Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Luke 12:32-48

Ver 32. Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.33. Sell that you have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that fails not, where no thief approaches, neither moth corrupts.34. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

GLOSS. Our Lord having removed the care of temporal things from the hearts of His disciples, now banishes fear from them, from which superfluous cares proceed, saying, Fear not, &c.

THEOPHYL. Bu the little flock, our Lord signifies those who are willing to become His disciples, or because in this world the Saints seem little because of their voluntary poverty, or because they are outnumbered by the multitude of Angels, who incomparably exceed all that we can boast of. The name little our Lord gives to the company of the elect, either from comparison with the greater number of the reprobate, or rather because of their devout humility.

CYRIL; But why they ought not to fear, He shows, adding, for it is your Father’s good pleasure; as if He says, How shall He who gives such precious things be wearied in showing mercy towards you? For although His Flock is little both in nature and number and renown, yet the goodness of the Father has granted even to this little flock the lot of heavenly spirits, that is, the kingdom of heaven. Therefore that you may possess the kingdom of heaven, despise this world’s wealth. Hence it is added, Sell that you have, &c.

BEDE; As if He says, Fear not lest they who warfare for the kingdom of God, should be in want of the necessaries of this life. But sell that you have for alms’ sake, which then is done worthily, when a man having once for his Lord’s sake forsaken all that he has, nevertheless afterwards labors with his hands that he may be able both to gain his living, and give alms.

CHRYS. For there is no sin which almsgiving does not avail to blot out. It is a salve adapted to every wound. But almsgiving has to do not only with money, but with all matters also wherein man succors man, as when the physician heals, and the wise man gives counsel.

GREG. NAZ. Now I fear lest you should think deeds of mercy to be not necessary to you, but voluntary. I also thought so, but was alarmed at the goats placed on the left hand, not because they robbed, but did not minister to Christ among the poor.

CHRYS. For without alms it is impossible to see the kingdom. For as a fountain if it keeps its waters within itself grows foul, so also rich men when they retain every thing in their possession.

BASIL; But some one will ask, upon what grounds ought we to sell that which we have? Is it that these things are by nature hurtful, or because of the temptation to our souls? To this we must answer, first, that every thing existing in the world if it were in itself evil, would be no creation of God, for every creation of God is good. And next, that our Lord’s command teaches us not to cast away as evil what we possess, but to distribute, saying, and give alms.

CYRIL; Now perhaps this command is irksome to the rich, yet to those who are of a sound mind, it is not unprofitable, for their treasure is the kingdom of heaven. Hence it follows, Provide for yourselves bags which wax not old, &c.

BEDE; That is, by doing alms, the reward of which abides for ever; which must not be taken as a command that no money be kept by the saints either for their own, or the use of the poor, since we read that our Lord Himself, to whom the angels ministered, had a bag in which he kept the offerings of the faithful; but that God should not be obeyed for the sake of such things, and righteousness be not forsaken from fear of poverty.

GREG. NYSS. But He bids us lay up our visible and earthly treasures where the power of corruption does not reach, and hence He adds, a treasure that fails not, &c.

THEOPHYL. As if He said, “Here the moth corrupts, but there is no corruption in heaven.” Then because there are some things which the moth does not corrupt, He goes on to speak of the thief, For gold the moth corrupts not, but the thief takes an away.

BEDE; Whether then should it be simply understood, that money kept fails, but given away to our neighbor bears everlasting fruit in heaven; or, that the treasure of good works, if it be stored up for the sake of earthly advantage, is soon corrupted and perishes; but if it be laid up solely from heavenly motives, neither outwardly by the favor of men, as by the thief which steals from without, nor inwardly by vainglory, as by the moth which devours within, can it be defiled.

GLOSS. Or, the thieves are heretics and evil spirits, who are bent upon depriving us of spiritual things. The moth which secretly frets the garments is envy, which mars good desires, and bursts the bonds of charity.

THEOPHYL. Moreover, because all things are not taken away by theft, He adds a more excellent reason, and one which admits of no objection whatever, saying, For where your treasure is, there will your hearts be also; as if He says, “Suppose that neither moth corrupts nor thief takes away, yet this very thing, namely, to have the heart fixed in a buried treasure, and to sink to the earth a divine work, that is, the soul, how great a punishment it deserves.” EUSEB. For every man naturally dwells upon that which is the object of his desire, and thither he directs all his thoughts, where he supposes his whole interest to rest. If any one then has his whole mind and affections, which he calls the heart, set on things of this present life, he lives in earthly things. But if he has given his mind to heavenly things, there will his mind be; so that he seems with his body only to live with men, but with his mind to have already reached the heavenly mansion.

BEDE; Now this must not only be felt concerning love of money, but all the passions. Luxurious feasts are treasures; also the sports of the gay and the desires of the lover.

Ver 35. Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning;36. And you yourselves like to men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he comes and knocks, they may open to him immediately.37. Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he comes shall find watching: verily I say to you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them.38. And if he shall come in the second watch, or in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants.39. And this know, that if the goodman of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through.40. Be you therefore ready also: for the Son of man comes at an hour when you think not.
THEOPHYL. Our Lord having taught His disciples moderation, taking from them all care and conceit of this life, now leads them on to serve and obey, saying, Let your loins be girded, that is, always ready to do the work of your Lord, and your lamps burning, that is, do not lead a life in darkness, but have with you the light of reason, showing you what to do and what to avoid. For this world is the night, but they have their loins girded, who follow a practical or active life. For such is the condition of servants who must have with them also lamps burning; that is, the gift of discernment, that the active man may be able to distinguish not only what he ought to do, but in what way; otherwise men rush down the precipice of pride. But we must observe, that He first orders our loins to be girded, secondly, our lamps to be burning. For first indeed comes action, then reflection, which is an enlightening of the mind. Let us then strive to exercise the virtues, that we may have two lamps burning, that is, the conception of the mind ever shining forth in the soul, by which we are ourselves enlightened, and learning, whereby we enlighten others.

MAXIM. Or, he teaches us to keep our lamps burning, by prayer and contemplation and spiritual love.

CYRIL; Or, to be girded, signifies activity and readiness to undergo evils from regard to Divine love. But the burning of the lamp signifies that we should not suffer any to live in the darkness of ignorance.

GREG. Or else, we gird our loins when by continence we control the lusts of the flesh. For the lust of men is in their loins, and of women in their womb; by the name of loins, therefore, from the principal sex, lust is signified. But because it is a small thing not to do evil, unless also men strive to labor in good works, it is added, And your lamps burning in your hands; for we hold burning lamps in our hands, when by good works we show forth bright examples to our neighbors.

AUG. Or, He teaches us also to gird our loins for the sake of keeping ourselves from the love of the things of this world, and to have our lamps burning, that this thing may be done with a true end and right intention.

GREG. But if a man has both of these, whosoever he be, nothing remains for him but that he should place his whole expectation on the coming of the Redeemer. Therefore it is added, And be you like to men that wait for their Lord, when he will return from the wedding, &c. For our Lord went to the wedding when ascending up into heaven as the Bridegroom He joined to Himself the heavenly multitude of angels.

THEOPHYL. Daily also in the heavens He betroths the souls of the Saints, whom Paul or another offers to Him, as a chaste virgin. But He returns from the celebration of the heavenly marriage, perhaps to all at the end of the whole world, when He shall come from heaven in the glory of the Father; perhaps also every hour standing suddenly present at the death of each individual.

CYRIL; Now consider that He comes from the wedding as from a festival, which God is ever keeping; for nothing can cause sadness to the Incorruptible Nature.

GREG. NYSS. Or else, when the wedding was celebrated and the Church received into the secret bridal chamber, in the angels were expecting the return of the King to His own natural blessedness. And after their example we order our life, that as they living together without evil, are prepared to welcome their Lord’s return, so we also, keeping watch at the door, should make ourselves ready to obey Him when He comes knocking; for it follows, that when he comes and knocks, they may open to him immediately.

GREG. For He comes when He hastens to judgment, but He knocks, when already by the pain of sickness He denotes that death is at hand; to whom we immediately open if we receive Him with love. For he who trembles to depart from the body, has no wish to open to the Judge knocking, and dreads to see that Judge whom he remembers to have despised. But he who rests secure concerning his hope and works, immediately opens to Him that knocks; for when he is aware of the time of death drawing near, he grows joyful, because of the glory of his reward; and hence it is added, Blessed are the servants whom the Lord when he comes shall find watching. He watches who keeps the eyes of his mind open to behold the true light; who by his works maintains that which he beholds, who drives from himself the darkness of sloth and carelessness.

GREG. NYSS. For the sake then of keeping watch, our Lord advised above that our loins should be girded, and our lamps burning, for light when placed before the eyes drives away sleep. The loins also when tied with a girdle, make the body incapable of sleep. For he who is girt about with chastity, and illuminated by a pure conscience, continues wakeful.

CYRIL; When then our Lord coming shall find us awake and girded, having our hearts enlightened, He will then pronounce us blessed, for it follows, Verily I say to you, that he shall gird himself, from which we perceive that He will recompense us in like manner, seeing that He will gird Himself with those that are girded.

ORIGEN; For He will be girded about His loins with righteousness.

GREG. By which He girds Himself, that is, prepares for judgment.

THEOPHYL. Or, He will gird Himself, in that He imparts not the whole fullness of blessings, but confines it within a certain measure. For who can comprehend God how great He is? Therefore are the Seraphims said to veil their countenance, because of the excellence of the Divine brightness. It follows, and will make them to sit down; for as a man sitting down causes his whole body to rest, so in the future coming the Saints will have complete rest; for here they have not rest for the body, but there together with their souls their spiritual bodies partaking of immortality will rejoice in perfect rest.

CYRIL; He will then make them to sit down as a refreshment to the weary, setting before them spiritual enjoyments, and ordering a sumptuous table of His gifts.

DIONYSIUS AR. The “sitting down” is taken to be the repose from many labors, a life without annoyance, the divine conversation of those that dwell in the region of light enriched with all holy affections, and an abundant pouring forth of all gifts, whereby they are filled with joy. For the reason why Jesus makes them to sit down, is that He might give them perpetual rest, and distribute to them blessings without number. Therefore it follows, And will pass over and serve them.

THEOPHYL. That is, Give back to them, as it were, an equal return, that as they served Him, so also He will serve them.

GREG. But He is said to be passing over, when He returns from the judgment to His kingdom. Or the Lord passes to us after the judgment, and raises us from the form of His humanity to a contemplation of His divinity.

CYRIL; Our Lord knew the proneness of human infirmity to sin, but because He is merciful, He does not allow us to despair, but rather has compassion, and gives us repentance as a saving remedy. And therefore He adds, And if he shall come in the second watch, &c. For they who keep watch on the walls of cities, or observe the attacks of the enemy, divide the night into three or four watches.

GREG. The first watch then is the earliest time of our life, that is, childhood, the second youth and manhood, but the third represents old age. He then who is unwilling to watch in the first, let him keep even the second. And he who is unwilling in the second, let him not lose the remedies of the third watch, that he who has neglected conversion in childhood, may at least in the time of youth or old age recover himself.

CYRIL; Of the first watch, however, he makes no mention, for childhood is not punished by God, but obtains pardon; but the second and third age owe obedience to God, and the leading of an honest life according to His will.

GREEK EX. Or, to the first watch belong those who live more carefully, as having gained the first step, but to the second, those who keep the measure of a moderate conversation, but to the third, those who are below these. And the same must be supposed of the fourth, and if it should so happen also of the fifth. For there are different measures of life, and a good rewarder metes out to every man according to his deserts.

THEOPHYL. Or since the watches are the hours of the night which lull men to sleep, you must understand that there are also in our life certain hours which make us happy if we are found awake. Does any one seize your goods? Are your children dead? Are you accused? But if at these times you have done nothing against the commandments of God, He will find you watching in the second and third watch, that is, at the evil time, which brings destructive sleep to idle souls.

GREG. But to shake off the sloth of our minds, even our external losses are by a similitude set before us. For it is added, And this know, that if the goodman of the house had known what hour the thief would come.

THEOPHYL. Some understand this thief to be the devil, the house, the soul, the goodman of the house, man. This interpretation, however, does not seem to agree with what follows. For the Lord’s coming is compared to the thief as suddenly at hand, according to the word of the Apostle, The day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. And hence also it is here added, Be you also ready, for the Son of man comes at an hour when you think not.

GREG. Or else; unknown to the master the thief breaks into the house, because while the spirit sleeps instead of guarding itself; death comes unexpectedly, and breaks into the dwelling place of our flesh. But he would resist the thief if he were watching, because being on his guard against the coming of the Judge, who secretly seizes his soul, he would by repentance go to meet Him, lest he should perish impenitent. But the last hour our Lord wishes to be unknown to us, in order as we cannot foresee it, we may be unceasingly preparing for it.

Ver  41. Then Peter said to him Lord, speak you this parable to us, or even to all?42. And the Lord said, Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season?43. Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he comes shall find so doing.44. Of a truth I say to you, that he will make him ruler over all that he has.45. But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delays his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken;46. The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looks not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.

THEOPHYL. Peter, to whom the Church had already been committed, as having the care of all things, inquires whether our Lord put forth this parable to all. As it follows, Then Peter said to him, Lord, speak you this parable to us, or to all?

BEDE; Our Lord had taught two things in the preceding parable to all, even that He would come suddenly, and that they ought to be ready and waiting for Him. But it is not very plain concerning which of these, or whether both, Peter asked the question, or whom he compared to himself and his companions, when he said’ Speak you to us, or to all? Yet in truth by these words, us and all, he must be supposed to mean none other than the Apostles, and those like to the Apostles, and all other faithful men; or Christians, and unbelievers; or those who dying separately, that is, singly, both unwillingly indeed and willingly, receive the coming of their Judge, and those who when the universal judgment comes are to be found alive in the flesh. Now it is marvelous if Peter doubted that all must live soberly, piously, and justly, who wait for a blessed hope, or that the judgment will to each and all be unexpected. It therefore remains to be supposed, that knowing these two things, he asked about that which he might not know, namely, whether those sublime commands of a heavenly life in which He bade us sell what we have and provide bags which wax not old, and watch with our loins girded, and lamps burning, belonged to the Apostles only, and those like to them, or to all who were to be saved.

CYRIL; Now to the courageous rightly belong the great and difficult of God’s holy commandments, but to those who have not yet attained to such virtue, belong those things from which all difficulty is excluded. Our Lord therefore uses a very obvious example, to show that the above-mentioned command is suited to those who have been admitted into the rank of disciples, for it follows, And the Lord said, Who then is that faithful steward?

AMBROSE; Or else, the form of the first command is a general one adapted to all, but the following example seems to be proposed to the stewards, that is, the priests; and therefore it follows, And the Lord said, Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his Lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season?

THEOPHYL. The above-mentioned parable relates to all the faithful in common, but now hear what suits the Apostles and teachers. For I ask, where will be found the steward that possesses in himself faithfulness and wisdom? for as in the management of goods, whether a man be careless yet faithful to his master, or else wise yet unfaithful, the things of the master perish; so also in the things of God there is need of faithfulness and wisdom. For I have known many servants of God, and faithful men, who because they were unable to manage ecclesiastical affairs, have destroyed not only possessions, but souls, exercising towards sinners indiscreet virtue by extravagant rules of penance or unseasonable indulgence.

CHRYS. But our Lord here asks the question not as ignorant, who was a faithful and wise steward, but wishing to imply the rareness of such, and the greatness of this kind of chief government.

THEOPHYL. Whosoever then has been found a faithful and wise steward, let him bear rule over the Lord’s household that he may give them their portion of meat in due season, either the word of doctrine by which their souls are fed, or the example of works by which their life is fashioned.

AUG. Now he says portion, because of suiting His measure to the capacity of his several hearers.

ISIDORE; It was added also in their due season, because a benefit not conferred at its proper time is rendered vain, and loses the name of a benefit. The same bread is not equally coveted by the hungry man, and him that is satisfied. But with respect to this servant’s reward for his stewardship, He adds, Blessed is that servant whom his Lord when he comes shall find so doing.

BASIL; He says not, ‘doing,’ as if by chance, but so doing. For not only conquest is honorable, but to contend lawfully, which is to perform each thing as we have been commanded.

CYRIL; Thus the faithful and wise servant prudently giving out in due season the servants’ food, that is, their spiritual meat, will be blessed according to the Savior’s word, in that he will obtain still greater things, and will be thought worthy of the rewards which are due to friends. Hence it follows, Of a truth I say to you, that he will make him ruler over all that he has.

BEDE; For whatever difference there is in the merits of good hearers and good teachers, such also there is in their rewards; for the one whom when He comes He finds watching, He will make to sit down; but the others whom He finds faithful and wise stewards, He will place over all that He has, that is, over all the joys of the kingdom of heaven, not certainly that they alone shall have power over them, but that they shall more abundantly than the other saints enjoy eternal possession of them.

THEOPHYL. Or, he will make him ruler over all that he has, not only over His own household, but that earthly things as well as heavenly shall obey him. As it was with Joshua the son of Nun, and Elias, the one commanding the sun, the other the clouds; and all the Saints as God’s friends use the things of God. Whosoever also passes his life virtuously, and has kept in due submission his servants, that is, anger and desire, supplies to them their portion of food in due season; to anger indeed that he may feel it against those who hate God, but to desire that he may exercise the necessary provision for the flesh, ordering it to God. Such an one, I say, will be set over all things which the Lord has, being thought worthy to look into all things by the light of contemplation.

CHRYS. But our Lord not only by the honors kept in store for the good, but by threats of punishment upon the bad, leads the hearer to correction, as it follows, But if that servant shall say in his heart, My Lord delays his coming.

BEDE; Observe that it is counted among the vices of a bad servant that he thought the coming of his Lord slow, yet it is not numbered among the virtues of the good that he hoped it would come quickly, but only that he ministered faithfully. There is nothing then better than to submit patiently to be ignorant of that which can not be known, but to strive only that we be found worthy.

THEOPHYL. Now from not considering the time of our departure, there proceed many evils. For surely if we thought that our Lord was coming, and that the end of our life was as at hand, we should sin the less. Hence it follows, And shall begin to strike the man servants and maidens, and to eat and drink and be drunken.

BEDE; In this servant is declared the condemnation of all evil rulers, who, forsaking the fear of the Lord, not only give themselves up to pleasures, but also provoke with injuries those who are put under them. Although these words may be also understood figuratively, meaning to corrupt the hearts of the weak by an evil example; and to eat, drink, and be drunken, to be absorbed in the vices and allurements of the world, which overthrow the mind of man. But concerning his punishment it is added, The Lord of that servant will come in a day when he looks not for him, that is, the day of his judgment or death, and will cut him in sunder.

BASIL; The body indeed is not divided, so that one part indeed should be exposed to torments, the other escape. For this is a fable, nor is it a part of just judgment when the whole has offended that half only should suffer punishment; nor is the soul cut in sunder, seeing that the whole possesses a guilty consciousness, and cooperates with the body to work evil; but its division is the eternal severing of the soul from the Spirit. For now although the grace of the Spirit is not in the unworthy, yet it seems ever to be at hand expecting their turning to salvation, but at that time it will be altogether cut off from the soul. The Holy Spirit then is the prize of the just, and the chief condemnation of sinners, since they who are unworthy will lose Him.

BEDE; Or He will cut him in sunder, by separating him from the communion of the faithful, and dismissing him to those who have never attained to the faith. Hence it follows, And will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers; for he who has no care for his own and those of his own house, has denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.

THEOPHYL., Rightly also shall the unbelieving steward receive his portion with the unbelievers, because he was without true faith.

Ver 47. And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.48. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall he beaten with few stripes. For to whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.
THEOPHYL. Our Lord here points to something still greater and more terrible, for the unfaithful steward shall not only be deprived of the grace he had, so that it should profit him nothing in escaping punishment, but the greatness of his dignity shall the rather become a cause of his condemnation. Hence it is said, And that servant who knew his lord’s will and did it not, shall be beaten with many stripes.

CHRYS. For all things are not judged alike in all, but greater knowledge is an occasion of greater punishment. Therefore shall the Priest, committing the same sin with the people, suffer a far heavier penalty.

CYRIL; For the man of understanding who has given up his will to baser things will shamelessly implore pardon, because he has committed an inexcusable sin, departing as it were maliciously from the will of God, but the rude or unlearned man will more reasonably ask for pardon of the avenger. Hence it is added, But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes

THEOPHYL. Here some object, saying, He is deservedly punished who, knowing the will of His Lord, pursues it not; but why is the ignorant punished? Because when he might have known, he would not, but being himself slothful, was the cause of his own ignorance.

BASIL; But you will say, If the one indeed received many stripes, and the other few, how do some say He assigns no end to punishments? But we must know, that what is here said assigns neither measure nor end of punishments, but their differences. For a man may deserve unquenchable fire, to either a slight or more intense degree of heat, and the worm that dies not with greater or more violent gnawings.

THEOPHYL. But he goes on to show why teachers and learned men deserve a severer punishment, as it is said, For to whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required. Teachers indeed are given the grace to perform miracles, but entrusted the grace of speech and learning. But not in that which is given, He says, is any thing more to be sought, but in that which is entrusted or deposited; for the grace of the word needs increase. But from a teacher more is required, for he should not lie idle, but improve the talent of the word.

BEDE; Or else, much is often given also to certain individuals, upon whom is bestowed the knowledge of God’s will, and the means of performing what they know; much also is given to him to whom, together with his own salvation, is committed the care also of feeding our Lord’s flock. Upon those then who are gifted with more abundant grace a heavier penalty falls; but the mildest punishment of all will be theirs, who, beyond the guilt they originally contracted, have added none besides; and in all who have added, theirs will be the more tolerable who have committed fewest iniquities.

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One Response to Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Luke 12:32-48

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

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