3 The parable of the sower and the seed: 18 The exposition of it. 24 The parable of the tares, 31 of the mustard seed, 33 of the leaven, 44 of the hidden treasure, 45 of the pearl, 47 of the draw-net cast into the sea: 53 and how Christ is contemned of his own countyymen.
HE same day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the sea side.
Douay Rheims Version
HE same day Jesus going out of the house, sat by the sea side.
53. And it came to pass: when Jesus had finished these parables, he passed from thence.
55. Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not his mother called Mary, and his brethren James, and Joseph, and Simon, and Jude:
56. And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence therefore hath he all these things?
57. And they were scandalized in his regard. But Jesus said to them: A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house.
58. And he wrought not many miracles there, because of their unbelief.
At that time, &c. Syriac, by the sea shore: When Christ, after His manner, had preached in the house, which He had hired for His dwelling in Capernaum, as I have said on c. iv. 13, He sent away the multitudes to attend to themselves and their affairs, and that He might refresh Himself and His disciples with rest and food. Bye and bye, since He knew that the multitudes were about to come to Him in such numbers that the house could not contain them, He went out to the wide, open shore of the Sea of Galilee; and there uttered the following parables.
He went up into a ship: from whence, as from a pulpit, He preached to the people assembled on the shore.
A sower went out to sow: Gr. ό σπείρων, i.e., sowing, Observe: Appositely are gospel doctrine and preaching compared to seed, and the harvest proceeding from it. For, as for the natural harvest there is need of seed, earth, sun, rain and wind, so also is there need of such things for the spiritual harvest. The seed is the word of God, or the gospel, and the preaching of it. The earth is the free will of all who hear. The sun is preventing grace, illuminating and inflaming the free will, that it may receive the Word of God so as from it to produce the fruits of charity and all virtues. The rain is grace, watering and promoting these good acts and motions of the free will. The winds are temptations which, by agitating them, cause them to take deeper root, and strengthen them. Lastly, there is need of patience, Gr. ύπομονὴ, i.e., endurance in the labours and troubles of ploughing, sowing, &c., and long waiting for the reward and fruit of the harvest.
Observe: the end and scope of this parable is, that Christ would teach that He Himself is the Sower, the preacher of the gospel upon earth, that is to say, among men, but with different results among different people. For, first, not all who hear the gospel accept it; as seed, although sown in the earth, does not everywhere strike root in the earth. 2. Not all who believe persevere in faith, but some fall away under temptation; like seed which sprouts in stony ground, quickly withers by the sun’s heat. 3. Not all, who persevere in faith, bring forth the fruit of good works; just as thorns choke seed springing up well in otherwise good ground, and prevent it from bearing fruit. 4. These things happen, not through the fault of the seed, i.e., of the doctrine, but of the earth. It is the fault of the hearers, and that in various ways. It is partly on account of the rocks, partly on account of the thorns. The rock is the flesh, the thorns are the world, the highway is the habit of a worldly and licentious life, where the birds of the air, that is the devils, like most eager and voracious devourers of souls, snatch away the doctrine that has been preached, from the mind and memory, whilst they draw off those who are by the wayside, i.e., men who are given up to the customs and business of the world, as well as those who are wandering, who are slothful and curious, from considering and penetrating into the doctrine heard, to their accustomed vanities. 5. The seed in the good ground is that which those receive in a good heart, who begin to ruminate upon it, and profit by it; they are in the best way, who apply themselves with all their might, to arrive at perfection in virtue. 6. Some seed bears less fruit, some greater, some the greatest. That is on account either of the greater sowing, i.e., preaching and illumination of spiritual things, and the assistance of grace, or on account of greater efforts and co-operation of free will with grace. This is the sum of the whole parable, from which it is easy to understand it in all its parts. I will handle them briefly, one by one.
Moraliter: Let the preacher with Christ, who came forth from the house, even from heaven, impelled by the force of love, to the earth, go forth from the house of contemplation into the field of preaching, that what he has drank from God in prayer, he may pour forth upon the people, and preach, not so much by words, as by the example of a holy life. Again, he invokes God that what he speaks in the ear, God may speak in the heart.
And as he sowed, some fell by the wayside, namely, on the path or boundary, conterminous with the field, which is constantly worn and trodden down by the feet of passengers, and is therefore unsuitable for the reception of seed, and exposes it naked, to be carried off by the birds. We see a gradation here, for from the unsuitable ground for seed, He rises gradually to the less unsuitable, to the more suitable, and the most suitable. The most unsuitable earth for seed is that by the wayside. The less suitable is the rocky ground. The more fit is the good ground which produces thorns. The most fit is that which is entirely good, rich, moist earth. Moreover, the way is a mind worn, and dried up by evil thoughts. Such a mind does not receive the doctrine of the gospel, which is contrary to its lusts; it does not perceive, nor understand it, because it is wholly intent upon fleshly allurements. Whence, says the Gloss, such are those, who neither are pricked by preaching, nor begin to do well.
But other fell on stony ground, &c. This seed could not strike deep root, therefore it began to germinate and spring up before the proper time. For that which is quickly produced, quickly perishes. He adds the cause.
When the sun was risen, they were scorched, Gr. ε̉καυματίσθη, i.e., were burnt up, both seeds and germs, by the burning heat of the sun. And because they had no root, they withered away. They had but a little earth, which was succeeded by the rock. Hence, partly from want of moisture, partly by the burning rays of the sun, they were dried up. The rock in this place, says Rabanus, means the hardness of an insolent mind, in which there is no deep mildness of an obedient soul. Whence, such are only pleased by the sweetness of the word, which they hear, and of heavenly promises for a short time; but they strike not the root of desire unto salvation. Therefore by the heat of the sun i.e., the fury of persecution, are they burnt up, through impatience, because their mind does not firmly cleave to the word of God, and they lose the greenness of faith, says the Interlinear. S. Chrysostom says, “With regard to souls, that which is rock, may become good ground, that which is wayside, not trodden down; and the thorns may be destroyed. Christ was speaking to all, even as if He were providing for the future, how He might declare what I ought to do, and have not done. Hereby He teaches His disciples not to be slothful.”
But other fell among thorns, &c., i.e., in land producing thorns. And they grew, Gr. α̉νέβησαν, i.e., they ascended, i.e., they grew more quickly than the good seed, which rises slowly, and by degrees. For tares sprig up easily, wheat with difficulty. Therefore the tares choked the wheat just as it was coming into ear. The tares did this, both because they drew away the moisture and nourishment to their own roots: as well as because they deprived them of air and room to grow.
But other fell on good ground, &c. (Arab.) For one a hundred, for one sixty, and for another thirty. Good ground, if it be well cultivated, for one grain produces a hundred; other ground, less rich, sixty; other, more sterile, thirty. The good ground is a faithful and devoted conscience.
Observe, only the fourth part of the seed, namely, that which fell on the good ground, produced fruit; the three other divisions of the seed perished. Thus, but few profit by the word of preaching. By far the greater number who hear the word bring forth no fruit.
He that hath ears of hearing (Greek) let him hear. Christ makes use of this expression when the subject is obscure and symbolical, or when he would arouse the attention of his hearers. Ears to hear: He speaks of one who hears diligently the words of Christ, in order that he may receive them, and ruminate upon them, and obey them. For many heard Christ out of curiosity, for the sake of listening to something new. Such had not ears for hearing. So, even now, there are many who hear sermons for the sake of their eloquence—not that they may amend their lives.
And the disciples, &c. They meant to say, the uninstructed multitudes do not receive parabolic and symbolic discourses. Why, then, dost thou not speak to them in plain words, that they may understand them?
He answered and said, &c. (Arab), ye have been endowed with the knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of Heaven, and they have not been endowed. The reason why Christ spake to the multitude in parables was, because many among them were as yet unfitted for receiving the heavenly doctrine of the Gospel; and some, indeed, did not believe—yea, some derided. The scribes also reviled Christ, and accounted Him for a false prophet. Wherefore they had not ears of hearing such as Christ required. Christ, therefore, urges them to take hearing ears, and examine carefully His parables, and ask from Him the meaning of them, that thus they may make themselves fitted to receive the preaching of the Gospel. This if they would do, He promises clearly to expound what He speaks in parables.
Moreover, Christ indicates that this capability of receiving the Word cannot be obtained by our own power, but must be humbly asked of God. For this is the gift of God, which He gave to the disciples of Christ, and did not give to the rest, but left them in their blindness. It is as though He said, “Yours, 0 ye Apostles, is this grace and happiness, that God has given you faith in Me, and that, for this reason, I clearly tell you of mysteries, whilst I speak to others only in parables. For faith is the gift of God. Do ye, therefore, render perpetual thanks to God for this, and pray for others, that God would give them ears of hearing, as He has given you. For then will I explain My parables to them, as I shall explain them to you.” Whence Mark has (4, xi.), To them which are without, all things are done in parables. That is, to the unbelieving who are outside of faith and of the Church, all things are spoken and done by Me, parabolically, i.e., obscurely, by symbols and enigmas, that they may not despise and cavil at them, for as Bede says, “Not only the things which the Lord spoke, but also the things which He did, were parables,” i.e., signs of mysteries, hidden from the unbelieving Jews, according to the words, “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast your pearls before swine.” Mark adds, that seeing they may see, and not perceive, &c. He means, they are blinded and obstinate, and thus they persevere in their blindness, and will not accept the light of truth, which I offer them. For this blindness is the punishment of past sins, which they have committed. All this will be more plain from what follows.
Observe: the word that, as Mark says, that seeing they way see, and not perceive, does not signify cause and intention, but consequence and effect. For Christ, in speaking parabolically, did not intend absolutely to blind them, but only to permit what was the consequence of His parables—namely, that the Jews, being blinded with envy and lust, although they saw so many miracles of Christ, and heard His heavenly wisdom, yet would not believe, nor understand what they saw and heard, but would be as though they had neither seen nor heard.
For he that hath, &c.; Arabic, And he who has anything, it shalt be given and added, &c. The sentence is a species of proverb, as Salmeron and others say. It is most true: for to the rich things are given, from the poor there is always taking away. Similarly, God heaps upon His faithful and elect people (such as the Apostles were) new graces and benefits day by day, so that they abound in virtue and holiness: but from the unbelieving, the ungrateful, and the unworthy, He gradually takes away His gifts, both of nature and grace.
The meaning is: 1. He who has faith, to Him shall be given the knowledge of the mysteries of God’s kingdom; for these cannot be known without faith. He, therefore, who hath not faith, from him shall be taken away the good which he hath. As though He said, To you, 0 ye Apostles, because ye believe in Me as the Messiah, it is given to hear the mysteries of God and of Heaven, by means ot which ye are every day advanced more and more in hope and the love of God. But from the Scribes, who will not believe in Me, God will take away the little knowledge which they do possess of heavenly things. Yea, he will deprive them of Church, kingdom, priesthood, and country; and, as profane and perfidious, they will wander in misery over the whole earth. Thus SS. Jerome and Hilary and Euthym. explain.
2. They who have ears of hearing, who come to Me with sincere affection, with a pure desire of faith and truth, to them I will clearly reveal celestial verities ; and I will assist them in the path of virtue, by which they may arrive at the kingdom of God. But they who have not this pure desire of the truth, but indulge in their own lusts and errors—as ye do, 0 ye Jews and Scribes—from them shall be taken away, by degrees, that little knowledge of Divine things which they do possess, and they shall become wholly blinded. Therefore, to you, 0 ye Jews, I, Christ, speak not clearly, but darkly in parables. As Theophylact says, “For he who hath a small spark of goodness, and does not stir it up by means of the Spirit and spiritual things must of necessity have it extinguished.”
3. S. Augustine (lib. 1, de Doctr. Christ. c. 1) explains the word have to mean use, and applies it to preachers. Thus, the preacher who has doctrine—i.e., who uses the doctrine given him by God, and diligently preaches it, and communicates it to others;—doctrine and words, which he may speak and preach, will never fail him, for God will suggest them. But if anyone does not make use of doctrine, he will gradually forget it and lose it. In the same manner, the word have means to use in c. xxv. 29. Thus we find by experience that zealous preachers, the more they preach, the more they abound in word and spirit; like fountains, from which however much water flows, just as much do they always receive.
Therefore I speak unto them, &c. Behold how Christ here plainly declares the reasons why He spoke to the Jews and Pharisees in parables. It was because they had been previously unwilling to hear, i.e., to understand, obey, and believe Christ when He spake plainly of repentance and the way to the kingdom of Heaven. They deserved, therefore, that Christ should speak to them obscurely and by parables. For He taught at Capernaum—where were rich merchants, who trusted in their riches; where also were Scribes and Pharisees; these men despised, yea even derided and blasphemed, Christ’s heavenly doctrine concerning contempt of riches, humility, poverty, and penance. Wherefore, Christ purposely betook Himself to parables, which (forasmuch as they did not understand them) they could not deride. Therefore He spake unto them in parables; not because they were absolutely reprobate, but because they were unworthy and ungrateful. Thus SS. Hilary, Chrysostom, and Bede. Nevertheless, I confess there were intermingled with this multitude of unbelieving Jews many who were desirous of hearing Christ for the sake of salvation; but because they were mixed up with the unbelieving, who were Christ’s enemies, it was given to them to hear only in parables; that by them, even when they did not understand them, they might at least conceive admiration and reverence for Christ, which would at length lead them on to a better position. Yea, as S. Chrysostom says, to all the Scribes and Pharisees, unworthy and obstinate as they were, Christ spake in parables, with this intention and this end in view—that He might instil into them a sincere desire of searching and believing in Christ, and that having suffered a temporary obscurity in parables which they did not comprehend, they might the more eagerly desire Christ, the true light, and ask of Him the explanation of the parables. This is hinted at in Mark (iv. 33).
And with many parables He spake the word unto them, as they were able to bear it, that (namely) they who were able to understand and receive them, might receive them; but they who could not, might be stimulated to search out the meaning.
For this people’s heart is waxed gross, &c. He cites Isaiah (vi. 9, 10), where instead of make fat, our translation has, blind thou—i.e., thou shalt blind (Chaldean, infatuate) the heart of this people. The Hebrew is השמן, hashmen, i.e., make gross, or fat their heart, and make heavy their ears. Where observe that this blinding, making gross and hardening, is spoken of God deserting and leaving in his blindness the man who is made blind and hardened; as well as of the man who, of his own free will, blinds, makes gross, and hardens himself, by cleaving to his darkness and his sins, and shutting his eyes to the Divine light and the doctrine of Christ. Where the LXX (which the Vulgate follows) reads with different points, huscheman, and translate with a clearer meaning—the heart of this people has been made gross, namely, directly by themselves, indirectly by God; especially because the preceding words signify that they had not been so much blinded by God as by their own covetousness, pride, malice, hatred and envy against Christ. See what I have said on Isaiah vi., where I have expounded the passage at length.
But blessed are your eyes, for they see (Arabic, see through), &c. Eyes and ears of the mind as well as of the body. Blessed are ye, 0 ye Apostles, because ye receive the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, both with the exterior eyes and ears of the body, and the interior ears and eyes of the soul. With the eyes of the body ye behold My sacred actions and miracles: but, what is of far more consequence, with the eyes and ears of your minds, enlightened by God, ye believe and understand the same. This do not the Jews: for the soul, equally with the body, has its own eyes and ears—yea, the soul is all eye or ear.
Verily, I say unto you, that many prophels, &c. For, as Christ said (John viii. 56), “Abraham rejoiced to see My day; he saw it and was glad.” Here is the voice and prayer of Jacob: “I have waited for Thy salvation, 0 Lord.” (Gen. xlix. 18). Then also Isaiah xlv. 8. “Drop down dew, ye heavens from above, and let the clouds rain the righteous one. Let the earth open and bring forth the Saviour.” (Vulg.) There was the same feeling and desire to all the patriarchs, all the prophets, all the saints of the Old Testament—namely, to see and hear Messiah, the Redeemer, Teacher, and Saviour of the world.
It is said that S. Augustine had three wishes: the first to see Christ speaking in the flesh; the second to behold Rome in the splendour of an imperial triumph; the third, to hear Paul thundering forth in his preaching. Many have the same wish at this present time.
Hear ye therefore, &c. Cometh the evil one, Gr. ό πονηρός, that is, the devil. S. Luke (viii. 12) gives this more clearly, The seed is the Word of God. Those by the wayside are they that hear: then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe aid be saved.
Appositely is the word of God, or the gospel, and the preaching of it compared to the sowing of seed. 1. Because as the word from the mouth of the preacher, so is seed scattered by the hand of the sower. 2. As the word is received by the ear and the heart of the hearer, so is seed received into the bosom of the earth, that it may produce fruit. 3. As seed is the parent and origin of all corn, so is the word of God the parent of all good works. 4. As the earth without seed produces only nettles, tares and thorns, so also does the mind of man without the word of God produce nothing but what is vain and noxious. 5. As seed, in order that it may fructify, must be sown in ground neither hard nor stony, dry or thorny, but in moist or good earth, so also the word of God ought to be received in tender, pure hearts, and inclined to piety, that it may bring forth spiritual fruit: this is what James says (i. 21), “receive with meekness the engrafted word.”
Again, Palladius (l 1 de re Rust. Tit. 35) suggests a remedy to prevent seeds being destroyed by moles, mice, ants, &c., that the seeds should be previously steeped in bitter substances. So also Pliny says that chick-peas keep caterpillars from herbs, and adds, “if the seed of herbs be steeped in the juice of wormwood, it will keep the herbs from all noxious animals.” In like manner, in order that we may keep the seed of God’s word in our hearts, untouched by the gnawing of pleasures, it must be macerated by sobriety, fasting, and other austerities, for these preserve the mind from the corruption of fleshly delights.
6. As the earth ought to be ploughed, manured, harrowed, that the seed may germinate, so also ought the heart of man to be cleared, and cultivated by laborious acts of penance, mortification and other virtues, that the word of God may produce fruit in it. This is what Isaiah says (xxxii. 20.) “Blessed are ye which sow beside all waters, sending forth thither the feet of the ox and the ass.” See what is there said. 7. In order that seed may germinate, it requires the rain and the sun; so also that the word of God may strike root in the soul, it ought to be watered by grace, and warmed by heavenly love. This is what Isaiah says (lxi. 11), “For as the earth bringeth forth her bud, and as the garden causeth the things that are sown in it to spring forth: so theLORD GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.” This is effected by the word of the Gospel scattered by Christ and His Apostles. 8. As seed that is sown in the earth must decay, burst and die, that it may be fruitful: so also that the word may fructify in the heart it must be, as it were, resolved, bruised, and die by meditation; and it must likewise bruise and mortify the heart itself, according to that saying of Christ (John xii. 24.) “Verily, verily, I say unto, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” Thus likewise must the faithful soul suffer many adversities before it can bring forth fruit unto God. 9. The seed must first strike root in the earth, then spring up in stalks and branches, next bud into flowers, and lastly, produce fruit from them; so also must the word of God first be rooted in the soul, then bring forth the germs of good thoughts, and the flowers of good desires, that it may at length produce the fruit of good works. 10. The entire power of a tree or plant is in the seed: for from it the plant and all its parts and members, which it possesses in an analogous manner to the limbs of men and animals, proceed. Wherefore many think that seeds have souls, as Aristotle hints (l. 2. de gener. anim. c. 1.) For when seed is cast into the earth, by and bye, as though it were living, it produces living germs. In like manner the whole force of virtue and perfection, whereby a man becomes spiritual, holy, and perfect, is contained in the word of God, as it were in seed. And this, unfolding itself and germinating in the mind produces all virtuous actions. 11. Different seeds produce different fruits; as the seed of a pear tree produces pears; the seed of wheat, wheat; the seed of barley produces barley, and so on. Thus different sentences of the Gospel bring forth different affections in the soul. The precepts of humility bring forth humility, the precepts of repentance, repentance. 12. As there is a father and a mother of every child, as for the production of fruit, there must be the earth and the seed; so in like manner, for good works there must be the concurrence of the word of God with that which is internal, i.e., the free will of man, which must co-operate with the word of God. But this must be in such manner that the will must derive all its power of producing spiritual works from the word and grace of God, in order that they may be pleasing unto God, and may merit eternal life. (Conr. Trident. sess. 6.) In like manner the fruit derives liberty, or that it should be a free work and not compulsory nor done of necessity, from free will. For the interior word, which God speaks in the soul, stirring it up and strengthening it for acts of penance, charity, religion, &c., is nothing else but the grace of God itself, illuminating the understanding, and strengthening the affection, or the will, and inflaming it to the Divine works of virtue. This interior word, or grace, God is wont to add to the external word of preaching, What therefore the preacher speaks outwardly in the ear, God must speak inwardly in the heart if it is to bear fruit.
In fine, as from the better seed, and the more excellent land is produced better fruit, for example, better wheat, better barley, so in like manner from the more powerful preaching, and the grace of God, and the more fervent co-operation of free will are produced more excellent acts of virtue, and more heroic works. Hear what Pliny says (1. 24. 18.) He prescribes the following rules for sowing. 1. Let the sowing in moist places be performed quickly, the reason is that the seed may not putrefy with the wet: more slowly in dry ground, that the rain may follow, lest it should lie too long, and not be able to germinate. 2. It is part of the art of sowing to scatter the seed evenly. The hand ought to correspond with the step, and always with the right foot. 3. The seed must not be transferred from cold places to warm, not from ground where it ripens quickly to ground where it ripens late. 4. Sow abundantly in rich soil, more sparingly in poor soil. 5. This precept should be observed, do not exhaust your crops; for as Columella says, it is evident that crops will become exhausted by sowing the land too frequently with them. All these things are mystically adapted by preachers for sowing the Gospel.
And understandeth it not, does not perceive the meaning of the Word of God; because some other occupation, desire, or care, or the devil himself, distracts the mind to think of other things. This is he who is sown by the wayside. The heart of such a man is signified by that portion of the ground which is by the wayside, or the path itself. For as seed failing in the way, or by the side of the way, is rejected by the hard and trodden ground, and is snatched up by the birds; so, in like manner, the seed of the Word of God is not received into a heart which has become hardened by a habit of sin, but is immediately carried away by the devil impelling the heart to its accustomed sins. Such an one, therefore, cannot really be compared to ground at all, but to a way; he has the name and character, not of a hearer, but of a despiser of the Word of God.
Now the inaptitude for seed of land trodden down in a way may be removed, if it be cultivated by the plough and the mattock; and if a hedge be placed so as to exclude those who tread it down. Thus, likewise, the unfitness of a heart that is hardened by habits of vice may be taken away by compunction, which may cut and mollify the hardness of the heart: and if it be broken by the mattock of continence which weakens vicious desires, and brings them into subjection to right reason and the law of God.
But hath no root in himself, &c. This is the second condition of those who receive the Word. It is better than that condition of ground which preceded; for this is ground sufficiently soft for the seed to be received, and to sprout, though it is only for a short time. The meaning therefore is, The heart of that hearer who hears the Word of God, and with joy receives it in his mind, meditates upon it, and approves of it—according to those words of the Psalmist, “The statutes of the Lord are right, and rejoice the heart”—is like the seed sown on stony ground. This seed quickly springs up, that is, in pious affection for the faith, and other works of religion. But because there is only little earth in the heart, and much rock—that is, because there is more of a depraved habit in a heart that has become hardened by pleasures than of a disposition to piety—this seed of God’s Word is unable to take deep root in such a heart. It is temporary, i.e., it is not constant in the faith, but only believes for a little time, as the Arabic translates. It perceives the Word of God to be opposed to its lusts and vices; so that, like hard and rocky ground, it rejects it. Whence Luke says (viii. 14), These are they who for a time believe, and in time of temptation fall away; i.e., from the Word and faith of God, or, certainly, from His law, which faith declares is to be followed. Wherefore, when tribulation arises from private persons, or public persecutions which tend to deprive them of fife, or the riches and pleasures which they love; and when this is in consequence of the Word and faith of God, immediately they are scandalized, or as the Syriac translates, they are offended, and fall away, or apostatize from the profession of the faith. S. Gregory gives an example (Hom. 15 in Evang.): “The rocky ground had no moisture, because it did not bring what it had caused to sprout to the fruit of perseverance. For many persons, when they hear the Word against avarice, hate the same avarice, and praise contempt of all things; but by-and-by, when the mind sees what it desires, it forgets what it praised. Many, when they hear the Word against luxury, not only do not desire to perpetrate fleshly pollutions, but are even ashamed of what they have perpetrated; but as soon as the fair appearance of the flesh is present to their eyes, the mind is carried away, and they are as though they had never made resolutions against those desires. For often we have compunction for our faults, and yet, after weeping, return to the same faults.”
But that which is sown among thorns, &c. This is the third sort or condition of ground receiving seed, far better than the second condition, in as much as thorns offer less hindrance than rocks to seeds to germinate. This ground then denotes the heart of a hearer, which is beset with riches and worldly cares, as it were thorns. These destroy and choke the growing, seed of the word of God, before it can bring forth the ripe fruit of virtue. Observe: riches are aptly compared to thorns, because like thorns they distract, prick, and torment the mind so that it is not pleasing to a rich man to think often of Divine things.
Hear S. Jerome: “To me it seems that the words spoken literally to Adam, Among thorns and thistles thou shalt eat thy bread, signify mystically, that whosoever shall give himself up to the pleasures and cares of this world, shall eat heavenly bread and the true food, among thorns.”
And S. Gregory (Hom. 15. in Evang.): “Who would ever believe me if I wished to interpret thorns to mean riches, especially since the former prick, the latter give pleasure? And yet riches are thorns, because they lacerate the mind with the punctures of their thoughts, and when they draw to sin they inflict as it were a bloody wound.”
Care of the world, i.e., of things temporal, such as the care of a wife or family. Such things tear the mind, i.e., distract, trouble, and wound it. But on the other hand the care of salvation and of things divine causes the mind to be collected, calm, sound and flourishing. Hear S. Gregory, The cares of the world choke, because they strangle the throat of the mind with importunate thoughts: and because they will not suffer good desires to enter the mind, they as it were cut off the breath of life. We must observe also that there are two things which Christ joins to riches, namely cares and pleasures: because in truth the mind is oppressed by care, and by abundance it becomes dissolute.
Deceitfulness, i.e. the seduction of riches. Riches are deceitful, because they draw away the mind from God and salvation, to vain and hurtful wealth, which is often a cause of many sins and of damnation, when it is acquired by all sorts of means. They are deceitful therefore, because they promise and perform not. They promise joy and pleasure, but instead they often hurry men into the eternal pains of hell.
Hear what S. Gregory says, “riches are deceitful because they cannot long abide with us, and because they do not drive out the poverty of our souls. Those only are the true riches which enrich us with virtues. If therefore, brethren beloved, ye desire to be rich, strive for the heavenly kingdom. If ye love the glory of dignities, hasten to be enrolled in the senate of the Angels, which is above.”
That which is sown in the good ground, &c. “The good ground,” says S. Thomas (in Catena ex Remigio): “The good ground is the faithful conscience of the elect, or the mind of the saints, which receives the Word of God with joy and desire and devotion of heart, and manfully keeps it in prosperity and adversity, and leads it on to the future, whence it follows, ‘and brings forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirtyfold.’”
Understandeth it, &c. i.e., considers it in his mind, ruminates upon it, penetrates it, proves, tastes, retains it. The fruit is that both of good works as well as of their corresponding reward and glory in Heaven. Whence Luke adds, with patience, Gr. ε̉ν ύπομονη̃, i.e, with long-suffering, after the manner of a husbandman patiently awaiting, after his sowing, the fruit and heavenly harvest of his labours and good works. “The good ground,” says S. Gregory, “brings forth fruit through patience. The grapes are trodden by the heels of men, and flow into wine-juice; olives are expressed by beatings, and leave their lees, and produce the fatness of olive oil; by the threshing of the floor the grain is separated from the chaff, and when winnowed is carried into the granary, and so on.” Hence S. Bonaventura says, that a good hearer of God’s Word gives himself up entirely to it, together with all the faculties of his soul namely, his understanding, his wiill or affection, and his memory. He serves the Word of God with his understanding and will, because he receives it in an honest and good heart: with his memory, because he retains the word: with his powers of working and endurance, because he brings forth fruit with patience.
And brings forth some an hundredfold, &c. “We must observe,” says S. Jerome, “that like as in the bad ground there were three different sorts—namely, by the wayside, the rocky, and the thorny places—so in the good ground there is a threefold diversity. And in the one as well as in the other, it is not the substance which is changed, but the will; and so it is the heart of the unbelieving as well as of the believing which receives the seed.”
Moreover, the greatest fruit of God’s Word, as it were the greatest fruit of seed is a hundredfold, as if from a single grain a harvest of a hundred grains were gathered, as was Isaac’s case (Gen. xxvi. 12). The medium fruit is called sixtyfold; the lowest thirtyfold. A definite number is put for an indefinite; otherwise He might have added, brings forth some fortyfold, some twenty fold, and so on. Whence, in opposition to Jovinian and Calvin, the inequality of merit and consequently of the reward, of good works in Heaven is rightly proved. So S. Chrysostom (Hom. 45), S. Augustine (de S. Virgin. c. 46), Nazianzen (Orat. 28), and others. For the Fathers, however Calvin may deride and exclaim, apply these words especially to diverse states. 1. S. Jerome, on this passage (lib. 1, contra Jovin), and S. Athanasius (Epist. ad Ammon.), and others assign the hundredfold fruit to virgins; the sixtyfold to widows; the thirtyfold to those who live in honest and holy wedlock.
2. S. Cyprian (l. de Hab. Virg.) and S. Augustine (l. 1, de quest. Evang. quest. 9, tom 4) assign the hundredfold to martyrs, the sixty to virgins, the thirtyfold to those who are married. Hear what S. Augustine says: “I assert that the hundredfold belongs to martyrs, on account of their holiness of life, or contempt of death; the sixty fold to virgins, on account of interior quiet, because they do not need to fight against fleshly habits—for rest is wont to be granted to soldiers who are past sixty years of age; the thirtyfold to the married, because thirty is the age of warriors—for those have a sharper conflict, that they may not be overcome of lust.”
3. Euthymius and Theophylact assign the thirtyfold to beginners, the sixty to those who have made some progress, the hundredfold to the perfect. So also Nazianzen (Orat. 28.) When a man proceeds, saith he, from thirty to sixty, he finishes with a hundred, as Isaac did (Gen. xxvi.) And he sings the Psalms of Degrees, going from strength to strength, and placing the Ascensions in his heart (Ps. 84.)
Another parable put He forth, &c. The Syriac adds, enigmatically. This means it is done in the kingdom of Heaven in the same way that it is done in a field—when a man sows his seed, and his enemy sows tares over it. Wherefore Mark has (iv. 26.) So is the kingdom of God, as if a man cast seed into the earth, and while men slept, &c. For the whole parable is compared with the whole of the things signified, not part with part: for otherwise the sower would not be like to a kingdom but to a king, the King of Heaven.
Whilst men slept, &c. That is to say by night, whilst men were sleeping, his enemy came unknown to everyone. He was envious of the prosperous crops of his rival, and in order to ruin them, he sowed tares among them. The expression, whilst men slept, adds to the elegance of the parable: for those who are envious are accustomed to frame such plots against those who sleep.
Symbolically, S. Jerome and S. Augustine understand this sleeping to mean negligence and carelessness on the part of bishops and pastors of the Church. Or they understand it of the death of the Apostles, on which the heretics took occasion to sow the tares of their heresies and wickednesses. Hence let pastors learn to watch over their flocks. “The life of mortals is a watch.” For as Augustine says, “To sleep more than to watch is the life of dormice rather than of men.”
Tares, the Hebrew Gospel reads, הרולים charulim i.e., nettles, thistles. The word in Greek is zizania, a word peculiar to the Gospels, unknown to Cicero and Demosthenes, and signifying every kind of worthless and noxious weed. All impurity in seed is called zizania, as S. Augustine says. Tertullian (de prescript. hæret. c. 31) interprets zizania to mean wild oats. “In the parable,” he says, “The Lord first sowed his good seed, and it was afterwards that the devil sowed the spurious seed of his barren crop.” Whence he gathers that the fact of heresy being later in time is a mark of falsehood. Hence too (l. de arima c 16.) he calls the sower of tares “the nocturnal interpolator of evil seed.”
Zizania then, or tares are whatsoever is injurious to the crops, or inimical to wheat, as darnel, for instance. Hear Pliny (l 18. c. 17.) “I should reckon darnel and thistles and thorns and burrs, no less than brambles, among the diseases of the crops rather than among the pests of the ground.” Some are of opinion that zizania is a Syriac word. Others derive it from the Chaldee zyz, an appearance, a figure. For it has the appearance of nourishing corn, but is not. The Germans call zizania, droncacert, because it makes people drunk: it also gives vertigo and stupefaction to those who eat it. Hence zizania signifies mystically heretics and sinners, especially those who corrupt others by word or example, as SS. Augustine, Chrysostom, and Gregory teach. For zizania injure the wheat, and choke and kill it, because they draw away nourishment from it, and so as it were corrupt and strangle the wheat. This is Christ’s second parable of the tares, by which He tacitly rebukes the Scribes and Pharisees, His adversaries, who sowed the tares of their false accusations over the seed of the Word of God, i.e., His preaching of the Gospel, by saying that Jesus was opposed to Moses, that He had a familiar spirit, and so on; by which they inferred that Jesus was not the Messiah, but a magician and an impostor. By this means they turned away the people from Him and His Gospel, and choked and destroyed the good seeds and desires of faith and piety which Christ had scattered in their hearts. Therefore they were tares, i.e., the evil seed of the devil.
When the blade was sprung up, &c. For the first sprouts of zizania and of wheat are alike, so that one cannot be discerned from the other; but when they are grown up, they are easily distinguished.
Servants of the householder, &c. Lest ye root up the wheat also it them. For the tares are intertwined and interwoven among the roots of the wheat, so that if you were to pull up the former, you must root up the latter also. This parable Christ will expound, verse 31.
The kingdom of Heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, &c. Instead of the birds of the heaven lodge in the branches of it the Arabic has they are overshadowed by its branches. This is Christ’s third parable, the occasion and cause of which S. Chrysostom gives as follows: “Because the Lord had said that of the seed three parts perish, and one is preserved, and again of that which is preserved, there is great loss on account of the tares which are sown above it, lest people should say, who then and how many will believe? he removes this fear by the parable of the grain of mustard seed, and therefore it is said, Another parable put He forth unto them, the kingdom of Heaven is like unto a grain of mustard seed, &c.”
You will enquire in the first place, what it is which is here compared to the kingdom of Heaven, and likened to a grain of mustard seed? 1. S. Hilary understands it of Christ Himself. He says, “The Lord compares Himself to a grain of mustard seed, which is very sharp and the least of all seeds, and whose virtue and power are increased by bruising and pressure. After this grain had been sown in the field, when it was taken by the people and delivered to death, as though in a field by a sort of sowing, there was the burial of its body, it grew above the measure of all herbs, and exceeded the glory of all the prophets. For like a herb the preaching of the prophets was given to Israel as being sick: but now in the branches of the tree, raised from the ground on high, the birds of the air dwell: by these we understand the Apostles, lifted up by the power of Christ, and they overshadow the world with their branches. To them the Gentiles flew for the hope of life; and when they are vexed with whirlwinds, that is by the blasts of the devil, they rest as in the branches of a tree.” In like manner S. Gregory (lib. 19 Moral. c. 11.) expounds this whole parable, “Christ Himself is the grain of mustard seed, who was planted in the sepulchre of the garden, and rose again a mighty tree. He was but a grain when He died; a tree when He rose again. A grain through lowliness of the flesh; a tree by the power of His majesty. A grain, because we saw Him, and there was no comeliness; but a tree because He was fairer than the children of men. The branches of this tree are sacred preachers. And let us see how widely they are spread. For what is spoken concerning them? Their sound is gone out into all the earth, and their words unto the end of the world. The birds rest in their branches, because holy souls who lift up themselves from earthly thoughts by the wings, as it were, of virtues are refreshed after the fatigue of this life by their words and their consolations.” You will say, how can Christ be called the kingdom of Heaven, when He is not the kingdom, but its King? It is replied: as a king is as it were the head in a kingdom, so a kingdom is as the body of a king. Wherefore a king represents the whole state or kingdom. Hence according to the rule of Ticonius, often in Scripture what belongs to the Church, which is the kingdom of Christ, is attributed to Christ, and vice versa.
2. More plainly and aptly, the kingdom of Heaven and the grain of mustard seed are the Church, especially the Primitive Church.
You will enquire, (2). Why the Gospel is compared to a grain of mustard seed, and what are the resemblances between the two things? I answer, the first is that Christ by this parable intends to signify the immense power and fruitfulness of Evangelical preaching, insomuch that what had a very small beginning with Christ, and by a few Apostles, diffused itself over the whole world. For a grain of mustard seed is less than all seeds, i.e., the least of all seeds; as the Syriac and Arabic have it. The Greek is μικρότερον πάντων σπερμάτων, i.e., less than all seeds, meaning very little. This must be understood according to the common usage of speech, by which we call what is very little, or one of very small things, the least; for otherwise to speak precisely, poppy seed, and the seed of rue, and of some other herbs, is less than mustard seed. Thus the preaching of the Gospel by Christ and the Apostles was at first very circumscribed.
2. A grain of mustard seed, especially in Syria, grows into a tree, so that birds dwell—Syriac, build their nests—in its branches. Thus the Gospel grew, and filled the whole world, so that the birds of Heaven, i.e., men lofty in knowledge and understanding as well as kings and princes dwelt in its branches. (See Dan. iv. 9 and 19). Some understand by the birds, the angels, because they have wings, and are very swift. Hear S. Augustine (Serm. 33 de Sanc.). “Peter is a branch; Paul is a branch; blessed Laurence, whose festal day we are celebrating, is a branch. All the Apostles and martyrs of the Saviour are branches; and if anyone will bravely lay hold of them, they will escape being drowned in the waves of the world. He who dwells under their shadow shall not feel the fire of hell, and shall be secure from the storm of the tempest of the devil, and from being burnt up in the day of judgment.”
3. And chiefly by mustard is denoted the igneous force and efficacy of the Gospel. “Pythagoras,” says Pliny (l. 20, c. 22), “considered that mustard holds the chief place amongst those things whose force is borne upward; since there is nothing which more thoroughly penetrates the nose and the brain.” A grain of mustard refers to the fervour of faith, says S. Augustine.
4. Mustard seed must be bruised; for when it is bruised it emits its igneous force and flavour. Thus the preaching of the Gospel was as it were, bruised by a thousand oppressions and persecutions, which the Apostles suffered; and then it breathed forth its igneous force and strength.
5. Mustard seed, as Pliny says, is sharp and biting. It draws tears, purges away phlegm and cerebral secretions; it is masticated for toothache; when bruised and mixed with vinegar it is applied to the stings of scorpions and the bites of snakes; it is an antidote to the poison of fungi; it is beneficial for the breast and lungs; it is useful against epilepsy, dropsy, asthma, lethargy, and many other diseases. Thus the Gospel expels poisons, that is sins, by the emetic of confession; it is sharp and biting, because it teaches penance and the cross; it excites the tears of compunction; it is medicine for all the faculties of the soul, and especially it dries up concupiscence, and animates to virtue. “The bitterness of its words is the medicine of souls,” says S. Augustine.
6. Mustard seed by its sharpness seasons food, and renders it palatable. So also the Gospel renders palatable everything which is hard and difficult by means of the example of Christ, and by the hope of future glory which it promises.
S. Augustine says, “A grain of mustard seed is great, not in appearance, but in virtue. At first appearance it seems small, worthless, despised, not possessing savour, nor odour, nor sweetness; but when it is bruised, it sheds abroad its odour and exhales nourishment of a fiery taste. It is so inflamed with the fervour of heat that there might be enclosed in it so much fire, by which men could (especially in the winter-time) drive away cold, and warm themselves inwardly.” After this he applies the qualities of mustard to the Gospel and the Christian faith, thus: “Thus too the Christian faith, at first sight, appears small and worthless, not manifesting its power, not carrying any semblance of pride, neither furnishing grace. But as soon as it begins to be bruised by divers temptations, immediately it manifests its vigour, it indicates its sharpness, it breathes the warmth of belief in the Lord, and is possessed with so great ardour of divine fire, that both itself is hot and it compels those who participate to be fervent also. As the two disciples said in the Gospel, when the Lord spoke with them after His Passion, “Did not our hearts burn within us by the way, while the Lord Jesus opened to us the Scriptures?” A grain of mustard, then, warms the inward members of our body, but the power of faith burns up the sins of our heart. The one indeed takes away piercing cold; the other expels the devil’s frost of transgressions. A grain of mustard, I say, purges away corporeal humours, but faith puts an end to the flux of lusts. By the one, medicine is gained for the head; but by faith our spiritual Head, Christ the Lord, is often refreshed. Moreover, we enjoy the sacred odour of faith, according to the analogy of mustard seed, as the blessed Apostle saith, “We are a sweet savour of Christ unto God.”
Tropologically; All these things may be applied to a faithful soul, and especially to an Apostle, and to a suffering Christian, or to a martyr. Wherefore the Church adapts this parable to S. Laurence, as the Gospel for his festival. As S. Augustine says, in the work already cited, “We may compare the holy martyr Laurence to a grain of mustard seed; for he, being bruised by various sufferings, deserved to become fragrant throughout the whole world by the grace of his martyrdom. He, when he was in the body, was humble, unknown, and held in low estimation; but after he had been bruised, torn, and burnt he diffused the odour of his nobleness in the churches in all the world. Rightly, therefore, is the comparison applied to him. For Laurence, when he suffers, is inflamed. The fervour of its attrition moves the one; Laurence breathes forth fire in his manifold tribulations. Mustard, I say, is cooked in a small vessel; Laurence is roasted on the gridiron by the fiery flame. Blessed Laurence the martyr was burnt outwardly by the flames of the raging tyrant, but he was inflamed inwardly by the far greater fire of the love of Christ.” The Arabians have a proverb—“A grain of pepper is more powerful than many large gourds;” because if it be bruised it emits a fiery force, and makes itself felt in everyone’s nostrils. You may say the same of a grain of mustard. A believer, therefore, should be a grain of pepper or mustard, and breathe everywhere, and upon all, a divine fire, and so pepper all men, and make them like himself, zealous that is, and ardent in the love of God.
Another parable, &c. This is Christ’s fourth parable, of leaven, by which (as by the former parable) He shows the power and efficacy of the preaching of the Gospel. As S. Chrysostom says, “Like as leaven communicates its own virtue to a great quantity of meal, so shall ye, 0 ye Apostles, transforn the whole world.” S. Chrysostom observes, with regard to the word hid: “Thus also ye, when ye shall be subjected to your persecutors, shall overcome them. And as leaven indeed is buried but not destroyed, but by degrees transforms everything to its own state; so shall it happen with your preaching. Do not ye, therefore, fear because I said, Many troubles shall happen unto you; for by this means shall ye shine, and shall overcome all.” You will ask why Christ compares the Gospel to leaven? I reply, because leaven is a portion of the meal that has become a little sour, which takes place through fermentation. Hear how Pliny describes the manner in which leaven is made (l 18, c. 11): “Now” (because formerly it was made in another way, as he had related a little before) “leaven is made of the meal itself, which is first kneaded before salt is added, after the manner of pottage, and left until it becomes a little sour. Commonly, indeed, they do not warm it, but only make use of what has been kept from the day before. And evidently it is the nature of heat to cause fermentation; as of bodies that are nourished with fermented bread to become stronger. Thus it was, that among our ancestors the greatest healthiness was attributed to the heaviest wheat.”
Again, leaven, although it be small in bulk, with its heat moistens the whole mass of dough; and as it were effects a change in its entire substance. It makes it palatable and digestible, so that it becomes wholesome bread for nourishing, sustaining and strengthening man. In like manner the Gospel by means of a few Apostles, who suffered many tribulations, converts the whole world to itself and makes the heart of each to be warmed with the love of God. The woman who kneads is the Church, or the power and wisdom of God says S. Augustine.
Tropologically: S. Augustine says, “Christ calls love leaven, because it excites to warmth. The woman he calls wisdom. By the three measures of meal we may understand either these three things in man—the whole heart, the whole soul, and the whole mind; or the three degrees of fruit-bearing, an hundred, sixty, and thirty fold; or the three sorts of men, represented by Noah, Daniel and Job.” (l 1. q. q. Evang. q. 12.) Rabanus adds, “He says until the whole was leavened: because charity being hid in our minds ought to grow there until it transmutes the whole mind into its own perfection: that which is begun here, is perfected hereafter.”
S. Ambrose says, that like as leaven is disseminated through the whole mass of the meal, being as it were broken up; “so Christ was broken, torn and dissolved by His various sufferings: and His moisture, that is His precious Blood was poured out for our salvation, that it might by mingling itself with the whole human race, consolidate that race, which lay scattered abroad.” See also S. Chrysostom, who says among other things, “If twelve men leavened nearly all the meal of the world, consider diligently in your minds, how great must be our wickedness and sloth, who, although we are so many, are not able to convert the remnant of the Gentiles, when we ought to be sufficient for a thousand worlds.” S. Boniface, the Apostle of Germany, was wont to weep over the same thing. His was the saying, “That formerly priests of gold celebrated in chalices of wood, but now wooden priests celebrate in golden chalices.”
Three measures: a measure was equal in quality to a bath which is a liquid measure, containing an Italian bushel, or as S. Jerome and Josephus say, a bushel and a half. The measure contained three Attic bushels.
These three measures are the quarters of the world, Asia, Africa, Europe. These were designated by the three sons of Noah. For the posterity of Shem inhabited Asia; the posterity of Ham, Africa; and of Japhet, Europe. So Cæsarius, brother of S. Gregory Nazianzen. (Dial. 4.)
Symbolically; S. Hilary says, the grace of the Gospel was hid in the Law, the Psalms and the Prophets; now it hath appeared in the faith, hope and love of the Holy Trinity, that what the Law constituted, and the Prophets announced, the same might be fulfilled by the advent of the Gospels. Or as others say, that it might be confirmed by the threefold work of God, viz. of creation, redemption and glorification.
Allegorically: S. Bernard, (l. 5. de Consider.) says the Blessed Virgin joined and united in her womb the three natures of Christ, namely soul, body and divinity to the one Hypostasis of the Word.
All these things spake Jesus in parables, meaning in a parabolical manner: things kept secret, Heb. הידות chidoth, i.e. enigmas, as the Chaldee trans. and S. Jerome (Ps. lxxviii. 2.). The Arabic has, I will speak things hidden before the foundation of the world. Christ cites the psalm of David, lxxviii. 2, who, according to the letter, through the whole psalm, celebrates God’s benefits to the Synagogue, i.e., the people of Israel, from the beginning, i.e. from their going forth out of Egypt under Moses their leader, until David’s own time, in order that he might stir up the people to be grateful to God, and to love and worship Him. But mystically, says S. Jerome, David was there a type of Christ, who celebrates the benefits granted by God through Himself to His Church, and before-time hid. These things were concerning the promised land in heaven, mysteries declared by parables. Observe that the Hebrew word for parables is mashal, which signifies any weighty and famous saying, such a one as predominates over others. For mashal means to rule: thus it came to signify what was obscure and recondite, whether it were an enigma, an allegory, a parable, or a sentence properly so called. Therefore the sentences in that seventy-eighth Psalm are not properly parables, but only weighty sentences. But here there are like weighty sentences and parables properly so called. Thus this verse of the Psalm applies to Christ in both its meanings, but to David only one of them. For in Scripture many things are spoken which are more suitable to the things signified by the allegory, than to the allegory itself and its literal meaning.
When the multitudes were sent away, &c., . . . declare unto us the parable of the tares. For this seemed more obscure than the others, and to contain severer threats.
The field is the world, &c. The field is the world, not the Church; for by the tares of this field many understand heretics, who are not in the Church, especially when they are public and manifest.
Children of the kingdom: These are faithful, righteous, and persevering in justice, and therefore elected by God to be heirs of the kingdom of Heaven. Whence, in verse 43, they are called the righteous. These are the sons of the Heavenly Father, “which were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John i. 13).
Observe: the righteous are here called seed, because although the seed which Christ sows is the Word of God, spoken as well outwardly by the lips, as inwardly in the heart by grace; nevertheless, because the fruit of this seed is the conversion of the faithful, and their justification, therefore the righteous also are called seed, i.e., the fruit of the seed, and the harvest.
But the tares, &c. Gr. υίοὶ του̃ πονηρου̃, i.e., the says of that wicked, namely the devil: thus the Syriac and Arabic. Therefore they themselves are evil, for the offspring follow their father. As the sons of God are good and divine, so are the sons of the devil wicked and diabolical.
Observe: by tares and children of the wicked one, some understand heretics, because they are the most injurious kind of tares, inasmuch as they choke and destroy the faithful and faith from their foundation. So S. Chrysostom, Euthymius, and S. Augustine (4 quest. in Matth. q. 11) who, however, retracts (l. 2 Retract. c. 27) and teaches from S. Cyprian, that tares denote all the wicked in the Church. SS. Gregory, Ambrose, and Theophylact teach the same. For all wicked persons, by their evil life, hurt the faithful and the Church, as tares injure wheat, and choke it. Falsely then from this passage (verse 29), where Christ forbids these tares to be plucked up, and subjoins, Let both grow together, the Innovators infer that heretics are not to be punished and extirpated. For by parity of reasoning they might conclude that murderers and thieves must not be punished; for they too are tares. And I say that Christ does not here absolutely forbid these tares to be plucked up, but says that no one must attempt to root them all up together; nor at a time when they came to be distinguished from the wheat; or when there is danger of pulling up the wheat at the same time with them. But all this does not apply when anyone is a manifest heretic, especially if he teaches and infects others with his heresy. For such a one does more harm to the Church than a murderer, for the one only kills the body, but the other the soul. See 1 Cor. v. 13, Gal. v. 12, where the Apostle commands impious persons, especially false teachers, to be taken away and extirpated. Thus Origen and S. Augustine—the latter indeed was at first of opinion that heretics ought not to be put to death, yea, that they ought not even to be compelled to resume the faith, which they have professed in baptism. But afterwards, which he had been taught by experience how perverse and obstinate heretics are, he changed his opinion and taught the contrary. He says, “I had not yet learnt either what great wickedness they would venture upon, if they could do it with impunity; or how much careful discipline could effect to make a change in them for the better.” (l. 2, cont. Parmen. c. 2, and 2 Retract. c. 5).
The harvest, &c. For then shall God by the angels reap the harvest of all men, bad as well as good; and shall sever them in the day of judgment, gathering the good into the heavenly barn, and delivering the evil to the fire of hell. Whence it follows that separation shall be effected by the ministry of the angels. Therefore it is said below, that the Son of Man shall come to judgment with the angels.
And shall gather out of His kingdom all things that offend; Gr. scandals, stumbling-blocks. The wicked, whom Christ previously called tares, and children of the devil, He here calls scandals; because they are, by their wickednesses, a cause of offence and ruin both to themselves and others. S. Chrysostom observes, that the twofold punishment of the wicked is here signified—the pain of loss (in that it is said, they shall collect out of His kingdom), because they shall be shut out of Heaven; and of sense, in that it is said, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire. S. Chrysostom adds: “See the unspeakable love of God to man! He is prompt to bless them, slow to punish. When He soweth, He soweth by Himself; but when He punishes, He punishes by others: for this latter work He sends His angels.” Christ adds, in verse 30, bind them together in bundles, which S. Gregory explains thus: “The angel-reapers bind the tares in bundles for burning, when they join like with like in similar torments—as the proud with the proud, the luxurious with the luxurious, liars with liars, unbelievers with unbelievers—that they may burn together.”
And shall cast them, &c. The furnace denotes that the damned shall be confined in hell as in a furnace, as wood and straw are confined in a furnace.
Then shall the righteous, &c. Then, because now, says Remigius the just shine for an example to others; but then they shall shine as the sun for the praise of God. He alludes to Daniel xii 3: “They that are learned (Heb. mascilim, i.e., wise and prudent—such, namely, as shall live wisely and prudently) shall shine as the splendour of the firmament; and they that shall instruct many to justice, as the stars for everlasting eternities.” See what I have there said. From this passage some heretics were of opinion, that in the resurrection our bodies will be transformed into globes, so as to be like the solar orb. The emperor Justinian ascribes this heresy to Origen, and condemns it. (See Baronius, tom. 7, A. C. 538, pp. 289 and 293.)
The kingdom of Heaven is like, &c. For he who knows that a treasure is lying hid in any place, and buys the place, becomes the master of the treasure, and is not bound to point it out to the former owner, but may use his knowledge for his own advantage by buying the field for as much as it is worth by common estimation; with which the hid treasure has nothing to do.
Which when a man has found. The Greek has the Aorist, εύρὼν.
Observe: Christ, in the preceding four parables (namely, of the Sower, of the Seed, of the Grain of Mustard, and of Leaven) has declared the nature, power, and efficacy of the Gospel; now, in the two following parables, of the Treasure, and of the Pearl, He declares its price, how great it is, that all things are deservedly counted as loss in comparison of it. So SS. Chrysostom, Hilary, and others. In a similar way, Wisdom is spoken of by Solomon in the Proverbs (viii. 11, 19): “For wisdom is better than rubies; and all the things that may be desired are not to be compared to it . . . My fruit is better than gold, yea, than fine gold; and my revenue than choice silver.”
Literally. By this treasure S. Jerome understands Christ Himself; and S. Augustine, Holy Scripture. (Quest. in Matt. q. 13). “For when anyone has attained partly to the understanding of it, he feels great mysteries lie hid in it, and he sells all he has, and buys it; that is, by despising things temporal, he procures rest for himself, that he may be rich in the knowledge of God.”
Tropologically. S. Gregory, by the treasure, understands heavenly desire. He says: “The treasure being found is hid that it may be preserved, because it is not enough for a man to guard the zeal of his heavenly desire from the wicked spirits, who does not hide the same from the praise of men. In this present life we are, as it were, in a road, by which we are going to our country. Wicked spirits, like robbers, beset our path. He, therefore, who openly carries his treasure in the way desires to be robbed of it.”
Again the kingdom of Heaven, &c.—goodly; Syriac, the best; Arabic, a good gem. He means the faithful ought with as great zeal to provide themselves with the doctrine and life of the Gospel (which is the way and the price of the kingdom of Heaven) as a merchant seeks for pearls, and buys the one of them which is most precious: for otherwise the kingdom, or the Gospel itself, is properly compared to a pearl rather than to a merchant man.
And when he had found, &c. For as this pearl was beyond all price, so is the Gospel. See Pliny on the price of pearls (l. 9, 35), where he says, among other things, that pearls have greater affinity with the sky than with the sea. See what I have said on the Apocalypse xxi. 21, where I have enumerated thirteen properties of pearls.
Symbolically. The precious pearl is Christ, also the Blessed Virgin, also the religious state, also charity: “for charity is a precious pearl, without which nothing can profit thee, whatsoever thou mayst have,” says S. Augustine. For charity is the necklace of Christ. Also a precious pearl is the contemplative life, concerning which Christ said of the Magdalene, “Mary hath chosen the good part.” A pearl is, also, the soul of every man. It is also eternal felicity, as our Salmeron appositely shows (tom. vii. tract. 11); for all these are principal parts of the kingdom of Heaven, i.e., of the doctrine of the Gospel. Such, likewise, is humility, even as our Thomas teaches, being taught of God himself (Imitat. Christi. l. 1, c. 2): “If thou wishest profitably to know and to learn anything, love to be unknown, and to be counted as nothing. This is the loftiest and most useful knowledge—truly to know and despise thy self.” This is the most precious Gospel pearl, but its worth is unknown to the proud children of Adam. Such also is the Cross of Christ, and to suffer for Christ. See Hab. chap. iii. 4: “There were horns in His hands; there was His strength hid.” (Vulg.)
The chief and most precious pearl of all, from which all virtues and all the Saints, like pearls are sprung, and from which they derive their beauty and their value, is Christ Himself. For His Deity in His Humanity is as a pearl hid in a shell. It issued forth of the substance of the Virgin, and the dew of the Spirit, most white, through innocence of life. It was exceeding bright through wisdom; round through the possession of all perfection; having the weight of conscience, the smoothness of meekness, the price of blessedness. For says Pliny, “The value of pearls consists in whiteness, size, rotundity, smoothness and weight.” Hear what S. Augustine says, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God: for the Word of the Lord shines with the brightness of truth, and is solid with the firmness of eternity, and is every where alike with the beauty of Divinity: when the shell of the flesh is pierced through, God may be perceived.” This pearl of Christ, says our Salmeron, is small by humility, but precious in value. Let us bear it on the head of our mind by way of ornament; on our forehead by confessing the faith; in our ears by obedience to the Law, obedience rendered to God in Himself, and our Superiors; on our necks and breasts by love; on our arms by the exercise of good works; in rings on our hands by the gift of discerning spirits; in our girdles by chastity; on our garments by modesty and holy devotion to eternal life; but we ourselves also may become precious pearls, and by this means may induce others to imitate the most holy life of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Finally Christ is not only a very precious pearl, but He is also the gem of gems. He is a carbuncle, because He is the light of the world. He is an emerald because He delights the angels by the verdure of His grace. He is strong and invincible as a diamond. He produces joy as a sardius. He heals the leprosy of sin as a chrysoprasus. He assists the bringing forth of good works as a spiritual jasper; He sharpens the intellect as a beryl; He has celestial colour and life, as a sapphire; He resists sleep and drunkenness, as an amethyst; and all the infirmities of the mind, as a hyacinth; He sustained the worry of the passions, as a topaz: He is a sardonyx in brightness and splendour; He is a chrysolite in His golden charity. Whence the foundations of the heavenly Jerusalem are laid with these twelve precious stones, which signify the twelve Apostles of Christ.
Again the kingdom of Heaven is like to a drag-net, &c. The two preceding parables, those viz. of the Treasure and the Pearl denoted the value and dignity of the Gospel. This parable shows its capaciousness, viz. that it embraces all nations and people of the world, bad as well as good. Christ propounded the parable with this object, that the Apostles and Saints should not wonder, if among the faithful they beheld some living wickedly, just as in a great kingdom no one is surprised that murderers, thieves and adulterers are found. Again it was spoken in order that no one should flatter himself, simply on account of being a believing Christian since there are in the Church many who are wicked; but that he should give diligence to be just and holy in the Church.
A drag-net: Gr. σαγήνη, signifying the kind of net commonly called a drag or trawling-net, because of its sweeping the water or the sea in order to catch the fishes. Properly this sagene or drag-net is the bosom of the net. In like manner all the faithful are, as it were, received into the maternal bosom of the Church, and there are cherished, nourished and preserved.
Of every kind: for thus the Gospel is preached to all nations, and of them the Church is formed. The fishes are believers, the fisher-men are the Apostles, and the drag-net is the Church and the Gospel.
Which, when it was full, &c., cast the bad away. They cast them into the sea, or upon the shore. The Arabic is, They colleted the select fish in their vessels. The vessels denote the various mansions in the house of our Father, as Christ says, (John. xiv.), or the various abodes of Heaven, which, in another place are called the eternal tabernacles. The bad, Gr. σαπρὰ, i.e., putrid, decaying, noisome. From this passage S. Augustine rightly proves against the Donatists that in the Church there are not only good people, or as Calvin says, the elect, but bad and reprobate people.
So shall it be in the end of the world, &c. Arabic, in the end of this time, that is to say, in the day of judgment.
He saith unto them, therefore every Scribe, &c. It is as though He said, Forasmuch as ye, 0 ye Apostles, have understood by these My parables, how great a treasure the kingdom of Heaven is, ye ought to draw forth all things from this treasury, that ye may communicate them to others; yea, to the whole world. Again: because ye have understood my method of teaching the things of Heaven, and things which are new to men, by means of parables borrowed from things in common use; ye too ought to teach and preach the same things in the same manner, that from the old things, which they do understand, they may receive and learn those new things which ye preach.
A Scribe; Arabic, a Scribe, who teathes for the kingdom of heaven, i.e., an Evangelical doctor well instructed to announce the Gospel, and lead believers to the kingdom of Heaven; such as ye are, and shall be, 0 ye Apostles, who are fully taught by Me and the Holy Spirit. He opposes His own Scribes, i.e., Doctors and Preachers, His Apostles in fact, to the Scribes of the Jews, which last only preached the law of Moses, and the earthly advantages flowing from it.
Things new and old. This is a proverb, signifying every kind of food, substance, or goods necessary or useful for sustaining a family. Some of these things are best when new, others when old. Hence the proverb, “New honey, old wine;” i.e., honey is best when fresh, but the oldest wine is the best. Hence too the verse in Pindar’s ninth Olympic Hymn, “Praise old wine, but the flowers of new Hymns.” The meaning is—As the father of a family provides for his household things new and old, i.e., everything necessary and useful, so ought a Gospel teacher to bring forth, at suitable times, according to the capacity of his hearers, various discourses, knowledge of every kind; and especially to take care to teach them the new and unknown mysteries of the Gospel, by means of old examples, such as parables and similitudes, which his hearers can take in. Moreover, some of the ancients, as SS. Chrysostom, Augustine, Jerome, Hilary, and Bede apply old and new to the Old and New Testaments. For that is the best preaching when the New Testament is confirmed and illustrated from the Old, and proved to be in all points typically agreeable to it. For the Old Testament was the type of the New; the New Testament is the antetype of the Old.
Abul. objects that when Christ said this, the New Testament was not written. I reply that it was already spoken and taught by Christ, and was shortly about to be written by the four Evangelists; and that Christ knew this. Wherefore He bids the Apostles that they should preach themselves what they had heard, but that their successors should preach the same things as written by the Evangelists.
Jesus passed on from thence, i.e., from His house which He had at Capernaum.
And came unto his own country, &c. This country was not Bethlehem where He was born, but Nazareth, where he was brought up.
Is not this the son of the carpenter, &c. The Gr. is, the son of the workman, the Arab. adds, in wood. S. Mark (vi. 3.) Is not this she workman? “Nor is it to be wondered at,” says S. Augustine, “since both might be said, for they believed Him to be a workman, in that he was the son of a workman.” This was because they were accustomed to see Him working with Joseph. It seems therefore that Christ wrought with His father Joseph until He was thirty years of age, when He began to teach and to preach. SS. Hilary and Ambrose think that Christ was a blacksmith; Hugo, a mason, or a goldsmith. The general opinion is that Christ was a carpenter, as S. Thomas, teaches out of S. Chrysostom. S. Justin (Dial. c. Tryph.) says, “He was accustomed to make ploughs and yokes for oxen.” Hence Christ in His preaching often takes His similitudes from those objects, as, “Take my yoke upon you,” and, “No man putting his hand to the plough and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” Hence too when a Christian was asked in derision by Julian the Apostate, “what the Son of the Carpenter was doing;” answered wittily, “He is making a bier for Julian.” This was shortly before Julian was slain, (See Sozomen. l. 6. c. 2.) Some however say that Christ did not exercise a workman’s craft. But I have said more on this subject on S. Luke ii. 51.
Mystically: “God is the workman who is the Father of Christ, who framed the works of the whole world, who built the ark of Noah, who set in order the Tabernacle of Moses, who instituted the ark of the Covenant. You might call Him a carpenter, who planes down a rigid mind, and cuts away proud thoughts.” (Serm. de Nat.) Moreover, says S. Chrysologus (Serm. 48.) “Christ was the son of a workman; but of Him, who made the frame of the universe, not by a hammer, but by His command; who disposed the composition of the elements, not by skill but by His command; who kindled the sun not by earthly fire, but by His supreme heat; who made all things out of nothing, and made them, 0 man, for thee, that thou mightest reflect upon the artificer by considering His work.”
And His brethren, James, &c. Brethren, i.e., cousins, as I have said Chap. xii. 45.
James: This is James the less, called the son of Alphæus, an Apostle, and first Bishop of Jerusalem. I have spoken more at length concerning him in the preface to his Canonical Epistle.
And Joseph: The Greek and Syriac have Joses. He was one of the seventy disciples. See what I have said about him on Acts i. 23.
And Simon: Many think from Abdia, Sophronius, Isidore. and Bede, that this was Simon the Canaanite, the Apostle. As though this last had been the brother of James the less and Jude. But Simon the Apostle came from Cana of Galilee; but these brethren, that is, cousins of Christ, were sprung from Nazareth, together with Christ Himself. Wherefore the inhabitants of Nazareth wondered from whence there was in Jesus, their fellow citizen, such great wisdom, since they knew his brethren and relations to be simple and unlearned persons, as is plain from Mark vi. 1., &c. It seems therefore more probable that this Simon is the S. Simeon who succeeded S. James as Bishop of Jerusalem. For Simeon was the son of Cleophas and his wife Mary, as Hegesippus testifies (Eus. H.E. 3. 11.), whom SS. Chrysostom and Theophylact teach to have been the brother of S. James the less. Although Hegesippus and Epiphanius (Hæres. 66.) are of opinion that he was not the brother, but the cousin of James. He was that Simeon, who was crucified in the tenth year of Trajan, when he was 120 years old, A.D. 109; and astonished everyone by his constancy and fortitude. From this it follows that those writers who thought him to be the same person as Simon the Canaanite are mistaken.
And Jude. He was a brother of James the less. I have spoken of him in the preface to his Epistle.
You will ask whether these four were brethren, strictly so called, born of the same father and mother? In the first place, it is plain that James and Joses were brothers. This appears from Matt. xxvii. 56. As to the other two, Simon and Jude, some think they were brothers of James and Joses, but on the mother’s side only. They say that their mother was the Mary who was first married to Alphæus, to whom she bore James and Joses, and that therefore James is called of Alphæus, that is, his son; and after Alphæus was dead, she married Cleophas, to whom she bore Simon and Jude. Thus S. Thomas (c. 1, ad. Galat. Lect 5).
2. Baronius (apparat. Annal. c. 46) considers there were three sisters—i.e., cousins of the Blessed Virgin—of the name of Mary. The first, Mary, the wife of Alphæus, and the mother of James and Jude (the Apostles), and Joses. 2. Mary, the wife of Cleophas, the mother of that S. Simeon who succeeded S. James in the Bishopric of Jerusalem. The third was Mary Salome, the wife of Zebedee and the mother of the Apostles James and John.
But it is clear that Mary, the wife of Alphæus is the same as Mary the wife pf Cleophas, if we compare S. John xix. 25 with Matt. xxvii. 56, and Mark xv. 40. For John says. “Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene.” But Matthew says: “Among which was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s children.” And Mark: “There were also women looking on afar off; among whom was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the less and of Joses, and Salome.”
We see here plainly, that she who is called by John Mary of Cleophas is called by Matthew and Mark, Mary the mother of James and Joses; James, I say, who is called (Acts i. and Matt. x.) not the son of Zebedee, but of Alphæus. Therefore, Mary of Cleophas and Mary of Alphæus are one and the same person. Cleophas and Alphæus are really one and the same Hebrew word, by a common interchange of letters. Unless you prefer to consider that one of them was the husband, the other the father, of this Mary.
Again, you may see, that she who is called Salome by Mark, is called by Matthew the mother of Zebedee’s children; this, therefore, was Salome. It seems, then, that the same Mary of Cleophas, or Alphæus, was the mother of these four—viz., James, Joseph, Simon, and Jude. For Matthew and Mark (in the places already cited) call her the mother of James and Joses. But Jude was the brother of James, as he says himself in the beginning of his Epistle. Simon also, or Simeon, who succeeded his brother James at Jerusalem, was also a brother, for he was the son of Cleophas and Mary his wife. Moreover, Hegesippus, S. Chrysostom, and several other Fathers assert that this Mary was not the daughter, but the wife of Cleophas. And the same Hegesippus says this Cleophas was the brother of Joseph, the spouse of the Blessed Virgin. He is the same Cleophas to whom, with his companion, Christ made himself known on the way to Emmaus in the breaking of bread. He was slain by the Jews, in that very house of Emmaus, on account of His confession of Christ. He died a martyr, on the 25th of Sept., as the Roman Martyrology has it.
You will ask, why then do Matthew and Mark call this Mary the mother of James and Joses, but not of Simon and Jude? I reply, for the sake of brevity, and because the two first, viz., James and Joses were accounted at that time more celebrated than the other two. This Mary, the mother of so many saintly sons and daughters, died in sanctity, in Judea, on the 9th April.
And his sisters, &c. The sisters of James, Joses, &c., are called by Hippolytus (Ap. Niceph. l. 2. c. 3.), Esther, and Tama; but by S, Epiphanius (Hæres 78.) and Theophylact they are called Mary, Salome who was the wife of Zebedee, and the mother of S. John and S. James the great, the Apostles, who were therefore nephews, through their sister, of James the less, Joses, &c. (See Christophor. a Castro de Deipaz. c. 1), where he shows that Salome was older than her brothers James and Jude. For she was the mother of John and James who were chosen by Christ, together with their uncles, James and Jude, to be Apostles. For John seems to have been only three years younger than Christ. Hence too, only James, Joses, Simon and Jude, the sons of Cleophas, are called brothers, i.e., cousins of Christ, on the father’s side. But John and James the sons of Zebedee, are not called brethren of Christ, because they were not first cousins of Christ, but children of His cousin Salome. Again Christophor. gathers from hence, that James the less, who was the brother of Salome, was senior to James the greater, the son of Salome and Zebedee, by nine or ten years at the least. James the less was the uncle of James the great. For they were not so called, in respect of age but of their vocation, by Christ. It is not doubtful that Christ had many other relations and connections, but these are specially mentioned, both because they were nearer in blood; and because they at length believed on Hirn, and became His Apostles.
They were offended, &c. This is, they were indignant that Christ, who was but a workman, should set himself up for a prophet and teacher; just as men would be offended and indignant now, if they saw any one jump out of a workshop into a Cathedral, and act the Doctor; and would accuse him of the utmost arrogance and folly. But the inhabitants of Nazareth were ignorant that Christ was the Son of God, who, out of His immense love, had not disdained to be born among workmen, and to act as one, that He might redeem us, and teach us humility by His example. Therefore this charity and humility of Christ, which ought to have made them admire and venerate Him, was a stumbling-block to them, because they would not believe that God would be willing to stoop so low.
But Jesus said unto them, &c. This is a common proverb, and generally, but not universally true; for John the Baptist, as well as Isaiah, Elias, Elisha, Daniel, Hosea, &c., were held in great honour by the Jews their countrymen.
Now the first cause why a prophet, that is a teacher, is frequently without honour among his own people, is what S. Jerome gives, “It is almost natural for citizens to have an invidious feeling towards their fellow citizens. For they do not consider a man’s present works, but call to mind his frail infancy, as though they themselves had not arrived by the same gradations of age at mature years.” Listen to S. Ambrose, (c. 4. Luc.). “No slight envy is that which betrays itself, which forgetful of the charity belonging to citizenship, turns the causes of love into bitter hatred. This is declared both by example and the oracle, that, in vain, do you look for the assistance of heavenly mercy, if you envy the progress of another’s virtue. For the Lord despises the envious, and turns away the miracles of His power from those who disparage the divine blessings in others.”
2. Because too great familiarity breeds contempt as S. Chrysostom says. And Theophylact says, “We are wont to despise those things which are very common, always paying greater regard to foreign and unaccustomed things. We admire what comes from abroad; we despise what we have at home—even when what we have at home is better. Thus, we turn up our nose at our own physicians, however learned they may be; and we purchase herbs and flowers brought from India, when we have the very same, or better, in our own woods. Of a truth ‘novelty is charming.’”
3. Because by daily conversation with people, their faults, or natural infirmities, are readily disclosed; and this is apt to lessen our veneration for them. But it is otherwise in conversing with God, because the greater converse we have with Him, the more does it conduce to reverence. The inhabitants of Nazareth seeing Christ eat, drink, sleep, work like other men, despised Him, especially when they beheld His relations mean and poor: Nor, indeed, could they believe that He was born of a Virgin Mother, and had God for His Father. Let, therefore, a teacher and preacher avoid familiarity with men, lest he be despised; for, as S. Cyril says. “Preaching is not able to bring forth fruit where the preacher is despised.”
And He did not many mighty works there, &c. (Arab.), on account of the paucity of their faith. This caused them to be unworthy of miracles. S. Jerome gives another reason, “That He might not condemn their unbelief by working many miracles.” For he who beholds many miracles, and does not believe, sins more gravely than he who has beheld but few, and will be, therefore, more heavily condemned, and punished in hell This was the cause why Christ wrought but few miracles among the Jews, says S. Jerome, “He works greater miracles among the Gentiles, day by day, by His apostles, not so much in healing men’s bodies as in saving their souls”