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An Exposition Of The Gospels by The Most Rev. John Macevilly D.D.

Having pointed out in the preceding chapter, the works of justice we are obliged to perform, our Lord commences this chapter with pointing out how they are to be performed, and the motives from which they should proceed. He inculcates the necessity of avoiding vain glory in the performance of our good works in general (1). Descending to particulars, He reduces our good works to the general heads of alms-deeds, prayer, fasting. He first points out how alms-deeds are to be performed, viz., in private, in order to secure an eternal reward (2–4). Next, point out how we should discharge the duty of prayer, the faults we are to avoid, common among the Pharisees (5), and among the Pagans (7–8); the secrecy with which we should perform the duty of private prayer (6). He next teaches us that most excellent and most comprehensive form of prayer, called the Lord’s Prayer (9–13), and He points out the necessity of forgiving injuries referred to in one of the petitions of the Lord’s Prayer (14–15). He next points out the faults committed by hypocrites in the exercise of fasting, and shows how we ought to appear, while fasting (16–18). He next inculcates detachment from earthly goods, and dissuades us from amassing earthly goods, on several grounds, because of their fleeting character and insecure tenure, as contrasted with heavenly goods (19–20); because, they engross all our thoughts, and withdraw us from heavenly things (21); because, they destroy the merit of our good actions, and withdraw us from God (22–23); because, they make us slaves of that wealth which we worship and idolize (24). He, next, by way of meeting a tacit objection, which might be made to His teaching on the subject of indifference and detachment in regard to earthly treasures, on the ground of the necessity of making provision for the future, shows on several grounds, the folly of too much anxiety on this head; first, because of the goodness of God manifested in the past provision made for us (25); again, from a comparison of the care He takes of the worthless birds of the air (26); again, on the grounds of the utter uselessness of such inordinate solicitude (27). Again, referring to the subject of raiment, so necessary for our subsistence, He suppresses inordinate solicitude on this head, from a consideration of what God has done to clothe with beauty the very grass of the field (28–31). Finally, from the consideration that such solicitude is Pagan in its tendency (32). He concludes with exhorting to make God’s kingdom and His justice the chief object of our solicitude, and not inordinately forecast future troubles, which will all be provided for by God’s providence, in their own good time (33–34).

1. “Take heed,” &c. Our Redeemer, having fully shown, in the preceding chapter, how far our “justice,” i.e., our observance of the moral law should excel that of the Scribes and Pharisees, and having also pointed out their violation of the law, both in their teaching and their actions, commences this chapter by showing how far we should excel them as to the motives which should actuate us in the performance of the precepts of the law, common to His followers and the Jews.

The words, “take heed,” convey, that we should employ the utmost vigilance and caution in guarding against vain glory, as the most dangerous, insidious, and subtle of all our spiritual enemies, since it destroys all the merit of our good works. It is the evil which those particularly are most liable to, who lead a life of virtue, and against which, therefore, they should be chiefly on their guard. Other passions domineer over the wicked; this, chiefly attacks those who lead a life of virtue. The opinion which some expositors put forward, viz., that this portion of the discourse, which embraces quite a different subject from the foregoing, was not a continuation of the preceding, which they say, was delivered to the Apostles on the mountain; this, to the multitude in the plain, is fully answered (c. 5:1). For, one and the same speaker, in the same discourse, and before the same audience, may, and frequently does, employ different subjects, and treat them differently, in accommodation to the wants of his audience, or of several portions of his audience.

Justice,” means our good works in general, by which we are made just, and the law is fulfilled; or, our observance of the law of God, without reference to any particular class of works. These are called “justice,” because by them we are justified (c. 5:20). In the Greek, for “justice,” it is “alms-deeds,” which is also the reading of St. Chrysostom. The Vulgate reading, “justice,” is supported by the Vatican and other MSS., St. Augustine, Jerome, &c. However, there is practically but very little difference as regards the meaning, since “alms-deeds” signifies works of justice, which the rich owe the poor and necessitous. Alms are styled “justice” (Psa. 111:9; Prov. 10:2; 2 Cor. 9:10). The general signification conveyed by the Vulgate reading, “justice,” would seem to be the more appropriate; so that from general, our Redeemer would proceed to particular virtues, which He specifies in detail. He supposes that all the duties of religion are comprised under the three following works, and may be classed under them: Prayer comprises, in a general way, our duties to God, and His worship; “alms-deeds,” those we owe our neighbour; and fasting, those we owe ourselves, as the means of advancing our own personal sanctification. And, in order to impress upon us more clearly how these works are to be performed, our Redeemer shows first, how the Scribes and Pharisees performed them, and the corrupt motives by which they were actuated; and next, how we should perform them, and the purity of intention with which we should perform these works—our observance of God’s law.

To be seen by them,” expresses the end or intention we have in view in performing our actions. We should not propose to ourselves, for end in our good works, to be seen by men. This is not opposed to c. 5:16, since our Redeemer does not prohibit us here to perform our actions before men, any more than the words of St. Paul (Gal. 1:10; 1 Cor. 10:33) do. He here refers to the motive or end we have in view in thus performing our good works in public, viz., vain glory—“to be seen by them.” In chapter 5 we are told to perform our good works in such a way as to have the glory of them referred to God; “that they may see,” not you, but “your good works, and glorify your Father,” &c. Here, we are prevented from performing them so as to have the glory taken from God and given to ourselves—“to be seen;” not you, but your good works, “by them.” In chapter 5 there is question of “seeing the works,” and glorifying their author; here, there is question of seeing the men, and glorifying them instead of God. St. Gregory admirably reconciles both passages thus: Sit opus in publico quatenus intentio maneat in occulto,” &c. No doubt, works done in public and seen by men shall obtain a reward, “sic luceat lux vestra ut videant opera vestra,” &c., but not works done for the end or intention, that the workers may be seen by men, and out of motives of vain glory. Similar is the mode of reconciling the passage of St. Paul above quoted. St. Paul did not please men, because his object was to please God, while he became all to all.

You will not have a reward from your Father,” &c., shows that the merit of such works is lost. Performed from earthly motives, they must be content with an earthly reward. They are not done for God, and, therefore, not entitled to any reward from Him.

Who is in heaven,” shows the reward of good works, referred to God, to be heavenly, divine, and eternal; while that of works done to obtain human applause is earthly, human, and transitory.

You shall not have.” The Greek is in the present tense, “you have not.” The meaning comes to be the same, “you have not” treasured up for yourselves hereafter in heaven. Our Lord does not say, “you shall be damned,” because it may frequently happen, that the desire of human applause for doing a good work may not be deserving of damnation. It may be only venial; and, moreover, the loss of a good work is only the loss of a reward to be given by God.

2. Having alluded to our good works in general, and cautioned us against vain glory in their performance, He now descends to particulars. (The three kinds of works, alms-deeds, prayer, fasting, summarily contain the whole of our religious duties.) He shows how they are not to be done, and next, how they should be done, or the motives which should actuate us, in doing them.

Therefore, when thou dost an alms-deed, sound not a trumpet before thee.” Some expositors say there is allusion here to a custom among the Jews, of employing a trumpet to call the poor together on the occasion of the distribution of alms, to mark the time and place for such distribution. This was a laudable proceeding, as it served to bring together all who were in want, and no deserving object would be excluded. But the Pharisees abused this custom, for purposes of display and vain glory, “that they may be honoured by men;” and it is this corrupt intention our Redeemer censures here. Others say there is no vestige of any such custom existing for such purposes among the ancients, and understand the words metaphorically, so as to convey that they should not ostentatiously proclaim their deeds of charity, as if they sounded them forth with a trumpet, and thus called public attention to them. The people used generally be called together, on public occasions, by the sound of a trumpet, and, probably, special allusion is made to the mode of calling people together to view theatrical performances. The sound of a trumpet preceded the actor when he came forward; and these men were but actors. “Hypocrite” means, literally, a theatrical performer, a stage actor, who acts a part different from the reality, and sustains a character different from what he really is. So these wicked dissemblers, here denounced by our Redeemer, act the part of holy men, and put on the external mask of sanctity, to which they have no claim whatever in reality. Instead of being really beneficent and charitable, they were only self-seekers, looking for the praises of men.

In the synagogues,” probably includes, as well places for prayers, as all public meeting places where alms were distributed, and “streets” both words refer to the most public places of resort.

That they may be honoured by men.” it is not the doing of good works in public that our Redeemer here condemns, but the corrupt motives of catching after the applause of men, which dictated them.

Amen.” In truth, “I say to you, they have received their reward,” i.e., human applause, “THEIR reward.” “Their,” the only reward they looked for; “their,” the only reward suited to them; but they need not expect the reward from God to which their good works would be otherwise entitled, and which they would most certainly receive, if they worked for God. The Greek for “have received” (απεχουσι) is “receive,” expressing what is customary and usually happens.

3. This means, that, while bestowing alms or doing works of charity, we should carefully avoid all ostentation, and seek privacy, to such an extent, that if it were possible for our “left hand” to have eyes, so as to see, it would not see or be aware of the deeds of beneficence and charity performed by “our right hand;” in a word, that it should be so secret, as to escape even our own observation. It is the strongest language of figurative exaggeration. The words of this verse may be regarded either in the light of a precept, or, of an admonition. In the former sense, they refer to our intention in performing good actions, as is explained in verse 1. In the latter sense, they merely convey an admonition, that, from a consciousness of our great infirmity, and the corrupt tendency of our nature, to seek human applause in our actions, we should endeavour to perform works of charity, with the utmost privacy, unless when motives of edification may demand it otherwise.

4. “Who seeth in secret.” Nothing can escape His ever-watchful eye. To Him light and darkness are all alike.

Will repay thee.” The Greek adds “in public,” a very appropriate mode of recompensing those who avoid all human applause in the performance of their good actions. St. Luke (14:14), treating of a similar subject, has, “at the resurrection of the just.” Christ, the just Judge, will, on the Day of Judgment, “when He will reveal the hidden things of darkness,” publicly set forth, before the assembled nations of the earth, the private good works of His faithful servants. How foolish, then, are they who “love vanity and seek after lies;” who run after the empty praise of this world, which, like the passing wind, shall be utterly unheeded; instead of seeking, in every thing, the goodwill and pleasure of their bountiful Father, who will not fail to repay us, if we labour for Him, with the solid and imperishable goods of heaven.

5. Our Redeemer next treats of another portion of our religious duties, viz., prayer; and He points out the faults to be avoided, in the performance of this duty, and the mode of performing it properly.

When you pray,” &c. In Greek, it is the singular form, “When thou prayest,” &c. “That love (in Greek, because they love) to stand and pray in the synagogues,” &c. They stood thus, either for the purpose of being seen, or, to seem motionless, and altogether absorbed in prayer and union with God, and thus secure human applause. On certain occasions of public prayer, viz., of sacrifice, or singing psalms, or public benediction, or solemn thanksgiving, it was usual with both priests and people to remain in a standing posture, but the posture generally observed was that of kneeling, particularly on occasions of adoration or penance. We see Solomon did so (3 Kings 8:54); Daniel (6:10); Micheas (6:6). In truth, kneeling was the posture generally observed, and commonly in use amongst all nations, when addressing the Supreme Deity (A. Lapide); while it would seem, from several parts of SS. Scripture, that among the Jews, in public devotions, the attitude varied from standing to kneeling (3 Kings 8:15, 54; 1 Esdras 9:5; Daniel 6:10; 2 Paralip. 6:13). It would also seem, that, in private devotions, some form of kneeling was the most usual posture (see Kitto’s Cyclopædia, word, attitudes). From the very beginning, the Christian custom was to kneel at prayer—except on certain occasions, at the pasch and solemn thanksgiving—after the example of our Lord (Matt. 26:39); of St. Peter (Acts 9:40); St. Paul (Acts 20:36). Our Lord here, speaks of private devotions; and hence, He speaks of their “standing,” manifestly to be seen, and thus gain popular applause.

Corners of the streets,” is generally understood of the intersection of the public thoroughfares, where there is generally the greatest concourse of people. Others understand the words, of the private recesses of the streets, where, however, the people could see them, and give them credit, not alone for praying, but also for doing so privately, and the Pharisees did so, affecting humility, while it was all dictated by feelings of vain glory.

6. “But thou, when thou shall pray,” &c. This shows that our Redeemer is referring, in the foregoing, to private prayers, practised by each individual, apart. “Enter into thy chamber.” St. Augustine (in hunc locum) understands the word metaphorically, of the closet of one’s heart. St. Jerome, too, approves of the metaphorical interpretation of the word; but by the “door when shut,” he understands having one’s lips closed, after the example of Anna, the mother of Samuel. (1 Kings 1) It is more probable, however, that our Redeemer meant the word in its literal signification, of a material chamber, as opposed to the “synagogues and corners of the streets;” and not only should one enter into a private chamber, but, he should also, “have the door shut,” in order the more diligently to avoid being seen, and escape all temptations to vain glory, in so sacred an action. What our Lord principally intends to enjoin on us here, is, that in discharging the duty of prayer, we should avoid, as much as possible, everything calculated to generate feelings of vain glory, and to secure human applause, so that, in our public prayers, which sometimes are a matter of precept, we should attend to God alone, as if no one else saw us, and as if we were shut up in our private closet, unobserved by human eye, seen only by the Searcher of hearts, and the just Judge of all; and in our private prayers, we should avoid all boasting, otherwise we would be, in the sight of God, imitating the hypocrites, in the prayers which they offer up, with the view of being seen by men; when praying in public, as a matter of duty, and edification, our motives should be always in private. “Will repay thee,” to which is added, in the Greek, in public or openly. Our Redeemer by no means censures here the practice of public prayer, so laudably sanctioned by the common usage of both Jews and Christians (3 Kings 8:29; Acts 1:24; 6:6), and by the example of our Redeemer Himself, who, on festival days, went up to the temple to attend public worship; a practice, moreover, calculated to offer joint violence to heaven, and thus more effectually secure the objects of our petitions; to give God public honour; to stimulate the tepid by example of the fervent; to increase and nourish fraternal charity.

7. In the preceding, our Redeemer cautions us against a fault in prayer common with the hypocrites; in these verses, he puts us on our guard against a fault very common among the unbelieving heathens. They imagined that, in addressing supplications to their gods, they should employ a form of address, couched in an artful, rhetorical style of language, replete with vain, useless repetitions and amplifications, calculated to inform the gods of their wants, and apt to move them to lend a willing ear to their petitions, in the same way as advocates, pleading before judges, employ language calculated to move them to lend a favourable ear to their cause. The Greek word for, “speak not much” (βατλογησητε), literally means, vain, foolish repetitions, in allusion to a certain poet, named Battus, remarkable for employing such repetitions in his writings. The following words, “they think,” &c., show, that what it is our Redeemer here chiefly censures, is the Pagan practice of employing many words, rhetorically arranged, so as to instruct and move their gods. To this, there is derisive allusion made by Elias (3 Kings 18:27). Our Redeemer does not here prohibit long or protracted prayers. For, He Himself, for our instruction and example, spent whole nights in prayer, “pernoctavit in oratione.” He also inculcated, continual, unceasing prayer. “We ought always to pray” (Luke 18:1). St. Paul (1 Thess. 5:17; Coloss. 4:2), inculcates the same. Neither does He prohibit vocal prayer often repeated. For, He Himself prayed in this way, in His last prayer for His disciples and the believers, and also in the garden, “Pater, si fieri potest,” &c. He only condemns useless, babbling repetitions in prayer, rhetorically arranged with a view of instructing and moving God, by their eloquent composition. There can be no reference here, to the litanies and rosary practised in God’s Church; since the repetitions contained in these, have only for object to commemorate the mysteries of redemption, which we cannot too often reflect on and express. They remind us of the deep gratitude we owe Almighty God, for all He has so lovingly done and accomplished in our regard; and they perseveringly urge our petitions for grace, on several grounds of confidence, and on titles founded on the several passages of SS. Scripture, which have relation to the loving mysteries of redemption. They are not intended to instruct God, or persuade Him, in the manner here condemned by our Redeemer. “For” (i.e.) on account of “their much speaking.” The Greek word for “much speaking,” here, πολυλογια, which literally and strictly means, what is expressed in our version, is quite different from the Greek word corresponding with “speak not much.” Both forms of expression are intended to convey the same idea, and mutually elucidate each other.

8. “For, your Father knoweth,” &c. These words, which are a correction of the erroneous practice of the heathens in prayer, clearly convey what that practice was. The heathen prayer was intended to inform their gods of their wants, and, by a laboured style of composition, to set their wants clearly before them, the more effectually to influence them to hear their petitions. Our Redeemer says, no such thing is needed as regards our heavenly Father, who knows our wants before we present them, and pray for their remedy; and He only waits to have our petitions addressed to Him, in a proper way, to grant our requests; since, as our bountiful “Father,” He is more concerned for us, than we can be for ourselves. However, He has so arranged the decrees of His providence, that He makes our praying and petitioning Him, generally speaking, as a necessary condition for bestowing His gifts. It is only on condition of, “asking,” that we “shall receive,” &c. St. Jerome informs us, that the words of our Redeemer, in this verse, gave rise to a heresy on the part of certain philosophers, who said, why pray to God, if He knows all we need before we pray? We address Him to no purpose, who already knows what we mean. To whom the saint replies, “We are not narrators, but suppliants. It is one thing, to inform one who is ignorant, and another, to entreat one who is already aware of our wants.” Non igitur narratores sumus; sed rogatores. Aliud enim est narrare ignoranti; aliud, scientem petere. In illo, judicium est, in illo, obsequium (in c. 6 Matthei).

But another question arises here, which St. Augustine also proposes. If it be a reason for not having recourse to long prayers, that God knows all before we pray, would not the same reason militate against short prayers also, and the form conveyed in the following, called the Lord’s prayer? It may be said that, strictly speaking, no particular form of words, either long or short, is, per se, necessary for the effect of our prayers with God, who, being a pure Spirit, chiefly regards the desires of our heart, without which vocal prayer is of no avail with God. However, He has Himself prescribed a brief form of prayer, to show us what we are to pray for, and how. Moreover, a short form of prayer may be useful and necessary, for exciting and increasing devotion, and should a lengthy form conduce to this end, it is so far laudable, and by no means, involved in the censure here uttered by our Redeemer. And although, as an omniscient God, He knows all things, before they happen, and has, therefore, a full knowledge of all our wants, and as a sovereignly bountiful Father, He is prepared to succour us; still, He has, for the wisest ends, so arranged the eternal decrees of His providence, that He has made it, as a necessary condition, at least generally, of granting what we want, that we should first beseech Him to grant it. In this, He has in view our good, to remind us, by the necessity of applying to Him, that all good comes from Him as its author, and that it is to Him thanks for it are, therefore, to be rendered—to make us value His gifts the more, as they are given only after earnest entreaty—to inspire us with a love of heavenly things, whereof the necessity of appealing to our Father, who is in heaven, for which we are destined, is calculated to remind us—to beget an increase of faith, hope, and charity, and accustom us to familiar intercourse with God—to inspire us with sentiments of true humility, from the consideration of our sins and ingratitude, which we expose to God in prayer. Finally, to render to God the homage of praise and thanksgiving, and humbly discharge this duty as we should.

Owing to the tendency of our minds to earthly things, it is very useful for the purpose of withdrawing us from those earthly thoughts, to employ the words of Holy Scripture, and particularly the Psalms of David, in which the several acts of homage, petition, humility, love, sorrow for sin, praise, thanksgiving, &c., are so feelingly and so eloquently expressed. The recitation of these psalms was a favourite spiritual exercise in the infant Church, and with the primitive Christians.

9. “Thus, therefore, shall you pray: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name.”

The Pagans pray in the manner censured in the foregoing verses. But “you”—the children and sons of God—should pray “thus,” or, in the following manner. In this, our Redeemer does not enjoin on us to employ always the following form of prayer, which He Himself has divinely taught us. “Thus” only implies that the following prayer—the most perfect we could employ—should be the model of all our prayers, both in regard to the manner and arrangement, “seeking first the kingdom of God and His justice;” and to the matter: since this prayer briefly comprises all that we can ask for, either in regard to soul or body; all that concerns the present visible world, or the invisible world to come. The superior excellence of this prayer, which is accommodated equally to every class of Christians, rich or poor, learned or unlearned, may be estimated, first—from the consideration of its Author—the same, to whom, now enthroned in glory, in union with the Father and the Holy Ghost, it is addressed by the entire Church. In it, we pray not alone in the name, but in the very words of Christ.

And this consideration may be seen in a clearer light, were we to suppose an angel from heaven to come down, and leave us a form of prayer, composed for our benefit by the whole heavenly host. With what reverence would we recite such a prayer? But, with how much greater reverence still, should we receive and recite a prayer left us, and composed, not by any created or finite intelligence, but by the eternal Son of God Himself, “in whom the whole plenitude of the Divinity dwells corporally” (Colos. 2:9); “in whom are concealed all the treasures of wisdom and of knowledge” (Colos. 2:3); “the image of the invisible God, the first-born of every creature” (Colos. 1:15)? Secondly—its excellence may be also estimated, from its comprehensiveness and brevity, containing, in a few words, a compendium of all we can pray for. Hence, Tertullian (lib. de Oratione), and after him St. Cyprian (de Oratione), term it, “the Breviary of the Gospel.”

It commences with the words, “Our Father, who art in heaven.” These words serve as an introduction to the prayer. They proclaim the goodness and power of God. “Father,” which relates to the entire Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, proclaims His goodness as evidenced in all the gifts of nature, grace, and glory, which, as our bountiful “Father,” He bestows on us. “Who art in heaven,” proclaims His full power and dominion over all things. These latter words also serve to withdraw our thoughts and cares from the things of this world, to raise up our hearts to the contemplation of that seat of bliss, where our “Father” reigns supreme, whereof we are citizens, whither we are tending, and the securing of which should be the aim of all our thoughts and actions. “If we are truly risen with Christ, we should seek the things that are above … mind the things that are above” (Colos. 3) Our Redeemer prefaces this, His own prayer, with the word, “Father,” which is expressive of the most endearing relation between man and man, to inspire us with filial confidence the most unbounded, since we are addressing One, who is not heedless of our miseries—One, who has for us the bowels and tenderness of a parent, and “who, although a woman should forget the son of her womb, will not forget us.” (Isaias 49:15); “who, in His correction of us, treats us not as bastards, but as sons” (Heb. 12); who has reserved or us specially, in the New Law, the privilege from which the Jews of old were excluded—that of being warranted in addressing to Him the endearing appellation f “Father” (Rom. 8:15). These words also serve to remind us of the gratitude and love we owe the Master of heaven and earth, for deigning to become a Father to us.

The word “our,” which runs through the entire prayer—“our daily bread,” “our trespasses,” &c.—not “my Father,” “my daily bread,” &c.—is meant to remind all Christians, rich and poor, of every rank and condition, of the mutual charity they owe one another as children of the same common Parent, who adopted all His children in Jesus Christ; with whom, in the new spiritual existence, which all receive in Christianity, there is no exception of persons. With Him all conditions are equal; with Him, “there is neither Jew nor Gentile, Barbarian nor Scythian, bond nor free.” (Colos. 3:11). It is meant, therefore, to remove all grounds of haughty insolence, on the part of the rich and exalted, and of murmuring and discontent, on the part of the poor and lowly. Members of the same mystical body of Christ, all should strive for the sake of the head, Christ, to perform properly the allotted functions, as He has been pleased to arrange them, for the common advantage of the body. (1 Cor. 12) The word “our,” also reminds us that in this prayer, each one addresses God, not in a mere individual capacity, but as a member of the great Christian family; and that he prays, not merely for himself, but, in a certain sense, for all Christians.

The words, “who art in heaven,” by no means insinuate that God does not fill all space with His glorious immensity. “Do I not fill heaven and earth? says the Lord,” (Jer. 23:24); “If I ascend into heaven, Thou art there,” &c. (Psa. 138); “in Him we live and move,” &c. (Acts 17) They are merely meant to convey that, though God be everywhere, still, He is said to be in a special way “in heaven,” because there He is seen “face to face,” and manifests His glory to His angels and saints. And our Lord, in using these words, has in view the reasons above assigned.

Hallowed be Thy name.” This prayer, which contains all that we can lawfully ask of God, is composed of seven distinct petitions; the first three directly and immediately regard the glory of God—“Thy name,” “Thy kingdom,” “Thy will”—the remaining four directly and immediately regard our spiritual and temporal welfare—“our bread,” our trespasses,” &c.; and indirectly, the glory of God, which everything in creation is destined to subserve, with everything referred to it as its final end. Or, this prayer may be said to be composed of two parts, viz., a petition for blessings, and a deprecation of evil. The petition for blessings embraces four points, the first of which regards God, for whom we desire what alone can be desired for Him, viz.—that honour be rendered to Him by all—“hallowed be Thy name;” the remaining three, ourselves. We pray, first, for the greatest blessing for ourselves, viz., life eternal—“Thy kingdom come;” next, for the means of securing this, viz., the grace to fulfil God’s holy will, to practise virtue, and exercise good works—“Thy will be done;” and, lastly, goods of the lowest order—“give us this day,” &c. Thus, we seek first, “the kingdom of God and His justice.” The deprecation of evils also contains three points—first, we deprecate the greatest of all evils, sin; secondly, those of an intermediate class, the occasion of sin; thirdly, the lowest class of evils, temporal afflictions. Or, perhaps, this latter point, regarding the deprecation of evils, might be more naturally divided, not into three, as above, but into two parts. In the first, we deprecate evils of the greatest magnitude, viz., the sins we committed; in the second, present and future evils; hence, the Church, after the “Pater Noster” in the holy Mass, subjoins, “libera nos ab omnibus malis prætcritis, præsentibus, et futuris.” The same order in regard to God’s glory in the first instance, and our benefit in the second, is also observable in the precepts given to the human race on Sinai—those of the first Table prescribe what we own to God; those of the second, the duties we owe our neighbour and ourselves.

Hallowed be Thy name.” This first petition means, that the name of God, in itself most holy and adorable, “sanctum et terribile nomen ejus” (Psa. 110), “et sanctum nomen ejus” (Luke 1:49), would be treated as such by us, and by all creatures; that the infinite and adorable perfections of His Divine nature would be made known to all men; since, to love, adore, and serve God, with our whole hearts, we only want to know Him. We, therefore, beg first, in this petition, that the infidels, who now profane God’s holy name, upon whom never beamed a single ray of Divine revelation, who now transfer the honour due to Him to demons and senseless idols, would be brought to a knowledge of the faith. “This is eternal life, that they may know Thee,” &c. Secondly—That the Jews, who blaspheme Him in their synagogues, would be brought to adore this Triune God. Thirdly—We pray for the destruction of all errors and heresies opposed to God’s truths; we pray that all heretics would be brought within the ark of His holy Church, within the enclosure of that one fold, outside which there is no salvation. Fourthly—That the faithful would practically show that they know and reverence God; and, above all, that those among them, who lead immoral, Pagan lives, thereby causing “the name of God to be blasphemed among the Gentiles,” would be converted, and brought to perform works suited to their Christian profession, “as the children of light, and children of the day” (1 Thess. 5:5); that they would redeem the past, and, by their edifying lives, cause those who before, on their account, blasphemed, now, on seeing their good works, “to glorify their Father, who is in heaven.” Fifthly, and finally, we pray, that as the name of God is unceasingly sanctified by the angels of heaven, singing, “Holy, Holy,” &c., so also, all irreverent invocations of God’s holy name having ceased, all men on earth would unite in loving and praising the name of God. For, the words of the third petition—“On earth as it is in heaven,” should be understood as referring to each of the two preceding petitions: “Hallowed,” &c., “on earth as it is in heaven;” “Thy kingdom,” &c., “on earth as it is,” &c.

10. “Thy kingdom come”—the second petition. “Kingdom” may mean, in a general way, God’s universal, supreme dominion, which He at all times exercises over all creatures, “regnum tuum, regnum omnium sæculorum” (Psa. 144), although this is not the meaning of the word here. Secondly—In a special way, God’s spiritual reign of grace, which He exercised from the beginning in the souls of some just, and, from the Incarnation, throughout all nations, who before were ruled over by the devil. In this sense, we pray for the universal reign of God by His grace in men’s souls, opposed to the reign of the devil and of sin (St. Ambrose and St. Jerome interpret it thus). Thirdly—The kingdom by which He reigns over the angels and saints, whom He renders sovereignly happy in heaven (St. Cyprian). Fourthly—The most perfect, triumphant reign of His power, of His justice, and grace—the final consummation of His glory, when all His enemies, including the infernal spirits of every order, who infest the air which we inhale, whence they descend to wage their fiendish war against the extension of His glory, and the salvation of mankind, are brought to nought, and trampled under foot; and “death itself, the last enemy, shall be swallowed up in victory,” and, “God all in all,” by the universal sway and unopposed dominion He shall exercise, in the punishment of the reprobate and the glorification of His faithful servants (St. Augustine, St. Chrysostom). This kingdom commences after the general resurrection. “Come, ye blessed.… possess the kingdom,” &c. This is most likely the meaning chiefly intended here. It may also embrace the other meanings, as subordinate to it. We, then, pray, that the final reign of God’s glory may arrive. And, although this shall most certainly come whether we will it or no; still, our Redeemer wishes here to remind us, that we should prepare, during our exile here below, for that kingdom where we are to reign with God and Christ; and also, that we should so regulate our conversation, our consciences, as to look forward, with undoubting confidence, to the coming of God’s kingdom, and, relying on His fatherly goodness, patiently hope to be sharers in His unspeakable bliss. The inheritance, then, which “our Father who is in heaven” has in store for us, is a “kingdom,” of which we are heirs and co-heirs with His Son, Christ; infinite bliss which “neither eye hath seen, nor ear heard,” &c.; after which the psalmist sighed—“Woe to me that my sojourn is prolonged” (Psa. 119); My soul hath thirsted after the strong living God, &c.; and after which the apostle longed—“I long to be dissolved,” &c., “unhappy man that I am, who shall deliver me,” &c. Also, “we ourselves.… are waiting for the adoption of the sons of God, the redemption of our body” (Rom. 8).

Again, as an indispensable condition for the arrival of this kingdom of bliss for us, and of glory for God, we here pray for the extension throughout the world of the holy, Catholic Church, in which alone faith can ordinarily be found. The Church is frequently termed the kingdom of God, in SS. Scriptures; because, in it alone does He reign on earth. It alone is the threshold for entering the kingdom of glory. By this universal extension of the Church, throughout every quarter of the globe, the coming of the most perfect kingdom of God, above referred to, shall be accelerated. For, it is commonly believed, that before the Day of Judgment, the Gospel shall be preached, at least successively, through every part of the earth; that all nations shall embrace the faith, and enter the Church, the Jews not excepted, who shall then be converted—“the fulness of the Gentiles shall come in. And so all Israel should be saved, as it is written: There shall come out of Sion, He that shall deliver, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob” (Rom. 11:26).

Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”—the third petition. By “will” is meant the imperative will of God, embracing all His precepts, all that He wishes to be done, and to be avoided. So that we here pray, that until such time as the great manifestation of His glory, after general judgment, His most perfect reign, referred to in the preceding petition, shall take place, His reign on this earth would be as perfect as possible. This can be effected only by having His will obeyed, or all His mandates executed, which is the only means of arriving at the secure possession of His heavenly kingdom. For, “not every one that saith, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doth the will of My Father, who is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21). Hence, in this petition, we pray that all God’s ordinances and commands, whether emanating directly from Himself, and revealed in SS. Scripture or tradition, or justly enacted by those whom He has vested with power, either spiritual or temporal, would be obeyed by us, and by all men, with the same promptitude, perfection, and alacrity with which they are executed by His angels in heaven (“benedicite Domino omnes Angeli ejus … ministri ejus, qui facitis voluntatem ejus,” Psa. 102), and this we wish in opposition to the concupiscence of the flesh, the suggestions of the devil, and the allurements of the world, to whose will we oppose and prefer the holy will of God; and, although we know that, in this wicked world, the will of God is not to be so perfectly accomplished, still, it is the part of pious souls to desire what they know ought to be done, notwithstanding their knowledge that it will not take place. Moreover, we wish, should all disobedience to God’s will not cease, that, at least, it would be less than it is, and that there would be fewer than there are to resist His holy will. But, in order that we and others, for whom we pray, and desire the fulfilment of God’s commandments, may be able to do so effectually, the aid of His holy grace is necessary; since, without it, we cannot even conceive a good thought conducive to salvation. “We are not sufficient to think from ourselves,” &c., nor utter a good word in the proper spirit; “no one can say, Lord Jesus, except in the Holy Ghost,” nor perform a good action conducive to salvation; “Without me you can do nothing.” Hence, in this petition, we also beg for all the graces necessary for the entire and perfect fulfilment of God’s holy law and commandments, i.e., necessary for His will being done.

This will of God, as explained in the foregoing, is termed by theologians, voluntas signi, which may not be carried out; as it depends, in some measure, on man’s free will for its accomplishment. Strictly speaking, it cannot be called the will of God at all, or an internal act of the Divine mind. It is only a sign of it; and is called His will, metaphorically, just as a written instrument is called a testator’s last will, being a sign of it. It can hardly be said, there is any will or desire existing in God which is not accomplished; for, God’s will is eternal, one and the same with God Himself. Hence, it is attributed to Him, metaphorically, as anger is attributed to Him, on account of certain effects produced by Him, just as the salvation of all men is said to be willed by Him, on account of certain means provided by Him for this end. In the same way, He is metaphorically said to will certain things, on account of the mandates He gives, while at the same time “He leaves man in the hand of his own counsel,” free to observe or violate them. It is, therefore, termed voluntas signi, on account of the external signs given by God that He wishes it to be carried out. It is rather a signum voluntatis than a will at all. These signs of God’s will are fire in number, viz., precept, counsel, prohibition, operation, permission. These five are usually the signs of a wish on the part of men; and, hence, they are transferred to signify the same in God, in whom the will indicated by the above five signs is presumed to exist, although it is not always so, as in man. One, however, of the above signs, viz., operation, is a most certain sign of God’s will, and bears towards it the assured relation of cause and effect. As regards this sign, the voluntas signi always coincides with the voluntas beneplaciti, as St. Thomas teaches (q. 19, Art. 12, ad 2), and it is only when the voluntas signi coincides with the voluntas beneplaciti, that it is sure to be accomplished and carried into effect.

Besides this, there is in God an absolute, efficacious will, which may be properly termed His will, called by theologians, voluntas beneplaciti. This is never frustrated; it is always surely accomplished. Its certain accomplishment arises from God’s omnipotence and immutability. Even when the voluntas signi is frustrated through human perversity, and men violate God’s commandments, and condemn themselves to hell, this absolute will is still accomplished, which has for object, to permit certain things to happen, and certain evils of every sort to exist in this world. As far as this absolute will is concerned here, we beg of God grace, in this petition, to conform to this adorable will, in all the events of life, in all the heavenly dispositions of His providence, both in prosperity and adversity. But it is of the former will, voluntas signi, there is question chiefly here, as is clear from the words, “sicut in cœlo et in terra.”

The motives for thorough perfect conformity to God’s holy and adorable will, which is the only true, solid, lasting source of comfort and consolation in the trials and crosses and difficulties of life; which, being founded on God, shall endure when all human considerations, all philosophical motives of worldly patience and endurance of the inevitable shall fail, are derived, principally, from the consideration of His paternal goodness. He is more concerned for us, than we are for ourselves. “Jacta in Dominum curam tuam et ipse te enutriet” (Psa. 54:23). Also, from the consideration, that everything that happens in this world (sin excepted), whether great or small, happens by His positive will, “Good things and evil, life and death, poverty and riches, are from God” (Ecclesiasticus 11:14). “Shall there be an evil in a city which the Lord hath not done” (Amos 3:6). The very hairs of our head are numbered, and the sparrow falls not to the ground except by His will. Nay, what are regarded as fortuitous or accidental by men, are quite determined by God, “who worketh all things according to the counsel of His will” (Ephes. 1) “Men draw the lots, but God directs the choice.” Also, from the consideration, that if we are destined for salvation, everything that happens to us (except sin) happens for our greater good. What He does, and wherefore, we know not now; but we shall see it hereafter. As everything, then, happens by God’s positive will, it is our duty, as creatures, to submit in all things to the dispensations of His adorable providence. A generous spirit of conformity to His holy will is the only permanent, solid, and enduring alleviation we can have recourse to, in all the trials of life, “fiat voluntas tua sicut in cœlo,” &c. “As it has pleased the Lord; so, it has been done; may the name of the Lord be blessed for evermore” (Job). One “blessed be God” in the hour of adversity, in the day of trial, is worth a thousand acts of conformity, in the sunshine of prosperity. “Fiat, laudetur atque in eternum superaltetur justissima, altissima, et amabilissima voluntas Dei in omnibus.”

11. “Give us this day our supersubstantial bread”—fourth petition. “SUPERSUBSTANTIAL.” The Greek word for “supersubstantial” (επιουσιον) is rendered “supersubstantialis,” here by St. Jerome, derived, according to some, from the root (ουσια), which means essence, substance; and means, what is necessary for the daily support and sustenance of our life. Hence, St. Jerome, when correcting the Vulgate of the New Testament, by the command of Pope Damasus, according to the best Greek readings (Novum Testamentum jussu Damasi Giræcæ fidei reddidit), translated the Greek word, επιουσιον, quotidianum (“daily”), in Luke 11:2, as it was commonly in use in the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer in the public offices of the Church, and the private devotions of the faithful at the time; nay, even, as we are informed by Tertullian and St. Cyprian, as early as the second and third century; “supersubstantial” and “daily,” signifying the same, viz., what is necessary for our daily sustenance. Some Greek writers, Suidas, Theophylact, and St. Basil (questio. 252), render επιουσιον, what is suitable or necessary for sustaining our life or substance, being added to our substance, having the same meaning as “daily.” The Syriac version has, the bread of our sufficiency or necessity. Others derive the word from επιουσια, scilicet, ημερα, “the coming day.” But, the word, “daily,” bears the same meaning, from whatever root we derive the Greek word.

BREAD,” in Scriptural usage, frequently designates all things necessary for the sustenance of human life. (Gen. 25:34; 4 Kings 6; Luke 14; Psa. 33; Isa 3) In this petition, then, while humbly acknowledging our total dependence on God’s holy providence for every moment that we exist; we pray for the necessary means of sustaining and prolonging life, viz., for meat, drink, clothing, and the decencies of our state of life. All these are included in the word, “bread.”

But it may be asked, how can the rich, who have wealth stored up for years, pray for what they already have in abundance—meat, drink, clothing, &c.? The answer is, that every one, no matter how independent in point of means, is dependent for the enjoyment of these means on the bounty of Providence. The fool in the Gospel (Luke 12:20), had to give up his soul on the very night of the day he seemed to boast of his independence of Providence. There is no family in which death would not make a great change. The death of a parent, child, &c., would often deprive them of the necessary props of existence. In this petition, we pray for their continuance in existence. Others would be ruined by a single mistake in a commercial or mercantile transaction. We all depend on the fruits of the earth, which might be ruined by the inclemency of the seasons, by fire, frost, hail, and the spirit of the storm, which God often employs as instruments for carrying out His designs. A sudden accident, an unforeseen conflagration, might ruin us for ever, and reduce us to a state of abject beggary. This and other accidents of the kind might make “many who lie down at night in possession of wealth, rise in the morning, as abject beggars.” Hence, it is that the rich should present themselves as suppliant mendicants before the throne of the Master of all, and petition for the continuance in their families of the goods they now possess. They should petition in the words, “Give us this day our daily bread,” for their own continuance in existence, which might be cut short in an instant, to enjoy the goods with which God has already blessed them.

OUR,” reminds us that the petition has for object, what may be justly acquired; since no unjust acquisition can, in any sense, be termed “ours.” We can have no claim to whatever is unjustly procured. It cannot, therefore, be called “our bread.” Again, the term, “our,” reminds us of our obligation of labouring for our daily subsistence, in accordance with the decree, “Of the sweat of thy brow, thou shalt eat thy bread,” which, in a certain sense, is binding on all, in every rank of life. The labour designated by “sweat of the brow,” must vary according to circumstances, and the different conditions of life. Every one, who wishes to lead a Christian life, must labour in a way suited to his condition in life. If we eat the bread of idleness, and make the whole circle of our days, months, and years, a mere blank, a perfect void of existence—not to speak of the dangerous mood we must be always in, to be tempted and successfully assailed by the devil—we are unworthy of the very bread we consume. We are only contravening the original decree of God, repromulgated by the Apostle to the Thessalonians, “For, when we were with you, we declared, that if any man will not work, neither let him eat. For we have heard that there are some among you who walk disorderly, working not at all, but curiously meddling. Now, we charge them that are such, and beseech them by the Lord Jesus Christ, that, working with silence, they should eat their own bread” (2 Thess. 3:10–12).

GIVE US.” It is deserving of remark, that in the different petitions of this prayer, we address God not merely on our own behalf, but also on behalf of all the members of the Church; not merely in our individual capacity, but as members of the great Christian family with whom, as members also of the same mystic body, we should be kept indissolubly united by the manifestation of mutual love.

THIS DAY.” These words are frequently employed in SS. Scripture to denote the whole term of human life. Thus understood, the words mean, “give us during the whole course of our life, the necessary means of support.” It is more likely, however, that the words refer to each particular day, and that we beg for each particular day, the necessary means of support. Like children, who apply every day for the pittance assigned them, by a loving parent, we, the children of “our Father, who is in heaven,” cast ourselves, each day, upon His providence, who feeds the ravens and clothes the lily with beauty; and, assuredly, He will not fail to make due pro vision for us. We are not, however, to infer from this, that we are either prevented or dispensed by this, from making a proper, prudent provision for the future. No; as a condition of God’s giving an increase, we are supposed to have toiled and laboured. We are supposed to have “planted and watered” before expecting from God an increase. The words of this petition only convey that we should east aside all undue solicitude for the future, which, after we do our part, would imply distrust in the arrangements of God’s adorable providence.

The words of this verse, while directly and immediately referring to corporal food, may be also understood to include (especially in the meaning attached by some to επιουσιον—excellent, transcendent) that most excellent of all foods, the adorable Body and Blood of Christ, which the Church would wish her children to receive every day—the bread of angels, which is the support of the soul; and, also, the Word of God, on which man spiritually lives; and, especially, Divine grace. The famine of this Word is the most dreadful famine with which God menaces a sinful people (Amos 8:11).

12. “And forgive us our debts,” &c.—the fifth petition. In the preceding petition, we begged for all the blessings necessary for soul or body. In the three following petitions, we beg of God to avert all evils, past, present, or future, whether temporal or spiritual, that may mar our happiness here or hereafter. And, as sin is the greatest of all past evils, either as regards its guilt or consequences; hence, in this petition, we pray for the full and perfect remission of all our past sins. Although we owe God “debts” of many kinds—debts of gratitude, of obedience, thanksgiving, love, &c.—the “debts” referred to here are our sins, as St. Luke has it (11:4), “forgive us our sins;” they render us debtors to God’s justice, as may be seen from parable (18:27, and verse 14 of this chapter). Every mortal sin, as being an offence against a person of infinite dignity, contains infinite malice, and is, therefore, a debt of enormous magnitude. In this petition, then, while acknowledging the magnitude of the debts we owe God, and our utter inability to discharge them, we beg of Him, like the debtor in the Gospel (c. 18), to pardon us, which is, in other words, to beg of Him the grace to confess them as we ought, in the Sacrament of Penance, the only ordinary means appointed by Himself for their remission (John 20:23).

As we forgive,” &c. “As,” does not express a strict rule or measure of forgiveness sought for, so as to imply, that if we do not forgive our enemies or debtors, and refuse to pardon them from our hearts, we would be begging of God not to forgive us. It only expresses a necessary condition of our obtaining forgiveness, and is used in the sense of “since,” “whereas,” “because,” in which sense it is used by St. Luke (11:4), “For, we also forgive every one that is indebted to us.” So that a man who harbours feelings of aversion or hostility to his neighbour, when addressing God in these words, would, at most, be only guilty of a lie, which is generally understood to be of merely venial guilt. He would not be praying for his own condemnation; nay, should he make an effort to resist these vindictive feelings, although he had not actually mastered them, he might, by the fervent recital of this prayer, incline God to bestow on him the grace to love and pardon his enemy; and, by changing his heart of stone into flesh, to melt him into feelings of humanity and compassion.

I said, at most, all that would follow is, that the vindictive man would be telling a lie to God. Many hold, that even this would not be the case; since, in offering up this prayer, each one presents it in the name, and as a member of, the Church, in which there will be always found men to pardon their enemies; and, associated with these, the vindictive man can say, in a certain sense, “forgive us, as we forgive,” &c.

But, our Redeemer has attached to the words in which we beg forgiveness for ourselves, these other words, “as we forgive,” &c., to bring always before our minds, that we can hope for forgiveness, only when we shall have forgiven our enemies, from our hearts, the private injuries done us Hence, St. Augustine (Serm. 5, alias de diversis 48), addressing certain vindictive persons, who unable, or at least unwilling, to bring themselves to forgive their enemies, meant to omit this petition of the Lord’s Prayer altogether, says: “If you omit repeating the words, ‘forgive us our trespasses,’ &c., your trespasses will not be forgiven; and if you repeat them, and do not, as you say, i.e., forgive your enemies, your sins will not be forgiven. It therefore, remains for us to say it and do it, i.e., repeat the words, craving forgiveness, and comply with the condition expressed, in order that they may be forgiven.”

The words of this petition by no means preclude our demanding public satisfaction and reparation, on public grounds, for injuries done us in person or property. They only prevent harbouring private feelings of vengeance and hatred. The omission to exact public satisfaction would subvert society; hence, not contemplated here.

13. “And lead us not into temptation”—sixth petition. “Temptation” is twofold: of probation, or trial; of seduction, or deceit. The first kind of temptation has for object to test our fidelity and virtue; and by showing, from an experimental knowledge of our weakness, how poor we are of ourselves, to inspire us with sentiments of true humility. Of such temptation, God is frequently said, in SS. Scripture, to be the author and direct cause. In this sense, is He said to have tempted Abraham. (Gen. 22); Job and the Jewish people (Deut. 13) In this sense, the Psalmist prays, “try me and tempt me” (Psa. 25); and St. James tells us to regard it as all joy, when we fall into divers “temptations.” (James 1)

The second kind of temptation, i.e., of seduction, or deceit, has for direct object to allure us by the promises of enjoyment, or impel us by the threats of evil and punishment, to the commission of evil, and thus to cause our spiritual ruin. Of this, God can never be the direct cause or author. It is to this St. James refers, when he says, “Let no one say, when he is tempted, that he is tempted by God. God is not a tempter of evils; He tempts no one.” (1:13). It is in this sense the devil is called the tempter. (Matt. 4; 1 Thess. 3) It is of this latter kind of temptation, i.e., of seduction, or deceit, there is question in this sixth petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “lead us not into temptation.” Of such temptation, God cannot be the author.

But it may be asked, if God cannot be the author of such temptation, why pray to Him not to lead us into that into which He cannot lead us, viz., into temptation, with the view of compassing our spiritual ruin? By the very fact of begging of Him, “not to lead us info temptation,” do we not imply He would do so, unless we deprecated it? In SS. Scripture, God is frequently said to do what He merely permits, when the event would infallibly take place, unless He prevented it. Thus, v.g., Rom. 1, “God delivered up (the haughty philosophers) to the desires of their hearts” (v. 24); “gave them up to shameful affections” (v. 26); “delivered them up to a reprobate sense” (v. 28); although, on His part, all this was a merely negative act, abandoning them, withholding, in punishment of their ingratitude, His lights and graces, indispensable for their avoiding sin. So also (2 Thess. 2), “God shall send them the operation of error to believe a lie;” because, by withholding His grace, men shall as infallibly yield to the suggestions of the lying spirit, as if God Himself had sent him for the purpose of deception. So is it here, “lead us not into temptation.” The words mean, permit us not, by the withdrawal of Thy graces and protection, to consent or yield to the temptation that now assails us, to which we would as surely yield, unsupported by God’s grace and protection, as if God Himself had designed to mislead us; and no temptation, be it ever so violent, will overcome us without God’s permission. According to the above interpretation, which is that of St. Augustine, we do not, in this petition, pray to be delivered from all temptation; but, not to consent to temptation, strengthened by God’s grace, and invested with the panoply of Christian warfare, indicated by the Apostle. (Eph. 6) St. Chrysostom and St. Cyprian understand the words to mean, do not allow us to be assailed by the seductive temptations of the devil. This we would pray for, from a sense of our own great infirmities; from a feeling of humility. Perhaps, both interpretations might be united, and they would thus more fully express the meaning of the words, “do not permit us to be assailed by seductive temptations (St. Chrysostom), and permit us not to yield to the seductive temptations by which we are already assailed.” The great importance of this petition may be seen from a consideration of two things; first, of our own weakness in our present fallen state, arising from blindness of intellect, strong inclination to evil in our own will—the legacy of Adam’s pride, always inherent in us—secondly, of the great strength of the spiritual enemies, whom we have constantly to encounter during the whole course of our life on earth, which is a state of continual warfare. The chief of these is the devil, who is ever going about, like a roaring lion, seeking to devour us (St. Peter), who with myriads of his infernal associates, infest the air we inhale, whence they descend to wage their fiendish war against us. St. Paul calls him, “The Prince of the Powers of this air.” (Eph. 2) His great strength is described by Job, “non est potestas super terram quæ comparetur ei,” &c. (Job 12:24) His great power is also clearly indicated by St. Paul (Eph. 6:11–16. See commentary on). This powerful, cunning spirit and his associates, employ the world and the flesh as their leagued allies and auxiliaries. The charms, and fascinations, and wicked principles of the former, and the corrupt and beastly pleasures of the latter, are the arms those wicked spirits wield with efficacy; whence it comes to pass, that thousands go to hell and but the tens, to heaven. In the words, “lead us not into temptation,” is conveyed, that our enemies can do us no harm save by Divine permission. Hence, we should fervently pray to God, in the words of this petition, not to permit them to harm us. This permission is often given by God on account of our sins. “Who hath given Jacob for a spoil, and Israel to robbers? Hath not the Lord Himself, against whom we have sinned?” (Isa. 42:24).

From the above may be seen the importance of this sixth petition. Some commentators (among whom Jansenius Gandavensis) say, that in the Lord’s Prayer there are only six petitions altogether; that the concluding words, “but deliver us from evil,” only express, in an affirmative form, what was negatively expressed in the foregoing member; and that the word, “evil,” conveys, that there is question in the preceding only of such temptations as are “evil,” and intended to lead to sin. It is, these interpreters say, because the clause expresses, in an affirmative way, what was negatively expressed in the preceding clause, it was omitted altogether by St. Luke (11:4). But the different clauses of such propositions do not always refer to the same thing; they often refer to quite different things. The common opinion, then, is, that there are seven petitions (St. Augustine in Enchiridio, c. 115, 116), corresponding with seven of the evangelical beatitudes, and the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost (Idem L. 2, de Sermone Domini, c. 11). In verse 12, we pray to be delivered from all sins whatsoever; in verse 13, from all temptations and dangers of committing sin; and in the words, “but deliver us,” &c., from all afflictions whatsoever, the consequences of sin, corporal or spiritual, temporal or eternal.

But, deliver us from evil. Amen.” This is the seventh petition. By “evil” some commentators understand the devil, called “evil,” because he was the author of all evil, of all guilt and sin, “a murderer”—who slew the souls of men—from the beginning—“evil,” too, because he is the instrument which God employs in visiting sinners with evil and punishment. In reference to this latter circumstance, it is said by the Prophet Amos: “there is no evil in the city which the lord had not done;” and elsewhere, “I am the Lord … making peace and creating evil.” The devil is also called “evil,” because by his very nature, full of malice, he bears an undying hatred, and entertains the deepest malignity for the human race. According to this interpretation, adopted by many of the Fathers (Tertullian, St. Chrysostom, &c.), the words mean: “but deliver us from the power of the devil.” The construction of the sentence in verse 13, “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,” with the adversative particle “but,” would favour this view. It is moreover, in its favour, that the great source of temptation, the great enemy with whom we have to contend, is the devil, who employs the world and the flesh as his associates and auxiliaries; and hence, “lead us not into temptation would be clearly expressed in an affirmative form in the words, “but deliver us,” &c., the meaning of the entire sentence in such a construction being, “do not allow us to fall into temptation; but, rather deliver us from the power of the devil, the source of temptation in this life.” The Greek words, ἀπο͂ το͂ῦ πονηρο͂ῦ, will bear this construction, “from the evil one.” However, the words, even with the article, will bear a neuter and more extensive sense, so as to mean evil in general, in which sense it is used in some parts of the SS. Scripture, v.g. (Deut. 4:25; Rom. 12:9; Thess. 3:3). So that, according to the views of the best critics, it must be determined from the context, whether the words are to be taken in a limited sense to designate the wicked one, or in a more extensive sense, to designate, evil in general.

The more common opinion, as has been already observed, is, that the word “evil” is taken in a neuter and more extensive sense, to denote the temporal evils and misfortunes of this life, and we deprecate them as possibly leading to spiritual and eternal ruin. So that, as in the preceding petitions, we begged to be freed from the guilt and eternal consequences of sin, whether past, present, or future, in this last petition we beg to be freed from the temporal consequences of sin; the condition, however, being understood, that such exemption may not prove detrimental to our souls; otherwise our prayers would be inordinate, as opposed to the great end of our creation. Indeed, the word may be taken in its most extensive sense to embrace evil of every kind, temporal and eternal. So that this petition will not be fully accomplished save in the resurrection of the dead; when “death” (with all the ills to which flesh is heir) “is swallowed up in victory.” In this petition, then, we pray to be saved from water or drowning, from fire, thunder and lightning, from the injurious effects of the seasons on the fruits of the earth, from famine, seditions, rebellions, and wars. We beg of God to avert disease and pestilence, devastations, robberies, chains and imprisonment, and all the other evils whereby the life of man is rendered unhappy. We beg that the goods which mankind prize or esteem be not converted, as they sometimes are, into sources of evil and misfortune for us. We beg to be preserved from a sudden death, which is oftentimes inflicted, only as a temporal punishment for sin—in a word, we beg of God “to preserve us,” in the language of the Church, “from all evils past, present, and to come.” When, however God sends us temporal evils, we must receive them humbly from the hands of our loving Father who is in heaven, as fatherly chastisements. This good Father sees that temporal afflictions are sometimes useful and necessary for us; and hence, when we pray to be delivered, He will not hear us, knowing that instead of bread He would be giving us a stone; instead of a fish, He would thus be giving us a serpent. We should patiently bear temporary evils and sufferings, following in the footsteps of our great leader and captain. “It would be unseemly,” says St. Bernard, “to find delicate members under a head crowned with thorns.”

Amen,” which St. Jerome calls “signaculum Dominicæ Orationis” (Comment, hic.), is a Hebrew word retained in the Latin edition of the SS. Scripture and ecclesiastical prayers, as St. Augustine assures us (Lib. 2 de Doctrin. Christ, c. 11), “propter sanctiorem auctoritatem” but chiefly from a feeling of reverence for our Divine Lord, who frequently used the word. Firstly, it has the force of affirmation in the beginning of a sentence, the same as the Greek, ναι, αληθως. Secondly, at the end of a sentence it means “so be it,” expressive of assent to, or desire of, what precedes. When it is used in the Lord’s Prayer, in the Mass, it is not said by the people, with the words, “sed libera nos a malo,” but by the priest, after them, to convey to us, that God Himself, between whom and the people, the priest is mediator, ratifies what is done, and declares on His part that He has heard the petitions presented to Him by priest and people in the Lord’s Prayer; as our Lord said formerly to the Chanaanite woman, “fiat tibi sicut vis” (Matt. 15); (Catechism of Council of Trent on this prayer).

In the received Greek text, to this prayer are added the words, “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever.” This form of Doxology has, no doubt, the chief weight of extrinsic evidence in favour of its authenticity. It has almost all the Greek MSS., the Syriac, as also the Persian, Ethiopian, Armenian, Gothic, and Selavonic versions, and some Greek Fathers, among the rest, St. Chrysostom. Notwithstanding this, the judgment of critics is decidedly opposed to its genuineness. We are informed by Bloomfield (Greek Testament, vol. i., p. 34), “that, with the exception of Matthei, all the more eminent editors, from Erasmus and Grotius down to Scholz, have rejected it.” Although the Byzantine family of MSS. is favourable to its genuineness, still Scholz, whose leaning to this family of MSS. is so well known, after weighing the evidence for and against, subscribed to the judgment of those critics who rejected the passage as spurious. “Egomet,” he says, “cum complut. Erasmo, Camerario. Grotio, Milio, Bengelio, Wolsteinio, Griesbachio, eam ut spuriam rejeci” (Novum Testamentum Græce; Scholz textum recensuit, vol. i., p. 15).

Against it we have intrinsic evidence. It by no means harmonizes with the context. Its insertion, on the contrary, gives an appearance more harsh still to the reference made by our Redeemer, from verse 12 to verse 14.

Extrinsic evidence is far from being altogether in its favour. It has eight very ancient MSS. against it, including the Codex Vaticanus (see Bloomfield, vol. i. page 35). It is marked as doubtful in other Greek MSS. It is wanting in the Vulgate before and after St. Jerome’s time, and in some other versions. Many of the Greek and Latin Fathers are opposed to it. It is wanting in St. Luke (12:4), and it would be much easier to account for its insertion in St. Matthew, although not genuine, than it would for its omission in all the copies of St. Luke, if really genuine. No reason could be assigned for its total, universal omission in the latter case; whereas, its insertion in St. Matthew, even supposing it spurious, can be probably accounted for thus:—It was the custom of the Greek Church, from which is principally derived the extrinsic evidence in favour of the genuineness of the form in question, to make frequent use of Doxologies in the Liturgy. To the Greek Church, the Doxology, “Glory be to the Father and to the Son,” &c., now so commonly in use at the end of the Psalms, is attributed. It was the Greeks also that added to the “Hail, Mary,” because thou hast brought forth our Saviour. It was quite usual with St. Chrysostom and other Greek preachers to conclude their sermons with such words as these, “For thine is the power and glory,” &c. It is likely, then, that from the margin in which these and similar words were written, they were introduced into the text, through the mistake of copyists, by whom they were supposed to be part of the genuine text. Their introduction into the text of St. Matthew may be thus probably accounted for; whereas, if genuine, there could be no conceivable way of accounting for their omission in all the copies of St. Luke. Although spurious, the Doxology in question must be, from a very early date, found in the text of this 13th verse of St. Matthew, since it is in the Peschito-Syriac version. It must come by surprise on those who charge the Catholic Church with curtailing the Lord’s Prayer, in consequence of omitting the Doxology in question, to find that the most eminent Protestant critics and editors have agreed on rejecting it as spurious.—In the very last revision of the Bible published by the most distinguished Protestant Divines, it is utterly ignored and omitted.

14, 15. “For if you forgive,” &c. In the words of these verses, our Lord explains the reason of the addition made to the fifth petition, “as we forgive our debtors” (v. 12). He explains the condition of our obtaining the forgiveness we ask of God, viz., that we forgive our enemies, and He puts it in an affirmative and negative form, to show its importance; its absolute, indispensable necessity. It is, indeed, a most equitable condition. It is most equitable, that we should not obtain forgiveness of the vast debts we owe our Heavenly Father, our Creator and Master, if we refuse to remit to our brethren, His children, the trifling debts, which, on the grounds of offence, they owe us. In singling out this petition and the condition of securing it, our Lord shows the great importance as well as the necessity of charity and brotherly union.

If you forgive men their offences, your Heavenly Father,” &c. This being an affirmative proposition, of course, can only mean, that the other requisite conditions be added, that is to say, if there be no other obstacle, God will forgive. If a man be the slave of other sins unrepented of lust, gluttony, &c., he cannot expect to be forgiven, even though he exercise mercy to his neighbour, unless he also repent of his sins and abandon his evil ways. At the same time, the exercise of charity and forgiveness will, no doubt, help, and very efficaciously, to obtain from God, the graces necessary to abandon sin and be reconciled to Him.

But, if you do not,” &c. This is putting the same in a negative form, whence, it follows, that under no circumstances, can a man obtain forgiveness from God, who hates his neighbours and forgives not. The justice of requiring, that we forgive others before we are forgiven, is clearly expressed (Ecclesiasticus 28:4, 5), “Man to man reserveth anger, and doth he seek remedy of God? He hath no mercy on a man like himself; and doth he entreat for his own sins? He that is but flesh, nourisheth anger, and doth he ask forgiveness of God?”

16. Having given them instructions to avoid ostentation and vain glory in the practice of alms-deeds and prayer, our Lord now gives similar instructions regarding fasting. He places “prayer” between alms-deeds and fastings, as they hold the place of the two wings whereby it is borne aloft, “bona est oratio cum jejunio et elecmosyna.”

Sad,” putting on a penitential, mournful appearance, wearing a morose countenance. Our Lord does not censure sadness of heart and soul, which produces contrition and penance; but only that stern sadness of visage, assumed for purposes of vain glory, and of gaining the praises of men. That sadness which may be the natural effect of fasting is not here censured, but the motive of putting it on.

Disfigure,” i.e. destroy the naturally cheerful and pleasing appearance of their countenance. Hiding this, they put on a pallid, emaciated aspect. This is the meaning of the Greek word, αφανιζουσι, which is well rendered in the Vulgate, exterminant, and this they do in order that their fasts may be made known to men, and thus gain them the repute of being mortified men. He speaks of fasts really undergone, but for the purposes of vain glory. St. Chrysostom speaks of men in his day who did not fast at all, and pretended they did. These were greater hypocrites still than the Pharisees of old, who really fasted, but fasted from bad motives.

17, 18. “Anoint,” &c. This is allusive to the custom prevalent in Judea, of anointing their hair and washing their face on festive and joyous occasions (Ruth 3:3; 2 Kings 12:20; Luke 7:46). The climate and great heat made this process a necessary external accompaniment of joy. On the other hand, when in mourning, they paid no attention to their persons, the better to express the interior sorrow of their souls (2 Kings 14:2). The words of our Redeemer are not to be taken literally, as of obligation. They are to be understood metaphorically (although where the custom of “anointing the head” &c., on occasions of joy existed, they may be taken literally in connexion with their metaphorical signification), and are chiefly meant to convey to all Christians, at all times and periods, that in fasting they should dissemble it, and avoiding every incentive to vain glory, they should, putting aside all appearance of grief, appear to men cheerful and joyous, like those who “anoint the head,” &c. So that our fasts may be seen by our Heavenly Father only, from whom alone we expect to receive the reward of our good actions. Some expositors (among them Bloomfield) say, the Jews, like the Greeks, regularly anointed their heads and washed their faces, save in times of mourning (Dan. 10:3). In that case, the words here would mean, whenever you fast, appear as usual, and put on no appearance of mourning or sorrow. Our Redeemer here refers only to voluntary fasting, privately practised; since, in reference to public fasting, performed on public grounds, and by public authority, there would be no particular grounds for boasting or indulging vain glory, as all should join in it; and hence, no motive for concealing the sorrow and penitential spirit which dictated it.

19. The Pharisees were slaves not only to vain-glory, the inordinate fondness for human applause, but also to avarice, the inordinate love of treasuring up riches Hence, our Redeemer here cautions His followers against imitating them in this latter vice of avarice also, and dilates chiefly on this subject, to the close of this sixth chapter. Having pointed out the mode of giving alms, He here exhorts His followers to the practice of this good work, as a necessary accompaniment of prayer and fasting, of which He has been after treating; and having inculcated already the contempt of earthly goods, on the grounds of making them the means of showing mercy to our enemies (c. 5:40), here He inculcates the same for our own sakes, in order to secure greater treasures hereafter. Our Lord does not censure the possession of riches; but, the inordinate attachment and desire of possessing them.

Lay not up treasures on earth.” If they must amass treasures, they are to amass them not on earth, where they are so fleeting and insecure. “Rust” consumes the precious metals; “moths,” clothes; “and thieves,” rifle and take away everything else of any value. This, then, is the first argument against amassing treasures here below, grounded on the fleeting and insecure possession we can have of them. Similar is the exhortation of St. Paul (1 Tim. 6:9, 16–19).

Where the RUST and the MOTH,” &c. The Greek has it inverted, “where the MOTH and the RUST,” &c. The Greek for “rust” means, “a canker,” whatever consumes and eats into a thing.

20. “But lay up” (not for worthless ungrateful children or heirs, but), for YOURSELVES treasures in heaven.” Heaven is the secure and permanent place for treasuring up their riches, by depositing them in the bosom of the poor, in alms-deeds. They shall thus amass their wealth more securely. That our Redeemer refers to alms-deeds, is clear from St. Luke (12:33). In this verse is contained another argument the opposite of the foregoing, viz., the permanent, eternal stability and firm security of the treasures laid up with God in heaven. (Tobias 4; 12; Psa. 111; Prov. 19)

21. “For, where thy treasure is,” &c. For, “thy,” the received text, has “your” (ὑμων); but, the Vulgate “tuus” is supported by the Vatican MS., and versions generally. In this verse is adduced a second argument, founded on a proverbial saying generally admitted. The argument is this; admitting even that riches were not uncertain or fleeting on this earth, as has been stated already; still, it would be unworthy of hearts created for heaven, tending towards heaven, to be attached to them, as they surely would, according to the adage, “wherever our treasure is, there is our heart,” there our affections are centred. By “treasure,” is meant, whatever we regard as most precious, the object of our love and affections. By “heart,” our love, our affections. As it would be unworthy of those created for heaven, which is our true country, whither we are tending, to have their affections centred on the things of this earth, this land of exile, through which we are journeying to our eternal home; we should not, therefore, love riches here, but transmit them to Heaven through the hands of the poor. Our Redeemer’s object in this verse is to regulate our wills, and cause us to value eternal goods only; and by regarding them as alone of any value, to have no other view, but to arrive at their secure possession in heaven. The same is suggested in the following illustrations also.

22. The eye holds the same place, or rather does the same service in the body, that a lamp does to the place where it is lighted. In the received Greek text it is, “THE eye is the light of the body.” “Thy” is omitted. In the Greek edition of Cardinal Mai it is, “thine eye is the light of the body.” A general adagial truth is affirmed here.

Single,” clear, sound, free from noxious humours; “thy whole body shall be lightsome,” i.e., furnished with sufficient light to perform its proper functions. In these words, and in the beginning of next verse (23) is drawn the deduction from the general truth of the preceding adage. Hence, we have in the Greek, “if (THEREFORE) thine eye he single,” &c.

23. “Evil,” the opposite of “single,” dim, affected with noxious humours. “Body … darksome,” groping in the dark, in performing its functions, because deprived of the directing guidance of the eye.

If, then, the light that is in thee,” i.e., that should be in thee. If what should be lightsome, be itself, “darkness,” “the darkness itself, how great shall it be?” i.e., how darksome shall the other members of the body become, which are of their own nature destitute of light, in case the eye itself be “darksome”? The words may be also interpreted to include the eye itself, supposed to be destitute of light, like the other members of the body, thus: “If the light that is in thee be darksome, how great will the darkness of the entire body be?” In these latter words, “If then, the light that is in thee,” &c., is contained the application of the parable.

The eye,” it is needless to say, is used metaphorically. Some understand it to refer to the practical judgment of the mind or intellect, the same as the light of conscience, which holds the same relation, or performs the same office, in regard to the soul, that “the eye” does in relation to the “body.” If the mind or intellect be free from the evil humours and clouding influences of the passions, the soul will tend to God, and be enlightened by His heavenly grace. But, if it be clouded by passion, and particularly by avarice or the love of money, against which our Redeemer here cautions us, which is strongly denounced by the Wise Man (Eccles. 10:10), and so fearfully depicted by St. Paul (1 Tim. 6:9, &c.); “the whole body” (of our actions), all the other faculties of the soul, shall be infected with this darksome evil. The heart shall be bent on earthly things. The connexion with the foregoing in this interpretation will be this: If our treasure be on earth, everything, even our best actions, shall be referred to the sordid acquisition of pelf, in which the heart of the avaricious man is centered, and God lost sight of. Hence, the evil of having our treasure on the earth.

By “the eye,” St. Augustine and others understand our intentions in our actions. If the intention be simple, upright, and directed to God, it will impart goodness to all our actions, not otherwise evil. If impure, if it have in view the gratification of our passions, particularly the sordid passion of avarice, then, all our actions are infected by it; they become darksome, and cease to be meritorious with God. In this interpretation the connexion with the preceding is this: If we wish to lay up treasures in heaven, we must do so, having our hearts raised up to God with a pure intention. The scope of our Redeemer in this entire chapter, regarding the mode of praying, fasting, &c., favours this latter mode of connexion and interpretation; or, we need not necessarily connect it with the preceding at all. It may be an independent maxim uttered, among others, by our Sovereign Lord, without any reference to what precedes or follows.

24. This is a further reason for not laying up for ourselves treasures on earth. The preceding reasons or arguments were grounded on the fleeting nature and instability of such treasures (19); on the total absorption of our affections by them (21); on their destroying the merits of our actions and withdrawing us from God (22, 23). Here, it is founded on the grievous slavery it entails. We become the slaves of this earthly treasure, on which our hearts are set. We cannot serve it and God at the same time.

No man can serve two masters.” This is an adage generally received, and true in almost all cases; and from the reasoning which follows, “for, he will either hate the one,” &c., it is clear that our Redeemer refers to the service dictated by love and affection (and it is against the absorbing love of riches He here wishes to caution His followers). The adage, generally true in all cases of double service, where different orders are given, is particularly true where the two masters give opposite orders. There is an incompatibility in a servant, from the very nature of his position, having his love and faithful service distracted between both. If there be question of masters who, though different or distinct, are subordinate, one to the other, they may be regarded as one. Thus, one servant can serve the several members of a household, as subordinate, all to the head. By “master,” is understood everything, to which we are too much addicted, as if enslaved.

For, either he will hate the one and love the other.” “One,” is by a well-known Hebrew idiom, put for “first;” “the other,” for “second.” The words may be thus illustrated: Suppose the masters to be Peter and Paul. He will either hate the first (that is, Peter), and love the second (Paul); or he will hold to the first (Peter), and serve him, and despise the other (Paul). The opposition in the disjunctive clauses is not between the persons, but between the love and the hatred in one and the same person. “Hating” and “loving” may be understood in a lesser or greater degree of intensity.

The Greek word for “sustain” (ανθεξεται) denotes the strongest attachment St. Augustine understands “sustains,” or, “hold to,” of riches or “mammon,” and translates it, patietar, he will endure or tolerate, as if to say, if he devote himself to the service of this tyrant, mammon, to the rejection and contempt of God, he can only endure or tolerate him, but love him he cannot. The former interpretation is more in accordance with the received meaning of the Greek word, ανθεξεται.

You cannot serve God and mammon.” This is the application of the general adage quoted in the foregoing. “Mammon” is a Syriac word, signifying riches. In the Chaldaic Targum of Onkelos, it is used for money (Exod. 21:21); and of Jonathan (Jud. 18:30). St. Augustine tells us that in the Punic language, it means gain (De Ser. Dom. Lib. ii.) It is her personified; for, indeed, the avaricious man makes a god of his riches, just as some make “a god of their belly” (Phil. 3:19). Hence, St. Paul terms riches “the serving of idols” (Eph. 5:5). Our Redeemer does not say, “you CANNOT be rich and serve God;” because, a man may be rich, like the patriarchs of old, and many just men, without being inordinately attached to riches; without “serving” them as the treasures of their hearts. God and riches are antithetical. It is the service of both that is incompatible. The love of riches is generally one of the greatest obstacles to the salvation of the world. The desire of riches, or their abuse, if possessed, is one of the means most successfully employed by the devil for the ruin of man. “It is easier for a camel,” &c. (See also St. Paul, 1 Tim. 6) On this account, it is, our Redeemer commands all those who range themselves under His standard, to despise the riches of this earth, after His own example; or, to use them, only as means towards possessing and enjoying the riches of heaven.

25. Since, then, we cannot serve God and mammon at the same time, and cannot have our hearts attached to the things of earth, if we wish to serve God; we must, therefore, in order to serve God, whom alone we should serve, not merely be content with avoiding the unnecessary amassing of riches, but we must divert ourselves of all anxious, corroding solicitude for the very necessaries of life; all distrustful forecasting of future provision as regards these necessaries. Such solicitude generally binds the soul to earth, and belongs to the service of mammon. In this, our Lord obviates a tacit objection, or rather pretext, for concealing avarice, which men would put forward in justification of their constant striving for the things of earth, viz., the plea of securing the necessaries of life. Our Redeemer knew well how deeply rooted such a feeling of solicitude is in the human heart; hence, He not only draws an argument from the foregoing against indulging in such solicitude; but, in the following, He proceeds to show, from several arguments, the utter folly and inutility of the anxiety He condemns in reference to these very necessaries, either as regard soul or body; for of both, soul and body, human nature is composed. “Solicitous,” the Greek word, μεριμνατε, signifies distracting care, corroding anxiety. In one or two passages of the New Testament, μεριμνα denotes laudable anxiety (2 Cor. 11; Philip. 2:20), but it is generally used to denote distracting, distrustful care. (When laudable solicitude is in question, the Greek word used is, σπουδη.) In employing the former word, our Redeemer shows He does not censure a prudent, thoughtful diligence in regard to the necessaries of life, as is sanctioned by right reason, and the example of all the saints. It is only the man that sows that can expect to reap, and reap fruit of the same kind as the seed sown. The Scripture itself praises the diligence of the laborious ant (Prov. 6:6). St. Paul laboured with his hands to procure an independent sustenance (Acts 20.; 1 Thess. 2); and, writing to the Ephesians (c. 4) he commands the idle to labour so as to furnish necessaries to the needy. He tells the idle among the Thessalouians, “not to eat” (2 Thess. 3:10). What our Lord, then, censures and warns us against is that anxious, fretful, anticipating solicitude, which implies a distrust in God’s providence, and also fixes the heart on earth and withdraws it from God.

The life,” (anima) is understood by some to mean, the soul of man. It is opposed to the “body,” not that the soul needs food; but, food is necessary to keep the soul, which, is the principle of life, in the body. Others understand it to mean, in accordance with the Hebrew usage, life (Job 2:6; St. Augustine, Lib. ii. de Serm. Domini, c. 22). To the words, “what you shall eat,” are added in the Greek and Syriac, “nor what you shall drink.” St. Jerome rejects them.

Is not the life more than the food?” &c. Our Redeemer adduces several reasons to dissuade us from indulging in these distracting anxieties. The first is given here. He, who gave what is greater and more valuable, will not refuse what is less valuable, and is, moreover, necessary for the preservation of His own more precious gifts. The soul or life given by God is more valuable than the aliments necessary to sustain it; and the body more valuable than the necessary covering. We must, therefore, trust that He, who gave the former, will not fail to provide the latter.

26. A second reason to dissuade us from inordinate anxiety: If God takes such care of the birds of the air, “the (worthless) ravens” (Luke 12:24), as to provide them with food, without any solicitude on their part, how much greater care will He not take of men, for whose use and benefit the rest of creation was formed? (See also Psa. 9; Job 38:41)

Of the air,” to show forth in a still clearer light, God’s providence, as the birds of the air are not fed by men, like domestic fowl. He instances “birds” beyond any others; because, they are the most insignificant of animals. They remind us of raising ourselves above the things of this earth. They also seem the most indifferent beings in creation, about providing themselves, save casually, with food.

They neither sow,” &c. This by no means implies, that in contravention of the primeval decree, “in sudore vultus tui, &c.” (Gen. 3:19), we, like the birds of the air, should follow no industrial pursuit, nor labour for our support. It conveys merely this, that, since the Creator feeds these animals, who have no other occupation or direction, save the dictates of their animal instincts, we should be persuaded, that He who is not only our Creator, but our Father also, will not fail to provide the necessary means of subsistence for us. His children, while engaged in following His holy will and precepts. So that if our duties in life should engage us in occupations other than those necessary to provide sustenance, such as sowing and reaping, we need not fear that we shall be deprived of the necessary sustenance.

The force of the argument consists, not in the comparison of man, or his occupations, with the birds; but, in the difference of relations and dispositions of God in regard to both, indicated in the words, “your heavenly Father.” (Jansen. Gandav.) “Your Father.” He is only their Creator; but, He bears also the tender relation and natural solicitude of a parent for you. “Heavenly,” conveys that, while dwelling in the heavens, He does not disdain to regulate earthly and temporal concerns; since His providence extends to the very ravens; and surely He will do more for His children than for the worthless ravens of the air.

27. “And which of you by taking thought?” &c. This is a third reason for laying aside all distracting solicitude, derived from its utter folly and inefficacy. The words of St. Luke (12:25, 26) would seem to point to this as an argument, a minore ad majus. According to some commentators (among them Barradius), our Redeemer institutes no comparison whatsoever. These understand the words to mean, “If by anxious thought, you cannot add a single cubit to your stature, a very inconsiderable thing;” if you cannot do the least thing by it, why, then, employ anxious thought about anything else in regard to which such disquieting solicitude can be of no avail, unless God’s providence interposes? “Why are you solicitous for the rest?” (Luke 12:20). According to these interpreters, there is no comparison whatsoever instituted. Others understand the words as expressing a comparison, as is implied in St. Luke, and interpret them thus, in allusion to the necessaries of life: “If you cannot, by your solicitude, add to your stature a single cubit, how much less can you procure the necessaries of life, which is but a conservation in existence, a continued series of acts of creation of the entire man, requiring, therefore, more power than if required to add a single cubit to your stature?” When, therefore, all your solicitude will prove of no avail to you to do a comparatively trifling thing, why, then, indulge in such vain feelings of solicitude, in reference to greater, viz., food and the preservation of life, and not rather commit yourself to His providence who, without any anxiety on your part, has preserved you to the present time, conferred on you your present stature, and will, no doubt, provide for your continuance in existence. Others, understanding the Greek word for “stature” to mean, age, and “cubit,” a period of time, interpret the passage thus: “If you cannot add the shortest time to your age, how much less can you prolong life during the entire term of your existence?”

By thinking.” The Greek word implies, distracting care, which shows what kind of solicitude our Redeemer warns us against here.

28. A fourth reason to dissuade us from solicitude. From food—the more necessary means of subsistence—He proceeds to treat of raiment, which is less necessary, and also serves for ornament. He now employs an illustration, borrowed from the flowers of the field, as He had already done with regard to the birds of the air, to dissuade us from distracting solicitude.

The lilies of the field” which, growing wild, unlike the flowers of the garden, tended by man, owe nothing to human care or culture.

How the grow?” Their growth and expansion in leaves and foliage is their clothing. “They labour not,” to obtain clothing, as do men, “nor spin,” the occupation of women.

29. “Solomon,” the most magnificent of monarchs, whose apparel was so costly, “in all his glory,” at the very height of all his glory and magnificence. Or, during the entire period of his glorious reign (St. Chrysostom).

Was arrayed as one of these.” “What silken works, what royal purple, what woven picture, can be compared to flowers? What so blushing as the rose? What so white as the lily?” (St. Jerome.)

30. What He calls above, “the lilies of the field,” He now calls “grass of the field,” to show how God can and does invest the most worthless thing with exquisite beauty. “Which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast,” &c., a thing of short-lived, passing existence. “God doth so clothe,” as to exceed the glory of Solomon, with how much greater care will He not provide the necessary clothing for His own children, and invest them with beauty, who are to exist not for a day; but, destined to live for eternity with Himself, as heirs of His kingdom, and who, now, for want of due faith and confidence, distrust His paternal providence? “O ye, of little faith.”

The words, “labour not,” &c., are not opposed to our labouring and earning our bread with the sweat of our brow, as has been already explained (v. 26). They are only meant to convey, that God will not be wanting to us any more than He is to the very flowers of the field, even though our occupations in life may not directly tend to our providing bodily sustenance, such as, sowing, reaping, spinning, &c., as is the case with those engaged in preaching the Gospel, &c. This passage conveys a wholesome lesson, and a well-merited reproof to those who display an excessive desire for the vanities of dress.

31. Having adduced proofs in the foregoing of the fatherly providence of God in our regard, and of the utter folly of anxious solicitude on our part, our Redeemer now concludes what He already proposed, and more clearly explains in what this solicitude consists, “What shall we eat?” &c. He shows that he has been censuring that timorous, anxious solicitude which betrays distrust in God’s providence.

32. Such solicitude is heathen and not Christian; and as our love of our fellow-creatures should differ from that exhibited by the Pagans (c. 5:47), so also should our confidence in God’s fatherly providence; and, as we must surpass the Scribes and Pharisees, if we wish to enter into the kingdom of heaven; so must we surpass the unbelieving Pagans who know not God. In this is conveyed a fifth reason for avoiding undue anxiety.

For, your Father knoweth,” &c. In this is conveyed a sixth reason, and from it we clearly see the nature of the solicitude condemned by our Redeemer. It arose from a want of faith in God’s power, omniscience, and fatherly providence. “Your Father,” shows God’s benevolence towards us, His will to assist us. His power is implied and expressed in the words, “Heavenly Father,” and more clearly still in the Greek (ὁ ουρανιος), “He who dwells in the heavens.” His omniscience and knowledge of our wants is clearly expressed, “knoweth,” &c. Why not, then, cast all our cares on Him? “for, He hath care of us” (1 Peter 5:7). Where is the father with a full knowledge of the wants of his children, that will refuse, when in his power, to succour them? And if this be true of earthly fathers, how much more so must it not be of the best of Fathers who is in heaven? As God, He knows our necessities; as a Father, He wishes to relieve them; as Heavenly Lord of all things, He can do so.

33. After the negative precept prohibiting excessive anxiety in regard to the necessaries of life, our Redeemer now proposes a positive or affirmative precept, showing how we are to differ from the Pagans, and how we are to obtain through God’s paternal providence, the necessaries of life, without any excessive solicitude on our part.

Seek.” He does not say, “be solicitous.” For, even in reference to our spiritual wants, we should not indulge in distracting solicitude, “nihil soliciti sitis,” &c. (St. Paul, Phil. 4)

Therefore.” The Greek is (δε, but) as if, in opposition to the conduct and thoughts of the heathens, He said, the Pagans seek after temporal matters; “but,” as for you who have God for Father, “seek first,” &c.

First,” i.e., chiefly, in preference to anything else; “first,” in order, not of time, but, of appreciation.

The kingdom of God,” i.e., the attainment of heavenly bliss, compared with which everything else is mere dross. This is the first and chief object to be sought for as regards ourselves. But, in reference to God, and absolutely speaking, God’s glory is the first thing to be sought for. Hence, in these words, there is no opposition to the order of petitions in the Lord’s Prayer. “Hallowed be Thy name; Thy kingdom come;” which is ranged in the second place. For, even while labouring and seeking to obtain heavenly bliss, we must “first,” and absolutely, seek God’s glory.

And His justice.” The justice of God—in contradistinction to that of the Scribes and Pharisees—which is grace, sanctification, the observance of God’s law, which are the necessary means for obtaining God’s kingdom.

Others, by “the kingdom of God,” understand, His grace, by which He reigns in our hearts; and these understand the words, “and His justice,” to be explanatory of the word, “kingdom,” so as to mean, “seek God’s kingdom,” that is to say, His justice, grace, and sanctity.

And all these things,” i.e., temporal blessings, the necessaries of life, &c., “shall be added unto you.” This does not mean, that we are never allowed to seek for temporal things as subservient to our eternal interests; since, we are commanded to pray for them. “Give us this day our daily bread,” &c. The words mean, that if we devote our chief care and solicitude to the concerns of salvation, and propose its attainment, as our absolute final end in all things, God will provide all other things for us, as far as they may answer these ends. The words show that temporal interests are mere accessories of the affairs of salvation; mere secondary appendages, subservient to them. In this promise, is always implied the condition, viz., “provided the granting of those temporal blessings be not an obstacle to our salvation.” Similar is the promise, with a like implied condition, “inquirentes Dominum non deficient omni bono,” “non est inopia timentibus cum,” and although in the case of many just men “seeking the kingdom of God,” the necessaries of life are withheld; still, in their case, the promise is verified, as He gives them blessings of a higher order, in which “all these things” are eminently contained. If God give not these things specifically, He gives them in gifts of far higher value. And He, who rewards every man’s work according to merit, may, for the fuller and more perfect remuneration of the just man, subject him to poverty and want in this life, as a temporal punishment of some fault; lest, the eternal reward be retarded, or diminished—and moreover, He means to give him an opportunity of increasing his merit by patience and conformity to His adorable will.

34. “Solicitous.” The Greek word (μεριμνησητε) shows what the solicitude referred to is.

Therefore,” shows this to be an inference from the foregoing. As the birds of the air are fed and their future provided for by God; as God will add the necessaries of life, if we seek the kingdom of heaven; we should, therefore, banish all distracting cares in regard to the future.

To-morrow.” St. Augustine understands this word to mean, temporal things; as if to say, be not solicitous about temporal things. They shall be solicitous for themselves; they shall be at hand when wanted. It will be sufficient to take what necessity may require. St. Chrysostom understands it, of the superfluities of life. Be not concerned about whatever is above the necessary provision for each day’s subsistence. Superfluities will mind themselves, were you to amass ever so much of them, and enjoy them not; they will be always sure to find one who will use them. The labour and misery which you suffer for the necessaries of life are sufficient; do not, therefore, labour for superfluities, lest the labour be yours, and the fruition belong to others.

The most probable meaning of “to-morrow” is, the future time—the sense it bears (1 Kings 28:19)—“cras eris tu et filii tui,” &c.” (Josue 22:24); “cras dicent filii vestri,” &c. Put aside all anxious anticipations and distracting solicitude regarding the future. It is a proverb universally in use, “To-morrow will bring its own care” and so leave to to-morrow its own care. If you anticipate to-morrow’s care, you will only add to the care of to-day that of to-morrow, without lightening to-morrow’s, and your solicitude for to-day will still continue. You only accumulate cares, and submit to bear at once what God intended to be borne separately and in succession. By adding to-morrow’s care to that of to-day, you will only be accumulating cares, and aggravating those of to-day, without diminishing or lightening those of to-morrow.

To-morrow will be solicitous for itself.” The Greek is, “It will be solicitous about the things of itself”—or, about the things that appertain to itself. Our Redeemer personifies to-morrow; and by this strong figure of speech, He means to convey that, independently of any action, or care, or provision, on our part, matter for solicitude will arise on each day, in a way peculiar to itself, whether we will it or no.

Our Redeemer does not, of course, prohibit here a prudent provision and preparation to meet future necessities. The necessary forecasting and provision for future days or years may be said to belong, not to to-morrow, but to to-day. He does not prevent necessary care and prudent forethought. The words, “to-morrow will be solicitous for itself” show, He does not mean to censure the solicitude and diligence necessarily accompanying human existence.

Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof.” “The evil,” i.e., the affliction, the care, solicitude, trouble, incident to it. Our Redeemer, by transferring to each day the trouble which men endure on it, conveys, that we do it a wrong when we charge or burden it with the trouble of the coming day. For each day its own trouble is enough. It is deserving of remark, that our Redeemer prohibits not labour, but solicitude. The former is enjoined on the entire human race, “in sudore vultus tui comedes panem tuum (Gen. 3:19). The latter, in the sense already explained, is prohibited.








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