Commentaries for Sunday Mass Readings: From Pentecost to the End of the Year

The Church’s yearly Sunday Lectionary cycle always begins on the First Sunday of Advent and always ends on the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. This page will serve as the archive for the remaining Sunday’s of this cycle (A). In addition to commentaries on the Sunday readings, this post will also contain links to commentaries for the readings of special days such as All Saints Day and the Solemnity of St Peter and Paul.

June 4. PENTECOST:

June 11: Commentaries for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity.
June 18. Commentaries for the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ.
June 25. Commentaries for the Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time.

June 29.  SOLEMNITY OF SAINTS PETER AND PAUL, APOSTLES:

July 2. Commentaries for the Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time.
July 9. Commentaries for the Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time.
July 16. Commentaries for the Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time.
July 23. Commentaries for the Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time.
July 30. Commentaries for the Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Aug. 6. Commentaries for the Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Aug. 13. Commentaries for the Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Aug. 20. Commentaries for the Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Aug. 27. Commentaries for the Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Sept. 3. Commentaries for the Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time.

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St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 78

1 David, being about to exhort the people, in rather a long discourse, endeavors, at the outset, to arrest their attention by saying he is going to speak on matters of utility and importance. “Attend to my law;” to my precepts, which, like good and most wise laws, will direct you to happiness. And he repeats the same at greater length when he says, “incline your ears;” and what he expressed at first by the words, “my law,” he now expresses by the words, “to the words of my mouth;” thereby insinuating that when he mentioned the law, he did not mean the law of Moses, though often called simply the law, but his own words, with which he meant to instruct and to exhort his people; in which sense Christ himself uses the term when he said, John 15, “But that the word may be fulfilled, which is written in their Law, they have hated me without cause.” To incline the ear, when applied to the people, means to hear with humility and obedience, but, when applied to God, means to hear with clemency and mercy. Some will have this Psalm spoken in the person of God, others, of Christ; but verse 3, “and our fathers have told us’ ” shows that David speaks in his own person, and no other.

2 The reason why David asks that what he says may be listened to with attention and humility is, that he is about to enter on difficult and obscure matters, that require attention and humility. By parables is understood here proverbs or similes that are usually short and figurative. Propositions mean enigmas that are most obscure, for such is the meaning of the word in Hebrew, as is clear from that passage in the book of Judges, where Samson’s enigma, “out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness,” is called an enigma, and in Greek a problem. There are many proverbs and enigmas in this Psalm, as we shall see hereafter; but the one particularly alluded to here seems to be the kingdom of Christ, of which David’s kingdom is the figure; and the Church, of which Mount Sion is the figure. The words, “from the beginning,” looking at the text of the Psalm, would seem to apply to the date of the liberation of the people from the captivity of Egypt, when the people of Israel began to assume the form of a republic, and to be subject to laws and judges; and verse 5, “and he set up a testimony in Jacob; and made a law in Israel,” favors that view; but Mt. chap. 13, in quoting this passage, says that “the beginning” refers to the beginning of the world; for he says, “That the word might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter things hidden from the foundation of the world.” The meaning, then, is, I will lay before you ideas that were hidden, and like so many enigmas, from the beginning of the world; for, though the mysteries of Christ were at all times foretold and foreshadowed, still they were veiled, and openly revealed to very few. St. Paul, writing of them, says, Ephes. 3, “To me, the least of all the saints, is given this grace to preach among the gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to enlighten all men what is the dispensation of the mystery which hath been hidden from eternity in God who created all things.”

3–4 Being about to write a history of matters that had within them mysteries hidden from the beginning of the world, he tells us he got the history of these from the fathers, who got them from their ancestors; I will, he says, utter propositions from the beginning. “What great things we have heard and known,” because “our fathers have told us,” both by their writings and word of mouth, for they did not wish them “to be hidden from their children” they were to leave after them “in another generation;” and what they had to tell was God’s praises and virtues; that is, his wonderful power and his wonderful works, for which he deserves the highest meed of praise. “They have not been hidden.” St. Matthew says “I will utter things hidden,” which would seem like a contradiction, but it is not, for the things that were done were not hidden from the children of those who related them, though their mystical signification was.

5–6 He now begins to relate the things done by God, as he heard from the fathers, and he places first the fact of God’s having given the people of Israel the law and the commandments through Moses, and having ordered that law to be given by the parents to their children, and so to be handed down to posterity. The law of God is called a “testimony,” because it testifies God’s will to man, as we have explained at length in Psalm 18, “Setting up a testimony in Jacob;” that is, God gave his law to the children of Jacob, who was also called Israel. The expression, “how great things he commanded,” means no more than what he commanded, according to the Hebrew, from which we gather that “the law” does not simply mean here, the decalogue, but all the commands, both moral, ceremonial, and judicial in the five books of Moses.

7–8 He now explains why God gave the law to his people, and ordered the parents to teach it to children, and the children to hand it down to their posterity. To make them put no trust in false gods, or the idols of the gentiles, but to trust alone in the true God, who gave them a holy law from heaven, accompanied by great signs and prodigies; and also that they should not forget God’s wonderful doings in delivering them from the bondage of Pharao; furthermore, that they should anxiously seek to know, and studiously put into practice, God’s wishes; and, finally, that they should not imitate the ingratitude and the infidelity of their fathers, who, after all the favors conferred on them through Moses, proved most ungrateful. For, while they were in Egypt, they could hardly be brought to trust Moses, and after having left Egypt, they several times rebelled against Moses and against God; were forever murmuring, and (what is much worse) adoring the golden calf: “A generation that set not their heart aright,” did not keep their heart firmly directed to God, but rather regarded other help. “Whose spirit was not faithful to God,” for it often fell away from faith and obedience.

9 Many suppose that some unsuccessful battle of the tribe of Ephraim is alluded to here; now, there is no trace of any such battle in Holy Writ, nor is it probable that the prophet, in giving a general description of the vices of the people, miraculously brought out of Egypt, and freed from slavery, would digress to an isolated fact such as this. It is, therefore, much more probable that he explains, by a sort of simile, how inconstant the Hebrews were, in their faith and their obedience to God, making the meaning of the passage to be “the sons of Ephraim;” that is, the Israelites were like soldiers who began to fight with the enemy, and at once turned their backs and fled; so the Israelites, in the desert, more than once promised God they would obey him, and observe his commandments, and in a minute they would change their minds, think of returning to Egypt, and murmur against Moses and against God. David specifies the sons, that is, the tribe of Ephraim, by it meaning the whole assembly of the Israelites; for, next to Juda, the tribe of Ephraim was most numerous and powerful, and thus a rival of Juda, and in the Scripture Ephraim is generally censured, while Juda is praised; and thus the calamities of the whole people were attributed to Ephraim rather than to any of the other tribes, and in the end of this very Psalm, he says, “And chose not the tribe of Ephraim, but he chose the tribe of Juda.” See Osee the prophet.

10–12 He now explains what he had figuratively expressed, that the children of Ephraim, the Israelites, were turned back; for when they undertook to obey God, they did not keep the compact, nor did they observe the law of God; and they at once forgot God’s kindness to them, and the wonderful works he did for them in Egypt, which had been related to them by their fathers. The field of Tanis means Egypt, of which Tanis was the royal residence, to show that the wonderful things done by Moses were not done in a nook or corner, but in a most public place, up to the king’s palace.

13–17 Having touched upon the wonderful things that were done in Egypt before Pharao; he now describes the other miracles that were performed in the departure of the Israelites, viz., the separation of the waters of the Red Sea, to afford them a dry passage through it; and, then, after their departure from Egypt, the miracles that were performed in the desert, viz., the pillar of cloud to precede, and show them the way by day, and the pillar of fire by night; and the abundance of water drawn from the rock to slake their thirst. And he adds, that, notwithstanding all those miracles, the incredulous people again provoked God to anger, when they found themselves without water in the desert, which had to be struck a second time for them from the rock; for the first supply of water was given them the year before, as we read in Num. 17, while mention is made of the second in Num. 20. “He made the waters to stand as in a vessel;” means, that God made the waters of the sea to stand up at both sides, as perpendicularly as if they were shut up in a vessel, while the children of Israel were passing through. “And gave them to drink as out of the great deep;” means, that when the rock was struck, as great a quantity of water issued from it as if the rock had been turned into a deep lake or a great ocean of water.

18–29 The prophet unites the miracles of the bread from heaven and the water from the rock; they being types of Christ’s passion, and of the Eucharist, as the Lord himself explains in John 6, and the Apostle in 1 Cor. 10. Water from a rock, is the same as bringing wisdom from folly; for wisdom is no less opposed to folly than is a rock, a hard and solid substance, to water, which is a fluid. The mystery of the crucifixion is wisdom, it is the rock which was struck; a folly to the gentiles, and a scandal to the Jews; but the height of wisdom to the faithful, as St. Paul writes 1 Cor. 1, “For seeing that in the wisdom of God, the world by wisdom knew not God; it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching, to save them that believe.” Now the real bread from heaven was not the manna that fell from the sky, but the flesh of Christ that comes from the heaven of heavens, and gives life to the world. The manna, however, was a type of this true bread, and the prophet had that in view when he said, in the beginning of the Psalm, that he was about to speak in parables and propositions. Now to explain the passage. Having alluded to the miracle of the water brought from the rock and the infidelity of the people, he comes to the miracle of the bread and the meat, another incredulity of theirs. We must bear in mind that the Israelites got meat in a miraculous manner twice, once along with manna, Exodus 16, and a second time without any manna, Numbers 11; and that they got the meat and manna previous to the water from the rock, and the meat alone subsequent to the water. David, however, unites both miracles, and thus renders the matter somewhat confused; but, bearing what we said in mind, it will be easily understood. “And they tempted God in their hearts.” They wished to try if God was really omnipotent and was concerned for his people; and, therefore, “they asked meat for their desires;” bread and meat they were longing for, as we read in Exodus 16 and Num. 11. “And they spoke ill of God,” doubting whether he could give them to eat as well as he gave them to drink in the desert; this alludes to the second time they murmured, for the first murmur was previous to striking water from the rock. “Therefore the Lord heard” their murmurs, proceeding from their incredulity, “and was angry;” so that he sent fire into their camp, and destroyed numbers of them. Yet, he wished to convince an unfaithful people, and to prove his power; and, therefore, “he commanded the clouds from above, and had opened the doors of heaven. And had rained down manna upon them to eat; and had given them the bread of heaven. Man ate the bread of Angels.” This refers to the first time they murmured; for they got the manna before they got the water. The manna is called bread from heaven, having fallen from thence; and it is called the bread of Angels, being made and produced by them. The word manna is derived from two Hebrew words, that mean, “What is it?” which the Jews said when first they saw it.

30–37 The prophet goes on to show in these verses that God, to satisfy the Jews, showed his great power by great miracles; still, that he did not let their contumacy and infidelity go unpunished; and, that the Jews were brought to faith and to obedience, both by the miracles and the punishments inflicted on them, but still, without that perseverance, or that sincerity of heart that God required. “As yet their meat was in their mouth.” They had scarcely finished the quails, “and the wrath of God came upon them,” and destroyed such a number of them, that the place got the name of “The graves of lust.” The Scripture does not tell us how God destroyed them, but, it is likely, through some disease arising from gluttony. And the Lord singled out “the fat ones,” and “the chosen men of Israel;” those most devoted to pleasure, they who exulted in their youth and their strength; “and brought down,” laid them so prostrate by disease, that they could not possibly escape. All this came upon them by reason of their infidelity, for they did not believe that the quails were sent by providence, but came by chance. They were, therefore, punished so quickly, that “their days were consumed in vanity,” and “their years in haste;” for they passed away like a shadow or like smoke, without a trace after them. But they, “when he slew them,” when they were scourged by God, and put to death by him, “they returned” to their senses, and asked God’s help, and that “early in the morning;” as soon as ever they felt the scourge they came to implore God’s mercy, converted, but through fear; and their conversion was feigned, for “with their mouth they called to mind God’s previous goodness; but while they so professed their devotion to him, they lied in their heart; “for their heart was not right with him, nor were they counted faithful in his covenant.” Would that we Christians would not imitate this inconsistency of the Jews. How many among us, when in danger of death, promise God and his saints to amend our lives, and the moment they recover resume their old habits? But God will not be mocked; and such people will not escape his judgment.

38–42 The prophet now compares God’s goodness with man’s wickedness, and says, that though God scourged his people, he did not forget his mercy; and, therefore, that he did not chastise them as heavily as their sins deserved, for he had mercy on them, and did not utterly destroy them. They certainly deserved utter extermination, but, through the mercy of God, some were spared; as, in fact, of those that left Egypt, two, Josue and Caleb, survived, types of the elect, who will be saved; for, as the Apostle says, “God hath not cast away his people, which he foreknew, but there is a remnant saved, according to the election of grace.” This verse, then, does not contradict the dispersion of the Jews that we daily see, for the promise was fulfilled in the Apostles, who were Jews; and, so far from being dispersed, have gathered together a great multitude of people, elect in God, a fact foretold by Osee, chap. 1, and explained by 1 St. Peter 2, where he says, “Who in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: who had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.” The prophet goes on and says, “And many a time did he turn away his anger;” for he forgave a great share of the punishment due to their sins, and thus turned away his anger; because he “did not kindle all his wrath,” as he may justly have done. “And he remembered that they are flesh: a wind that goeth and returneth not.” In addition to his motives for mercy, man’s infirm nature, weakened by the fall of our first parents, mortal and subject to concupiscence, presented itself. For he knows what we are made of; “that they are flesh,” carnal, weak, and feeble; and that we are “a wind that goeth and returneth not;” that is, that our life is a passing one—passing from boyhood to youth, without ever coming back to boyhood; passing from youth to old age, without ever returning to youth, but quickly ending in death. Thus, it is like the flowers and other perishable things, and not like the sun, moon and stars that revolve in their orbits, and are always the same by reason of their being solid and eternal. By the word “wind” we are to understand that spirit or breath of life that quickens and enlivens us, which in its progress grows weaker, and is frail and changeable; and that such is the life of man, the prophet proves in the following verse, “How often did they provoke him in the desert? and move him to wrath in the place without water?” by their want of purpose, promising faith and obedience at one time, and, in a moment after, by heaping obloquy on him, and by rebellion; for, “they turned back” from all their faithful promises, “and tempted God,” to try if he were truly omnipotent; and thus “grieved” God, who is “the Holy One of Israel.” The God of Israel is called “the Holy One,” not only by David, but by Isaias, in various places; for God alone is truly holy, that is, pure and inviolate; while the gods of the gentiles are unclean demons. Finally, such was the fickleness and folly of the Jews so brought by God out of Egypt, that they at once forgot the countless and most wonderful signs and prodigies that God wrought in their favor while he was bringing them out from the bondage of Egypt.

43–53 Having said, in verse 42, that the Jews forgot all the miracles God wrought in their favor, when he was bringing them out of the land of Egypt, he now describes, in the above verses, how God afflicted Pharao, until he ultimately overwhelmed him and his whole army in the sea, all of which is to be found in Exodus, from chaps. 7 to 14. Now, David does not record all the miracles, he merely gives the principal ones, and that in a different order from that in which they happened. “They remembered not,” meaning the Jews in the wilderness, “his hand,” the power of the Lord that delivered them from Pharao in his persecution. “How he wrought his signs in Egypt.” They did not remember the wonderful miracles, signs of his power, that he wrought in Egypt, especially those he did in the fairest part of it, Tanis, nigh the royal residence. “And he turned,” for he turned “their rivers into blood, and their showers that they might not drink,” Exod., chap. 7. By the rivers of Egypt we understand the branches of the Nile that flow through it; by their showers we are not to understand the rain that falls, which seldom happens in Egypt, but the water itself, and it is not unusual with David to repeat the same idea, and thus, what he calls their rivers in the first part of the verse, he calls showers in the second. “He sent among them diverse sort of flies which devoured them, and frogs which destroyed them,” Exod., chap. 8. He goes on to enumerate the principal scourges inflicted on the Egyptians; and, finally, to include any he may have omitted, as, in fact, he did, he says in verse 49, “And he sent upon them the wrath of his indignation: indignation and wrath and troubles which he sent by evil angels.” Touching, in the latter part of it, on the most grievous of all the plagues, the slaughter of the first born by the destroying angel. From this, we infer, that the plagues of Egypt, especially the slaughter of the first born, was effected through the agency of the fallen angels, who cannot injure us, but as far as God will suffer them, they being his ministers. The holy Angels even may be called evil angels, from the punishments they inflict when God so employs them. The impure demons may also be called evil angels, they being so in reality, and hostile to man, and God employs both; for, through the former he punished the Sodomites, by fire from heaven; and through the latter, with similar fire, he chastised Job. “He made a way for a path to his anger.” A beautiful figure. It means, God’s anger prompting him to revenge, was restrained by his mercy, urging him not to destroy them entirely, but at length he set aside his mercy, and “made a way for a path to his anger,” and he did not spare them, for he killed all the first born of men and beasts, which were the first fruits of their labor; that is, of the Egyptians, for men generally labor in rearing their children and their cattle, but the first of their labor is directed to their first born, which thus get the appellation of the first fruits of their labor. “In the tabernacle of Cham;” means, in Egypt, which was so called after Mizraim the son of Cham, the son of Noe, he having been the first to inhabit and possess Egypt. “And he took away his own people like sheep.” Upon the slaughter of the first born of Egypt, Pharao allowed the Jews to go away, and then God brought them into the desert of Arabia. “And he brought them out in hope, and they feared not;” they went out with great confidence, “and the sea overwhelmed their enemies;” the last plague inflicted on the Egyptians, and the end of the captivity of the children of Israel.

54–58 The prophet now passes to the facts related in the books of Josue and Judges, and shows that the Jews were brought by God into the land of promise, which he calls “the mountain of his sanctuary,” because it was a mountainous country, and one which God had sanctified and dedicated to himself to be worshipped there by his people; he also calls it “the mountain which his right hand had purchased,” because God caused the Israelites under Josue, to conquer the old inhabitants who were most devoted to idolatry, and to banish them by the aid of most signal miracles. He adds, however, that the Jews so introduced by God into the land of promise, proved to be not a whit better than their fathers who had perished in the desert, for they too “tempted and provoked the Most High God,” by abandoning his worship, and by the service of idols. The expression, “They were turned aside as a crooked bow,” means that they were like a bow out of shape, sending the arrows where they should not be sent; for the Jews promised to observe God’s commandments, and apparently directed their arrows to the worship of the true God, while they were, meanwhile, offering sacrifices to false gods; which the prophet expresses in plain language, when he says, “They provoked him to anger on their hills; and moved him to jealousy with their graven things:” for it was on lofty hills, especially wooded ones, that they erected altars to their idols, and sacrificed thereon to them.

59–64 The prophet now enters into the vengeance inflicted by God on the sins of his people, making special mention of the time when the Philistines routed the Jewish army, and carried the Ark of the Lord away with them, after having slain the priests who were in charge of it, 1 Kings 4. “God heard,” or rather he knew the sins of his people crying unto heaven, “and despised them,” as an useless people, and deserving of death, “and he reduced Israel exceedingly,” humbled them to nothing, allowing their enemies to triumph over them. “And he put away the tabernacle of Silo.” He rejected the tabernacle containing the Ark, which was then in Silo, in which tabernacle, God, to a certain extent “dwelt among men;” because from thence he gave his answers to men. “And he delivered their strength into captivity, and their beauty into the hands of the enemy;” he allowed that people that he had chosen for his inheritance, as his own and favored people to be surrounded and circumvented by the swords of the enemy. “Fire consumed their young men;” the fire of war, or the fire of God’s anger destroyed the flower of them, for such are always the young; “and their maidens were not lamented,” because there was nobody left to deplore them. “Their priests fell by the sword,” Ophni and Phinees the sons of Heli, who are specially named among the dead; “and their widows did not mourn,” for all were occupied in their own private and peculiar losses.

65–72 In this, the latter part of the Psalm, David shows that God was pleased at his people being punished as they were, inasmuch as their sins called for such punishment; but that he was not pleased with the pride and malice of the Philistines, who so afflicted them; and, therefore, that he signally punished the Philistines, as we read in the same book of Kings, chap. 5. God often uses the wickedness of some to punish others, and then punishes the wicked for doing so, not looking to the good effected through them, but to the malicious motives that prompted them, in which he had no share. He then goes on to say that God would not have the tabernacle any longer in Silo, a city of the tribe of Ephraim, nor that the supreme power should be in the tribe of Joseph; but that he wished the tabernacle to be placed on mount Sion, and that the supreme rule should belong to the tribe of Juda, from which tribe he had chosen David to be king over his people; a prophecy regarding Christ and his Church, as we said in the beginning of the Psalm. For, as St. Augustine well remarks, God did not reject Joseph, and select Juda by reason of their personal merits; had he done so, he would have chosen Joseph, who excelled very much, whether one regards his chastity, his patience, his wisdom, his prudence, or his love of his enemies; but he chose Juda on account of David, and David on account of Christ, and he destroyed the synagogue to build up the Church. To come now to the explanation of the text. “And the Lord was awaked as one out of sleep.” The Philistines had overpowered the Jews, not by their own strength, nor by reason of want of strength on the part of the Lord, but because he slept, and slept, too, “like a mighty man that hath been surfeited with wine;” wine makes one sleep. But when he was awaked from that sleep, he made a grand display of his power against the Philistines. God is said, figuratively, to sleep when he does not seem to notice the evil doings of the wicked; and he is said to sleep “like one surfeited with wine,” when he deals with the most grievous sinners as if he were in a profound sleep, and was insensible to the grievous injuries offered him, such as the taking away of the Ark. “And he smote his enemies on the hinder parts.” He afflicted them with a most painful disease, that of the emerods in their private parts; “he put them to an everlasting reproach;” for God, in his wisdom, caused them to make golden emerods, and hang them on the Ark, to their own everlasting shame, to hand down the disease with which God had afflicted them. “And he rejected the tabernacle of Joseph;” he would not have the tabernacle in which was kept the Ark, to remain any longer in Silo, a city in the tribe of Ephraim, the son of Joseph; “and chose not the tribe of Ephraim;” when about to establish a sovereignty in his people, he did not choose a king from Ephraim, the most numerous and powerful of the tribes, “But he chose the tribe of Juda, mount Sion which he loved.” He chose the tribe of Juda, from which his rulers were to be selected, and mount Sion on which to place his tabernacle, and afterwards his temple, to hold his Ark, and to offer his sacrifices therein. “And he built his sanctuary as of unicorns in the land which he founded forever;” God built on mount Sion, or in Jerusalem, which is to exist, his sanctuary, as firm as the horn of a unicorn. Here is the principle, or parable, or, rather, enigma, which the prophet promised in the beginning of the Psalm; for the sanctuary of the Old Testament was not as firm as the horn of a unicorn, only inasmuch as it was the type of the sanctuary of the New Testament; nor was mount Sion or Jerusalem founded, (for it was soon after destroyed,) only inasmuch as it was the type of the Church of Christ, “against which the gates of hell shall not prevail,” and whose worship and sacraments will suffer no change to the end of the world. “And he chose his servant David, and took him from the flocks of sheep; he brought him from following the ewes great with young.” He passes over the reign of Saul, for it was to be a short time, and, in a manner, extorted from God by the clamors of the people; but he mentions the kingdom of David, who was a type of Christ, and which, through the pure will of God, was to last. He, therefore, “chose his servant David” from a humble position, for fear he should attribute his elevation to any merits of his own; “he took him from the flocks of sheep;” from being a shepherd, as he really was, “to feed Jacob his servant, and Israel his inheritance;” from feeding sheep, took him to feed men; for he placed him over the kingdom of Israel and of Jacob, his people and his inheritance. “And he fed them in the innocence of his heart; and conducted them by the skillfulness of his hands.” The event proved the soundness of God’s judgment, for David fed and governed God’s people in the innocence of his heart, and the wisdom of his acts. In the innocence of his heart, because, with a pure and immaculate heart, he never sought his own glory, but that of God; not his own benefit, but that of the people; he was more anxious to serve than to rule; he fed the sheep, not as his own, but as belonging to his Master, as a servant, and not as an heir. In his wisdom, or, as he expresses it, “in the skillfulness of his hands,” he guided the people; because, whatever he did, he did it on due reflection, not rashly, not without taking counsel, or inconsiderately. All which perfections, however applicable they may be to David, are, absolutely speaking, to be found completely in Christ alone. Had David been so perfect in them, he would not have been so severely condemned for coveting the wife of another, for the commission of murder and adultery, for wantonly making a census of the people; for condemning Mephiboseth, and giving his property to the false informer, without any manner of trial. Christ, though, was truly innocent in heart, and wise in his works, “for he committed no sin, nor was there guile found in his mouth;” and he alone could boldly say, “Which of you shall convince me of sin?”

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Father Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on Matthew 13:1-9

Mat 13:1  The same day Jesus going out of the house, sat by the sea side.

The same daysat by the sea side. Syriac, by the sea shore: When Christ, after His manner, had preached in the house, which He had hired for His dwelling in Capernaum, as I have said on Matt 4:13, He sent away the multitudes to attend to themselves and their affairs, and that He might refresh Himself and His disciples with rest and food. Bye and bye, since He knew that the multitudes were about to come to Him in such numbers that the house could not contain them, He went out to the wide, open shore of the Sea of Galilee; and there uttered the following parables.

Mat 13:2  And great multitudes were gathered together unto him, so that he went up into a boat and sat: and all the multitude stood on the shore.

He went up into a boat: from whence, as from a pulpit, He preached to the people assembled on the shore.

Mat 13:3  And he spoke to them many things in parables, saying: Behold the sower went forth to sow.

Behold the sower went forth to sow: Gr. ό σπείρων, i.e., sowing, Observe: Appositely are gospel doctrine and preaching compared to seed, and the harvest proceeding from it. For, as for the natural harvest there is need of seed, earth, sun, rain and wind, so also is there need of such things for the spiritual harvest. The seed is the word of God, or the gospel, and the preaching of it. The earth is the free will of all who hear. The sun is preventing grace, illuminating and inflaming the free will, that it may receive the Word of God so as from it to produce the fruits of charity and all virtues. The rain is grace, watering and promoting these good acts and motions of the free will. The winds are temptations which, by agitating them, cause them to take deeper root, and strengthen them. Lastly, there is need of patience, Gr. ύπομονὴ, i.e., endurance in the labours and troubles of ploughing, sowing, &c., and long waiting for the reward and fruit of the harvest.

Observe: the end and scope of this parable is, that Christ would teach that He Himself is the Sower, the preacher of the gospel upon earth, that is to say, among men, but with different results among different people. For, first, not all who hear the gospel accept it; as seed, although sown in the earth, does not everywhere strike root in the earth. 2. Not all who believe persevere in faith, but some fall away under temptation; like seed which sprouts in stony ground, quickly withers by the sun’s heat. 3. Not all, who persevere in faith, bring forth the fruit of good works; just as thorns choke seed springing up well in otherwise good ground, and prevent it from bearing fruit. 4. These things happen, not through the fault of the seed, i.e., of the doctrine, but of the earth. It is the fault of the hearers, and that in various ways. It is partly on account of the rocks, partly on account of the thorns. The rock is the flesh, the thorns are the world, the highway is the habit of a worldly and licentious life, where the birds of the air, that is the devils, like most eager and voracious devourers of souls, snatch away the doctrine that has been preached, from the mind and memory, whilst they draw off those who are by the wayside, i.e., men who are given up to the customs and business of the world, as well as those who are wandering, who are slothful and curious, from considering and penetrating into the doctrine heard, to their accustomed vanities. 5. The seed in the good ground is that which those receive in a good heart, who begin to ruminate upon it, and profit by it; they are in the best way, who apply themselves with all their might, to arrive at perfection in virtue. 6. Some seed bears less fruit, some greater, some the greatest. That is on account either of the greater sowing, i.e., preaching and illumination of spiritual things, and the assistance of grace, or on account of greater efforts and co-operation of free will with grace. This is the sum of the whole parable, from which it is easy to understand it in all its parts. I will handle them briefly, one by one.

Moraliter: Let the preacher with Christ, who came forth from the house, even from heaven, impelled by the force of love, to the earth, go forth from the house of contemplation into the field of preaching, that what he has drank from God in prayer, he may pour forth upon the people, and preach, not so much by words, as by the example of a holy life. Again, he invokes God that what he speaks in the ear, God may speak in the heart.

Mat 13:4  And whilst he soweth some fell by the way side, and the birds of the air came and ate them up.

And whilst he sowet, some fell by the wayside, namely, on the path or boundary, conterminous with the field, which is constantly worn and trodden down by the feet of passengers, and is therefore unsuitable for the reception of seed, and exposes it naked, to be carried off by the birds. We see a gradation here, for from the unsuitable ground for seed, He rises gradually to the less unsuitable, to the more suitable, and the most suitable. The most unsuitable earth for seed is that by the wayside. The less suitable is the rocky ground. The more fit is the good ground which produces thorns. The most fit is that which is entirely good, rich, moist earth. Moreover, the way is a mind worn, and dried up by evil thoughts. Such a mind does not receive the doctrine of the gospel, which is contrary to its lusts; it does not perceive, nor understand it, because it is wholly intent upon fleshly allurements. Whence, says the Gloss, such are those, who neither are pricked by preaching, nor begin to do well.

Mat 13:5  And other some fell upon stony ground, where they had not much earth: and they sprung up immediately, because they had no deepness of earth.

And other some fell upon stony ground, &c. This seed could not strike deep root, therefore it began to germinate and spring up before the proper time. For that which is quickly produced, quickly perishes. He adds the cause.

Mat 13:6  And when the sun was up they were scorched: and because they had not root, they withered away.

And when the sun was up they were scorched, Gr. ε̉καυματίσθη, i.e., were burnt up, both seeds and germs, by the burning heat of the sun. And because they had no root, they withered away. They had but a little earth, which was succeeded by the rock. Hence, partly from want of moisture, partly by the burning rays of the sun, they were dried up. The rock in this place, says Rabanus, means the hardness of an insolent mind, in which there is no deep mildness of an obedient soul. Whence, such are only pleased by the sweetness of the word, which they hear, and of heavenly promises for a short time; but they strike not the root of desire unto salvation. Therefore by the heat of the sun i.e., the fury of persecution, are they burnt up, through impatience, because their mind does not firmly cleave to the word of God, and they lose the greenness of faith, says the Interlinear. S. Chrysostom says, “With regard to souls, that which is rock, may become good ground, that which is wayside, not trodden down; and the thorns may be destroyed. Christ was speaking to all, even as if He were providing for the future, how He might declare what I ought to do, and have not done. Hereby He teaches His disciples not to be slothful.”

Mat 13:7  And others fell among thorns: and the thorns grew up and choked them.

And others fell among thorns, &c., i.e., in land producing thorns. And they grew, Gr. α̉νέβησαν, i.e., they ascended, i.e., they grew more quickly than the good seed, which rises slowly, and by degrees. For tares sprig up easily, wheat with difficulty. Therefore the tares choked the wheat just as it was coming into ear. The tares did this, both because they drew away the moisture and nourishment to their own roots: as well as because they deprived them of air and room to grow.

Mat 13:8  And others fell upon good ground: and they brought forth fruit, some an hundred fold, some sixty fold, and some thirty fold.

And others fell upon good ground, &c. (Arab.) For one a hundred, for one sixty, and for another thirty. Good ground, if it be well cultivated, for one grain produces a hundred; other ground, less rich, sixty; other, more sterile, thirty. The good ground is a faithful and devoted conscience.

Observe, only the fourth part of the seed, namely, that which fell on the good ground, produced fruit; the three other divisions of the seed perished. Thus, but few profit by the word of preaching. By far the greater number who hear the word bring forth no fruit

Mat 13:9  He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.

He that hath ears of hearing (Greek) let him hear. Christ makes use of this expression when the subject is obscure and symbolical, or when he would arouse the attention of his hearers. Ears to hear: He speaks of one who hears diligently the words of Christ, in order that he may receive them, and ruminate upon them, and obey them. For many heard Christ out of curiosity, for the sake of listening to something new. Such had not ears for hearing. So, even now, there are many who hear sermons for the sake of their eloquence—not that they may amend their lives.

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Commentaries for the Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

READINGS AND OFFICE:

Sunday’s Mass Readings.

Today’s Mass Readings (NJB). Scroll down slightly. The NJB is used in most other English speaking countries.

COMMENTARIES ON THE FIRST READING: Jeremiah 20:7-9.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Jeremiah 20:7-9. Readings from several versions followed by the commentary.

Word-Sunday Notes on Jeremiah 20:7-9.

Homilist’s Catechism on Jeremiah 20:7-9.

COMMENTARIES ON THE RESPONSORIAL: Psalm 63:2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9.

Father Boylan’s Commentary on Psalm 63. On all of Psalm 63.

St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 63. On all of Psalm 63.

A Patristic/Medieval Commentary on Psalm 63. On all of Psalm 63.

Pope John Paul II’s Commentary/Meditation on Psalm 63. On all of Psalm 63.

Word-Sunday Notes on Psalm 63. On all of Psalm 63.

COMMENTARIES ON THE SECOND READING: Romans 12:1-2.

Bernardin de Piconio’s Commentary on Romans 12:1-2.

Father Callan’s Commentary on Romans 12:1-2.

Father Rickaby’s Commentary on Romans 12:1-2.

St John Chrysostom’s Homiletic Commentary on Romans 12:1-2. On 1-5 actually.

Aquinas’ Homily Notes on Romans 12:1-2. On 2. Can be used for points of meditation, reflection, further study.

St Thomas Aquinas’ Lecture on Romans 12:1-2. The lecture is actually on 1-3.

Word-Sunday Notes on Romans 12:1-2.

Homilist’s Catechism on Romans 12:1-2.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Romans 12:1-2.

COMMENTARIES ON THE GOSPEL READING: Matthew 16:21-27.

Father Maas’ Commentary on Matthew 16:21-27.

Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Matthew 16:21-27. This post includes commentary on verses 20-28.

Word-Sunday Notes on Matthew 16:21-27.

Homilist’s Catechism on Matthew 16:21-27.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Matthew 16:21-27.

The Cost of Discipleship. Blog post on the readings by Catholic biblical scholar Dr. John

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Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Matthew 16:21-27

Ver 20. Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ.21. From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and Chief Priests and Scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.

Origen: Seeing Peter had confessed Him to be Christ the Son of the living God, because He would not have them preach this in the mean time, He adds, “Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man, that he was Jesus the Christ.”

Jerome: When then above He sends His disciples to preach, and commands them to proclaim His advent, this seems contrary to His command here, that they should not say that He is Jesus the Christ. To me it seems that it is one thing to preach Christ, and another to preach Jesus the Christ. Christ is a common title of dignity, Jesus the proper name of the Saviour.

Origen: Or they then spake of Him in lowly words, as only a great and wonderful man, but as yet proclaimed Him not as the Christ. Yet if any will have it that He was even at the first proclaimed to be Christ, be may say that now He chose that first short announcement of His name to be left in silence and not repeated, that little which they had heard concerning Christ might be digested into their minds. Or the difficulty may be solved thus: that the fairer relation concerning their preaching Christ does not belong to the time before His Resurrection, but to the time that should be after the Resurrection; and that the command now given is meant for the time present; for it were of no use to preach Him, and to be silent conceiving His cross. Moreover, He commanded them that they should tell no man that He was the Christ, and prepared them that they should afterwards say that He was Christ who was crucified, and who rose again from the dead.

Jerome: But that none should suppose that this is only any explanation, and not an evangelic interpretation, what follows explains the reasons of His forbidding them to preach Him at that time; “Then began Jesus to shew unto his disciples that he must needs go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and Scribes, and Chief Priests, and be put to death, and rise again the third day.”

The meaning is; Then preach Me when I shall have suffered these things, for it will be of no avail that Christ be preached publicly, and His Majesty spread abroad among the people, when after a little time they shall see Him scourged and crucified.

Chrys.: For what having once had root has afterwards been torn up, if it is again planted, is with difficulty retained among the multitude; but what having been once rooted has continued ever after unmoved, is easily brought on to a further growth. He therefore dwells on these sorrowful things, and repeats His discourse upon them, that He may open the minds of His disciples.

Origen: And observe that it is not said, ‘He began to say,’ or ‘to teach,’ but “to shew;” for as things are said to be shewn to the sense, so the things which Christ spake are said to be shewn by Him. Nor indeed do I think, that to those who saw Him suffering many things in the flesh, were those things which they saw so shewn as this representation in words shewed to the disciples the mystery of the passion and resurrection of Christ. At that time, indeed, He only “began to shew them,” and afterwards when they were more able to receive it, He shewed them more fully; for all that Jesus began to do, that He accomplished.

He must needs go to Jerusalem, to be put to death indeed in the Jerusalem which is below, but to rise again and reign in the heavenly Jerusalem. But when Christ rose again, and others were risen with Him, they no longer sought the Jerusalem which is beneath, or the house of prayer in it, but that which is above. He suffers many things from the elders of the earthly Jerusalem, that He may be glorified by those heavenly elders who receive His mercies. He rose again from the dead on the third day, that He may deliver from the evil one, and purchase for such as are so delivered this gift, that they be baptized in spirit, soul, and body, in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, who are three days perpetually present to those that through them have been made children of light.

Ver 22. Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, “Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.”23. But he turned, and said unto Peter, “Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.”

Origen: While Christ was yet speaking the beginnings of the things which He was shewing unto them, Peter considered them unworthy of the Son of the living God. And forgetting that the Son of the living God does nothing, and acts in no way worthy of blame, he began to rebuke Him; and this is what is said, “And Peter took him, and began to rebuke  him.”

Jerome: We have often said that Peter had too hot a zeal, and a very great affection towards the Lord the Saviour. Therefore after that his confession, and the reward of which he had heard from the Saviour, he would not have that his confession destroyed, and thought it impossible that the Son of God could be put to death, but takes Him to him affectionately, or takes Him aside that he may not seem to be rebuking his Master in the presence of his fellow disciples, and begins to chide Him with the feeling of one that loved Him, and to contradict Him, and say, “Be it far from thee, Lord;” or as it is better in the Greek, that is, Be propitious to Thyself, Lord, this shall not be unto Thee.

Origen: As though Christ Himself had needed a propitiation. His affection Christ allows, but charges him with ignorance; as it follows, “He turned and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan, thou art an offence unto me.”

Hilary: The Lord, knowing the suggestion of the craft of the devil, says to Peter, “Get thee behind me;” that is, that he should follow the example of His passion; but to him by whom this expression was suggested, He turns and says, “Satan, thou art an offence unto me.” For we cannot suppose that the name of Satan, and the sin of being an offence, would be imputed to Peter after those so great declarations of blessedness and power that had been granted him.

Jerome: But to me this error of the Apostle, proceeding from the warmth of his affection, will never seem a suggestion of the devil. Let the thoughtful reader consider that that blessedness of power was promised to Peter in time to come, not given him at the time present; had it been conveyed to him immediately, the error of a false confession would never have found place in him.

Chrys.: For what wonder is it that this should befal Peter, who had never received a revelation concerning these things? For that you may learn that confession which he made concerning Christ was not spoken of himself, observe how in these things which had not been revealed to him, he is at a loss. Estimating the things of Christ by human and earthly principles, he judged it mean and unworthy of Him that He should suffer. Therefore the Lord added, “For thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men.”

Jerome: As much as to say; It is of My will, and of the Father’s will, that I should die for the salvation of men; you considering only your own will would not that the grain of wheat should fall into the ground, that it may bring forth much fruit; therefore as you speak what is opposed to My will, you ought to be called My adversary. For Satan is interpreted ‘adverse’ or ‘contrary.’

Origen: Yet the words in which Peter and those in which Satan are rebuked, are not, as is commonly thought, the same; to Peter it is said, “Get thee behind me, Satan;” that is, follow me, thou that art contrary to my will; to the Devil it is said, “Go thy way, Satan,” understanding not ‘behind me,’ but ‘into everlasting fire.’

He said therefore to Peter, “Get thee behind me,” as to one who through ignorance was ceasing to walk after Christ. And He called him Satan, as one, who through ignorance had somewhat contrary to God. But he is blessed to whom Christ turns, even though He turn in order to rebuke him. But why said He to Peter, “Thou art an offence unto me, when in the Psalm it is said, Great peace have they that love thy law, and there is no offence to them?” [Psa 119:165] It must be answered, that not only is Jesus not offended, but neither is any man who is perfect in the love of God; and yet he who does or speaks any thing of the nature of an offence, may be an offence even to one who is incapable of being offended. Or he may hold every disciple that sinneth as an offence, as Paul speaks, “Who is offended, and I burn not?” [2 Cor 11:29].

Ver 24. Then said Jesus unto his disciples, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.25. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.”

Chrys., Hom. iv: Peter had said, “Be it far from thee, Lord; this shall not be unto thee;” and had been answered, “Get thee behind me, Satan;” but the Lord was not satisfied with this rebuke, but over and above desired to shew the impropriety of those things which Peter had said, and the fruit of His own passion; whence it is added, “Then said Jesus to his disciples, If any man will to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me;” as much as to say, You say unto me, “Be it far from thee;” but I say unto you, that not only is it harmful for you to hinder Me from My Passion, but yourself will not be able to be saved unless you suffer and die, and renounce your life always.

And note, that He does not speak of it as compulsory, for He does not say, Though ye will not yet must ye suffer this, but, “If any man will.” By saying this He rather attracted them; for he who leaves his auditor at liberty, attracts him the more; whereas he that uses violence oftentimes hinders him.

And He proposes this doctrine, not to His disciples only, but in common to the whole world, saying, “If any man will,” that is, if woman, if man, if king, if free, if slave; there are three things mentioned; “let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”

Gregory, Hom. in Ev., xxxii, 2: For unless a man departs from himself, he does not draw near to Him who is above him. But if we leave ourselves, whither shall we go out of ourselves? Or if we have forsaken ourselves, who is it then that goes? Indeed, we are one thing when fallen by sin, another thing as we were made by nature. It is therefore then that we leave and deny ourselves, when we avoid that which we were of old, and strive towards that to which we are called in newness.

Greg., in Ezech., Hom. i, 10: He denies himself whosoever is changed for the better, and begins to be what he was not, and ceases to be what he was.

Greg., Mor., xxxiii, 6: He also denies himself, who having trode under foot the risings of pride, shews himself in the eyes of God to be estranged from himself.

Origen: But though a man may seem to keep from sin, yet if he does not believe in the cross of Christ, he cannot be said to be crucified with Christ; whence it follows, “And take up his cross.”

Chrys.: Otherwise; He that disowns another, whether a brother, or a servant, or whosoever it be, he may see him beaten, or suffering aught else, and neither succours nor befriends him; thus it is He would have us deny our body, and whether it be beaten or addicted in any other way, not to spare it. For this is to spare. So parents do then most spare their children when they hand them over to tutors, bidding them not to spare them. And that you should not think that this denial of self extends only to words or affronts, he shews to what degree we should deny ourselves, namely, to death the most shameful, even that of the cross; this He signifies when He says, “And take up his cross, and follow me.”

Hilary: We are to follow our Lord by taking up the cross of His passion; and if not in deed, yet in will, bear Him company.

Chrys.: And because malefactors often suffer grievous things, that you should not suppose that simply to suffer evil is enough, He adds the reason of suffering, when He says, “And follow me.” For His sake you are to endure all, and to learn His other virtues; for this is to follow Christ aright, to be diligent in the practice of virtues, and to suffer all things for His sake.

Greg., Hom. in Ev., xxxii, 3: There are two ways of taking our cross; when the body is afflicted by abstinence, or when the heart is pained by compassion for another. Forasmuch as our very virtues are beset with faults, we must declare that vainglory sometimes attends abstinence of flesh, for the emaciated body and pale countenance betray this high virtue to the praise of the world. Compassion again is sometimes attended by a false affection, which is hereby led to be consenting unto sin; to shut out these, He adds, “and follow me.”

Jerome: Otherwise; He takes up his cross who is crucified to the world; and he to whom the world is crucified, follows his crucified Lord.

Chrys.: And then because this seemed severe, He softens it by shewing the abundant rewards of our pains, and the punishment of evil, “He that will save his life shall lose it.”

Origen: This may be understood in two ways. First thus; if any lover of this present life spares his life, fearing to die, and supposing that his life is ended with this death; he seeking in this way to save his life, shall lose it, estranging it from life eternal. But if any, despising the present life, shall contend for the truth unto death, he shall lose his life as far as this present life is concerned, but forasmuch as he loses it for Christ, he shall the more save it for life eternal.

Otherwise thus; if any understand what is true salvation, and desire to obtain it for the salvation of his own life, he by denying himself loses his life as to the enjoyments of the flesh, but saves it by works of piety. He shews by saying, “For he that will,” that this passage must be connected in sense with that which went before. If then we understand the first, “Let him deny himself,” of the death of the body, we must take this that follows of death only; but if we understand the first of mortifying the propensities of the flesh, then, to lose his life, signifies to give up carnal pleasures.

Ver 26. “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?27. For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.28. Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.”

Chrys.: Because He had said, Whoso will save, shall lose, and whoso will lose shall save, opposing saving to losing, that none should hence conclude that there was any equality between the losing on one side, and the saving on the other, He adds, “What does it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, but suffer the loss of his soul?” As though He had said, Say not that he who escapes the dangers which threaten him for Christ’s sake, saves his soul, that is, his temporal life; but add to his temporal life the whole world, and what of all these things will profit a man if his soul perishes for ever?

Suppose you should see all your servants in joy, and yourself placed in the greatest evils, what profit would you reap from being their master! Think over this within your own soul, when by the indulgence of the flesh that soul looks for its own destruction.

Origen: I suppose also that he gains the world who does not deny himself, nor loses his own life as to carnal pleasures, and thence suffers the loss of his soul. These two things being set before us, we must rather choose to lose the world, and gain our souls.

Chrys.: But if you should reign over the whole world, you would not be able to buy your soul; whence it follows, “Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” As much as to say, if you lose goods, you may have it in your power to give other goods to recover them; but if you lose your soul, you can neither give another soul, nor any thing else in ransom for it. And what marvel is it if this happen in the soul, when we see the same happen in the body; for if you should surround a body afflicted with an incurable disease with ten thousand diadems, they would not heal it.

Origen: And at first sight indeed the ransom of the soul might he supposed to be in his substance, that a man should give his substance to the poor, and so should save his soul. But I suppose that a man has nothing that giving as a ransom for his soul he should deliver it from death. God gave the ransom for the souls of men, namely the precious blood of His Son.

Greg., Hom. in Ev., xxxii, 4: Or the connexion may be thus; The Holy Church has a period of persecution, and a period of peace; and our Redeemer accordingly distinguishes between these periods in His commands; in time of persecution the life is to be laid down; but in time of peace, those earthly lusts which might gain too great power over us are to be broken through; whence He says, “What does it profit a man?”

Jerome: Having thus called upon His disciples to deny themselves and take up their cross, the hearers were filled with great terror, therefore these severe tidings are followed by more joyful; “For the Son of Man shall come in the glory of his Father with the holy Angels.” Dost thou fear death? Hear the glory of the triumph. Dost thou dread the cross? Hear the attendance of the Angels.

Origen: As much as to say; The Son of Man is now come, but not in glory; for He ought not to have been ordained in His glory to bear our sins; but then He shall come in His glory, when He shall first have made ready His disciples, being made as they are, that He might make them as He is Himself, in the likeness of His glory.

Chrys.: He said not in such glory as is that of the Father, that you might not suppose a difference of glory, but He says, “The glory of the Father,” that it might be shewn to be the same glory. But if the glory is one, it is evident that the substance is one. What then fearest thou, Peter, hearing of death? For then shalt thou see Me in glory. But if I be in glory, so also shall ye be. But in making mention of His glory, He mingleth therewith things terrible, bringing forward the judgment, as it follows, “And then shall he render to each man according to his works.”

Jerome: For there is no difference of Jew or Gentile, man or woman, poor or rich, where not persons but works are accepted.

Chrys.: This He said to call to their minds not only the punishment of sinners, but the prizes and crowns of the righteous.

Jerome: But the secret thought of the Apostles might have suffered an offence of this sort; The killings and deaths you speak of as to be now, but the promise of your coming in glory is put off to a long distant time. He that knows secret things therefore, seeing that they might object this, requites a present fear with a present reward, saying, “Verily I say unto you, There be some of those standing here that shall not taste death until the Son of Man come in his kingdom.”

Chrys., Hom. lvi: Willing to shew what is that glory in which He shall come hereafter, He revealed it to them in this present life, so far as it was possible for them to receive it, that they might not have sorrow in their Lord’s deathRemig. see Bed. in Luc. 9, 27: What is here said, therefore, was fulfilled in the three disciples to whom the in Lord, when transfigured in the mount, shewed the joys of the eternal inheritance; these saw “Him coming in His kingdom,” that is, shining in His effulgent radiance, in which, after the judgment passed, He shall be beheld by all the saints.

Chrys.: Therefore He does not reveal the names of those who should ascend into the mount, because the rest would be very desirous to accompany them whither they might look upon the pattern of His glory, and would be grieved as though they were passed over.

Greg.: Or, by the kingdom of God is meant the present Church, and because some of His disciples were to live so long in the body as to behold the Church of God built up and raised against the glory of this world, this comfortable promise is given them, “There be some of them standing here.”

Origen: Morally; To those who are nearly brought to the faith, the Word of God wears the form of a servant; but to those that are perfect, He comes in the glory of the Father. His angels are the words of the Prophets, which it is not possible to comprehend spiritually, until the word of Christ has been first spiritually comprehended, and then will their words be seen in like majesty with His. Then will He give of His own glory to every man according to his deeds; for the better each man is in his deeds, so much the more spiritually does he understand Christ and His Prophets. They that stand where Jesus stands, are they that have the foundations of their souls rested upon Jesus; of whom such as stood firmest are said not to taste death till they see the Word of God; which comes in His kingdom when they see that excellence of God which they cannot see while they are involved in divers sins, which is to taste death, forasmuch as the soul that sinneth, dies.

For as life, and the living bread, is He that came down from heaven, so His enemy death is the bread of death. And of these breads there are some that eat but a little, just tasting them, while some eat more abundantly. They that sin neither often, nor greatly, these only taste death; they that have partaken more perfectly of spiritual virtue do not taste it only, but feed ever on the living bread. That He says, “Until they see,” does not fix any time at which shall be done what had not been done before, but mentions just what is necessary; for he that once sees Him in His glory, shall after that by no means taste death.

Raban., e Bed. in Luc., 9: It is of the saints He speaks as tasting death, by whom the death of the body is tasted just as it were sipping, while the life of the soul is held fast in possession.

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Father Maas’ Commentary on Matthew 16:21-27

Text in red are my additions.

21. From that time Jesus began to show to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the ancients, and scribes, and chief priests, and be put to death, and the third day rise again.

In this section we have first the scandal of Peter, Matt 16:21-23; then the description of the Christian cross, Matt 16:24-28.

a. Scandal of Peter. “From that time” denotes the period when Jesus had been acknowledged by Peter as the Son of the living God; it was some time after the third Easter in Christ’s public life, about ten months before his death.  “Jesus began to show” clearly what till then he had only hinted at [cf. Jn 2:19; Jn 3:14]: “that he must go to Jerusalem,” according to the will of his Father [cf. Matt 17:10, 21; Matt 20:18; Matt 26:54; Luke 24:25-27, 46], “and suffer many things from the ancients, and scribes, and chief priests,” i. e. from the civil, religious, and learned authorities of the nation [cf. Matt 2:4], The slowness of the apostles to understand the clear words “he must … be put to death, and the third day rise again” [cf. Mark 9:31; Luke 18:34] may be explained first as agreeing with the general obscurity of prophecies before their fulfilment; secondly, the prophecy was contrary to the apostles’ wishes, and therefore hard to believe; thirdly, they might suspect that Jesus spoke in a parable, and this the more, because Hosea 6:2-3 employs a similar metaphor; finally, the minds of the apostles at the time of the passion were so disturbed that they could hardly be expected to recall even the clearest prophecies. That Jesus predicted his resurrection clearly is seen from Matt 28:6; Luke 24:6-8.

22. And Peter taking him, began to rebuke him, saying: Lord, be it far from thee, this shall not be unto thee.
23. Who turning, said to Peter : Go behind me, Satan, thou art a scandal unto me, because thou savorest not the things that are of God, but the things that are of men.

“And Peter taking him” apart, “began to rebuke him,” but was interrupted after the first words. “Lord, be it far from thee ” is a strong expostulation [cf.  1 Macc 2:21]; “this shall not be unto thee ” is either explanatory of the foregoing words, or a prayer, or again a confident declaration on Peter’s part. “Who turning,” either to Peter with a stern countenance, or from Peter in indignation.  “Go behind me,” i. e. out of my sight.  “Satan” is addressed to the devil, according to Hilary, Chrysologus, [serm. 27], andMarcellus [cf. Euseb. cont. Marcell. i. 2], so that our Lord said: “Go behind me [Peter]; Satan, thou art a scandal to me”; but the context demands that the word be referred to Peter. Not as if Peter had pronounced his words at the suggestion of the devil, nor as if  “Satan” in the New Testament too could be regarded as an appellative meaning “adversary” [Num 22:22; 1 Sam 29:4; 2 Sam 19:23; 1 Kings 5:18, etc.; cf. Origen, Chrysostom, Euthymius, Theophylact, Jerome, Bede, etc.]; but because Peter, speaking from human affection for Jesus, suggested what the devil himself had suggested in the temptation [Matt 4:3-9], so that the apostle materially at least furthered the devil’s cause [cf. Chrysostom, Euthymius]. Hence Peter was “a scandal” unto Jesus, savoring “the things that are of men,” i. e. measuring them according to a human standard, not estimating them according to the light of revelation.

24. Then Jesus said to his disciples: If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
25. For he that will save his life, shall lose it; and he that shall lose his life for my sake, shall find it.
26. For what doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his own soul? Or what exchange shall a man give for his soul?
27. For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels, and then will he render to every man according to his works.
28. Amen, I say to you, there are some of them that stand here, that shall not taste death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.

b. The Christian Cross. “If any man will come after me” denotes that Christ does not force men to become his disciples. “Let him deny himself” by disregarding his inordinate affections for pleasure and honor, and for all the sources of pleasure and honor, and let him show in word and deed that “Christ liveth in him” [Gal 2:20]. The follower of Jesus must not only “deny himself,” but also “take up his cross” [cf. Mt 10:38] as those condemned to death were wont to do. “And follow me” is not a mere equivalent of self-denial and carrying the cross, but denotes also the necessity of perseverance in both and the manner in which both must be fulfilled [cf. Heb 12:2-4; 1 Pet 2:21]. Alb. shows that Jesus adds three reasons for following him in self-denial and the carrying of the cross: First, this is the only way to be saved [cf. Mt 10:39]; just as the only way to renew and multiply the grain of corn is to sow it and thus seemingly to destroy it, so the only way to find life is to lose it. Secondly, it is the only profitable manner of life, for the “gain of the whole world” cannot, either in intensity, or in duration, be compared with “the loss of [one’s] own soul”; one cannot profitably exchange any earthly good whatever for a happy eternity. Thirdly, it is the only secure manner of life, “for the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father” [cf. Jn 17:5; Mt 24:30] “with his angels” [cf. Mt 24:31; Mk 13:27; 1 Thess 4:15], “and then will he render to every man according to his works,” a reward described in Mt 25:34, 41; Rom 2:9-10. Jesus urges the foregoing three reasons by another consideration: “Some of them that stand here . . . shall not taste,” or experience [cf. Jn 8:52; Heb 2:9], “death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.” In the Old Testament the coming of God signifies his special manifestation either by way of justice or mercy [cf. Isa 3:14; 26:21; 30:27; 35:4; 40:10; 42:13; 51:14; 64:15, 18; Micah 1:3; Hab 3:3; etc.]. The “coming of the Son of man” mentioned in the present passage must therefore refer to a special manifestation of the Son of man. Some commentators, Cyril of Alexandria, Chrysostom, Euthymius, Theophylact, Hilary, Jerome, Maldonado, see in this manifestation the transfiguration which is told immediately after the present passage; but first, the preceding verse leads us to expect a manifestation of justice, not of mercy; secondly, an event happening “after six days” would have hardly been introduced by the phrase “there are some of them that stand here, that shall not taste death”; thirdly, in his transfiguration the Son of man did not come “in his kingdom” One or more of these reasons militate against the opinion that the “coming of the Son of man” refers to the foundation of the Church; or that it refers to the time after the resurrection; or to the three foregoing events; or to two of them; or to the last judgment; or to the ascension, to the manifestation of grace in the Church militant, and to the transfiguration (see my note below); or even to the contemplation and knowledge of the Word. If we identify the “coming of the Son of man” with the manifestation of his justice in the destruction of Jerusalem, we satisfy not only the three considerations already stated, but follow the analogy of Matt 24:3 ff. where the last judgment is connected with the destruction of Jerusalem.

NOTE: Most modern scholars accept the view of Cyril of Alexandria, Chrysostom, Euthymius, Theophylact, Hilary, Jerome, Maldonado, etc., that “the coming of the Son of Man” refers to the transfiguration. This is why this particular passage is read the day before the Feast of the Transfiguration.

Father Maas objects to this by noting that the preceding verse leads us to expect a manifestation of justice, not of mercy. He seems to have forgotten that God’s justice and mercy are not mutually exclusive, even when speaking of His punitive rather than His saving justice.

…(M)ercy is in a certain sense contrasted with God’s justice, and in many cases is shown to be not only more powerful than that justice but also more profound. Even the Old Testament teaches that, although justice is an authentic virtue in man, and in God signifies transcendent perfection nevertheless love is “greater” than justice: greater in the sense that it is primary and fundamental. Love, so to speak, conditions justice and, in the final analysis, justice serves love. The primacy and superiority of love vis-a-vis justice – this is a mark of the whole of revelation – are revealed precisely through mercy. This seemed so obvious to the psalmists and prophets that the very term justice ended up by meaning the salvation accomplished by the Lord and His mercy.53 Mercy differs from justice, but is not in opposition to it, if we admit in the history of man – as the Old Testament precisely does-the presence of God, who already as Creator has linked Himself to His creature with a particular love. Love, by its very nature, excludes hatred and ill – will towards the one to whom He once gave the gift of Himself: Nihil odisti eorum quae fecisti, “you hold nothing of what you have made in abhorrence.”54 These words indicate the profound basis of the relationship between justice and mercy in God, in His relations with man and the world. They tell us that we must seek the life-giving roots and intimate reasons for this relationship by going back to “the beginning,” in the very mystery of creation. They foreshadow in the context of the Old Covenant the full revelation of God, who is “love. (Pope John Paul II, Dives in Misericordia [“Rich  In Mercy”] 3:4)

Father Maas also objects that an event happening “after six days” would have hardly been introduced by the phrase ” there are some of them that stand here, that shall not taste death”.

Answer: Father Maas understands “taste death” here as meaning either physical death or as a symbol of eternal damnation (I think he has the latter in mind). Both meanings are possible but he hasn’t considered the possibility that “taste death” refers to the rejection of discipleship which leads to final damnation and which we might term a living death. In rejecting discipleship one has already tasted death, and this decision to imbibe death now will be ratified at the judgment. What our Lord means is that some of his listeners will not choose to embrace living death which leads to damnation by rejecting him and his teaching until after “some” of them “see the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom.”

Finally, Father Maas objects that in his transfiguration the Son of man did not come “in his kingdom.”

Answer: The Greek word translated as “kingdom” is βασιλεία (Basileia), a word with a wide range of meaning. According to Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon the word can mean:

1) royal power, kingship, dominion, rule

  • 1a) not to be confused with an actual kingdom but rather the right or authority to rule over a kingdom
  • 1b) of the royal power of Jesus as the triumphant Messiah
  • 1c) of the royal power and dignity conferred on Christians in the Messiah’s kingdom

2) a kingdom, the territory subject to the rule of a king
3) used in the N.T. to refer to the reign of the Messiah.

Jesus’ right to rule, the manifestation of his royal power and dignity etc., are all revealed in the transfiguration via the symbols used and the words of the Father: This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased: hear ye him. In his transfiguration, the three disciples who are with him see not his kingdom, but his kingly dignity and power coming forth.

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Father Rickaby’s Commentary on Romans 12:1-2

1. I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercy of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing to God, your reasonable service.

I beseech, παρακαλω, literally, “I exhort”. By the mercy δια των οικτιρμων, Literally, “by the mercies” of God, extended to you in your conversion, enlarged upon in the previous chapter.

Your bodies a living sacrifice, by the subjection of bodily desires to the law of God, Rom 6:12.

The word sacrifice connotes the death of the victim; and still the victim is to be living. It is the death and the life described, Rom 6:4-11.

Your reasonable service, Latin, rationabile obsequium, λογικην λατρειαν. This is not a caution against injuring one’s health by excessive asceticism. The only other place in the New Testament where the adjective occurs is 1 Pet 2:2, λογικον γαλα, “rational milk,” which is the spiritual milk of God’s word, as distinguished from material milk. In Plato s Republic, book vi. (ad fin.) there is a contrast between “the region of intellect and the region of sense.” St. Peter’s and St. Paul’s λογικός is Plato’s “intellect”. We had better translate, spiritual service, as distinguished from the sensible service, by which victims were slaughtered in the Jewish ritual: not in that concept of the word spiritual (πνευματικος) in which it stands opposed to carnal (σάρκινος or ψυχικος) e.g. 1 Cor 2:14, 15, where see notes). Eusebius (Demonstratio Evangelii, i. 6 and i. 10) speaks of the Holy Eucharist as “a bloodless and spiritual sacrifice,” in distinction from the Jewish sacrifices. This throws light on the phrase, oblationem rationabilem, in the Canon of the Mass.

By a common Greek construction, the words λογικην λατρειαν are in the accusative in apposition, not with σωματα (bodies), but with the whole phrase preceding. In plain English: Present your bodies a living sacrifice, &c., which presentation is your spiritual worship.

The Vulgate obsequium does not well render λατρειαν   (above, Rom 9:4; Heb 9:1, 6). It should be cultum (worship); and the whole phrase spiritualem cultum vestrum (your spiritual worship).

2. And be not conformed to this world; but be reformed in the newness of your mind, that you may prove what is the good, and the acceptable, and the perfect will of God.

Be not conformed to this world. He will appreciate this injunction, who knows what shape this world bore in Rome in the days of the early Caesars.

Conformed, reformed. This play upon words is not in the original, συσχηματιζεσθε (conformed), μεταμορφουσθε (transformed). Fall not in with the fashion of this world, but be transformed by the renovation of your mind, would be a literal translation. For newness, or rather, renovation, see Col 3:9, 10. It is a process that has to be kept up continually, so long as the baptized man lives, environed with concupiscence, which is not subject to the law of God, neither can it be (Rom 8:7, with note).

The good and the acceptable and the perfect will of God. So the Vulgate. But the Greek admits of a more likely rendering, το θελημα του θεου το αγαθον και ευαρεστον και τελειον, the will of God, in respect of what is good and well-pleasing and perfect. Good is good: well-pleasing is better: perfect is best. We have here some inkling of a difference between commandments and counsels. Thus marriage is good, but virginity is well-pleasing (1 Cor 7:27, 28): martyrdom is perfect (John 15:13). Ordinarily, the good alone is obligatory: not the well -pleasing, not the perfect, except in certain cases, when it is thrust upon us by special circumstances as an alternative to sin, as martyrdom may be, or virginity either, e.g. in case of lunacy of one married party; or poverty, in the case of the greater part of mankind (Luke 6:20, 21). In practice, what is recommendable for the individual, is not what is absolutely well-pleasing or perfect, but what is relatively so for him, the better or best course with his character and under his circumstances.

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St John Chrysostom’s Homiletic Commentary on Romans 12:1-5

The following was excerpted from st John Chrysostom’s exegetical (i.e., explanatory) homilies 20 and 21 on Romans.

Rom 12:1  I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.

After discoursing at large upon the love of God toward man, and pointing out His unspeakable concern for us, and unutterable goodness, which cannot even be searched into, he next puts it forward with a view of persuading those who have received the benefit to exhibit a conversation worthy of the gift. And though he is so great and good a person, yet he does not decline beseeching them, and that not for any enjoyment he was likely to get himself, but for that they would have to gain. And why wonder that he does not decline beseeching, where he is even putting God’s mercies before them? For since, he means, it is from this you have those numberless blessings, from the mercies of God, reverence them, be moved to compassion by them. For they themselves take the attitude of suppliants, that you would show no conduct unworthy of them. I entreat you then, he means, by the very things through which ye were saved. As if any one who wished to make a person, who had had great kindnesses done him, show regard, was to bring him the benefactor himself as a suppliant. And what dost thou beseech? me!let me hear. “That ye would present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” For when he had said sacrifice, to prevent any from thinking he bade them kill themselves, he forthwith added (Greek order) “living.” Then to distinguish it from the Jewish, he calls it “holy, acceptable to God, your reasonable1 service.” For theirs was a material one, and not very acceptable either.2 Since He saith, “Who hath required this at your hands?” (Isa. i. 12.) And in sundry other passages He clearly throws them aside. For it was not this, but this with the other, that He looked to have presented. Wherefore he saith, “The sacrifice of praise shall glorify Me.” And again, “I will praise the name of my God with a song, and this shall please him better than a bullock that putteth forth horns and hoofs.” (Ps. 50. 23; Ps. lxix. 69:30, Ps. lxix:31.) And so in another place He rejects it, and says, “Shall I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink goat’s blood?” (ib. 13) and proceeds with, “Offer unto God a sacrifice of praise, and pay thy vows unto the Most High.” (ib. 14.) So Paul also here bids us “present our bodies a living sacrifice.” And how is the body, it may be said, to become a sacrifice? Let the eye look upon no evil thing, and it hath become a sacrifice; let thy tongue speak nothing filthy, and it hath become an offering; let thine hand do no lawless deed, and it hath become a whole burnt offering. Or rather this is not enough, but we must have good works also: let the hand do alms, the mouth bless them that cross one, and the hearing find leisure evermore for lections of Scripture.3 For sacrifice allows of no unclean thing: sacrifice is a first-fruit of the other actions. Let us then from our hands, and feet, and mouth, and all other members, yield a first-fruit unto God. Such a sacrifice is well pleasing, as that of the Jews was even unclean, for, “their sacrifices,” it says, “are unto them as the bread of mourning.” (Hos. ix. 4.) Not so ours. That presented the thing sacrificed dead: this maketh the thing sacrificed to be living. For when we have mortified our members, then we shall be able to live. For the law of this sacrifice is new, and so the sort of fire is a marvellous one. For it needeth no wood or matter under it; but our fire liveth4 of itself, and doth not burn up the victim, but rather quickeneth it. This was the sacrifice that God sought of old. Wherefore the Prophet saith, “The sacrifice of God is a broken spirit.” (Ps. li. 17.) And the three Children offer this when they say, “At this time there is neither prince, or prophet, or leader, or burnt offering, or place to sacrifice before Thee, and to find mercy. Nevertheless, in a contrite heart and an humble spirit let us be accepted.” (Song of 3 Ch. 15, 16.) And observe how great the exactness wherewith he useth each word. For he does not say, offer (poihsate Ex. xxix. 39LXX.) your bodies as a sacrifice, but “present” (parasthsate see below) them, as if he had said, never more have any interest in them. Ye have given them up to another. For even they that furnish (same word) the war-horses have no further interest in them. And thou too hast presented thy members for the war against the devil and for that dread battle-array. Do not let them down to selfish appliances. And he shows another thing also from this, that one must make them approved, if one means to present them. For it is not to any mortal being that we present them, but to God, the King of the universe; not to war only, but to have seated thereon the King Himself. For He doth not refuse even to be seated upon our members, but even greatly desireth it. And what no king who is but our fellow-servant would choose to do, that the Lord of Angels chooseth. Since then it is both to be presented (i.e. as for a King’s use) and is a sacrifice, rid it of every spot, since if it have a spot, it will no longer be a sacrifice. For neither can the eye that looks lecherously be sacrificed, nor the hand be presented that is grasping and rapacious, nor the feet that go lame and go to play-houses, nor the belly that is the slave of self-indulgence, and kindleth lusts after pleasures, nor the heart that hath rage in it, and harlots’ love, nor the tongue that uttereth filthy things. Hence we must spy out the spots on our body upon every side. For if they that offered the sacrifices of old were bid to look on every side, and were not permitted to offer an animal “that hath anything superfluous or lacking, or is scurvy, or scabbed” (Lev. xxii. 22, Lev. 22:23), much more must we, who offer not senseless animals, but ourselves, exhibit more strictness, and be pure in all respects, that we also may be able to say as did Paul, “I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.” (2 Tim. iv. 6.) For he was purer than any sacrifice, and so he speaks of himself as “ready to be offered.” But this will be brought about if we kill the old man, if we mortify our members that are upon the earth, if we crucify the world unto ourselves. In this way we shall not need the knife any more, nor altar, nor fire, or rather we shall want all these, but not made with the hands, but all of them will come to us from above, fire from above, and knife also, and our altar will the breadth of Heaven be. For if when Elijah offered the visible sacrifice, a flame, that came down from above consumed the whole water, wood, and stones, much more will this be done upon thee. And if thou hast aught in thee relaxed and secular, and yet offerest the sacrifice with a good intention, the fire of the Spirit will come down, and both wear away that worldliness, and perfect (so Field: mss. “carry up”) the whole sacrifice. But what is “reasonable (logikh) service?” It means spiritual ministry, conversation according to Christ. As then he that ministereth in the house of God, and officiateth, of whatever sort he may be, then collects himself (sustelletai Ezech. xliv. 19), and becomes more dignified;5 so we ought to be minded all our whole life as serving and ministering. And this will be so, if every day you bring Him sacrifices(3 mss. “thyself as a sacrifice”), and become the priest of thine own body, and of the virtue of thy soul; as, for example, when you offer soberness, when alms-giving, when goodness and forbearance. For in doing this thou offerest “a reasonable service” (or worship, latreian), that is, one without aught that is bodily, gross, visible. Having then raised the hearer by the names bestowed, and having shown that each man is a priest of his own flesh by his conversation, he mentions also the way whereby we may compass all this. What then is the way?

Rom 12:2  And be not conformed (fashioned) to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

For the fashion of this world is grovelling and worthless, and but for a time, neither bath ought of loftiness, or lastingness, or straightforwardness, but is wholly perverted. If then thou wouldest walk upright (or aright orqa), figure not thyself after the fashion of this life present. For in it there is nought abiding or stable. And this is why he calls it a fashion (sxhma); and so in another passage, “the fashion of this world passeth away.” (1 Cor. vii. 31.) For it hath no durability or fixedness, but all in it is but for a season; and so he calls it this age (or world, Gr. aiwn), hereby to indicate its liableness to misfortune, and by the word fashion its unsubstantialness. For speak of riches, or of glory, or beauty of person, or of luxury, or of whatever other of its seemingly great things you will, it is a fashion only, not reality, a show and a mask, not any abiding substance (upostasij). But “be not thou fashioned after this, but be transformed,” he says, “by the renewing of your mind.” He says not change the fashion, but “be transformed” (metamorfoy), to show that the world’s ways are a fashion, but virtue’s not a fashion, but a kind of real form,7 with a natural beauty of its own, lacking not the trickeries and fashions of outward things, which no sooner appear than they go to nought. For all these things, even before they come to light, are dissolving. If then thou throwest the fashion aside, thou wilt speedily come to the form.8 For nothing is more strengthless than vice, nothing so easily wears old. Then since it is likely that being men they would sin every day, he consoles his hearer by saying, “renew thyself” from day to day. This is what we do with houses, we keep constantly repairing them as they wear old, and so do thou unto thyself. Hast thou sinned to-day? hast thou made thy soul old? despair not, despond not, but renew it by repentance, and tears (Hilary on Ps. cxix.), and confession, and by doing of good things. And never fail of doing this. And how are we to do this?

“That ye may prove (things more expedient (diaferonta), and know 9) what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.”

Either he means by this, be renewed, that ye may learn what is more expedient for you, and what the will of God. Or rather, that ye can get so renewed if ye learn the things expedient, and what God may will. For if thou see this, and know how to distinguish the nature of things, thou art in possession of the whole way of virtue. And who, it may be said, is ignorant of what is expedient, and what is the will of God? They that are flurried with the things of this world, they that deem riches an enviable thing, they that make light of poverty, they that follow after power, they that are gaping after outward glory, they that think themselves great men when they raise fine houses, and buy costly sepulchres, and keep herds of slaves, and carry a great swarm of eunuchs about with them; these know not what is expedient for them, or what the will of God is. For both of these are but one thing. For God willeth what things are expedient for us, and what God willeth, that is also expedient for us. What then are the things which God willeth? to live in poverty, in lowliness of mind, in contempt of glory; in continency, not in self-indulgence; in tribulation, not in ease; in sorrow, not in dissipation and laughter; in all the other points whereon He hath given us laws. But the generality do even think these things of ill omen;10 so far are they from thinking them expedient, and the will of God. This then is why they never can come near even to the labors for virtue’s sake. For they that do not know so much even as what virtue may be, but reverence vice in its place, and take unto their bed the harlot instead of the modest wife, how are they to be able to stand aloof from the present world? Wherefore we ought above all to have a correct estimate of things, and even if we do not follow after virtue, to praise virtue, and even if we do not avoid vice, to stigmatize vice, that so far we may have our judgments uncorrupted. For so as we advance on our road, we shall be able to lay hold on the realities. This then is why he also bids you be renewed, “that ye may prove what is the will of God.” But here he seems to me to be attacking the Jews too, who cling to the Law. For the old dispensation was a will of God, yet not the ultimate purpose, but allowed owing to their feebleness. But that which is a perfect one, and well-pleasing, is the new conversation. So too when he called it “a reasonable service,” it was to set it in contrast with that other (v. note p. 496) that he gave it such a name.

Rom 12:3  For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.

After saying above, “I beseech you by the mercies,” here he says again, “by the grace.” Observe the teacher’s lowliness of mind, observe a spirit quite subdued! He means to say that he is in no respect worthy to be trusted in such an exhortation and counsel. But at one time he takes the mercies of God along with him, at another His grace. It is not my word, he would say, that I am speaking, but one from God. And he does not say,For I say unto you by the wisdom of God, or, for I say unto you by the Law given of God, but, “by the grace,” so reminding them continually of the benefits done them, so as to make them more submissive, and to show that even on this account, they were under an obligation to obey what is here said. “To every man that is among you.” Not to this person and to that merely, but to the governor and to the governed, to the slave and to the free, to the unlearned and to the wise, to the woman and to the man, to the young and to the old. For the Law is common to all as being the Lord’s. And by this he likewise makes his language inoffensive, setting the lessons he gives to all, even to such as do not come under them, that those who do come under them may with more willingness accept such a reproof and correction. And what dost thou say? Let me hear. “Not to think more highly than he ought to think.” Here he is bringing before us the mother of good deeds, which is lowliness of mind, in imitation of his own Master. For as He, when He went up into the mountain, and was going to give a tissue of moral precepts, took this for his first beginning, and made this the foundation, in the words, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Matt. v. 3); so Paul too, as he has now passed from the doctrinal parts to those of a more practical kind, has taught us virtue in general terms, by requiring of us the admirable sacrifice; and being on the point of giving a more particular portrait of it, he begins from lowliness of mind as from the head, and tells us, “not to think more highly of one’s self than one ought to think,” (for this is His will), (many mss. om. for etc.), “but to think soberly.” But what he means is about this. We have received wisdom not that we should use it to make us haughty, but to make us sober-minded. And he does not say in order to be lowly in mind, but in order to sobriety, meaning by sobriety (swfrosunh) here not that virtue which contrasts with lewdness, nor the being free from intemperance, but being sober and healthful in mind. And the Greek name of it means keeping the mind safe.11 To show then that he who is not thus modest metriazontta), cannot be sober either, that is, cannot be staid and healthful minded (because such an one is bewildered, and out, of his wits, and is more crazed than any madman), he calls lowliness of mind, soberness of mind.

“According as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.” For since having gifts given them had made many unreasonably elated, both with these and with the Corinthians, see how he lays open the cause of the disease, and gradually removes it. For after saying that we should think soberly, he proceeds, “according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith,” meaning here the gift by faith: and by using the word “dealt,” he solaces him who had the less, and humbles him who had the greater share. For if God dealt it, and it is no achievement of thine, why think highly of thyself? But if any one says that faith here does not mean the gift, this would only the more show that he was humbling the vain boasters. For if that which is the cause of the gift (so Field with most mss.: Vulg. “If the faith by which miracles are wrought is the cause of the gift”), that faith by which miracles are wrought, be itself from God, on what ground dost thou think highly of thyself? If He had not come, or been incarnate, then the things of faith would not have fared well either. And it is from hence that all the good things take their rise. But if it is He that giveth it, He knoweth how He dealeth it. For He made all, and taketh like care of all. And as His giving came of His love towards man, so doth the quantity which He giveth. For was He Who had shown His goodness in regard to the main point, which is the giving of the gift, likely to neglect thee in regard to the measure? For had He wished to do thee dishonor, then He had not given them at all. But if to save thee and to honor thee was what He had in view (and for this He came and distributed such great blessings), why art thou confounded and disturbed, and abusest thy wisdom to foolishness, making thyself more disgraceful than one who is by nature so? For being foolish by nature is no ground of complaint. But being foolish through wisdom, is at once bereaving one’s self of excuse, and running into greater punishment.

Such then are those, who pride themselves upon their wisdom, and fall into the excess of recklessness.12 For recklessness of all things makes a person a fool. Wherefore the Prophet calls the barbarian by this name. But “the fool,” he says, “shall speak folly.” (Is. xxxii. 6.) But that you may see the folly of him from his own words, hear what he says. “Above the stars of heaven will I place my throne, and I will be like the Most High.” (ib. xiv. 14.) “I will take hold of the world as a nest, and as eggs that are left will I take them away.” (ib. x. 14.) Now what can be more foolish than these words? And every instance of haughty language immediately draws on itself this reproach. And if I were, to set before you every expression of them that are reckless, you would not be able to distinguish whether the words are those of a reckless man or a fool. So entirely the same is this failing and that. And another of a strange nation says again, “I am God and not man” (Ezech. xxviii. 2); and another again, Can God save you, or deliver you out of my hand?” (Dan. iii. 15.) And the Egyptian too, “I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go.”(Ex. v. 2.) And the foolish body in the Psalmist is of this character, who hath “said in his heart, There is no God.” (Ps. xiv. 1.) And Cain, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen. iv. 9.) Can you now distinguish whether the words are those of the reckless or those of the fool? For recklessness going out of due bounds, and being a departure from reason (whence its name recklessness, aponoia), maketh men both fools and vainglorious. For likewise, “the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord” (Prov ix.10), so then the beginning of folly is surely not knowing the Lord. If then knowing be wisdom, and not knowing Him folly, and this ignorance come of haughtiness (uperhfania), (for the beginning of haughtiness is the not knowing of the Lord), then is haughtiness the extreme of folly. Such was Nabal, if not to Godward, at least toward man, having become senseless from his recklessness. But he afterwards died of fear. For when any falleth from the measure of wisdom, he becomes at once a coward and bold (qrasudeiloi Ar. Eth. iii.), his soul having been made feeble. For as the body when it loseth its proper tone having become out of condition, is a prey to any disease, thus too the soul when it hath lost its greatness of nature and lowly-mindedness, having gotten any feeble habit (ecin), becomes fearful, as well as bold and unreasonable, and loses its powers of self-consciousness. And he that has lost these, how is he to know things above himself? For as he that is seized with a frenzy, when he has so lost them, knoweth not even what is right before him; and the eye, when it is dimmed, darkeneth all the other members; so doth it happen with this recklessness. Wherefore these are more miserable than the mad, or than those silly by nature. For like them they stir laughter, and like them they are ill-tempered. And they are out of their wits as the others are, but they are not pitied as they are. And they are beside themselves, as are these, but they are not excused, as are these, but are hated only. And while they have the failings of either, they are bereaved of the excuse of either, being ridiculous not owing to their words only, but to their whole appearance also. For why, pray, dost thou stiffen up thy neck? or why walk on tiptoe? why knit up thy brows? why stick thy breast out? Thou canst not make one hair white or black, (Matt. v. 36) and thou goest with as lofty gait as if thou couldest command everything. No doubt thou wouldest like to have wings, and not go upon the earth at all! No doubt thou wouldest wish to be a prodigy! For hast thou not made thyself prodigious now, when thou art a man and triest to fly? or rather flying from within, and bloated in every limb? What shall I call thee to quit thee of thy recklessness? Shall I call thee ashes, and dust, and smoke, and pother? I have described thy worthlessness to be sure, but still I have not laid hold of the exact image I wanted. For I want to put their bloatedness before me, and all its emptiness. What image am I to find then which will suit with all this? To me it seems to be like tow in a blaze. For it seems to swell when lighted, and to lift itself up; but when it is submitted to a slight touch of the hand, it all tumbles down, and turns out to be more worthless than the veriest ashes. Of this sort are the souls of these men; that empty inflatedness of theirs even the commonest attack may humble and bring down. For he that behaves recklessly must of necessity be a throughly feeble person, since the height he has is not a sound one, but even as bubbles are easily burst, so are these men easily undone. But if thou dost not believe, give me a bold reckless fellow, and you will find him more cowardly than a hare even at the most trivial circumstance. For as the flame that rises from dry sticks is no sooner lighted than it becomes dust, but stiff logs do not by their nature easily kindle up, and then keep up their flame a long time burning; so souls that be stern and firm are not easily kindled or extinguished; but these men undergo both of these in a single moment. Since then we know this, let us practise humble-mindedness. For there is nothing so powerful as it, since it is stronger even than a rock and harder than adamant, and places us in a safety greater than that of towers and cities and walls, being too high for any of the artillery of the devil. As then recklessness makes men an easy prey even to ordinary occurrences, being, as I was saying, easier broken than a bubble, and rent more speedily than a spider’s web, and more quickly dissolved than a smoke; that we then may be walking upon the strong rock, let us leave that and take to this. For thus in this life present we shall find rest, and shall in the world to come have every blessing, by the grace and love toward man, etc.

Rom 12:4  For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office:
Rom 12:5  So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.

Again he uses the same ensample as he does to the Corinthians, and that to allay the same passion. For great is the power of the medicine, and the force of this illustration for the correcting of this disease of haughtiness. Why (he means) dost thou think highly of thyself? Or why again does another utterly despise himself? Are we not all one body, both great and small? When then we are in the total number but one, and members one of another, why dost thou by thy haughtiness separate thyself? Why dost thou put thy brother to shame? For as he is a member of thee, so art thou also of him. And it is on this score that your claims to honor are so equal. For he has stated two things that might take down their haughty spirit: one that we are members one of another, not the small of the great only, but also the great of the small; and another, that we are all one body. Or rather there are three points, since he shows that the gift was one of grace. “Therefore be not high-minded.” For it was given thee of God; thou didst not take it, nor find it even. Hence too, when he touches upon the gifts, he does not say that one received more, and another less, but what? different. For his words are, “having then gifts,” not less and greater, but, “differing.” And what if thou art not appointed to the same office, still the body is the same. And beginning with gifts, he ends with a good deed (4 mss. pl.); and so after mentioning prophecy, and ministry, and the like, he concludes with mercy, diligence, and succor. Since then it was likely that some would be virtuous, yet not have prophecy, he shows how that this too is a gift, and a much greater one than the other (as he shows in the Epistle to the Corinthians), and so much the greater, as that one has a reward, the other is devoid of a recompense. For the whole is matter of gift and grace. Wherefore he saith,

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St Thomas Aquinas’ Homily Notes on Romans 12:2

What follows is not actually a homily, rather, it is a series of homiletic notes which can provide points for meditation, reflection, and further study. The Sermon was originally preached on the First Sunday after Epiphany. Twenty-one of Aquinas’ outstanding “Academic Sermons” are available in English translation. Basic notes such as the one presented here can not convey their depth and richness. You might also wish to purchase “Reading the Sermons of Thomas Aquinas: A Beginner’s Guide“. Notes such as those presented here were in all likelihood really outlines made by Thomas’ students as he preached the sermon. Having students outline lectures, sermons and books was a common learning exercise in the Middle Ages. It’s still common today among students of literature, theology and philosophy.

HOMILY I.
THE ELEMENTS OF HUMAN PERFECTION.
“Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing
of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable,
and perfect, will of God.” Rom 12:2.

THE Apostle in these words exhorts us to three things, in which consists the entire perfection of man. Firstly, that the form of this world be relinquished- “Be not conformed to this world.” Secondly, that the form of the new life be assumed- “but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Thirdly, that the will of God may be known- “that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

I. On the first head it is to be noted, that the form or manner of existence, of this world is threefold. (1) In the lust of concupiscence. (2) In the desire of earthly goods. (3) In the pride of life. Of these three, 1 John 2:16, “The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” It is to be remembered that this threefold form has likewise a threefold manifestation the “lust of the flesh” has a sensual form; the “lust of the eyes,” an earthly form; the “pride of life,” a devilish form. Lust makes a man sensual; avarice makes him earthly; pride makes him like the devil. Of these three, S. James 3:15, “This wisdom descendeth, not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish.” By the first, we are “conformed to this world” through gluttony and revelling; by the second, through avarice; by the third, through pride; so that they themselves will perish with the perishing world. As S. Greg. Mag. says, “He who leans upon that which is failing must of necessity come to ruin when it perishes.” 1 John 2:15, 17, “Love not the world.” Why not? “The world passeth away and the lust thereof.”

II. On the second head it is to be noted that the form of the new life is also threefold. It consists (1) in holiness of will; (2) in truth of speech; (3) in justness of deed. The first informs the heart; the second, the mouth; the third, the hands. Of the first, Eph 6:6, 7, “Doing the will of God from the heart, with good will.” Of the second, Eph 4:25, “Putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour.” Of the third, Gal 6:10, “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men.” Of these three, Eph 5:9, “For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, and righteousness, and truth”- in “goodness” of heart, in “righteousness” of deed, in “truth” of speech. The form of goodness makes us angelical, since by goodness man became like unto the angels. The form of righteousness makes us celestial; by righteousness we are likened unto the saints. The form of truth makes us divine; by truth we are made like unto God. Of these three, Rom 12:1, “Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God.” Living by faith, Heb 10:38, “The just shall live by faith.” “Holy,” which is cleansed. “Acceptable to God,” through the truth, for God is truth.

III. On the third head it is to be noted that the “will of God” is threefold. Firstly, “good;” secondly, “acceptable;” thirdly, “perfect.” This is to be understood in many ways, but chiefly in three.

1. In a moral sense, the will of God was “good” in creating; “acceptable” in recreating; “perfect” in glorifying. “Good ” in giving the gifts of nature; “acceptable” in giving the gifts of grace; “perfect” in the bestowal of glory. Of the first, Rev 4:11, “Thou art worthy, Lord, to receive glory and honour and power; for Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and were created.” For they were in idea in the Divine mind, they were created to have an existence of their own. Of the second, ps 30:7, “Lord, by Thy favour [tua voluntate, Vulg.] Thou hast made my mountain to stand strong;” since, in recreating, the Lord renewed the Divine beauty in us, and strengthened it by the favour of the Holy Ghost. Of the third, John 17:24, ” Father, I will that they also whom Thou hast given Me be with Me where I am; that they may behold My glory.” Ps. 73:24, “Thou shalt guide me with Thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.”

2. In another sense, the will of God is “good” in us by cleansing us from all impurity; “acceptable” through the showing forth of pity; “perfect” from the fervour of charity. Of the first, 1 Thess 4:3, “This is the will of God, even your sanctification,” i.e., cleansing. Of the second, Matt 9:13, “I will have mercy, and not sacrifice.” Of the third, Luke 12:49, “I am come to send fire on the earth, and what will I if it be already kindled ?” By fire charity is understood.

3. In a third sense, the “will of God” can be viewed as “good” in those who are married; “acceptable” in the continent; “perfect” in prelates who are preserved for perfection. In the married, as exciting them to works of mercy; in the continent, to do good to others like them; in prelates, to lay down their lives for the brethren. Of the first will can be understood Ps 143:10, “Teach me to do Thy will.” Of the second, 1 Thess 4:4, “That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour,- not in the lust of concupiscence.” Of the third, Ps 104:21, “Ministers of His that do His pleasure.” The reward of His will is eternal life Ps 30:5, “In His favour [voluntas, Vulg.] is life.”

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Father Callan’s Commentary on Romans 12:1-2

With this chapter commences the Moral Part of the Epistle. The principles already laid down in the foregoing portion are now viewed in their consequences and influences upon the Christian life. Having shown that faith is the only way to salvation the Apostle goes on in the remainder of his letter to point out what faith demands in practical ways from Christians.

This last part of the Epistle has two main sections. The first of these (Rom 12:1-13:14) contains general instructions for all Christians; the second (Rom 14:1-15:13) has particular counsels for the Christians in Rome.

THE CHRISTIAN SHOULD CONSECRATE HIS LIFE TO THE SERVICE OF GOD
Rom 12:1-2

The practical consequences to be drawn from what has been said regarding the mercy of God toward man is the duty of entire consecration to God’s service, and of a radical interior transformation, as a means to the perfect execution of God’s will.

Rom 12:1  I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercy of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing unto God, your reasonable service.

I beseech (παρακαλω) , i.e., I exhort, I counsel.

Brethren, i.e., all you Christians of Rome. The term αδελφοι refers not to the Jewish Christians only, as Zahn pretends; but, as in Rom 11:25, to all the Christians in Rome.

By the mercy, or, according to the Greek, “by the mercies” (2 Cor 1:3), i.e., on account of the mercy of God about which we have just spoken in the preceding chapter, and of which you Romans have been the object.

That you present. The word παραστησαι means to present as a sacrifice, as the Jews were accustomed to bring their victims and present them to the altar for immolation (Lev 16:6; Luke 2:22).

Your bodies. The Christian should consecrate his whole being to the service of God. The Apostle begins with the body, because man’s spiritual ruin began with the bodily organs, the senses.

A living sacrifice, for a sacrifice under the Old Law, the victim had to be living, because the sacrificial act consisted principally in the immolation of the victim; it had to be holy, that is, without defect (Lev 19:2), suitable to be offered to God and pleasing in God’s sight. Likewise the Christian’s body, dead to sin through Baptism, should be living the life of grace which makes it holy and pleasing to God and renders it a fit instrument to be used by the mind and soul in God’s service.

Your reasonable service. These words are in apposition to the whole preceding clause. The Apostle wishes to say that the sacrifice we make to God in offering Him our bodies, living, holy, etc., is a reasonable service, i.e., a real spiritual (Cornely) worship which proceeds from the interior man, and not a mere external sensible worship like the sacrifices of animals in the Old Testament; or that when man gives his body, i.e., his external moral actions to the service of God, he is rendering to God a worship truly reasonable and rational, i.e., suited to the nature of God and of man, unlike the sensible homage which was paid to God by the ancient sacrifices of brute animals (Lagr.). Whether we take “reasonable” (λογικην) here to mean spiritual or rational, it is clear that the offering to God of all our bodily activities and moral actions is a service based on a reasonable consideration of our nature and of God’s nature.

Rom 12:2  And be not conformed to this world: but be reformed in the newness of your mind, that you may prove what is the good and the acceptable and the perfect will of God.

This verse develops the thought of the preceding one, passing from the dispositions of the body to those of the mind. The Christian’s service of God involves a change in his mental attitude. He must no longer adapt himself to the standards and manners, the thoughts and sentiments of this world of sin and corruption; but must, through the assistance of grace, be reformed, i.e., transformed (μεταμορφουσθε) by the renovation of his mind so as to live according to his true, rational, spiritual nature. This change and renovation in man’s higher nature is to the end that man may know what is the good, the acceptable and the perfect will of God (Vulgate); or, as the Greek text has it, that he may know what is the object of God’s will, namely, that it is something morally good (το αγαθον), something well-pleasing (ευαρεστον) to God, something perfect (τελειον). These three adjectives,
αγαθον, ευαρεστον, and τελειον are taken substantively (Cornely, Lagr., Zahn, etc.), to explain that which God’s will respects. Hence the “will of God” means not the faculty which wills, but the object of that will, the thing willed.

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Father de Piconio’s Commentary on Romans 12:1-2

1. I BESEECH you therefore, brethren, through the mercy of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing to God, your reasonable service.
2, And refuse to be conformed to this world, but be transformed in the newness of your sense: that you may prove what is the good will of God, well-pleasing and perfect
.

Chapter 12. Having stated and explained the doctrine which it is the object of this Epistle to enforce, justification by faith, the Apostle proceeds to show what should be its practical effect. Men redeemed by Christ, and who have received the gift of the Holy Spirit, the adoption of the sons of God, and the hope of eternal glory, should present themselves a living sacrifice to God, and live as in the hope of a better and nobler life to come. And for this he lays down rules and directions, general and detailed.

1. I beseech you by the mercy of God. A strong form of adjuration, intended to express the earnestness of his entreaty. Offer to God, not sheep and cattle killed in sacrifice, but your own bodies, a living sacrifice. He makes no special mention of the soul, for soul and body are one man, and the sacrifice of the body involves that of the soul and will, and would be impossible without it. The body, made holy, will be a pleasing and acceptable sacrifice.
This is the reasonable service, the worship due from the intelligent and rational creature to the Creator. The Syriac has: made acceptable to God by rational ministry, or spiritual worship. This sacrifice of the body appears to be what our Lord referred to when he said, worship him in spirit, in the due supremacy of the spirit over the flesh, and in truth, in Catholic belief (see John 4:23-24).

Saint Thomas observes that man has a threefold gift from God: his soul, his body, and his outward possessions. His soul, the Christian should sacrifice to God by the humility of devotion and contrition: his goods, by liberal almsgiving: his body, by mortification. It is this last to which the Apostle particularly refers in this passage. Of this Christian and spiritual sacrifice, the spirit is the priest; our heart, the altar; contrition and mortification, the two-edged sword that slays the victim; charity the fire that consumes it. The victim is the body, under sentence of death for sin, yet living to God, and animated by a pure and holy mind, which directs and offers itself, its body, and all its body’s actions, for the glory of God.

The Jew or the pagan may offer dumb and irrational victims, incapable of praising God or pleasing him. The Christian offers his own body, living, and sanctified by the Holy Ghost in Baptism.

How shall the body be made a victim? asks Saint Chrysostom. Let the eye look not at evil, and it is made a victim. Let the tongue speak no word of shame, and it is an oblation. Let the hand do no injustice, and it becomes a holocaust. This is not all. Let the hand give alms. Let the tongue bless those who curse us. Let the ear be always open to the words of God. Such a victim as this has no blemish; it includes the first fruits of all others. Hands, feet, mouth, all the members of the body, yield all as first fruits due to God.

2. Be not conformed to this world. The Greek: be not made like the figure of this world. The Syriac: be not assimilated to this world. Live not as those live whose hopes and aims are bounded by anything on this side of the grave. Saint Chrysostom and Theodoret remark that Saint Paul speaks of all things belonging to this world, its wealth, power, honours, as figures, because they pass away. The fashion of the world passes. But he speaks of what belongs to the spirit as form, because this alone is true, solid, permanent. This distinction is founded on the Greek text, and does not appear in the Vulgate. We are not to be transfigured into the image of the world by following its desires, but transformed into the likeness of Christ by charity. In the newness of your sense, the freshness of all that you now feel and know, as if a new world was opened to your view.

That you may prove what is the will of God. That the will of God is the rule, measure, source, and origin of all sanctity. This knowledge results from the interior renovation just spoken of. The more we are reformed in the spirit of our mind, the more we are enlightened by God to see and understand what is good, for beginners; what is well-pleasing, for the more experienced; what is perfect, for those who see perfection before them, and strive to attain it.

The rules and principles laid down in this and the following three chapters, are rules for the secular, not the religious life. They are addressed to men of all degrees and orders, living in the world. There is the more reason to guard against being transfigured into its image, sharing its paltry and finite aspirations, and its sordid aims and hopes.

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