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The Great Commentary Of Cornelius À Lapide Volumes 1 To 8

1 Christ teacheth to pray, and that instantly. 11 Assuring that God so will give us good things. 14 He, casting out a dumb devil, rebuketh the blasphemous Pharisees. 28 And sheweth who are blessed. 29 Preacheth to the people, 37 and reprehendeth the outward shew of holiness in the Pharisees, scribes, and lawyers.

Ver. 2.—When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name. S. Matthew adds this prayer to the sermon on the mount, whilst S. Luke places it at a later period. Either, therefore, Christ taught His disciples this prayer on two separate occasions, or S. Matthew added it to the sermon on the mount, in order to make that sermon a complete summary of evangelical doctrine.

Here we may observe, that S. Matthew makes this prayer consist of seven petitions, but S. Luke of five. The latter evangelist unites two, because they are contained in the others. Hence, because S. Luke omits the last petition, “deliver us from evil,” the Pelagians argued that although we might pray against being led into temptation, we ought not to pray for deliverance from evil.

Ver. 5.—And He said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight.

At midnight, i.e. at a most inconvenient time.

Christ puts forth this parable to teach His disciples not to be disheartened, nor to cease to pray because their petitions are unanswered, but to persevere, for if they do this, God will listen to their prayers and grant them their requests.

Ver. 6.—For a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him. My friend, hungry and wearied with his journey, seeks refreshment, and I have nothing to set before him.

Ver. 7.—And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not. He makes excuse that he cannot wake his children from their sleep and disturb his household.

Ver. 8.—I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth.

Importunity—ἀναίδειαν, i.e., impudence, used as the Latin word impudens—e.g., labor impudens (i.e. unceasing labour) omnia vincit.

Here S. Augustine asks, “Why because of his importunity? Because he continued to knock and did not go away because his request was denied him. He who was unwilling to give what his friend had need of, gave at last because the other continued his demands. Much more then will God who in His goodness bids us make known our requests to Him, and is displeased with those who seek Him not, grant our requests.”

God wills that we should continue instant in prayer, and is pleased with our “importunity,” for persistent prayer is “violence pleasing to God.” Tertullian.

Ver. 9.—And I say unto you, ask and it shall be given you. (See S. Matt. 7:7.)

Ver. 12.—Or if he shall ask an egg. This verse is omitted by S. Matthew. An egg, because of the nourishment it contains.

Ver. 27.—And it came to pass as He spake these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said unto him, &c., i.e. Thou art so holy and so blessed, O Christ, that because of thee thy mother must be also blessed. Although she was ignorant of the mystery, this woman was moved by the Holy Spirit to declare that Christ was born of a virgin mother. Some suppose that the woman here mentioned was S. Martha or her handmaid S. Marcella. However, had it been Martha, in all probability S. Luke would have said so, since he so frequently in the chapter preceding makes mention of her name.

But Marcella is said to have incurred the enmity of the Scribes because she thus openly spoke in praise of Christ, and to have been by them condemned to death a little after the crucifixion, and there is a tradition that, together with Martha, Mary Magdalene, and Lazarus, she was exposed in an open boat without sails or oars, but that it with its living freight was by the providence of God brought safe to shore at Marseilles.

Blessed is the womb that bare thee. For it was the abiding place of the Son of God. Hence Methodius says of the Blessed Virgin: “Thou didst conceive Him who comprehended all things. Thou didst bear Him in thy womb by whose word all things are sustained. For she is the chariot of the true Solomon, of whom it is written, ‘King Solomon made himself a chariot of the wood of Lebanon. He made the pillars thereof of silver, the bottom thereof of gold, the covering of it of purple, the midst thereof being paved with love.’ ” Cant. 3:9.

Hence Gregory of Nicomedia calls her “the glorious throne and royal chariot on which the Incarnate Word was carried when He visited the earth. And S. Bernard says, Ignatius, in the many letters which he wrote to the Blessed Virgin, addresses her as “Christofera,” which is indeed a noble title conveying with it infinite honour; for to be the servant of Christ is to be a ruler and prince, and to bear Him is to be ennobled, not burdened. And the same writer, commenting on Rev. 12, goes on to say, “How great favour hast thou found in the sight of God, how very nigh hast thou been brought to Him! He abides in thee, and thou in Him. Thou didst provide Him a garment, and in turn thou are clothed upon by Him. He received of thee the garment of the flesh; He clothed thee with the glory of His majesty. Thou didst clothe the sun with a cloudy covering, and thou thyself art encircled with its splendours.”

Rightly therefore may we sing of the mother of our Lord: “Thou art the exaltation of Jerusalem. Thou art the great glory of Israel. Blessed be thou of the Almighty Lord for evermore,” Judith 15:9.

Hear also the testimony of the fathers. Gregory Nazianzen, in his tragedy, “The Suffering Christ” writes:—“O queen, O mistress and blessing of the human race! be ever propitious to us mortal men: and be my safeguard wherever I may dwell.” And S. Cyril (Contra Nestorium) says, “All praise to thee, holy mother of God, for thou art this world’s pearl, an evershining light, the crown of virgins, and the sceptre of the faith;” and S. Chrysostom: “Hail, mother, the throne, the grace, the glory and the support of our Holy Church!” And again, S. Ephrem salutes her as “the hope of the Fathers, the glory of the Prophets, the praise of the Apostles, the honour of the Martyrs, the joy of the Saints, and the light of the Patriarchs of old.”

Ver. 28.—But He said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it. Christ does not say that His mother is not blessed, as Calvin would have us believe, but only that they are more blessed who hear the word of God and keep it, i.e. fulfil its precepts Because to be the mother of God is a grace and free gift of God, but external, and therefore not of necessity acting upon the soul, but to hear and keep the word is an internal grace, finding acceptance in the sight of God. Again, to be the mother of God does not absolutely ensure everlasting happiness, but to keep God’s word up to death has the sure promise of eternal life. And further, to be the mother of God is, of necessity, the blessing of one virgin only, but to hear and keep the word of God, a privilege common to all believers.

Christ therefore would encourage the woman who had addressed Him. Thou callest My mother blessed, and sorrowest that so great a privilege has not fallen to thy lot, but I offer thee a better and more lasting blessing, if thou wilt hear My word, and keep My commandments. For My mother was blessed more because she acknowledged My divinity than because she conceived Me in her womb, nay more, because, had she not recognised the purpose of God and been obedient unto His word, she would have been accounted unworthy to have become the mother of His Son; and so S. Augustine says, “The near relationship of mother would not have profited Mary had she not conceived Christ in her heart as well as in her womb. For she was more blessed in her faith than in her conception.

Ver. 34.—The light of the body is the eye. Figuratively the eye represents reason, intellect, especially good intention—for what the eye is to the body, such is reason or good intention to the mind.

When thine eye is single, thy whole body also is full of light, i.e. illumined by a single, a clear and unclouded eye.

Ver. 36.—If thy whole body therefore be full of light … the whole shall be full of light. Not the body, but the whole man and all his faculties and powers. Maldonatus. But Toletus gives a different rendering: “If the eye, which is the principal and most noble part of the body, is full of light, then by means of it the whole body will be enlightened.”*

Ver. 37.—And as He spake, a certain Pharisee besought Him to dine with him: and He went in, and sat down to meat. “As he spake,” As He was on a certain occasion teaching the people, say St. Augustine and others; but Maldonatus considers that reference is here made to the preceding verses. The Pharisee therefore, having heard what our Lord had previously said, asked Him, from no good motive, but, as we learn from the two last verses of the chapter, in order to find some accusation against Him.

He sat down to meat,” without having first washed His hands, after the manner of the Pharisees.

Ver. 38.—And when the Pharisee saw it, he marvelled that He had not first washed. For the Pharisees were accustomed, before they sat down to meat, to wash not their hands only, but their arms as far as the elbow. See St. Matt. 15:1.

Ver. 39.—And the Lord said unto him. Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and platter. Ye take care to wash the body, but are careless as to the cleansing of the heart. The word “now” gives point to the rebuke.

Ver. 41.—But rather give alms of such things as ye have; and, behold, all things are clean unto you. τὰ ἐνόντα, quod superest. Vulgate. These words are omitted by many of the fathers, but retained in the Roman versions.

By these words we may therefore understand:

1. Such things as we possess. So Tertullian (lib. iv. 27 Contra Marc.). But St. Basil and Euthymius explain them as meaning “what we have in store,” or what we have at hand, what we have not consumed. Vatablus. Others think that the words mean “what we have not acquired wrongfully, for such things must be restored, and not given in charity.” Others, again, such things as we have in our power and at our disposal, that by giving of these we may make amends for our many misdeeds, may break off our iniquities, by showing mercy to the poor. Dan. 4:24.

2. Toletus thinks, from a consideration of v. 39, that by τὰ ενόντα we must understand the things within. “Ye, O Pharisees, make clean the outside of the cup and platter, but your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness, for ye have obtained what ye eat and what ye drink by robbery and injustice. Cleanse yourselves therefore of your sins. Restore what you have gained unjustly and give alms of such things as ye lawfully possess.” Thus, Zaccheus said, “The half of my goods I give to the poor, and if I have taken anything from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold. St. Luke 19:8.

3. Theophylact considers that our Lord here goes to the root of the evil, and would have the Pharisees cast out of their hearts τὰ ἐνόντα, i.e. their inordinate love of riches.

4. But we may interpret the passage more forcibly as meaning, There is but one remedy for your past sins and extortions: give alms; this is a duty which comes before all others, this is the sum and substance of the whole matter. Bede.

5. Lastly, some would read the verse thus: Give alms of such things as you may lawfully dispose of, τὸ ἐνὸν, what is lawful, i.e. of such things as are your own, and not the property of others. Give freely, and not because you are under any obligation to give.

And behold all things are clean unto you. Some think that these words were spoken in irony; but the general opinion of the fathers is that we must understand them seriously; but how—

1. Certain are of opinion that the sins of robbery and violence are pardoned through the giving of alms, even although no previous restitution has been made. But this is a manifest error, for S. Augustine says, “no sin is remitted, unless restitution is made,” for restitution of that which has been wrongfully acquired is due under every law, natural, human, or divine.

2. S. Augustine understands by “almsgiving” every good work, including even penitence itself, for “How,” he asks, “can you be merciful to another, if you are unmerciful to yourself? To have compassion on your own soul is to be pleasing to God.” He therefore who repents of his sins, has compassion on his own soul; for almsgiving is whatever is done by a profitable compassion. To “give alms” means “devote thyself to good works, to works of charity and of penitence, for these will make you clean.”

3. But we may take the words really in this sense. “All things, whether external, as the body, or internal, as the soul, are made clean, not by ceremonial washings, as ye think, but by alms given out of τὰ ἐνόντα, “that which is thine own.” See preceding section 5.

For by almsgiving we obtain the pardon of our venial offences, and are placed in the way of obtaining the remission of even mortal sin, if, that is to say, our almsgiving is the fruit of true contrition which includes within itself the perfect love of God.

We must therefore understand that the giving of alms makes all things clean, if it be accompanied by faith, hope, contrition, and such other things as are required by scripture for the remission of sin, and if the almsgiver does not again return to his evil ways. Hence, according to the teaching of Christ and His apostles, we are saved by faith, and that not alone, but accompanied by penitence and love.

Origen, SS. Cyprian, Ambrose and others, explain that almsgiving is a remedy for every sin, but chiefly for extortion and robbery and such sins as are contrary to itself. For it is a remedy against avarice, which is the root of the evil. Because he who is liberal and compassionate neither envies, robs, nor wrongs any one. Hence Theophylact calls almsgiving “the daughter of godlike love and charity;” and S. Cyril, on Dan. 4, declares the giving of alms to be better than fasting, for that which can be applied to all wounds is no valueless medicament. See also S. Matt. 22.

Ver. 45.—Then answered one of the lawyers, and said unto Him, Master, thus saying Thou reproachest us also. ὑβρίζεις, blamest or dishonourest. Thou accusest us, and that openly, of much wickedness. But Christ exposed the wickedness of the Scribes, not to disgrace them, but to lead them to amend their lives; or, if that were impossible, to prevent others from following their evil example. So S. Cyril says, “To be convicted of error is to the proud intolerable, but to the humble a great means of advancement.” Bede: “How wretched is that conscience which thinks itself insulted whenever it may happen to hear the word of God.” Yet even now the wicked, when a preacher attacks vices which they are conscious of committing, think themselves aggrieved and persecute the man who warns them of their sin.

Ver. 47.—Woe unto you! for ye build the sepulchres of the prophets. Christ does not rebuke the Scribes for building these sepulchres, but because they sought to persecute and slay Him and His apostles, who were as the prophets of old. See S. Matt. 23.*

Ye act, O ye Scribes, in accordance with the example of your fathers. They killed the prophets and ye bury them, as robbers bury those whom they have plundered and slain. Ye act thus out of pretended reverence and zeal, yet ye are but imitations of your fathers, for ye seek to kill Me and My disciples, and by so doing fill up the measure of their iniquity.” But Suarez explains these verses thus, “Inasmuch as ye imitate your fathers in your persecution of Christ and His apostles, ye seem to build these sepulchres more to commemorate the act of the slayer, than out of any desire to honour the slain.”

Ver. 52.—Woe unto you, lawyers! Ye have usurped, as S. Ambrose renders the Greek ἤρατε, the key of knowledge, i.e., the teaching of the law and the interpretation of scripture. Ye have used this knowledge for your own evil purposes, and have prejudiced the people against Me and the salvation which I came to bestow. Thus ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in, S. Matt. 23:13.

Thus S. Ambrose and Tertullian; and S. Cyril, who understands the key of knowledge to mean the law, the sign of the justice of Christ, and adds, Faith also is the key, because by means of it we retain the knowledge and the truth, for “unless ye believe ye will not understand.” These men therefore shut up the kingdom of heaven, for they neither explained the law as testifying to Christ, nor did they suffer men to believe on Him.

Figuratively, S. Augustine (lib. ii. Quæst. Evang.), alluding to Isa. 22:22, and Rev. 3:7, says, The key of knowledge is humility, which these lawyers themselves understood not, and were unwilling that others should understand.

Ver. 53. And the Scribes and the Pharisees began to urge Him vehemently. “To urge Him vehemently,” δεινῶς συνέχειν; but the Vulgate has “to insist,” as if ἐνέχειν “and to provoke Him to speak of many things,” ἀποστοματίζειν, i.e. to catch something out of His mouth that they might accuse Him—to seek an immediate answer to their crafty questionings, and to confuse Him in His talk. Euthymius and Theophylact. But Maldonatus thinks that ἀποστοματίζειν should be rendered “to shut His mouth,” i.e. to put Him to silence. But the Scribes did not wish to silence Christ, but on the contrary to provoke Him to say something against the law or against Cæsar, whereof they might accuse Him.

They said therefore, Thou hast derided our ceremonies, and broken the tradition of our fathers, v. 38. Thou hast rebuked us because we tithe mint and rue, v. 42. Thou hast charged us with loving the uppermost seats, and therefore Thou hast blamed Moses who assigned them to us, v. 43. Thou hast forbidden us to honour the prophets, v. 47. Thou hast deprived us of the key of knowledge, which the whole synagogue has committed to our care, v. 52. Thou desirest therefore to be wiser than Moses, and to overthrow the law, and the ordinances of God.

Ver. 54.—Laying wait for Him, and seeking to catch something out of His mouth. θηρεῦσαί, “to hunt for,” that they might accuse Him to Caiaphas or Pilate. For Euthymius says, “They thought by their rapid questionings to lead Him to commit Himself to some rash statement; but He answered them in all things wisely, for He answered nothing but what had been well thought out aforehand, and He spake unmoved by any human passion.”

They trusted that in anger, or in excitement, he would have said something with which they could find fault, for men in the heat of argument oftentimes make statements which they regret and are compelled to retract. Not so with Christ, calm and unmoved, His words were truth.








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