Ver. 1. There was a certain rich man, &c. By this parable, our Saviour advises his disciples to accompany their penitential works with deeds of mercy to the poor. Ven. Bede.
--- There is a certain erroneous opinion, that obtains pretty generally amongst mankind, and which tends to increase crimes, and to lessen good works: and this is, the foolish persuasion that men are not accountable to any one, and that we can dispose as we please of the things in our possession. S. Chrys.
--- Whereas we are here informed, that we are only the dispensers of another's property, viz. God's. S. Amb.
--- When, therefore, we employ it not according to the will of our Master, but fritter and squander it away in pleasure, and in the gratification of our passions, we are, beyond all doubt, unjust stewards. Theophylactus.
--- And a strict account will be required of what we have thus dissipated, by our common Lord and Master. If then we are only stewards of that which we possess, let us cast from our minds that mean superciliousness and pride which the outward splendour of riches is so apt to inspire; and let us put on the humility, the modesty of stewards, knowing well that to whom much is given, much will be required. Abundance of riches makes not a man great, but the dispensing them according to the will and intention of his employer. A.
--- The intention of this parable, is to shew what use each one ought to make of the goods which God has committed to his charge. In the three former parables, addressed to the murmuring Scribes and Pharisees, our Saviour shews with what goodness he seeks the salvation and conversion of a sinner; in this, he teaches how the sinner, when converted, ought to correspond to his vocation, and preserve with great care the inestimable blessing of innocence. Calmet.
--- A steward, &c. The parable puts us in mind, that let men be ever so rich or powerful in this world, God is still their master; they are his servants, and must be accountable to him how they have managed his gifts and favours; that is, all things they have had in this world. Wi.
Ver. 2. And he called him, &c. Such are the words which our Lord daily addresses to us. We daily see persons equally healthy, and likely to live as ourselves, suddenly summoned by death, to give an account of their stewardship. Happy summons to the faithful servant, who has reason to hope in his faithful administration. Not so to the unfaithful steward, whose pursuits are earthly: death to him is terrible indeed, and his exit is filled with sorrow. All thunder-stricken at these words, "now thou canst be steward no longer," he says within himself, what shall I do! Ex D. Thoma.
Ver. 8. And the lord commanded, &c. By this we are given to understand, that if the lord of this unjust steward could commend him for his worldly prudence, though it were an overt act of injustice; how much more will the Almighty be pleased with those who, obedient to his command, seek to redeem their sins by alms-deeds? Ex D. Thoma.
--- "Give alms out of thy substance," says holy Toby to his son, "and turn not thy face from any poor person: for so it shall come to pass, that the face of the Lord shall not be turned from thee. According to thy abilities be merciful. If thou hast much, give abundantly; if thou hast little, take care, even of that little, to bestow willingly a little. For thus thou storest up to thyself a good reward, for the day of necessity. For alms deliver from sin, and from death, and will not suffer the soul to go into darkness." Tob. iv. 7, 8, &c. Ibidem.
--- Children of this world, &c. are more prudent and circumspect as to what regards their temporal concerns, than they who profess themselves servants of God, are about the concerns of eternity.
--- Commended the unjust steward.† Lit. the steward of iniquity: not for his cheating and injustice, but for his contrivances in favour of himself.
--- In their generation; i.e. in their concerns of this life. They apply themselves with greater care and pains, in their temporal affairs, than the children of light, whom God has favoured with the light of faith, do to gain heaven. Wi.
[†] V. 8. Villicum iniquitatis, i.e. iniquum, oikonomon thV adikiaV.
Ver. 9. Make for yourselves friends, &c. Not that we are authorized to wrong our neighbour, to give to the poor: evil is never to be done, that good may come from it. D. Thoma.
--- But we are exhorted to make the poor our friends before God, by relieving them with the riches which justly indeed belong to us, but are called the mammon of iniquity, because only the iniquitous man esteems them as riches, on which he sets his affections; whilst the riches of the virtuous are wholly celestial and spiritual. S. Aug. de quæst. Evang.
--- Of the mammon of iniquity. Mammon is a Syriac word for riches; and so it might be translated, of the riches of iniquity. Riches are called unjust, and riches of iniquity, not of themselves, but because they are many times the occasion of unjust dealings, and of all kind of vices. Wi.
--- Mammon signifies riches. They are here called the mammon of iniquity, because oftentimes ill-gotten, ill-bestowed, or an occasion of evil; and at the best are but worldly, and false: and not the true riches of a Christian.
--- They may receive. By this we see, that the poor servants of God, whom we have relieved by our alms, may hereafter, by their intercession, bring our souls to heaven. Ch.
--- They may receive you into their eternal tabernacles. What a beautiful thought this! What a consolation to the rich man, when the term of his mortal existence is approaching, to think he shall have as many advocates to plead for his admittance into the eternal mansions of rest, as he has made friends among the poor by relieving their temporal wants. The rich give to the poor earthly treasures, the latter return in recompense eternal and infinite happiness. Hence we must infer, that the advantage is all on the side of the giver; according to the saying of our Lord, happier is the condition of him who gives, than of him who receives. A.
Ver. 10. He that is faithful in that which is least. This seems to have been a common saying, and that men judged of the honesty of their servants by their fidelity in lesser matters. For example, a master that sees his servant will not steal a little thing, judges that he will not steal a greater, &c.
--- And he that is unjust in that which is little, is unjust also in that which is greater. The interpreters take notice, that here temporal goods are called little, and spiritual goods are called greater; so that the sense is, that such men as do not make a right use of their temporal goods, in the service of God, will not make a good use of spiritual graces as they ought to do. See Maldonatus. Wi.
Ver. 11. If then you have not been faithful in the unjust mammon;† i.e. in fading and false riches, which are the occasion of unjust and wicked proceedings.
--- Who will trust you with that which is the true? i.e. God will not intrust you with the true and spiritual riches of his grace. Wi.
[†] V. 11. In iniquo mammonâ, en tw adikw Mammwna.
Ver. 12. And if you have not been faithful in that which is another's: so again is called false worldly wealth, which passeth from one to another; so that it cannot be called a man's own, who will give you that which is your own? i.e. how can you hope that God will bestow upon you, or commit to your care, spiritual riches or gifts, which, when rightly managed, would by your own for all eternity? See S. Aug. l. ii. qq. Evang. q. 35. p. 263. Wi.
--- That which is another's. Temporal riches may be said to belong to another, because they are the Lord's; and we have only the dispensing of them: so that when we give alms, we are liberal of another's goods. But if we are not liberal in giving what is another's, how shall we be so in giving our own? Nothing one would have thought so properly belonged to the Jews, as the kingdom of heaven, the preaching of the gospel, and the knowledge of heavenly things. But they were deprived of all for their infidelity in the observance of the law, which was first intrusted to them. Calmet.
Ver. 13. No servant can serve two masters, &c. This is added to shew us, that to dispose of our riches according to the will of the Almighty, it is necessary to keep our minds free from all attachment to them. Theophylactus.
--- Let the avaricious man here learn, that to be a lover of riches, is to be an enemy of Christ. Ven. Bede.
Ver. 14. Now the Pharisees, &c. Christ had admonished the Scribes and Pharisees not to presume too much on their own sanctity, but to receive repenting sinners, and to redeem their own sins with alms. But they derided these precepts of mercy and humility; either because they esteemed what he commanded them to be useless, or because they thought they had already complied with them. Ven. Bede.
--- The Pharisees considered temporal riches as true goods, and the recompense which God had promised to such as observed his laws; they therefore laughed at the doctrine of Jesus Christ, which extolled liberality and alms-deeds, and despised the Master who, on all occasions, testified his great regard for poverty in his discourses, in his conduct, in the choice of his apostles, who were all poor, and had no pretensions whatever to exterior pomp or show. Calmet.
Ver. 15. Who justify yourselves, &c. But our Lord, detecting their hidden malice, shews that their pretended justice is all hypocrisy. Theophylactus.
--- But God knoweth, &c. They justify themselves before men, whom they look upon as despicable, and abandoned sinners, and esteem themselves as not standing in need of giving alms as a remedy of sin; but he who shall lay open the secrets of hearts, sees the base atrocity of that pride which thus blinds them, and swells within their breasts. Ven. Bede.
--- Yes, all those exterior actions which appeared great, and which were admired by men, being vitiated with improper motives and sinister designs, are an abomination in the sight of God. A.
Ver. 16. The law and the prophets, &c. Not that the law was made void by the coming of John, but that what the law and the prophets had taught, had been suited to the very imperfect dispositions of the Jews, who as yet were incapable of relishing perfect virtue. At the coming of John, the gospel began to be preached, and this called men to a life of perfect sanctity. S. Tho. Aquin.
--- Our Saviour came not to destroy, but to fulfil the law and the prophets. Matt. v. 17.
Ver. 19. There was a certain rich man, &c. By this history of the rich man and Lazarus, he declares that those who are placed in affluent circumstances, draw upon themselves a sentence of condemnation, if seeing their neighbour in want, they neglect to succour him. S. Cyril, in Cat. Græc. patrum.
--- He that hath the substance of this world, and shall see his brother in need, and shut up his bowels against him, how doth the charity of God abide in him? John, 1 Ep. iii. 17. A received tradition of the Jews informs us, that this Lazarus was a beggar, then at Jerusalem, suffering in the most wretched condition of poverty, and infirmity: him our Saviour introduces, to manifest more plainly the truth of what he had been saying S. Cyril, ut supra.
--- By this, we are not to understand that all poverty is holy, and the possession of riches criminal; but, as luxury is the disgrace of riches, so holiness of life is the ornament of poverty. S. Ambrose.
--- A man may be reserved and modest in the midst of riches and honours, as he may be proud and avaricious in the obscurity of a poor and wretched life.
--- Divers interpreters have looked upon this as a true history; but what is said of the rich man seeing Lazarus, of his tongue, of his finger, cannot be literal: souls having no such parts. Wi.
--- In this parable, which S. Ambrose takes to be a real fact, we have the name of the poor mendicant; but our Lord suppresses the name of the rich man, to signify that his name is blotted out of the book of life: besides, the rich man tells Abraham, that he has five brothers, who were probably still living; wherefore, to save their honour, our Lord named not their reprobated brother.
Ver. 22. Abraham's bosom.† The place of rest, where the souls of the saints resided, till Christ had opened heaven by his death. Ch.
--- It was an ancient tradition of the Jews, that the souls of the just were conducted by angels into paradise. The bosom of Abraham (the common Father of all the faithful) was the place where the souls of the saints, and departed patriarchs, waited the arrival of their Deliverer. It was thither the Jesus went after his death; as it is said in the Creed, "he descended into hell," to deliver those who were detained there, and who might at Christ's ascension enter into heaven. Calmet. See 1 Pet. iii. 19.
--- "Many shall come from the east and the west, and shall sit down with Abraham." Matt. viii. 11.
[†] V. 22. In sinum Abrahæ, eiV ton kolpon tou Abraam. — Ibid. In inferno, en tw adh. See Pearson on the Creed, (p. 236) and our Catholic controvertists.
Ver. 25. It appears from Philo, (de Execrat. p. 9, 37 b.) that the Jews not only acknowledged the existence of souls, and their state of happiness or misery after this life, but also that the souls of the saints and patriarchs interceded with God for their descendants, and obtained from them the succour they stood in need of. Calmet.
Ver. 26. Between us and you is fixed a great chaos, or gulf; i.e. God's justice has decreed, that the bad should forever be separated from the good. We may here take notice that the Latin and Greek word, (v. 22) translated hell, even in the Prot. translation, cannot signify only the grave. Wi.
Ver. 27. In this parable we are taught an important truth, viz. that we must not expect to learn our duty from the dead returning to life, nor by any other extraordinary or miraculous means, but from the revelation of truths, which have already been made known to us in the Scriptures, and from those to whom the tradition of the Church has been committed, as a most sacred deposit. These, say the Fathers, are the masters from whom we are to learn what we are to believe, and what to practise. Calmet.
Ver. 31. If they hear not, Moses, &c. We think that if we saw a man raised from the dead, who should tells us what he had seen and suffered in another world, it would make more impression upon us than past miracles, which we hear of, or the promises and threats of the prophets, apostles, and our blessed Saviour, which are contained in Scripture; but it is a false notion, a vain excuse. The wicked, and unbelievers, would even in that case find pretexts and objections for not believing. S. Chrys. hom. iv.
--- They would say that the dead man was a phantom; that his resurrection was not real; his assertions nugatory. When Christ raised Lazarus from the dead, the miracle was known, evident and public; yet we find none of the Pharisees converted by it. They were even so mad as to enter into a design to kill Lazarus, to get rid of a witness who deposed against their incredulity. How many other miracles did he not perform in their sight, which they attributed to the prince of darkness, or to magic? Christ raised himself from the dead. This fact was attested by many unexceptionable witnesses. And what do the hardened Jews do? They object, that his disciples, stealing away the body, maliciously persuaded the people that he had risen again. Such is the corruption of the human heart, that when once delivered up to any passion, nothing can move it. Every day we see or hear of malefactors publicly executed, yet their example has no effect on the survivors, nor does it prevent the commission of fresh crimes. Calmet.
--- "We have also the more firm prophetical word; whereunto you do well to attend, as to a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day-star arise in your hearts." 2 Pet. i. 19.
--- We may learn many very instructive lessons from this affecting history of Lazarus.
--- The rich may learn the dreadful consequences to be apprehended from riches, when made subservient to sensuality, luxury, and ambition. The poor may learn to make their poverty and sufferings, however grievous to nature, instrumental to their future happiness, by bearing them with patience and resignation to the will of heaven. The former are taught that to expose a man to eternal misery, nothing more is required than to enjoy all the good things of this world according to their own will; the latter, that however they may be despised and rejected of men, they may still have courage, knowing that the short day of this fleeting life, with all its apparent evils, will soon be over; and that the day of eternity is fast approaching, when every one shall receive according as he has done good or evil in his body. A.