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TAKE heed that you do not your justice before men, to be seen by them: otherwise you shall not have a reward of your Father who is in heaven.

Ver. 1.  Your justice;† in the common Greek copies, your alms, which seems to be the sense in this place.  Wi.

 

--- Hereby it is plain that good works are justice, and that man doing them doth justice, and is thereby just and justified, and not by faith only.  All which justice of a christian man, our Saviour here compriseth in the three eminent good works, alms deeds, prayer, and fasting.  Aug. l. perf. just. c. viii.  So that to give alms is to do justice, and the works of mercy are justice.  Aug. in ps. xlix, v. 5.  B.

 

--- S. Gregory says, that the man who by his virtuous actions would gain the applause of men, quits at an easy rate the treasure of immense value; for, with what he might purchase the kingdom of heaven, he only seeks to acquire the transitory applause of mortals.  This precept of Christ, says S. Chrysostom, beautifully evinces the solicitude and unspeakable goodness of God, lest we should have the labour of performing good works, and on account of evil motives be deprived of our reward.  Hom. xix.  "Shut up alms in the heart of the poor."  Eccles. xxix. 15.

 

[†]  V. 1.  Justitiam.  In almost all Greek copies, elehmosunhn.

2 Therefore when thou dost an almsdeed, sound not a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be honoured by men. Amen I say to you, they have received their reward.

Ver. 2.  This must be understood figuratively, that we must avoid all ostentation in the performance of our good works.  Many respectable authors are of opinion, that it was customary with the Pharisees and other hypocrites, to assemble the poor they designed to relieve by sound of trumpet.  M.

 

--- Let us avoid vain glory, the agreeable plunderer of our good works, the pleasant enemy of our souls, which presents its poison to us under the appearance of honey.  S. Bas.


3 But when thou dost alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doth.

Ver. 3.  Be content to have God for witness to your good works, who alone has power to reward you for them.  They will be disclosed soon enough to man, when at the day of general retribution the good and the evil will be brought to light, and every one shall be rewarded according to his works.  A.


4 That thy alms may be in secret, and thy Father who seeth in secret will repay thee.

Ver. 4.  This repaying or rewarding of good works, so often mentioned here by Jesus Christ, clearly evinces that good works are meritorious, and that we may do them with a view to a reward, as David did, propter retributionem.  A.


5 And when ye pray, you shall not be as the hypocrites, that love to stand and pray in the synagogues and corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men: Amen I say to you, they have received their reward.

Ver. 5.  Hypocrisy is forbidden in all these three good works of justice, but not the doing of them openly for the glory of God, the edification of our neighbour, and our own salvation.  Let your light so shine before men, i.e. let your work be so done in public, that the intention remain in secret.  S. Greg.


6 But thou when thou shalt pray, enter into thy chamber, and having shut the door, pray to thy Father in secret: and thy Father who seeth in secret will repay thee.

Ver. 6.  Because he who should pray in his chamber, and at the same time desire it to be known by men, that he might thence receive vain glory, might truly be said to pray in the street, and sound a trumpet before him: whilst he, who though he pray in public, seeks not thence any vain glory, acts the same as if he prayed in his chamber.  M.

 

--- Jesus Christ went up to the temple, to attend public worship on the festival days.


7 And when you are praying, speak not much, as the heathens. For they think that in their much speaking they may be heard.

Ver. 7.  Long prayer is not here forbidden; for Christ himself spent whole nights in prayer: and he sayeth, we must pray always; and the apostle, that we must pray without intermission, 1 Thess. v.; and the holy Church hath had from the beginning her canonical hours for prayer, but rhetorical and elaborate prayer, as if we thought to persuade God by our eloquence, is forbidden; the collects of the Church are most brief and most effectual.  Aug. ep. 121. c. viii, ix, x.  B.

 

--- Perseverance in prayer is recommended us by the example of the poor widow, who by her importunity prevailed over the unjust judge.  Chry. hom. xix.

 

--- The Greek word means, to babble or trifle.


8 Be not you therefore like to them, for your Father knoweth what is needful for you, before you ask him. 9 Thus therefore shall you pray: Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.

Ver. 9.  As God is the common Father of all, we pray for all.  Let none fear on account of their lowly station here, for all are comprised in the same heavenly nobility. . . By saying, "who art in heaven," he does not mean to insinuate that he is there only, but he wishes to withdraw the humble petitioner from earth, and fix his attention on heaven.  Chry. hom. xx.  Other prayers are not forbidden.  Jesus Christ prayed in different words (John, c. viii.), and the apostles; (Acts i, 24,) but this is an example of the simple style to be used in prayer, and is applicable to all occasions.

 

--- Hallowed be thy name, from the word holy, be held and kept holy, be glorified by us, and that not only by our words, but principally by the lives we lead.  The honour and glory of God should be the principal subject of our prayers, and the ultimate end of our every action; every other thing must be subordinate to this.  A.



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10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Ver. 10.  Those who desire to arrive at the kingdom of heaven, must endeavour so to order their life and conversation, as if they were already conversing in heaven.  This petition is also to be understood for the accomplishment of the divine will in every part of the world, for the extirpation of error, and explosion of vice, that truth and virtue may everywhere obtain, and heaven and earth differ no more in honouring the supreme majesty of God.  Chry. hom. xx.


11 Give us this day our supersubstantial bread.

Ver. 11.  Our supersubstantial bread.[†]  So it is at present in the Latin text: yet the same Greek word in S. Luke, is translated daily bread, as we say it in our Lord's prayer, and as it was used to be said in the second or third age, as we find by Tertullian and S. Cyprian.  Perhaps the Latin word, supersubstantialis, may bear the same sense as daily bread, or bread that we daily stand in need of; for it need not be taken for supernatural bread, but for bread which is daily added, to maintain and support the substance of our bodies.  Wi.

 

--- In S. Luke the same word is rendered daily bread.  It is understood of the bread of life, which we receive in the blessed sacrament.  Ch.

 

--- It is also understood of the supernatural support of the grace of God, and especially of the bread of life received in the blessed eucharist.  A.

 

--- As we are only to pray for our daily bread, we are not to be over solicitous for the morrow, nor for the things of this earth, but being satisfied with what is necessary, turn all our thoughts to the joys of heaven.  Chry. hom. xx.

 

[†]  V. 7.  Nolite multum loqui, mh battologhshte, which is balbutire, nugari, &c.

12 And forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors.

Ver. 12.  Of all the petitions this alone is repeated twice.  God puts our judgment in our own hands, that none might complain, being the author of his own sentence.  He could have forgiven us our sins without this condition, but he consulted our good, in affording us opportunities of practising daily the virtues of piety and mildness.  Chry. hom. xx.

 

--- These debts signify not only mortal but venial sins, as S. Augustine often teaches.  Therefore every man, be he ever so just, yet because he cannot live without venial sin, ought to say this prayer.  Cont. 2 epis. Pelag. l. i. c. 14.

 

--- l. xxi. de civit. Dei. c. xxvii.  B.


13 And lead us not into temptation. But deliver us from evil. Amen.

Ver. 13.  God is not the tempter of evil, or author of sin.  James i. 13.  He tempteth no man: we pray that he would not suffer the devil to tempt us above our strength: that he would remove the temptations, or enable us to overcome them, and deliver us from evil, particularly the evil of sin, which is the first, and the greatest, and the true efficient cause of all evils.  A.

 

--- In the Greek we here read, for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory; which words are found in some old Greek liturgies, and there is every appearance that they have thence slipped into the text of S. Matt.  They do not occur in S. Luke (vi. 4.), nor in any one of the old Latin copies, nor yet in the most ancient of the Greek texts.  The holy Fathers prior to S. Chrysostom, as Grotius observes, who have explained the Lord's prayer, never mention these words.

 

--- And not being found in Tertullian, S. Cyprian, S. Jerom, S. Ambrose, S. Augustine, &c., nor in the Vatican Greek copy, nor in the Cambridge MSS. &c. as Dr. Wells also observes, it seems certain that they were only a pious conclusion, or doxology, with which the Greeks in the fourth age began to conclude their prayers, much after the same manner as, Glory be to the Father, &c. was added to the end of each psalm.  We may reasonably presume, that these words at first were in the margin of some copies, and afterwards by some transcribers taken into the text itself.  Wi.


14 For if you will forgive men their offences, your heavenly Father will forgive you also your offences.

Ver. 14.  Here he again recommendeth the forgiving of others, as the means of obtaining forgiveness.  A.



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15 But if you will not forgive men, neither will your Father forgive you your offences. 16 And when you fast, be not as the hypocrites, sad. For they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Amen I say to you, they have received their reward.

Ver. 16.  He condemns not public fasts as prescribed to the people of God, (Jud. xx. 26.  2 Esdras ix.  Joel ii. 15.  John iii.) but fasting through vain glory, and for the esteem of men.  B.


17 But thou, when thou fastest anoint thy head, and wash thy face;

Ver. 17.  The forty days' fast, my dear brethren, is not an observance peculiar to ourselves; it is kept by all who unite with us in the profession of the same faith.  Nor is it without reason that the fast of Christ should be an observance common to all Christians.  What is more reasonable, than that the different members should follow the example of the head.  If we have been made partakers with him of good, why not also of evil.  Is it generous to exempt ourselves from every thing that is painful, and with to partake with him in all that is agreeable?  With such dispositions, we are members unworthy of such a head. . . . Is it much for us to fast with Christ, who expect to sit at the table of his Father with him?  Is it much for the members to suffer with the head, when we expect to be made one day partakers with him in glory?  Happy the man who shall imitate such a Master.  He shall accompany him whithersoever he goes.  S. Bern. Serm, in Quad.

 

--- Wherefore, my dear brethren, if the taste only has caused us to offend God, let the taste only fast, and it will be enough.  But if the other members also have sinned, let them also fast.  Let the eye fast, if it has been the cause of sin to the soul; let the ear fast, the tongue, the hand, and the soul itself.  Let the eye fast from beholding objects, which are only calculated to excite curiosity and vanity; that being now humbled, it may be restrained to repentance, which before wandered in guilt.  Let the ear fast from listening to idle stories and words that have no reference to salvation.  Let the tongue fast from detraction and murmuring, from unprofitable and sacrilegious discourse; sometimes also, out of respect to holy silence, from speaking what appears necessary and profitable.  Let the hand also fast from useless works, and from every action that is not commanded.  But above all, let the soul fast from sin and the doing of its own will.  Without these fasts, all others will not be accepted by the Lord.  S. Bern. Serm. 2 de Jejun.  Quad.

 

--- Fast from what is in itself lawful, that you may receive pardon for what you have formerly done amiss.  Redeem an eternal fast by a short and transitory one.  For we have deserved hell fire, where there will be no food, no consolation, no end; where the rich man begs for a drop of water, and is not worthy to receive it.  A truly good and salutary fast, the observance of which frees us from eternal punishment, by obtaining for us in this life the remission of our sins.  Nor is it only the remission of former transgressions, but likewise a preservative against future sin, by meriting for us grace to enable us to avoid those faults we might otherwise have committed.  I will add another advantage, which results from tasting, one which I hope I am not deceived in saying you have frequently experienced.  It gives devotion and confidence to prayer.  Observe how closely prayer and fasting are connected.  Prayer gives us power to fast, fasting enables us to pray.  Fasting gives strength to our prayer, prayer sanctifies our fast, and renders it worthy of acceptance before the Lord.  S. Bern. Serm. de Orat. & []ejun.


18 That thou appear not to men to fast, but to thy Father who is in secret: and thy Father who seeth in secret, will repay thee. 19 Lay not up to yourselves treasures on earth: where the rust, and moth consume, and where thieves break through and steal. 20 But lay up to yourselves treasures in heaven: where neither the rust nor moth doth consume, and where thieves do not break through, nor steal.

Ver. 20.  By doing good works, distributing your superfluities to the indigent.  A.



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21 For where thy treasure is, there is thy heart also. 22 The light of thy body is thy eye. If thy eye be single, thy whole body shall be lightsome.

Ver. 22.  Every action is lighted or directed by the intention.  If the intention be upright, the whole body of the action is good, provided it proceed not from a false conscience.  If the intention be bad, how bad must be the action!  Christ does not here speak of an exterior, but an interior eye.  He, therefore, who directs all his thoughts to God, may justly be said to have his eye lightsome, and consequently his heart undefiled with worldly affections; but he who has all his thoughts corrupted with carnal desires is, beyond a doubt, enveloped in darkness.  Chry.



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23 But if thy eye be evil thy whole body shall be darksome. If then the light that is in thee, be darkness: the darkness itself how great shall it be! 24 No man can serve two masters. For either he will hate the one, and love the other: or he will sustain the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.

Ver. 24.  Behold here a fresh motive to detach you from the love of riches, or mammon.  We cannot both serve God and the world, the flesh and the spirit, justice and sin.  The ultimate end of action must be one, either for this or for the next life.  A.



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25 Therefore I say to you, be not solicitous for your life, what you shall eat, nor for your body, what you shall put on. Is not the life more than the meat: and the body more than the raiment?

Ver. 25.  A prudent provision is not prohibited, but that over-solicitude which draws the soul, the heart, and its affections from God, and his sweet all-ruling providence, to sink and degrade them in empty pursuits, which can never fill the soul.  A.

 

--- Be not solicitous;[4] i.e. too solicitous with a trouble and anxiety of mind, as appears by the Greek.

 

--- For your life; lit. for your soul, which many times is put for life.  Wi.



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26 Behold the birds of the air, for they neither sow, nor do they reap, nor gather into barns: and your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are not you of much more value than they? 27 And which of you by taking thought, can add to his stature one cubit?

Ver. 27.  Why should the children of God fear want, when we behold the very birds of the air do not go unprovided?  Moreover, what possible good can this anxiety, this diffidence procure them?  Almighty God gives life and growth, which you cannot do with all your solicitude, however intensely you think.  Apollo may plant, Paul may water, but God alone can give the increase.  1 Cor. iii. 6.  Of how much greater consequence is it then to love and serve Him, and to live for Him alone!  A.


28 And for raiment why are you solicitous? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they labour not, neither do they spin. 29 But I say to you, that not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed as one of these.

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30 And if the grass of the field, which is to day, and to morrow is cast into the oven, God doth so clothe: how much more you, O ye of little faith?

Ver. 30.  "O ye of little faith;" that is, of little confidence in God and his providence.  M.


31 Be not solicitous therefore, saying, What shall we eat: or what shall we drink, or wherewith shall we be clothed? 32 For after all these things do the heathens seek. For your Father knoweth that you have need of all these things.

Ver. 32.  It is not without reason that men are in such great fear and distress, when they are so blind as to imagine that their happiness in this life is ruled by fate.  But such as know that they are entirely governed by the will of God, know also that a store is laid up for them in his hands.  S. Chrys.


33 Seek ye therefore first the kingdom of God, and his justice, and all these things shall be added unto you.

Ver. 33.  † Your Father knoweth; he does not say God knoweth, but your Father, to teach us to apply to him with greater confidence.  S. Chrys.

 

--- He that delivers himself entirely into the hands of God, may rest secure both in prosperity and adversity, knowing that he is governed by a tender Father.  Aquin.

 

[†]  V. 33.  Et justitiam ejus,  dikaiosunhn autou, non  authV, Dei, not Regni.


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34 Be not therefore solicitous for to morrow; for the morrow will be solicitous for itself. Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof.

Ver. 34.  The morrow will bring with it cares enough, to occupy you in providing what will then be necessary for you.  Christ does not prohibit all care about temporal concerns, but only what hinders us from seeking the kingdom of heaven in the first instance; or what makes us esteem more the things of this world, than those of the next.  M.

 

--- The affliction and labour which each day brings with it is a sufficient trial, nor ought we seek by our anxiety for labour and affliction before it arrive; for why should man forestall the evil day, which has not arrived, and perhaps may never arrive?  But again, this does not prohibit us from making a provision for the morrow, for Jesus Christ does not say to us, provide not for the morrow, but, be not solicitous for to-morrow.  Est. in dif. loc.  He who supplied our wants to-day, will supply them also to-morrow.  The evil of the day is sufficient, without borrowing to-morrow's burden to increase the load.  It is the curse of the envious and wicked to be self-tormented, whilst they who live by faith, can always rejoice in hope, the true balm of every Christian's breast, the best friend of all in distress.


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