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


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


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

(Scroll down for the Lenten and Easter Seasons)

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


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

Including Ascension and Pentecost

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

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Catechism of the Council of Trent, Question LII~The Eucharist as an approach to glory

In what way an Approach to Eternal Glory is opened by this Sacrament

Finally, to comprise all the advantages and blessings of this sacrament in one word, it must be taught that the holy Eucharist is most efficacious towards the attainment of eternal glory; for it is written, Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day; that is to say, by the grace of this sacrament men enjoy the greatest peace and tranquillity of conscience during this life; and, when the hour of departing from this world shall have arrived, they, like another Elias, who in the strength of the cake baked on the hearth, walked to Horeb, the mount of God, invigorated by the strengthening influence of this [heavenly food], will ascend to unfading glory and never ending bliss.
All these matters must be most fully expounded to the faithful by the pastors, if they but dilate on the sixth chapter of St. John, in which are developed the manifold effects of this sacrament; or if, glancing at the admirable actions of Christ our Lord, they show that if they who received him beneath their roof during his mortal life, or were restored to health by touching his vesture, or the hem of his garment,u were justly and deservedly deemed most blessed, how much more fortunate and happy we, into whose soul, resplendent as he is with unfading glory, he disdains not to enter, to heal all its wounds, to adorn it with his choicest gifts, and unite it to himself!

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Council of Trent, Session XIII, Chapter 8: On the Use of the Admirable Sacrament

Now as regards the use, our Fathers have rightly and wisely distinguished three ways of receiving this holy sacrament. For they have taught that some receive it sacramentally only, to wit, sinners: others spiritually only, those, to wit, who eating in desire that heavenly bread which is set before them, are, by the lively faith which worketh by love,[25] made sensible of the fruit and utility thereof: whereas the third receive it both sacramentally and spiritually; and these are they who so prove and prepare themselves beforehand, that they approach this divine table clothed with the wedding garment.[26] Now as to the reception of the sacrament, it was always the custom in the Church of God, that laymen should receive the communion from the priests; but that the priests when celebrating should communicate themselves; which custom, as coming down from an apostolical tradition, ought with justice and reason to be retained. And finally, this holy synod with fatherly affection admonishes, exhorts, entreats, and beseeches, by the bowels of the mercy of our God, that all and each of those who are reckoned under the Christian name, would now at length join and agree in this sign of unity, in this bond of charity, in this symbol of concord; and that, mindful of the so great majesty, and the so exceeding love of our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave unto us His own beloved soul as the price of our salvation, and gave unto us His own flesh to eat, they would believe and venerate these sacred mysteries of His body and blood with such constancy and firmness of faith, with such devotion of soul, with such piety and worship, as to be able to receive frequently that supersubstantial bread, and that it may be to them truly the life of the soul, and the perpetual health of their mind; that, by the strength thereof, being invigorated, they may, after the journeying of this miserable pilgrimage, be able to arrive at their heavenly country, to eat, without any veil, that same bread of angels which they now eat under the sacred veils. (source)

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Catechism References to the Eucharist

Someday I may get ambitious and provide all the links. For now all I can do is provide a link (in a new tab) to the catechism search engine. Just type into the “search the catechism” box the reference number(s) you want to read. Go Here.

Eucharist, 1322–1419

as an act of thanksgiving, 1359
as a memorial, 1357, 1362
as presence, 1373–75
as sacrifice, 1362–72
as source and summit of Church life, 1324
See also Consecration; Sacrament(s); Transubstantiation

effects of the Eucharist

cleanses and separates us from sin, 1393–95, 1436, 1846
commits us to the poor, 1397
communicates the mystery of the communion of the Holy Trinity, 950, 2845
establishes the community of believers, 805, 1396, 2637
as a foretaste of the future life, 1000, 1326, 1402–05, 1419
as growth in Christian life, 1392, 1397, 1644
as an increase of the grace received in Baptism, 1392
as the source of conversion and penance, 1436
as spiritual food, 1212, 1275, 1436, 2837
transforms man through Christ, 1074
unites with Christ, 790, 1003, 1391
unites Christians, 1398
unites with the heavenly liturgy, 1370
we participate in Christ’s sacrifice, 1322

Eucharistic celebration

commanded by Jesus, 1341–44, 1356
elements in the Mass
anaphora, 1352–54
collection, 1351
communion, 1355, 1382, 1570
epiclesis, 1105, 1353
fundamental structures, 1346
gathering of the Christian faithful, 1348
Liturgy of the Word, 1349
presentation of the gifts, 1350

Eucharistic communion

access to Eucharist prohibited, 1650
first Holy Communion, 1244
frequency of, 1388–89
minister of, 1411
necessary preparation for receiving, 1385–87
requirements for receiving, 1355, 1415
sacrilege against, 2120
under two species, 1390

Eucharistic signs

altar, 1383
bread and wine, 1333–35

Liturgy of the Word because of the impossibility of celebrating the
Eucharist, 2183
necessity of the Eucharist and receiving Communion, 1384
participation in, 2042, 2181–82
place for celebration of, 1180–81
places reserved for, 1181, 1379
Sunday, 2177, 2181
and the unity of Christians, 838, 1398–1401

history of the Eucharist

ancient celebration of the Lord’s Day, 1342–43, 2178
Mass of all ages, 1345
origins of the Eucharistic celebration, 2176
prefigurings of the Eucharist, 1094, 1335
structure of the Eucharistic celebration preserved throughout the centuries, 1346

identity of the Eucharist

act of thanksgiving and praise to the Father, 1358–61
communion of the Lord’s body and blood, 1097, 1382
memorial of Christ’s sacrifice, 611, 1337, 1357–58, 1362–72, 1382
memorial of the New Covenant, 1621
mystery of Christ’s action, 2718
presence of Christ, 1357–58
presence of the coming Kingdom, 1405, 2861

sacrament of

Christian initiation, 1212, 1533
communion, 1382, 1395
Redemption, 1846
sacraments, 1169, 1211

source of charity, 864, 1395
source and summit of Christian life, 1324–27

institution of the Eucharist

“Do this in memory of me,” 1341–44
Jesus and, 1337–40
purposes of, 610, 1341

minister of the celebration of the Eucharist. See Bishop; Priest

names of the Eucharist

the Breaking of Bread, 1329
Daily bread, 2837
the Eucharist, 1328
the Eucharistic assembly, 1329
Holy Communion, 1331
the holy and Divine Liturgy, 1330
Holy Mass, 1332
the Holy Sacrifice, 1330
the Lord’s Supper, 1329
Memorial of the Lord’s Passion and Resurrection, 1330
the Most Blessed sacrament, 1330
the sacrament of sacraments, 1169, 1211
the sacrifice of the Mass, 1330
the sacrifice of praise, 2643

presence of Christ in the Eucharist

enduring Eucharistic presence of Christ, 1377
in the Eucharistic assembly, 1348
in the Eucharistic species, 1373
faith in Christ, 1381
in the Liturgy of the Word, 1088, 1349
in the priest, 1348
significance of, 1380
transubstantiation of Christ declared by the Tridentine Council, 1376
true and mysterious, 1357, 1373–77
true, real, and substantial, 1374
veiled presence of Christ in the Eucharist, 1404
worship of latria and the adoration of, 1378–79

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Father Callan’s Commentary on Ephesians 4:30-5:2

Note: In addition to the notes on 4:30-5:2 this post also contains summaries to help provide context.

A Summary of Ephesians 4:25-6:9

The Apostle is now going to show In a practical way just what it means for Christians to have put on the new man; that is, he is going to apply more in detail to Christian life and conduct the principles he has laid down. He will treat first of precepts that are pertinent to all Christians, to Christian society in general (Eph 4:25—5:21), and then of precepts that regard particular members of the Christian family, that regulate the Christian home (Eph 5:22—6:9). In the remaining verses of the present Chapter he speaks of some of the principal vices which the mutual charity of Christians forbids, and of some of the virtues which that same charity enjoins upon the members of the Church. Please note that Eph 4:25-32 forms a unit within 4:25-6:9 but for some reason Fr. Callan gives no independent summary of it.

Eph 4:30. And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God: whereby you were sealed unto the day of redemption.

Another reason for avoiding foul speech is that the Holy Ghost may not be grieved, “whereby” (i.e., in whom and by whom) both the speaker and the hearer of polluting speech “were sealed” at the time of their conversion, when they received the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation, both of which were usually conferred together in the early Church.

Unto the day of redemption, i.e., until the general resurrection, when we shall take full possession of our redemption. See on Eph 1:14.

Eph 4:31. Let all bitterness, and anger, and indignation, and clamor, and blasphemy, be put away from you, with all malice.

In this final prohibition St. Paul strikes at the root of the different vices he has been enumerating: this root is “malice,” of which those other sins were the manifestations.

Bitterness is an aversion arising from prolonged anger; it is akin to sulkiness.

Anger is a transient outburst of passion, whereas indignation, or wrath, is a settled or chronic condition including the purpose of revenge.

Clamor, as here meant, is a violent and angry assertion of one’s real or supposed rights and wrongs.

Blasphemy is taken literally from the Greek, but it would be better to translate it in this passage by “reviling,” since there is question now of evil speech, not against God but against man.

Malice, i.e., malevolence or the desire to injure, is the root of the sins just mentioned. Compare the parallel passage in Col. 3:8.

Eph 4:32. And be ye kind one to another; merciful, forgiving one another, even as God hath forgiven you in Christ,

The Apostle has just given some of the sins by which charity is wounded; so now he will mention some of the opposite virtues by which charity is preserved and exercised, adding the motive for the practice of these virtues. He would have his readers be “kind” (i.e., sweet and courteous to one another), “merciful” (i.e., tenderhearted), “forgiving” (i.e., ready to pardon one another’s oflFences), and all this because “God hath forgiven” (or better, “did forgive”) them at the time of their conversion, “in Christ” (i.e., through the merits of Christ). See parallel passage in Col. 3:12-13.

A Summary of Ephesians 5:1-21

This Chapter continues the thought of the preceding Chapter, and Eph 5:1-21 Verse 1-2 here really belong at the end of Chapter 4, with which they are so intimately connected (specifically with Eph 4:17-32). The Apostle has just been saying that his readers, in forgiving one another, should imitate God who has pardoned them for the sake of Christ; and now he continues that thought, and makes the further plea that in their relations with one another they should imitate the charity of Christ who gave Himself as a sacrifice to God for us all.

Eph 5:1-21 here, apparently having in view pagan pleasures and festivities, contain five commands mainly for self-guidance regarding Christian love, light, wisdom, gladness and submission, as Eph 4:25-32, contained five prohibitions regarding others.

Eph 5:1. Be ye therefore followers of God, as most dear children;

God is our Father and we are His adopted children, and so we ought to imitate Him in forgiving others as He has forgiven us; the more we imitate our Father, the more we become like Him, and consequently the more we are loved by Him.

Therefore connects this verse with the preceding Chapter.

Eph 5:2. And walk in love, as Christ also loved us, and delivered himself for us, an oblation and a sacrifice to God for an odor of sweetness.

The example of our Lord is now given as a motive for the exercise of fraternal charity.

Walk in love, i.e., let charity be the animating and governing principle of your lives, after the example of Christ who out of love for us delivered Himself up to the death of the cross for our salvation.

Loved us. The versions read thus, but a number of Greek MSS. have: “Loved you.”

An oblation and a sacrifice. The first word is more general, the second more particular in meaning. The term “sacrifice” can also stand for a bloody or an unbloody offering, and certainly the former is not to be excluded here where the sacrifice of our Lord is in question. The purpose of St. Paul here is to show the completeness of our Lord’s sacrifice, as being the antitype of both the bloody and the unbloody sacrifice. Very probably the Apostle is alluding in this passage to Ps.40:7, which is Messianic, and which is explicitly cited in Heb. 10:5.

An odor of sweetness is a sacrificial phrase taken from the Old Testament (Gen. 8:21 ; Lev. 1:9, 13, 17, etc.), and it simply means that the sacrifice was pleasing and acceptable to God.

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Ephesians 4:30-5:2

Note: Besides commentary on 4:30-5:2 this post contains Fr. MacEvilly’s summary analysis of both chapters 4 and 5 to help provide context.

Scripture links are to the Douay Rheims translation

In this chapter, the Apostle commences the moral part of the Epistle. He inculcates union and concord, and in order to persuade the Ephesians to attend to his admonitions in this matter, he reminds them of his sufferings on their account. Furthermore, with a view to secure this necessary and important branch of concord and union, he recounts the several relations of unity in which they were already identified (Eph 4:1–7).

Seeing that the unequal distribution of spiritual gifts might be an obstacle to this union of soul, the Apostle obviates this by showing, that these gifts were bestowed not according to the merits of those favoured with them, but gratuitously, according to the will of Christ (Eph 4:7). This he shows from Psalm 68.—and turning aside from his subject, he proves from the prophetic quotation the divinity and eternal generation of Christ against the heretics of the day (Eph 4:8–10).

Returning to the subject from which he had digressed at verse 8, he points out the different gifts and offices (Eph 4:12), their duration to the end of the world (Eph 4:13). He more clearly points out the ends to be obtained by the institution of the ministry in the Church, and the gifts conferred on her, which are unity of faith, and an increase of Christian virtue and knowledge (Eph 4:14-15). He illustrates this increase of Christian virtue in the mystical body of the Church, by the example of the natural increase of the human body (Eph 4:16).

Resuming the subject of exhortation with which he commenced (verse 1), he conjures them to lead lives different from those of the unconverted Gentiles, of whom he draws a most frightful picture. He represents their interior state or the dispositions of their souls, which comprise vanity of thought, blindness of intellect, obduracy of will (Eph 4:17-18). He next describes the exterior fruits of these corrupt passions of heart, their insatiable impurities of every description (Eph 4:19). The life of Christians is all contrary to this (Eph 4:20-21). A truly Christian conduct consists in two things—in putting off the old man, and putting on the new (Eph 4:22–24). He specifies a few of the deeds of the old man, which are, vices of the tongue (Eph 4:25), passions of the heart, especially those of the irascible appetite (Eph 4:26), deeds committed by the hands (Eph 4:27-28). He dwells on the vices of the tongue, and recommends the language of edification. He particularizes the faults of the tongue, and finally recommends the language of kindness and charity (Eph 4:29-32).

Text in purple indicate Fr. MacEvilly’s paraphrase of the text he is commenting on. Links are to the Douay Rheims translation.

Eph 4:30. And do not, by indulging in the vices already referred to, particularly those of the tongue, contristate the Holy Ghost, by banishing him from the abode of your heart, in which he wishes to dwell; by whom you have been sealed, in the abundant effusion of sanctifying grace, unto the day of the final resurrection, when, after your bodies shall have been glorified, and freed from all evils, you shall put on immortal glory.

The Holy Ghost is said to be “grieved” by being banished from our hearts, as a man is said to be saddened by being expelled from an abode in which he wished to dwell. “Sealed,” by the abundance of sanctifying grace, which is a spiritual seal of the beloved soul, by which it is marked out as belonging to God. The Apostle probably refers to the sacramental grace received in baptism and confirmation.—(See 2 Tim. 1:6). As, therefore, the seal of God is impressed on the soul, this seal should be inviolable, and should not be broken without the authority of him who impressed it. He, then, breaks and violates this seal, whoever he be, that utters obscene words, with lips that were holy and sanctified by divine grace. “Unto the day of redemption,” i.e., of the glorious resurrection of our bodies, when we shall be emancipated from the slavery of corruption.

Eph 4:31. Let all aversion and embittered feelings towards your neighbour, all angry excitement, all desires of revenge, all loud threatenings and brawling expression of inward rage, all injurious and insulting language, with every fault of this description, i.e., evil acts or dispositions towards your neighbour, be put away from you.

“Let all bitterness:” aversion, arising from our brooding over the provocation received, is the beginning of anger. “Anger,” that excited state of feeling resulting from the injuries we conceived to be inflicted on us. “Indignation,” that passionate, fixed desire of revenge. “Clamour,” all loud threatenings, &c. “Blasphemy,” is generally understood of language injurious to God, but it is also understood of injurious language used towards men. “With all malice,” regards all vices by which our neighbour is injured. These he omits enumerating, and comprehends under the general term “malice.”

Eph 4:32. But in order the more perfectly to subdue these evil propensities of our corrupt nature, practice the opposite virtues. Be courteous and obliging towards one another, have compassion for the troubles and miseries of each other, so as to share them by a kindly sympathy, pardoning and remitting to each other the injuries you may have mutually to sustain, after the example of God, who has pardoned us our manifold sins and injuries offered him, through the merits of his Son, Christ.

The best and most secure way of overcoming these evil propensities of nature is, to practise the opposite virtues. There is scarcely a passion more deeply rooted in our corrupt nature, and harder to eradicate, than the desire of retaliating and taking vengeance on our enemies, on those who have injured and are still disposed to injure us. But eradicate it, overcome it we must, if we wish to enter the kingdom of heaven, which suffers violence, and which only the violent can bear away. It is on condition that we forgive our enemies, that God forgives us. We can achieve the victory over this dreadful passion, to the gratification of which our corrupt nature so strongly urges us, by fervent prayer to God, who commands nothing above our strength, nothing which he will not grant us grace, if fervently besought for it, to accomplish. We can to this end also employ certain considerations. First—The example of God pardoning his enemies, “that you may be like your Father who is in heaven,” &c. What sins and outrages has he not remitted to us? He, the Creator, the Benefactor, pardoning his ungrateful creatures. Second—The example of the Son of God. How he wished to reclaim his apostate disciple, “friend, why camest thou hither?” On the cross he prays for his blasphemous persecutors, “Father, forgive them,” &c. Third—The example of the saints of old. Among the rest, David refused to stretch forth his hand against Saul, his unrelenting and unjust persecutor, and after his death, punished the Amalecite who said he slew him, and called on the rains and dews of heaven not to fall on the mountains of Gilboe, where he and his son had been slain. Fourth—Gratitude to God for his many benefits, for whose sake principally, and not for the sake of an ungrateful creature, we are called on to pardon our enemy. Fifth—The consideration of the wretched state of our enemy, exposed to eternal torments, the miserable condition of his soul who wishes to injure us. This should soften us into pity rather than vengeance. Sixth—The reward of this forgiveness, and self-victory, viz., peace of soul, tranquillity of conscience, which is but the earnest of future glory, the final reward which God has in store for those who make sacrifices for his sake. God is never outdone in generosity. No one ever made sacrifices for Him that did not receive an hundred-fold reward. Of this we have a striking example in the life and conversion of St. John Gualbert, after pardoning a mortal enemy.—(See his Life, July 12.)


In this chapter, the Apostle exhorts the Ephesians to love one another after the example of God (Eph 4:32), and also after the example of Christ, who sacrificed himself for us (Eph 5:1-2). He exhorts them to shun all impurity both in word and deed, because wholly unsuited to the exalted state of sanctity to which they were called, and because it provokes the punishment of exclusion from God’s eternal inheritance (Eph 5:3-5). He cautions them against listening to the false teachings of some men on this head (Eph 5:6). He dissuades them from all participation whatsoever, in the wicked conduct of their Pagan neighbours. He, on the contrary, adduces several motives of persuasion, to encourage them to set forth, by the pure and bright contrast of their holy lives, in darker and more hideous colours, the wicked deeds of the others (Eph 6:7–15).

He exhorts them to act with wise caution and circumspection in their intercourse with the Pagans, considering the perilous nature of the days upon which they had fallen (Eph 5:15–18). He cautions them against excessive indulgence in wine, and exhorts them to seek consolation from a different source—viz., the Spirit of God; and he points out how, in their different meetings, they are to express their joy in the Holy Ghost, by singing psalms, and other spiritual songs, and by expressing their thankfulness to God (Eph 5:19-20).

He next lays down a general principle of Christian policy, relative to the duties of subjection and subordination, in the different states of life (Eph 5:21). Descending to particulars, he devotes the remainder of this chapter to the instruction of those engaged in the marriage state, as to the duties they mutually owe each other. In this state, the woman is the party on whom the duty of obedience devolves. He shows the relation of subjection which she bears her husband, to be similar to that which the Church bears to Christ; and hence, she should be subject to him, as the Church is to Christ (Eph 5:22–24), He, on the other hand, adduces the same analogy of relation, as a reason why husbands should love their wives. They hold in their regard a relation of headship, similar to that which Christ holds in regard to the Church (Eph 5:25–27). Another reason for this love is founded on the nature of the conjugal union between man and wife (Eph 5:28-29). He, next, points out the ground of the comparison of the man and wife with Christ and his Church, by showing that the Church is a part of Christ, and for this purpose he quotes in a mystical sense, the passage in Genesis, where reference is made to the creation of the woman (Eph 5:30). He quotes more largely from the passage in Genesis, in order to develop more fully the motive referred to (in verse 28), and shows the union between man and wife to be a type of the indissoluble and mystic union between Christ and his Church (Eph 5:31-32). He applies to the Ephesians the motives already adduced, and calls upon husbands and wives to attend to them (Eph 5:33).


Eph 5:1. Since, therefore, God hath pardoned you in Christ, be ye imitators of God, as children are wont to imitate the parents, by whom they are most tenderly loved.

“Be ye, therefore, followers of God.” In Greek, μιμηται, “imitators of God.” These words are immediately connected with the last verse of the preceding chapter. “As most dear children,” i.e., as children greatly beloved by God.

Eph 5:2. And exercise the duty of fraternal charity in all its parts, both in pardoning injuries and doing good so far as to sacrifice your lives, if necessary, for the good of our neighbour, after the example of Christ, who delivered himself up for our redemption, a most perfect victim—corresponding with all the ends, and comprising within itself all the properties, of the ancient offerings—and most acceptable with God.

“And walk in love.” This is a point in which we are called upon to imitate God. There are many other things in which we cannot imitate him, but only admire and adore him. “As Christ also hath loved us and delivered himself for us.” The Apostle proposes the example of our Redeemer as a second motive to exercise fraternal charity; and he leaves it to be inferred, that we also, like him, should love one another, Even at the sacrifice of life, if necessary; for, he died for us when we were his enemies by sin. “Since he hath laid down his life for us, so should we also lay down our live for our brethren.”—(1 John, chap 3)

“And delivered himself for us.” Every word has force. Who delivered himself?—God. For whom? For us, his creatures and enemies by sin. To what did he deliver himself? To a death of unparalleled ignominy and tortures. “Ut servum redimeres, Filium tradidisti?”

“An oblation and a sacrifice.” These words mean that he offered himself as a most perfect victim, comprising all the qualities of victims, bloody or unbloody, and corresponding to all the ends of the ancient sacrifices, whether holocaust, peace offering, sin offering, &c.

“For an odour of sweetness,” or, most sweet odour, denotes its acceptance with God. The phrase is frequently employed in reference to the acceptability of the ancient sacrifices, as in Genesis, and elsewhere.

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Commentaries for Monday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time, Year I

Today’s Mass Readings.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Exodus 32:15-24, 30-34.

Bishop Knecht’s Practical Commentary on Exodus 32:15-24, 30-34. Fairly brief, on all of chapter 32.

Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 106.

A Patristic/Medieval Commentary on Psalm 106:19-23.

St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 106. Whole Psalm.

Some Brief Notes on Psalm 106:19-23.

St Jerome’s Commentary on Matthew 13:31-35.

Maldonado’s Commentary on Matthew 13:31-35.

Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on Matthew 13:31-35.

Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Matthew 13:31-35.

Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Matthew 13:31-35.

Father Maas’ Commentary on Matthew 13:31-35.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Matthew 13:31-35.

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Father Maas’ Commentary on Matthew 13:31-35

Mt 13:31. Another parable he proposed unto them, saying: The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field.
Mt 13:32. Which is the least indeed of all seeds; but when it is grown up, it is greater than all herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come, and dwell in the branches thereof.

Another parable he proposed unto them.] 3. The mustard seed. Here our Lord begins to set forth the power of the kingdom manifested first by its great extension. This manifestation is calculated to console and reassure the apostles, who might have been discouraged by the foregoing predictions of coming evil. Here again the similitude lies between what occurs in the kingdom of heaven and the whole contents of the parable. The mustard-tree can hardly be the “salvadora persica,” which is rare in Palestine, but must refer to the garden plant [sinapis nigra] which in the fertile soil of the Holy Land reached the height of several feet, and exceeded all other garden plants [Barradas]; Maldonado, does not wish to insist on these minutiæ of the parable. The mustard seed is not the least of all seeds botanically, but it was so either practically in the Holy Land [cf. Schaff], or at least proverbially [Lightfoot, Hor. hebr. in 1.; Buxtorf, Lexic. chald. talmud. p. 822]. Our Lord describes in this passage the small and humble beginnings of the Messianic kingdom [cf. Ezech. 17:23]; we need not recall the particulars of Christ’s humility and poverty, and of the apostles’ lowly condition [cf. Chrysostom, Jerome, Thomas Aquinas, Cajetan, Jansenius]. What is said by some commentators [cf. Jansenius, Sylveira, Lapide] about the various medicinal properties of the mustard seed, or about the birds of heaven and the branches of the mustard-tree, hardly belongs to the genuine meaning of the parable, though it may be regarded as an accommodation of the passage.

Mt 13:33. Another parable he spoke to them: The kingdom of heaven is like to leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, until the whole was leavened.

Another parable he spoke to them.] 4. The leaven. Here our Lord shows the intensive efficacy of the kingdom, as he illustrated its extensive efficiency in the foregoing parable. The “three measures,” or three seahs, are equivalent to an ephah or bath, which is equal to 7 gals. and 4.5 pts. [ Ant. XI. iv. 5]. The number “three” has wonderfully exercised the ingenuity of commentators: it signifies “multitude” in general [Chrysostom, Euthymius, Thomas Aquinas, Cajetan]; or the law, the prophets, and the gospel [Hillary, Ambrose Chrysologos]; or the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost [Hillary]; or the Semites, Chamites, and Japhetites [Hillary]; or Asia, Africa, and Europe [Bruno, Faber Stapulensis, Jansenius, Lapide]; or the Jews, Samaritans, and Greeks [Euthymius]; or our reasonable, concupiscible, and irascible faculties, in other words, the spirit, the soul, and the flesh [Jerome, Bede Rabanus, Paschasius, Dionysius the Carthusian, Ambrose]; or the moral, intellectual, and heroic virtues [Alb.]; or our heart, our soul, and our strength [Thomas Aquinas]; or the life of prelacy, of contemplation, and of action [id.]; or the thirty-fold, sixty-fold, and hundred-fold fruit [id.]; Jesus appears to have spoken of three measures in allusion to Gen. 18:6; Judg. 6:19; 1 Kings. 1:24 [Jansenius, Knabenbauer, etc.], so that the quantity suffices for a copious meal. Since in the figurative language of the Jews [Weber, System, etc. 221], as well as in the New Testament [Mk. 8:15; Mt. 16:6], “leaven” usually signifies something evil, its occurrence in the present passage must not refer to its substance, but only to its hidden, almost irresistible manner of acting and to its result. It would lead us too far, were we even to delineate the similarity of action and of result on the part of the Messianic message [cf. Euthymius, Dionysius the Carthusian. Jansenius].

Mt 13:34. All these things Jesus spoke in parables to the multitudes: and without parables he did not speak to them.
Mt 13:35. That it 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. 

All these things Jesus spoke in parables.] 5. Explanation of the second parable. The evangelist here interrupts the series of parables by inserting the explanation of the second parable, and by drawing attention to a fulfilment of prophecy in our Lord’s parable discourse. The appeal to prophecy holds a place in the series of parables similar to that in the series of miracles [cf. Mt. 8:17; 12:18], and cannot therefore be set aside as an interpolation [cf. Weiss.], a. Appeal to prophecy. “Without parables he did not speak to them” at this period of the public life, when the conversion of the mass of the people had become hopeless [Chrysostom, Theophylact, Euthymius, Dionysius the Carthusian, Jansenius, De Wette, Arnoldi, etc.], though in his earlier career he spoke to the people in plain language [cf. Schegg]. “That it might be fulfilled” does not admit of mere accommodation [Maldonado] of the Psalmist’s prediction to the ministry of our Lord; since Jesus was the anti-type of the Old Testament, not merely in his character of priest and king, but also of prophet, the typical prophetic actions, e.g. their teaching in parables, must find their parallel in the teaching of our Lord [cf. Mt. 5:12; 23:30; Lk. 13:33; Knabenbauer]. As, therefore, Asaph the Seer [2 Par. 29:30] appeals in Ps. 77, [78,] to certain facts of the nation’s history as to “parables” containing a moral doctrine, and as to “things hidden” expressing beside their obvious meaning the secrets of divine providence regarding the theocracy, so Jesus must in real parables describe the mysteries of the Messianic kingdom [cf. Col. 1:26; Jerome, Paschasius, Thomas Aquinas, Cajetan, Jansenius, Arnoldi, Schegg, Fillion, Knabenbauer etc.]. The first half of the evangelist’s quotation follows the Greek version, the second half gives the Hebrew original [Ps. 87:2]. At the time of the Psalmist the passage was a warning against apostasy, at the time of Isaias it was an indication of the judgment against Juda, at the time of our Lord it points to the alternative of salvation or rejection [cf. Schanz].

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Matthew 13:31-35

MacEvilly (1818-1902) produced commentaries on all the books of the NT except for Revelation. I’ve posted his complete Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew here..

Mat 13:31 Another parable he proposed unto them, saying: The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field.

This is the fourth parable, which in St. Mark (4:30), is thus introduced: “To what shall we liken the kingdom of God? or to what parable shall we compare it?”

The spread of the Church, and the Gospel doctrine—the meaning of, “kingdom of heaven”—is, “like to a grain of mustard seed,” &c.

Mat 13:32 Which is the least indeed of all seeds; but when it is grown up, it is greater than all herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come, and dwell in the branches thereof.

“Which is indeed the least of all seeds.” There are some smaller seeds. The words mean, it is one of the least of all seeds. It is quite a common form of expression, when speaking of something small, to speak of it in the superlative, and to say of it, it is the least, or, a very small, thing. “But when it is grown up, it is greater than all herbs.” In hot countries, the mustard seed grows into a small tree, exceeding in height the human stature (Lucas Brugensis), “so that the birds of the air come and dwell,” that is, perch, “in the branches thereof.” The Greek word, κατασκηνοῦν, would convey the idea, of nestling, or fixing their abode. But the word, “dwell,” may mean, to rest, or perch, on the branches.

The parable of the mustard seed, exhibits the great virtue and active efficacy of the Gospel doctrine. It was a proverbial kind of saying among the Jews, when they spoke of anything very small, to compare it to a mustard seed. The parable of the mustard seed is not explained by our Divine Redeemer. We are left to explain it ourselves. The holy Fathers understand it, of the spread of the faith and of the Gospel. It exhibits to us also the great virtue and active efficacy of the Gospel doctrine. This doctrine of the Gospel, whereby the Church was founded, and gathered together, was, from a human point of view, the meanest and most contemptible of all other doctrines, whether we regard the subjects it propounded—the mysterious doctrines of original sin, and the other mysteries impervious to human reason—its maxims so opposed to flesh and blood; or, its original Founder, a crucified Man, the preaching of whose Divinity scandalized the Jews, and made the Gentiles cry, “folly;” or, the instruments employed in its propagation—a few illiterate, ignorant fishermen, without knowledge, station, or influence, who were to combat the wisdom of the philosopher, and the eloquence of the rhetorician; and yet, notwithstanding these obstacles, humanly speaking, insuperable, this small grain of mustard seed, after being some time buried in the earth, extended itself far and wide, encircling the habitable globe, covering, with its ample shade, the great ones of the world; those elevated above their fellows in learning, such as the philosophers; in power and station, such as kings and princes. Or, “birds,” may rather signify those elevated souls, whose aspirations tended aloft towards the happiness of heaven. This Gospel doctrine, after extending itself to the entire earth, produced numberless saints, out of all conditions of life, who exhibited the most striking examples of heroic virtue; so that the Church, propagated by this doctrine, far exceeds, in point of extent, permanency, and splendour, every sect existing in this world (Mauduit).

This parable represents the increase of the Church, by means of the Gospel doctrine. For, the Church—“the kingdom of heaven”—like to a grain of mustard, the least of seeds, which grows into a tree, was first very small when planted by Christ on earth; but, glowing with charity, it became a great tree, like that described by Daniel (4:7).

Mat 13:33 Another parable he spoke to them: The kingdom of heaven is like to leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, until the whole was leavened.

This parable has the same scope and object as the preceding. It shows the great and active efficacy of the Gospel doctrine, and the wonderful spread of the Church, from very small beginnings. The word, “leaven,” is often taken in a bad sense in Scripture. (Mark 8; Gal. 5; 1 Cor. 5) On account of its different properties of infecting the thing with which it is mixed up, it is susceptible of a good or bad signification. Hence, it is taken sometimes, as here, in a good signification.

“Which a woman took and hid.” It was the women that baked bread among the Jews (Lev. 26:26)

“In three measures”—“in tribus satis.” What quantity each of these measures in question contained, we cannot precisely know, as we have no corresponding measures. It was the seah of the Jews, the third part of an epha, containing, probably, about ten pints, the ordinary quantity baked at a time (Gen. 18:6).

The scope of the parable is to convey, that as the leaven, however small in quantity, affects the entire mass of the flour with which it is mixed, and fermenting the dough by its activity, makes it rise and become more savoury, so as to become wholesome nutriment for man; so, in like manner, the Gospel doctrine, however humble in its accompaniments, preached by a few fishermen, and embraced at first by only the lowly and the humble, shall, by its occult power, change and ferment the entire world, or whole human race, and, imbuing them with its own nature, and filling them with the love of God, shall make them fit subjects for heaven. As the preceding parable denoted the external and visible effects of the Gospel on the hearts of men; so does this, most probably, denote its internal and invisible effects, its fermentation and the active love of God, which it produces in the heart of man.

By the “woman,” referred to here, St. Jerome understands, the Church gathered from all nations. St. Augustine (Lib. 1, quest. Evan.), the power and wisdom of God.

Mat 13:34 All these things Jesus spoke in parables to the multitudes: and without parables he did not speak to them.

“Spoke in parables,” to which Mark adds (4:33), “according as they were able to hear,” which, by some, is understood to mean, according as they were worthy of instruction. For, as the Scribes and Pharisees listened solely with the view of catching Him in His words; He, therefore, on account of their unworthiness, spoke to them in an obscure way; otherwise, they would have derived detriment, rather than profit, from His words, and would have treated them disrespectfully. This is in accordance with verse 12.

Others give the words a favourable interpretation. He accommodates Himself to the capacity of the simple people, by proposing, under the images of things with which they were conversant in their daily course of life, His abstruse doctrines, which they could not otherwise comprehend; and this form of conveying ideas in parables would stimulate the people to seek, from competent persons, the meaning of what they heard. According to this interpretation, another reason is assigned for the use of parables, quite different from that assigned verse 12.

“And without parables He did not speak to them,” may mean, that, generally speaking, parabolic language was mixed up with all the addresses of our Redeemer to the multitude; or the words may mean, that, on that occasion, at that time, He did not speak to them except in parables. For, on many other occasions, He discoursed to them in the simplest literal language. St. Mark says, “but apart He explained all things to His disciples,” as if to show, that all things our Redeemer then spoke to the multitude were in parables, requiring explanation, which was given to the disciples. In truth, parabolic language was not the mode of instruction ordinarily employed by our Redeemer.

Mat 13:35 That it 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 result of our Redeemer’s addressing the people in parables was: that He fulfilled, and verified what was spoken by the Prophet mystically in his sacred Person. The Prophet, while primarily referring to the events recorded in the Psalm, represented Christ, and spoke, in His Person, in a mystical and still more recondite sense—the sense principally intended by the Holy Ghost—of the great blessings bestowed on the human race by the Gospel and the great work of Redemption.

“I will open my mouth,” a Hebrew form, for, “I will speak,” denoting, at the same time, some obscure and important subject, “in parables.” “I will utter things hidden from the foundation,” &c. The Septuagint of Psalm 78, to which reference is made, runs thus: “I shall utter PROBLEMS from the beginning.” The Hebrew has, “I shall utter enigmata (chidoth) from of old.” The words, problems and enigmata, which the Vulgate renders “propositiones,” have their meaning well conveyed in our version, “things hidden;” for, both problems and enigmata, and parables, agree in this: that they contain and suggest some obscure and latent meaning besides what the words literally express; and, then, “from the beginning,” is well expressed in the words, “from the foundation of the world.” These mysteries of grace and glory, revealed by Christ to His Church, were known to but few from creation. This is well expressed by the Apostle (Rom. 16:25; Eph. 3:1).

The 78th Psalm, whoever was its author, whether spoken, in the first instance, in the person of David himself, or in that of Asaph, in its primary and literal sense, commemorated the benefits of God bestowed on the Hebrew people, “from the beginning,” from the first time He set them apart as His chosen inheritance, and from their egress out of Egypt—which is specially mentioned in this Psalm (vv. 12, 13)—to the time of David himself. This was done with the view of inspiring them with feelings of love and gratitude to God. But, in their mystical and more recondite sense—the sense principally intended by the Holy Ghost—the Psalm referred to the great benefits conferred by our Blessed Lord—of whom the Prophet exhibited a type—in the New Law, and to the chief features of His providential dealings with the human race. Indeed, it may be said, that, as “all things happened”—that ancient people—“in figure” (1 Cor. 10:6), the events recorded in Psalm 78 and the blessings there commemorated, from their egress out of Egypt, to the days of David, were so many types of the blessings conferred on the spiritual Israel of the New Law; and in recording these, the Prophet or Psalmist announced parables, in the general acceptation of the term.

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Aquinas Catena Aurea on Matt 13:31-35

Ver 31. Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field:32, Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.”

Chrys.: Seeing the Lord had said above that three parts of the seed perish, and one only is preserved, and of that one part there is much loss by reason of the tares that are sown upon it; that none might say, Who then and how many shall they be that believe; He removes this cause of fear by the parable of the mustard seed.

Therefore it is said, “Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like unto a grain of mustard seed.”

Jerome: The kingdom of heaven is the preaching of the Gospel, and the knowledge of the Scriptures which leads to life, concerning which it is said to the Jews, “The kingdom of God shall be taken from you.” [Mat_21:43] It is the kingdom of heaven thus understood which is likened to a grain of mustard seed.

Aug., Quaest in Ev., i, 11: A grain of mustard seed may allude to the warmth of faith, or to its property as antidote to poison.  It follows; “Which a man took and sowed in his field.”

Jerome: The man who sows is by most understood to be the Saviour, who sows the seed in the minds of believers; by others the man himself who sows in his field, that is, in his own heart. Who indeed is he that soweth, but our own mind and understanding, which receiving the grain of preaching, and nurturing it by the dew of faith, makes it to spring up in the field of our own breast?

“Which is the least of all seeds.” The Gospel preaching is the least of all the systems of the schools; at first view it has not even the appearance of truth, announcing a man as God, God put to death, and proclaiming the offence of the cross. Compare this teaching with the dogmas of the Philosophers, with their books, the splendour of their eloquence, the polish of their style, and you will see how the seed of the Gospel is the least of all seeds.

Chrys.: Or; The seed of the Gospel is the least of seeds, because the disciples were weaker than the whole of mankind; yet forasmuch as there was great might in them, their preaching spread throughout the whole world.

And therefore it follows, “But when it is grown it is the greatest among herbs,” that is among dogmas.

Aug.: Dogmas are the decisions of sects [margin note: placita sectarum], the points, that is, that they have determined.

Jerome: For the dogmas of Philosophers when they have grown up, shew nothing of life or strength, but watery and insipid they grow into grasses and other greens, which quickly dry up and wither away. But the Gospel preaching, though it seem small in its beginning, when sown in the mind of the hearer, or upon the world, comes up not a garden herb, but a tree, so that the birds of the air (which we must suppose to be either the souls of believers or the Powers of God set free from slavery) come and abide in its branches. The branches of the Gospel tree which have grown of the grain of mustard seed, I suppose to signify the various dogmas in which each of the birds (as explained above) takes his rest. [margin note: Psa_55:6]

Let us then take the wings of the dove, that flying aloft we may dwell in the branches of this tree, and may make ourselves nests of doctrines, and soaring above earthly things may hasten towards heavenly.

Hilary: Or; The Lord compares Himself to a grain of mustard seed, sharp to the taste, and the least of all seeds, whose strength is extracted by bruising.

Greg., Mor., xix, 1: Christ Himself is the grain of mustard seed, who, planted in the garden of the sepulchre, grew up a great tree; He was a grain of seed when He died, and a tree when He rose again; a grain of seed in the humiliation of the flesh, a tree in the power of His majesty.

Hilary: This grain then when sown in the field, that is, when seized by the people and delivered to death, and as it were buried in the ground by a sowing of the body, grew up beyond the size of all herbs, and exceeded all the glory of the Prophets. For the preaching of the Prophets was allowed as it were herbs to a sick man; but now the birds of the air lodge in the branches of the tree. By which we understand the Apostles, who put forth of Christ’s might, and overshadowing the world with their boughs, are a tree to which the Gentiles flee in hope of life, and having been long tossed by the winds, that is by the spirits of the Devil, may have rest in its branches.

Greg.: “The birds lodge in its branches,” when holy souls that raise themselves aloft from thoughts of earth on the wings of the virtues, breathe again from the troubles of this life in their words and comfortings.

Ver 33. Another parable spake he unto them; “The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.”

Chrys.: The same thing the Lord sets forth in this parable of the leaven; as much as to say to His disciples, As leaven changes into its own kind much wheat-flour, so shall ye change the whole world. Note here the wisdom of the Saviour; He first brings instances from nature, proving that as the one is possible so is the other. And He says not simply ‘put,’ but “hid;” as much as to say, So ye, when ye shall be cast down by your enemies, then ye shall overcome them. And so leaven is kneaded in, without being destroyed, but gradually changes all things into its own nature; so shall it come to pass with your preaching. Fear ye not then because I said that many tribulations shall come upon you, for so shall ye shine forth, and shall overcome them all.

He says, “three measures,” to signify a great abundance; that definite number standing for an indefinite quantity.

Jerome: The ‘saturn’ is a kind of measure in use in Palestine containing one modius and a half.

Aug. Quaest. Ev., i, 12: Or, The leaven signifies love, because it causes activity and fermentation; by the woman He means wisdom. By the three measures He intends either those three things in man, with the whole heart, with the whole soul, with the whole mind; or the three degrees of fruitfulness, the hundred-fold, the sixty-fold, the thirty-fold; or those three kinds of men, Noe, Daniel, and Job.

Raban.: He says, “Until the whole was leavened,” because that love implanted in our mind ought to grow until it changes the whole soul into its own perfection; which is begun here, but is completed hereafter.

Jerome: Or otherwise; The woman who takes the leaven and hides it, seems to me to be the Apostolic preaching, or the Church gathered out of divers nations. She takes the leaven, that is, the understanding of the Scriptures, and hides it in three measures of meal, that the three, spirit, soul, and body, may be brought into one, and may not differ among themselves.

Or otherwise; We read in Plato that there are three parts in the soul, reason, anger, and desire; so we also if we have received the evangelic leaven of Holy Scripture, may possess in our reason prudence, in our anger hatred against vice, in our desire love of the virtues, and this will all come to pass by the Evangelic teaching which our mother Church has held out to us.

I will further mention an interpretation of some; that the woman is the Church, who has mingled the faith of man in three measures of meal, namely, belief in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; which when it has fermented into one lump, brings us not to a threefold God, but to the knowledge of one Divinity. This is a pious interpretation; but parables and doubtful solutions of dark things, can never bestow authority on dogmas.

Hilary: Or otherwise; The Lord compares Himself to leaven; for leaven is produced from meal, and communicates the power that it has received to a heap of its own kind. The woman, that is the Synagogue, taking this leaven hides it, that is by the sentence of death; but it working in the three measures of meal, that is equally in the Law, the Prophets, and the Gospels, makes all one; so that what the Law ordains, that the Prophets announce, that is fulfilled in the developments of the Gospels.

But many, as I remember, have thought that the three measures refer to the calling of the three nations, out of Shem, Ham, and Japhet. But 1 hardly think that the reason of the thing will allow this interpretation; for though these three nations have indeed been called, yet in them Christ is shewn and not hidden, and in so great a multitude of unbelievers the whole cannot be said to be leavened.

Ver 34. All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake he not unto them.35. That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world.

Chrys., Hom., xlvii: After the foregoing parables, that none might think that Christ was bringing forward any thing new, the Evangelist quotes the Prophet, foretelling even this His manner of preaching: Mark’s words are, “And with many such parables spake he the word unto them, as they were able to hear it.” [Mar_4:33]

So marvel not that, in speaking of the kingdom, He uses the similitudes of a seed, and of leaven; for He was discoursing to common men, and who needed to be led forward by such aids.

Remig.: The Greek word ‘Parable,’ is rendered in Latin ‘Similitude,’ by which truth is explained; and an image or representation of the reality is set forth.

Jerome: Yet He spoke not in parables to the disciples, but to the multitude; and even to this day the multitude hears in parables; and therefore it is said, “And without a parable spake he not unto them.”

Chrys.: For though He had spoken many things not in parables, when not speaking before the multitudes, yet at this time spake He nothing without a parable.

Aug., Quaest. in Matt., q. 15: Or, this is said, not in Matt that He uttered nothing in plain words but that He concluded no one discourse without introducing a parable in the course of it, though the chief part of the discourse might consist of matter not figurative. And we may indeed find discourses of His parabolical throughout, but none direct throughout. And by a complete discourse, I mean, the whole of what He says on any topic that may be brought before Him by circumstances, before He leaves it, and passes to a new subject.

For sometimes one Evangelist connects what another gives as spoken at different times; the writer having in such a case followed not the order of events, but the order of connexion in his own memory. The reason why He spake in parables the Evangelist subjoins, saying, “That it might be fulfilled that was spoken by the Prophet, saying, I will open my mouth. in parables, I will utter things kept secret from the foundation of the world.” [Psa_78:2]

Jerome: This passage is taken from the seventy-seventh Psalm. I have seen copies which read, ‘by Esaias the Prophet,’ instead of what we have adopted, and what the common text has by the Prophet.

Remig.: From which reading Porphyry took an objection to the believers; Such was your Evangelist’s ignorance, that he imputed to Isaiah what is indeed found in the Psalms.

Jerome: But because the text was not found in Isaiah, his name was, I suppose, therefore erased by such as had observed that. But it seems to me that it was first written thus, ‘As was written by Asaph the Prophet, saying,’ for the seventy-seventh Psalm out of which this text is taken is ascribed to Asaph the Prophet; and that the copyist not understanding Asaph, and imputing it to error in the transcription, substituted the better known name Isaiah.

For it should be known that not David only, but those others also whose names are set before the Psalms, and hymns, and songs of God, are to be considered prophets, namely, Asaph, Idithum, and Heman the Esraite, and the rest who are named in Scripture. And so that which is spoken in the Lord’s person, “I will open my mouth in parables,” if considered attentively, will be found to be a description of the departure of Israel out of Egypt, and a relation of all the wonders contained in the history of Exodus.

By which we learn, that all that is there written may be taken in a figurative way, and contains hidden sacraments; for this is what the Saviour is there made to preface by the words, “I will open my mouth in parables.”

Gloss., ap Anselm: As though He had said, I who spoke before by the Prophets, now in My own person will open My mouth in parables, and will bring forth out of My secret store mysteries which have been hidden ever since the foundation of the world.

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Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on Matthew 13:31-35

Father Cornelius a Lapide (1567-1637) was a renowned exegete who wrote commentaries on all the books in the Catholic canon of Scripture, save Job and Psalms.

Note: Text in red, if any, represent my additions.

Mat 13:31  Another parable he proposed unto them, saying: The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field.
Mat 13:32  Which is the least indeed of all seeds; but when it is grown up, it is greater than all herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come, and dwell in the branches thereof.

The kingdom of Heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, &c. Instead of the birds of the heaven lodge in the branches of it the Arabic has they are overshadowed by its branches. This is Christ’s third parable, the occasion and cause of which S. Chrysostom gives as follows: “Because the Lord had said that of the seed three parts perish, and one is preserved, and again of that which is preserved, there is great loss on account of the tares which are sown above it, lest people should say, who then and how many will believe? he removes this fear by the parable of the grain of mustard seed, and therefore it is said, Another parable put He proposed unto them, the kingdom of Heaven is like unto a grain of mustard seed, &c.”

You will enquire in the first place, what it is which is here compared to the kingdom of Heaven, and likened to a grain of mustard seed? 1. S. Hilary understands it of Christ Himself. He says, “The Lord compares Himself to a grain of mustard seed, which is very sharp and the least of all seeds, and whose virtue and power are increased by bruising and pressure. After this grain had been sown in the field, when it was taken by the people and delivered to death, as though in a field by a sort of sowing, there was the burial of its body, it grew above the measure of all herbs, and exceeded the glory of all the prophets. For like a herb the preaching of the prophets was given to Israel as being sick: but now in the branches of the tree, raised from the ground on high, the birds of the air dwell: by these we understand the Apostles, lifted up by the power of Christ, and they overshadow the world with their branches. To them the Gentiles flew for the hope of life; and when they are vexed with whirlwinds, that is by the blasts of the devil, they rest as in the branches of a tree.” In like manner S. Gregory (lib. 19 Moral. c. 11.) expounds this whole parable, “Christ Himself is the grain of mustard seed, who was planted in the sepulchre of the garden, and rose again a mighty tree. He was but a grain when He died; a tree when He rose again. A grain through lowliness of the flesh; a tree by the power of His majesty. A grain, because we saw Him, and there was no comeliness; but a tree because He was fairer than the children of men. The branches of this tree are sacred preachers. And let us see how widely they are spread. For what is spoken concerning them? Their sound is gone out into all the earth, and their words unto the end of the world. The birds rest in their branches, because holy souls who lift up themselves from earthly thoughts by the wings, as it were, of virtues are refreshed after the fatigue of this life by their words and their consolations.” You will say, how can Christ be called the kingdom of Heaven, when He is not the kingdom, but its King? It is replied: as a king is as it were the head in a kingdom, so a kingdom is as the body of a king. Wherefore a king represents the whole state or kingdom. Hence according to the rule of Ticonius, often in Scripture what belongs to the Church, which is the kingdom of Christ, is attributed to Christ, and vice versa.

2. More plainly and aptly, the kingdom of Heaven and the grain of mustard seed are the Church, especially the Primitive Church.

It’s important to keep in mind that although the Church and the Kingdom are closely associated they are not identical. The Church is the Kingdom present in mystery. The parable is applicable to the Church in this sense. The growth and fruition of the Kingdom is working itself out in and through the Church.

You will enquire: Why the Gospel is compared to a grain of mustard seed, and what are the resemblances between the two things? I answer, the first is that Christ by this parable intends to signify the immense power and fruitfulness of Evangelical preaching, insomuch that what had a very small beginning with Christ, and by a few Apostles, diffused itself over the whole world. For a grain of mustard seed is less than all seeds, i.e., the least of all seeds; as the Syriac and Arabic have it. The Greek is μικρότερον πάντων σπερμάτων, i.e., less than all seeds, meaning very little. This must be understood according to the common usage of speech, by which we call what is very little, or one of very small things, the least; for otherwise to speak precisely, poppy seed, and the seed of rue, and of some other herbs, is less than mustard seed. Thus the preaching of the Gospel by Christ and the Apostles was at first very circumscribed.

2. A grain of mustard seed, especially in Syria, grows into a tree, so that birds dwell—Syriac, build their nests—in its branches. Thus the Gospel grew, and filled the whole world, so that the birds of Heaven, i.e., men lofty in knowledge and understanding as well as kings and princes dwelt in its branches. (See Dan 4:9 and Dan 4:19). Some understand by the birds, the angels, because they have wings, and are very swift. Hear S. Augustine (Serm. 33 de Sanc.). “Peter is a branch; Paul is a branch; blessed Laurence, whose festal day we are celebrating, is a branch. All the Apostles and martyrs of the Saviour are branches; and if anyone will bravely lay hold of them, they will escape being drowned in the waves of the world. He who dwells under their shadow shall not feel the fire of hell, and shall be secure from the storm of the tempest of the devil, and from being burnt up in the day of judgment.”

3. And chiefly by mustard is denoted the igneous force and efficacy of the Gospel. “Pythagoras,” says Pliny (l. 20, c. 22), “considered that mustard holds the chief place amongst those things whose force is borne upward; since there is nothing which more thoroughly penetrates the nose and the brain.” A grain of mustard refers to the fervour of faith, says S. Augustine.

4. Mustard seed must be bruised; for when it is bruised it emits its igneous force and flavour. Thus the preaching of the Gospel was as it were, bruised by a thousand oppressions and persecutions, which the Apostles suffered; and then it breathed forth its igneous force and strength.

5. Mustard seed, as Pliny says, is sharp and biting. It draws tears, purges away phlegm and cerebral secretions; it is masticated for toothache; when bruised and mixed with vinegar it is applied to the stings of scorpions and the bites of snakes; it is an antidote to the poison of fungi; it is beneficial for the breast and lungs; it is useful against epilepsy, dropsy, asthma, lethargy, and many other diseases. Thus the Gospel expels poisons, that is sins, by the emetic of confession; it is sharp and biting, because it teaches penance and the cross; it excites the tears of compunction; it is medicine for all the faculties of the soul, and especially it dries up concupiscence, and animates to virtue. “The bitterness of its words is the medicine of souls,” says S. Augustine.

6. Mustard seed by its sharpness seasons food, and renders it palatable. So also the Gospel renders palatable everything which is hard and difficult by means of the example of Christ, and by the hope of future glory which it promises.

S. Augustine says, “A grain of mustard seed is great, not in appearance, but in virtue. At first appearance it seems small, worthless, despised, not possessing savour, nor odour, nor sweetness; but when it is bruised, it sheds abroad its odour and exhales nourishment of a fiery taste. It is so inflamed with the fervour of heat that there might be enclosed in it so much fire, by which men could (especially in the winter-time) drive away cold, and warm themselves inwardly.” After this he applies the qualities of mustard to the Gospel and the Christian faith, thus: “Thus too the Christian faith, at first sight, appears small and worthless, not manifesting its power, not carrying any semblance of pride, neither furnishing grace. But as soon as it begins to be bruised by divers temptations, immediately it manifests its vigour, it indicates its sharpness, it breathes the warmth of belief in the Lord, and is possessed with so great ardour of divine fire, that both itself is hot and it compels those who participate to be fervent also. As the two disciples said in the Gospel, when the Lord spoke with them after His Passion, “Did not our hearts burn within us by the way, while the Lord Jesus opened to us the Scriptures?” A grain of mustard, then, warms the inward members of our body, but the power of faith burns up the sins of our heart. The one indeed takes away piercing cold; the other expels the devil’s frost of transgressions. A grain of mustard, I say, purges away corporeal humours, but faith puts an end to the flux of lusts. By the one, medicine is gained for the head; but by faith our spiritual Head, Christ the Lord, is often refreshed. Moreover, we enjoy the sacred odour of faith, according to the analogy of mustard seed, as the blessed Apostle saith, “We are a sweet savour of Christ unto God.

Tropologically: All these things may be applied to a faithful soul, and especially to an Apostle, and to a suffering Christian, or to a martyr. Wherefore the Church adapts this parable to S. Laurence, as the Gospel for his festival. As S. Augustine says, in the work already cited, “We may compare the holy martyr Laurence to a grain of mustard seed; for he, being bruised by various sufferings, deserved to become fragrant throughout the whole world by the grace of his martyrdom. He, when he was in the body, was humble, unknown, and held in low estimation; but after he had been bruised, torn, and burnt he diffused the odour of his nobleness in the churches in all the world. Rightly, therefore, is the comparison applied to him. For Laurence, when he suffers, is inflamed. The fervour of its attrition moves the one; Laurence breathes forth fire in his manifold tribulations. Mustard, I say, is cooked in a small vessel; Laurence is roasted on the gridiron by the fiery flame. Blessed Laurence the martyr was burnt outwardly by the flames of the raging tyrant, but he was inflamed inwardly by the far greater fire of the love of Christ.” The Arabians have a proverb—”A grain of pepper is more powerful than many large gourds;” because if it be bruised it emits a fiery force, and makes itself felt in everyone’s nostrils. You may say the same of a grain of mustard. A believer, therefore, should be a grain of pepper or mustard, and breathe everywhere, and upon all, a divine fire, and so pepper all men, and make them like himself, zealous that is, and ardent in the love of God.

Mat 13:33  Another parable he spoke to them: The kingdom of heaven is like to leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, until the whole was leavened.

Another parable, &c. This is Christ’s fourth parable, of leaven, by which (as by the former parable) He shows the power and efficacy of the preaching of the Gospel. As S. Chrysostom says, “Like as leaven communicates its own virtue to a great quantity of meal, so shall ye, 0 ye Apostles, transforn the whole world.” S. Chrysostom observes, with regard to the word hid: “Thus also ye, when ye shall be subjected to your persecutors, shall overcome them. And as leaven indeed is buried but not destroyed, but by degrees transforms everything to its own state; so shall it happen with your preaching. Do not ye, therefore, fear because I said, Many troubles shall happen unto you; for by this means shall ye shine, and shall overcome all.” You will ask why Christ compares the Gospel to leaven? I reply, because leaven is a portion of the meal that has become a little sour, which takes place through fermentation. Hear how Pliny describes the manner in which leaven is made (l 18, c. 11): “Now” (because formerly it was made in another way, as he had related a little before) “leaven is made of the meal itself, which is first kneaded before salt is added, after the manner of pottage, and left until it becomes a little sour. Commonly, indeed, they do not warm it, but only make use of what has been kept from the day before. And evidently it is the nature of heat to cause fermentation; as of bodies that are nourished with fermented bread to become stronger. Thus it was, that among our ancestors the greatest healthiness was attributed to the heaviest wheat.”

Again, leaven, although it be small in bulk, with its heat moistens the whole mass of dough; and as it were effects a change in its entire substance. It makes it palatable and digestible, so that it becomes wholesome bread for nourishing, sustaining and strengthening man. In like manner the Gospel by means of a few Apostles, who suffered many tribulations, converts the whole world to itself and makes the heart of each to be warmed with the love of God. The woman who kneads is the Church, or the power and wisdom of God says S. Augustine.

Tropologically: S. Augustine says, “Christ calls love leaven, because it excites to warmth. The woman he calls wisdom. By the three measures of meal we may understand either these three things in man—the whole heart, the whole soul, and the whole mind; or the three degrees of fruit-bearing, an hundred, sixty, and thirty fold; or the three sorts of men, represented by Noah, Daniel and Job.” (l 1. q. q. Evang. q. 12.) Rabanus adds, “He says until the whole was leavened: because charity being hid in our minds ought to grow there until it transmutes the whole mind into its own perfection: that which is begun here, is perfected hereafter.”

S. Ambrose says, that like as leaven is disseminated through the whole mass of the meal, being as it were broken up; “so Christ was broken, torn and dissolved by His various sufferings: and His moisture, that is His precious Blood was poured out for our salvation, that it might by mingling itself with the whole human race, consolidate that race, which lay scattered abroad.” See also S. Chrysostom, who says among other things, “If twelve men leavened nearly all the meal of the world, consider diligently in your minds, how great must be our wickedness and sloth, who, although we are so many, are not able to convert the remnant of the Gentiles, when we ought to be sufficient for a thousand worlds.” S. Boniface, the Apostle of Germany, was wont to weep over the same thing. His was the saying, “That formerly priests of gold celebrated in chalices of wood, but now wooden priests celebrate in golden chalices.”

Three measures: a measure was equal in quality to a bath which is a liquid measure, containing an Italian bushel, or as S. Jerome and Josephus say, a bushel and a half. The measure contained three Attic bushels.

Symbolically: S. Hilary says, the grace of the Gospel was hid in the Law, the Psalms and the Prophets; now it hath appeared in the faith, hope and love of the Holy Trinity, that what the Law constituted, and the Prophets announced, the same might be fulfilled by the advent of the Gospels. Or as others say, that it might be confirmed by the threefold work of God, viz. of creation, redemption and glorification.

Allegorically: S. Bernard, (l. 5. de Consider.) says the Blessed Virgin joined and united in her womb the three natures of Christ, namely soul, body and divinity to the one Hypostasis of the Word.

Mat 13:34  All these things Jesus spoke in parables to the multitudes: and without parables he did not speak to them.
Mat 13:35  That it 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.

All these things Jesus spoke in parables, meaning in a parabolical manner: things kept secret, Heb. הידות (chidoth), i.e. enigmas, as the Chaldee trans. and S. Jerome (Ps 78:2.). The Arabic has, I will speak things hidden before the foundation of the world. Christ cites the psalm of David, Ps 78:2, who, according to the letter, through the whole psalm, celebrates God’s benefits to the Synagogue, i.e., the people of Israel, from the beginning, i.e. from their going forth out of Egypt under Moses their leader, until David’s own time, in order that he might stir up the people to be grateful to God, and to love and worship Him. But mystically, says S. Jerome, David was there a type of Christ, who celebrates the benefits granted by God through Himself to His Church, and before-time hid. These things were concerning the promised land in heaven, mysteries declared by parables. Observe that the Hebrew word for parables is mashal, which signifies any weighty and famous saying, such a one as predominates over others. For mashal means to rule: thus it came to signify what was obscure and recondite, whether it were an enigma, an allegory, a parable, or a sentence properly so called. Therefore the sentences in that seventy-eighth Psalm are not properly parables, but only weighty sentences. But here there are like weighty sentences and parables properly so called. Thus this verse of the Psalm applies to Christ in both its meanings, but to David only one of them. For in Scripture many things are spoken which are more suitable to the things signified by the allegory, than to the allegory itself and its literal meaning.

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