shall be perfected on this day, yet on this day also I must walk. All the time of my life, even to my death, I must walk in this country, and preach, and work cures, and cast out devils, because I have consecrated my whole life to holy actions, and my death to generous suffering; for I have offered myself to God as a holocaust.” ln Hebrew “to walk” is taken for “to work;” S. John viii. 12., xii. 35; PS. i. 1, and elsewhere. The Syriac has, “I must walk to-day and to-morrow, and on the third day I shall make my journey,” i.e. I shall set out to Jerusalem to my death, and thence to Heaven from which I came.
Morally, the faithful, and especially the apostolic man, may learn to labour strenuously in the Lord’s vineyard even to death and martyrdom, like SS. Peter, Paul, Chrysostom, Athanasius and others. So our own Father Canisius, though worn out by many and great labours, yet ceased not from them until his seventy-seventh year, when he was released at once from them and from his life.
These were his words. “To the soldiers of Christ,” their term of service (stipendia) is not finished till the end of their lives. When they have ended then they begin: death alone gives them their discharge. There is one abode for those who have merited it, heaven. So our own Sacchinus in Bk. iii. of his life: “Let us labour therefore even to death, that after death we may rest for ever in a blessed felicity; for earth is the course (stadium) of a little labour, heaven is the seat of eternal repose.”
For it cannot be that a prophet should perish out of Jerusalem. In the Greek ου̉κ ὲνδέχεται; that is, it is not fitting, it does not happen. “It cannot be done” is read by the Syriac. It is a hyperbole. It means, “Such is the wickedness and barbarity of Jerusalem, that it seems proper to her that the prophets should be killed by herself, nay, she will not suffer this to be done by any other, but takes it amiss if it be. I do not fear Herod therefore, whom you cast up to Me, because I shall not be put to death by him now in Galilee, but some months hence in Jerusalem, the murderess of the prophets, where, not by Herod, but by yourselves, 0 Pharisees, I shall be crucified and slain.” “For they were accustomed,” says S. Theophylact, “to pour out the blood of the servants, even as they poured out that of the Lord Himself.” So Titus, Jansenius, Maldonatus, and F. Lucas. The last named says: “It cannot be that a prophet should be slain outside Jerusalem, he must be slain within it; not because none were slain outside, for Jezebel slew many in Samaria, 1. Kings xviii. 13, xix. 10, but as it was most usual for their slaughter to take place within the walls. For the kings had their abode there, and the rulers, the nobles, the scribes, the wise men, and the Pharisees, holy in their own eyes, who, like the people, would not endure the rebukes and admonitions of the prophets; so that the city was changed from the house of God, into the slaughter-house of the prophets, and professed to be, as it were, their place of torture. We read, 2 Kings xxi. 16, “Manasseh shed innocent blood very much, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another.”
In like manner at Rome, in various places, and especially at the Ursus Pileatus, where is now the Church of S. Bibiana, a great number of Christians were slain by the unbelieving Emperors: so that the place obtained the vulgar name of “The Shambles of the Martyrs.” Thus it might then have been said with truth, “It is not possible that a Pope should be killed out of Rome, for almost all the Popes, from S. Peter to Silvester, for 300 years, were put to death by the Emperors at Rome for the faith of Christ.”
2 Christ healeth the dropsy on the sabbath: 7 teacheth humility: 12 to feast the poor: 15 under the parable of the great supper, sheweth how worldly minded men, who contemn the word of God, shall be shut out of heaven: 25 those who will be his disciples, to bear their cross must make their accounts aforehand, lest with shame they revolt from him afterwards, 34 and become altogether unprofitable, like salt that hath lost his savour.
ND it came to pass, as he went into the house of one of the chief Pharisees to eat bread on the sabbath day, that they watched him.
13 But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind:
14 And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.
19 And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused.
20 And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.
Douay Rheims Version
Christ heals the dropsical man. The parable of the supper. The necessity of renouncing all to follow Christ.
ND it came to pass, when Jesus went into the house of one of the Pharisees, on the sabbath day, that they watched him.
Ver. 1.—And it came to pass that He went into the house of one of the chief Pharisees. “To do them service,” says Titus, “Christ makes Himself their friend, and, as it were, one of their household,” for “although He knew the malice of the Pharisees, yet He became their guest that He might benefit by His words and miracles those who were present, and teach them the lawfulness of healing on the Sabbath, and the respective duties of entertainers and guests.”
Ver. 2.—And behold there was a certain man before Him which had the dropsy. This man seems to have been a friend of the Pharisee, who perhaps had invited Jesus in order that He might heal him. Certainly, as S. Cyril and Euthymius say, the suiterer presented himself of his own accord to Jesus, silently pleading that he might be restored to health. But the Pharisees sought His presence for another purpose, in order that they might see whether Christ would heal him on the Sabbath day, and thus show that He was not in truth a prophet sent by that God who had sanctified the rigid observance of the seventh day.
Ver. 3.—And Jesus answering spake unto the lawyers and Pharisees. Answering their thoughts and not their inquiry, for they had asked no question, but thought in their hearts that Christ would be acting unlawfully if He healed on the Sabbath day.
Ver. 4.—And He had took him, and touched him, and ley him go (ε̉πιλαβόμενος, “when he had ouched him.” apprehensum, Vulg.) He heals by His touch the dropsical man who, from fear of the Pharisees, did not ask to be healed on account of the Sabbath, but only stood up, that when Jesus beheld him He might have compassion on him and heal him. S. Cyril.
Mystically. S. Gregory (lib. xiv. Moral.) observes: “The sick of the dropsy is healed in the Pharisee’s presence, for by the bodily infirmity of the one is expressed the mental disease, i.e. the avarice and covetousness, of the other.” “For,” says Bede, “the dropsical man represents one who is weighed down by an overflowing stream of carnal pleasures.” S. Augustine adds, “We, lightly compare one sick of the dropsy to a covetous rich man, who, the more he abounds in riches, the more ardently desires them. Avarice and covetousness, then, are very similar to the dropsy, and as this dire disease is best remedied by abstaining from drinking, so the remedy for unlawful desire is mortification, abstinence, and continence, all of which wither and drive out virtuous habits.”
Ver. 5.—And He answered them, saying, Which of you, &c. “If,” says Bede, “ye hasten on the Sabbath to pull an ox or an ass out of the pit into which he has fallen, consulting not the good of the animal, but your own avarice, how much more ought I to deliver a man who is much better than a beast?” He adds also, “they were not to violate the Sabbath by a work of covetousness, who were arguing that He did so by a work of charity.” And again, in a mystical sense, the ox and the ass represent the wise and the foolish, or the Jew oppressed by the burden of the Law and the Gentile not subject to reason. For the Lord rescues from the pit of concupiscence all who are sunk therein.”
S. Augustine also (Lib. ii., Quæst. Evang.) says, “He has aptly compared the dropsical man to an animal which has fallen into a ditch (for he is troubled by water), as He compared that woman whom He loosed, to a beast which is let loose to be led to water.”
Ver. 6.—And they could not answer Him again to these things. Because they were convinced by the truth of His reasoning. Yet privately they murmured amongst themselves, and afterwards openly clamoured amongst the people. “This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the Sabbath day,” S. John, ix. 16. Although Jesus knew this, He healed the man, and permitted their malice and obstinacy to gather force, so that the cross ordained for Him by God might be prepared for the salvation of men. “Caring nought,” says Theophylact, “for the offence given to the Pharisees” For when a great good is the result, we must not care if the foolish are offended.
Ver. 7.—And He put forth a parable to those which were bidden, i.e. He taught, under the similitude of a man seeking the highest place at a feast, that we must beware of every kind of ambition. For sin continues to be sin, although the manner of sinning be changed.
“When He marked how they chose out the chief rooms.” For as teachers of the Law, they considered themselves entitled to the highest honour, and fought for precedence as eagerly as now-a-days ladies of rank and men of small brains.
This is a kind of introduction to the parable, and indicates the occasion on which it was spoken, and the persons against whom it was directed.
Ver. 8.—When thou art bidden . . . sit not down in the highest room. For when the master of the house takes your place from you to give it to a more honourable guest, those who sit next in order will not give way to your ambition, and you will begin with shame to go down from the highest to the lowest room. Do not unduly exalt thyself, lest some one, offended by thy insolence, humble it and lay it low.
Ver. 10.—Go and sit down in the lowest room. The master of the house usually assigned to each guest his place at the table, a duty formerly discharged by the “ruler of the feast,” regard being had to each one’s age and social standing. Thus Joseph’s brethren “sat before him, the first-born according to his birthright, and the youngest according to his youth” Gen. xliii. 33. In this verse, Christ makes evident allusion to the saying of Solomon, “Put not forth thyself in the presence of the king,” &c. (Prov. xxv. 6, 7). Titus very justly remarks, that “a wise man, however deserving he may be of the highest place, so little affects it, as to give it up to others of his own accord. Wherefore a mind modest and content with its own lot is a great and a glorious gift.”
Then shalt thou have worship. Christ teaches that if we would acquire glory and greatness, we must fly from them and be humble; for men hate the proud and seek to humiliate them, but make much of the modest and meek; the true glory is that which is given, not that which is sought: furthermore, God has decreed by an eternal law that the humble should be exalted, but that the mighty should be put down from their seat. Wherefore, the proud, if they are wise, will humble themselves, that they may have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with them. Knowing that if they seek the most honourable places, they will excite envy, and men will strive, whether rightly or wrongly, to humiliate them.
Hear what the wise man says, “The greater thou art, the more humble thyself, and thou shalt find favour before the Lord.” (Ecclus. iii. 20.)
This precept of Christ, or rather this wise dogma, was recognised and taught by the Gentile philosophers. So Plutarch introduces Thales thus sharply rebuking the pride of Alexidemus, who, because he was the son of Thrasybulus had rushed from the banqueting hall at seeing others seated above him: “Fearest thou lest thy place at table shall bring thee glory or obscurity after the manner of the stars, which, as the Egyptians say, wax and wane according to the places wherein they rise or set? Thou art not so wise as the man, who, when the leader assigned him the lowest place in a chorus, said, Thou hast done well in having discovered a means of making even a position such as this honourable. For he was of opinion that a man is not distinguished by his position, but rather the position by the man.”
Honour, like the shadow cast by the body, follows him that flee from it, but flees from him that follows it.
Symbolically. Members of religious orders, according to the words of Christ, “sit down in the lowest room.” For they who have kept nothing, but given up all, even their very will, have no lower place to which they can betake themselves. Here they are at rest, for their humility is not limited, like that of other men, to this or that action, but is life-long; for it is a part of their profession which embraces their whole life.
Ver. 11.—For whosoever exalleth himself shall be abased, &c., both by God and man, often in this life, always in the life to come. This verse explains the meaning and scope of the parable. See S. Matt. xxiii. 12.
Ver. 12.—Then said He also unto him that bade Him, i.e. to the chief Pharisee mentioned in the first verse, whose hospitality Christ recompensed by the spiritual banquet of ghostly counsel and advice. This man, says the Gloss, seems to have invited his guests in order that he in turn might be entertained by them.
“Call not thy friends.” Christ counselled this as the more perfect way. He did not command it as of necessity. For it is lawful, nay, meritorious, for us to invite our friends, if it be done out of friendship and kindness. Whence Bede says, “Brethren then, and friends, and the rich are not forbidden, as though it were a crime, to entertain one another, but this, like all the other necessary intercourse among men, is shown to fail in meriting the reward of ever lasting life,” unless, as I have said, such entertainment springs from a higher motive of brotherly love or charity.
“Lest they also bid thee again.” Like worldly men are wont to do from gratitude or else avarice, for “to be hospitable to those who will make a return, is,” says S. Ambrose, “but a form of avarice.”
“And a recompence be made thee” by man, and this prove worthless and transient. If you regard this alone, you exclude the spiritual recompense from God and deprive yourself of it; if you look for both you will receive both, but both lessened, for the one lessens and as it were interferes with the other; but if you regard the divine alone, and only admit or rather bear with the human recompence because it is offered you, you will receive the divine whole and undiminished.
Ver. 13.—But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. “The maimed,” α̉ναπήζους, the cripple, the mutilated, i.e. those wanting in body or mind. S. Chrysostom assigns the reason. “If ye invite the poor, God will be your debtor. For the humbler the brother is, so much the more does Christ come through him and visit us. For he who entertains a great man does it often from an interested motive or from vainglory. But thou sayest, the poor man is unclean and filthy. Wash him and make him sit with thee at table. If he has dirty garments, give him clean ones. If thou will not receive him in a quiet chamber, at least admit him where thy servants are. If thou art not willing that he should sit at meat with thee, send him a dish from thy table.”
Following this counsel, S. Gregory had often twelve beggars at his table, and therefore was rewarded by receiving Christ. Himself in the guise of a poor man. S. Louis of France also, not content with entertaining 120 beggars at his table daily, and on feast days 200, frequently waited upon them himself, and even washed their feet. In like manner acted S. Louis the Minorite, Bishop of Toulouse, following the example of his uncle S. Louis; S. Hedwig, Duchess of Poland, and her niece S. Elizabeth, the daughter of Andrew king of Hungary, who fed 900 poor every day, receiving a rich reward in divine favour and grace.
Mystically. Origen says, “He who shuns vainglory calls to a spiritual banquet the poor, that is, the ignorant, that he may enrich them; the weak, that is, those with offended consciences, that he may heal them; the lame, that is, those who have wandered from reason, that he may make their paths straight; the blind, that they may discern the truth.”
Ver. 14.—And thou shalt be blessed, for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just, when, says the Interlinear, the entertainers of the poor will enter into blessedness.
The neediness of the guests purifies the intention of the host, who expects no return from them, but acts solely out of love to God. Wherefore God, who considers that what is done to the poor is done unto Him, will grant him a bounteous reward, even the everlasting delights of the heavenly banquet, according to the promise, “and I appoint unto you . . . that ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom.” S. Luke xxii. 29. Hence S. Chrysostom says, “Let us be troubled not when we receive no return of a kindness, but when we do; for if we have received it, we shall receive nothing more; but if man does not repay us, God, out of love for whom we have acted, will be our recompense.”
Ver. 15.—Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God; i.e., in the resurrection of the just, of which Christ had made mention in the preceding verse. S. Cyril in the Catena, says, “This man was carnal, for he thought the reward of the saints was to be bodily.” He must therefore have been one of the Pharisees, for they believe in the resurrection, which the Sadducces deny. Acts xxiii. 8. For in heaven God feeds, satisfies, and fills (inebriat) the blessed with all delights. So the Psalmist: “I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with Thy likeness.” Ps. xvii. 15. And again, “They shall be satisfied with the plenteousness of Thy house, and Thou shalt give them drink of Thy pleasures as out of the river.” Ps. xxxvi. 8. This joy S. Augustine describes at length in his Soliloquies and Meditations.
Mystically. “He was sighing for something which was afar off, and the bread itself was lying before him. For who is that Bread of the kingdom of God but He who says, I am the living bread which came down from heaven.” S. John vi 51.
Ver. 16.—Then He said unto him, A certain man made a great supper. This parable is very similar to that recorded by S. Matthew. See commentary on S. Matt. xxii. 2.
But you will ask, What was this supper? 1.Some understand by it, the incarnation of the Word of God, the preaching of His Gospel, and the redemption wrought by Him. For this is the great supper to which Christ, when He became incarnate, invited us. S. Matthew calls it a dinner. It is a dinner as regards the Church Militant; a supper with respect to the Church Triumphant. In this sense Leonidas addressed his comrades before the battle. “Let us dine, fellow-soldiers, for we shall sup in the nether (or rather the upper) world.” For the Church Militant here on earth is striving eagerly to attain the Church Triumphant in Heaven.
2. S. Cyril, in the Catena, understands the Eucharist by the supper. “The man,” he says, “is God the Father, who has prepared for us a great supper in Christ, for He has given us His own body to eat. Whence the Church makes choice of this parable for the Feast of the Blessed Sacrament.”
3. But in its literal sense, the supper is the happiness and glory of heaven. It is called a supper, because it will be given in the evening, i.e. at the end of the world, when life and its troubles are over: because, also, it will be our only and everlasting refreshment.
The great supper, says S. Gregory (Hom. 36), is the full enjoyment of eternal sweetness; for after it no guest is cast out.
A great. For nothing greater than it can be imagined, since God Himself will be our food and feast. Hence, Euthymius says, “Hereby is signified the unspeakable fruition of God, who will fulfil the utmost expectations of the blessed. For ‘eye hath not seen, nor car heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him.’” 1 Cor. ii. 9.
And bade many: e.g., the whole nation of the Jews, who were the Church and the chosen people of God, and specially their rulers, who were bidden to “repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” S. Matt. iii 2.
Ver. 17.—And sent his servants, &c., i.e., sent the Apostles after the resurrection to say that all things were ready for the heavenly feast.
Ver. 18.—And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, &c. The Scribes and Pharisees, and the chief Priests are here clearly indicated; for they, invited by Christ to the Gospel feast, made light of it, because they were so intent on their farms, i.e. their worldly possessions, that they had neither time nor inclination to think about the salvation of their souls. “God,” says S. Gregory (Hom. 36 in Evang.), “offers what ought to have been asked. Unasked, He is ready to give, what we could scarcely dare hope for. He announces that the delights of the eternal feast are ready, and with one consent they make excuse.” “They say, I pray thee, and then disdain to come. The word sounds of humility, but the action is pride.” S. Bernard rightly calls men who seek wealth, pleasure, honour and the like, lunatics. “I once” says he, “saw five men: why should I not look on them as lunatics? For the first, with swollen cheeks, was chewing the sand of the sea-shore. The second, standing by a lake of sulphur, was endeavouring to inhale the foul and noxious vapour which arose therefrom. The third, leaning over a blazing furnace, was enjoying the burning sparks which he received within his gaping jaws. The fourth, seated on a pinnacle of a temple, was drawing in with open mouth the light breezes, and if they seemed to flow less freely he fanned himself, as if in hope of inhaling the whole atmosphere. The fifth, standing aside, was laughing at the others, although himself the most deserving of ridicule, for he was busily engaged in sucking his own flesh, applying now his hands, now his arms, now one part of his body, now another to his mouth.” By these figures S. Bernard pictures the various kinds of sin. The first represents the greedy, the second the lustful, the third those prone to anger, the fourth the ambitious, and the fifth those who boast themselves over much of their possessions and are self-satisfied, who are never content, but ever thirsting for the good things of this world.
Ver. 19.—And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them, &c. Another kind of avarice is here described, viz, the desire of possessing oxen, and animals for tillage, or food, or some other purpose; for the riches of the patriarchs lay in their herds. So think Theophylact and Titus. S. Gregory, however (Hom. 36), says, “What are we to understand by the five yoke of oxen but the five senses? which are rightly called yokes, because they are double in the two sexes.”
Ver. 20.—And another said, I have married a wife, &c. What, asks S. Gregory, are we to understand by a wife but carnal gratifications? The Pharisees, like many at the present time, were ensnared by avarice and luxury. These are the thorns which choke the word of God. S. Luke viii. 14.
Let us all then give heed to the warning of S. Paul, and remember that “the fashion of this world passeth away” (1 Cor vii. 31). “For the ‘res temporalis’ consists in possession, and ‘res eterna’ in expectation,” S. Gregory (Hom. 36). Not that marriage is censured here (save so far as it interferes with the work of salvation), says S. Ambrose, but purity is held up to greater honour, for “the love of the things of this world is a fetter to (viscus est) the wings of the spirit.” Gloss.
In carnal things, desire begets satiety, and satiety disgust; but in spiritual things, satiety provokes desire. S. Gregory.
S. Augustine (serm. 33, De Verb. Domini) explains and applies somewhat differently the excuses of the invited guests:
“The piece of ground which was bought denotes government. Therefore pride is the first vice reproved.
“The five yoke of oxen are taken to be the five senses, by means of which earthly things are pursued. For the oxen till the ground; but men at a distance from faith, given up to earthly things, are occupied with carnal matters.
“‘Love not the world, therefore, neither the things that are in the world,’ for ‘the world passeth away, and the lust thereof’ 1 S. John ii. 15, 17. Away then with wicked and vain excuses, and let us come to the supper wherewith we may be inwardly nourished. Let not the lifting up of pride hinder us, neither let lawless curiosity fright us, and turn us away from God. Let not the pleasures of the flesh keep us from the pleasure of the heart. Let us come and be filled.”
Ver. 21.—So that servant came, and shewed his lord these things, &c. We are here taught that Christ chose the outcasts and poor in place of the Priests and Pharisees who had made light of His gospel. According to that which is written, “The publicans and harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.” S. Matt. xxi. 31. And again, “Many that are first shall be last: and the last shall be first.” S. Matt. xix 30.
For albeit that Christ preached from the commencement of His ministry both to the Pharisees and to the multitude, yet the Pharisees, as of higher rank, were the first invited; to preserve the unity of the parable; and also because Christ would have the scribes first, by reason of their position, acknowledge Him, and then be His witnesses amongst the people. But the contrary came to pass. “They,” says Euthymius, “who refused to acknowledge Him, were the chief Priests and rulers of the people, and these, who were chosen in their stead, were the humble and the outcasts of the nation.” For of a truth “God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.” 1 Cor. i. 27.
Symbolically. S. Augustine says (serm. 34 De Verb. Dom.): Who were those that came, but the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind? Those who absented themselves were those who thought themselves rich, and robust; who, as it were, could walk well, and see clearly, the hopelessness of whose state was proportionate to their pride.
Let the beggars come to the feast at the invitation of Him who made Himself poor that we might become rich.
Let the weak come, for the physician has no need of those that are whole, but of those that are sick.
Let the lame come and say, “Order my steps in Thy word.”
Let the blind come and say, “Lighten Thou mine eyes, that I sleep not in death.”
These poor and miserable creatures teach us:
1. That none are to be despised, but that salvation in Christ is to be offered to all.
2. That it is easier for the poor to obey the gospel precepts, and therefore to be saved, than for the rich.
3. That we must despair of no one’s salvation, however wretched, blind, or perverse he may be.
Ver. 22.—And the servant said, Yet there is room. The number of the elect is not yet complete. Heaven is not yet filled with those who are to obtain salvation. Learn to imitate the zeal of this servant who rejected no one, however blind, deformed, or maimed, but busied himself in summoning and saying more and more.
Ver. 23.—And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the high-ways and hedges, &c. Go forth, without the city-without Jerusalem, and beyond Judæa, and call the Gentiles to Christ.
Into the highways. “The partings of the highways” (S. Matt. xxii. 9), i.e. into the roads which lead to all nations and to the ends of the earth.
And hedges. The hamlets and villages, which were surrounded not by walls but by hedges. Hence we are taught that the Gospel is to be preached by the Apostles and their successors, even to savage and uncivilised nations; a duty which is recognised more and more by the followers of Christ.
Hence the servant does not say, as he added of the Jews in the 22nd verse, “it is done as thou hast commanded;” because the work is not yet finished among the Gentiles; it is being done more fully from day to day, to be completed at the end or the world. “The meaning of this verse,” says Titus, “is, that after the Israelites had been gathered in, the people of the Gentiles were also to be called, i.e. men who, as being born and brought up in the country, in the highways and hedges without the city, were entirely uncivilised.” Or, as Theophylact interprets it, “The Israelites were within the city, having received the law, and having been granted a more civilised lot in life; but the Gentiles were aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, strangers from the covenants of promise, and without God in the world.” (Eph. ii. 12.)
Compel them to come in. Many of the Gentile nations were wholly given up to idolatry and evil living. Hence they were to be compelled to salvation by the burning zeal and energy of the preacher, by miracles, even by the scourge and judgments of God sent upon them “in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (1 Cor. ii 4). For “our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance.” 1 Thess. i 5.
“Therefore,” says Suarez, “compel them to come in, either by afflicting them with labour and sorrows, or by converting them, as it were, miraculously, by a mighty effort and powerful call.”
Ver. 24.—For I say unto you, that none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper, because they made light of my invitation. So the Pharisees and the rulers of the Jews, given up to earthly enjoyments, are to be excluded from the heavenly feast because, called by Christ to accept the teaching of His gospel, they refused the invitation. “Because I have called and ye refused, I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh.” Prov. i. 24. Then shall they, too late, repent of their ingratitude and folly, and shall say, “What hath pride profited us, or what good hath riches with our vaunting brought us? For those things are passed away like a shadow.” Wisdom v. 8.
So far Christ had said all these things in the house of the Pharisee, whose invitation He had accepted, in order that He might instruct him and his friends. Let all those, therefore, who are followers of Christ, imitate His example, and not take part in any entertainment unless it be for the purpose of reaping spiritual fruit.
Ver. 26.—If any man come to Me, &c. That having left all (ver. 33) he may, with the Apostles and the seventy disciples, follow Me, the Master and Teacher of perfection.
All these things are of evangelical counsel, and not of precept although they may be said in a measure to extend to all Christians, inasmuch as they are bound to hate their parents, i.e. to give up the love of their friends and relations—even the love of life, if such love oppose itself to the law of Christ. Hence Maldonatus thinks this to be of precept; Jansenius, of counsel. But see S. Matt. x. 37.
Suarez (lib. ii. De Concurs. Dom.) says, “to hate” signifies the same as “to love less,” in which sense it is written, “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.” Rom. ix. 13.
Ver. 28.—For which of you, intending to build a tower, &c. By means of this parable Christ would teach us with what prudence we ought to test our bodily, and above all our spiritual strength, as well as such gifts of grace as we may possess, before we attempt to build the lofty tower of evangelical perfection, and declare war against ourselves our passions, our friends and the whole world; lest afterward, recoiling from so great an undertaking, we incur the loss of all our outlay, and also the reproach of having rashly commenced a building which we were unable to finish, and of having entered upon a war in which we were worsted.
“He counts the cost,” says the Gloss, “who perceives that money will have to be spent, i.e. that the heart must be weaned from corrupt desires, and the soul prepared for adversity.”
Symbolically. Salmeron (tom. vii. tract 24) says, “Christ puts forth two parables to teach the rulers of the Church that they must be skilled both in action and in contemplation, the one about building a tower, which is a symbol of contemplative life, for a tower commands an extensive prospect; the other, about engaging in war against a hostile king, which is significative of the active life.
“For those who are novices in the way of God, and are learning, as it were, the first elements of the perfect life, are called upon to battle with their enemies, and to fight against their vices and evil passions.
“By the tower therefore we may understand the religious state, which is coupled to the contemplative life.
“1. Because as a tower overtops all other buildings, so does a life of religion excel all other vocations and callings.
“2. As a tower gives grace to a city, so is the religious life an ornament to the Church.
“3. As a tower is a look-out, to discover the movements of the enemy, so in the contemplative life we look forth on the wiles of our adversary, and on the good and evil laid up in futurity.
“4. As a tower is a protection to them that dwell therein, so is a life of religion a defence against the world, the flesh and the devil, and a safe storehouse for the fruits of good works. So it is written, Cant. iv. 4, ‘Thy neck is like the tower of David, . . . whereon hang a thousand bucklers,’ i.e. the bucklers of holy vows, holy examples, and holy observances.
“5. As every one ought to count the cost before he commences to build a tower, so a year is given a novice in order that he may make trial of his fitness for the religious life. For he whose heart is fixed on heaven looks down as from a lofty tower upon the world which lies beneath, and counts it worthless.”
So S. Chrysostom (hom. 15 ad. Pop.), says: “Just as to those who look back from the highest mountain tops, not only men and trees but even entire cities look small, and great armies seem to be creeping about like ants, so to those whose minds are uplifted by the constant contemplation of heavenly things, all human affairs, power, glory, riches, and the like, seem minute and worthless: unworthy of the greatness of the immortal soul.”
Hear also the lament of S. Gregory, when he was called from a religious order to be the Pope: “Seeking nothing, in this world, and fearing, nothing, I seemed to stand on a certain eminence, so that I thought that the promise of God, ‘I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth’ (Isa. lviii. 14), had well-nigh been fulfilled in me. For he rides upon the high places of the earth, who despises and treads under feet all that this world counts great and glorious. But suddenly cast down from this eminence, and plunged into the whirl of temptation, I have became a prey to terror and affright, for although I fear nothing for myself, I fear much for those committed to my charge” (Lib. 1, epist. 5 and 6).
Ver. 31.—Or what king, going to make war against another king, &c. By this, says Titus, we are given to understand that we have a war to wage against the hostile powers of Satan and that law which, reigning in our members, is continually the cause of inward perturbation and strife.
So also S. Cyril: “The ten thousand of him who is going to fight with the king who has double the number, signify the simplicity of the Christian about to contend with the subtlety of the devil.” And Theophylact: “The king is sin, and devils are his satellites, who, compared to us, are considered to have greater strength.”
But S. Gregory (Hom.37) gives another interpretation. “The king that is about to come against us is Christ, who will come with a double army against a single one. For while we are scarcely prepared in deeds only, He will discomfit us at once, both in thought and deed. Let us send Him therefore an embassy; our tears, our works of mercy, and propitiatory victim.”
Ver. 32.—Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, &c. This verse gives completeness to the parable, but is not to be taken as the teaching of Christ, for we may not bargain with either the evil spirits or our vices; against these we must wage άσπονδον πόλεμον, an irreconcilable war.
This verse may however be interpreted in this way—
“He that desires to follow me perfectly in poverty and in the preaching of the gospel, must make an entire surrender of self, and give up parents, friends, and possessions, thus making them enemies.
“But if he see that he has not strength enough for this, let him make conditions of peace with them, and bind himself by the gospel precepts only, leaving for others the counsels of poverty, obedience, and the preaching of salvation. For this is that which Christ would teach, as is clear from the following verse; hence he makes mention of two armies, two leaders, and two banners, one His own, and the other that of Lucifer. Wherefore the Apostles and their successors have need to bear in mind that they are engaged in actual warfare against the devil and his angels.” S. Cyril.
Ver. 33.—So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, &c. This is the post-parable, and sums up the teaching of the parable itself. “He who refuseth to give up all, in order that he may live a life of evangelical perfection, cannot be My disciple as the Apostles were.” And again, It would he better for him who is unwilling to give up all, when persecution or necessity demand it and will not submit to the loss of possessions, family, and even life itself for the gospel’s sake, not to take My yoke upon him, rather than having begun to lead a Christian life, to fall away and apostatise from the faith. For such an one adds the sin of apostasy to that of unbelief, according to the Scripture: “For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.” 2 S. Pet. ii. 21.
Christ here teaches us that to become a disciple is no child’s play, but a work for men, needing great gifts of grace, and much strength of purpose and much vigour of mind.
The Christians of the first three centuries, particularly those of Rome, in time of persecution, cheerfully made sacrifice of their fortunes, their liberty and their lives, for the gospel’s sake. “Few,” says Bede, “are wishing to leave all and give up earthly cares; but it is for every one who is faithful to renounce all, i.e. so to hold the things that are of the world, that he may not be held in the world.”
Hear also S. Gregory (hom. 36): I “would advise you to leave all, but I dare not. But if you are not able to give up all, be masters of your earthly possessions; let them not gain the mastery over you.”
Ver. 34.—Salt is good, but if the salt have lost his savour, &c. Salt is good as long as it retains its peculiar properties. So also ye who are my Apostles, as long as ye preserve your spiritual powers, will be useful to the world to season it with the salt of gospel faith and wisdom. But if ye lose your savour, ye will be good for nothing but to be despised and trodden under feet of men, for there is no one to season or correct you. Bede. See also Comment. on S. Matt. v. 13, and S. Mark ix. 50.
This parable applies not only to the Apostles, but in a measure to all Christians. For they ought, by the innocence of their lives and their good example, to season unbelievers who are, as it were, unsalted.
Ver. 35.—He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. Let him hear and meditate on what I say and teach. Our Lord calls attention to the seriousness and the difficulty of the matter about which He has been teaching. See Comment. on S. Matt. xiii. 9-13.