Ver. 1. Whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. These seem to have been some of the seditious followers of Judas, the Galilean, or Gaulonite, who denied that God's people were to pay taxes; and it is thought that some of them, coming to offer up sacrifices in the temple, Pilate caused them to be slain at that very time, so that their blood was mixed with the sacrifices. Wi.
--- Whose blood, &c. i.e. whom he had caused to be massacred in the temple, at the time they were offering sacrifices. The history, to which allusion is made in this place, in not well known; but there is great probability that these Galileans were disciples of Judas, the Galilean, who taught that they ought not to pay tribute to foreigners. As they were spreading this doctrine in Jerusalem, and perhaps even in the temple, Pilate laid violent hands upon them, and caused them to be murdered amidst the sacrifices. Calmet.
--- Galileans, &c. These were the followers of one Judas, a Galilean, of whom S. Luke makes mention in the Acts of the Apostles, (C. v.) who held it unlawful to call any one lord. Many of this sect were punished by Pilate, because they would not allow this title to be given to Cæsar; they also maintained that no other sacrifices could lawfully be offered, except such as were prescribed by the law, by which opinion they forbade the accustomed sacrifices offered up for the emperor and people of Rome. Pilate, irritated by these their opinions, ordered them to be slain in the midst of their sacrifices, and this was their blood mixed with that of the victims. Cyril ex D. Thoma.
Ver. 2. Sinners, &c. People are naturally inclined to believe, that those who are unfortunate, and afflicted with calamities, must likewise be culpable and impious. The Jews were very much given to these sentiments, as we see in many places of Scripture; John ix. 2 and 3. Our Saviour wishes to do away with this prejudice, by telling them that the Galileans, who are here spoken of, were not the most culpable among the inhabitants of that country; shewing by this, that God often spares the most wicked, and sends upon the good the most apparent signs of vengeance, that he may exercise the patience, and crown the merit of the latter, and give to the former an example of the severity which they must expect, if they continue in their disorders. Neither can it be said, that in this God commits any injustice. He uses his absolute dominion over his creatures, when he afflicts the just; he procures them real good, when he strikes them; and his indulgence towards the wicked, is generally an effect of his mercy, which waits for their repentance, or sometimes the consequences of his great anger, when he abandons them to the hardness of their reprobate hearts, and says, "I will rest, and be angry with you no longer." Ezechiel, C. xvi. 42. This is the most terrible mark of his final fury. Calmet.
Ver. 3. This prediction of our Saviour upon the impenitent was afterwards completely verified; for Josephus informs us, that under the government of Cumanus, 20,000 of them were destroyed about the temple. Antiq. lib. xx, c. 4. That upon the admission of the Idumeans into the city, 8,500 of the high priest's party were slain, insomuch that there was a flood of blood quite round the temple. De Bello Jud. lib. iv, c. 7. That in consequence of the threefold faction that happened in Jerusalem before the siege of the Romans, the temple was every where polluted with slaughter; the priests were slain in the exercise of their functions; many who came to worship, fell before their sacrifices; the dead bodies of strangers and natives were promiscuously heaped together, and the altar defiled with their blood. De Bel. Jud. lib. vi, c. 1. That upon the Romans taking possession of the city and temple, mountains of dead bodies were piled up about the altar; streams of blood ran down the steps of the temple; several were destroyed by the fall of towers, and others suffocated in the ruins of the galleries over the porches. De Bel. Jud. lib. vii, c. 10.
Ver. 4. Or those eighteen, &c. The Almighty permitted these people to be thus chastised, that the others might be filled with fear and apprehension at the sight of another's dangers, and thus become the heirs of the kingdom of heaven. But then you will say, is another punished that I may become better? No; he is punished for his own crimes; but his punishment becomes to those that witness it the means of salvation. S. Chrys. Concio. 3. de Lazaro.
Ver. 5. Unless you do penance, &c. The Jews did not penance; and therefore, forty years after our Lord's Passion, the Romans came, and beginning with Galilee, destroyed this impious nation to its roots, and polluted not only the court of the temple, whither the sacrifices were carried, but the inner sanctuary, with human blood. Ven. Bede.
Ver. 6. A certain man, &c. Each one, inasmuch as he holds a place in life, if he produce not the fruit of good works, like a barren tree encumbers the ground; because the place he holds, were it occupied by others, might be a place of fertility. S. Gregory.
Ver. 9. And if happily it bear fruit. It is a way of speaking, when a sentence is left imperfect; yet what is not expressed, may be easily understood; as here we may understand, well and good, or the like. Wi.
Ver. 14. The president of the synagogue, when he saw the woman, who before crept on the ground, now raised by the touch of Christ, and hearing the mandate of God, was filled with envy, and decried the miracle, apparently through solicitude for keeping the sabbath. But the truth is, he would rather see the poor woman bent to the earth like a beast, than see Christ glorified by healing her. S. Cyril ex D Thoma Aquin.
Ver. 19. Our Lord was this mustard-seed, when he was buried in the earth; and He became a tree, when he ascended into heaven; but a tree that overshadowed the whole creation, in the branches of which the birds of heaven rested; that is, the powers of heaven, and all such as by good works have raised themselves from the earth. The apostles are the branches, to repose in whose bosoms we take our flight, borne on the wings of Christian virtue. Let us sow this seed (Christ) in the garden of our hearts, that the grace of good works may flourish, and you may send forth the various perfumes of every virtue. S. Amb.
Ver. 21. The flour represents us Christians, who receive the Lord Jesus into the inner parts of our soul, till we are all inflamed with the fire of his heavenly wisdom. S. Ambrose.
Ver. 24. Shall seek, &c. Shall desire to be saved; but for want of taking sufficient pains, and not being thoroughly in earnest, shall not attain to it. Ch.
--- Our Lord answers here in the affirmative: viz. that the number of those who are saved, is very small, for a few only can enter by the narrow gate. Therefore does he say, according to S. Matthew, (C. vii.) Narrow is the way that leadeth to life, and few there are that enter therein. This does not contradict what is said in the 8th chapter of S. Matthew: That many shall come from the east, and sit down in the kingdom of God; for many indeed shall join the blessed company of the angels, but when considered with the number of the slain, they will appear but few. S. Aust. ser. xxxii. de Verb. Dei.
Ver. 25. When the Almighty casts any off, he is said not to know them: in the same manner as a lover of truth may be said not to know how to tell a falsehood, being withheld powerfully from it by his love of truth. S. Greg. mor. c. 8.
Ver. 26. These words are addressed particularly to the Jews, because Christ was born of them according to the flesh, eat and drank with them, and taught publicly in their streets; but they apply to us Christians also, for we eat the body of Christ, and drink his blood, when each day we approach the mystical table, and we hear him teaching us in the streets of our souls. Theophylactus.
--- Many very fervent at the beginning afterwards grow lukewarm; and many, though at first frozen, have suddenly glowed with virtue; many, who in this world were contemned, have received glory in the next; while others, in honour amongst men, have passed to eternal torments. Ven. Bede.
Ver. 32. It is rather surprising that Christ should make use of these opprobrious words, which could be of no service to himself, but which would only serve to irritate king Herod, should they come to his ears. But Christ, by these words, probably wished to shew that he was not the least afraid of him whom the Pharisees feigned to have a design on his life: for it is supposed that the Pharisees had invented this fiction, in order to compel him to leave them quiet. Maldonatus.
Ver. 33. Nevertheless I must walk, (i.e. labour in the mission, teaching, &c.) to-day, and to-morrow, &c. i.e. for a while.
--- It cannot be that a prophet,† &c. Not that all the prophets suffered in Jerusalem, though many did; and it is rather to prophesy, that he himself, the great Prophet, and their Messias, should be put to death at Jerusalem. Wi.
[†] V. 33. Quia non capit prophetam, &c. ouk endecetai, non contingit.