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The Great Commentary Of Cornelius À Lapide Volumes 1 To 8

1 Christ reproveth the Pharisees’ blindness about the observation of the sabbath, by scripture, reason, and miracle. 13 Chooseth twelve apostles. 17 Healeth the diseased. 20 Preacheth to his disciples before the people of blessings and curses. 27 How we must love our enemies. 46 And join the obedience of good works to the hearing of the word: lest in the evil day of temptation we fall like an house built upon the face of the earth, without any foundation.

Ver. 1.—And it came to pass on the second Sabbath after the first.—On the second Sabbath. The Arabic version.

What was this Sabbath?

1. The eighth day of unleavened bread or the last day of the Passover. Epiphanius, Vetablus, and others.

2. The first day of unleavened bread or the second day of the Passover, and therefore both the first and second Sabbath or Feast-day. Isidore, Euthymius, and another.

3. The Feast of Pentecost. The second or next greatest to the Passover. Maldonatus.

4. I however consider that this Sabbath was not a feast, but a Sabbath in the strict sense of the word, i.e. a day on which the Jews were forbidden even to prepare their food (Ex. 35:3), which they were permitted to do on other feasts (Ex. 12:16).

That this is the true interpretation is clear from the other Evangelists, who speak of this day as simply a Sabbath.

(In accordance with À Lapide the Revised Version reads, “Now it came to pass on a Sabbath.”)

But why is this Sabbath called the second after the first?

1. Because it followed on a feast (Theophylact); or, as others hold, because it was followed by a feast, and thus became the first before the second, which was close at hand.

2. Scaliger considers it to be the first Sabbath after the Feast of the Passover, called the second after the first, because it was the first after the second day of unleavened bread, from which day was numbered the seven weeks to Pentecost. So also Vasquez.

3. S. Chrysostom and others think the words imply a feast or Sabbath in a twofold sense, a day on which another feast-day falls, and that they convey the same meaning as the Latin word “duplitia;” but to this interpretation Jansenius objects.

4. But it is most probable that the words mean the Sabbath which fell within the week of Pentecost or on the Feast-day itself. The Pascal Sabbath being distinguished as the first or principal Sabbath of the whole year. S. John 19:31.

(1.) This opinion is confirmed by the fact that what is here narrated of the disciples must have happened about the time of Pentecost, i.e. when the corn was ripe. Hence the command to the Jews to offer their firstfruits, Lev. 23:17.

(2.) And because, as I have showed, this was a Sabbath in the strict sense of the word, and was called second, in respect of some other Sabbath which held rank as the first, and not with any reference to the Passover or any other feast.

(3). Because, again, none of the other opinions seem to be probable. For, to sum up, the Feasts of the Passover and Pentecost are so nearly connected, that, although one is first in dignity and order, the second follows in all respects closely upon it. For this reason the Italians call Pentecost the Passover of the Holy Ghost. The same may be said also of the Sabbaths which fall within these feasts; therefore the Church numbers her Sundays from Easter to Pentecost, and from the latter festival to Advent.

But you will object that the week of Pentecost was not a feast in the same sense as the week of the Passover: therefore that the Sabbath which tell in it was not of more importance than any other. I answer that although the Pentecostal week was not commanded by the law to be kept as a feast, it was so kept by the piety of the Jews. Genebrardus, Hebrew Calendar, and on the Psalms.

Figuratively, says S. Ambrose, we may understand this Sabbath to mean the Gospel, which is second to the law in point of time, but first in dignity and importance.

He further adds, commenting on Ps. 47, the words “second Sabbath after the first” mean the Jewish Sabbath, for after the resurrection the Lord’s-day took its place. From that time therefore it became second in dignity, yet at the same time it was rightly called first, because of its sanctity and the priority of its institution.

Figuratively, Christ taught and worked His chief miracles on the Sabbath, not only to prefigure the spiritual Sabbath, when the mind, no longer taken up with evil lusts and passions, will be free to serve God alone, but because of the gathering together of the people, as they assemble now on the Lord’s-day.

There was also another reason, viz., to teach the Jews the true observance of the Sabbath, and that they might no longer be offended at the wonderful works which Christ wrought on that day, as were the Scribes, who accused Him of transgressing the law, and gave Him up to that death by means of which God effected the redemption of mankind. Bede.

Ver. 5.—The Son of man is Lord also of the Sabbath. See S. Matt. 12:8.

Ver. 11.—And they were filled with madness. ἀνοίας, deprived of understanding, they could not answer Him a word; they were filled with anger because they could not gainsay the reasoning of Christ, and with envy, as the Syriac renders it, which was the cause of their madness. Their eyes were blinded so that they could not see the truth! Hence Francis Lucas adds, they communed one with another what they might do with Jesus, i.e. how they might make away with Him.

Ver. 12.—He went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God—communing with God in prayer, asking the Father that He might choose for the ministry men fitted to be apostles, and would obtain for them an abundance of spiritual grace to enable them to fulfil the duties of their office; and also that He might teach us to pray in like manner.

So the Church at Ember-tide enjoins her children to fast and to pray that fitting persons may be chosen for the work of the ministry, and that those admitted to any holy function may be filled with grace and heavenly benediction; for as with the priest so with the people. When a chief pastor is zealous and God-fearing, he is a blessing and a strength to his diocese, but if he be an evil liver or slothful, he becomes a stumbling-block and offence to believers. In like manner, also, a good priest makes a good parish, but an evil one is for a destruction to his people.

Figuratively, Christ teaches us to pray in the night season that we may be the better able in silence and solitude to collect our thoughts and lift our hearts unto God; that we may be preserved from terror by night and from the pestilence that walketh in darkness, and also that by our prayers during the night we may obtain spiritual graces for the profit of our fellow-men during the ensuing day.

Hence Christ prayed by night and taught in the daytime. So did S. Paul, Acts 16:25; and many other saints; 1 Tim. 5:5.

For the same reason David so often commends prayer during the night time, “Ye that by night stand in the house of the Lord. Lift up your hands in the sanctuary,” Ps. 134:1, 2.

At midnight I will rise to give thanks unto Thee,” Ps. 119:62.

In the night I commune with mine own heart,” Ps. 77:6.

My tears have been my meat day and night,” Ps. 42:3.

See also Commentary on Deut. 6:7.

Ver. 20.—Blessed are ye poor … in spirit (see S. Matt. 5:3), for poorness of spirit is a rich and precious virtue. Therefore S. Ambrose rightly concludes that poverty, privations, and sorrow, which the world counts evil, not only are no hindrances, but on the contrary have been declared by Him who could neither deceive nor be deceived, to be of great assistance towards the attainment of a holy and a happy life.

The same writer goes on to give the reason why S. Luke has reduced the number of the beatitudes to four. He was content that they should include the four cardinal virtues. Justice, which, coveting not the possessions of others, rejoices in holy poverty; temperance, which had rather suffer want than be full; prudence, which chooses to sorrow here, in hope of the joy which shall be revealed; and Fortitude, which for sake of Christ and His Gospel, endures persecution and so triumphs over every enemy. Hence we read that the poor, the temperate, those who hunger and thirst after righteousness (S. Matthew), the just, those who weep, the prudent who despise earthly things and seek heavenly, those hated of their fellowmen, not because of any misdeeds but for the Gospel’s sake, who, steadfast in the faith, seek for future happiness by pleasing God rather than men—that these are indeed blessed.

Ver. 24.—But woe unto you that are rich, for ye have received your consolation. To the four beatitudes Christ, by antithesis, opposes as many states of misery and unhappiness.

The poor are blessed for all eternity, but the rich receive in this world their consolation; the hungry shall be satisfied with good things, but those that are full now shall be sent empty away. They who weep here shall hereafter rejoice, but for those who laugh now there is reserved a future of mourning; and those that are spoken well of by their fellow men, are laying up for themselves an eternity of woe.

For Οὐαλ, Latin væ, as S. Gregory points out (Hom. 9. on Ezekiel), oftentimes in Scripture denotes the wrath of God and everlasting punishment. Hence this word is here used by Christ partly as a lament over the future and eternal misery of the worldly, (S. Chrysostom, Hom. 44 ad pop.); partly as a prophecy of it (Titus); partly as threatening and decreeing such punishment against them (Tertullian, bk. iv. against Marcian).

You that are rich. As by poor we understand those poor in spirit who love poverty because thereby they are the better able to please God, so we may take the word rich to mean those who, greedy of gain, heap up riches by any means in their power, and look upon wealth as their sole happiness and the one object of their life. Hence mortal sin, robbery, extortion, unfair dealing, and other such like sins. Therefore the denunciation of Christ. But those who are rich by inheritance and honest labour, as long as they are not corrupted by their riches, but use them for the glory of God and the good of their fellow men, in reality are poor, as were the patriarchs, David, and many other of the saints of old.

For it is not the amount he possesses, but the use a man makes of his riches which is accounted sin. So “they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil.” See 1 Tim. 6:9.

Ye have received your consolation. Ye set your heart on your riches, use them for your own evil gratification, and put them in the place of your God. Therefore ye are allowed the enjoyment of them in this life, but in the life which is to come ye will, as Christ has here declared, come short of everlasting happiness, for those who have in this world received their consolation will lose their eternal reward.

Hence S. Hieronymus (Epist. 34), when endeavouring to persuade Julian, a rich nobleman, to give up the world and devote himself to a holy and religious life, uses this powerful argument. “It is difficult, if not impossible,” he says, “to enjoy happiness in both worlds—to give ourselves up to our evil lusts and passions here, but to become spiritually minded after death—to pass from one state of happiness to the other—to acquire glory both in this world and in the next, … and to be distinguished equally in heaven and on earth. Hence Abraham returned none other answer to the rich man than this, ‘Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things, but now he is comforted and thou art tormented.’ ” See chapter 16:25.

So also Christ is said to have offered S. Catherine of Siena two crowns, one set with jewels, the other begirt with thorns, bidding her choose which she would wear in this life, which in the life to come. She chose the thorny crown, and, regardless of the anguish, pressed it firmly on her head.

Ver. 25.—Woe unto you which are full, &c.—ye who live only for eating and drinking, for ye shall hunger in eternity.

Actual evil-doers will indeed endure heavier punishment; but those who are gluttonous will suffer torment from the absence of those things wherein they delighted. Hence Dives prayed for but one drop of water to cool the tongue which he had accustomed to the richest food and the choicest wine. S. Euthymius.

For, as S. Basil writes, to live for pleasure alone is but to make a God of one’s belly (Phil. 3:19). From the one vice of gluttony spring innumerable others which war against the soul. Subdue then this one vice, and you will at the same time subdue many others, for innumerable are the promptings of lust, which following in the train of gluttony, hold out promise of enjoyment, but lead to everlasting misery. S. Gregory in lib. regum, lib. v. cap. 1.

The mind which is always accustomed to pleasure, and never weeded of evil by discipline, contracts much moral defilement (S. Bernard, Epist. 152); and again (Serm. 48, in Cant.), “A life spent in pleasure is both death and the shadow of death, for as a shadow follows close on that by which it is cast, a life of pleasure, beyond dispute, borders on destruction.”

On the contrary, fasting and abstinence give rise to chaste thoughts, reasonable desires and healthful counsels, for by voluntary self-denial the flesh is mortified and spiritual virtues are strengthened and renewed. S. Leo, (serm. 11, de jejunio).

Hence Christ gave S. Catherine this rule of life, “Choose that which is bitter as sweet, avoid that which is sweet as bitter.” See also Eccles. 2:1.

Woe unto you which laugh now, for ye shall mourn and weep—in this life, and much more in the life to come S. Basil seems in his rules to forbid all laughter, because this is a life of penitence and sorrow, but the future one of joy and gladness. Certain it is, as S. Augustine points out, that Christ is never said to have laughed, although He often wept.

Mirth in moderation, however, is not forbidden to the followers of Christ. “A fool lifteth up his voice with laughter, but a wise man doth scarce smile a little” (Ecclus. 21:20); and (Eccles. 2:2), “I said of laughter, It is mad: and of mirth, What doeth it?” Commenting on which passages, I have shown that it is immoderate laughter which is condemned, and not that moderate mirth which is the mark of a kindly disposition and well-regulated mind.

Woe to you that laugh, i.e. to you who laugh with the drunken, and make merry over sinful enjoyment, for you will weep and lament for ever in hell.

Ver. 26.—Woe unto you when all men shall speak well of you, &c. When men, who for the most part are carnally minded, speak well of you as setters forth of that which is pleasing to their ears, for they hate the truth, and persecute those who rebuke vice and restrain the evildoer, but praise them who excuse iniquity, whom God abhors. Thus did their forefathers speak well of the false prophets of old, and therefore they all have entered into condemnation. I also condemn you inasmuch as ye follow after their example. This “woe” is the contrary to the blessing promised to the true prophets, who for the gospel’s sake endure persecution, v. 22. So S. Paul: “If I pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.” See Gal. 1:10. For he who preaches false doctrine and things pleasing to the carnal mind, causes his hearers to continue in wickedness and commit many sins, and therefore will receive greater damnation.

Again, the preacher who seeks the applause rather than the conversion of his hearers, and looks upon this as the end and object of his ministry, will be condemned; because he sought to obtain the praise of men rather than to advance the glory of God, and made the vainglory of the world the one object of his life, thus destroying the souls of those committed to his care.

Such were the false teachers whom Jeremiah and the other prophets so often were called upon to refute. “The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means, and my people love to have it so,” Jer. 5:31.

Ver. 27.—But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies. Christ, after solemnly warning those who live for pleasure alone, now addresses His own disciples. “I have denounced woe against the wicked, but to you who hear my words, and seek the salvation of your souls, I give as a first and chief commandment that you should love your enemies.” See S. Matt. 5:44.

Ver. 30.—Give to every man that asketh of thee. Not only if he is in want of the necessaries of life, but if he needs counsel, advice, or aid of any kind, for thus ye will be showing mercy and pity both to the souls and bodies of your fellow men. See S. Matt. 5:42. S. Luke here adds the words “to every man,” which S. Matt. omits, from which we are to understand that we are to give as far as we honestly and rightly can to every one that asketh, but not to one that asketh for anything or everything. For a man may ask us to give him money for a wrongful purpose, or even to commit actual sin. Hence we are only bound to give that which, as far as we know, will neither be hurtful to ourselves, or to him that receiveth the gift: and in case we refuse to give, we must justify our refusal, so that he who asks may not go discontented away.

To every one therefore that asketh of thee, give not always that which he asks, but oftentimes that which is better—a denial if the request is one which we can show that it would be wrong to comply with. S. Augustine.

And of him that taketh away thy goods, ask them not again, neither by power of law or in any other way, as S. Augustine explains. Which is a command, in the case of one who, under pressure of want, has despoiled thee, but is otherwise a counsel. So we read, “Ye exact all your labours,” Isa. 58:3.

And again in the parable, the unmerciful servant, because he had no pity, was delivered to the tormentors until he should pay all the debt which had been forgiven him. S. Matt. 18. So Spiridion, and many hermits of old, gave up to the owners the sheep which they had stolen.

Ver. 34.—And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive (a like benefit), what thank have ye?” For this is not kindness but commerce, the exchange of kindness for kindness. Ye give for what ye hope to receive, not for love of God; and thus the hope of a return of the benefit conferred deprives the act of the favour of God. Interlinear Gloss.

Ver. 35.—Lend, hoping for nothing again. “From men,” adds the Syriac, “that you may receive your reward of God.”

Nothing, i.e. no pledge or return of any kind. Christ would have us lend, not only without exacting usury for the loan, but also without expecting a similar kindness in return. For what is it but self-seeking and avarice, if I lend to another that he in his turn may lend to me? Christ here enjoins the true benevolence which lends freely, content that at the appointed time the loan should be returned. Some, indeed, think that there should be no return, but the words of Christ do not bear this construction. For that which is lent without expectation of return, is given, not lent, and becomes not a loan but a gift. Toletus, Lessius, Valentia, and others.

Hence to seek to profit by a loan is contrary to the meaning of the word and the nature of the transaction. For the word mutuum (in the Greek δανείζητε, mutuum date, Vulgate), implies that they are mutuo animo, who give because of duty (Varro); or, as Verius Marcellus better explains it, mutuum means the same as meum tuum, because out of friendly feeling mine becomes thine for present needs and necessities. Hence S. Gregory Nyssen. writes, “He who exacts interest on a loan, is condemned as a usurer;” for a loan is a friendly transaction, freely given and to be freely restored. Cicero, Epist. ad Metcllum.

A kindly-hearted man, therefore, will lend to him who is in need, even though he may have reason to believe he will never be repaid, for there are many poor who cannot, and many unworthy persons who will not return that which is lent them.

Hence a witty writer, “If you lend to your friend and ask a return of the loan, you will lose either the one or the other;” and again, “By lending money, I have purchased to myself an enemy and lost a friend.” He therefore who lends should lend for the love of God, who will richly repay, as is written, “He that hath pity on the poor lendeth unto the Lord.” See Prov. 19:17.

Hence S. Chrysostom: “The poor receive the gift, but God becomes the debtor;” and S. Basil (conc. 4 de Eleemosyna) “That which thou art about to give to the poor for the love of God, becomes both a gift and a loan,—a gift, because there is no expectation of return—a loan, because of the goodness of God, who will richly recompense in their name those who have relieved the necessities of the poor.”

Wherefore we may take in a Christian sense that which is written: “Lose thy money for thy brother and thy friend.” See Ecclus. 29:10, and my comments thereon. But when men take that which is lent, without a thought of returning it, no one is willing to become a lender.

Ver. 38.—Give, and it shall be given unto you. Many are lavish of their promises, few are liberal in their gifts. Hence Antigonus, as Plutarch tells us, was commonly called Doson, because he was always ready to say δώσω, I will give, but never performed his promise of giving. Therefore, Christ bids us “give,” i.e. give at once and without delay, and it shall be given you.

For God puts it in the hearts of men amply to repay a liberal giver. It is said that a certain monastery became rich because of the large amounts expended in charity, but that, when these were withheld, it was reduced to poverty. When the steward was complaining of this to one whom he was entertaining, the guest said Date and dabitur are sisters: you cast out the former, and soon her sister and inseparable companion followed. If you wish the latter to return, recall the former, and give as largely as you were accustomed to do. See verse 27, S. Matt. 5:42, and elsewhere. For almsgiving enriches and does not impoverish. Hence S. Chrysostom says it is the most profitable of all acts. And Christ has declared that the merciful are blessed, for they shall obtain mercy. See S. Matt. 5:7.








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