Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Luke 10:25-37

Text in red, if any, are my additions.

Luk 10:25  And behold a certain lawyer stood up, tempting him and saying, Master, what must I do to possess eternal life?

“And behold,” at some time when our Lord was delivering instructions. We need not necessarily connect this in consecutive order with the preceding; and it matters not much in what order the things recorded by the Evangelists were spoken, or in what order they were written by the Evangelists, since the principal object was to record what would serve for our instruction, without too closely attending in some cases to the order of time.

While our Lord was on some occasion engaged in teaching the multitudes, “a certain lawyer,” νομικος, who is generally supposed to be different from the person of the same profession, referred to in Matthew (22:35), as the circumstances in both cases are quite different. For, in the latter case, our Lord Himself answers the question; not so, here. “Stood up,” after having, in a sitting posture, heard our Lord speak of the joys of the life to come, before the multitudes.

“Tempting Him,” which some understood in a bad sense, as if the lawyer, from a bad motive, wanted to confound Him, and elicit from Him some reply inconsistent with His former teaching, or at variance with the law of Moses, or the teachings of the expounders of the law; others, understanding the word in a good sense, suppose, from the respectful tone of His address, “Master,” that the lawyer only wished to see for himself, if all he heard spoken in praise of our Lord’s superior teaching were true.

“To possess eternal life” (see Matthew 19:16). The law of Moses only promised temporal life to those who observed it. But, our Lord frequently spoke of eternal life to His followers. The Jews themselves had hopes of another life, as is clear from several passages of the Scripture, written before and after the captivity. The Pharisees held this doctrine of a future life. The Sadducees, who denied it, were ranked by religious Jews among the Epicureans (Calmet). Hence, the lawyer asks what is he to do, in order to securely possess the promised happiness in the world to come.

Luk 10:26  But he said to him: What is written in the law? How readest thou?

Our Lord, unwilling to answer directly, interrogating His questioner, refers to the law, and elicits the answer from himself. He asks what are the works he is to do, in order to gain eternal life. Our Lord asks in turn, what are the chief duties prescribed for him to do by the law, in which he was so well versed, without any mention of eternal life, of which the law did not expressly speak. He says, “quid faciam?” Our Lord asks what does the law tell him to do.

Luk 10:27  He answering, said: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart and with thy whole soul and with all thy strength and with all thy mind: and thy neighbour as thyself.

Note: the Bishop sends his readers to his commentary on Matt 22:36-40. In Matthew’s account the man asks Jesus “which is the great commandment in the law?” Concerning this question the Bishop comments:

“The great commandment,” that is, the greatest commandment among those propounded by Moses, compared with which others are not great, the commandment whose fulfilment is most agreeable to God. The Hebrew has no superlative; hence, the Greek phrase here partakes of the Hebrew idiom. The interpreter (v. 38) renders it, the greatest. It is observed by Von. Bede (in Matth. 12), that it was a question much debated among the Scribes and Pharisees, which was the greatest commandment among those delivered by Moses, some giving a preference to those which related to the offering of gifts and sacrifices. Hence, they placed them before those that related to honouring our parents (15:4, 5, &c.). Others gave the preference to the precepts, which had immediately for object, the love of God and of our neighbour. Hence, the Scribe praises our Lord’s answer on the subject (Mark 12:32–34).

“Jesus said to him: Thou shalt love the Lord,” &c. In Mark (12:29), our Redeemer quotes, in substance, from Deut. 6:4, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord thy God is one God.” (In Deut. it is, “the Lord our God is one Lord”), as if to convey, that the faith in God, as Lord of all things, would lead us to love Him above all things; and as “ONE God,” would show, He alone was to be loved in this supreme way. Hence, to be loved “with our whole (undivided) heart.” This oneness has reference to the Divine nature. The word, for “Lord,” is YAHWEH, derived from the verb, to be. It has, therefore, reference to the Divine nature. The plurality of persons is insinuated in the triple repetition—1st, “the Lord;” 2nd, “thy God;” 3rd, “is one God.” Similar are the words of the Psalmist, “Benedicat nos Deus, Deus noster, benedicat nos Deus.” “Deus noster,” is put in the second place, because by His Incarnation, the Second Person is peculiarly our God. The same is observed in the words of Deuteronomy (6:4), “the Lord (1) our God (2) is one Lord” (3).

“Thou shall love,” is the same as an imperative form, love thou. “With thy whole heart,” &c. In Deuteronomy (6:5) it is, “with thy whole heart, with thy whole soul, and with thy whole strength.” The words, “with thy whole mind,” are omitted. In Mark (12:30), Luke (10:27), four members are expressed—“thy whole heart, thy whole soul, thy whole mind, thy whole strength.” Some expositors distinguish these several members, and endeavour to assign to them a distinct meaning. St. Thomas (2da 2dæ Article 4), by the heart, understands the will; and by the three others, the principles of action, which are moved by the will, viz., the intellect, signified by the “mind;” the inferior appetite, expressed by “soul” (ψυχη); and the external power of action, denoted by “strength.” Hence, God is to be so loved by us, that our entire intention should be borne towards Him (ex corde); our intellect subject to Him; our sensual appetite regulated according to Him; our entire external course of action obedient to Him, and rendered conformable to His will and precepts. Others give different significations to the several members of the sentence; but, the general and more commonly received opinion is, that it matters but little whether there be four or only three members in the sentence; that there is no use in seeking for a distinct meaning for each, since they all signify the same as the words, “with thy whole heart.” They are added, and the same idea conveyed in different words, to intensify the sense For, that in the words, “with thy whole heart,” all the others are included, appears clear from this, that in SS. Scripture, at times, the words, “with thy whole heart,” alone are employed to express the great love of God; at times, a second member only is added, “from thy whole soul,” to express the same thing; and sometimes a third member, “with thy whole strength.” Thus, David is said to have followed the Lord “with his whole heart.” (1 Kings 1) Josias (2 Kings 23:3) made a covenant for the people, that they would keep His commandments, “with all their heart, and with all their soul;” and he himself is said (verse 25), to have “returned to the Lord with all his heart, and all his soul, and all his strength.” Hence, these several words are used, or rather, the same idea is expressed in different words, for greater emphasis’ sake. For, the word, “heart,” embraces the affections, expressed by “soul;” and intellect, expressed by “mind” (διανοια); and, moreover, in order that a man could be said to do a thing “with all his heart,” he should use his utmost exertions, as far as his strength would allow. Hence, is added, “with all thy strength.” The whole precept may be, then, summed up briefly, in the words, “thou shalt love the Lord … with thy whole heart.” The question next is, what these words mean. They certainly cannot refer to our actually and constantly loving God with all the energies of our soul, so that we should be constantly engaged in acts of love, that we should love nothing but Him, and love Him as much as He deserves to be loved. In this sense, the precept can only be fulfilled in the life to come. In this sense, we can only hope to arrive at the love of God, as the term of our fruition in heaven. In this sense, it might be suited to the angels; but, it would be impossible for us, poor weak mortals here on earth. It is in this sense, that St. Augustine, speaking in certain portions of his works, both of this precept of loving God, and of the precept, “thou shalt not covet,” says, they are not accomplished in this life, but only to be fulfilled in the life to come. The most probable meaning of them, then, is, that our love of God should be comparatively supreme; that we should be so habitually disposed, that we would bestow our love on no object opposed to God; that we would share His love with no other being, but love every one else for Him; that we should love Him, not merely with our lips, but with our hearts, unlike those who loved Him with their mouth, but their heart was not right with Him. (Psa. 77:36, 37.) We should, then, love Him from our heart, and our entire heart, not coldly nor remissly, nor with a divided affection. 2ndly. It should be finally supreme. In other words, God should be the ultimate end of our actions, so that we should observe all His ordinances, and refer all we do to His honour and glory. Hence, we should love what He loves; love whatever tends to His honour, and hate and detest whatever is an obstacle to His glory, whatever derogates from it, whatever offends Him. 3rdly. It should be appreciatively, not intensitively supreme. In other words, we should not appreciate or value anything else in creation, so much as God. We should be prepared to make any sacrifice, be it of life, fortune, friends, &c., sooner than do anything opposed to His love. This may be regarded as a general precept, prescribing not only internal acts of love, to be exercised now and then, but habitual love, and external acts as well; the same as is conveyed in the second precept regarding our neighbour, whom we are to love in “work and truth.” For, on these two, our Lord says, “dependeth the whole Law and the Prophets;” so that a man may be said to fulfil the precept when He retains habitual love in all his actions, wishes for, and does nothing contrary to, the love of God.

Luk 10:28  And he said to him: Thou hast answered right. This do: and thou shalt live.

Our Lord approving of the lawyer’s answer, tells him, if he observes the two leading precepts, which are a summary of the entire law, he shall secure eternal life.

Luk 10:29  But he willing to justify himself, said to Jesus: And who is my neighbour?

“To justify himself,” that is, to clear himself, by proposing a more difficult question, of the imputation of captiously desiring to embarrass our Lord, by the question so easily answered by himself—or, wishing to show, that he was right in proposing the question now answered, as it would lead to a more difficult one—which he desired to have solved—regarding which, there had been so much controversy and such erroneous notions among the Jews. For, they imagined, that our “neighbour,” whom we are bound, by the law, to love and serve in his necessities, comprised only those of the Jewish race, and even among these only the just, and those observant of the law. The above seems to be the most probable meaning of the word, “justify,” in this passage, although others understand it to mean, wishing to “show himself just,” desirous to know and fulfil the law, in which the justice he wished to show himself anxious about, consisted.

“And who is my neighbour?” whom I am to love as myself, to treat as I should reasonably expect to be treated by him in turn, and whom I should be, therefore, bound to serve and relieve in his necessities? The words of our Lord, “this do,” &c., conveyed a precept, and delivered instructions more of a practical, than of a speculative character, as the question of the lawyer referred more to a practical duty in regard to our neighbour, than to a speculative point of knowledge.

Luk 10:30  And Jesus answering, said: A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell among robbers, who also stripped him and having wounded him went away, leaving him half dead.

Our Lord shows, by an edifying example of the practical discharge of the duties we owe our neighbour, who our neighbour is, whom we are bound to love. In this example, He is commonly supposed to refer not to an imaginary occurrence, but to a fact, that actually occurred, and, therefore, carried with it more weight. Our Lord’s answer (v. 37), supposes it to be a fact. From the example adduced, our Lord means to convey, that our neighbour, in relation to the practical exhibition of charity, comprised not only a co-religionist, or a just man, as the Jews erroneously imagined;—hence, the false gloss on the words, “diliges proximum, odio habebis inimicum”—but extended also to all men, even our enemies, as the case of the Samaritan, who was at variance with the Jews, shows here.

“A certain man,” generally supposed to be a Jew or Israelite (St. Augustine, Sermo. 37, de Verbis Domini), and also a citizen of Jerusalem (Bede, in Commentario).

“Went down,” on some business, “from Jerusalem to Jericho.” Jerusalem was situated on hilly ground. Hence, the words, “went down.” We often, for a like reason, hear it said in the Gospel, “we go up to Jerusalem.” “Jericho” was on the extreme confines of Judea, on the river Jordan. The road between Jerusalem and Jericho was infested with robbers, as we are informed by St. Jerome (in Epist. ad Eustochium Virginem), who tells us, that a certain part of the road was called Adommim, or, the way of blood, in consequence of the blood frequently shed, and the murders committed there by robbers.

“Fell among robbers, who also stripped him.” Not only did they capture him and take away his money and means, but they “stripped him” of his very clothes. “Wounded him,” &c., leaving him in a pitiable plight, unable to succour himself, or seek aid from others, and, therefore, certain to die, unpitied and unaided, by the road-side. This sad picture of his miserable condition, places in a clearer light, the inhumanity of those who refused to succour him. The robbers treated their victims with all this gratuitous inhumanity, probably, to escape pursuit and apprehension.

Luk 10:31  And it chanced, that a certain priest went down the same way: and seeing him, passed by.

“It chanced”—humanly speaking, though, as regards God, it was arranged by His all-seeing Providence—“a certain priest,” who was, above all others, bound to succour his neighbour in distress, and give an example in this respect to others. Our Lord here taxes the hard-heartedness of the Jewish priesthood, who placed all their reliance on sacrifices and ceremonies, neglecting the primary dictates of the natural law itself in regard to the exercise of mercy and humanity. “Passed by.” The Greek signifies, “passed to the opposite side.” This conduct was the more inexcusable, considering the enactment of the law of Moses regarding even the fallen beast of an enemy (Exodus 23:5).

Luk 10:32  In like manner also a Levite, when he was near the place and saw him, passed by.

The above observations apply to the Levite also, who should give an example of the strict observance of the law of God.

Luk 10:33  But a certain Samaritan, being on his journey, came near him: and seeing him, was moved with compassion:

The inhumanity of both is placed in a still stronger light, by the contrast with the charitable conduct of the Samaritan.

“A certain Samaritan.” (For a description of the Samaritans, see Matthew 10:5, Commentary on.) Here is what the Bishop wrote there regarding the Samaritans:

In order to know who these Samaritans were, it is to be borne in mind, that after the ten tribes of Israel seceded from Juda and Benjamin, under Jeroboam, Amri, one of Jeroboam’s successors, built Samaria, which was to be the capital of the kingdom of Israel (1 Kings 16:24). Salmanasar, king of Assyria, carried the ten tribes captive into Assyria (2 Kings 17), and sent in their place, to colonize the country, people from Babylon and Cutha, &c. On the arrival of these latter, who carried with them their idolatrous worship, Samaria was infested with lions, which destroyed the country, and killed its inhabitants. This scourge was attributed to their neglect of the worship of the Deity of the land. Hence, in order to appease him, the king of Assyria had one of the captive priests sent back from Babylon, to instruct the new colonists in the ordinances and worship of the God of Israel.

After this, they united the worship of God with that of idols. (2 Kings 17) In this state did the Samaritans live under the kings of Assyria, having little or no intercourse with the Jews. When the Jews were permitted to rebuild the city and temple of Jerusalem, the Samaritans offered to assist them in their undertaking (Ezra 4:2). The rejection of this offer by the Jews, sowed the seeds of the undying hostility which ever after existed between both peoples. The breach was rendered irreparable, when, after the return of the Jews from captivity, and the rebuilding of the temple, the Samaritans had a rival temple built on Mount Garazim, near Samaria, where victims were offered up, as at Jerusalem, and served as a place also of resort for some malcontent Jews. From this period, the Samaritans, forgetful of their Pagan origin, wished to be considered as true Israelites, who preserved in all its purity the observance of the law, with an unbroken succession of high priests, who now ministered on Mount Garazim, the seat of their religion. For a long period, before the time of our Redeemer, they gave up the worship of idols; otherwise, they could have no pretensions to be considered true Israelites, rivals of the Jews, in regard to the observance of the law, and the purity of Divine worship.

The temple of Garazim and city of Samaria were demolished by John Hyrcanus, 120 years before the time of our Redeemer. Lest the Apostles might suppose that the Samaritans, who held a sort of intermediate place between the Jews and Gentiles, were to be confounded with the Jews, our Lord specially mentions them in connexion with the Gentiles. His object in prohibiting the Apostles from preaching to the Gentiles on this first mission was, to take away all excuse from the Jews, who might justify their incredulity and resistance on the ground, that, according to the ordination of God, and His promises through the predictions of the Prophets, the message of salvation was first promised to the Jews, “the children of the kingdom,” “the sons of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,” to whom these promises were specially made (Acts 13:46). To the Jews the Gospel was given, according to promise and mercy; to the Gentiles, out of pure mercy, without a promise. (Rom. 15)

“Came near him,” did not turn away in disgust, as the others did. “Was moved with compassion,” notwithstanding the deadly hostility of race

Luk 10:34  And going up to him, bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine: and setting him upon his own beast, brought him to an inn and took care of him.

“Pouring in,” that is, after he had poured in. For, he had done so, before binding up his wounds.

“Wine and oil,” which he probably carried with him as his viatic for the journey. “Wine,” had the effect of cleansing the wounds from the clotted blood with which they were saturated; “oil,” soothed his pains. Brought him “on his own beast,” after having himself dismounted, “to an inn,” the next he met on the road, and cared him himself, sparing neither expense nor trouble.

Luk 10:35  And the next day he took out two pence and gave to the host and said: Take care of him; and whatsoever thou shalt spend over and above, I, at my return, will repay thee.

Being obliged to leave on business, he did not neglect to have provision made for this wretched man, in his absence.

“Two pence.” It is not easy to say what was the actual value of these two pence. They were equivalent to a labourer’s hire for two days (Matthew 20:9), and sufficed for the temporary relief of the patient in question.

“Whatever thou shalt spend over and above,” &c. While obliged to leave on business, he provides for the wounded man, and conveys that he meant to have him restored to perfect health, before he left him after his return.

The Holy Fathers are fond of dwelling on the clear mystical sense contained in this passage, which, they describe as having reference to the fall of man, and his merciful reparation through Jesus Christ. (Ambrose, Theophylact, Chrysostom, Augustine, &c.) By “the man who went down,” they understand, Adam; by Jerusalem, Paradise; by Jericho, the world; by the robbers, the demons; by the priest, the Old Law; by the Levite, the prophets; by the Samaritan, our Blessed Lord; by the wounds, disobedience; by the “beast” that carried the wounded man, our Lord’s Body, in which He, becoming Incarnate, bore our sins and infirmities; by “the inn,” the Church, ready to receive all who wish to enter; by the “wine” and “oil,” the Sacraments of the Church, wine and oil being employed in the administration of the chief Sacraments; by the master of the inn, the Sovereign Pontiff, who liberally dispenses the treasures of the Church; by the “two pence,” Origen understands the knowledge of the Father and of the Son; St. Ambrose, the two Testaments; St. Augustine, the two leading precepts of charity with which our Lord inspires the pastors of the Church, to exercise pastoral care over their people; by the return of the Samaritan, our Lord’s second coming to judgment, when He will reward our good actions, especially our care of the poor and afflicted.

Luk 10:36  Which of these three, in thy opinion, was neighbour to him that fell among the robbers?
Luk 10:37  But he said: He that shewed mercy to him. And Jesus said to him: Go, and do thou in like manner.

“Which of these three in thy opinion was neighbour to him?” &c., that is, which of them acted the part of neighbour practically, carrying out the precept, “thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” The question of the lawyer “who is my neighbour,” whom I am commanded to love as myself? would suggest that our Lord’s question would directly be, who is neighbour to these three men referred to? Was it not the man who needed their aid in his extreme distress, bleeding on the road side? But, in reality, the solution comes to the same. For as St. Augustine observes, the word “neighbour” is a relative term, having its correlative, “proximi nomen est ad aliquid nec quisquam esse proximus nisi proximo potest” (St. Augustine de doc. Christiana, chap. 30), and our Lord put the question to the lawyer in the correlative sense, “who was neighbour to him,” &c., instead “who was the neighbour of these three men,” as in the latter form, the lawyer following the preconceived prejudices of his race, might answer, “their neighbour was confined exclusively to their own race and religion;” whereas, by putting it in the form he employs, our Lord, with wonderful wisdom, forces the lawyer to admit that the two others, while according to the Jews themselves, neighbours of the wounded Jew, neglected their duty in his regard; and the Samaritan acted the part of neighbour towards the distressed Jew, who was his enemy; that, therefore, all mankind, according to his own admission, including our enemies, are our neighbours, in the sense of the Divine precept commanding us to love him as ourselves, and relieve him in his necessities. Hence, our Lord subjoins His approval of the answer, and tells him and us, to act a similar part, that is, to regard and treat all mankind without distinction, our enemies included, as our neighbours.

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One Response to Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Luke 10:25-37

  1. Pingback: Commentaries for the Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C | stjoeofoblog

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