Commentaries for the Sunday Masses of Year B (Dec 3, 2017-Dec 1, 2018)

ADVENT SEASON

First Sunday of Advent.
Second Sunday of Advent.
Third Sunday of Advent.
Fourth Sunday of Advent.

CHRISTMAS SEASON TO EPIPHANY
Note: Traditionally Epiphany is celebrated on January 6. In the USA it is celebrated on the Sunday following January 6.

Dec. 24. Vigil Mass for the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord.
Dec. 24-25. Mass During the Night: The Nativity of the Lord (Midnight Mass).
Dec. 25. Mass at Dawn: The Nativity of the Lord.
Dec. 25. Mass During the Day: The Nativity of the Lord.

Sunday Within the Octave of Christmas (Feast of the Holy Family). If a Sunday does not fall between Dec. 26 and Dec 31 then the Feast of the Holy Family is celebrated on Dec. 30.

!!! The Epiphany of the Lord.

ORDINARY TIME, INCLUDING THE BAPTISM OF THE LORD
Note: Scroll down for the seasons that interrupt Ordinary Time.

!!! Baptism of the Lord. Celebrated in 2018 on Monday, Jan. 8.
Second Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Third Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time. In 2018 the Lenten season begins during this week. See LENTEN SEASON below.
Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time. Superseded in 2018 by Pentecost (see under EASTER SEASON).
Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time. Superseded by the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. See next link.
!!! Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity.
Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time. Superseded in 2018 by the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood. See next link.
!!! Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood (Corpus Christi).
Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time. Superseded in 2018 by the Solemnity of the Nativity of John the Baptist. See next link.
!!! Commentaries for the Solemnity of the Nativity of St John the Baptist. (Vigil and Mass of the day).
Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time.
!!! Solemnity of Christ the King. (Final Sunday of the year).

LENTEN SEASON

Ash Wednesday.
Thursday After Ash Wednesday.
Friday After Ash Wednesday.
Saturday After Ash Wednesday.
First Sunday of Lent.
Second Sunday of Lent.
Third Sunday of Lent.
Fourth Sunday of Lent.
Fifth Sunday of Lent.
!!! HOLY WEEK. Palm Sunday thru the Saturday Easter Vigil.

EASTER SEASON

Easter Vigil (Holy Saturday).
EASTER SUNDAY.
Divine Mercy Sunday (Second Sunday of Easter).
Third Sunday of Easter.
Fourth Sunday of Easter.
Fifth Sunday of Easter.
Sixth Sunday of Easter.
!!! Feast of the Ascension of the Lord.
Seventh Sunday of Easter.
!!! The Vigil of Pentecost Sunday.
!!! Pentecost Sunday.

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New EWTN Mini-Series Begins This Afternoon

Starting today, Monday September 17  [5:30 PM EST] through Friday September 21, EWTN is airing 5 sessions with [biblical scholar] Dr. Brant Pitre. The shows are based upon his book The Case For Jesus. this book, which I’ve recommended  in a previous post, is described as follows:

“For well over a hundred years now, many scholars have questioned the historical truth of the Gospels, claiming that they were originally anonymous. Others have even argued that Jesus of Nazareth did not think he was God and never claimed to be divine.

“In The Case for Jesus, Dr. Brant Pitre, the bestselling author of Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist, goes back to the sources—the biblical and historical evidence for Christ—in order to answer several key questions, including:

• Were the four Gospels really anonymous?
• Are the Gospels folklore? Or are they biographies?
• Were the four Gospels written too late to be reliable?
• What about the so-called “Lost Gospels,” such as “Q” and the Gospel of Thomas?
• Did Jesus claim to be God?
• Is Jesus divine in all four Gospels? Or only in John?
• Did Jesus fulfill the Jewish prophecies of the Messiah?
• Why was Jesus crucified?
• What is the evidence for the Resurrection?

“As The Case for Jesus will show, recent discoveries in New Testament scholarship, as well as neglected evidence from ancient manuscripts and the early church fathers, together have the potential to pull the rug out from under a century of skepticism toward the traditional Gospels. Above all, Pitre shows how the divine claims of Jesus of Nazareth can only be understood by putting them in their ancient Jewish context.” (source)

The topics dealt with in the five episodes are:

Monday September 17: “Were the Gospels Anonymous?”
Tuesday September 18: “Did Jesus fulfill the Old Testament Prophets?”
Wednesday September 19: “Did Jesus Claim to be God?”
Thursday September 20: “The Crucifixion of Jesus”
Friday September 21: “The Resurrection of Jesus”

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Commentaries for the Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B.

READINGS AND OFFICE:

Mass Readings in the RNAB Translation. Used in the USA.

Mass Readings in the NJB Translation. Used in most English speaking countries. Scroll down. I’ve seen conflicting reports concerning whether or not it is the JB, or the NJB that is currently used in most English speaking nations. If anyone knows of a Bishop’s Conference site that has a set up similar to the US Bishop’s site linked above (but using the JB or NJB), please let me know.

Divine Office.

COMMENTARIES ON THE FIRST READING: Deuteronomy 6:2-6.

My Notes on Deuteronomy 6:2-6. Begins with verse 1.

Word-Sunday Notes on Deuteronomy 6:2-6.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Deuteronomy 6:2-6.

Homilist’s Catechism on Deuteronomy 6:2-6.

COMMENTARIES ON THE RESPONSORIAL: Ps 18:2-3, 3-4, 47, 51.

Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 18.

St Thomas Aquinas’ Lecture on Psalm 18.

St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 18.

Word-Sunday Notes on Psalm 18.

COMMENTARIES ON THE SECOND READING: Hebrews 7:23-28.

Father Callan’s Commentary on Hebrews 7:23-28.

Father Boylan’s Commentary on Hebrews 7:23-28.

Word-Sunday Notes on Hebrews 7:23-28.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Hebrews 7:23-28.

Homilist’s Catechism on Hebrews 7:23-28.

COMMENTARIES ON THE GOSPEL READING: Mark 12:28-34.

Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Mark 12:28-34.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Mark 12:28-34.

Word-Sunday Notes on Mark 12:28-34.

Homilist’s Catechism on Mark 12:28-34.

GENERAL RESOURCES: sites that usually deal with the readings as a whole. 

Lector Notes. Brief historical and theological background on the readings. Can be printed out, copied, and used as bulletin insert.

Doctrinal Homily Outline. Not available at the time of posting. I’ve linked to the archive page which should have a link up about a week prior to the Sunday.

The Wednesday Word.  It’s about the Sunday readings, but the document is posted on Wednesday, hence the name. Designed for prayer and reflection, the pdf document ends with Father Dom Henry Wansbrough’s reflections on the first and second readings. Fr. Wansbrough is General Editor of the New Jerusalem Bible and contributed commentaries on Matt, Mark, and the Pastorals in A New Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture.

St Charles Borromeo Parish’s Bible Study Notes. Notes on all the readings, usually with some background info as well.

Sacred Page Blog. Not yet available. Catholic biblical scholar Dr. John Bergsma’s reflections on the readings and psalm.

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Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Mark 12:28-34

Ver 28. And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked Him, “Which is the first commandment of all?”29. And Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord:30. And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.31. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.”32. And the scribe said unto Him, “Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but He:33. And to love Him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”34. And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, He said unto him, “Thou art not far from the kingdom of God.” And no man after that durst ask Him any question.

Gloss.: After that the Lord confuted the Pharisees, and the Sadducees, who tempted Him, it is here shewn how He satisfied the Scribe who questioned Him.

Wherefore it is said, “And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked Him, Which is the first commandment of all?”

Pseudo-Jerome: This question is only that which is a problem common to all skilled in the law, namely, that the commandments are differently set forth in Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy. Wherefore He brought forward not one but two commandments, by which, as by two paps rising on the breast of the bride, our infancy is nourished.

And therefore there is added, “And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; the Lord thy God is one God.” He mentions the first and greatest commandment of all; this is that to which each of us must give the first place in his heart, as the only foundation of piety, that is, the knowledge and confession of the Divine Unity, with the practice of good works, which is perfected in the love of God and our neighbour.

Wherefore there is added, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy mind, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.”

Theophylact: See how He has enumerated all the powers of the soul; for there is a living power in the soul, which He explains, when He says, “With all thy soul,” and to this belong anger and desire, all of which He will have us give to Divine love.

There is also another power, which is called natural, to which belong nutriment and growth, and this also is all to be given to God, for which reason He says, “With all thy heart.”

There is also another power, the rational, which He calls the mind, and that too is to be given whole to God.

Gloss.: The words which are added, “And with all thy strength,” may be referred to the bodily powers.It goes on: “And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”

Theophylact: He says that it is like, because these two commandments are harmonious one with the other, and mutually contain the other. For he who loves God, loves also His creature; but the chief of His creatures is man, wherefore he who loves God ought to love all men. But he who loves his neighbor, who so often offends him, ought much more to love Him, who is ever giving him benefits. And therefore on account of the connection between these commandments, He adds, “There is none other commandment greater than these.”

It goes on: “And the Scribe said unto Him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God, and there is none other but He: and to love Him with all the heart, and with all the soul, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

Bede: He shews when he says, “this is greater than all sacrifices,” that a grave question was often debated between the scribes and Pharisees, which was the first commandment, or the greatest of the Divine law; that is, some praised offerings and sacrifices, others preferred acts of faith and love, because many of the fathers before the law pleased God by that faith only, which works by love. This scribe shews that he was of the latter opinion.

But it continues: “And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, He said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God.”

Theophylact: By which He shews that he was not perfect, for He did not say, Thou art within the kingdom of heaven, but, “Thou art not far from the kingdom of God.”

Bede: But the reason why he was not far from the kingdom of God was, that he proved himself to be a favourer of that opinion, which is proper to the New Testament and to Gospel perfection.

Augustine, de Con. Evan, ii, 73: Nor let it trouble us that Matthew says, that he who addressed this question to the Lord tempted Him; for it may be that though he came as a tempter, yet he was corrected by the answer of the Lord. Or at all events, we must not look upon the temptation as evil, and done with the intention of deceiving an enemy, but rather as the caution of a man who wished to try a thing unknown to him.

Pseudo-Jerome: Or else, he is not far who comes with knowledge; for ignorance is farther from the kingdom of God than knowledge; wherefore He says above to the Sadducees, “Ye err, not knowing the Scriptures, or the power of God.”  It goes on: “And no man after that durst ask Him any questions.”

Bede: For since they were confuted in argument, they ask Him no further questions, but take Him without any disguise, and give Him up to the Roman power. From which we understand that the venom of envy may be overcome, but can hardly lie quiet.

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Father Boylan’s Commentary on Hebrews 7:23-28

(23) And they, have. been made priests many in number, since they were prevented by death from, remaining: (24) but He, because He remaineth for ever, ,hath an unchangeable Priesthood. (25) Wherefore He can at all times save those who approach God through Him, since He liveth always to make intercession for them.

These verses indicate another superiority of the Priesthood of Christ. The Levitical priesthood was in itself merely temporary; in the individuals who possessed it it was still less enduring. One after another they died, and their places had to be taken by others. But Christ never dies, and hence His Priesthood does not pass from one bearer to another. For this reason He can always give rescuing help, since He is an ever-living Priest, interceding for men.

(26) And just such a High priest was fitted for our needs —holy, pure, undefiled, set apart from sinners and made higher than the heavens, (27) who hath not need daily, like the high priests, to offer sacrifice, first of all, for his own sins, and, in the second place, for those of the people: for this He did once for all when He offered Himself.  (28) For the Law seteth up as high priests men who have weakness, but the word of the oath which followed the Law (set up) one who is a Son, for ever perfected.

Having established the superiority of the Priesthood of Christ to the Levitical Priesthood, the author returns to the thought of Jesus as High Priest, and finds Him to be perfect in every respect in that office.

Our need cried out for a High Priest who should be altogether holy, and pure, and God-pleasing, and have no contact whatever with evil, — a High Priest who should stand quite apart from sinners, and have access to the immediate presence of God. It was necessary that we should have a High Priest who would not need to make sacrifices in, atonement for any sins of His own — as the Jewish High Priest had to do on Atonement Day. Such a High Priest we have in Jesus.

It is true that the Jewish High Priest did not offer sacrifice daily, but the writer is thinking here, on the one hand, of the daily sacrifices offered by the Jewish priests generally [which, perhaps, might be) regarded, in a sense, as offered somehow by (because through the authorisation of) the High Priest], and, on the other, of the sacrifice offered by the High Priest alone on Atonement Day. Jesus offered sacrifice for the people — but He did so once for all. The one sacrifice sufficed for Christ, for while the Mosaic priests were but weak men, Christ is a High Priest appointed by oath, and a Son of God in Whom there is no sin, or tendency to sin.

In Heb 7:1-10 the author had argued in historical fashion that the day of the Levitical Priesthood was over, that the Levitical system had been abrogated. In Heb 7:21—28 he deals in dialectic fashion with those who would maintain a foolish Jewish conservatism. The problem here is “Aaron or Jesus”, and we may assume that actual difficulties of the readers are here kept in view. The abrogation of the Levitical Priesthood is shown first negatively, and then positively.

The negative argument runs through Heb 7:11—19a. The abrogation appears:

(a) from the establishment of a priesthood of a different order, Heb 7:11— 14;
(b) from the general character of the Old Testament priests, Heb 7:15—17;
(c) from the essential imperfection of the Law, Heb 7:19 a.

The positive argument is derived from the perfection of the New Testament
Priesthood;

(a) by an inference from the higher kind of testification to the New Testament Priesthood (oath) to its higher excellence, Heb 7:19 b—22;
(b) by a consideration of the person of Christ — who is eternal, has fulness of power and all the qualities of an ideal High Priest, Heb 7:23-28.

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Father Callan’s Commentary on Hebrews 7:23-28

This post includes a summary of Hebrews 7:1-28, commentary on verses 23-27 follow.

THE SUPERIORITY OF THE PRIESTHOOD OF CHRIST

A Summary of Hebrews 7:1-28~The author now returns to the third great argument in proof of his thesis, that the New Dispensation is superior to the
Old. This argument is based on the superiority of the Priesthood of Christ to that of the Old Law. The Apostle had already introduced it in Heb 4:14-16, and had continued it in Heb 5:1-10, but then felt it necessary to interrupt his main line of thought in order to give warning of perils to be guarded against and to offer words of encouragement to his readers. Now, however, he will take up this argument and show the force it contains for his purpose. First, referring to the narrative of Gen 14:18-20, he places before us a picture of Melchisedech, emphasizing those features in the  patriarch which showed the superiority of his type of priesthood to that of the Levitical order (Heb 7:1-3). Next he shows the superiority of Melchisedech to Abraham (Heb 7:4-10). In the third place, he discusses the inferiority of the Levitical priesthood, which was superseded by the perfect priesthood of Christ (Heb 7:11-25). Finally, summing up his arguments, he shows that Christ is the ideal High Priest (Heb 7:26-28).

23. And the others indeed were made many priests, because by reason of death they were not suffered to continue;
24. But this, for that he continueth for ever, hath an everlasting priesthood.
25. Whereby he is able also to save for ever them that come to God by him, always living to make intercession for us.

The author now gives other reasons to show how the new priesthood is superior to the old. In the old system the priests were many in number and were always succeeding one another, because death was constantly thinning their ranks; there was no permanency about them, and their office was consequently transitory. But in the new system we have one supreme Mediator who abides forever, and whose priesthood does not change. Thus, it follows from this perpetual and unchanging priesthood of the New Law that Jesus Christ, our great High Priest, is able “to save for ever” (i.e., at all times) those who draw near to God through Him; He is always living “to make intercession for us” (i.e., to exercise His priesthood in our behalf).

The words translated “for ever” (ver. 25) may also be rendered “to the uttermost,” i.e., completely, in the fullest degree.

The human priests of the New Law are but vicars of Jesus Christ, ministers employed by Him to discharge in His name certain visible and external functions here on earth; and the sacrifice which they offer is identical with His sacrifice.

26. For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners, and made higher than the heavens;
27. Who needeth not daily as the other priests to offer sacrifices first for his own sins, and then for the people’s; for this he did once, in offering himself.
28. For the law maketh men priests, who have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which followed the law, setteth up the Son who is perfected for evermore.

The author now returns to the thought of Jesus Christ as High Priest, having established the superiority of His priesthood to that of the Levitical system. Christ is indeed the ideal High Priest, because He possesses perfect intrinsic holiness and is entirely apart from sin and sinners; He surpasses in sanctity all creatures and is seated above the heavens at the right hand of the Father Almighty. Unlike the Levitical priests who were under the necessity of offering sacrifices continually, first for their own sins and then for the sins of the people, Christ had no sins of His own to expiate, and for the sins of the people He offered Himself once and for all.

The reason why the Jewish priests had to offer sacrifices for their sins was that the Law of Moses chose as its priests men who were subject to moral infirmity, men who were sinners; but the High Priest of the New Law, whom the Eternal Father constituted such with an irrevocable oath, as declared by the Psalmist centuries after the Law was given (Psalm 110:4), is the Son of God Himself, and therefore sinless and perfect from eternity.

The word “daily” in verse 27 causes a difficulty, since the Jewish High Priest did not offer sacrifice every day, but only once a year on the Day of Atonement, when he offered sacrifice first for himself and then for the people. But the author is here speaking of the Levitical system in general and of all the Jewish priests and sacrifices. Many of these sacrifices were offered daily, and all of them were directly or indirectly ordained to the expiation of sins of the priests and of the people (Exodus 29:38-42; Lev 6:14; Num 28:3-8). According to Philo, the High Priest himself offered sacrifice daily. Whether he did or not, he could be said to have part in the daily sacrifices of the inferior priests, since they performed their functions subject to his authority and jurisdiction. At any rate, our author is thinking of the need of repetition of the ancient sacrifices as contrasted with the one, all-sufficient, and eternal sacrifice of Christ, which was offered once in a bloody manner on the cross and is perpetuated to the end of the world in an unbloody manner on our altars through the holy sacrifice of the Mass.

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My Notes on Deuteronomy 6:2-6 for the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)

Background~Genesis has as its primary purpose to establish the origins of the People of God. Exodus describes the establishment of this people as a theocratic nation. Leviticus shows the holy, cultic nature of the nation and how it was centered around Ark and Tabernacle. Numbers deals with the organization of the nation as a social entity with its social/communal organization also centered around Ark and Tabernacle. “Deuteronomy has as it purpose to show the Israelites that their spirit as a nation must be a spirit of love, honor, and obedience to God” (Peter F. Ellis, THE MEN AND MESSAGE OF THE OLD TESTAMENT, pg. 7).

Deuteronomy opens with a brief introduction which establishes the setting of the work as a whole (Deut 1:1-5).  This is followed by Moses’ giving an historical narration of key events the people have experienced from Sinai to the Plains of Moab (Deut 1:6-3:29). This narration highlights God’s providential care for the people in spite of their sins. It prepares for Moses’ call for the people to obey God so that they may enter the land, take and maintain possession of it (Deut 4:1-5:33). There is a focus on the Ten Commandments (Deut 5). Deut 6:1-11:32 essentially builds upon the First Command (Ex 20:2-5), focusing on the uniqueness of  God and its implications, i.e., fearing the Lord, the necessity of keeping His statutes and commands, avoiding false gods, instructing their children, the blessing given for the obedience of faith, dangers of not obeying, etc.

Deut 6:1  These are the precepts, and ceremonies, and judgments, which the Lord your God commanded that I should teach you, and that you should do them in the land into which you pass over to possess it:

A reference to what has just been taught in chapters 4 and 5. Note the connection of the present verse to Deut 4:1~And now, O Israel, hear the commandments and judgments which I teach thee: that doing them, thou mayst live, and entering in mayst possess the land which the Lord the God of your fathers will give you. Note also the first 3 verses of chapter 6 essentially repeats the end of chapter 5~But stand thou here with me, and I will speak to thee all my commandments, and ceremonies and judgments: which thou shalt teach them, that they may do them in the land, which I will give them for a possession. Keep therefore and do  the things which the Lord God hath commanded you: you shall not go aside neither to the right hand, nor to the left.  But you shall walk in the way that the Lord your God hath commanded, that you may live, and it may be well with you, and your days may be long in the land of your possession (Deut 5:31-33).

Deut 6:2  That thou mayst fear the Lord thy God, and keep all his commandments and precepts, which I command thee, and thy sons, and thy grandsons, all the days of thy life, that thy days may be prolonged.

That thou mayest fear the Lord thy God. A reverential fear of God. In Deuteronomy such fear is closely associated with love (see verse 5 below, Deut 10:12). Protestant scholar John Sailhamer notes that “the ‘fear of the Lord’ which Moses has in mind is not that which flees from his presence but that which longs to do his will. It is a fear that produces not obeisance but obedience, not worry but worship (Deut 6:13)” [THE PENTATEUCH AS NARRATIVE, pg. 439].

And keep all his commandments, etc. The cafeteria Israelite is as foreign to the Bible as is the cafeteria Catholic (see Matt 28:20). For Matthew’s teaching on true discipleship as doing all the will of God see Peter f. Ellis’ MATTHEW, HIS MIND AND MESSAGE, pgs 137-155.

Deut 6:3  Hear, O Israel, and observe to do the things which the Lord hath commanded thee, that it may be well with thee, and thou mayst be greatly multiplied, as the Lord the God of thy fathers hath promised thee a land flowing with milk and honey.

Hear, O Israel. This is a call often used to gather the people together for battle, worship, etc. Here it is used as a call to attention.

Observe to do the things which the Lord hath commanded thee. “Observe” in Hebrew is ושׁמרת, literally, “guard to do the things which the Lord hath commanded thee.” The command reminds us of the order to Adam to “keep” ( ולשׁמרה׃) the Garden of Eden (Gen 2:15). I would suggest that “guard” and “do” are somewhat synonymous here. The Israelites guard the things that have been commanded by doing them.

As the Lord the God of thy fathers hath promised thee a land flowing with milk and honey. The Israelites will remain on the land only so long as they love and obey God, if they do not, then, like Adam, they will be exiled and punished (Deut 4:24-28; Deut 8:6-20; Deut 28:15-68).

Deut 6:4  Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord.
Deut 6:5  Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole strength.

Hear, O Israel repeats the beginning of the previous verse.The first word of this verse in Hebrew is שׁמע (shâma‛) which “has given its name to the prayer, or profession of faith, of the devout Jew, recited morning and evening, from pre-Christian times to the present. It is made up of Deut6:4-9, Deut11:13-21, and Num 15:37-41, introduced and concluded by various blessings” (Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture).

The Lord our God is one Lord. A polemic against all false gods. The fact that the Lord is one leads to the imperative of verse 5: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole strength.

With thy whole heart. In the bible the heart is associated with emotions such as joy, sorrow, courage, etc (Prov 27:11; Neh 2:2; 2 Sam 17:10). It’s also associated with man’s reason as exhibited in things like questioning (Judges 5:16); formulating plans (1 Chron 29:18); plotting (Gen 27:41); etc. Finally, it is associated with man’s moral states such as pride (Deut 8:14), godlessness, (Job 36:13), etc. All man’s thoughts, emotions, morality must be governed by God’s revealed will.

Thy whole soul. The Hebrew word נפשׁ (nephesh) is virtually impossible to translate adequately into English by any single word, nor is it limited to a single concept. Here I believe the term נפשׁ (nephesh) is to be understood as the seat of the desires (see Deut 12:20; Deut 14:26; Deut 21:14; Deut 23:25).

Thy whole strength. מאד (me’ôd). With all diligence, exceedingly. A single-mindedness that can set one apart from others in relation to God’s commands (2 Kings 23:25).

Deut 6:6  And these words which I command thee this day, shall be in thy heart:

They should be loved and, as an act of love, passed on to one’s children. They should be constantly  in one’s thoughts, at home and abroad (Deut 6:7). They should be bound to the hand as a valued possession, bound between the eyes so as not to be lost sight of (Deut 6:8; see Ex 13:16).

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St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 90

PSALM 90
A PRAYER FOR THE MERCY OF GOD: RECOUNTING THE SHORTNESS AND MISERIES OF THE DAYS OF MAN

Psa 90:1 A prayer of Moses the man of God. Lord, thou hast been our refuge from generation to generation.

The prophet begins his prayer by returning thanks for past favors; for he that seeks for fresh favors can make use of no argument so convincing as the showing himself grateful for the past. “Lord, thou hast been our refuge.” We allow we are subject to many and various dangers, but we have found a helper and a protector in you, and that not once or twice, but always, “from generation to generation.” The Hebrew for refuge signifies a well fortified house, placed on an eminence, the tenants of which are quite secure from their enemies, from beasts, from flood and from storms. And, in fact, they have recourse to God, and dwell in him, by constant reflection and daily desire for him, dwell as they would in a city fortified by faith, hope, and charity, and are most secure from all evil; for, with such persons, “all things work together unto good.”

Psa 90:2 Before the mountains were made, or the earth and the world was formed; from eternity and to eternity thou art God.

He proves that the very same God might have been a refuge to those who hoped in him at all times; for he is always the same, especially powerful, wise, and kind; and, to show that God existed before all these things that man confides so much in, he first names the mountains. “Before the mountains were made;” for the mountains, being of great altitude and solidity, afford man a refuge in many ways; or, perhaps, he names the mountains first, by reason of their having been the first to appear when the waters that covered them at the creation began to recede; or, perhaps, because the mountains form a conspicuous and considerable portion of the earth. “From eternity and to eternity thou art God;” you existed not only before the earth and the mountains, but from eternity thou art, and to eternity thou art God. And, observe, he does not say, Thou hast been, and will be God, but, Thou art God, in order to show the true eternity of God, in which there is no past or future, but one continuity of existence, without any change or variety, to which he alludes in Psalm 101, where he says, “But thou art always the self same, and thy years shall not fail.”

Psa 90:3 Turn not man away to be brought low: and thou hast said: Be converted, O ye sons of men.

Now begins the prayer the prophet puts up to God, begging of him not to allow mankind to lapse into extreme degradation and ruin. For he saw that man, estranged from God by the sin of our first parents, was rushing headlong to destruction, and he, therefore, exclaims, “Turn not man away to be brought low.” Do not suffer mankind to be turned away from the light of your countenance, to extreme wretchedness and meanness, so as to forget what is really good, and to turn to the things of the earth and the clay of secular desires, and thus be consigned to eternal perdition. And he assigns a reason for its not being meet that God should suffer a creature so noble as man to be lost. For “Thou hast said: Be converted, O ye sons of men;” that is to say, by the preaching of your prophets, and by your own secret inspirations, you have invited sinners; and you, therefore, by the powerful succor of your grace, should help the sinner in the way of his conversion, and not suffer him to sink to the depth of wretchedness.

Psa 90:4 For a thousand years in thy sight are as yesterday, which is past. And as a watch in the night,
Psa 90:5 Things that are counted nothing, shall their years be.

He now describes the abject state of the human race after the fall of man, by comparing the shortness of man’s life with God’s eternity. God’s eternity is so immense that a thousand years with him are but as part of a day with us; and yet, by reason of the fall of man, our life is not one of a thousand years, nor of a hundred, but scarcely of seventy, or with the more robust, of eighty. Our life, then, as compared with the existence of God, is less than that of one day, nay more, of even part of a day; and yet, had man not fallen into sin, he would have lived to eternity. “For a thousand years in thy sight are as yesterday, which is past.” We are come to the lowest degree of wretchedness; for, while your existence is that of eternity, so that a thousand years are as but one day, that quickly passes with you, or, “as a watch in the night,” three hours; the life of man, who was created to your image, and, therefore, should have been everlasting, is now so brief that it may be looked upon as nothing; for “things that are counted nothing, shall their years be;” very short and next to nothing.

Psa 90:6 In the morning man shall grow up like grass; in the morning he shall flourish and pass away: in the evening he shall fall, grow dry, and wither.

To show how contemptible is the life of man, he compares it to grass, that in one day springs up, flowers, withers, and perishes. “In the morning,” in the early part of the day, man will appear in his youth, like the verdant grass, and will not stop there, but will pass on; in the morning again, in the early part of the day, “he will flourish” in the vigor of youth; and will again pass on; “in the evening,” in another part of the same day, “he shall fall;” his strength will begin to fail, “grow dry and wither” in his old age, in death, when all his bodily powers shall have been wasted. Alas, the blindness of mankind, who love the existence of one day, that ought to be looked upon as of no value, as if it were eternity! David is not alone in denouncing such folly; for in Job, chap. 14, we read, “Man, born of a woman, living for a short time, is filled with many miseries. Who cometh forth like a flower, and is destroyed, and fleeth as a shadow, and never continueth in the same state.” And after him, Isaias, on the same subject, says, “All flesh is grass, and all the glory thereof as the flower of the field. The grass is withered, and the flower is fallen, because the Spirit of the Lord hath blown upon it.”

Psa 90:7 For in thy wrath we have fainted away: and are troubled in thy indignation.

He assigns a cause for the shortness of human life, and says, it proceeds from the just anger of God, roused by the perversity of man. “For in thy wrath we have fainted away;” we have been consumed and become mortal, by having provoked your anger; “and are troubled;” we, who previously led a life of quiet and security, are now troubled with the fear and horror of death, by reason of your anger. God does not get into anger or into rage, or into any excitement, but he is said figuratively to be so when he does not spare the sinner, but punishes him according to his merits.

Psa 90:8 Thou hast set our iniquities before thy eyes: our life in the light of thy countenance.

Having said that God’s anger was the cause of the shortness of our life, he now says that our sins are the cause of God’s anger. He calls the sin of our first parents our sin, because it was common to us, and comprised many sins, pride, disobedience, infidelity, curiosity, and other sins. Perhaps David also took in the sins of posterity as the cause of our life being shortened; for, up to the deluge, men lived to be nine hundred years; after the deluge, to two and three hundred years; and, in Moses’ time, to a hundred and twenty; and, finally, in the time of David, to eighty years. He, therefore, says, “Thou hast set our iniquities before thy eyes;” you would not, in your mercy, hide our sins, but you put them right before you, that you may consider on them and punish them. For God is considered as forgiving sin when he turns his face away from it, as the prophet says, in Psalm 1, “Turn away thy face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.”—“Our life in the light of thy countenance;” is only a repetition of the first part of this verse; for “our life” means the iniquities of our life, which God, for fear they should escape him, placed “in the light of his countenance;” so lighted and showed up that their hideousness may be apparent to all, and punished by the just judgment of God.

Psa 90:9 For all our days are spent; and in thy wrath we have fainted away. Our years shall be considered as a spider:

The very punishment of death inflicted on us proves that God saw and condemned our delinquencies. “For all our days are spent;” our life has passed away, none of it now remains; “and in thy wrath we have fainted away;” not only have our days been spent, but ourselves are spent with them; for, if Adam had not revolted, our days would have passed away, but they would have been succeeded by other days, and we would not have fainted away; but, at present, our days flow on so as to come to an end by the intervention of death; and we come to an end with them, and are destroyed by the anger of God, justly punishing us for our sins. “Our years shall be considered as a spider.” Having said that death is the punishment of sin, he now adds that life itself, previous to death, is both wretched and short, according to the patriarch Jacob. “The days of my pilgrimage are a hundred and thirty years, few and evil;” and of their wretchedness he says, “Our years shall be considered as a spider;” as the spider’s whole occupation consists in weaving flimsy webs, that have no substance or duration, and which waste the body of the spider itself, so is the whole period of our life devoted to idle labor and pain, harassed by fear and suspicions, in running after the imaginary goods of this world, and guarding against its evils.

Psa 90:10 The days of our years in them are threescore and ten years. But if in the strong they be fourscore years: and what is more of them is labour and sorrow. For mildness is come upon us: and we shall be corrected.

He now passes from the misery to the shortness of our life, saying, The term of our life is marked and defined, averaging seventy years; a few of the more robust may reach eighty; but if they go beyond that, their life is one of infirmity, pain, and trouble. Hale and robust people are to be found after their eightieth year, to be sure, but there is no rule without an exception; and if; previous to the deluge, men lived to be eight and nine hundred years, that was necessary for the propagation of the human race, as it afterwards, in God’s providence, became necessary to curtail the life of man, in order to prevent an excess of population, as well as to punish men for their sins. “For mildness is come upon us, and we shall be corrected.” The evils of old age bring this much good with them, that they make us lay aside our pride and the vanity of youth, they make us conscious of our own infirmity, and thus we become humbled, mild, and corrected under the powerful hand of God.

Psa 90:11 Who knoweth the power of thy anger, and for thy fear
Psa 90:12 Can number thy wrath? So make thy right hand known: and men learned in heart, in wisdom.

The prophet infers from the severity of the punishment inflicted for the sin of our first father, that God’s anger and severity, in regard of sin, is very great, and makes use of a beautiful figure of speech to express it. “Who knoweth the power of thy anger?” Who can possibly conceive the force, power, and effects of your anger? “And for thy fear can number thy wrath?” who can fear you as you ought to be feared, and in such fear to measure the extent of your anger, or enumerate the various modes of punishment? For as God was so incensed against all mankind for the one sin of our first parents, so as to condemn them to a life of pain, labor, and trouble here, and afterwards to death, to a return to the dust from whence they came, it certainly may be fairly inferred, that God’s anger to the sinner must be boundless, and that he has countless modes of punishing the sinner. And if the magnitude of God’s anger to the sinner is to be inferred from the corporeal death so inflicted on him, who can possibly conceive or comprehend the extent of that anger, not satisfied with the death of that wretched body, without consigning both soul and body, on the day of judgment, to everlasting and inextinguishable fire? It far exceeds the understanding of man! “So make thy right hand known: and men learned in heart, in wisdom.” From hence to the end of the Psalm the prophet prays to God, that as he was pleased, in his justice, to shorten the life of man, he may now, in his mercy, look down upon and help man in his pilgrimage here below. “So make thy right hand known.” Do, O Lord, at last stretch out your right hand to us, to sustain and support us, and to give us, in abundance, the gifts of your grace. “And men learned in heart, in wisdom.” Prophets and Apostles with hearts fully imbued with the true wisdom, not like the wise ones of this world, whose tongue may be polished, but whose heart is not; or, if it be, it is not with wholesome and salutary wisdom, but with the pernicious wisdom of the world, “which puffeth up, and does not edify.”

Psa 90:13 Return, O Lord, how long? and be entreated in favour of thy servants.

He repeats the same prayer, but in more general terms, saying, Having been angry with us, by reason of our sins, you have turned your face away from us; but, as you have been appeased, turn to us at length and look upon us with an eye of kindness. “And be intreated in favor of thy servants.” Do not be inexorable, but listen to your servants, whom you have created, and whom you nourish and support for your service.

Psa 90:14 We are filled in the morning with thy mercy: and we have rejoiced, and are delighted all our days.
Psa 90:15 We have rejoiced for the days in which thou hast humbled us: for the years in which we have seen evils.

When we shall have been reconciled to God, when he shall have been “intreated in favor of his servants,” then we can justly say, “we are filled in the morning with thy mercy;” that is to say, in the beginning of that real day that we began to see the sun of Justice, without any cloud to hide it from us, and the night and the darkness of this life had disappeared, we have been filled with that great mercy of yours, that totally excluded all misery and trouble, of which it is written in Psalm 102, “Who crowneth thee with mercy and compassion, who healeth all thy diseases, who satisfieth thy desire with good things;” therefore, “we have rejoiced and are delighted;” for all that is left to the blessed, when freed from their sins, is to exult in praising God, and revel in the delight of having got possession of him. And we have rejoiced, not only for such a load of favors, but we have even “rejoiced for the days in which thou hast humbled us,” and for “the years in which we have seen evils;” both because prosperity is much sweeter to those who have tasted of adversity, and because our own patience in adversity had some share in this return of prosperity, according to the Apostle, 2 Cor. 4, “For our present tribulation, which is momentary and light, worketh for us above measure exceedingly an eternal weight of glory.” Thus, we now bless those days and years in which our patience was tested, and we thank God, who did not spare us here below, that he may be able to do so for eternity.

Psa 90:16 Look upon thy servants and upon their works: and direct their children.

After he had asked for that supreme good that is the ultimate end of man’s life, and of all our actions, he now asks for the means of acquiring it; that is to say, the grace of doing good. For, according to our Lord, we must “Seek first the kingdom of God and his justice;” he, therefore, says, “Look upon thy servants;” enlighten thy servants and inflame them with thy love; for God is the increate sun, who by one look both illuminates and enlivens. Also, “Look upon thy servants” with an eye of favor and benevolence, and direct, protect, and further them, as belonging to you; “and upon their works;” the good works you have caused them to commence; for God is said to perform all our good works in us, because it is by his help and assistance they are done, and without his grace, both preceding them and accompanying them, they would be of no value whatever. And look upon, not only thy servants, but “direct their children” also; whether their natural, or their spiritual children; that under thy guidance, both parents and children may persevere in the path of your commandments, and thus deserve to reach life everlasting.

Psa 90:17 And let the brightness of the Lord our God be upon us: and direct thou the works of our hands over us; yea, the work of our hands do thou direct.

In order to show how extremely desirous he is to get what he asks, he repeats the same petition in different language, for the expression, “Let the brightness of our Lord be upon us,” is the same as “Look upon thy servants;” for God, as we already said, when he looks on us enlightens us; when he turns his face away, he leaves us in darkness; and the expression, “and upon their works,” in the previous verse, he repeats here when he says, “and direct thou the works of our hands over us;” that is to say, by overseeing us, makes us to work as we ought, and always to follow that most correct rule, thy will and thy law. He adds, “Yea, the works of our hands do thou direct;” to show that all our works may be brought under one head, that is, charity, the root of all, and containing all, “for he that loveth his neighbors hath fulfilled the law,” and, “Charity is kind, is patient.”

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St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 15

A Psalm OF David Himself

1. Touching this title there is no question. “O Lord who shall sojourn in Thy tabernacle?” (ver. 1). Although tabernacle be sometimes used even for an everlasting habitation: yet when tabernacle is taken in its proper meaning, it is a thing of war. Hence soldiers are called tent-fellows,9 as having their tents together. This sense is assisted by the words, “Who shall sojourn?” For we war with the devil for a time, and then we need a tabernacle wherein we may refresh ourselves. Which specially points out the faith of the temporal Dispensation, which was wrought for us in time through the Incarnation of the Lord. “And who shall rest in Thy holy mountain?” Here perhaps he signifies at once the eternal habitation itself,10 that we should understand by “mountain” the supereminence of the love of Christ in life eternal.11

2. “He who walketh without stain, and worketh righteousness” (ver. 2). Here he has laid down the proposition; in what follows he sets it forth in detail.

3. “Who speaketh the truth in his heart.” For some have truth on their lips, and not in their heart. As if one should deceitfully point out a road, knowing that there were robbers there, and should say, If you go this way, you will be safe from robbers; and it should turn out that in fact there were no robbers found there: he has spoken the truth, but not in his heart. For he supposed it to be otherwise, and spoke the truth in ignorance. Therefore it is not enough to speak the truth, unless it be so also in heart. “Who hath practised no deceit in his tongue” (ver. 3). Deceit is practised with the tongue, when one thing is professed with the mouth, another concealed in the breast. “Nor done evil to his neighbour.” It is well known that by “neighbour,” every man should be understood. “And hath not entertained slander against his neighbour,” that is, hath not readily or rashly given credence to an accuser.

4. “The malicious one hath been brought to nought in his sight”1 (ver. 4). This is perfection, that the malicious one have no force against a man; and that this be “in his sight;” that is, that he know most surely that the malicious is not, save when the mind turns itself away from the eternal and immutable form2 of her own Creator to the form of the creature, which was made out of nothing. “But those that fear the Lord, He glorifieth:” the Lord Himself, that is. Now “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”3 As then the things above belong to the perfect, so what he is now going to say belongs to beginners.

5. “Who sweareth unto his neighbour, and deceiveth him not.” “Who hath not given his money upon usury, and hath not taken rewards against the innocent” (ver. 5). These are no great things: but he who is not able to do even this, much less able is he to speak the truth in his heart, and to practise no deceit in his tongue, but as the truth is in the heart, so to profess and have it in his mouth, “yea, yea; nay, nay;”4 and to do no evil to his neighbour, that is, to any man; and to entertain no slander against his neighbour: all which are the virtues of the perfect, in whose sight the malicious one hath been brought to nought. Yet he concludes even these lesser things thus, “Whoso doeth these things shall not be moved for ever:” that is, he shall attain unto those greater things, wherein is great and unshaken stability. For even the very tenses are, perhaps not without cause, so varied, as that in the conclusion above the past tense should be used, but in this the future. For there it was said, “The malicious one hath been brought to nought in his sight:” but here, “shall not be moved for ever.”

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Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 85

ISRAEL’S COMFORT IN SORROW

THIS psalm is a liturgical composition dating from the post-Exilic period. It reflects the griefs and hopes of the post-Exilic community in Israel. The decree of their liberation from Babylon had filled the Exiles with joy, but their homecoming had been full of disappointment. Instead of joy and peace, unsettlement and sadness prevailed throughout the land, and men were wondering why the Lord had brought them back from Babylon only to the disillusionment of Juda. We find in the psalm the same spirit which breathes in the beginning of the books of Aggaeus (Haggai) and Zachary (Zechariah). If the Lord had great designs for Israel when He used Cyrus to set the Exiles free, why does He not begin to accomplish them? Has the divine anger which handed over Jerusalem and its people to the Chaldeans (Babylonians) not been appeased by the sufferings of the Exile? Is that anger about to burst forth against His unhappy people once more? Is there no hope that the old greatness of Israel will be restored? Surely the wonders of the past, and, above all, the grace of liberation from captivity will not end in the destruction of Israel!

The poem falls easily into three parts. In the first (Ps 85:2-4) the graces and mercies of the liberation from the Exile are recalled. We can imagine this part of the psalm as sung by a portion of the people gathered together for worship, by a choir, or by the priests.

The second part of the psalm is (Ps 85:5-8). Here another choir implores the Lord to complete the mercies which the Liberation had begun. Surely He will not be again angry with His people as He had been before the Exile. Surely His wrath will not blaze forth unto the destruction of Israel again! It is time for the Lord to show His gracious favour again, that Israel may live and praise Him.

In the third section (Ps 85:9-14) a soloist sings a prophetic message of comfort for Israel. As if listening to the words of Yahweh the prophet sings. His song is an oracle of hope. Help from the Lord is at hand. The words of Yahweh are words of peace—of rest and of security. The Peace and the Glory of the Lord will soon be seen again in Israel. A wonderful picture of the Lord’s benignant rule is drawn in familiar Messianic colours. Justice, Truth, Graciousness, Peace, as Yahweh’s ministering Angels, will rule everywhere in the land. The earth will be fruitful beyond all hope. Wherever the Lord walks abroad in the land Justice goes before Him and Peace follows in His train. The hope that painted a picture like this at a time of deepest political depression could spring only from the unshakeable conviction that God was on the side of Israel.

The structure of this poem should be compared with that of Ps 124—where the prophetic portion is wanting, and also with that of 93 and 79.

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St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 85

PSALM 85

1. … Its title is, “A Psalm for the end, to the sons of Core.”3 Let us understand no other end than that of which the Apostle speaks: for, “Christ is the end of the law.”4 Therefore when at the head of the title of the Psalm he placed the words, “for the end,” he directed our heart to Christ. If we fix our gaze on Him, we shall not stray: for He is Himself the Truth unto which we are eager to arrive, and He Himself the Way5 by which we run.…

2. The Prophet singeth to Him of the future, and useth words as it were of past time: he speaks of things future as if already done, because with God that which is future has already taken place.… “Lord, Thou hast been favourable unto Thy land” (ver. 1); as if He had already done so. “Thou hast turned away the captivity of Jacob.” His ancient people of Jacob, the people of Israel, born of Abraham’s seed, in the promise to become one day the heir of God. That was indeed a real people, to whom the Old Testament was given; but in the Old Testament the New was figured: that was the figure, this the truth expressed. In that figure, by a kind of foretelling of the future, there was given to that people a certain land of promise, in a region where the people of the Jews abode; where also is the city of Jerusalem, whose name we have all heard of. When this people had received possession of this land, they suffered many troubles from their neighbouring enemies who surrounded them: and when they sinned against their God, they were given into captivity, not for destruction, but for discipline; their Father not condemning, but scourging them. And after being seized on, they were set free, and many times were both made captives, and set free; and they are now in captivity, and that for a great sin, even because they crucified their Lord. What then are we to understand them to mean by the words, “Thou hast turned away the captivity of Jacob”?… This Psalm hath prophesied in song. “Thou hast turned away the captivity of Jacob.” To whom did it speak? To Christ; for it said, “for the end, for the sons of Core:” for He hath turned away the captivity of Jacob. Hear Paul himself confessing: “O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” He asked who it should be, and straightway it occurred to him, “The grace of God through Jesus Christ our Lord.6 Of this grace of God the Prophet speaketh to our Lord Jesus Christ, “Thou hast turned away the captivity of Jacob.” Attend to the captivity of Jacob, attend, and see that it is this: Thou hast turned away our captivity, not by setting us free from the barbarians, with whom we had not met, but by setting us free from bad works, from our sins, by which Satan held sway over us. For if any one has been set free from his sins, the prince of sinners hath not whence he may hold sway over him.

3. For how did He turn away the captivity of Jacob? See, how that that setting free is spiritual, see how that it is done inwardly. “Thou hast forgiven,” he saith, “the iniquity of Thy people: Thou hast covered all their sins” (ver. 2). Behold how He hath turned away their captivity, in that He hath remitted iniquity: iniquity held them captive; thy iniquity forgiven, thou art freed. Confess therefore that thou art in captivity, that thou mayest be worthy to be freed: for he that knoweth not of his enemy, how can he invoke the liberator? “Thou hast covered all their sins.” What is, “Thou hast covered”? So as not to see them. How didst Thou not see them? So as not to take vengeance on them. Thou wast unwilling to see our sins: and therefore sawest Thou them not, because Thou wouldest not see them: “Thou hast covered all their sins.” “Thou hast appeased all Thy anger: Thou hast turned Thyself from Thy wrathful indignation” (ver. 3).

4. And as these things are said of the future, though the sound of the words is past, it follows: “Turn us, O God of our salvation” (ver. 4). That which he had just related as if it were done, how prayeth he that it may be done, except because he wished to show that he had spoken as if of the past in prophecy? But that it was not yet done which he had said was done he showeth by this, that he prayeth that it may be done: “Turn us, O God of our salvation, and turn away Thine anger from us.” Didst thou not say before: “Thou hast appeased all Thy anger, Thou has turned Thyself from Thy wrathful indignation”? How then now sayest thou, “And turn away Thine anger from us”? The Prophet answereth: These things I speak of as done, because I see them about to be done: but because they are not yet done, I pray that they may come, which I have already seen.

5. “Be not angry with us for ever” (ver. 5). For by the anger of God we are subject to death, and by the anger of God we eat bread on this earth in want, and in the sweat of our face.1 This was Adam’s sentence when he sinned: and that Adam was every one of us, for “in Adam all die;”2 the sentence passed on him hath taken effect after him on us. For we were not yet ourselves, but we were in Adam: therefore whatever happened to Adam himself took effect on us also, so that we should die: for we all were in him.… So far as this the sin of thy father hurts thee not, if thou hast changed thyself, even as it would not hurt thy father if he had changed himself. But that which our stock hath received unto its subjection to death, it hath derived from Adam. What hath it so derived? That frailty of the flesh, this torture of pains, this house of poverty, this chain of death, and snares of temptations; all these things we carry about in this flesh; and this is the anger of God, because it is the vengeance of God. But because it was so to be, that we should be regenerated, and by believing should be made new, and all that mortality was to be removed in our resurrection, and the whole man was to be restored in newness; “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive;”3 seeing this the Prophet saith, “Be not angry with us for ever, nor stretch out Thy wrath from one generation to another.” The first generation was mortal by Thy wrath: the second generation shall be immortal by Thy mercy.…

6. “O God, Thou shall turn us again, and make us alive” (ver. 6). Not as if we ourselves of our own accord, without Thy mercy, turn unto Thee, and then Thou shall make us alive: but so that not only our being made alive is from Thee, but our very conversion, that we may be made alive. “And Thy people shall rejoice in Thee.” To their own evil they shall rejoice in themselves: to their own good they shall rejoice in Thee. For when they wished to have joy of themselves, they found in themselves woe: but now because God is all our joy, he that will rejoice securely, let him rejoice in Him who cannot perish. For why, my brethren, will ye rejoice in silver? Either thy silver perisheth, or thou: and no one knows which first: yet this is certain, that both shall perish; which first, is uncertain. For neither can man remain here always, nor can silver remain here always: so too gold, so garments, so houses, so money, so broad lands, so, lastly, this light itself. Be not thou willing then to rejoice in these: but rejoice in that light which hath no setting: rejoice in that dawn which no yesterday precedes, which no to-morrow follows. What light is that? “I,” saith He, “am the Light of the world.”4 He who saith unto thee, “I am the Light of the world,” calls thee to Himself. When He calls thee, He converts thee: when He converts thee, He healeth thee: when He hath healed thee, thou shall see thy Converter, unto whom it is said, “Show us Thy mercy, O Lord, and grant us Thy salvation” (ver. 7): Thy salvation, that is, Thy Christ.5 Happy is he unto whom God showeth His mercy. He it is who cannot indulge in pride, unto whom God showeth His mercy. For by showing him His salvation He persuadeth him that whatever good man has, he hath not but from Him who is all our good. And when a man has seen that whatever good he has he hath not from himself, but from his God; he sees that everything which is praised in him is of the mercy of God, not of his own deserving; and seeing this, he is not proud; not being proud, he is not lifted up; not lifting himself up, he falleth not; not falling, he standeth; standing, he clingeth fast; clinging fast, he abideth; abiding, he enjoyeth, and rejoiceth in the Lord his God. He who made him shall be unto him a delight: and his delight no one spoileth, no one interrupteth, no one taketh away.… Therefore, what saith John in his Epistle? “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be.”6 Who would not rejoice, if suddenly while he was wandering abroad, ignorant of his descent, suffering want, and in a state of misery and toil, it were announced, Thou art the son of a senator: thy father enjoys an ample patrimony on your family estate; I bid thee return to thy father: how would he rejoice, if this were said to him by some one whose promise he could trust? One whom we can trust, an Apostle of Christ, hath come and said to us, Ye have a father, ye have a country, ye have an inheritance. Who is that father? “Beloved, we are the sons of God.”1 … Therefore He2 promised us to show Himself unto us. Think, my brethren, what His beauty is. All those beautiful things which ye see, which ye love, He made. If these are beautiful, what is He Himself? If these are great, how great is He? Therefore from these things which we love here, let us the more long for Him: and despising these things, let us love Him: that by that very love we may by faith purify our hearts, and His vision, when it cometh, may find our heart purified. The light which shall be shown unto us ought to find us whole: this is the work of faith now. This is what we have spoken here: “And grant us Thy salvation:” grant us Thy Christ, that we may know Thy Christ, see Thy Christ; not as the Jews saw Him and crucified Him, but as the Angels see Him, and rejoice.

7. “I will hearken” (ver. 8). The Prophet spoke: God spoke within in him, and the world made a noise without. Therefore, retiring for a little from the noise of the world, and turning himself back upon himself, and from himself upon Him whose voice he heard within; sealing up his ears, as it were, against the tumultuous disquietude of this life, and against the soul weighed down by the corruptible body, and against the imagination, that through the earthly tabernacle pressing down,3 thinketh on many things,4 he saith, “I will hearken what the Lord God speaketh in me;” and he heard, what? “For He shall speak peace unto His people.” The voice of Christ, then, the voice of God, is peace: it calleth unto peace. Ho! it saith, whosoever are not yet in peace, love ye peace: for what can ye find better from Me than peace? What is peace? Where there is no war. What is this, where there is no war? Where there is no contradiction, where there is no resistance, nothing to oppose. Consider if we are yet there: consider if there is not now a conflict with the devil, if all the saints and faithful ones wrestle not with the prince of demons. And how do they wrestle with him whom they see not? They wrestle with their own desires, by which he suggests unto them sins: and by not consenting to what he suggests, though they are not conquered, yet they fight. Therefore there is not yet peace where there is fighting.… Whatever we provide for our refreshment, there again we find weariness. Art thou hungry? one asks thee: thou answerest, I am. He places food before thee for thy refreshment; continue thou to use it, for thou hadst need of it; yet in continuing that which thou needest for refreshment, therein findest thou weariness. By long sitting thou wast tired; thou risest and refreshest thyself by walking; continue that relief, and by much walking thou art wearied; again thou wouldest sit down. Find me anything by which thou art refreshed, wherein if thou continue thou dost not again become weary. What peace then is that which men have here, opposed by so many troubles, desires, wants, wearinesses? This is no true, no perfect peace. What will be perfect peace? “This corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.”5 … Persevere in eating much; this itself will kill thee: persevere in fasting much, by this thou wilt die: sit continually, being resolved not to rise up, by this thou wilt die: be always walking so as never to take rest, by this thou wilt die; watch continually, taking no sleep, by this thou wilt die; sleep continually, never watching, thus too thou wilt die. When therefore death shall be swallowed up in victory, these things shall no longer be: there will be full and eternal peace. We shall be in a City, of which, brethren, when I speak I find it hard to leave off, especially when offences wax common. Who would not long for that City whence no friend goeth out, whither no enemy entereth,6 where is no tempter, no seditious person, no one dividing God’s people, no one wearying the Church in the service of the devil; since the prince himself of all such is cast into eternal fire, and with him those who consent unto him, and who have no will to retire from him? There shall be peace made pure in the sons of God, all loving one another, seeing one another full of God, since God shall be all in all.7 We shall have God as our common object of vision, God as our common possession, God as our common peace. For whatever there is which He now giveth unto us, He Himself shall be unto us instead of His gifts; this will be full and perfect peace. This He speaketh unto His people: this it was which he would hearken unto who said, “I will hearken what the Lord God will say unto me: for He shall speak peace unto His people, and to His saints, and unto those who turn their hearts unto Him.” Lo, my brethren, do ye wish that unto you should belong that peace which God uttereth? Turn your heart unto Him: not unto me, or unto that one, or unto any man. For whatever man would turn unto himself the hearts of men, he falleth with them. Which is better, that thou fall with him unto whom thou turnest thyself, or that thou stand with Him with whom thou turnest thyself? Our joy, our peace, our rest, the end of all troubles, is none but God: blessed are “they that turn their hearts unto Him.”

8. “Nevertheless, His salvation is nigh them that fear Him” (ver. 9). There were some even then who feared Him in the Jewish people. Everywhere throughout the earth idols were worshipped: devils were feared, not God: in that nation God was feared. But why was He feared? In the Old Testament He was feared, lest He should give them up to captivity, lest He should take away their land from them, lest He should destroy their vines with hail, lest He should make their wives barren, lest He should take away their children from them. For these carnal promises of God captivated their minds, which as yet were of small growth, and for these things God was feared: but He was near unto them who even for these things feared Him. The Pagan prayed for land to the devil: the Jew prayed for land to God: it was the same thing which they prayed for, but not the same to whom they prayed. The latter, though seeking what the Pagan sought, yet was distinguished from the Pagan; for He sought it of Him who had made all things. And God, who was far1 from the Gentiles, was near2 unto them: yet He had regard even to those who were afar off, and to those who were near, as the Apostle said: “And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off, and to them that were near.”3 Whom did He mean by those near? The Jews, because they4 worshipped one God. Whom by those who were afar off? The Gentiles, because they had left Him by whom they were made and worshipped things which themselves had made. For it is not in space that any one is far from God, but in affections. Thou lovest God, thou art near unto Him. Thou hatest God, thou art far off. Thou art standing in the same place, both while thou art near and far off This it was, my brethren, which the Prophet had regard to: although he saw the mercy of God extending over all, yet he saw something especial and peculiar shown toward the Jews, and he saith, “Nevertheless, I will hearken what the Lord God shall say unto me: for He shall speak peace unto His people;” and His people shall be, not Judaea only, but it shall be gathered together out of all nations: “For He shall speak peace unto His hints, and to those who turn their hearts unto Him,” and to all who shall turn their hearts unto Him from the whole world. “Nevertheless, His salvation shall be nigh them that fear Him, that glory may dwell in our land:” that is, in that land in which the Prophet was born, greater glory shall dwell, because Christ began to be preached from thence. Thence were the Apostles, and thither first they were sent; from thence were the Prophets, there first was the Temple, there sacrifice was made to God, there were the Patriarchs, there He Himself came of the seed of Abraham, there Christ was manifested, there Christ appeared; for from thence was the Virgin Mary who bore Christ. There He walked with His feet, there He worked miracles. Thirdly, He ascribed so great honour to that nation, that when a certain Canaanitish woman interrupted Him, praying for the healing of her daughter, He said unto her, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”5 Seeing this, the Prophet saith, “that glory may dwell in our land.”

9. “Mercy and truth have met together” (ver. 10). “Truth in our land,” in a Jewish person, “mercy” in the land of the Gentiles. For where was truth? Where the utterances of God were. Where was mercy? On those who had left their God, and turned themselves unto devils. Did He look down6 also upon them? Yea, as if He said, Call those who are fugitives afar off, who have departed far from Me: call them, let them find Me who seek them, since they themselves would not seek Me. Therefore, “Mercy and truth have met together: righteousness and peace have kissed each other.” Do righteousness, and thou shalt have peace; that righteousness and peace may kiss each other. For if thou love not righteousness, thou shalt not have peace; for those two, righteousness and peace, love one another, and kiss one another: that he who hath done righteousness may find peace kissing righteousness. They two are friends: thou perhaps willest the one, and not the other: for there is no one who wills not peace: but all will not work righteousness. Ask all men, Wiliest thou peace? With one mouth the whole race of man answers thee, I wish, I desire, I will, I love it. Love also righteousness: for these two, righteousness and peace, are friends; they kiss one another: if thou love not the friend of peace, peace itself will not love thee, nor come unto thee. For what great thing is it to desire peace? Every bad man longeth for peace. For peace is a good thing. But do righteousness, for righteousness and peace kiss one another, they quarrel not together.…

10. “Truth hath sprung out of the earth, and righteousness hath looked down from heaven” (ver. 11). “Truth hath sprung out of the earth:” Christ is born of a woman. The Son of God hath come forth of the flesh. What is truth? The Son of God. What is the earth? Flesh. Ask whence Christ was born, and thou seest that “Truth is sprung out of the earth.” But the Truth which sprang out of the earth was before the earth, and by It the heaven and the earth were made: but in order that righteousness might look down from heaven, that is, in order that men might be justified by Divine grace, Truth was born of the Virgin Mary; that He might be able to offer a sacrifice to justify them, the sacrifice of suffering, the sacrifice of the Cross. And how could He offer a sacrifice for our sins, except He died? How could He die, except He received from us that wherein He might die; that is, unless He received from us mortal flesh, Christ could not have died: because the Word of God dieth not, Godhead dieth not, the Virtue and Wisdom of God doth not die. How should He offer a sacrifice, a healing victim, if He died not? How should He die, unless He clothed Himself with flesh? How should He put on flesh, except truth sprang out of the earth?

11. On the same passage we may mention another meaning. “Truth is sprung out of the earth:” confession from man. For thou, O man, wast a sinner. O earth, who when thou hadst sinned didst hear the sentence, “Earth thou art, and unto earth shalt thou return,”1 from thee let truth spring, that righteousness may look down from heaven. How doth truth spring from thee, whilst thou art a sinner, whilst thou art unrighteous? Confess thy sins, and truth shall spring out of thee. For if whilst thou art unrighteous, thou callest thyself just, how can truth spring out of thee? But if being unrighteous thou dost confess thyself to be so, “truth hath sprung out of the earth.” … What “righteousness hath looked down from heaven”? It is that of God, as though He said: Let us spare this man, for he spareth not himself: let us pardon him, for he himself confesseth. He is changed so is to punish his sin: I too will change, so as to set him free.

12. “For the Lord shall give sweetness, and our land shall give her increase” (ver. 12).… He will give unto thee the sweetness of working righteousness, so that righteousness shall begin to delight thee, whom before unrighteousness delighted: so that thou who at first didst delight in drunkenness, shall rejoice in sobriety: and thou who didst at first rejoice in theft, so as to take from another man what thou hadst not, shalt seek to give to him that hath not that which thou hast: and thou who didst take delight in robbing, shalt delight now in giving: thou whom shows delighted, shalt delight in prayer; thou who didst delight in trifling and lascivious songs, shalt now delight in singing hymns to God; in running to church, thou who at first didst run to the theatre. Whence is that sweetness born to thee, except from this, that “God giveth sweetness”? For, behold, ye see what I mean: behold, I have spoken unto you the word of God, I have sown seed in your devout hearts, finding your souls furrowed, as it were, with the plough of confession: with devout attention ye have received the seed; think now upon the word which ye have heard, like those who break up the clouds, lest the fowls should carry away the seed, that what is sown may be able to spring up there: and unless God rain upon it, what profits it that it is sown? This is what is meant by “our land shall give her increase.” May He with His visitations, in leisure, in business, in your house, in your bed, at meal-time, in conversation, in walks, visit your hearts, when we are not by. May the rain of God come and make to sprout what is sown there: and when we are not by, and are resting quietly, or otherwise employed, may God give increase to the seeds which we have sown, that remarking afterwards your improved characters, we too may rejoice for your fruit.

13. “For righteousness shall go before him, and he shall direct his steps in the way” (ver. 13): that righteousness, namely, which consists in confession of sins: for this is truth itself. For thou oughtest to be righteous towards thyself, and to punish thyself: for this is the beginning of man’s righteousness, that thou shouldest punish thyself, who art evil, and God should make thee good. Therefore since this is the beginning of man’s righteousness, this becomes a way for God, that God may come unto thee: there make for Him a way, in confession of sins. Therefore John too, when he was baptizing in the water of repentance, and would have men come to him repenting of their former deeds, spoke thus: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make His paths straight.”2 Thou didst please thyself in thy sins, O man: let that which thou wast displease thee, that thou mayest be able to become what thou wast not. Prepare the way of the Lord: let that righteousness go before, of confession of sins: He will come and visit thee, for now He hath where to place His steps, He hath whereby He may come to thee. Before thou didst confess thy sins, thou hadst shut up the way of God: there was no way by which He might come unto thee. Confess thy past life, and thou openest a way; and Christ shall come unto thee, and “shall place His steps in the way,” that He may guide thee with His own footsteps.

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