Ver. 1. Beware ye of the leaven, &c. Christ calls the hypocrisy of the Pharisees heaven, which changes and corrupts the best intentions of men; for nothing is more destructive than hypocrisy to such as give way to it. Theophylact.
Ver. 3. House-tops. Our divine Saviour speaks here according to the custom of his own nation, where it was not uncommon for men to preach from the house-top, when they wished to deliver any thing to the public; for their houses had flat roofs. Ven. Bede.
Ver. 8. Whosoever shall confess me. By these words we are informed, that more than bare inward protestations of fidelity will be demanded of us; for he moreover requires an exterior confession of our faith. S. Ambrose.
Ver. 13. The inheritance. This man might think, that Jesus being the Messias, would act like a king and a judge. Wi.
--- Speak to my brother, &c. See in this the spirit of this world, at the very time Jesus is teaching disinterestedness, and the contempt of riches, he is interrupted by a man, who begs him to interfere in a temporal concern: deaf to every thing else, this man can think of his temporal interest only. Calmet.
--- He begged half an inheritance on earth; the Lord offered him a whole one in heaven: he gave him more than he asked for. S. Aug..
Ver. 14. Judge, &c. Our Saviour does not here mean to say that he or his Church had not authority to judge, as the Anabaptists foolishly pretend; for he was appointed by his Father, the King of kings, and the Lord and Judge of all. He only wished to keep himself as much detached as possible from worldly concerns: 1. Not to favour the opinion of the carnal Jews, who expected a powerful king for the Messias. 2. To shew that the ecclesiastical ministry was entirely distinct from political government, and that he and his ministers were sent not to take care of earthly kingdoms, but to seek after and prepare men for a heavenly inheritance. S. Ambrose, Euthymius, Ven. Bede.
Ver. 19. Much goods, &c. It is evident how far this poor man was mistaken, when he called these things goods, which with more reason ought to be esteemed evils. The only things that can rightly be called goods, are humility, modesty, and its other attendants. The opposite to these ought to be esteemed evils; and riches we ought to consider as indifferent. S. Chrys.
Ver. 22. Therefore I say to you, &c. Our Lord proceeds step by step in his discourse, to inculcate more perfect virtue. He had before exhorted us to guard ourselves against the fatal rocks of avarice, and then subjoined the parable of the rich man; thereby insinuating what folly that man is guilty of, who applies all his thoughts solely to the amassing of riches. He next proceeds to inform us that we should not be solicitous even for the necessities of life: wishing by this discourse to eradicate our wicked propensity to avarice. Theophy.
Ver. 29. And be not lifted up on high.† S. Aug. (l. ii. QQ. Evang. q. 29. t. 3, part 4, p. 257.) expounds it thus: do not value yourselves for the plenty and variety you have of things to eat. Others, by the Greek, look upon it as a metaphor, taken from meteors in the air, that appear high, and as it were in suspense whether to remain there or to fall down; so that they expound it: be not distracted and disturbed with various thoughts and cares how to live. Wi.
[†] V. 29. Nolite in sublime tolli, mh metewrizesJe; See S. Augustine, incipit superbire de talibus. l. v. QQ. Evang. Q. 29.
Ver. 32. Christ styles the elect in this place, his little flock, on account of the greater number of the reprobate; or rather through his love of humility, because though the Church be most numerous, yet he wishes it to continue in humility to the end of the world, and by humility to arrive at the reward which he has promised to the humble. Therefore, in order to console us in our labours, he commands us to seek only the kingdom of heaven, and promises us that the Father will bestow it as a reward upon us. Ven. Bede.
Ver. 33. Be not solicitous that whilst you are fighting for the kingdom of heaven, the necessities of this life will be wanting to you, on account of his command. Sell what you possess, that you may bestow charity; which those do, who having left all things, nevertheless labour with their hands for their livelihood, and to bestow the rest in charity. Ven. Bede.
Ver. 35. Let your loins be girded; i.e. be prepared to walk in the way of virtue; a comparison taken from the custom of the eastern people, who girded up their long garments, when they went about any business. Wi.
--- After our divine Saviour had given his disciples such excellent instructions, he wishes to lead them still farther in the path of perfection, by telling them to keep their loins girt, and to be prepared to obey the orders of their divine Master. By lamps burning in their hands he wished to insinuate, that they were not to pass their lives in obscurity, but to let their lights shine before men. Theophy.
Ver. 38. In the first watch is childhood, the beginning of our existence, and by the second is understood manhood, and by the third is meant old age. He, therefore, who does not comply with our divine Master's injunctions in the first or second watch, let him be careful not to lose his soul by neglecting to be converted to God in his old age. S. Greg. in S. Tho. Aquin.
Ver. 39. Some have imagined that the devil, our implacable enemy, is designated by the thief, and our souls by the house, and man by the householder: yet this interpretation does not agree with what follows; for the coming of our Lord is compared to the thief, as if surprising us on a sudden. This latter opinion, therefore, seems to be the more probable one. Theophylactus.
Ver. 48. Shall be beaten with few stripes. Ignorance, when it proceeds from a person's own fault, doth not excuse, but only diminisheth the fault. Wi.
Ver. 49. I am come to send fire on the earth. By this fire, some understand the light of the gospel, and the fire of charity and divine love. Others, the fire of trials and persecutions. Wi.
--- What is the fire, which Christ comes to send upon the earth? Some understand it of the Holy Ghost, of the doctrine of the gospel, and the preaching of the apostles, which has filled the world with fervour and light, and which was signified by the flames of fire which appeared at the descent of the Holy Ghost upon the apostles. My words, says the Lord, in Jeremias, (C. xxiii. 29.) are as a fire, and as a hammer, that breaketh the rock in pieces. Others understand it of the fire of charity, which Christ came to enkindle upon the earth, and which the apostles carried throughout the whole world. But the most simple and literal opinion seems to be, the fire of persecution and war. Fire is often used in Scripture for war: and our Saviour declares in S. Matt. that he is come to bring the sword, and not peace; that is, the doctrine of the gospel shall cause divisions, and bring persecutions, and almost an infinity of other evils, upon those who shall embrace and maintain it. But it is by these means that heaven must be acquired, it is thus that Jesus Christ destroys the reign of Satan, and overturns idolatry, superstition, and error, in the world. So great a change could not be made without noise, tumult, fire, and war. Calmet.
Ver. 50. I am to be baptized, with troubles and sufferings.
--- And how am I straitened? &c. not with fear, but with an earnest desire of suffering. Wi.
Ver. 54. In these words he reproaches them, that they knew well enough how to judge of the weather by the appearance of the heavens; but were ignorant how to distinguish the times: i.e. could not discern that the time marked by the prophets, for the coming of the Messias, was accomplished. In Palestine, the Mediterranean Sea, which was to the west, was accustomed to send clouds and rain; and the south winds, which came from Arabia and Egypt, very warm countries, caused dryness and heat. Calmet.