Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Luke 9:51-62

Ver 51. And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem,52. And sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him.53. And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem.54. And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, will you that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did?55. But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, you know not what manner of spirit you are of.56. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. And they went to another village.

CYRIL; When the time was near at hand in which it behoved our Lord to accomplish His-life-giving Passion, and ascend up to heaven, He determines to go up to Jerusalem, as it is said, And it came to pass, &c.

TIT. BOST. Because it was necessary that the true Lamb should there be offered, where the typical lamb was sacrificed; but it is said, he steadfastly set his face, that is, He went not here and there traversing the villages and towns, but kept on His way straight towards Jerusalem.

THEOPHYL; Let then the Heathen cease to mock the Crucified, as if He were a man, who it is plain, as God, both foresaw the time of His crucifixion, and going voluntarily to be crucified, sought with steadfast face, that is, with resolute and undaunted mind, the spot where He was to be crucified.

CYRIL; And He sends messengers to make a place for Him and His companions, who when they came to the country of the Samaritans were not admitted, as it follows, And sent messengers before his face; and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him. And they did not receive him.

AMBROSE; Mark that He was unwilling to be received by those who He knew had not turned to Him with a simple heart. For if He had wished, He might have made them devout, who were undevout. But God calls those whom He thinks worthy, and whom He wills He makes religious. But why they did not receive Him the Evangelist mentions, saying, Because his face was as if he would go to Jerusalem.

THEOPHYL. But if one understands that they did not receive Him for this reason, because He had determined to go to Jerusalem, an excuse is found for them, who did not receive Him. But we must say, that in the words of the Evangelist, And they did not receive him, is implied that He did not go into Samaria, but afterwards as if some one had asked Him, He explained in these words, why they did not receive Him. And He went not to them, i.e. not that He was unable, but that He did not wish to go there but rather to Jerusalem.

THEOPHYL; Or the Samaritans see that our Lord is going to Jerusalem, and do not receive Him. For the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans, as John shows.

CYRIL; But our Lord, Who knew all things before they came to pass, knowing that His messengers would not be received by the Samaritans, nevertheless commanded them to go before Him, because it was His practice to make all things conduce to the good of His disciples. Now He went up to Jerusalem as the time of His suffering drew near. In order then that they might not be offended, when they saw Him suffer, bearing in mind that they must also endure patiently when men persecute them, He ordained beforehand as a land of prelude this refusal of the Samaritans.

It was good for them also in another way. For they were to be the teachers of the world, going through towns and villages, to preach the doctrine of the Gospel, meeting sometimes with men who would not receive the sacred doctrine, allowing not that Jesus sojourned on earth with them. He therefore taught them, that in announcing the divine doctrine, they ought to be filled with patience and meekness, without bitterness, and wrath, and fierce enmity against those who had done any wrong to them.

But as yet they were not so, nay, being stirred up with fervid zeal, they wished to bring down fire from heaven upon them. It follows, And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, will you that we command fire to come down from heaven, &c.

AMBROSE; For they knew both that when Phineas had slain the idolaters it was counted to him for righteousness; and that at the prayer of Elijah fire came down from heaven, that the injuries of the prophet might be avenged.

THEOPHYL; For holy men who well knew that that death which detaches the soul from the body was not to be feared, still because of their feelings who feared it, punished some sins with death, that both the living might be struck with a wholesome dread, and those who were punished with death might receive helm not from death itself but from sin, which would be increased were they to live.

AMBROSE; But let him be avenged who fears. He who fears not, seeks not vengeance. At the same time the merits of the Prophets are likewise shown to have been in the Apostles, seeing that they claim to themselves the right of obtaining the same power of which the Prophet was thought worthy; and fitly do they claim that at their command fire should come down from heaven, for they were the sons of thunder.

TIT. BOST. They thought it much juster that the Samaritans should perish for not admitting our Lord, than the fifty soldiers who tried to thrust down Elijah.

AMBROSE; But the Lord is not moved against them, that He might show that perfect virtue has no feeling of revenge, nor is there any anger where there is fullness of love. For weakness must not be thrust out; but assisted. Let indignation be far from the religious, let the high-souled have no desire of vengeance. Hence it follows, But he turned and rebuked them, and said, you know not what manner of spirit you are of.

THEOPHYL; The Lord blames them, not for following the example of the holy Prophet, but for their ignorance in taking vengeance while they were yet inexperienced, perceiving that they did not desire correction from love, but vengeance from hatred. After that He had taught them what it was to love their neighbor as themselves, and the Holy Ghost also had been infused into them, there were not lacking these punishments, though far less frequent than in the Old Testament, because the Son of man came not to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. As if He said, And do you therefore who are sealed with His Spirit, imitate also His actions, now determining charitably, hereafter judging justly.

AMBROSE; For we must not always punish the offender, since mercy sometimes does more good, leading you to patience, the sinner to repentance. Lastly, those Samaritans believed the sooner, who were in this place saved from fire.

Ver 57. And it came to pass, that, as they went in the way, a certain man said to him, Lord, I will follow you wherever you go.58. And Jesus said to him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has not where to lay his head.59. And he said to another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.60. Jesus said to him, Let the dead bury their dead, but go you and preach the kingdom of God.61. And another also said, Lord, I will follow you; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house.62. And Jesus said to him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.

CYRIL; Although the Almighty Lord is bountiful, He does not grant to every one absolutely and indiscriminately heavenly and divine gifts, but to those only who are worthy to receive them, who free themselves and their souls from the stains of wickedness. And this we are taught by the force of the angelic words, And it came to pass, that, as they went in the way, a certain man said to him, Lord, I will follow you. First indeed there is much tardiness implied in the manner of his coming. It is next shown that he is filled with too great presumption. For he sought not to follow Christ simply as several others of the people, but rather caught at the honor of the Apostleship. Whereas Paul says, No one takes the honor to himself but he that is called of God.

ATHAN. He dared also to match himself with the incomprehensible power of the Savior, saying, I will follow you wherever you go; for to follow the Savior simply to hear His teaching is possible to human nature, as it directs itself towards men, but it is not possible to go with Him wherever He is; for He is incomprehensible, and is not confined by place.

CYRIL; In another respect also our Lord deservedly gives him a refusal, for He taught that to follow the Lord, a man must take up his cross, and renounce the affection of this present life. And our Lord finding this lacking in him does not blame him, but corrects him.  It follows, And Jesus says to him, The foxes have holes, &c.

THEOPHYL. For having seen our Lord drawing much people to Him, he thought that he received reward from them, and that if he followed our Lord, he might obtain money.

THEOPHYL; Therefore it is said to him, Why do you seek to follow Me for the riches and gain of this world, when so great is My poverty that I have not even a place of rest, and take shelter under another man’s roof.

CHRYS See how our Lord sets forth by his works the poverty which he taught. For him was no table spread, no lights, no house, nor any such thing.

CYRIL; Now under a mystical signification He applies the name of foxes and birds of the air to the wicked and crafty powers of evil spirits. As if He said, Since foxes and birds of the air have their abode in you, how shall Christ rest in you? What fellowship has light with darkness?

ATHAN. Or herein our Lord teaches the greatness of His gift, as if He said, All created things may be confined by place, but the Word of God has incomprehensible power. Say not then, I will follow you wherever you go. But if you would be a disciple, cast off foolish things, for it is impossible for him who remains in foolishness to become a disciple of the Word.

AMBROSE; Or, He compares foxes to heretics, because they are indeed a wily animal, and, ever intent upon fraud, commit their robberies by stealth. They let nothing be safe, nothing be at rest, nothing secure, for they hunt their prey into the very abodes of men. The fox again, an animal full of craft, makes no hole for itself, yet likes to lie always concealed in a hole. So the heretics, who know not how to construct a house for themselves, circumscribe and deceive others. This animal is never tamed, nor is it of use to man. Hence the Apostle, A heretic after the first and second admonition reject. But the birds of the air, which are frequently brought in to represent spiritual wickedness, build as it were their nests in the breasts of the wicked, and as long as deceit reigns over the affections, the divine principle has no opportunity to take possession.

But when a man has proved his heart to be innocent, upon him Christ leans in some measure the weight of His greatness, for by a more abundant shedding of grace He is planted in the breasts of good men. So then it does not seem reasonable that we should think him faithful and simple, who is rejected by the judgment of the Lord, notwithstanding that he promised the service of unwearied attendance; but our Lord cares not for this kind of service, but only purity of affection, nor is his attendance accepted whose sense of duty is not proved. For the hospitality of faith should be given with circumspection, lest while opening the interior of our house to the unbelieving, through our imprudent credulity we fall a snare to the treachery of others. Therefore that you may be aware that God despises not attendance upon him but deceit, He who rejected the deceitful man chose the innocent.

For it follows, And he said to another, Follow me. But He says this to him, whose father He knew to be dead. Hence it follows, But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.

THEOPHYL; He did not refuse the discipleship, but his wish was, having fulfilled the filial duty of burying his father, to follow Christ more freely.

AMBROSE; But the Lord calls those upon whom He has compassion. Hence it follows, And Jesus said, Let the dead bury their dead. Since we have received as a religious duty the burial of the human body, how is it thus that the burial even of a father’s dead body is forbidden, unless you are to understand that human things are to be postponed to divine? It is a good employment, but the hindrance is greater, for he who divides his pursuits, draws down his affections; he who divides his care, delays his advances. We must first set abort the things which are most important. For the Apostles also, that they might not be occupied in the office of distributing alms, ordained ministers for the poor.

CHRYS. But what more necessary than the burial of his father, what more easy, seeing that there would not be much time given to it? We are then hereby taught that it becomes us not to spend even the slightest portion of our time in vain, although we have a thousand things to compel us, nay to prefer spiritual things to even our greatest necessities. For the devil watchfully presses close upon us, wishing to find any opening, and if he causes a slight negligence, he ends in producing a great weakness.

AMBROSE; The performance of a father’s burial is not then prohibited, but the observance of religious duty is preferred to the ties of relationship. The one is left to those in like condition, the other is commanded to those who are left. But how can the dead bury the dead? unless you here understand a twofold death, one a natural death, the other the death of sin. There is also a third death, by which we die to sin, live to God.

CHRYS. By thus saying, their dead, he shows that this man’s father was not his dead, for I suppose that the deceased was of the number of the unbelieving.

AMBROSE; Or because the throat of the ungodly is an open sepulcher, their memory is ordered to be forgotten whose services die together with their bodies. Nor is the son recalled from his duty to his father, but the faithful is separated from the communion of the unbelieving; there is no prohibition of duty, but a mystery of religion, that is, that we should have no fellowship with the dead Gentiles.

CYRIL; Or else, his father was borne down with years, and he thought he was doing an honorable act in proposing to pay the kind offices which were due to him, according to Exodus, Honor your father and your mother. Hence when calling him to the ministry of the Gospel, our Lord said, Follow me, he sought for a time of respite, which should suffice for the support of his decrepit father, saying, Permit me first to go and bury my father, not that he asked to bury his deceased father, for Christ would not have hindered the wish to do this, but he said, Bury, that is, support in old age even till death. But the Lord said to him, Let the dead bury their dead. For there were other attendants also bound by the same tie of relationship, but as I consider dead, because they had not yet believed Christ. Learn from this, that our duty to God is to be preferred to our love for our parents, to whom we show reverence, because through them have we been born. But the God of all, when hen as yet we e were not, brought us into being, our parents were made the ministers of our introduction.

AUG. Our Lord spoke this to the man to whom He had said, Follow me. But another disciple put himself forward, to whom no one had spoken any thing, saying, I will follow you, O Lord; but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at home, lest perchance they look for me as they are wont.

CYRIL; Now this promise is worthy of our admiration and full of all praise, but to bid farewell to those who are at home, to get leave from them, shows that he was still somehow divided from the Lord, in that he had not yet resolved to make this venture with his whole heart. For to wish to consult relations who would not agree to his proposal because one somewhat wavering. Wherefore our Lord condemns this, saying, No man, having put his hand to the plough and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God. He puts his hand to the plough who is ambitious to follow, yet looks back again who seeks an excuse for delay in returning home, and consulting with his friends.

AUG. As if he said to him, The East calls you, and you turn to the West.

THEOPHYL: To put one’s hand to the plough, is also, (as it were by a certain sharp instrument,) by the wood and iron of our Lord’s passion, to wear away the hardness of our heart, and to open it to bring forth the fruits of good works. But if any one, having begun to exercise this, delights to look back with Lot’s wife to the things which he had left, he is deprived of the gift of the kingdom to come.

GREEK EX. For the frequent looking upon the things which we have forsaken, through the force of habit draws us back to our past way of life. For practice has great power to retain to itself. Is not habit generated of use, and nature of habit? But to get rid of or change nature is difficult; for although when compelled it for a while turns aside, it very rapidly returns to itself.

THEOPHYL; But if the disciple about to follow our Lord is reproved for wishing even to bid farewell at home, what will be done to such as for no advantage-sake frequently visit the houses of those whom they have left in the world?

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One Response to Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Luke 9:51-62

  1. Pingback: Commentaries for the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time, Year C | stjoeofoblog

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