Ver. 1. The world being corrupted as it is, and the spread of evil so wide, it is impossible that scandals should not come. V.
--- It is impossible, morally speaking, with regard to the malice of men. Wi.
Ver. 2. It were better. Christ here speaks after the manner of the Jews, who were accustomed to inflict this punishment only on the greatest malefactors. So that we must be ready to undergo the most excruciating torments, rather than cause any scandal to our neighbour; though we must here observe, that if our neighbour take scandal at our good works, we ought not on that account to desist from doing good, or desert the truth. Ven. Bede.
--- S. Luke, in this chapter, inserts four instructions, which have no connection with each other, and which by the writers of evangelical harmony, are given in different places; as in Matt. xviii. after v. 14, &c.
Ver. 5. Increase our faith. The disciples having heard our Saviour inculcating maxims hard to flesh and blood, such as avoiding scandal, and forgiving our enemies, humbly beg their faith may be increased, that they may be able to comply with these maxims; for they had heard Christ say, that every thing was possible to him that believed. Theophy.
--- Christ compares faith to a grain of mustard seed; because, though the grain be small, it is nevertheless stronger than most herbs. S. Chrysos.
Ver. 6. To this mulberry-tree. In S. Matthew, (xvii. 19.) we read, to this mountain. Christ might say both at different times. Wi.
Ver. 7. The design and end of this parable is to shew that, rigorously speaking, we are useless servants with regard to God. This sovereign Master has a right to exact of us every kind of service, and to make us apply ourselves to any task he may think proper, without our having any reason to complain either of the difficulty, trouble, or length of our labours; we are entirely his, and he is master of our persons, time, and talents. We hold of him whatever we possess, and wo to us if we abuse his trust, by applying our talents to any use contrary to his designs. But though he be Lord and Master, he leaves our liberty entire. If he produces in us holy desires, if he works in us meritorious actions, gives us virtuous inclinations and supernatural gifts, he sets to our account the good use we make of them; and in crowning our merits, he crowns his own gifts. S. Aug. lib. ix. Confes. and Serm. 131. Calmet.
Ver. 10. Unprofitable servants. Because our service is of no profit to our Master; and he justly claims it as our bounden duty. But though we are unprofitable to him, our serving him is not unprofitable to us; for he is pleased to give, by his grace, a value to our good works, which, in consequence of his promise, entitles them to an eternal reward. Ch.
--- The word useless, when joined to servant, generally means a servant from whom his master does not derive the service he has a right to expect; as in S. Matt. xxv. 30. Here the word is taken in a less odious sense. It means a servant who does not testify sufficient zeal and ardour in his master's service, who is not very eager to please him. With regard to God, we are always useless servants, because he wants not our services; and without his assistance, we can neither undertake nor finish any thing to please him. Calmet.
Ver. 14. To the priests. Jesus sends them to the priests, to convince the latter of the reality of the cures which he wrought, and oblige them by that to acknowledge him for their Messias; 2ndly, that the lepers might enjoy the fruit of their cure, by returning to the society of their fellow men, after they had been declared clean, and satisfied all the demands of the law; for there were may ceremonies previous to be gone through. Calmet.
--- And lastly, to shew that in the new law, such as are defiled with the leprosy of sin, should apply to the priests. Hence, says S. Austin, let no one despise God's ordinance, saying that it is sufficient to confess to God alone. Lib. de visit. infirm.
Ver. 19. Thy faith hath made thee whole. Were not the others also made whole? They were cleansed indeed from their leprosy, but it no where appears that they were justified in their souls like this Samaritan, of whom it said, thy faith hath made thee whole; whereas it was said of the others, that they were made clean, viz. of their leprosy in their body, though not justified in their soul: this the Samaritan alone seems to have obtained. Maldonatus.
Ver. 20. When the kingdom of God should come? or when is it to come? when will the Messias come? The Pharisees might say this in a mocking and an insulting manner, to signify that he could not be their true Messias.
--- The kingdom of God cometh not with observation; that it, so as to be observed; not with great marks of temporal power, as you imagine. Wi.
--- The Pharisees expected a Messias powerful according to this world, a conqueror, a monarch, a revenger of the injuries of Israel; one who would restore them to liberty, and bless them with temporal goods and prosperity. In Jesus, they saw nothing, which corresponded to these magnificent hopes; and therefore asked him, by way of insult and reproach, when this kingdom of God would come, which he so often talked of and announced to his disciples. He answers them, that the manifestation of the Messias, and the establishment of his kingdom, shall not be effected in a conspicuous, splendid manner. It shall be brought about insensibly, and the accomplishment of the designs of the omnipotence of our Lord shall appear a casualty, and the effect of secondary causes. You shall not see the Messias coming at the head of armies, to spread terror and desolation. His arrival shall not be announced by ambassadors, &c. every thing in the establishment of my kingdom shall be the reverse of temporal power. Calmet.
Ver. 21. Is within you. It is with you; your Messias is already come.
--- He standeth in the midst of you, as John the Baptist told you. John i. 26. Wi.
Ver. 22. To see one day, &c. Hereafter, when I shall be no longer visibly among you, you shall heartily wish for one day's conversation with me. Wi.
--- This verse is addressed to the disciples. He insinuates that he will take from them this corporeal presence, and they shall be exposed to persecution and affliction: then they shall wish to see one day of the Son of man, and shall not be able to obtain it. They shall wish ardently to see him, to entertain themselves with him, and consult him, but shall not have that happiness. This was meant to excite the disciples to profit more of his presence whilst they enjoyed it. Calmet.
Ver. 24. For as the lightning, &c. See Matt. xxiv. 27. Wi.
--- Christ here alludes to the glory with which he shall appear when he shall come to judge the world, surrounded by his angels, &c. when he will appear like lightning, that shall penetrate the inmost recesses of our souls, and shall suffer no crime, not even the slightest thought of our souls, to pass unnoticed. This is the time when he will manifest his glory, and not on his entry into Jerusalem, as the disciples imagined: for he informs them, that he will then have to suffer a cruel death. Ven. Bede.
Ver. 27. After having compared his second coming to lightning, in order to shew how sudden it will be, he next compares it to the days of Noe and Lot, to shew that it will come when men least expect it; when, entirely forgetting his coming, they are solely occupied in the affairs of this world, in buying and selling, &c. He only mentions those faults which appear trivial, or rather none at all, (passing over the crimes of murder, theft, &c.) purposely to shew, that if God thus punishes merely the immoderate use of what is lawful, how will his vengeance fall upon what is in itself unlawful. Ven. Bede.
Ver. 31. When you see war lighted up in Judea, lose no time, but betake yourselves to flight for safety. Indeed the Christians, forewarned by these predictions, and other prophecies of the apostles, according to Lactantius, (lib. iv. c. 21.) fled from the danger beyond the Jordan, into the states of Herod, to Pella and the neighbouring villages. See Eusebius. Eccles. Hist. lib. iii. c. 5.
Ver. 32. As Lot only escaped destruction by leaving all things, and flying immediately to the mountain, whereas his wife, by shewing an affection for the things she had left, and looking back, perished; so those who, in the time of tribulation, forgetting the reward that awaits them in heaven, look back to the pleasures of this world, which the wicked enjoy, are sure to perish. S. Ambrose.
--- Ta opisw epilanqanesqai, toiV de emprosqen epekteinesqai. Philip. iii. 13.
Ver. 34. By these different examples, Christ wishes to insinuate that good and bad men will be found in every state of life. By those in bed, are understood the rich, by those in the mill, are understood the poor; whilst those in the field designate the pastors of his flock, who are labouring in the vineyard of the Lord. S. Cyril and S. Amb.
Ver. 37. To the question of his disciples in the preceding verse, our blessed Saviour only returns this enigmatical answer, which seems to mean, that where-ever there are guilty Jews, there shall their enemies pursue them and find them out, not only in Jerusalem, but in all the cities of Judea, Galilee, &c. every where the vengeance of the Lord shall follow them, and overtake them. For the interpretation of other parts of this chapter, see S. Matt. c. xxiv. Calmet.
--- If we observe some discrepancies between the precise words of our Lord, as given by S. Matt. and S. Luke, as in S. Matt. c. xxiv. v. 40, and in Luke xvii. 34, and alibi passim, we can reconcile those apparent variations, by supposing that our Lord, in the course of his conversation, made use of both expressions. A.