Commentaries on the Sunday, Solemnity and Feast Readings, Years A, B, C (where applicable)

ADVENT SEASON

First Sunday of Advent:  A  C
Second Sunday of Advent:  A  B  C.
Third Sunday of Advent:   A  B  C.
Fourth Sunday of Advent:  A  B  C.

CHRISTMAS SEASON TO THE EPIPHANY

Vigil for the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord (Dec. 24).
Christmas Mass During the Night (Midnight Mass).
Christmas Mass At Dawn.
Christmas Mass During the Day.
Sunday Within the Octave of Christmas.
Jan. 1. Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God.
The Epiphany of the Lord.

ORDINARY TIME
THE BAPTISM OF THE LORD TO CHRIST THE KING
(Scroll down for the Lenten and Easter Seasons)

Baptism of the Lord: B  C. Always Corresponds to the First Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Second Sunday of Ordinary Time: A  B  C.
Third Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Solemnity of Christ the King (always the final Sunday of the year):  A  B  C.

LENTEN SEASON

Ash Wednesday.
Thursday After Ash Wednesday.
Friday After Ash Wednesday.
Saturday After Ash Wednesday.
First Sunday of Lent:  A  B  C.
Second Sunday of Lent:  A  B  C.
Third Sunday of Lent:  A  B  C.
Fourth Sunday of Lent:  A  B  C.
Fifth Sunday of Lent:  A  B  C.
Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion:  A  B  C.
Holy Thursday Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper.
Holy Thursday Chrism Mass.
Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion.

EASTER SEASON
Including Ascension and Pentecost

Easter Vigil. In the evening of Holy Saturday.
Easter Sunday The Resurrection of the Lord.
Divine Mercy Sunday (Second Sunday of Easter):  A  B  C.
Third Sunday of Easter:  A  B  C.
Fourth Sunday of Easter:  A  B  C.
Fifth Sunday of Easter:  A  B  C.
Sixth Sunday of Easter:  A  B  C.
Seventh Sunday of Easter:  A  B  C.
The Ascension of the Lord:  A  B  C.
Vigil of Pentecost Years A, B and C.

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St John Chrysostom’s Homiletic Commentary on John 3:17-21

JOHN 3:17.
“For God sent not His Son2 to condemn the world, but to save the world.”3

[1.] MANY of the more careless sort of persons, using the lovingkindness of God to increase the magnitude of their sins and the excess of their disregard, speak in this way, “There is no hell, there is no future punishment, God forgives us all sins.” To stop whose mouths a wise man says, “Say not, His mercy is great, He will be pacified for the multitude of my sins; for mercy and wrath come from Him, and His indignation resteth upon sinners” (Ecclus. 5:6): and again, “As His mercy is great, so is His correction also.” (Ecclus. 16:12.) “Where then,” saith one, “is His lovingkindness, if we shall receive for our sins according to our deserts?” That we shall indeed receive “according to our deserts,” hear both the Prophet and Paul declare; one says, “Thou shalt render to every man according to his work” (Ps. 62:12, LXX.); the other, “Who will render to every man according to his work.” (Rom. 2:6.) And yet we may see that even so the lovingkindness of God is great; in dividing our existence4 into two periods,5 the present life and that which is to come, and making the first to be an appointment of trial, the second a place of crowning, even in this He hath shown great lovingkindness.
“How and in what way?” Because when we had committed many and grievous sins, and had not ceased from youth to extreme old age to defile our souls with ten thousand evil deeds, for none of these sins did He demand from us a reckoning, but granted us remission of them by the washing6 of Regeneration, and freely gave us Righteousness and Sanctification. “What then,” says one, “if a man who from his earliest age has been deemed worthy of the mysteries, after this commits ten thousand sins?” Such an one deserves a severer punishment. For we do not pay the same penalties for the same sins, if we do wrong after Initiation.7 And this Paul declares, saying, “He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses; of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the Covenant an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?” (Heb. 10:28, 29.) Such an one then is worthy of severer punishment.8 Yet even for him God hath opened doors of repentance, and hath granted him many means for the washing away his transgressions, if he will. Think then what proofs of lovingkindness these are; by Grace to remit sins, and not to punish him who after grace has sinned and deserves punishment, but to give him a season and appointed space for his clearing.9 For all these reasons Christ said to Nicodemus, “God sent not His Son to condemn the world, but to save the world.”

For there are two Advents of Christ, that which has been, and that which is to be; and the two are not for the same purpose; the first came to pass not that He might search into our actions, but that He might remit; the object of the second will be not to remit, but to enquire. Therefore of the first He saith, “I came not to condemn the world, but to save the world” (c. 3:17); but of the second, “When the Son shall have come in the glory of His Father,1 He shall set the sheep on His right hand, and the goats on His left.” (Matt. 25:31 and Matt. 25:46.) And they shall go, these into life; and these into eternal punishment. Yet His former coming was for judgment, according to the rule of justice. Why? Because before His coming there was a law of nature, and the prophets, and moreover a written Law, and doctrine, and ten thousand promises, and manifestations of signs, and chastisements, and vengeances, and many other things which might have set men right, and it followed that for all these things He would demand account; but, because He is merciful, He for a while pardons instead of making enquiry. For had He done so, all would at once have been hurried to perdition. For “all,” it saith, “have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Rom. 3:23.) Seest thou the unspeakable excess of His lovingkindness?

Ver. 18. “He that believeth on the Son,2 is not judged;3 but he that believeth not, is judged already.”
Yet if He “came not to judge the world,” how is “he that believeth not judged already,” if the time of “judgment” has not yet arrived? He either means this, that the very fact of disbelieving without repentance is a punishment, (for to be without the light, contains in itself a very severe punishment,) or he announces beforehand what shall be. For as the murderer, though he be not as yet condemned by the decision of the judge, is still condemned by the nature of the thing, so is it with the unbeliever. Since Adam also died on the day that he ate of the tree; for so ran the decree, “In the day that ye eat of the tree, ye shall die” (Gen. 2:17, LXX.); yet he lived. How then “died” he? By the decree; by the very nature of the thing; for he who has rendered himself liable to punishment, is under its penalty, and if for a while not actually so, yet he is by the sentence.

Lest any one on hearing, “I came not to judge the world,” should imagine that he might sin unpunished, and should so become more careless, Christ stops4 such disregard by saying, “is judged already”; and because the “judgment” was future and not yet at hand, He brings near the dread of vengeance, and describes the punishment as already come. And this is itself a mark of great lovingkindness, that He not only gives His Son, but even delays the time of judgment, that they who have sinned, and they who believe not, may have power to, wash away their transgressions.
“He that believeth on the Son, is not judged.” He that “believeth,” not he that is over-curious: he that “believeth,” not the busybody. But what if his life be unclean, and his deeds evil? It is of such as these especially that Paul declares, that they are not true believers at all: “They profess that they know God, but in works they deny Him.” (Tit. 1:16.) But here Christ saith, that such an one is not “judged” in this one particular; for his works indeed he shall suffer a severer punishment, but having believed once, he is not chastised for unbelief.

[2.] Seest thou how having commenced His discourse with fearful things, He has concluded it again with the very same? for at first He saith, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God”: and here again, “He that believeth not on the Son, is judged already.” “Think not,” He saith, “that the delay advantageth at all the guilty, except he repent, for he that hath not believed, shall be in no better state than those who are already condemned and under punishment.”

Ver. 19. “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light.”
What He saith, is of this kind: “they are punished, because they would not leave the darkness, and hasten to the light.” And hence He goes on to deprive them of all excuse for the future: “Had I come,” saith He, “to punish and to exact account of their deeds, they might have been able to say, ‘this is why we started away from thee,’ but now I am come to free them from darkness, and to bring them to the light; who then could pity one who will not come from darkness unto light? When they have no charge to bring against us, but have received ten thousand benefits, they start away from us.” And this charge He hath brought in another place, where He saith, “They hated Me without a cause” (John 15:25): and again, “If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin.” (John 15:22.) For he who in the absence of light sitteth in darkness, may perchance receive pardon; but one who after it is come abides by the darkness, produces against himself a certain proof of a perverse and contentious disposition. Next, because His assertion would seem incredible to most, (for none would prefer “darkness to light,”) He adds the cause of such a feeling in them. What is that?

Ver. 19, 20. “Because,” He saith, “their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil, hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.”

Yet he came not to judge or to enquire, but to pardon and remit transgressions, and to grant salvation through faith. How then fled they?5 Had He come and sat in His Judgment seat, what He said might have seemed reasonable; for he that is conscious to himself of evil deeds, is wont to fly his judge. But, on the contrary, they who have transgressed even run to one who is pardoning. If therefore He came to pardon, those would naturally most hasten to Him who were conscious to themselves of many transgressions; and indeed this was the case with many, for even publicans and sinners sat at meat with Jesus. What then is this which He saith? He saith this of those who choose always to remain in wickedness. He indeed came, that He might forgive men’s former sins, and secure them against those to come; but since there are some so relaxed,1 so powerless for the toils of virtue, that they desire to abide by wickedness till their latest breath, and never cease from it, He speaks in this place reflecting2 upon these. “For since,” He saith, “the profession of Christianity requires besides right doctrine a sound conversation also, they fear to come over to us, because they like not to show forth a righteous life. Him that lives in heathenism none would blame, because with gods such as he has, and with rites as foul and ridiculous as his gods, he shows forth actions that suit his doctrines; but those who belong to the True God, if they live a careless life, have all men to call them to account, and to accuse them. So greatly do even its enemies admire the truth.” Observe, then, how exactly He layeth down what He saith. His expression is, not “He that hath done evil cometh not to the light,” but “he that doeth it always, he that desireth always to roll himself in the mire of sin, he will not subject himself to My laws, but chooses to stay without, and to commit fornication without fear, and to do all other forbidden things. For if he comes to Me, he becomes manifest as a thief in the light, and therefore he avoids My dominion.” For instance, even now one may hear many heathen say, “that they cannot come to our faith, because they cannot leave off drunkenness and fornication, and the like disorders.”
“Well,” says some one, “but are there no Christians that do evil, and heathens that live discreetly?”3 That there are Christians who do evil, I know; but whether there are heathens who live a righteous life, I do not yet know assuredly. For do not speak to me of those who by nature are good and orderly, (this is not virtue,) but tell me of the man who can endure the exceeding violence of his passions and (yet) be temperate.4 You cannot. For if the promise of a Kingdom, and the threat of hell, and so much other provision;5 can scarcely keep men in virtue, they will hardly go after virtue who believe in none of these things. Or, if any pretend to do so, they do it for show; and he who doth so for show, will not, when he may escape observation, refrain from indulging his evil desires. However, that we may not seem to any to be contentious, let us grant that there are right livers among the heathen; for neither doth this go against my argument, since I spoke of that which occurs in general, not of what happens rarely.

And observe how in another way He deprives them of all excuse, when He saith that, “the light came into the world.” “Did they seek it themselves,” He saith, “did they toil, did they labor to find it? The light itself came to them, and not even so would they hasten to it.” And if there be some Christians who live wickedly, I would argue that He doth not say this of those who have been Christians from the beginning, and who have inherited true religion from their forefathers, (although even these for the most part have been shaken from6 right doctrine by their evil life,) yet still I think that He doth not now speak concerning these, but concerning the heathen and the Jews who ought to have come7 to the right faith. For He showeth that no man living in error would choose to come to the truth unless he before had planned8 for himself a righteous life, and that none would remain in unbelief unless he had previously chosen always to be wicked.
Do not tell me that a man is temperate, and does not rob; these things by themselves are not virtue. For what advantageth it, if a man has these things, and yet is the slave of vainglory, and remains in his error, from fear of the company of his friends? This is not right living. The slave of a reputation9 is no less a sinner than the fornicator; nay, he worketh more and more grievous deeds than he. But tell me of any one that is free from all passions and from all iniquity, and who remains among the heathen. Thou canst not do so; for even those among them who have boasted great things, and who have, as they say,10 mastered avarice or gluttony, have been, most of all men, the slaves of reputation,11 and this is the cause of all evils. Thus it is that the Jews also have continued Jews; for which cause Christ rebuked them and said, “How can ye believe, which receive honor from men?” (c. 5:44.)

“And why, pray, did He not speak on these matters with Nathanael, to whom He testified of the truth, nor extend His discourse to any length?” Because even he came not with such zeal as did Nicodemus. For Nicodemus made this his work,1 and the season which others used for rest he made a season for hearing; but Nathanael came at the instance of another. Yet not even him did Jesus entirely pass by, for to him He saith, “Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” (c. 1:51.) But to Nicodemus He spake not so, but conversed with him on the Dispensation and on eternal life, addressing each differently and suitably to the condition of his will. It was sufficient for Nathanael, because he knew the writings of the prophets, and was not so timid either, to hear only thus far; but because Nicodemus was as yet possessed by fear, Christ did not indeed clearly reveal to him the whole, but shook his mind so as to cast out fear by fear, declaring that he who did not believe was being judged,2 and that unbelief proceeded from an evil conscience. For since he made great account of honor from men, more than he did of the punishment; (“Many,” saith the Evangelist, “of the rulers believed on Him, but because of the Jews they did not confess”—c. 12:42;) on this point Christ toucheth him, saying, “It cannot be that he who believeth not on Me disbelieveth for any other cause save that he liveth an unclean life.” Farther on He saith, “I am the Light” (c. 8:12), but here, “the Light came into the world”; for at the beginning He spoke somewhat darkly, but afterwards more clearly. Yet even so the man was kept back by regard for the opinion of the many, and therefore could not endure to speak boldly as he ought.

Fly we then vainglory, for this is a passion more tyrannical than any. Hence spring covetousness and love of wealth, hence hatred and wars and strifes; for he that desires more than he has, will never be able to stop, and he desires from no other cause, but only from his love of vainglory. For tell me, why do so many encircle themselves with multitudes of eunuchs, and herds of slaves, and much show? Not because they need it, but that they may make those who meet them witnesses of this unseasonable display. If then we cut this off, we shall slay together with the head the other members also of wickedness, and there will be nothing to hinder us from dwelling on earth as though it were heaven. Nor doth this vice merely thrust its captives into wickedness, but is even co-existent3 with their virtues, and when it is unable entirely to cast us out of these, it still causeth us much damage in the very exercise of them, forcing us to undergo the toil, and depriving us of the fruit. For he that with an eye to this, fasts, and prays, and shows mercy, has his reward. What can be more pitiable than a loss like this, that it should befall man to bewail4 himself uselessly and in vain, and to become an object of ridicule, and to lose the glory from above? Since he that aims at both cannot obtain both. It is indeed possible to obtain both, when we desire not both, but one only, that from heaven; but he cannot obtain both, who longs for both. Wherefore if we wish to attain to glory, let us flee from human glory, and desire that only which cometh from God; so shall we obtain both the one and the other; which may we all enjoy, through the grace and loving kindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom and with whom, to the Father and the Holy Ghost, be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Posted in Catholic, Homilies, Notes on John | Tagged | 1 Comment

St Augustine’s Tractate 12 on the Gospel of John (3:6-21)

TRACTATE XII
CHAPTER 3:6–21.

WE observe, beloved, that the intimation with which we yesterday excited your attention has brought you together with more alacrity, and in greater number than usual; but meanwhile let us, if you please, pay our debt of a discourse on the Gospel Lesson, which comes in due course. You shall then hear, beloved, as well what we have already effected concerning the peace of the Church, and what we hope yet further to accomplish. For the present, then, let the whole attention of your hearts be given to the gospel; let none be thinking of anything else. For if he who attends to it wholly apprehends with difficulty, must not he who divides himself by diverse thoughts let go what he has received? Moreover, you remember, beloved, that on the last Lord’s day, as the Lord deigned to help us, we discoursed of spiritual regeneration. That lesson we have caused to be read to you again, so that what was then left unspoken, we may now, by the aid of your prayers in the name of Christ, fulfill.

Spiritual regeneration is one, just as the generation of the flesh is one. And Nicodemus said the truth when he said to the Lord that a man cannot, when he is old, return again into his mother’s womb and be born. He indeed said that a man cannot do this when he is old, as if he could do it even were he an infant. But be he fresh from the womb, or now in years, he cannot possibly return again into the mother’s bowels and be born. But just as for the birth of the flesh, the bowels of woman avail to bring forth the child only once, so for the spiritual birth the bowels of the Church avail that a man be baptized only once. Therefore, in case one should say, “Well, but this man was born in heresy, and this in schism:” all that was cut away, if you remember what was debated to you about our three fathers, of whom God willed to be called the God, not that they were thus alone but because in them alone the figure of the future people was made up in its completeness. For we find one born of a bond woman disinherited, one born of a free woman made heir: again, we find one born of a free woman disinherited, one born of a bond woman made heir. Ishmael, born of a bond woman, disinherited; Isaac, born of a free woman, made heir: Esau, born of a free woman, disinherited; the sons of Jacob, born of bond women, made heirs. Thus, in these three fathers the figure of the whole future people is seen: and not without reason God saith, “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob: this,” saith He, “is my name for ever.”1 Rather let us remember what was promised to Abraham himself: for this was promised to Isaac, and also to Jacob. What do we find? “In thy seed shall all nations be blessed.”2 At that time the one man believed what as yet he saw not: men now see, and are blinded. What was promised to the one man is fulfilled in the nations; and they who will not see what is already fulfilled, are separating themselves from the communion of the nations. But what avails it them that they will not see? See they do, whether they will or no; the open truth strikes against their closed eyes.

It was in answer to Nicodemus, who was of them that had believed on Jesus, that it was said, And Jesus did not trust Himself to them. To certain men, indeed, He did not trust Himself, though they had already believed on Him. Thus it is written, “Many believed in His name, seeing the signs which He did. But Jesus did not trust Himself to them. For He needed not that any should testify of man; for Himself knew what was in man.” Behold, they already believed on Jesus, and yet Jesus did not trust Himself to them. Why? because they were not yet born again of water and of the Spirit. From this have we exhorted and do exhort our brethren the catechumens. For if you ask them, they have already believed in Jesus; but because they have not yet received His flesh and blood, Jesus has not yet trusted Himself to them. What must they do that Jesus may trust Himself to them? They must be born again of water and of the Spirit; the Church that is in travail with them must bring them forth. They have been conceived; they must be brought forth to the light: they have breasts to be nourished at; let them not fear lest, being born, they may be smothered; let them not depart from the mother’s breasts.

No man can return into his mother’s bowels and be born again. But some one is born of a bond woman? Well, did they who were born of bond women at the former time, return into the wombs of the free to be born anew? The seed of Abraham was in Ishmael also; but that Abraham might have a son of the bond maid, it was at the advice of his wife. The child was of the husband’s seed, not of the womb, but at the sole pleasure of the wife. Was his birth of a bond woman the reason why he was disinherited? Then, if he was disinherited because he was the son of a bond woman, no sons of bond women would be admitted to the inheritance. The sons of Jacob were admitted to the inheritance; but Ishmael was put out of it, not because born of a bond woman, but because he was proud to his mother, proud to his mother’s son; for his mother was Sarah rather than Hagar. The one gave her womb, the other’s will was added: Abraham would not have done what Sarah willed not: therefore was he Sarah’s son rather. But because he was proud to his brother, proud in playing, that is, in mocking him; what said Sarah? “Cast out the bond woman and her son; for the son of the bond woman shall not be heir with my son Isaac.”1 It was not, therefore, the bowels of the bond woman that caused his rejection, but the slave’s neck. For the free-born is a slave if he is proud, and, what is worse, the slave of a bad mistress, of pride itself. Thus, my brethren, answer the man, that a man cannot be born a second time; answer fearlessly, that a man cannot be born a second time. Whatever is done a second time is mockery, whatever is done a second time is play. It is Ishmael playing, let him be cast out. For Sarah observed them playing, saith the Scripture, and said to Abraham, “Cast out the bond woman and her son.” The playing of the boys displeased Sarah. She saw something strange in their play. Do not they who have sons like to see them playing? She saw and disapproved it. Something or other she saw in their play; she saw mockery in it, observed the pride of the slave; she was displeased with it, and she cast him out. The children of bond women, when wicked, are cast out; and the child of the free woman, when an Esau, is cast out. Let none, therefore, presume on his birth of good parents; let none presume on his being baptized by holy men. Let him that is baptized by holy men still beware lest he be not a Jacob, but an Esau. This would I say then, brethren, it is better to be baptized by men that seek their own and love the world, which is what the name of bond woman imports, and to be spiritually seeking the inheritance of Christ, so as to be as it were a son of Jacob by a bond woman, than to be baptized by holy men and to become proud, so as to be an Esau to be cast out, though born of a free woman. Hold ye this fast, brethren. We are not coaxing you, let none of your hope be in us; we flatter neither ourselves nor you; every man bears his own burden. It is our duty to speak, that we be not judged unhappily: yours to hear, and that with the heart, lest what we give be required of you; nay, that when it is required, it may be found a gain, not a loss.

The Lord says to Nicodemus, and explains to him: “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” Thou, says He, understandest a carnal generation, when thou sayest, Can a man return into his mother’s bowels? The birth for the kingdom of God must be of water and of the Spirit. If one is born to the temporal inheritance of a human father, be he born of the bowels of a carnal mother; if one is born to the everlasting inheritance of God as his Father, be he born of the bowels of the Church. A father, as one that will die, begets a son by his wife to succeed him; but God begets of the Church sons, not to succeed Him, but to abide with Himself. And He goes on: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” We are born spiritually then, and in spirit we are born by the word and sacrament. The Spirit is present that we may be born; the Spirit is invisibly present whereof thou art born, for thou too must be invisibly born. For He goes on to say: “Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The Spirit bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest its voice, but knowest not whence it cometh, or whither it goeth.” None sees the Spirit; and how do we hear the Spirit’s voice? There sounds a psalm, it is the Spirit’s voice; the gospel sounds, it is the Spirit’s voice; the divine word sounds, it is the Spirit’s voice. “Thou hearest its voice, and knowest not whence it cometh, and whither it goeth.” But if thou art born of the Spirit, thou too shalt be so, that one who is not born of the Spirit knows not, as for thee, whence thou comest, or whither thou goest. For He said, as He went on, “So is also every one that is born of the Spirit.”

“Nicodemus answered and said unto Him, How can these things be?” And, in fact, in the carnal sense, he knew not how. In him occurred what the Lord had said; the Spirit’s voice he heard, but knew not whence it came, and whither it was going. “Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master in Israel, and knowest not these things?” Oh, brethren! what? do we think that the Lord meant to taunt scornfully this master of the Jews? The Lord knew what He was doing; He wished the man to be born of the Spirit. No man is born of the Spirit if he be not humble, for humility itself makes us to be born of the Spirit; “for the Lord is nigh to them that are of broken heart.”1 The man was puffed up with his mastership, and it appeared of some importance to himself that he was a teacher of the Jews. Jesus pulled down his pride, that he might be born of the Spirit: He taunted him as an unlearned man; not that the Lord wished to appear his superior. What comparison can there be, God compared to man, truth to falsehood? Christ greater than Nicodemus! Ought this to be said, can it be said, is it to be thought? If it were said, “Christ is greater than angels,” it were ridiculous: for incomparably greater than every creature is He by whom every creature was made. But yet He rallies the man on his pride: “Art thou a master in Israel, and knowest not these things?” As if He said, Behold, thou knowest nothing, thou art a proud chief; be thou born of the Spirit: for if thou be born of the Spirit, thou wilt keep the ways of God, so as to follow Christ’s humility. So, indeed, is He high above all angels, that, “being in the form of God, He thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but emptied Himself, taking upon Him the form of a servant, being made into the likeness of men, and found in fashion as a man: He humbled Himself, being made obedient unto death” (and lest any kind of death should please thee), “even the death of the cross.”2 He hung on the cross, and they scoffed at Him. He could have come down from the cross; but He deferred, that He might rise again from the tomb. He, the Lord, bore with proud slaves;3 the physician with the sick. If He did this, how ought they to act whom it behoves to be born of the Spirit!—if He did this, He who is the true Master in heaven, not of men only, but also of angels. For if the angels are learned, they are so by the Word of God. If they are learned by the Word of God, ask of what they are learned; and you shall find, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The neck of man is done away with, only the hard and stiff neck, that it may be gentle to bear the yoke of Christ, of which it is said, “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

And He goes on, “If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not; how shall ye believe, if I tell you heavenly things?” What earthly things did He tell, brethren? “Except a man be born again;” is that an earthly thing? “The Spirit bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest its voice, and knowest not whence it cometh, or whither it goeth;” is that earthly? For if He spoke it of the wind, as some have understood it, when they were asked what earthly thing the Lord meant, when He said, “If I told you earthly things, and ye believe not; how shall ye believe, if I tell you heavenly things?”—when, I say, it was asked of certain men what “earthly thing” the Lord meant, being in difficulty, they said, What He said, “The Spirit bloweth where it listeth,” and “its voice thou hearest, and knowest not whence it cometh, or whither it goeth,” He said concerning the wind. Now what did He name earthly? He was speaking of the spiritual birth; and going on, saith, “So is every one that is born of the Spirit.” Then, brethren, which of us does not see, for example, the south wind going from south to north, or another wind coming from east to west? How, then, know we not whence it cometh and whither it goeth? What earthly thing, then, did He tell, which men did not believe? Was it that which He had said about raising the temple again? Surely, for He had received His body of the earth, and that earth taken of the earthly body He was preparing to raise up. They did not believe Him as about to raise up earth. “If I told you earthly things,” saith He, “and ye believe not; how shall ye believe if I tell you heavenly things?” That is, if ye believe not that I can raise up the temple cast down by you, how shall ye believe that men can be regenerated by the Spirit?

And He goes on: “And no man hath ascended into heaven, but He that came down from heaven, the Son of man who is in heaven.” Behold, He was here, and was also in heaven; was here in His flesh, in heaven by His divinity; yea, everywhere by His divinity. Born of a mother, not quitting the Father. Two nativities of Christ are understood: one divine, the other human: one, that by which we were to be made; the other, that by which we were to be made anew: both marvellous; that without mother, this without father. But because He had taken a body of Adam,—for Mary was of Adam,—and was about to raise that same body again, it was an earthly thing He had said in saying, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” But this was a heavenly thing, when He said, “Except a man be born again of water and of the Spirit, he shall not see the kingdom of God.” Come then, brethren! God has willed to be the Son of man; and willed men to be sons of God. He came down for our sakes; let us ascend for His sake. For He alone descended and ascended, He who saith, “No man hath ascended into heaven, but He who came down from heaven.” Are they not therefore to ascend into heaven whom He makes sons of God? Certainly they are: this is the promise to us, “They shall be equal to the angels of God.”1 Then how is it that no man ascends, but He that descended? Because one only descended, only one ascends. What of the rest? What are we to understand, but that they shall be His members, that one may ascend? Therefore it follows that “no man hath ascended into heaven, but He who came down from heaven, the Son of man who is in heaven.” Dost thou marvel that He was both here and in heaven? Such He made His disciples. Hear the Apostle Paul saying, “But our conversation is in heaven.”2 If the Apostle Paul, a man, walked in the flesh on earth, and yet had his conversation in heaven, was the God of heaven and earth not able to be both in heaven and on earth?

Therefore, if none but He descended and ascended, what hope is there for the rest? The hope for the rest is this, that He came down in order that in Him and with Him they might be one, who should ascend through Him. “He saith not, And to seeds,” saith the apostle, “as in many; but as in one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.” And to believers he saith, “And ye are Christ’s; and if Christ’s, then are Abraham’s seed.”3 What he said to be one, that he said that we all are. Hence, in the Psalms, many sometimes sing, to show that one is made of many; sometimes one sings, to show what is made of many. Therefore was it only one that was healed in the pool; and whoever else went down into it was not healed. Now this one shows forth the oneness of the Church. Woe to them who hate unity, and make to themselves parties among men! Let them hear him who wished to make them one, in one, for one: let them hear him who says, Be not ye making many: “I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. But neither he that planteth is anything, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.”4 They were saying, “I am of Paul, I of Apollos, I of Cephas.” And he says, “Is Christ divided?” Be ye in one, be one thing, be one person: “No man hath ascended into heaven, but He who came down from heaven.” Lo! we wish to be thine, they said to Paul. And he said to them, I will not that ye be Paul’s, but be ye His whose is Paul together with you.

For He came down and died, and by that death delivered us from death: being slain by death, He slew death. And you know, brethren, that this death entered into the world through the devil’s envy. “God made not death,” saith the Scripture, “nor delights He in the destruction of the living; but He created all things to be.” But what saith it here? “But by the devil’s envy, death entered into the whole world.”5 To the death offered for our entertainment by the devil, man would not come by constraint; for the devil had not the power of forcing, but only cunning to persuade. Hadst thou not consented, the devil had brought in nothing: thy own consenting, O man, led thee to death. Of the mortal are mortals born; from immortals we are become mortals. From Adam all men are mortal; but Jesus the Son of God, the Word of God, by which all things were made, the only Son equal with the Father, was made mortal: “for the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.”

He endured death, then; but death He hanged on the cross, and mortal men are delivered from death. The Lord calls to mind a great matter, which was done in a figure with them of old: “And as Moses,” saith He, “lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up; that every one who believeth on Him may not perish, but have everlasting life.” A great mystery is here, as they who read know. Again, let them hear, as well they who have not read as they who have forgotten what perhaps they had heard or read. The people Israel were fallen helplessly in the wilderness by the bite of serpents; they suffered a great calamity by many deaths: for it was the stroke of God correcting and scourging them that He might instruct them. In this was shown a great mystery, the figure of a thing to come: the Lord Himself testifies in this passage, so that no man can give another interpretation than that which the truth indicates concerning itself. Now Moses was ordered by the Lord to make a brazen serpent, and to raise it on a pole in the wilderness, and to admonish the people Israel, that, when any had been bitten by a serpent, he should look to that serpent raised up on the pole. This was done: men were bitten; they looked and were healed.1 What are the biting serpents? Sins, from the mortality of the flesh. What is the serpent lifted up? The Lord’s death on the cross. For as death came by the serpent, it was figured by the image of a serpent. The serpent’s bite was deadly, the Lord’s death is life-giving. A serpent is gazed on that the serpent may have no power. What is this? A death is gazed on, that death may have no power. But whose death? The death of life: if it may be said, the death of life; ay, for it may be said, but said wonderfully. But should it not be spoken, seeing it was a thing to be done? Shall I hesitate to utter that which the Lord has deigned to do for me? Is not Christ the life? And yet Christ hung on the cross. Is not Christ life? And yet Christ was dead. But in Christ’s death, death died. Life dead slew death; the fullness of life swallowed up death; death was absorbed in the body of Christ. So also shall we say in the resurrection, when now triumphant we shall sing, “Where, O death, is thy contest? Where, O death, is thy sting?,”2 Meanwhile brethren, that we may be healed from sin, let us now gaze on Christ crucified; for “as Moses,” saith He, “lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up; that whosoever believeth on Him may not perish, but have everlasting life.” Just as they who looked on that serpent perished not by the serpent’s bites, so they who look in faith on Christ’s death are healed from the bites of sins. But those were healed from death to temporal life; whilst here He saith, “that they may have everlasting life.” Now there is this difference between the figurative image and the real thing: the figure procured temporal life; the reality, of which that was the figure, procures eternal life.

“For God sent not His Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world through Him may be saved.” So far, then, as it lies in the physician, He is come to heal the sick. He that will not observe the orders of the physician destroys himself. He is come a Saviour to the world: why is he called the Saviour of the world, but that He is come to save the world, not to judge the world? Thou wilt not be saved by Him; thou shalt be judged of thyself And why do I say, “shall be judged”? See what He says: “He that believeth on Him is not judged, but he that believeth not.” What dost thou expect He is going to say, but “is judged”? “Already,” saith He, “has been judged.” The judgment has not yet appeared, but already it has taken place. For the Lord knoweth them that are His: He knows who are persevering for the crown, and who for the flame; knows the wheat on His threshing-floor, and knows the chaff; knows the good corn, and knows the tares. He that believeth not is already judged. Why judged? “Because he has not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God.”

“And this is the judgment, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” My brethren, whose works does the Lord find to be good? The works of none: He finds the works of all evil. How is it, then, that some have done the truth, and are come to the light? For this is what follows: “But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.” In what way have some done a good work to come to the light, namely, to Christ? And how have some loved darkness? For if He finds all men sinners, and healeth all of sin, and that serpent in which the Lord’s death was figured healed them that were bitten, and on account of the serpent’s bite the serpent was set up, namely, the Lord’s death on account of mortal men, whom. He finds unrighteous; how are we to understand that “this is the judgment, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil”? How is this? Whose works, in fact, are good? Hast Thou not come to justify the ungodly? “But they loved,” saith He, “darkness rather than light.” There He laid the emphasis: for many loved their sins; many confessed their sins; and he who confesses his sins, and accuses them, doth now work with God. God accuses thy sins: and if thou also accusest, thou art united to God. There are, as it were, two things, man and sinner. That thou art called man, is God’s doing; that thou art called sinner, is man’s own doing. Blot out what thou hast done, that God may save what He has done. It behoves thee to hate thine own work in thee, and to love the work of God in thee. And when thy own deeds will begin to displease thee, from that time thy good works begin, as thou findest fault with thy evil works. The confession of evil works is the beginning of good works. Thou doest the truth, and comest to the light. How is it thou doest the truth? Thou dost not caress, nor soothe, nor flatter thyself; nor say, “I am righteous,” whilst thou art unrighteous: thus, thou beginnest to do the truth. Thou comest to the light, that thy works may be made manifest that they are wrought in God; for thy sin, the very thing that has given thee displeasure, would not have displeased thee, if God did not shine into thee, and His truth show it thee. But he that loves his sins, even after being admonished, hates the light admonishing him, and flees from it, that his works which he loves may not be proved to be evil. But he that doeth truth accuses his evil works in himself, spares not himself, forgives not himself, that God may forgive him: for that which he desires God to forgive, he himself acknowledges, and he comes to the light; to which he is thankful for showing him what he should hate in himself. He says to God, “Turn away Thy face from my sins:” yet with what countenance says it, unless he adds, “For I acknowledge mine iniquity, and my sin is ever before me?”1 Be that before thyself which thou desirest not to be before God. But if thou wilt put thy sin behind thee, God will thrust it back before thine eyes; and this He will do at a time when there will be no more fruit of repentance.

Run, my brethren, lest the darkness lay hold of you. Awake to your salvation, awake while there is time; let none be kept back from the temple of God, none kept back from the work of the Lord, none called away from continual prayer, none be defrauded of wonted devotion. Awake, then, while it is day: the day shines, Christ is the day. He is ready to forgive sins, but to them that acknowledge them; ready to punish the self-defenders, who boast that they are righteous, and think themselves to be something when they are nothing. But he that walks in His love and mercy, even being free from those great and deadly sins, such crimes as murder, theft, adultery; still, because of those which seem to be minute sins, of tongue, or of thought, or of intemperance in things permitted, he doeth the truth in confession, and cometh to the light in good works: since many minute sins, if they be neglected, kill. Minute are the drops that swell the rivers; minute are the grains of sand; but if much sand is put together, the heap presses and crushes. Bilge-water neglected in the hold does the same thing as a rushing wave. Gradually it leaks in through the hold; and by long leaking in and no pumping out, it sinks the ship. Now what is this pumping out, but by good works, by sighing, fasting, giving, forgiving, so to effect that sins may not overwhelm us? The path of this life, however, is troublesome, full of temptations: in prosperity, let it not lift us up; in adversity, let it not crush us. He who gave the happiness of this world gave it for thy comfort, not for thy ruin. Again, He who scourgeth thee in this life, doeth it for thy improvement, not for thy condemnation. Bear the Father that corrects thee for thy training, lest thou feel the judge in punishing thee. These things we tell you every day, and they must be often said, because they are good and wholesome.

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on John 3:14-21

Text in red, if any, are my additions.

Jn 3:14. “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert.” The desert refers to the desolate district south of Mount Horeb, near Edom. In the preceding verse, our Lord instructs Nicodemus regarding His Divinity. Here, He speaks of His humanity.

Allusion is made to Numbers 21:9, etc., where it is recorded that Moses, by the command of God, raised up, on an elevated pole, to be visible to all, a brazen serpent, so that such as would look upon it, would be cured of the effects of the bite of the poisonous serpent; and such as would refuse doing so, would be left to perish.

“So the Son of man must be lifted up.” By the Divine decree, our Lord must be raised aloft on the cross and put to death. This is the meaning of the words, “lifted up,” in several passages of this Gospel (Jn 8:2812:32–34). Those who will look upon Him by faith, will be saved from the effects of the bite of the infernal serpent, from sin and its consequences, temporal and everlasting. But, as in the case of those bitten by the fiery serpent, such as either refused or neglected looking on the brazen serpent were sure to die of the effects of this bite; so, those who refuse or neglect to look up to our Lord hanging on the cross, and believe in Him, will, surely, be lost for ever.

Jn 3:15. “That whosoever believeth in Him,” etc., looks up to Him suspended on the cross, by faith in His Divinity and humanity “may not perish,” etc. This faith, in order to secure, “life everlasting,” must be animated by charity and good works; since, our Lord declares elsewhere, that, in order to gain eternal life, we must keep the Commandments. The proposition, “faith saves us,” like every other affirmative proposition, has its attribute taken, as logicians term it, particularly, implying, that other essential conditions are present or attended to.

Jn 3:16. In this verse our Lord, as if answering an objection which might present itself to Nicodemus, viz., why should the Son of God be suspended on an ignominious gibbet, assigns the true, efficient cause, viz., the boundless love of God for man. Every word is expressive and suggestive. “So,” to such a boundless extent, with such mighty effort and vehemence, “did God,” not a king or emperor, but, God, this Infinite Being—Infinite in all perfections—“love” freely and gratuitously. without any claim on Him, “the world,” all mankind, His enemy by sin (Rom. 5:6–9), “as to give,” deliver over to torture and punishment, not for His own, but for their outrages and sins, “His only begotten (His natural) Son.” What a mystery of godliness. God becoming man. The Highest and the lowest united. The Great Creator showing His love for a wretched, sinful worm of the earth, by submitting to excruciating, ignominious tortures. “Laudetur in eternum Summa Dei Majestas. Venite, adoremus et procidamus ante Deum.”

The cause of the Incarnation and death of the Son of God was the boundless and incomprehensible love of God for the world.

The end was, not to exercise justice in condemning, but mercy in saving.

The fruit, was the saving of man from perishing eternally, and bestowing on him life eternal through faith, accompanied by the observance of God’s commandments.

Jn 3:17. This is explanatory of the last verse in regard to God’s object in sending His Son, which was to bestow on them “everlasting life.” For, although looking to God’s justice, the world would deserve condemnation for its sins; still, it was not to display His justice, in judging and condemning the world that God sent His Son in the first instance, but to exercise His mercy, which is over all His works, “that the world may be saved by Him,” by rescuing them from everlasting death, and bestowing on them, everlasting life. Hence, God wills, by a sincere antecedent will, the salvation of all mankind. Such of them as are lost, are lost through their own fault. No doubt, at His second coming on the day of judgment, the Son of God will display His justice, rewarding and punishing men, according to their deserts, judging every man, according to his works.

Jn 3:18. In this verse is proved by a kind of implied dilemma, that God did not send His Son “to judge the world.” For, either a man believes in Him, or refuses to do so. If he believes; then, he is not judged; but is rescued and saved by the mercy of God and the superabundant merits of our Saviour, from the general condemnation, in which all men would be involved, and receives abundance of grace.

If he believes not; then, no further sentence is needed. He remains in the state of damnation, in which all men are involved, as “children of wrath.” He is condemned by the original decree of God and his own determined obstinacy of will to persevere in his unbelief, “because he believeth not in the name of the only begotten Son of God,” thus rejecting the only means instituted by God, to save and rescue him from damnation.

St. Augustine (Tract 12), illustrates this by the example of a physician who comes to cure all the infirm. Such as refuse his ministrations, die; not on account of the physician, as if he came to cause their death; but, on account of the infirmities already contracted by them, which they refuse to have cured by the physician.

Jn 3:19. “This is the judgment.” The cause of judgment or condemnation, “because the light,” which is our Lord Himself, who enlightens every man, whether naturally or supernaturally, “is come into the world” to dissipate, by the diffusion of true doctrine, the darkness of infidelity and sin. “He was the light of the world” (Jn 8:12), “and men,” wallowing in the mire of corruption, culpably, “loved the darkness” of infidelity, in which they were enveloped, “rather than the light,” which, by a little inquiry, they might easily ascertain to be the true light. They then acted perversely. For, had they embraced the light and true teaching of Christ, they would be compelled to abandon their present evil courses, which they were determined on pursuing. “Their works are evil.” They shun the light, lest they should be convicted by the light, which the teaching of Christ would shed upon them.

Moral perversity is, ordinarily, the cause, why men persevere in rejecting the teachings of truth.

The words of the verse may also mean: the judgment of condemnation which they pass on themselves consists in this; that, having a full opportunity of walking in the light, performing the works of light, they prefer remaining in darkness, “for, their deeds,” in which they glory and mean to persevere, “are evil.”

Jn 3:20. “For every one that doth evil,” and perversely means to persevere in its commission, “hateth the light, and cometh not,” etc., because the effect of the light would be, to expose his wicked works, which he would fain conceal. They would show him to be deserving of reprehension, “that his works be not reproved,” not to speak of their generating remorse of conscience (Eph. 5:11–13).

Jn 3:21. “Doth truth.” There is question of practical truth, of actions or works done in accordance with the law of rectitude and justice—“doth,” sincerely intends and purposes to do good works, to do what is right and true. Such a man, unlike him who means to persevere in his perversity, far from flying and shunning the light, “cometh to the light, that his works may be made manifest,” that his future works, which he means to perform in the new course of life which the light will point out to him, may “be done in God,” done in accordance with the will and commands of God.

The words may also have reference to his past works, done in grace, before embracing the light of faith. Pagans may do good works, aided by grace, before embracing the faith. The proposition, “Faith is the first grace,” was condemned by Pius VI. in the Bull, AUCTOREM FIDEI(see Denzinger 1522) as put forward in the Schismatical Council (Synod) of Pistoia, under its Bishop, Scipio Ricci.

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Confraternity Commentary on John 3:14-21

Jn 3:9-15 Nicodemus, still doubting what he cannot comprehend, is now instructed in the necessity and motives of belief: (a) As a teacher in Israel he should have expected that spiritual infusion of new life promised in Ezek 11:1936:26 f; Joel 2:28-29. (b) Christ as a teacher from God merits belief as supreme witness (1 John 1:1-5). The plural we is that of solemn attestation, (c) Even less would such be inclined to believe His revelation of still higher truths. The rebirth, being an induction into the Kingdom in this life, might be called an earthly thing if compared with such heavenly things as the nature and attributes of God. (d) Since no one has ascended into heaven, man must rely for divine truth on Him who alone descended from heaven, (e) The required faith is the means of eternal life for man. Here (as less explicitly in Jn 8:28 and Jn 12:32) the brazen serpent of the desert marches (Num. 21:8-9) is appealed to as a type of the saving power of the Passion of Christ. 

Jn 3:16-21 may be understood as John’s observations on the theme of the interview. 

Jn 3:16Gave his only-begotten Son measures the divine love by the completeness of its offering, in pursuance of the thought of Jn 3:14-15

Jn 3:17To judge the world in these verses means to condemn it, since he who believes is not judged

Jn 3:18. To refuse belief is to bring judgment on oneself. 

Jn 3:19-21. The cause of unbelief (as in Jn 1:10-11) is opposition to the light. One guilty of evil avoids the light as tending to expose him (1 John 1:6), while the clear conscience welcomes its revelation. Jesus thus becomes the occasion of a division of men into two groups, those whose belief in Him wins them eternal life, and those whose rejection of Him destines them to judgment. Hereafter the Gospel keeps these two groups in view, and shows their gradual progress in opposite directions.

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Confraternity Commentary on Ephesians 2:1-10

 Eph 2:1-10: All Brought into Christ’s Life. The recipients of this Epistle to whom St. Paul adverts principally are converted pagans. He draws of the pagan society from which they came a picture something like that of Rom. 1:18-32

Eph 2:2-3. They were before their conversion subject to the prince of the power of the air about us, i.e., the devil. They had been subject not only to him, but to the desires of their own unregenerate nature. Hence they were children of wrath, i.e., the wrath of God was upon them. But not only the Gentiles, but the Jews also had incurred the wrath of a just God. 

Eph 2:4-7But God who is rich, in mercy, by reason of the great love wherewith he has loved us, even when we were dead (spiritually) by reason of our sins, brought us to life together with Christ. Those who are thus quickened share in the privileges of their divine Head. They sit with Him in heavenly places: already their glorification has begun. The Apostle, however, has said that we are called to holiness (Eph 1:4). Here he tells us that we must bring forth good fruits: God has made good works ready beforehand that we might walk therein. 

Eph 2:8By grace we are saved and not through works. We are not justified by the observance of the Mosaic Law or of any other law. Nothing done before we became Christians could save us from wrath. A soul in mortal sin cannot merit. It cannot of itself even believe: the very beginnings of faith require grace. Once justified, however, men are able to perform meritorious works and St. Paul constantly urges us to live worthy of the vocation to which we are called (Eph 4:1). If our natural works had been enough to transfer us from the state of sin to the state of grace, we might be proud of ourselves. But St. Paul insists that we should not boast (1 Cor. 1:29).

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St Cyril of Alexandria’s Homiletic Commentary on John 2:13-25

St Cyril offers no comment on verse 13.

14 And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting.

The Jewish leaders are again hereby too convicted of despising the laws given them, and making of no account the Mosaic writings, looking only to their own love of gain. For whereas the law commanded that they who were about to enter into the Divine temple should purify themselves in many ways; those who had the power of forbidding it hindered not the bankers or money-changers, and others besides, whose employment was gain, usury and increase, in their lusts (for the whole aim of merchants is comprised in these things): they |159 hindered them not from defiling the holy court, from entering into it as it were with unwashen feet, yea rather they themselves altogether used to enjoin it, that God might say truly of them, Many pastors have destroyed My vineyard, they have: trodden My portion under foot, they have made My pleasant portion a desolate wilderness, they have made it desolate. For of a truth the Lord’s vineyard was destroyed, being taught to trample on the Divine worship itself, and through the sordid love of gain of those set over it left bare to all ignorance.

15 And when He had made a scourge of small cords, He drove them all out of the temple.

Reasonably is the Saviour indignant at the folly on display. For it befitted to make the Divine Temple not an house of merchandise, but an house of prayer: for so it iswritten. But He shows His emotion not by mere words, but with stripes and a scourge thrusts He them forth of the sacred precincts, justly devising for them the punishment befitting slaves; for they would not receive the Son Who through faith maketh free. See I pray well represented as in a picture that which was said through Paul, If any man dishonour the Temple of God, him shall God dishonour.

16 Take these things hence; make not My Father’s House an house of merchandise.

He commands as Lord, He leads by the hand to what is fitting, as teacher; and along with the punishment He sets before them the declaration of their offences, through shame thereof not suffering him that is censured to be angry. But it must be noted that He again calls God His own Father specially, as being Himself and that Alone by Nature of Him, and truly Begotten. For if it be not so, but the Word be really Son with us, as one of us, to wit by adoption, and the mere Will of the Father: why does He alone seize to Himself the boast common to and set before all, saying, Make not My Father’s House, and not rather, our Father’s House. For this I suppose would have been more meet to |160 say, if He had known that Himself too was one of those who are not sons by Nature. But since the Word knows that He is not in the number of those who are sons by grace, but of the Essence of God the Father, He puts Himself apart from the rest, calling God His Father. For it befits those who are called to sonship and have the honour from without, when they pray to cry, Our Father Which art in Heaven: but the Only Begotten being Alone One of One, with reason calls God His Own Father.

But if we must, applying ourselves to this passage, harmonize it more spiritually with that above, the lection must be considered differently.

And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep, &c.

See again the whole scheme of the Dispensation to usward drawn out by two things. For with the Cananites, I mean those of Galilee, Christ both feasts and tarries, and them that bade Him, and hereby honoured Him, He made partakers of His Table; He both aids them by miracles and fills up that which was lacking to their joy (and what good thing does He not freely give?): teaching as in a type that He will both receive the inhabitants of Galilee, that is the Gentiles, called as it were to them through the faith that is in them, and will bring them into the Heavenly Bridal-chamber, that is unto the church of the first-born, and will make them sit down with the saints (for the holy disciples sat down with the feasters): and will make them partake of the Divine and spiritual feast, as Himself saith, Many shall come from the east and west and shall sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of Heaven, nought lacking unto their joy. For everlasting joy shall be upon their heads. But the disobedient of his own people He shall cast forth of the holy places, and set them without the holy inclosure of the saints; yea, even when they bring sacrifices He will not receive them: but rather will subject them to chastisement and the scourge, holden with the cords of their own sins. For hear Him saying, Take these things hence; that thou mayest understand again those things which long ago by |161 the mouth of the Prophet Isaiah He saith, I am full of the burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts, and I delight not in the blood of bullocks and of he goats, neither come ye to appear before Me, for who hath required this at your hand? tread not My courts any more. If ye bring an offering of fine flour, vain is the oblation, incense is an abomination unto Me; your new moons and sabbaths and great day I cannot endure, your fasting and rest and feasts My soul hateth: ye are become satiety unto Me, I will no longer endure your sins. This He most excellently signifies in type, devising for them the scourge of cords. For scourges are a token of punishment.

17  And His disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of Thine House hath eaten Me up.

The disciples in a short time get perfection of knowledge, and comparing what is written with the events, already shew great progress for the better.

18   What sign shewest Thou unto us, seeing that Thou doest these things?

The multitude of the Jews (i.e., the leaders, sellers and money changers) are startled at the unwonted authority, and they who are over the temple are extremely vexed, deprived of their not easily counted gains. And they cannot convict Him of not having spoken most rightly in commanding them not to exhibit the Divine Temple as a house of merchandise. But they devise delays to the flight of the merchants, excusing themselves that they ought not to submit to Him off-hand, nor without investigation to receive as Son of God Him Who was witnessed to by no sign.

19 Destroy this temple.

To them who of good purpose ask for good things, God very readily granteth them: but to them who come to Him, tempting Him, not only does He deny their ambition in respect of what they ask, but also charges them with wickedness. Thus the Pharisees demanding a sign in other parts of |162 the Gospels the Saviour convicted saying, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign, and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: for as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly, so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. What therefore He said to those, this to these too with slight change: for these (as did those) ask, tempting Him. Nor to those who were in such a state of mind would even this sign have been given, but that it was altogether needful for the salvation of us all.

But we must know that they made this the excuse of their accusation against Him, saying falsely before Pontius Pilate, what they had not heard. For, say they, This Man saith, I am able to destroy the Temple of God. Wherefore of them too did Christ speak in the prophets, False witnesses did rise up: they laid to My charge things that I knew not: and again, For false witnesses are risen up against Me, and such as breathe out cruelty. But He does not urge them to bloodshed saying, Destroy this Temple, but since He knew that they would straightway do it, He indicates expressivelywhat is about to happen.

20 Forty and six years was this Temple in building, and wilt Thou rear it up in three days?

They mock at the sign, not understanding the depth of the Mystery, but seize on the disease of their own ignorance, as a reasonable excuse for not obeying Him, and considering the difficulty of the thing, they gave heed rather as to one speaking at random, than to one who was promising ought possible to be fulfilled, that that may be shewn to be true that was written of them, Let their eyes be darkened, that they see not, and ever bow Thou down their backs: in order that in a manner ever stooping downwards and inclining to the things alone of the earth, they may receive no sight of the lofty doctrines of piety towards Christ, not as though God Who is loving to man grudged them those things, but rather with even justice was punishing them that committed intolerable transgressions. |163 

For see how foolishly they insult Him, not sparing their own souls. For our Lord Jesus Christ calls God His Father, saying, Make not My Father’s House an House of merchandise. Therefore when they ought now to deem of Him as Son and God, as shining forth from God the Father, they believe Him to be yet bare man and one of us. Therefore they object the time that has been spent in the building of the Temple, saying, Forty and six years was this Temple in building, and wilt Thou rear it up in three days? O drunken with all folly, rightly, I deem, one might say to you, if a wise soul had been implanted in you, if ye believe that your Temple is the House of God, how ought ye not to have held Him to be God by Nature, Who dares fearlessly tell you, Make not My Father’s House an House of merchandise? How then, tell me, should He have need of a long time for the building of one house? or how should He be powerless for anything whatever, who in days only seven in number, fashioned this whole universe with ineffable Power, and has His Power in only willing? For these things the people skilled in the sacred writings ought to have considered.

21, 22 But He spake of the Temple of His Body. When therefore He was risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this unto them: and they believed the Scripture, and the word which Jesus had said.

Acceptable to the wise man is the word of wisdom, and the knowledge of discipline abideth more easily with men of understanding, and as in wax not too hard, the impression of seals is well made, so in the more tender hearts of men the Divine Word is readily infixed: wherefore the hard of heart is also called wicked. The disciples then, being of a good disposition, become wise, and ruminate the words of divine Scripture, nourishing themselves to more accurate knowledge, and thence coming firmly to belief. Since the Body of Christ is called a temple also, how is not the Only-Begotten Word Which indwelleth therein, God by Nature, since he that is not God cannot be said to dwell in a |164 Temple? Or let one come forward and say, what saint’s body was ever called a temple; but I do not suppose any one can shew this. I say then, what we shall find to be true, if we accurately search the Divine Scripture, that to none of the Saints was such honour attached. And indeed the blessed Baptist, albeit he attained unto the height of all virtue, and suffered none to exceed him in piety, was through the madness of Herod beheaded, and yet is no such thing attributed to him. On the contrary, the Evangelist devised a grosser word for his remains, saying this too, as appears to me by an oeconomy, in order that the dignity may be reserved to Christ Alone. For he writes thus; And the blood-shedder to wit, Herod, sent and beheaded John in the prison, and his disciples came and took up his carcase 6. If the body of John be called a carcase, whose temple will it be? In another sense indeed, we are called temples of God, by reason of the Holy Ghost indwelling in us. For we are called the temples of God, and not of ourselves.

But haply some one will say: How then, tell me, doth the Saviour Himself call His own Body a carcase, For wheresoever He saith the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together. To this we say, that Christ saith this not of His Own Body, but in manner and guise of a parable He signifieth that concourse of the Saints to Him, that shall be at that time when He appeareth again to us, with the holy angels, in the glory of His Father. For like as, saith He, flocks of carnivorous birds rush down with a sharp whizzing to fallen carcases, so shall ye too be gathered together to Me. Which indeed Paul too doth make known to us, saying, For the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible; And again in another place, and we shall be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so shall we ever be with the Lord. That therefore which is taken by way of similitude for an image will no wise damage the force of the truth. |165 

23 Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover in the feast day, many believed in His Name, when they saw the miracles which He did.

Christ ceaseth not from saving and helping. For some He leads to Himself by wise words, the rest startling by God-befitting Power too, He taketh in His net to the faith, by the things which they see Him work persuaded to confess, that the Artificer of these so great wonders is of a truth God.

24 But Jesus did not commit Himself unto them.

Not firmly established is the judgment of new believers, nor is the mind firmly built upon fresh miracles. And how should they whose course of instruction was yet so to say green, be already rooted in piety? Therefore Christ doth not yet commit Himself to the novices, shewing that a great thing and most worthy of love is affinity with God, and that it doth not just lie before those who desire to have it, but is achieved by zeal for good, and diligence and time.

Let the stewards of the Mysteries of the Saviour hence learn, not suddenly to admit a man within the sacred veils, nor to permit to approach the Divine Tables, neophites untimely baptized and not in right time believing on Christ the Lord of all. For that He may be an example to us in this also, and may teach us whom fittingly to initiate, He receives indeed the believers, but is seen not yet to have confidence in them, in that He does not commit Himself to them: that hence it may be manifest, that it befits novices to spend no small time under instruction; for scarce even so will they become faithful men.

25 Because He knew all, and needed not that any should testify of man; for He knew what was in man.

Divine is this excellence too along with the rest which are in Christ, and in no one of created beings is it. For to Him Alone Who is truly God doth the Psalmist ascribe it, saying, He fashioneth their hearts alike, He considereth all |166 their works. But if while God Alone understandeth what is in us, Christ understandeth them: how shall He not be God by Nature, Who knoweth the secrets, and knoweth the deep and secret things, as it is written? For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? Though no man knoweth, God will not be ignorant, for neither is He reckoned in the number of all, of whom “No man” may rightly be predicated, but as being external to all, and all things under His Feet, He will know. And Paul too will testify, saying, For the word of God is quick and powerful and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart: neither is there any creature that is not manifest in His sight, but all things are naked and opened unto the Eyes of Him. For as having planted the ear, He hears all things, and as having formed the eye, He observeth. And indeed He is introduced saying in Job, Who is this that hideth counsel from Me, holding words in his heart, and thinketh to conceal them from Me? In order then that we might acknowledge that the Son is by Nature God, needs does the Evangelist say that He needed not that any should testify of man, for He knew what was in man. (source).

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Scripture on the Suffering of the Innocent

The following was constructed from two resources: Sermon Starter Guide (Logos Bible Software) and The Divine Armory of Holy Scripture by Father Kenelm Vaughan.

The apparent injustice of sufferingHab 1:13. See also Job 19:7Job 24:1Job 24:12Ps 59:3–4Ps 74:1Ps 74:11Ps 88:5Ps 88:14

The wrong answers to suffering:

(1) Those who suffer must necessarily be sinners: Job 4:7Jn 9:2–3

(2) God is unjust: Eze 18:25.

The wrong reactions to suffering

(1)Anger at God: Job 2:9–10

(2) Terrified of God: Job 23:13–15

(3) Debating God: Job 40:2

(4) Envy of the prosperity, health, lifestyle, etc,, of the wicked: Ps 73:3

(5) Regretting leading a life according to God’s will because of the prosperity, health, lifestyle, etc., of the wicked: Ps 73:13

The right reactions to suffering

(1) Reverent submission: Job 1:21 See also Job 28:28Job 34:12Job 36:26Job 37:19Job 40:4La 3:40La 3:49– 50Mt 10:28

(2)Trust in God: Gen 18:25Ps 55:22–23 See also Ex 2:23Ps 56:3–4Ps 59:16Ps 62:5Ps 70:2Ps 107:6Ps 107:13Ps 107:19Ps 107:28Ps 119:50Ps 119:153

(3) Happiness in suffering for Christ: 1 Pt 2:19–21Php 1:29–301 Pt 3:14Mt 5:10–12He 11:24–26Jn 15:18–21He 13:131 Pt 4:1.

Some examples of trust

(1) The three youths in the fiery furnace: Da 3:17–18

(2) The Prophet Habakkuk: Hab 3:17–181 Pe 2:23

(3) David: Pss 3, 4, etc.

God’s reaction to suffering

(1) Concern for those who suffer: Ps 9:12. See also Ex 2:252 Ki 14:26Ps 1:6Ps 33:18–19Jas 5:4

(2) Anger at the wicked who cause suffering: Ps 11:5Ps 59:8Eze 36:6–7Hab 2:9Hab 2:12

God’s response to suffering

(1) Deliverance for those who suffer: Ps 34:19 See also Job 42:10–12Re 7:16Re 21:4

(2) Judgment for the wicked: Mal 3:5. See also Ex 3:19–20Ps 73:16–18Ps 141:10Am 1:3Na 3:1Na 3:19Hab 2:16Mt 25:41–46Jas 2:131 Pe 4:18Re 18:6–7

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An Introduction to 1 and 2 Thessalonians

The following comes from Fr. Charles Jerome Callan, O.P. He was born in Lockport, N.Y. on December 5, 1877 and died in Milford Connecticut on February 26, 1962. In 1940 he became the first Native born American to be appointed as a consultor to the Pontifical Biblical Commission. He served as editor or co-editor of the Homiletic and Pastoral Review from 1916 until his death. In addition he contributed several articles to the famous 1913 edition of the Catholic Encyclopedia. He is perhaps best known for his translation of the Catechism of the Council of Trent. He wrote commentaries on the four Gospels, Acts of Apostles, the Epistles of St Paul, and the Psalms. The following is excerpted from Volume 2 of his The Epistles of St. Paul with Introduction and Commentary for Students and Clergy.

Text in red, if any, represent my additions.

INTRODUCTION

1. Thessalonica. Thessalonica, the modem Saloniki, in ancient times was called Thermae, from the hot mineral springs found in its vicinity. It was situated on the northwestern part of the Thermaic Gulf, and the Via Egnatia, the great Roman highway of trade, ran through it from East to West. The Athenians occupied and destroyed it during the Peloponnesian War in 421 B.C., but about a century later (circa 315 B.C.) it was rebuilt by Cassander, who gave it the name of his wife, Thessalonica, the half-sister of Alexander the Great. After the Battle of Pydna on the plains of Philippi in 168 B.C., Thessalonica surrendered to the victorious Romans, and it was made the capital of the second of the four districts into which Macedonia was then divided. Later, when these four districts were united into one province, Thessalonica became the capital and metropolis of all Macedonia. In 42 B.C. the Romans made it a free Greek city with the privilege of electing its own magistrates, whom St. Luke, with noteworthy historical exactitude, called by the unusual and technical name of politarchs, or rulers of the city (Acts 17:6).

In the time of St. Paul, Thessalonica was the most flourishing and populous city of Macedonia. Its inhabitants were chiefly Greeks, but the Romans were also there in large numbers, besides a numerous colony of Jews, who had their own synagogue (Acts 17:14).

Its status as a free city also meant that is was allowed to mint its own currency. This coin depicts Emperor Severus Alexander who reigned from A.D. 222-235. . ‎(MYERS, RICHARD, Images from The Temple Dictionary of the Bible, Logos Bible Software, Bellingham, WA 2012.)

2. The Church of Thessalonica. St. Paul with Silas, and perhaps Timothy also, came to Thessalonica during the first part of his second missionary journey, following his expulsion from Philippi (Acts 17:1 ff.). On the Sabbath he entered the synagogue there, and began to preach to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah as foretold in their Scriptures. Though his efforts were largely unavailing, he continued thus to reason with them for three weeks, winning some of them over to the faith, and converting a large number of Greek proselytes and not a few leading ladies. But the majority of his fellow-countrymen were steadfast in resisting him, and, being moved with jealousy, they finally compelled him to leave the synagogue. He then continued his ministry in private homes and through personal interviews, and it seems that the house of one Jason (Acts 17:5) became the chief place of worship and instruction for the Gentiles who desired to hear him.

How long the Apostle remained at Thessalonica, we do not know. But from the Epistle we can see that his stay there must have been longer than the three weeks implied in the narrative of Acts 17:2. Some few months, at least, must have been required for the establishment of a Church so flourishing as this afterwards proved to be. He could not devote all his time to preaching either, because he and his companions, by personal manual labor, had to earn their own living besides (1 Thess 2:92 Thess 3:8). And his preaching was thorough and effective, as we shall see from the analysis of the Epistle. So fruitful, indeed, was the ministry of Paul and his fellow-workers in that Macedonian capital that the envy of the Jews forced them out before their work was finished. These enemies of St. Paul accused him to the magistrates of the city of preaching a king contrary to Caesar, and nothing was left the Apostle and his co-workers but to withdraw. This they did under cover of darkness, proceeding to the neighboring town of Berea.
3. Occasion and Purpose of These Letters, (a) 1 Thessalonians. St. Paul’s ministry at Berea was short but rich in results (Acts 17:10-13), and he left Silas and Timothy there to continue the work he had begun, as he proceeded to Athens. In the latter city his preaching was nearly a failure. He therefore soon sent word to Silas and Timothy to come to him at once (Acts 17:15). They came without delay, bringing news of continued or fresh persecutions at Thessalonica, so that both Paul and his two companions had a mind to return there forthwith to console and encourage the faithful, but they could not (1 Thess 1:63:32:17-18). So Paul and Silas decided to send Timothy to the troubled Church, while Paul passed on to Corinth and Silas returned, perhaps to Berea or some other part of Macedonia (1 Thess. 3:2Acts 18:1).

Not long after St. Paul had arrived at Corinth, he was rejoined by Timothy, who brought a report of conditions in Thessalonica. On the whole the news was favorable. Notwithstanding persecutions, the faith had continued strong, so that the brethren there were an example to all that believed in Macedonia and Achaia ( 1 Thess 1:4 ff.). But there were also some errors and abuses that needed
correcting. It seems that the Apostle’s authority and the methods of his ministry had been questioned in certain quarters (1 Thess. 2:1-12). Some were in danger of lapsing back into their pagan vices, while others were idle and restless, waiting for the Parousia (1 Thess 4:1-12). Still others were troubled over the fate of relatives and friends who had died before the Coming of the Lord; and certain ones had grown careless as a result of the Parousia being too long delayed (1 Thess 4:13—5:11). It seems there was also some disorder or lack of respect for those in authority (1 Thess 5:12-15).

It was upon receipt of such news as the foregoing that St. Paul, in company with Silas and Timothy, wrote the present letter. He and his two associates hope to come to Thessalonica soon; but in the meantime they send this letter to express their satisfaction at the good news reported, to defend their own conduct and authority, and to correct the existing abuses and errors.

(b) 2 Thessalonians. Shortly after the receipt of the first letter to the Thessalonians word was brought St. Paul at Corinth, perhaps by the bearer of that Epistle, about the most recent conditions in Thessalonica and the eflfect in that city of the letter just received. Persecution had continued to rage more furious than ever, and yet faith and charity were increasing (2 Thess 1:3-5). But the Parousia was still a disturbing question, and in this respect the first letter seems to have made matters worse, instead of better. Some of the faithful had become so convinced of the imminence of the “Day of the Lord” that they had abandoned their daily duties, and had given themselves over to prayer and meditation, living on the charity and bounty of others. In their assemblies there were excitement and disorder, and there was danger that the whole Church would be thrown into confusion. These misguided members claimed the authority of St. Paul for their beliefs and teachings, and it seems there was in circulation a forged letter, purporting to be from the Apostle himself (2 Thess. ii. 2, iii. 6-14). In view of these conditions, St. Paul, with Silas and Timothy, writes this second letter to the Church at Thessalonica to comfort and encourage the faithful there, to clear up misunderstandings regarding the Second Coming of the Lord, to strengthen discipline, and to recall the idle to their accustomed daily duties and labors.

4. Date and Place of Writing. All authorities, ancient and modem, are pretty well agreed that these two letters were written at Corinth during the Apostle’s long stay in that city of over eighteen months on his second missionary journey (Acts 18:1 ff.). The precise dates will depend on the system of chronology one adopts. But in our Introduction to Philippians we have said that Paul founded that Church around 51 a.d. He then passed on to Thessalonica, where, as observed above, he must have tarried for several months in order to establish so flourishing a Church. Being forced to leave, he next went to Berea and thence to Athens, spending but a short time in each of those cities, and finally came to Corinth. His arrival, therefore, in this last-named city was not very long after he had left Thessalonica. But before he would write this first letter we must allow time for Timothy’s mission to Thessalonica and his return to Paul at Corinth, for the spread of the faith of the Thessalonians to various parts of Macedonia and Achaia and their manifestation of charity to all the brethren in all Macedonia, for the occurrence of a number of deaths in the Thessalonian Church, etc. (1 Thess 1:7-83:64:1013). All this would require some time. But, on the other hand, we cannot make the writing of this first letter too late, as sufficient time must be allowed for the dispatching of the second letter also from Corinth during the Apostle’s same sojourn there. Of course, it is clear that no great length of time intervened between the composition of the two letters, and this is admitted by all authorities who concede the genuineness of the second letter. Thus, Paul had the same associates in writing the second as in writing the first letter, and the situation at Thessalonica was about the same. It seems reasonable, therefore, to conclude that 1 Thess. was written some time during 52 A.D., and 2 Thess. in the latter part of the same year or in the first part of the following year. These dates fit in with the chronology we have adopted, and they are as likely as any others that might be given, if not a little more so. At any rate, these are the oldest of St. Paul’s letters, unless we hold the rather doubtful opinion that Galatians was his first Epistle. See Introduction to Galatians in vol. I.

The opinion of some ancient authorities and codices that 1 Thess. was written from Athens is based on a misunderstanding of 1 Thess 3:1-6, and is contradicted by the express statements of Acts 18:15. Equally unfounded is the view of Baur, Ewald, Bunsen, and certain other non-Catholics, who hold that our second letter preceded the first to the Thessalonians. A simple examination of the two letters is sufficient to refute such a theory; for it is plain that the first letter treats of the foundation of the Church at Thessalonica while the second is dealing with its development, and the teachings of the latter presuppose those of the former.

5. V. Authenticity, (a) 1 Thessalonians. The external and the internal evidence in favor of the genuineness of this Epistle is so strong as to place it beyond all question ; and consequently among modern exegetes there is now practically no one who has any difficulty on this point.

The first and oldest testimony for 1 Thess. is 2 Thess., which presupposes it, and which was written not long after it. Next come the Apostolic Fathers and early Christian documents, such as Ignatius Martyr, Polycarp, The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, and The Pastor of Hernias—in all of which can be found citations from or pretty certain allusions to this Epistle (cf. Funk, Patres apostolici, pp. 640 flf.). After these, we find explicit reference to it in the Muratorian Fragment; Marcion included it in his Canon; it is frequently cited by Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, St. Justin Martyr, and Tertullian ; and Eusebius, the faithful witness of primitive tradition, included it among the fourteen Epistles of St. Paul (cf. Comely, Introd., III., pp. 480 ff.). This Epistle is also found in the best ancient MSS., and in the old Latin and Syriac versions.

Internal evidence is not less conclusive in establishing the authenticity of this letter. The style and doctrine are Paul’s throughout, and the Apostle’s character, as known from his other Epistles, is clearly manifested here. It is true that Baur and his followers of the Neo-Tiibingen School rejected this letter on purely internal Internal evidence is not less conclusive in establishing the authenticity of this letter. The style and doctrine are Paul’s throughout, and the Apostle’s character, as known from his other Epistles, is clearly manifested here. It is true that Baur and his followers of the Neo-Tubingen School rejected this letter on purely internal grounds ; but the reasons they brought forward in support of their position are not worthy of any serious consideration. For example, they said it was lacking in doctrine; that 1 Thess 2:14-16 was an exaggeration, or else referred to the destruction of Jerusalem in the year 70; that the eschatological teaching given here was not to be found in the Epistles that are admittedly Pauline, etc.

As to the first objection, we need only look at the Epistle to see that just the contrary is true. For here all the leading doctrines are characteristic of St. Paul, such as the death and resurrection of Jesus (1 Thess 1:104:145:10), His Divinity and Sonship (1 Thess 1:9-10), the resurrection of the body (1 Thess 4:15-18), sanctification by the indwelling Holy Spirit (1 Thess 4: 8), the call of the nations to the kingdom of Christ, the Church (1 Thess 2:12), the mediatorship of Christ (1 Thess 5:10), etc.

In 1 Thess 2:14-16 St. Paul is simply saying that the converts in the Thessalonian Church are suffering the same things from their fellow countrymen as the converts in Judea suffered from their compatriots, and that the blindness and perfidy of the latter have brought upon them the curse of God for time and eternity. There is nothing un-Pauline in this method of argumentation.

If eschatology occupies a larger place in this and in the following Epistle than in the other later Epistles of St. Paul, it is simply because there was a need for it in the Thessalonian Church which did not exist to the same degree elsewhere, or that, since his hearers and readers so grossly misunderstood him in these Epistles, he thought it best to say less about it in later times. The Apostle always adapted his letters to the needs and conditions of the particular Church to which he was writing and to the requirements of circumstances. These difficulties, therefore, are purely subjective and worthless; and they are rightly disregarded by modern scholarship.

(b) 2 Thessalonians. The external evidence in favor of the authenticity of this letter is even stronger than that in support of the first one. The testimony of the MSS. and of the versions is the same, but the early Fathers and apologetic writers are clearer and more explicit in regard to this Epistle. The internal evidence here is also very strong; so strong, indeed, that such critics as Harnack and Julicher have admitted the letter to be Paul’s on purely internal grounds. Thus, the contents of the Epistle is closely linked with 1 Thess; the vocabulary, style, and structure are remarkably similar; the transitions, outbursts of prayer, and other characteristics are unmistakably Pauline. In fact, the similarity between these two Epistles is so marked that certain critics, like Holtzmann, Weizacher, Schmiedel, and others have denied the genuineness of 2 Thess, for that very reason, maintaining that it is the work of some clever forger of the second century. But, as there is no other support for such an opinion, it can be simply set aside as unwarranted.

The greatest objection to the authenticity of this letter is based on the difference in its teaching regarding the Parousia. The objectors tell us that the two Epistles are in contradiction on this question—that 1 Thess. teaches the imminence of the Parousia, whereas 2 Thess. makes it far removed. To this we reply, in the first place, that St. Paul had no definite revelation regarding the time of the Second Coming of the Lord, and hence did not and could not teach anything definite about it. In the second place, there is no contradiction in what he has to say on the subject in the two Epistles: he merely makes clearer in the second letter what was misunderstood in the first.

Another difficulty is that 2 Thess. is more Jewish than 1 Thess., and so must either be the product of a forger, or it was written first. Even if we grant the reason for this objection, it proves nothing more than that there were Jews at Thessalonica, which we admit, and that Paul had them more in mind in writing the second letter than when he wrote the first one ; perhaps they were causing more trouble. Harnack explains this difficulty by saying that 1 Thess. was directed more expressly to the Gentile section and 2 Thess. to the Jewish group in the Thessalonian Church. But it seems hardly necessary to say so much; for, on the one hand, the Jewish element in 2 Thess. is only slightly more pronounced than in 1 Thess., and we know, on the other hand, that the Thessalonian Church was predominantly Gentile from the beginning.

We conclude, therefore, by accepting the verdict of all the best modern scholars that the authenticity of these two Epistles to the Thessalonians can be admitted without hesitation. They stand among the best attested letters of St. Paul. And this we can hold in spite of the fact that in certain notable respects these Epistles are the least Pauline of all the letters that have come to us from the great Apostle. For here we search in vain for such characteristic Pauline doctrines as justification by faith, the propitiatory death of Christ, the abrogation of the Law by grace, the relation of the Law to grace, and the like. Personal and historical elements abound in these letters, especially in 1 Thess., as we shall see from the following analysis.

6. Division of Contents, (a) 1 Thessalonians. Besides a salutation (1 Thess 1:1) and a conclusion (1 Thess 5:25-28), we may divide this Epistle into two main parts, one personal and historical (1 Thess 1:2-3:13), and the other hortatory and doctrinal (1 Thess 4:1—5:24).

A. The salutation here (1 Thess 1:1) is unusually familiar and friendly, omitting all titles and references to controversy. The Apostle and his companions are addressing friends.

B. In the personal and historical section (1 Thess 1:2—3:13) the writers first give thanks for the good condition of the Church in Thessalonica (1 Thess 1:2-10), and then in a general way defend the character of their ministry in Thessalonica against certain charges that have been circulated to their discredit (1 Thess 2:1-12). After that follow renewed thanks for the success of their preaching among the Thessalonians, who have withstood persecution as boldly as did the Christians of Judea (1 Thess 2:13-16). Having been obliged to leave their new converts, the Apostles would have gladly returned to them, had that been possible (1 Thess 2:17-20) ; and in their anxiety they did send Timothy, who, on his return, brought most consoling news (1 Thess 3:1-10). The Apostles, therefore, pray that God may soon grant them a visit to the Thessalonians, and that in the meantime the faithful there may increase in spiritual perfection (1 Thess 3:11-13).

C. In the hortatory and doctrinal part (1 Thess 4:1-5:24) the Apostles warn the faithful against all forms of impurity, and exhort them to brotherly love and to an active, industrious life which will secure them independence and respect (1 Thess 4:1-11). They need not worry about their friends who have died before the Coming of the Lord, for all good Christians are united with their Risen Saviour, and those who have died first will meet Him ahead of those who are alive when He comes (1 Thess 4:12-17). The time of the Parousia is uncertain, and so it behooves all to hold themselves ready (1 Thess 5:1-11). Let all, subjects and superiors, be faithful in the fulfillment of their respective duties (1 Thess 5:12-15). Finally, some various injunctions regarding joy, prayer, and other spiritual matters, with a special prayer for the Thessalonians, terminate this part of the Epistle (1 Thess 5:16-24).

D. The conclusion contains a request for prayers, a final salutation, a special recommendation, and a benediction (1 Thess 5:25-28).

(b) 2 Thessalonians. This Epistle has only three short Chapters, and these are so divided in our Bible as fitly to represent the thought.

A. Again the Apostle and his companions first salute the faithful of Thessalonica (2 Thess 1:1- 2). Then follow thanksgiving for the faith and love of the Thessalonians, and an assurance that God will reward them for their patient endurance of suffering and punish their persecutors in His own good time (2 Thess 1:3-10). The Apostles assure their converts that they are always praying for their spiritual progress and perfection (2 Thess 1:11-12).

B. The Second Chapter is doctrinal, and deals with the Parousia, which is the main subject of this letter. Let the faithful not be deceived into thinking that the Day of the Lord is at hand (2 Thess 2:1-2); for certain extraordinary signs must precede, and until these appear there is no reason for alarm (2 Thess 2:3-11). Meanwhile, let the Thessalonians continue steadfast in their faith and in the performance of good works (2 Thess 2:12-16).

C. The Third Chapter contains first a request for prayers, and an expression of confidence in the spiritual progress of the Thessalonians (2 Thess 3:1-5). Then the Apostles warn the brethren against certain disorderly members who were indulging in idleness; and they support their censure by appealing to their own contrary conduct of laboring for their living while preaching the Gospel in Thessalonica (2 Thess 3:6-12). Let the brethren, therefore, continue in welldoing, and endeavor to correct the disorderly (2 Thess 3:13-15).

D. The Epistle closes with good wishes, a final salutation written by Paul with his own hand, and a blessing (2 Thess 3:16-18).

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Audio Study of 1 Corinthians

Here are 13 one-half hour talks concerning 1 Corinthians from EWTN.

Episode 1.

Episode 2.

Episode 3.

Episode 4.

Episode 5.

Episode 6.

Episode 7.

Episode 8.

Episode 9.

Episode 10.

Episode 11.

Episode 12.

Episode 13.

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Suggested Resources for the Sunday Epistle Readings, Year B, Ordinary Time

The new Sunday Lectionary Cycle (Year B) will begin on Sunday, November 29 2020. During the 34 Sundays of Ordinary Time the second (epistle) readings will come from the following letters (in order of use): 1 Corinthians, Second Corinthians, Ephesians, James, Hebrews. Below one will find some suggested resources to help you acquire a better understanding of these readings. You may also wish to consult this post of suggested resources for the Sunday Gospel readings for Year B. I hope to also post some suggested resources relating to the Daily Lectionary Cycle (Year I) readings of Ordinary Time. That cycle will begin on November 30, 2020.

1 CORINTHIANS: Note: This letter, along with Hebrews, is not read through in semi-continuous fashion during a single Sunday lectionary cycle. In Year B the readings are taken from chapters 6-10. The previous chapters open OT in Year A, and the following chapters open OT in Year C. During Daily Cycle II it is read in Ordinary Time, weeks 21-24.

Ignatius Study Bible: First and Second Letters of St Paul to the Corinthians. By Dr. Scott Hahn and Mitch Curtis. A good place for the beginner to begin his study of the two letters to Corinth. The Ignatius Catholic Bible Study on the NT is now available in a single volume. A sizable number of volumes on the Old Testament are now available, including Genesis, Exodus, and Isaiah.

FreeIn the Footsteps of St Paul. 13 part, (one-half hour each) online audio presentation by Fr. Mitch Pacwa of EWTN.

Free.  St Irenaeus Ministries Study on 1 Corinthians. 18 part online audio series (parts vary in length).

Free St Thomas Aquinas’ Lectures on First Corinthians. Latin and English side by side, but the commentary on 7:15-10:33 is currently available only in Latin.

Free. You Tube Videos: First Corinthians. In six parts. Taught by Nicholas Lebish

Free. Father Callan’s Commentary on 1 Corinthians. On site.

Free. Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on 1 Corinthians. On site.

Free. Father Bernardine de Piconio’s Commentary on 1 Corinthians. On site.

Free. Notes on St Paul. By Fr. Joseph Rickaby. Online book. Succinct notes on 1&2 Corinthians, Galatians and Romans. You can increase text size by clicking on the magnifying glass with the + sign located in the bottom right corner.

Father Kenneth Baker’s Sermons on St Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians. Downloadable audio for purchase.

First Corinthians (Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture Series). By Fr. George Montague. The CCSS is a new, fine series of commentaries on the New Testament from a Catholic perspective. You can view the preface for the entire series here.

First Corinthians (Sacra Pagina Series). By Fr. Raymond F. Collins. In depth, scholarly, not for the average person in the pew.

First Corinthians (Anchor Yale Bible Commentaries Series). By Father Joseph Fitzmyer. Scholarly, technical. You can search inside this book by placing your browser on the photo, then click “surprise me”.

Seven Pauline Letters. By Peter F. Ellis. Text and commentary on seven of St Paul’s letters, including First Corinthians. Succinct commentaries, very readable.

St Paul’s Letters to the Corinthians (Navarre Bible Commentary Series). Extremely popular and well written. This series was the brain child of St Jose Marie Escriva.

Invitation to the New Testament Epistles (Doubleday New Testament Commentary Series). By Fr. Eugene LaVerdierre. Based upon the Jerusalem Bible Translation. A basic commentary written in popular style. This volume is on 1 & 2 Thessalonians; 1 & 2, Corinthians; Philippians; Philemon.

SECOND CORINTHAINS: The first 5 resources were also posted above on 1 Cor.

Ignatius Study Bible: First and Second Letters of St Paul to the Corinthians. By Dr. Scott Hahn and Mitch Curtis. A good place for the beginner to begin his study of the two letters to Corinth. The Ignatius Catholic Bible Study on the NT is now available in a single volume. A sizable number of volumes on the Old Testament are now available, including Genesis, Exodus, and Isaiah.

Seven Pauline Letters. By Peter F. Ellis. Text and commentary on seven of St Paul’s letters, including Second Corinthians. Succinct commentaries, very readable.

St Paul’s Letters to the Corinthians (Navarre Bible Commentary Series). Extremely popular and well written. This series was the brain child of St Jose Marie Escriva.

Invitation to the New Testament Epistles (Doubleday New Testament Commentary Series). By Fr. Eugene LaVerdierre. Based upon the Jerusalem Bible Translation. A basic commentary written in popular style. This volume is on 1 & 2 Thessalonians; 1 & 2, Corinthians; Philippians; Philemon.

Free. Notes on St Paul. By Fr. Joseph Rickaby. Online book. Succinct notes on 1&2 Corinthians, Galatians and Romans. You can increase text size by clicking on the magnifying glass with the + sign located in the bottom right corner.

Free. St Irenaeus Ministries Audio Study of 2 Corinthians. 12 part audio. Varying length.

SECOND CORINTHIANS. By Fr. Thomas D. Stegman, S.J. Part of the new Catholic Commentary On Sacred Scripture.

SECOND CORINTHIANS (Sacra Pagina Series). By Fr. Jan Lambrecht, S.J. Somewhat technical, not for the beginner.

KEYS TO SECOND CORINTHIANS. By Fr. Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, O.P. Very expensive, scholarly, thorough. Not for the average reader.

THE THEOLOGY OF THE SECOND LETTER TO THE CORINTHIANS. By Fr. Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, O.P. Scholarly, not for the average reader.

Free. LECTURES ON SECOND CORINTHIANS. By St Thomas Aquinas. This work, available online for free, still continues to exert influence 8 centuries after it production. The medieval style may not appeal to many.

Free. ST JOHN CHRYSOSTOM’S HOMILIES ON SECOND CORINTHIANS (Online).

NOTES ON CORINTHIANS, GALATIANS, ROMANS. By Fr. Joseph Rickaby, S.J. Somewhat dated. Originally published in 1898. slightly technical. Rickaby was a prolific author and a noted authority on St Thomas Aquinas.

THE SECOND EPISTLE OF ST PAUL TO THE CORINTHIANS. By R. D. Byles. Somewhat dated. Originally published in 1897. A very basic commentary.

AN EXPOSITION OF THE EPISTLE OF ST PAUL (Vol 2). By Bernardine de Picquigny. The author ((1633-1709) was a Capuchin monk who is also sometimes called Bernardin de Piconio. This volume contains commentary on 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians. The Catholic Encyclopedia notes that his 3 volume exposition of St Paul “has ever been popular among scripture scholars.”

EPHESIANS:

Ignatius Study Bible: Galatians and Ephesians. Dr. Scott Hahn and Curtis Mitch. A great place to begin for someone who has never studied the letter.

Free. Father Callan’s Commentary on Ephesians.

Free. Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Ephesians.

Free. A Devout Commentary on the Epistle to the Ephesians. Fr. A Bertrand Wilberforce. Online book. You can increase text size by clicking on the magnifying glass with the + sign located in the bottom right corner.

Ephesians: New Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture. Peter S Willaimson. Part of a fine commentary series on the NT.

Navarre Bible: Captivity Letters. Commentary on Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon.

Colossians and Ephesians (Sacra Pagina Series). Focuses on the text from the perspective of the social sciences.

Ephesians: New Testament Message Series.

Ephesians: New Testament for Spiritual Readings Series. Max Zerwick.

Further Notes on St Paul: The Epistles of the Captivity: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon. Fr. Joseph Rickaby. Succinct notes.

JAMES:

Ignatius Study Bible: James, 1 & 2 Peter and Jude. Excellent for beginners.

James, 1, 2, & 3 John (New Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture Series). An outstanding series.

Anchor Bible Series: The Letter of James. Luke Timothy Johnson. Technical.

A Spirituality of Perfection: Faith in Action in the Letter of James.

Navarre Bible Commentary: The Catholic Letters. On James, 1 & 2 Peter, 1 ,2, & 3 John, Jude.

Sacra Pagina Series: James.

James and Jude: New Testament Message Series.

New Testament for Spiritual Readings Series: Hebrew and James.

HEBREWS: The first volume was also listed above.

New Testament for Spiritual Readings Series: Hebrew and James.

Free. Aquinas’ Lectures on Hebrews.

Free. St John Chrysostom’s Homilies on Hebrews.

Free. St Irenaeus Ministries Audio Study of Hebrews.

Free. You Tube: Catholic Bible Study: Hebrews. 12 episodes.

Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: Hebrews.

Hebrews: Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture Series.

Sacra Pagina Series: Hebrews.

A Different Kind of Priest: The Epistle to the Hebrews. By Cardinal Albert Vanhoye.

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