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

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

June 4. PENTECOST:

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

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

July 2. Commentaries for the Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time.
July 9. Commentaries for the Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time.
July 16. Commentaries for the Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time.
July 23. Commentaries for the Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time.
July 30. Commentaries for the Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Aug. 6. Commentaries for the Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Aug. 13. Commentaries for the Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Aug. 20. Commentaries for the Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Aug. 27. Commentaries for the Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Sept. 3. Commentaries for the Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Sept. 10. Commentaries for the Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Sept 17. Commentaries for the Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Sept. 24. Commentaries for the Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Oct. 1. Commentaries for the Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Oct. 8. Commentaries for the Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Oct. 15. Commentaries for the Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Oct 22. Commentaries for the Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Oct. 29. Commentaries for the Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Nov. 5. Commentaries for the Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Nov. 12. Commentaries for the Thirty-Second Week in Ordinary Time.

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Oct. 14~Some Commentaries on Today’s Readings

Navarre Bible Commentary on Joel 4:12-21.

Fr Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 97.

St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 97.

Pope John Paul II’s Commentary on Psalm 97.

Fr. Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on Luke 11:27-28.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Luke 11:27-28.

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Friday Oct 13, 2017~Commentaries on Today’s Mass Readings

This post contains a suggested theme for the readings, followed by links to commentaries.

Suggested theme for today’s readings: The Lord will judge the world with justice, bringing down the wicked by their own machinations (responsorial). For this reason repentance is a must (first reading) for it puts one with God/Christ/Kingdom, not against them (gospel). It is better to stand for a night mourning in God’s house clothed in sackcloth and relinquishing food (gospel) rather than stand in armor in Satan’s palace and suffer despoilment and defeat (gospel).

A Brief Introduction to Joel Chapters 1 & 2.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Joel 1:13-15, 2:1-2.

St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 9.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Luke 11:15-26.

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Thursday Oct 12, 2017~Commentaries on Today’s Mass Readings

This post contains a suggested theme for today’s readings, followed by links to commentaries on the readings.

Suggested theme for today’s readings: Blessed are those who hope in the Lord (responsorial), trusting in his goodness to respond to our needs (gospel) in spite of adversity and the seeming well-being and triumph of the wicked (first reading). The good and the evil will have their recompense (first reading, responsorial), and the good must therefore maintain hope and trust that God will respond to them with good things (first reading, gospel).

My Summary Notes on the Prophet Malachi. An overview of the book.

St Irenaeus Ministries Podcast Study of Malachi. For episodes take you through the book.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Malachi 3:13-20b. This is 3:13-4:2 according to the RSVCE chapter and verse numbering.

Patristic/Medieval Commentary on Psalm 1.

St Thomas Aquinas’ Lecture on Psalm 1.

St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 1.

My Notes on Psalm 1.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Luke 11:5-13.

Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Luke 11:5-13.

Study Notes on Luke 11:5-13.

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Wednesday Oct 11, 2017~Commentaries on Today’s Mass Readings

This post contains a theme suggestion for today’s readings, followed by my notes on Jonah 4:1-11. At the end of the post I’ve provided some links to commentaries on the other readings.

Suggested theme for today’s readings: The Lord is “a gracious and merciful God, patient, and of much compassion, and easy to forgive evil” (first reading). Our confidence that God will hear our prayer and respond is based upon this fact (responsorial). We who so often offend God and yet rely on his compassion and mercy to forgive must be open to showing mercy and compassion towards those who sin against us (Gospel reading).

Jon 4:1  And Jonah was exceedingly troubled, and was angry:

This verse must be seen in light of the Ninevites conversion narrated in chapter 3 (see yesterday’s post). Especially pertinent is the last verse of that chapter: “And God saw their works, that they were turned from their evil way: and God had mercy with regard to the evil which he had said that he would do to them, and he did it not.”

And Jonah was exceedingly troubled. The Hebrew is much more forceful in relating Jonah’s emotional state: “And Jonah was made to be evil.”  And was angry, Literally, “and he was burning.”  He is indignant because God has turned away his “burning anger” from the Ninevites, as the king had hoped (Jonah 3:9).

Jon 4:2  And he prayed to the Lord, and said: I beseech thee, O Lord, is not this what I said, when I was yet in my own country? therefore I went before to flee into Tarshish: for I know that thou art a gracious and merciful God, patient, and of much compassion, and easy to forgive evil.

As I noted in Monday’s post on Jonah 1 the prophet’s initial flight from his mission was motivated by his knowledge of God’s compassion; he feared the Ninevites would repent.

For I know that thou art a gracious and merciful God, patient, and of much compassion, and easy to forgive evil. See Exodus 34:6-7; Ps 103:8-10; Ps 145:8-9; Neh 9:17.

And easy to forgive evil. It is the ease with which God forgives evil that has made Jonah to be evil! (see note on verse 1).

Jon 4:3  And now, O Lord, I beseech thee take my life from me: for it is better for me to die than to live.

Jonah cannot come to grips with the fact that God has chosen to forgive those who deserved destruction, the great enemies of his people. Having once opted to die rather than fulfill his mission (Jonah 1:12, see my notes), Jonah now asks God for death because he is incensed over the end result of that mission.

Jon 4:4  And the Lord said: Dost thou think thou hast reason to be angry?

Angry=”burning.” See note on verse 1. If God has turned his burning anger (Heb. מחרון  אפו, Gr. οργης θυμου) away from the Ninevites (Jonah 3:9) who is Jonah to be angry?

Jon 4:5  Then Jonas went out of the city, and sat toward the east side of the city: and he made himself a booth there, and he sat under it in the shadow, till he might see what would befall the city.

Jonah, like a recalcitrant child, offers no response. Just as such a child might hold his breath to get what he wants, Jonah stations himself outside the city, apparently expecting God to give in and to come around to his way of thinking. Comically, the burning prophet builds himself a booth (hut) so that he might sit in its shadow, enjoying the shade and comfort it offered from the hot sun.

Jon 4:6  And the Lord God prepared an ivy, and it came up over the head of Jonah, to be a shadow over his head, and to cover him (for he was fatigued): and Jonah was exceeding glad of the ivy.

And the Lord God prepared an ivy…to be a shade over his head.

God had “prepared” a great fish” for Jonah as a sign of his displeasure. Here he prepares an ivy (see below) to shade him from the sun. In the Bible, shade is often a symbol of God’s favor (Isa 4:6; Isa 25:4).

Jonah, who in verse 1 was “exceedingly troubled” because God had spared the city is here said to be exceedingly glad for the shade plant. Perhaps he sees it as a sign indicating that his expectations regarding Nineveh will be fulfilled by God after all.

The word ivy appears to be a mistranslation of the Greek word κολοκυνθη, which means, properly, a gourd, and, by extension, the plant or vine which produced it.  The Hebrew (הקיקיון)  has the same basic meaning but also suggests that the plant or its fruit was vomit inducing. Perhaps God is trying to subtly remind the prophet of his experience in the “great fish” which came to an end when the beast vomited out the prophet (Jonah 2:11).

For he was fatigued. Better, “for he was angry” (Greek, κακων, angry, evil, depraved, etc). The Hebrew has מרעת, we’ve come across these words before (see notes on verse 1 and 4). In relieving Jonah from the heat of the sun God is symbolically trying to relieve him of his “burning”, his “anger”, as God himself was relieved of his burning anger (see Jonah 3:9).

Jon 4:7  But God prepared a worm, when the morning arose on the following day: and it struck the ivy and it withered.

But God prepared a worm. Just as God had “prepared a great fish” in Jonah 2:1 Jonah 1:17 in some translations.

Jon 4:8  And when the sun was risen, the Lord commanded a hot and burning wind: and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, and he broiled with the heat: and he desired for his soul that he might die, and said: It is better for me to die than to live.

The Lord commanded (Gr. προσεταξεν, Heb. וימן=prepared) a hot and burning wind. Calls to mind the wind God hurled against the ship in Jonah 1:4. The Middle East is often parched by the infamous Sirocco winds which, in the Bible, becomes a symbol of God’s judgement (Psalm 18:42; Psalm 48:7; Hosea 13:15; Isa 29:5-6). The burning anger of God, which Nineveh avoided by God’s gracious mercy, is now symbolically directed against the prophet to teach him a lesson.

He broiled with the heat. The Greek word ωλιγοψυχησεν, translated here as broiled would be better translated as “little-hearted”, “fainthearted”. The prophet has gone from being “exceedingly (i.e., greatly) troubled,” to “exceedingly glad,” to excessively small hearted. Both the Greek and Hebrew draw a connection with Jonah in the great fish when he prayed when my soul was in distress (Gr. εκλειπειν, Heb. בהתעטף=fainted, failed) within me. Once distressed by the possibility of death in the great fish the prophet had repented, now he desires death.

Jon 4:9  And the Lord said to Jonas: Dost thou think thou hast reason to be angry, for the ivy? And he said: I am angry with reason even unto death.

Reverses the order of verses 3 and 4. There Jonah had desired death and God had asked him if he had reason to be angry.

Jon 4:10  And the Lord said: Thou art grieved for the ivy, for which thou hast not laboured, nor made it to grow, which in one night came up, and in one night perished.

Thou art grieved for the ivy. This translation reflects the Hebrew text, but both the Greek and Hebrew are stronger. Greek: You are lenient toward the ivy? Hebrew: You are grieved for the ivy?

For which thou hast not labored, nor made it to grow. Jonah, who neither planted, fertilized or watered that plant has no claim on it whatsoever. God on the other hand is Lord over all creation.

Jon 4:11  And shall I not spare Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons, that know not how to distinguish between their right hand and their left, and many beasts?

And shall I not spare Nineveh. The word “spare” was translated in the previous verse as ‘grieved.” As there, so too here, the Greek has “be lenient” and the Hebrew “pity”. The prophet’s concern for the plant and his lack of concern for the people appears petty.

That know not how to distinguish between the right hand and their left, and many beasts? St John Chrysostom writes: “How then saved He the Ninevites? Because in their case, there was not only a multitude, but a multitude and virtue too. For each one “turned from” his “evil way.” (Jonah 3:10 and Jonah 4:11) And besides, when He saved them, He said that they discerned not “between their right hand and their left hand:” whence it is plain that even before, they sinned more out of simpleness than of wickedness: it is plain too from their being converted, as they were, by hearing a few words” (Homily II on 2 Corinthians ).

The irony of course is that unlike the Ninevites, Jonah had sinned knowingly against God (Jonah 4:2). The story ends with the prophet’s attitude an open question. Did he repent and resign himself to God’s will? What will the reader who shares Jonah’s view do?

Navarre Bible Commentary on Jonah 4:1-11.

Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 86.

St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 86.

Pope John Paul II’s Commentary on Psalm 86.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Luke 11:1-4.

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Tuesday Oct 10, 2017~Commentaries on Today’s Mass Readings.

This post contains a suggested theme for today’s readings, followed by my personal notes on Jonah 3:1-10, followed by links to commentaries on the other readings.

Suggested theme for today’s readings: We are all sinners and if God marks our guilt we could not stand (responsorial). This was the realization which the King of Nineveh came to when he was told the prophet’s message (first reading). Listening to God and accepting him on his terms (like the king and Mary in the Gospel reading) is absolutely essential, the one thing needful, the better part to chose (Gospel reading). Accepting him on one’s own terms, as Martha attempted to do, will get you no where with him (Gospel reading).

NOTES ON JONAH 3:1-10

Jon 3:1  And the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time saying:
Jon 3:2  Arise, and go to Nineveh, the great city: and preach in it the preaching that I bid thee.

These two verses recall the book’s opening: “Now the word of the Lord came to Jonas, the son of Amathi, saying: Arise and go to Nineveh, the great city, and preach against it: For the wickedness thereof is come up before me.” The author wants us to see that what he is about to relate in chapters 3 and 4 is intimately connected with what has already been narrated. Jonah is being given a second chance.

The original command to Jonah was to “preach against” Nineveh, but now he is told to preach in it the preaching that I bid thee.

Jon 3:3  And Jonah arose, and went to Ninive, according to the word of the Lord: now Ninive was a great city of three days’ journey.

And Jonah arose. Recall in the notes on yesterday’s reading that the command to “arise” was important because of the repeated refrain the Jonah “went down,” i.e, he “went down to Joppa;” “went down into it” (the ship); “went down into the inner part of the ship”. The refrain indicated Jonah’s disavowal of God’s will that he go to Nineveh. Here we see he now obeys the request.

Jon 3:4  And Jonas began to enter into the city one day’s journey: and he cried and said: Yet forty days and Ninive shall be destroyed.

And Jonah began to enter the city one day’s journey. These words should be seen in conjunction with the end of verse 3: “now Nineveh was a great city of three day’s journey” (i.e., it would take three days to traverse it). Recall that Jonah was in the “great fish” (whale) for three days. The implication of the text is that it took him three days to offer his prayer of repentance in chapter 2. This becomes important in the following verses.

Jon 3:5  And the men of Nineveh believed in God: and they proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least.
Jon 3:6  And the word came to the king of Nineveh: and he rose up out of his throne, and cast away his robe from him, and was clothed in sackcloth, and sat in ashes.
Jon 3:7  And he caused it to be proclaimed and published in Nineveh, from the mouth of the king and of his princes, saying: Let neither men nor beasts, oxen, nor sheep taste anything: let them not feed, nor drink water.
Jon 3:8  And let men and beasts be covered with sackcloth, and cry to the Lord with all their strength, and let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the iniquity that is in their hands.
Jon 3:9  Who can tell if God will turn, and forgive: and will turn away from his fierce anger, and we shall not perish?

The Jewish prophet Jonah had to experience God’s anger, manifested in a storm, and three days in a great fish before he repented. In contrast, the Pagan Ninevites, the quintessential enemies of God repent on the very first day they heard of God’s impending wrath. Jonah represent a common attitude among the chosen people during the post-exilic period; an attitude the author is condemning: “Narrow, unwilling to bring the message of Yahweh to the enemies of his people, and angry when they accept it. Jonah, like Ruth,  is a protest against the narrowness and exclusivism which often appeared in postexilic Judaism. This narrowness frequently expressed itself in a hate of foreign nations, a desire for their destruction rather than their recognition of the divinity of Yahweh. Hence Jonah marks one of the greatest steps forward in the spiritual advancement of biblical religion” (McKenzie’s Dictionary of the Bible).

The people believe in God, and we are meant to recall the progression of the sailor’s attitude towards the God of Jonah in chapter 1. See yesterday’s notes.

Even the king (verse 6) who is the straw that stirs the drink, the power behind the Assyrian empire, that great, militaristic, brutal entity often described as the Third Reich of its day, is shown responding to the call to repent. He clothes himself in sackcloth and sits in ashes, and commands his people to do the same. These are common signs of repentance throughout the ancient world.

This portrayal of the King of Assyria is remarkable given how the Bible speaks of him. He is portrayed as arrogant, giving no regard to the gods of other peoples, including the one true God (see Isaiah 10:5-34; 2 Kings 19:4-6). That God’s grace and mercy can be extended even to him is something the author wants his readers to come to grips with.

Pagan kings at this time often styled themselves as gods with authority over creation, including animals. The fact that the King of Assyria orders even the beasts to fast and don sackcloth indicates the total submission of his power to God, creator of the universe. The king shows concern for both his people and the animals, while in contrast Jonah shows more concern for the withered gourd plant than for the people and animals in Nineveh (Jonah 4:1-11).

We are reminded that sin affects nature Jer 12:4; Hos 4:1-3; Amos 1:2; Rom 8:19-23).

In verse 9 the king proclamation asks: Who can tell if God will turn, and forgive: and will turn away from his fierce anger, and we shall not perish? This should be seen in relation to verse 8: And let men and beasts be covered with sackcloth, and cry to the Lord with all their strength, and let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the iniquity that is in their hands. The king understands that repentance is more than just words, sackcloth, or ashes; it involves a reorientation of of heart (will) and mind (see Isaiah 58:3-7). Also, the question Who can tell if God will turn, and forgive: and will turn away from his fierce anger, and we shall not perish would call to mind to Jeremiah’s lesson of the potter: Jer 18:1  The word that came to Jeremias from the Lord, saying: Arise, and go down into the potter’s house, and there thou shalt hear my words. And I went down into the potter’s house, and behold he was doing a work on the wheel. And the vessel was broken which he was making of clay with his hands: and turning he made another vessel, as it seemed good in his eyes to make it. Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying: Cannot I do with you, as this potter, O house of Israel, saith the Lord? behold as clay is in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. I will suddenly speak against a nation, and against a kingdom, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy it. If that nation against which I have spoken, shall repent of their evil, I also will repent of the evil that I have thought to do to them. And I will suddenly speak of a nation and of a kingdom, to build up and plant it. If it shall do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice: I will repent of the good that I have spoken to do unto it.

Jon 3:10  And God saw their works, that they were turned from their evil way: and God had mercy with regard to the evil which he had said that he would do to them, and he did it not.

God’s mercy is gratuitous. He neither had to offer the Ninevites the opportunity to repent or acknowledge it.The phrase God saw their works calls to mind the end of the creation narrative in Genesis 1~”And God saw all the things that he had made, and they were very good.”

“With creation, God does not abandon his creatures to themselves. He not only gives them being and existence, but also, and at every moment, upholds and sustains them in being, enables them to act and brings them to their final end. Recognizing this utter dependence with respect to the Creator is a source of wisdom and freedom, of joy and confidence:

“For you love all things that exist, and detest none of the things that you have made; for you would not have made anything if you had hated it. How would anything have endured, if you had not willed it? Or how would anything not called forth by you have been preserved? You spare all things, for they are yours, O Lord, you who love the living” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 301).

Navarre Bible Commentary on Jonah 3:1-10.

Fr. Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 130.

St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 130.

Pope Benedict XVI’s Commentary on Psalm 130.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Luke 10:38-42.

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Monday Oct 9, 2017~Commentaries on Today’s Mass Readings

I present here a suggested theme for today’s readings followed by my own notes on the first reading. I’ve appended to this post some links to notes and commentaries on other readings.

A suggested theme for today’s readings: God is willing to rescue the life of unbelievers and disobedient sinners from the pit (death). His threats of judgment (against the Ninevites, first reading) and his acts of judgement (against his disobedient prophet in the responsorial) are invitations to, and oriented towards, repentance. God’s people must be ready and willing to act with mercy towards anyone in need, friend or foe (Gospel reading).

I’m using the Revised Standard Version in this post unless otherwise noted. The numbering of Jonah differs slightly from that of the NAB. For this reason some references to the RSV are followed by a reference to the NAB.

The RSV is under copyright and the text appears here in conformity with their copyright policy: The [New] Revised Standard Version Bible may be quoted and/or reprinted up to and inclusive of five hundred (500) verses without express written permission of the publisher, provided the verses quoted do not amount to a complete book of the Bible or account for fifty percent (50%) of the total work in which they are quoted.

Notice of copyright must appear on the title or copyright page of the work as follows:

“Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1952 [2nd edition, 1971] by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”

NOTES ON JONAH 1:1-2, 2:1-2, 11.

1 Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying,

Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah. Verse 1 employs a typical phrase often found in the prophetic literature to introduce a prophet’s activity or mission (e.g., 1 Sam 15:10; 1 Kings 6:11); a quotation from a prophet (Jer 7:1, Jer 11:1); a prophet’s claim to ministry (Jer 1:4, 11; Ezek 6:1). It can also serve as (or at least as a part of) the superscription to a prophetic book (Hosea 1:1; Joel 1:1; Micah 1:1; Zephaniah 1:1). While many take the verse here as a superscription it is in fact akin to the usage of passages such as 1 Sam 15:10 and 1 Kings 6:11 previously mentioned. It introduces the action of the prophet. The work is very much concerned about Jonah, but not with the content of his message as such. In the entire book Jonah is never identified as a prophet, and the book itself contains only one very brief prophetic oracle (Jonah 3:4).

The name Jonah means “dove”, a bird which sometimes was used to symbolize fickleness in the Old Testament (Hosea 7:11). Jonah is certainly presented in this work as silly and capricious. In Psalm 55:7 the poet wishes he were a dove so that he might take flight, flee from a treacherous friend. Jonah will flee from the covenanted God of his people as if the Lord had betrayed him for offering the great enemy of the people, the Ninevites (i.e., the Assyrians)  the opportunity to repent (Jonah 4:1-3). The sound of those who mourn a disaster is sometimes compared to the cooing of doves (Isaiah 38:14), but Jonah will complain because a disaster has been averted.

(the LORD said) 2  “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness has come up before me.” (Literally, “before my face”)
3 But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence
(literally, “from the face”) of the LORD. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare, and went on board, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence (from the face) of the LORD.

The Lord’s very first words introduce one of the major satirical elements of the book. The word and conceptual links and contrasts in these two verses are many, and I’ve tried to convey some of the significance with color coding.  God says to the prophet arise, go to Nineveh…for their wickedness has come up before me. But Jonah’s response is exactly the opposite! He rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. He went  down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare, and went on board (Literally, “went down into it”), to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord.

Notice how the prophet completely reverses what the Lord’s intentions were in commanding him to arise and go to Nineveh. He rose up only to flee, and words and phrase such as went down, from, going to, etc all relate to this flight. Twice the flight is represented as being from the presence of the LORD, which forms a contrast with the statement that the Ninevites wickedness has come up before God.

The reason for the prophet’s response is not given until chapter 3:10-4:2~When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God repented of the evil which he had said he would do to them; and he did not do it. But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. And he prayed to the LORD and said, “I pray thee, LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that thou art a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and repentest of evil. When the Prophet learned that the Ninevites wickedness was before God (i.e., present to him), the prophet left the presence of God, knowing that these pagans were being marked out for God’s mercy and love. The book was written primarily as a critique of those who refused to believe that God can show mercy to whomever he chooses, even one’s own most violent enemies: should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle? (Jonah 4:11).

4 But the LORD hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up.

The words But the LORD indicate that God is responding to the prophet’s flight. To stop his prophet’s retreat and get him to do his bidding the Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea.  Jonah should have known that the sea would offer him no escape from the Lord: there shall be no flight for them: they shall flee, and he that shall flee shall not be delivered. Though they go down even to hell, thence shall my hand bring them out: and though they climb up to heaven, thence will I bring them down. And though they be hid in the top of Carmel, I will search and take them away from thence: and though they hide themselves from my eyes in the depth of the sea, there will I command the serpent and he shall bite them (Amos 9:1-3, Douay-Rheims Translation).

Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend to heaven, thou art there! If I make my bed in Sheol, thou art there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there thy hand shall lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me (Psalm 139:7-10).

It is interesting to note that a storm at sea precedes our Blessed Lord’s entrance into Pagan territory in the Gospels (see Matt 8:23-34; Mark 4:35-5:2; Luke 8:22-41).

5 Then the mariners were afraid, and each cried to his god; and they threw the wares that were in the ship into the sea, to lighten it for them. But Jonah had gone down into the inner part of the ship and had lain down, and was fast asleep.

And each cried to his god. As the devout pagan mariners cry to their respective gods Jonah continues his flight from the Lord.

And they threw (literally, ‘hurled”) their wares that were in the ship into the sea. As yet the sailors are unaware that it is the Lord God-whom they don’t know-who has hurled a great wind at them and caused the tempest (see the word “hurled” in verse 4). As yet they are also unaware that it is NOT their wares that were in the ship that is a danger to them, rather, it is the fleeing prophet who has gone down into the inner part of the ship that is the problem.

Note the re-occurrence of the word down, already used a few times in verse 3 to relate to that flight: he went down to Joppa and went on board (literally down into) the ship. Now he has gone down even further, into the inner part of the ship where he has lain down and gone fast asleep.

The prophet is sleeping the sleep of the righteous who trust in God’s power to save: I lie down and sleep; I wake again, for the LORD sustains me (Psalm 3:5. 3:6 in NAB).  In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for thou alone, O LORD, makest me dwell in safety (Psalm 4:8. 8:9 in the NAB).   As  he himself will come to admit, his sense of security is a false one (see Jonah 1:12).

6 So the captain came and said to him, “What do you mean, you sleeper? Arise, call upon your god! Perhaps the god will give a thought to us, that we do not perish.”

Arise, call upon your god recalls the command God had given to Jonah in verse 2: Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry (literally “call”) against it; for their wickedness has come up before me.  The prophet has not listened to the Lord his God, will he listen to the pagan captain? Notice what the captain’s motivation is in asking Jonah to pray to the Lord: Perhaps the god will give a thought to us, that we do not perish. But is is precisely the fact that the Lord God is willing to save even pagans which is behind Jonah’s flight from Him! The captain is asking Jonah to do for the pagan sailors what God had asked him to do for the pagan Ninevites. On the basis of what unfolds in verse 7 we can probably conclude that Jonah did not respond.

7 And they said to one another, “Come, let us cast lots, that we may know on whose account this evil has come upon us.” So they cast lots, and the lot fell upon Jonah.

Getting no help from Jonah the sailors decide to cast lots in order to determine who has caused their predicament. This practice was known in both Hebrew and Pagan cultures and is often mentioned in the Bible (e.g., Num 26:55; Joshua 14:2; 1 Sam 10:20-24; Matt 27:35 and its parallels; Acts 1:26; etc.). The lot identifies Jonah as the culprit and leads the sailors to ask their questions in the next verse.

8 Then they said to him, “Tell us, on whose account this evil has come upon us? What is your occupation? And whence do you come? What is your country? And of what people are you?”
9 And he said to them, “I am a Hebrew; and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”

The prophet’s reply to their questions is ironic, and perhaps not altogether truthful.  He applies to himself the term Hebrew, a word seldom used in the Old Testament to designate the Israelites once they had come into and secured the promised land. A Hebrew is a foreigner, someone without land, outside civilized centers, etc. Having left the Holy Land the prophet has reverted back to the state of his ancestors who were despised as foreigners and treated as slaves.

The prophet further declares that I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land. His words are a confession of faith, but also full of irony. The faithful who fear the Lord are obedient (Deut 5:29) and stand in awe and reverence towards God (Psalm 33:8; Psalm 55:19; Lev 19:14; etc.); something Jonah has been loath to do.

The confession that the Lord is the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land is also ironic, for the prophet to to the sea in order to escape the God he knows is its master! Recall Amos 9:1-3 and Psalm 139:7-8 I quoted above, commenting on verse 4.

10 Then the men were exceedingly afraid, and said to him, “What is this that you have done!” For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the LORD, because he had told them.

The fear of the pagans is motivated  by what Jonah has done in fleeing from the presence of the Lord. The fear Jonah claims to exhibit towards his God does not exist, and it is this that causes the pagans to fear-to fear the God they don’t even know. Once again their devotion, however minimal and darkened it might be, is contrasted with Jonah’s which is thoroughly hypocritical. Their question what is this that you have done? echoes God’s question to Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:13. It is the question a prophet might ask a sinner (1 Sam 13:10-14). No one can escape their disobedience, not even a prophet of God.

11 Then they said to him, “What shall we do to you, that the sea may quiet down for us?” For the sea grew more and more tempestuous.
12 He said to them, “Take me up and throw me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down for you; for I know it is because of me that this great tempest has come upon you.”
13 Nevertheless the men rowed hard to bring the ship back to land, but they could not, for the sea grew more and more tempestuous against them.

What shall we do to you?  In the Old Testament it is common to see people inquire of a prophet concerning what is the best course of action to take in a dangerous situation. The most dangerous situation is sin against God, and it is the case that sometimes people ask what they must do in this situation (Luke 3:10; Acts 2:37). But the situation the sailors find themselves in is not their doing, rather it is Jonah’s, hence they ask: what shall we do to you?

The prophet responds to their question by bidding them to Take me up and throw me into the sea. The word translated here as “throw” would be better translated as “hurl,” for it recalls the word used to describe God’s hurling the great wind at the ship (verse 4), and the mariners hurling their wares overboard to lighten the ship (verse 5).

Some scholars interpret the words of Jonah as noble, but in fact, he is still trying to escape God and the mission God gave him. His words take me up recall the very first word God spoke to him “arise.”    His words throw me into the sea reminds us that his descent into the ship (verse 3) and, latter, his descent into the inner parts of the ship, were attempts to get away from God’s presence and escape his mission. Having shown contempt for the lives of others-the Ninevites and the sailors-he now shows contempt for his own life.

The pagan sailors understand this, thus they row hard to bring the ship back to land.They are attempting to save both themselves and Jonah, in contrast to Jonah who would rather not save neither himself or the Ninevites. In spite of their hard rowing the sea grew more and more tempestuous against them.

14 Therefore they cried to the LORD, “We beseech thee, O LORD, let us not perish for this man’s life, and lay not on us innocent blood; for thou, O LORD, hast done as it pleased thee.”
15 So they took up Jonah and threw him into the sea; and the sea ceased from its raging.

Their own attempt at saving themselves and Jonah have failed, therefore, they cried out to the LORD. Having begun to respond to their situation by calling on their own gods (verse 5), then by bidding Jonah to call on his (verse 6), then asking Jonah what they should do concerning him (verse 11) they themselves now call on the LORD, the God of Jonah, the God Jonah has not yet addressed.

It appears that they have come to the conclusion that God does indeed wish Jonah to be tossed overboard, but not for the reasons the prophet had in mind. This fact becomes evident in Jonah 2:3 (2:4 in the NAB)~For thou (God, not the sailors) didst cast me into the deep. Jonah wanted to escape from his mission by dying in the sea, but God wanted him there in order to bring him to repentance.

What Jonah wanted was evident to the sailors, hence their attempt to avoid it. What God wants is unknown to them and so they act according to the light given them. They have come to conclude that Jonah’s God will act as he desires, not thwarted or checked by the contradictory desires and endeavors of men: for thou, O LORD, hast done as it pleased thee. They decide to place their fate and Jonah’s in God’s hands with a prayer.

15 So they took up Jonah and threw him into the sea; and the sea ceased from its raging.
16 Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows.

Having originally avoided casting Jonah into the sea so that he might not fulfill his mission (see note on verse 12 above), the sailors cast him into the sea in accord with God’s desire and the sea ceased from its raging. The reverential fear of the Lord which the prophet had falsely claimed for himself in verse 9 is now attributed to the pagan sailors who feared the LORD exceedingly. They offered what was, apparently a thanksgiving sacrifice to the LORD and made vows. What these vows (promises) were we are not told. Jonah, who until now has experienced the same things as the sailors, will have to nearly die before he is brought to the thought of offering sacrifices and vows (Jonah 2:9; 2:10 in the NAB). Once again the pagan’s come out looking better than the Prophet.

17 (2:1 in the NAB)  And the LORD appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah; and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

And the LORD appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. The word appointed indicates God’s mastery over all creation, men, beasts, plants. He can do with them what he will, and this is a major theological component of the book’s overall message. An important caveat is, of course, that man has free will, thus necessitating the need for preachers of repentance, acts of repentance, punishment for sin, etc.

A great fish. Neither the Hebrew or Greek text identifies the beast as a whale though the words used in both translations can be so understood they are much more generic.

And Jonah was in the belly of the whale for three days and three nights. This becomes the sign of Jonah in Jesus preaching (Matt 12:38-42). The sign Jesus speaks of is often associated solely with the resurrection but, as the context makes clear, much more is implied. The sign of Jonah is seen in the intransigence,unbelief and lack of repentance of the scribes, pharisees, and all who imitate them.

2:1 (2:2 in NAB). Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the belly of the fish,
2:10 (2:11 in NAB).  And the LORD spoke to the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.

In the reading, the actual prayer of Jonah is passed over since neither his prayer nor the necessity of prayer is the theme of today’s readings. The Responsorial takes up Jonah’s prayer with the response: “You will rescue my life from the pit, O Lord.” As is usually the case the response verse helps indicates the Mass theme: The God who rescues others from danger and death expects us to do the same as the sinner Jonah and the despised Samaritan (today’s Gospel reading) do (see Lk 10:25-37).

Navarre Bible Commentary on Jonah 1:1-2, 2:1-2, 11.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Luke 10:25-37.

Homily by Bede the Venerable on Luke 10:25-37.

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

READINGS AND OFFICE:

NABRE. Used in the USA.

NJB. Used in most other English speaking countries.

Divine Office.

COMMENTARIES ON THE FIRS READING: Wisdom 6:12-16.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Wisdom 6:12-16.

Word-Sunday Notes on Wisdom 6:12-16.

COMMENTARIES ON THE RESPONSORIAL: Psalm 63:2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8.

Father Boylan’s Introduction and Commentary on Psalm 63.

St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 63.

A Patristic/Medieval Commentary on Psalm 63.

Pope St John Apul II’s Commentary on Psalm 63.

Word-Sunday Notes on Psalm 63.

COMMENTARIES ON THE SECOND READING: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.

Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.

Father Callan’s Notes on 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.

Word-Sunday Notes on 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.

Navarre Bible Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.

My Notes on 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.

COMMENTARIES ON THE GOSPEL READING: Matthew 25:1-13.

Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Matthew 25:1-13.

Father Maas’ Commentary on Matthew 25:1-13.

Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Matthew 25:1-13.

Father Juan de Maldonado’s Commentary on Matthew 25:1-13.

Father Callan’s Commentary on Matthew 25:1-13.

Word-Sunday Notes on Matthew 25:1-13.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Matthew 25:1-13.

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Father Callan’s Commentary on Matthew 25:1-13

I’ve included in this post some  quotations from the Fathers of the Church, the Catechism, etc. These are in red text.

1. Then shall the kingdom of heaven be like to ten virgins, who taking their lamps went out to meet the bridegroom and the bride.

This Parable of the Ten Virgins (verses 1-13) is peculiar to St. Matthew.

Then; i.e., in the Day of Judgment, at the second coming of Christ.

The kingdom of heaven means the Church militant; the ten virgins represent all the faithful. The number “ten” is not accidental, because it took just so many to make a company among the Jews. The virginity here attributed to them means purity of faith, absence of spiritual fornication through corruption of doctrine.

Taking their lamps. Marriages, in the East, were, and are still, always celebrated at night.

Went out to meet the bridegroom. The bridal procession among the Jews was as follows: the bridegroom, accompanied by his friends, went to the home of the bride to lead her, with joy and gladness ( 1 Macc 9:37-39) , to his own house; or, if that was too small, to some apartment large enough to accommodate the wedding party. The bride was accompanied from her father’s house by her youthful friends and companions (Ps 45:15), and others, here called “virgins,” joined the procession along the way, to enter with the rest of the company the hall of feasting (Cant 3:4). Bridegroom means Christ, who will come at the end of the world to take the Church, His Bride, to Himself (Trench).

And the bride. These words are not found in the best MSS. and should be omitted here.

2. And five of them were foolish, and five wise.

Five foolish . . . five wise. All were virgins, because all had the true faith, but the difference between them was that the faith of the foolish virgins, being without good works, was dead.

Origen: They that believe rightly, and live righteously, are likened to the five wise; they that profess the faith of Jesus, but prepare themselves not by good works to salvation, are likened to the five foolish.~Quoted in Aquinas’ Catena Aurea.

Lumen Gentium 14:  They are fully incorporated in the society of the Church who, possessing the Spirit of Christ accept her entire system and all the means of salvation given to her, and are united with her as part of her visible bodily structure and through her with Christ, who rules her through the Supreme Pontiff and the bishops. The bonds which bind men to the Church in a visible way are profession of faith, the sacraments, and ecclesiastical government and communion. He is not saved, however, who, though part of the body of the Church, does not persevere in charity. He remains indeed in the bosom of the Church, but, as it were, only in a “bodily” manner and not “in his heart.”(Cfr. S. Augustinus, Bapt. c. Donat. V, 28, 39; PL 43, 197: Certe manifestum est, id quod dicitur, in Ecdesia intus et foris, in corde, non in corpore cogitandum. Cfr. ib., III, 19, 26: col. 152; V, 18, 24: col. 189; In Io. Tr. 61, 2: PL 35, 1800, et alibi saepe.) All the Church’s children should remember that their exalted status is to be attributed not to their own merits but to the special grace of Christ. If they fail moreover to respond to that grace in thought, word and deed, not only shall they not be saved but they will be the more severely judged.(Cfr. Lc. LC 12,48): Omni autem, cui multum datum est, multum quaeretur ab eo. Cfr. etiam (MT 5,19-20 MT 7,21-22 MT 25 41-46 Jc 2,14)

3. But the five foolish, having taken their lamps, did not take oil with them:
4. But the wise took oil in their vessels with the lamps.

Lamps . . . oil. The lamps represent faith; oil, good works.

St Augustine: Or, “The lamps” which they carry in their hands are their works, of which it was said above, “Let your works shine before men.” [Matt 5:16]~Quoted in Aquinas’ Catena Aurea.

Cornelius a Lapide: Thus their lamps are dying out, yea, as the Syriac hath it, they have been extinguished; according to the words of S. James, “Faith without works is dead.” The lamp, therefore, is the faithful mind, or faith itself. The oil is good works, without which faith is dead, and, as it were, extinct; but with them, alive and burning. The light, or flame of the lamps, is charity. For this is fed by zeal for good works, just as the flame of a lamp is fed with oil. The vessel is conscience, or the believing soul. And this is the reason why we place a lighted candle in the hands of dying persons, denoting, or at least praying, that they may have faith with works, that like brides with burning lamps, they may worthily meet Christ the Lord, as it were their Bridegroom.~From the Great Commentary of Cornelius a Lapide.

5. And the bridegroom tarrying, they all slumbered and slept.

The bridegroom tarrying represents the delay in Christ’s second coming. Our Lord never gave any hint as to the exact time when He should come. We know neither the day of our own death, nor that of the end of the world. Hence it behooves us ever to watch.

Slumbered; i.e., ceased to look for His coming; not that all had sinned, or were unprepared.

Pope St Gregory the Great: To sleep is to die, to slumber before sleep is to faint from salvation before death, because, by the burden of sickness we come to the sleep of death.~Quoted in Aquinas’ Catena Aurea.

6. And at midnight there was a cry made: Behold the bridegroom cometh, go ye forth to meet him.

At midnight means at the most unexpected time (Luke 12:40; 1 Thess 5:2).

A cry refers to the voice of the last trumpet (1 Thess 4:15). Actually, the verse in 1 Thess speaks of a cry of command, the voice of an archangel, and a trumpet.

St Jerome: Suddenly thus, as on a stormy night, and when all think themselves secure, at the hour when sleep is the deepest, the coming of Christ shall be proclaimed by the shout of Angels, and the trumpets of the Powers that go before Him. This is meant when it says, “Lo, the bridegroom cometh, go ye out to meet him.”~Quoted in Aquinas’ Catena Aurea.

7. Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps.
8. And the foolish said to the wise: Give us of your oil, for our lamps are gone out.

Give us of your oil, — words which signify the miserable plight of those who, at the last, shall find themselves in the presence of the Judge without good works, with no fruits of faith.

St Gregory Nanzianzus: But then what advocate shall we have? What pretext? What false excuse? What plausible artifice? What device contrary to the truth will impose upon the court, and rob it of its right judgment, which places in the balance for us all, our entire life, action, word, and thought, and weighs against the evil that which is better, until that which preponderates wins the day, and the decision is given in favour of the main tendency; after which there is no appeal, no higher court, no defence on the ground of subsequent conduct, no oil obtained from the wise virgins, or from them that sell, for the lamps going out,51 no repentance of the rich man wasting away in the flame,52 and begging for repentance for his friends, no statute of limitations; but only that final and fearful judgment-seat, more just even than fearful; or rather more fearful because it is also just; when the thrones are set and the Ancient of days takes His seat,53 and the books are opened, and the fiery stream comes forth, and the light before Him, and the darkness prepared; and they that have done good shall go into the resurrection of life,54 now hid in Christ55 and to be manifested hereafter with Him, and they that have done evil, into the resurrection of judgment,56 to which they who have not believed have been condemned already by the word which judges them.57 Some will be welcomed by the unspeakable light and the vision of the holy and royal Trinity, Which now shines upon them with greater brilliancy and purity and unites Itself wholly to the whole soul, in which solely and beyond all else I take it that the kingdom of heaven consists. The others among other torments, but above and before them all must endure the being outcast from God, and the shame of conscience which has no limit. But of these anon.Taken from his Sixteenth Oration. (Notes: 51-Mt 25,8; 52-Luk. 16,24; 53-Dan 7,9; 54-Jn 5,29; 55-Col 3,3; 56-Jn 5,29; 57-Jn 3,18; 12,48).

9. The wise answered, saying: Lest perhaps there be not enough for us and for you, go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.

This answer of the wise virgins does not imply a lack of charity; they only wished to express their inability to supply what God alone can give.

St John Chrysostom: But the wise answered, saying, “Not so, lest there be not enough for us and you;” hence we learn that none of us shall be able in that day to stand forth as patron [marg. note:  of those who are betrayed by their own works, not because he will not, but because he cannot].~Quoted in Aquinas’ Catena Aurea.

Again, St John Chrysostom: Let us not then, in order that for a single moment (for such is this present life) we may live luxuriously, draw on ourselves punishment through endless ages: but let us toil for a moment, that we may be crowned for ever. See ye not that even in worldly things most men act in this manner: and choose a brief toil in order to a long rest, even though the opposite falls out unto them? For in this life indeed there is an equal portion of toils and reward; yea, often, on the contrary, the toil is endless whilst the fruit is little, or not even a little; but in the case of the kingdom conversely, the labor is little whilst the pleasure is great and boundless. For consider: the husbandman wearieth himself the whole year through, and at the very end of his hope of times misses of the fruit of those many toils. The shipmaster again and the soldier, until extreme old age, are occupied with wars and labors; and oftentimes hath each of them departed, the one with the loss of his wealthy cargoes, the other, along with victory, of life itself. What excuse then shall we have, tell me, if in worldly matters indeed we prefer what is laborious in order that we may rest for a little, or not a little even; (for the hope of this is uncertain;) but in spiritual things do the converse of this and draw upon ourselves unutterable punishment for a little sloth? Wherefore I beseech you all, though late, yet still at length to recover from this frenzy. For none shall deliver us in that day; neither brother, nor father, nor child, nor friend, nor neighbor, nor any other: but if our works play us false, all will be over and we must needs perish. How many lamentations did that rich man make, and besought the Patriarch and begged that Lazarus might be sent! But hear what Abraham said unto him: “There is a gulf betwixt us and you, so that they who wish to go forth cannot pass thither.” (Lc 16, 26) How many petitions did those virgins make to their fellows for a little oil! But hear what they also say; “Peradventure there will not be enough for you and for us;” (Mt 25, 9) and none was able to bring them in to the bridal chamber.~Taken from his Ninth Homily on Second Corinthians 

St Jerome: For these wise virgins do not answer thus out of covetousness, but out of fear. Wherefore, each man shall receive the recompense of his own works, and the virtues of one cannot atone for the vices of another in the day of judgment. The wise admonish them not to go to meet the bridegroom without oil, “Go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.”~Quoted in Aquinas’ Catena Aurea.

10. Now whilst they went to buy, the bridegroom came: and they that were ready, went in with him to the marriage, and the door was shut.

Went in with him to the marriage, which represents the reception of the Elect into the abode of the Blessed.

St Jerome: After the day of judgment, there is no more opportunity for good works, or for righteousness, and therefore it follows, “And the door was shut.”~Quoted in Aquinas’ Catena Aurea.

11. But at last came also the other virgins, saying: Lord, Lord, open to us.
12. But he answering said : Amen I say to you, I know you not.

Lord, Lord, open to us. Not that they had obtained oil, or enriched meanwhile their faith by works; they wished only to entreat for mercy. The Judge answers them (verse 12) that it is too late, the time for work and merit is over forever.

St Hilary: Yet though the season of repentance is now past, the foolish virgins come and beg that entrance may be granted to them.~Quoted in Aquinas’ Catena Aurea.

St Jerome: Their worthy confession calling Him, “Lord, Lord,” is a mark of faith. But what avails it to confess with the mouth Him whom you deny with your works?~Quoted inAquinas’ Catena Aurea.

St Jerome: “Amen I say to you, I know you not.” For “the Lord knoweth them that are his,” [2 Tim 2:19] and he that knoweth not shall not be known, and though they be virgins in purity of body, or in confession of the true faith, yet forasmuch as they have no oil, they are unknown by the bridegroom. When He adds, “Watch therefore, because ye know not the day nor the hour,” He means that all that has been said points to this, namely, that seeing we know not the day of judgment, we should be careful in providing the light of good works.~Quoted in Aquinas’ Catena Aurea.

13. Watch ye therefore, because you know not the day nor the hour.

Watch ye therefore. The whole purpose of the parable is to teach us vigilance and preparation against the coming of Christ, whether at the end of the world, or at our own death.

Pope St Gregory the Great: “Forasmuch as ye know not the day of judgment, prepare the light of good works. For He who has guaranteed pardon to the penitent has not promised to-morrow to the sinner”~Quoted by Cornelius a Lapide in The Great Commentary.

St Augustine: For indeed we know the day and the hour neither of that future time when the Bridegroom will come, nor of our own falling asleep each of us; if then we be prepared for this latter, we shall also be prepared when that voice shall sound, which shall arouse us all.~Quoted in Aquinas’ Catena Aurea.

Catechism of the Catholic Church #672:Before his Ascension Christ affirmed that the hour had not yet come for the glorious establishment of the messianic kingdom awaited by Israel[Acts 1:6-7] which, according to the prophets, was to bring all men the definitive order of justice, love and peace.[Isa 11:1-9] According to the Lord, the present time is the time of the Spirit and of witness, but also a time still marked by “distress” and the trial of evil which does not spare the Church[Acts 1:8; 1 Cor 7:26; Eph 5:16; 1 Pet 4:17] and ushers in the struggles of the last days. It is a time of waiting and watching.[Matt 25:1-13; Mk 13:33-37; Jn 2:18; Jn 4:3; 1 Tim 4:1].

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Father Juan de Maldonado’s Commentary on Matthew 25:1-13

Verse 1. Then. Then when the Lord shall appear suddenly. The meaning depends on the former chapter. He teaches the same thing in the two parables of the Ten Virgins and the Talents; the same thing in the parable of the Servant (25:45), &c.

Shall be like. That is, what does not appear now, while the good are joined with the evil in the Church, will appear then. The same thing takes place in the kingdom of heaven, that is, the Church; as if the ten virgins received the lamps to go out to meet the bridegroom, as explained in Matt 15:16. To what the whole parable tends is clear from the conclusion (verse 13), that we ought always to watch, always to be ready, as the Lord will come in an hour we know not of; and always to prepare by good works for His presence. The argument of the last chapter is followed up in this.

The parable consists of fifteen portions:

1. The Bridegroom, who, beyond doubt, is Christ, as has been explained Matt 11:15; 22:2. The words, and the bride, are not found in the Greek, nor do S. Basil, S. Chrysostom, Theophylact, or Euthymius read them, but they are found in Origen, S. Hilary, S. Augustin, and the Syriac. They should, therefore, be read: if not of necessity, yet on account of their antiquity, and the authority of the above early Fathers. S. John (Apoc 21:2) shows that the Church triumphant, like a bride, will come forth with Christ to judgment.

2. The second part of the parable is the Ten Virgins, on which there is a threefold question: (1) Why they were virgins; (2) Why the kingdom of heaven is compared to ten; (3) What the virgins signify.

Origen and others think that the kingdom of heaven is compared to virgins rather than to others, to signify the integrity of faith, which has its parallel in purity of the body. S. Chrysostom, Theophylact, and Euthymius say, that as virginity is the highest point of perfection, so Christ declares that no one ought to trust to his own good, because not all virgins, though of the most spotless purity, entered into the marriage, that is, the kingdom of heaven. Others, more modern, whose opinion seems preferable, say that the kingdom of heaven is specially compared to virgins only, because it was the custom of virgins before others to carry torches and to conduct the bride and bridegroom to their house.

As to the number ten, S. Jerome, S. Augustin, and others say that it shows the five senses; they who rule them well being wise, and they who do otherwise foolish. So say S. Jerome and Bede (in loc.), S. Augustin (Ep. cxx. 33), S. Gregory (Hom, xii. in Evang.). Thus there are ten. It would rather appear that this number was chosen to show a great number of persons, and that universality was meant. So Gen 31:7, 41; Lev 26:26; Num 14:22. Thus the kingdom of heaven is said to be like ten, that is, to many. By ten virgins, S. Chrysostom, Theophylact, Euthymius, S. Augustin, S. Gregory, as cited above, think that all who were truly virgins are meant, but this is too forced a sense, perhaps. S. Hilary and The Author, on the contrary, hold that all mankind are intended, the faithful and unbelieving alike, with a meaning perhaps too extended; Origen and S. Jerome (in loc.0, and, as appears, S. Ambrose (Serm. xiv. on Ps. cxviii.), neither of all men, nor of virgins alone, but of all the faithful, and of these alone. Their opinion seems good first, because it is plain that Christ speaks only of those who had received lamps, which only the faithful have: for the lamp is faith (Ps 119:105); secondly, because Christ teaches that faith without good works does not satisfy for salvation.

Another part of the question is the meaning of the five wise and the five foolish. S. Hilary says that the five wise include all the faithful, and the five foolish all the contrary. The Author makes the wise all spiritual men, and the unwise all carnal; or, by the former, all who are, as S. Paul says (1 Cor 7:34), virgins both in body and spirit; by the latter, those that are virgins in body but corrupt in soul. S. Chrysostom, Theophylact, Euthymius, and, perhaps, S. Ambrose (Serm. xiv. on Ps. cxviii.), by the wise, all who, besides the true virginity of mind and person, have also mercy and charity, and show them in giving of alms largely; by the foolish, all who, though virgins, are not merciful, that is, have no oil in their vessels, and, therefore, do not works of almsgiving. S. Augustin (Ep. cxx.), S. Gregory (Hom. xii. on Gospels0, and Bede (in loc.) make the five wise all virgins who have, as is said, a good intention and seek praise for their virtue, not from men, but from God; the others are such as seek after human praise and flattery. Origen, S. Jerome, and S. John Damascus, or whoever is the author of his history, say that the wise virgins are all men who have good works with faith, and that the foolish are such as have faith indeed, but not works.

This seems not merely the best, but the only good explanation, because the great subject of the parable is that faith without works is of no avail for salvation. Again, because the same is taught both by previous parables (Matt 24:45) and subsequent ones (verse 14), that it is not enough to believe unless we also watch to good works, because we know not at what hour the Lord will come. The same is again inculcated in another parable (Matt 22:12), in which, as here are the virgins, so there is the guest who entered in at the wedding feast by faith, but who, because he had no wedding-garment, that is, works, was cast out.

3. The third point of the parable is the lamps which all the virgins received, and by which S. Hilary understands our human bodies, in which the divine light of the soul shines. S. Chrysostom, Theophylact, Euthymius, Bede, S. Augustin, and S. Gregory, in the works cited above, think that bodily virginity is intended. S. Jerome, of the bodily senses, and with S. Hilary, Origen, and The Author he explains it of faith. This agrees well with the sense of the parable; for all take that to be faith from which they went out to meet Christ, but all did not go in with Him to the marriage, because all had not good works.

4. The fourth point is the oil which the wise virgins had and the foolish ones had not, and which S. Chrysostom, Euthymius, Theophylact, and S. Ambrose explain to be alms and mercy, as these are compared in Scripture to oil. But S. Augustin, S. Gregory, and Bede think it the good will which, as said before, seeks praise, not of men, but of God. The opinion of Origen, S. Hilary, The Author, and S. John Damascus is the only true and probable one. They understand by the oil good works, without which faith does not shine, that is, is dead (S. James 2:26), and by which, if present, faith is kindled, shines, is made to appear, to show (S. James 2:17). The foolish virgins say (verse 8), Give us of your oil, for our lamps are gone out. Not that without works faith is at once extinguished, but that when it does not shine through works, it appears to be so, and avails no more to salvation than if it were wholly extinct; or, as The Author says, because it is so ordered by nature that whereas faith is cherished and kept alive by good works, so without them it languishes, and by degrees becomes dead. To take oil then in the lamps is to lay up a plenty and, as it were, a treasure of good works against the future coming of Christ, as in Matt 6:20.

5. The fifth part is the vessels which, S. Hilary says, are our human bodies, as S. Paul wrote (2 Cor 4:7). It would be better understood as the soul or conscience, which is the seat and receptacle of good works.

6. The sixth part is the bridegroom being said to have tarried. It cannot be doubted that by this Christ meant to teach us that the time of His second coming would be long, that He might disabuse the disciples of the false idea that He would come immediately after His Resurrection, as S. Chrysostom has observed. To the same purpose, S. Jerome and S. Hilary say that the delay of the bridegroom is a time of penance. But Christ speaks accommodatingly to the virgins, to whom, because He did not come immediately, as they expected, He appeared to delay too long; for, to those who are waiting, all time naturally seems long. Otherwise Christ did not desire to signify of His own intention that His absence should be greatly prolonged; for, as S. John says (1 Jn 2:18), It is the last hour; and it was not in harmony with the parable to teach that His absence would be long, lest men whom He desired to teach to be diligent, watching, and always ready, should become negligent, slothful, and secure.

7. The seventh part is all the virgins being said to have slumbered and slept, which S. Hilary and S. Chrysostom (in Loc.), S. Augustin (Ep. cxx., chap, xxxii.), S. Basil (In Moral., chap, v.), explain by saying that all the virgins were dead before Christ came. The Author says that they were negligent. This would seem very good were it not said that both the wise and the foolish slept. It should therefore, perhaps, be understood that they had ceased to think of the bridegroom coming, and did not expect him when he came. This would happen both to the good and the bad. For they who wait long for a person often cease to expect him, and when they are not looking for or thinking of him, that is, when they are sleeping, he suddenly comes. This is shown further by the time at which the bridegroom came: midnight.

8. The time at which the bridegroom came that is, midnight is the eighth part of the parable. They who think from this, as some do, that the usual hour of the bridegroom’s coming to the house of the bride was midnight, seem not only to miss the point of the parable, but to pervert it, and to seek to reconcile things contradictory. For if midnight, and not earlier, were the time of the coming of the bridegroom, how did he delay when that period had not yet arrived? how did he seem to the virgins to tarry overlong, when they knew that he would not come before it? Some ancient Fathers believed that Christ would come at midnight, and so the Church Hymn seems to imply. S. Jerome says that it was an apostolic tradition that, at the Passover, it was not lawful to dismiss the people before midnight, because it was thought that He would come at that hour, as in Egypt of old. The Jews also expected their Messiah at midnight. But we must keep to the words, You know not the day nor the hour. The meaning, therefore, is that He will come when He is least expected. For who could believe that He would come in the middle of the night, when men are buried in repose? So say, with justice, S. Gregory, S. Hilary, S. Jerome, S. Augustin, Theophylact, and Bede.

9. The ninth point is the cry Behold. This doubtless is the great voice mentioned in Matt 24:31, and the trumpet; as Origin, S. Chrysostom, The Author, Euthymius, Theophylact, S. Jerome, S. Augustin (Ep. cxx., chap, iii.), have explained.

10. The tenth point is contained in verse 7: Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps, which is explained by S. Hilary of the resurrection of the body, and the restoration of all things. S. Augustin (in the above Epistle), The Author, and Bede (in loc) explain it better, that a rumour will be heard of the coming of Christ; all men who, as if oppressed with sleep, had not thought of Him would arise, as S. Paul says (Rom 13:11). To trim the lamps is to call to mind the works which everyone has done, to give account of them in the judgment.

11. The eleventh point is the saying of the foolish virgins to the wise: Give us of your oil, for our lamps are gone out. It is clear that the meaning is that men who have no good works of their own, when it is too late, and they are called to judgment, will implore the help of the saints, as The Author explains it; as if they wished to cover themselves under the good works of others.

12. The twelfth point is the answer of the wise virgins: Lest, perhaps, there be not enough for us and for you, go ye rather to them that sell and buy for yourselves. In this two things seem remarkable:

(a) That the wise virgins refuse their help to the foolish, not because they would not give it if they could, but because at so late an hour they were not able. So say S. Chrysostom, Euthymius, and Theophylact. Or, as is more probable (as The Author says), because in that dreadful judgment no one will have sufficient confidence in himself, or appear to have enough of good works ; for the words, lest, perhaps, there be not enough for us and for you, evidently point to this. In these words, neither the treasure of the Church, which consists of the merits of the saints, nor their suffrages for others, are destroyed, as if the good works of one could not profit another. By the same reasoning, it would be proved that the saints, even while alive, could not help other living persons by their prayers, which is contrary to all Scripture, from which we learn that by the merits of the saints the dead are aided. We find this in S. Luke 16:9: Make unto you friends of the mammon of iniquity, that when you shall fail they may receive you into everlasting dwellings, where Christ says that the faith and labour of some can profit others. Many Ancients have rightly concluded the same from Matt 11:2: And Jesus, seeing their faith, said to the man sick with the palsy, Be of good heart, son, thy sins be forgiven thee, as has there been explained. What, then, is the meaning of the passage? This, that everyone in that last great final judgment will be judged by his own works, and not by those of others, as S. Paul said (2 Cor 5:10), and should bear his own burden (Gal 6:5). S. Augustin, in his oft-cited Ep. cxxix., S. Hilary, and S. Chrysostom are to be understood in this sense when they say that this passage shows that no one is aided by the works of another.

(b) The second point is the foolish virgins being sent to those who sold, to buy oil for themselves. Origen and The Author explain this to mean the teachers of the Church, who sell the Word of God, not for a price, but for salvation and by the confession of faith, as is said by S. Paul (2 Cor 12:14), and as he calls those whom he brought to the Gospel his joy and crown (Phil 4:1). S. Augustin, S. Gregory, and Bede, by the sellers understand flatterers, who sell the fumes of false praise; as if it were said in irony, “Go to those flatterers in whose praises you take delight, and see what good they can do you”. S. Jerome thinks that the foolish virgins that is, those who have no good works are sent into the world to gain with much labour the oil of good works. This would appear to be no part of the parable, but an offshoot of what either might have been or was very probable, and added to complete the narrative, as were the words of the wise virgins, lest, perhaps, there be not enough for us and for you. Both may have been added, not to carry any meaning, but as it was very probable that the virgins would have spoken in this manner. The words cannot mean that those who had no good works should be sent into the world to buy, that is, procure them. It was said because it was very probable that the foolish virgins would go to buy oil when they could obtain none from the others, and Christ must form a truth-like narrative. Or, if this part have any meaning at all, it may only be that the foolish and improvident would desire to do good works, and to be diligent in them, when the time is past and it is too late.

13. The thirteenth point is the coming of the bridegroom, which means, as no one doubts, the coming of Christ to judgment.

14. The fourteenth is the entering in of those who were prepared with the bridegroom into the marriage and the supper, by which the beatific life is described, as Apoc 19:7.

15. The fifteenth is the door being shut when the foolish virgins returned; which only means that they wished to do good works when it was too late, and when it was no longer a time to work, as Christ said (S. John 9:4), The night cometh when no man can work. Nor needs there further discussion of how, when the final judgment was ended, the foolish virgins returned to heaven, and beat the door, and entreated Christ with prayers to open to them. All this, as has been said, was added, not for a meaning, but to amplify and adorn the parable; nor that it would happen in heaven, but that it was very likely to happen among men; and, as S. Gregory said (Hom, xii.) on these words, this only was intended, that he cannot possibly merit to obtain from God what he asks there, who would not listen to what He commands here.

Verse 12. I know you not. All authorities, ancient and modern, agree that the word know here and in other places does not mean recognition, but feeling, and, as they say, scientia approbationis; as if Christ said, “I do not approve you; I do not acknowledge you as My children”; or, as the Author says, “I do not see in you the marks of My spirit,” of which S. Paul speaks (2 Cor 1:22; and Eph 1:3; 4:30).

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Matthew 25:1-13

Mat 25:1  Then shall the kingdom of heaven be like to ten virgins, who taking their lamps went out to meet the bridegroom and the bride.
Mat 25:2  And five of them were foolish and five wise.
Mat 25:3  But the five foolish, having taken their lamps, did not take oil with them.
Mat 25:4  But the wise took oil in their vessels with the lamps.
Mat 25:5  And the bridegroom tarrying, they all slumbered and slept.

“Then,” at the final coming of the Son of man, when He shall appear unexpectedly, to judge the living and the dead—for, it is of this subject our Lord is treating in the foregoing—“shall the kingdom of heaven,” that is, His Church, gathered from all portions of this world, “be like to ten virgins,” &c., that is to say, something shall take place in His Church, on the occasion of His last coming, similar to what is about being stated in the following parable of the ten virgins, “who, taking their lamps, went out to meet the bridegroom and the bride.” “Went out,” may refer to their preparation to go forth; for, it was only afterwards they did so (v. 6), “go ye forth to meet him.” Or, it might be said, that our Redeemer here mentions, by anticipation, and in a general way, the fact which is afterwards more particularly detailed. “To meet the bridegroom and the bride.” The Greek copies have only, “to meet the bridegroom.” And this would seem to accord better with the usage then prevailing, to which there is reference here, of young virgins remaining at the house of the bride, expecting the coming of the bridegroom, who, on his part, was also accompanied by his male attendants, to fetch her from her father’s house to his own, or some other place, where the marriage feast was celebrated. Hence, the phrase, ducere uxorem, to signify, marrying a wife. On this occasion, the young maidens went forth to meet the bridegroom on his approach to the house of the bride, and accompanied him thither. Moreover, we have only the bridegroom mentioned (verse 6), “Behold the bridegroom cometh … meet him.” However, the Vulgate has the words, “bride and bridegroom.” They are also quoted by the most distinguished of the holy Fathers (St. Hilary, St. Augustine, St. Jerome, &c.); and the words may be explained, of the bride and bridegroom leaving the bride’s house for that of the bridegroom, accompanied by these virgins. It might be also said, that the words, in the application of the parable, may refer to the same person, viz., our Divine Redeemer, who, since His Incarnation, may be regarded both as Bridegroom and Bride, under different relations, as St. Hilary expresses it. For, he says, as the Spirit is bridegroom to the flesh, so is the flesh bride to the Spirit. The number, “ten” is used in SS. Scripture, to denote or symbolize an indefinite multitude. It would appear, too, that “ten” was the usual number of bridal attendants in Judea. The “five wise virgins,” are termed such, because they made prudent provision for the future. The others are termed, “foolish,” for the opposite reason. It is not meant, that the number of reprobate and elect is equal. It is only meant to convey, that even among those having an exterior of piety, who observe purity, and practise certain external acts of piety, nay, even of mercy, adds St. Augustine, symbolized by the burning lamps, there shall be found some excluded from the heavenly banquet.

The literal meaning of the parable hardly needs any explanation. Torches were generally carried on the occasion of nuptial celebrations, which took place at night. A bundle of rags, wound round the end of an iron rod, is said to have served as a torch, the oil being, from time to time, replenished, by dipping the rod in a vessel (Kenrick). The chief matter for explanation is, the scope and application of the several parts of the parable. Regarding the scope of the parable, there can be but very little difficulty. It manifestly is—as appears from verse 13, “Watch you therefore,” &c.; as also from verse 44 of the preceding chapter—to stimulate us to continued vigilance, and preparation against the coming of our Lord to judgment. It is to this the foregoing examples of the householder, of the faithful servant, &c., manifestly tend. And, although it directly refers to the General Judgment, it also includes the particular judgment, of which the general shall be but a public ratification. Hence, it refers to the coming of our Lord, at the hour of death, which is included under coming at the last day. As to the application of the parable—by “the kingdom of heaven,” is meant the Church, composed of good and bad. Now, we cannot distinguish between both. But then, the parable of the ten virgins shall be clearly illustrated; and although the reprobate, who shall then have been condemned to hell, could not be called the members of the Church; still, they are termed such, having been members during life, before God’s judgment was made manifest and executed upon them.

The “ten virgins” are understood by some (Chrysostom, Theophylact, &c.), of those who really were virgins; but some were virgins only in body, their souls not being replenished with sanctifying grace and charity. The others, designated “wise,” were virgins in soul and body. These expositors say, that the object of the parable is to show, that however exalted the virtue of virginity may be, still, it will not suffice, without the works of mercy and charity. But the most generally received opinion is that of St. Jerome, who holds, that, while the word includes virgins as a particular in a general, and hence applied to them by the Church in the Gospel of the Mass for Virgins, it refers generally to all the faithful who are called “virgins,” on account of the integrity and sincere purity of their faith, whose hearts are not sullied with the prostitution of idolatry, nor their bodies with the sinful pleasures of lust. On the other hand, the Scripture is wont to call heretics and infidels by the name of harlots and adulterers.

The “spouse,” denotes our Lord, who shall come at judgment to espouse His glorious Church, and with her celebrate the eternal nuptials in His heavenly kingdom.

By the “lamps,” is commonly understood, the light of faith which all these are supposed to be gifted with, probably accompanied with external good works; for, as to those who had lived immoral lives, they can hardly be said to be in expectation of, or care for, the coming of the heavenly Bridegroom. The difference, however, between the wise and unwise virgins in this interpretation, arises from the difference of intention with which their works were performed. The works of the one class were done purely for God, and from motives of charity; whereas, those of the other, were done from motives of gaining human applause and through empty vanity, like the Pharisees of old, for which they already “received their reward.”

By “the oil,” wherewith the “wise virgins trimmed their lamps,” are commonly understood, good works, without which the “lamp is extinguished,” or “faith is dead.” All had “lamps,” that is, faith; but only those who had the oil of charity, or good works, were admitted to the nuptial feast—faith, without good works, being insufficient for salvation.

The vessels for containing the oil, mean, the souls or consciences of the faithful. To take oil in their vessels, means, to treasure up an abundance of good works against the coming of our Lord, to “lay up treasures to themselves in heaven, where neither the rust nor moth doth consume,” &c. (6:20).

“The delay of the spouse,” refers to the time between our Lord’s Ascension and the General Judgment. And St. Chrysostom remarks, that our Redeemer wishes to convey to His disciples, that He would not come immediately, as some of them erroneously imagined. The word has reference also to the impatience of the virgins who were awaiting Him. For, although the longest time, relative to eternity, is but very short; still, the ardour of His disciples seemed not to be satisfied with anything short of His immediate approach. At the same time, our Redeemer did not wish to convey to them expressly that His coming would be deferred, for fear of rendering them secure or remiss. However, His coming at the death of each was necessarily speedy, as well as uncertain; and thus, they should not fail to prepare themselves. “They slumbered and slept.” “Slumbering,” which precedes perfect sleep, denotes, the infirmities and sickness, which usher in men’s death, which is expressed by, “they slept.” Between the final coming of our Lord and His first coming, the faithful, yielding to the necessities of nature, shall “have slept.” Death is frequently represented in SS. Scripture, as a state of sleep; since, men are to be once more roused and resuscitated at the General Resurrection. Others, understand, slumbering and slept, to express, that men shall have ceased to think of our Lord’s coming, so that He will come when they are not expecting Him.

Mat 25:6  And at midnight there was a cry made: Behold the bridegroom cometh. Go ye forth to meet him.

“At midnight … a cry,” &c. By “cry,” is meant, the Archangel’s trumpet, which St. John (5:28), calls, “the voice of the Son of God.” “Midnight,” denotes, that His coming shall be concealed from men, and that the summons shall be sent forth when least expected, or, this may be an ornamental part of the parable. (SS. Jerome, Chrysostom, &c.) Others infer from this, that Christ will come to judge the world, at the hour of midnight. St. Jerome tells us, that this was an Apostolical tradition. Hence, formerly at the vigil of the Pasch, the people were not allowed to leave the church till after midnight, from an impression, that Christ would come to judgment, at that hour, as He came at the same hour formerly to slay the first-born of the Egyptians, and liberate the Hebrew people. However, all this regarding the hour of Christ’s coming is very uncertain; for, our Redeemer Himself says, “You know not the day nor the hour.”

Mat 25:7  Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps.

The trimming of their lamps, by all these virgins, after being roused from sleep, denotes, that after all the faithful shall have been resuscitated by the trumpet of the Archangel, they shall proceed to meet their Judge, and, consulting memory, to examine their consciences, regarding the account they are to give for the actions of their entire lives.

Mat 25:8  And the foolish said to the wise: Give us of your oil, for our lamps are gone out.

This is one of the ornamental parts of the parable, having no further significance or illustration; for, on the last day, the reprobate will know well, that the just cannot impart to them any portion of their merits; that each one shall be judged according to his own works, whether good or evil. The words, however, convey to us, the straits and despair to which the wicked shall be reduced on beholding the inevitable damnation to which they are doomed, without any prospect of alleviation or reprieve, from the intercession of friends, or the merits of God’s saints, and the unavailing regrets in which they shall indulge at that hour, for not having availed themselves, during life, of the means of securing their salvation.

The words, “our lamps are gone out,” show, that without the oil of good works, charity, which is the flame that emanates from the lamps, is lost; inasmuch as, without performing good works, which are prescribed by God’s Commandments, we forfeit God’s grace and friendship. Hence, we must be ever employed in good works, if we wish to preserve and keep alive the holy flame of Divine charity.

Mat 25:9  The wise answered, saying: Lest perhaps there be not enough for us and for you, go ye rather to them that sell and buy for yourselves.

This, also, is ornamental, and merely intended to complete the literal narrative. If it has any meaning at all, it conveys to us, that at that hour, the just, however they might assist sinners during life, can give no assistance to them, now that the time of mercy and merit is past; that even the just shall tremble for their own salvation. The words may also convey, the reproaches which the reprobate shall meet with on that day, for having, during life, performed their actions to please men who “sell” the oil of flattery, and adulation, and foolish passing applause, which are of no avail, but rather a subject of regret at judgment. “But, let not the oil of the sinner fatten my head” (Psa. 140:5). In the literal reading of this verse there is supposed to be an ellipsis, and the words, “we fear” (φοβουμεθα), understood thus—“(we fear) lest there be not enough,” &c. (Beelen.)

Mat 25:10  Now whilst they went to buy the bridegroom came: and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage. And the door was shut.

This is, like the preceding, ornamental. At the same time, it conveys to us, the fruitless regrets of the reprobate, when, too late, and the time of merit is passed, for not having performed the good works, whereby they might have earned the kingdom of heaven. The coming of the bridegroom represents, the coming of Christ to judgment. The entrance of those who were ready, denotes, the admission of the elect to the joys of heaven, “the nuptials of the Lamb” (Rev 19:7). “The door was shut,” expresses, that the time of doing good is past, and “the night come when no one can work.”

Mat 25:11  But at last came also the other virgins, saying: Lord, Lord, open to us.

In this verse is conveyed, the despair and anguish of spirit of the reprobate on seeing themselves for ever banished from the glory and beatific vision of God. This anguish is most pathetically described by the Wise man. (c. 5:1, &c.)

Mat 25:12  But he answering said: Amen I say to you, I know you not.

“I know you not,” signifies, the knowledge of love, benevolence, and approbation, as if He said: Although well known to Me, still, I do not wish to have any intercourse with you. I disown yon, as My children and friends. I reprobate and reject you from the pure joys of My eternal kingdom (see 7:23).

Mat 25:13  Watch ye therefore, because you know not the day nor the hour.

This is the great lesson, which the entire parable is primarily intended to inculcate, and to which the preceding parables, from v. 42 of the preceding chapter, as also the following parable, and the several parts of each parable have reference. To the words of this verse, is added, in the Protestant versions, “Wherein the Son of man cometh.” But, these words are rejected by the best critics, and omitted in the chief MSS. They were, most likely, introduced from the margin, as more clearly completing and expressing the sense. For, the words, even in our version, mean: You know not that last day, nor that last hour, when the Lord shall come unexpectedly, like the midnight thief—the hour upon which depends an eternity of happiness or misery. According to the preparation we shall have made, and the vigilance we shall have employed to be always ready and to have the oil of charity and good works always burning in our hearts, with our consciences always pure before God, shall our doom be determined.

But, it may be asked, how can the inference, “Watch ye, therefore,” &c., be deduced from the example of the ten virgins, since, all are supposed to have slept, the “wise,” as well as the unwise? Resp. The example of the wise virgins is not proposed to us in this sense: that as they kept a bodily watch, we should watch spiritually; but only in this sense, that as they prudently provided against the uncertain coming of the spouse, so, we should prudently provide against the uncertain coming of our Lord, in such a way as not to be caught unprepared; this we shall escape, by constantly watching in the performance of good works. Hence, our Lord in this sense, infers, “Watch ye, therefore,” &c., as if He said: In order that no such misfortune as befell the unwise virgins may befall you, so that that day should find you unprepared, and thus subject you to exclusion from My kingdom, prepare against that uncertain day. In other words, watch continually in good works, and be not remiss, as you must be persuaded, that any preparation you may make on that day, shall come too late. It is, of course, to be observed, that although our Redeemer directly refers to His coming at the General Judgment, He also includes His coming at the death of each, when the final doom of every man is to be decided, and the sentence to be solemnly and publicly repeated at the General Judgment, already irrevocably pronounced.

We are admonished, therefore, not to live negligently, content merely with the light of faith; but, that we should provide ourselves with the oil of charity and good works, before the arrival of the hour of death; so that, when the Spouse shall have arrived, and demanded an account of our actions, we may have sufficient oil to trim our lamps which shall light us into the banquet-hall of the heavenly kingdom.

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