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

In this chapter, we have an account of a miracle of the multiplication of bread, performed by our Lord, to satiate the cravings of the multitudes who followed Him for three days (1–9). He refuses to give the desired sign to the Pharisees, and explains some matters to His disciples, which they did not seem to have understood (10–21). He cures a blind man, after having recourse, for the purpose, to several ceremonies (22–26). After receiving the profession of faith in His Divinity from His disciples, He predicts His death, and reproves Peter, who wished to dissuade Him from submitting to it (27–33). He inculcates the necessity of carrying our cross, and professing our faith, under due circumstances, be the sacrifice it may entail what it may (34–39).

1. “In those days.” About the time that the above miracles were performed by our Lord, while staying beyond the Lake of Tiberias, after His return from Phœnicia, the Evangelist uses this indefinite time, lest it might be imagined, that the miracle he is about recording occurred on the same day with the preceding. It occurred three days after our Lord came back from Phœnicia (Matt. 15:32: also verse 2).—Maldonatus.

Again,” has reference to a similar miracle. (Mark 6:35, &c.)

2–9. (See Matt. 15:32–38).

10. “Dalmanutha.” St. Matthew (15:39), “the coasts of Magedan.” There is no contradiction, as Magedan and Dalmanutha were both in the vicinity of the coast on which our Redeemer landed (see Map of Palestine; also Matt. 15:39). It is not said, He crossed the lake, because He only passed farther on the same side of the lake, to avoid the concourse of the people.

Many Greek copies of Mark, for Dalmanutha, read Magdala. In the time of St. Jerome and St. Augustine, many copies had Magedan. But the most approved Greek copies, as also the Vulgate, Syriac, and Arabic, read Dalmanutha in Mark, and Magedan in Matthew (15) This must be regarded as the true reading. It is somewhat difficult to ascertain the precise site of these places, as neither in the Old Testament, nor in Josephus, nor in ancient geographies, do we find any mention of “Dalmanutha.” Eusebius and St. Jerome both testify, that in their time a certain district on the eastern side of the Lake of Genesareth, near Gerasa, was called μαγαιδανην, Magedena. And we must hold, that Dalmanutha was situated there also. Our Redeemer, then, on His return from Sidon, crossed the Sea of Galilee, or may have come down by the upper or northern end of the lake, on His return from Sidon. There He performed the miracle (vv. 8–9). Thence, in order to avoid the concourse of the people, and arrive more quickly, He passed on farther on the same side of the lake, to Dalmanutha, or Magedan. Thence, he crossed the lake to the opposite, or western side, to Bethsaida (verse 22), and proceeded to Cæsarea-Philippi, near the source of the Jordan (Matt. 16; Mark 8:27).

11. (See Matt. 16:1).

And the Pharisees came forth,” i.e., approached Him. St. Matthew (16:1) says, “the Pharisees and Sadducces came to Him tempting.” Here it is said, “they began to question with Him,” that is, to dispute with Him, “tempting Him.” These haughty men, who occupied a position beyond that of the common people, would fain depreciate the miracle of the multiplication of bread, just performed by Him, as containing no proof of His Divinity. They demand a sign which was not earthly; but one like the prodigies performed by Moses, who brought down manna from the skies, “from heaven,” as if they would not devise some means of calling all His miracles in question.

12. “Sighing deeply in spirit,” heaving a deep sigh from the bottom of His heart.

Why doth this generation ask a sign?” whom no sign, no miracle, however brilliant, can rouse from the hardened perversity and state of infidelity in which they are hopelessly involved?

If a sign shall be given,” &c. This means, shall not be given. The reading, “if a sign,” is a strong form of imprecation, met with often in SS. Scriptures, and the part corresponding with it, so as to complete the sentence, mag I not live or some such, is, by Aposiopesis, left unexpressed. “Si introibunt in requiem meam,” “Si David mentiar,” “May I not live.” May I not be God, or the like, is left understood. Hence, it is equivalent to a strong form of negative, and rendered so in some English versions.

A sign.” Such a sign as they ask, a sign from heaven, shall not be given this generation.

13–21. (See Matt. 16:5–12).

22. “Bethsaida.” Some say, Bethsaida of Galilee, not Gaulonitis; because out Lord had crossed from the opposite, or eastern side of the lake (v. 13). St. Mark calls it, κωμης, a small town or village, which could not apply to Bethsaida-Gaulonitis, or Julias, which was then a very important place, situated at the point where the Jordan flows into the Sea of Galilee (Patrizzi). Calmet, however, understands it of Bethsaida-Gaulonitis.

A blind man.” St. Mark alone records this miracle.

23. “Out of the town,” to give us an example of humility, and to teach us to avoid ostentation in our good actions; and, perhaps, spiritually, to convoy to us, that if we wish to remove blindness of mind and heart, we must give up the tumult of the world, and the occasions of sin.

The putting spittle on his eyes, and touching them with His hands (verse 25), together with other ceremonies and words employed by our Redeemer in this case, as well as the tardy process of His cure, when, by a single word, He might at once have restored him, are all intended by our Lord for the instruction of the blind man himself, whose infirm faith may, perhaps, be the cause of the slow process observed in his cure. For, it was by others he was brought, and we have no evidence that he himself sought for the cure. It may be also meant to convey to us, that the cure of spiritual blindness is not easily effected; and that it is by degrees men pass from darkness to the full light of faith.

He asked him if he saw any thing.” Our Lord needed not to be informed of the condition of this man; but, by this question, He meant to convey, that He did not mean to restore him fully at once, and that He adopted this course voluntarily, not from want of power, and that He might employ any process, whether tardy or expedite, to effect a cure, just as seemed good to Him.

24. “I see men as it were trees, walking,” that is, I see something obscurely and indistinctly. I see men walking; but I could not distinguish them from trees. The Greek, ανθρωπους περιπατουντας, shows the meaning to be, that he saw men walking, but that they looked like trees. This shows his vision to be still imperfect and obscure, because he could hardly discern men from trees. It would seem he was not born blind, from his distinct ideas of the relative height of men and trees.

25. Our Redeemer employs these ceremonies as an external sign of the power which acted and of the effect produced. Hence, in imitation of her Divine Founder and model, the Catholic Church employs certain external ceremonies in the conferring of Sacraments, to signify the internal virtue which operates, and the abundant infusion of sanctifying grace in the soul of the receiver.

He began to see.” The Greek is, “He made him to see.”

26. “And He sent him to his house,” &c., so as not to be roving here and there, divulging the miracle. Hence, some commentators infer that it was not in the town he lived, that he was not a native of Bethsaida. The words may mean: If you enter into the town, as you may be obliged to do on your way to your own house, go home straight to your own house, and loiter not in the streets. “Tell nobody.” He meant, not to publish it in the streets, or to the inhabitants of Bethsaida, who had already proved themselves unworthy of the many miracles wrought in their midst by our Redeemer, on which account He says elsewhere (Matt. 11:21), “Woe to thee, Bethsaida.” He also meant, that this miracle would not be divulged before the destined time of His public manifestation to the world arrived.

Go into thy house,” is not found in the Greek.

27–30. (See Matt. 16:13–20).

29. Eusebius (Demonstrat. Evangel. Lib. iii., § p. 121, 122), states, that St. Mark, who was generally supposed to have written his Gospel from the dictation of St. Peter, his master, when he comes to describe the magnificent confession of Peter’s faith, and the exalted dignity conferred on him in consequence, passes it over almost in silence—“Hæc sane Petrus merito tacenda indicavit, ac Petrus quidem, quæ ad ipsum ac de ipso dicta sunt ab Jesu, proprio testimonio proferre æquum non putavit, quare etiam Marcus ea præteriit.” Whereas, whatever tended to Peter’s humiliation, such as his denial of our Lord, &c., these Mark fully describes—“Marcus quidem hæc scribit ac Petrus hæc de scipso TESTATUR: omnia, enim, quæ apud Marcum leguntur narrationum sermonumque Petri dicuntur esse Commentaria.”

Grotius also asserts, that the silence of Mark regarding the promise made to Peter on this occasion, was owing to the modesty of Peter, who would not allow his disciple (Mark) to record it.

30. “Not tell any man of Him,” i.e., concerning His Divinity, and the public profession made of it by Peter, in which all the Apostles concurred.

31–33. (See Matt. 16:21–23).

32. “Openly,” clearly, and without any enigmatical or obscure form of words.

33. “Seeing His disciples.” He wished them all to listen to the very sharp rebuke He was about to administer to Peter.

33–37. (See Matt. 16:23–26).

35. “And for the Gospel,” is added here by St. Mark, to show that the prescribed following of Christ involves the observance of what He proscribed, which is contained in the Gospel.

Some commentators, with Patrizzi, say, the repetition of the causal particle, “for” (vv.35, 36, 38), does not signify, that each succeeding verso is proof of the assertion contained in the preceding, as “for” might imply; but, that in each verse is contained a new argument of the necessity of taking up our cross, denying ourselves, &c. (v. 34).

The three great obstacles to our following Christ, and taking up our cross, are, the excessive love of life, and of its pleasures, and the aversion to suffer anything opposed to such pleasures. “The concupiscence of the flesh,” the love of riches. “The concupiscence of the eyes,” the desire of glory and honours. “The pride of life,” (1 John 2:16) which are the three great leading maxims of the world. In verse 35, our Lord adduces an argument or motive to overcome or remove the first impediment, arising from the inordinate love of life and its pleasures; in verse 36 to remove the second obstacle, arising from the love of riches; and inverse 38, to remove the third obstacle, arising from love of honours (see Matt. 10:32, 33).

38. “Ashamed of Me and My words” (see Matthew 10:32, 33). Ashamed publicly to confess our Lord’s claims to our service, to the sacrifice of our very lives, if necessary, for His glory, to proclaim His Divinity and Humanity; and in order to avoid suffering or reproach, shall be ashamed of His teachings, as, unfortunately, many reputed Catholics are, when they are ashamed before heretics and infidels, to defend the doctrines of the Catholic Church. In, “i.e.,” before, in presence of “this adulterous and sinful generation.” “Adulterous,” not showing the lineaments of their fathers. “Sinful,” full of malice. How applicable are not these words to the hosts of infidels, now-a-days so numerous, who have abjured the faith of their fathers, and as well in private as in public, in the cottage and the palace, shake off the allegiance and filial obedience due to His anointed Vicar, the Sovereign Pontiff, the rock on which he built His Church.

39. “Said to them.” This is the first verse of chapter 9 in the Greek copies. But the Vulgate arrangement, making it the last verse of this chapter (8), is preferable. For, in St. Matthew, where the same subject is treated of, it is the last verse of chapter 16, in both the Greek and Latin copies (see Matt. 16:28).

The kingdom of God coming in power,” most likely, refers to the Transfiguration, the history of which is recorded by Matthew, Mark, and Luke, immediately after the preceding declaration, as if to convey, that our Lord meant, by speaking of His glorious coming in the lifetime of some of those who heard Him, to refer to His Transfiguration, of which three of His Apostles were witnesses. (This is the opinion of St. Leo the Great, and others), and the mention of the precise number of days which intervened, would seem to be intended to convey this, as if to say, the promise was not left long unfulfilled. The Greek of St. Mark, here (βασιλειαν τοῦ θεοῦ εληλυθειαν), would mean, till they saw the kingdom of God to have come, &c., and they saw it arrived in the glory of the Transfiguration. St. Matthew has, “coming in His kingdom” (16:28), not, into His kingdom, as if there were reference to the glory of His final coming, but “coming in,” i.e., in the glory of His kingdom, which He is shortly to display. Our Redeemer speaks of the near approach of this glorious manifestation, lest it might be imagined to be very distant, and to occur ages after they would have been all laid in their graves.

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