Father Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on Matthew 10:34-11:1

Text in red are my additions.

Mat 10:34 Do not think that I came to send peace upon earth: I came not to send peace, but the sword.

Do not think that I came to send peace, &c., that is to say, earthly peace: for Christ promised by Isaiah 9:6, 7; 65:25, that He would bring spiritual peace of mind, the peace of the union of the faithful among themselves, and with God and His Angels, which leads to peace and everlasting felicity in Heaven.

But a sword: i.e., separation, as S. Luke has (Luke12:51), discord in faith and religion. He means that He will separate His faithful people by reason of their faith from unbelievers. But the unbelievers will on their part take occasion to separate themselves from the faithful, and will hate them, and will deprive them of liberty and goods and life. This is what Christ especially refers to in what follows; and this too entirely answers to the words of Micah (Micah 7:6) from which Christ here quotes.

Mat 10:35  For I came to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.
Mat 10:36  And a man’s enemies shall be they of his own household.

I came to set a man at variance, &c. And a man’s enemies shall be they of his own household. Syriac. A man shall have as his enemies the sons of his own house. Because, as S. Chrys. says (Hom. 2, cont. Judæos), it shall come to pass that in the same house there shall be one faithful believer in Christ, whilst another shall continue unbelieving. A father will wish his son to return back from the faith to his former impiety. Foretelling this He saith, I came to set a variance. Such shall be the victorious power of the Gospel that sons shall disregard their parents, daughters their mothers, and parents their children, and shall adventure their life and all things for the sake of godliness. Some are of opinion that Christ only applies the passage of Micah, using it in a different sense. But I reply that Micah was speaking literally of the calamity of sinful Jerusalem through the siege of the Chaldeans, as S. Jerome shows—that in it the inhabitants should be so distressed by sword and famine and pestilence that even brother would snatch away bread from brother, child from parent, wife from husband. But, allegorically this strife of the Jews signifies the discord and opposition of unbelieving parents and brethren and husbands against believers, whether Jews, or Gentiles in the time of Christ, especially when the faithful ran into peril of goods and fame, and even life itself. In this allegorical sense Christ cites Micah’s words: and in an allegory, or parable it is not necessary to apply every word.
Mat 10:37  He that loveth father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than me, is not worthy of me.

He that loveth father, &c. That is, is not worthy to have Me for his Lord and Master, is not worthy of My name and company, My grace and kingdom, and the rest of My promises. The reason is, because Christ forasmuch as He is our God and Lord and Saviour, must be far preferred to parents and children. Wherefore he who prefers them to Christ so as for their sakes to revolt from the faith of Christ, treats Him unworthily, and does Him the highest dishonour. So S. Jerome and others. S. Saturus, when Hunneric threatened him that unless he became an Arian, he would give his wife in marriage to his camel driver, and when his wife, trembling at this, besought him to consent unto the king, answered like another Job, “Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. I should dread it, 0 woman, if there were nothing but the bitter sweetness of this life. Thou ministerest, 0 my wife to the artifices of the devil. If thou lovedst thy spouse, thou wouldst never drag thine own husband to the second death. Let them tear away my children, let them separate my wife, let them take away my substance, yet will I rest secure upon the promises of my Lord. I will hold fast the words, ‘Whosoever forsaketh not wife, or children, or lands, or houses, he cannot be My disciple.’” So Victor of Utica.

Mat 10:38  And he that taketh not up his cross, and followeth me, is not worthy of me.

And he that taketh not (from the hand of the Lord upon his shoulders to bear it like Christ.) his cross, &c. To bear the cross is to be ready for the sake of Christ to bear reproaches, stripes, imprisonments, and the most painful and ignominious death, such as was the death of the cross, which Christ vouchsafed to bear for us. Because, as S. Chrys. says, speaking in the name of Christ “As I have brought you the utmost blessedness; so I ask of you a singular obedience and affection, that ye may be as lions in battle array.” Christ alludes to His future bearing of His own Cross. For it is altogether just and right, that after Christ bearing His cross for us, we also should follow Him, bearing our cross with love and reverence, and thus walk towards heaven. This is the exact literal sense.

Mystically: the Cross is mortification. Listen to the Gloss, “The Cross is borne in two ways, either when the body is affected by abstinence, or when the mind is touched with compassion for one’s neighbour. Their neighbours’ sins are an instrument of torture to the Saints.”

Lastly, S. Jerome says, “It is written in another Gospel (i.e., Lk 9:23), He that taketh not his Cross daily, lest we should suppose that a burning faith would suffice once for all: the Cross must be always carried, that we may show that we always love Christ.”

Mat 10:39  He that findeth his life, shall lose it: and he that shall lose his life for me, shall find it.

He that findeth his life, &c. Findeth ought to be in the past tense; for the Gr. is ό εύρ̉ών). The meaning is, He that findeth his life (ψυχὴν), that is, the corporeal safety of his life, when in peril of death, through denial of the faith, and of My name, such a one shall lose his soul (ψυχὴν), that is, the eternal salvation of his soul, which alone is real safety, and shall go away into hell. And, on the other hand, he who shall lose the present life of his soul (ψυχὴς), or his life, on account of his profession of My name, he shall find health and safety, and the eternal happiness and glory of his soul (ψυχὴν), or life.

He therefore who indulges his soul, loses it: he who mortifies it, saves it. See the paradox which there is here. Life is made to consist in death, and death in life. Whence Tertullian says in his Scorpiace, “God hath willed to destroy death by death, to shake off torments by torments, to give life by taking it away, to heal the flesh by wounding it, to save the soul by casting it away.”

Observe the Heb. is matsa, i.e., he hath found. Understand, he hath acquired, he hath gotten, he hath obtained, as the LXX. trans. in Job 3:22: and the Vulg. in 1 Sam 313. Similarly the Gr. εύρίσκω, literally, I light upon, frequently means, I obtain, rescue, I deliver, &c. The Latin invenire, lit. to come upon, means to acquire or obtain anything. Thus any one is said to find, that is to obtain grace, favour, praise. So Gabriel said to the Blessed Virgin, Thou hast found favour, or grace with God, i.e., Thou hast come into favour with God: thou hast gained the love of God. In Gen 26:12, it is said, “Isaac sowed in that land, and found, i.e., gained in that same year a hundred-fold.” (Vulg.) For what any one finds sprung up in his field, that he gains. So here, He that findeth his life, that is, who gains it when it is as it were lost, and causes it as though to come to him afresh by denying Christ, this man shall lose it in another and a better life.

Again matsa, he hath found, denotes liberty, sufficiency, abundance, power. So in Ps 21:9, “Let Thy hand be found by all Thine enemies.” (Vulg.) That is, let it suffice, let it be stronger and more powerful than Thine enemies. So here to find the soul is to acquire the liberty of the soul (Latin,anima; Greek,  ψυχην, psuchen, “soul,” “life”), i.e., of the life, and abundance of possessions, by denying the faith. For this was what kings and tyrants were wont to promise to those who would deny Christ.

Mat 10:40  He that receiveth you, receiveth me: and he that receiveth me, receiveth him that sent me.

He that receiveth you, &c. For he who receiveth an ambassador, in the ambassador receiveth the king who hath sent him. The Apostles were the ambassadors of Christ, and Christ of God. He, therefore, who receiveth them, receiveth Christ in them, and in Christ, God Himself-according to these words of S. Paul—”We are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us.” And again, in the Epistle to the Galatians, “Ye did not reject me, but received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus.” Christ here proposes the rewards of those who should receive the Apostles, that He may make provision for the Apostles in the poverty which He commanded them to observe—as, for instance, when they were preaching, that He might strengthen them in it, and might invite hosts to show them liberal hospitality.

Mat 10:41  He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet, shall receive the reward of a prophet: and he that receiveth a just man in the name of a just man, shall receive the reward of a just man.

He that receiveth a prophet, &c. A prophet, i.e., a teacher and preacher of the Gospel such as the Apostles were. For formerly the office of the prophets was not only to predict future events, but to teach the people, and preach the law and word of God.

Shall receive the reward of a prophet, or the hire (merces, Vulg.) Some explain this as though reward from a prophet: and that far surpassing the hospitality which they have shown, because they shall receive from the prophet the grace and faith of Christ, and the benefit of the prophet’s prayers.

2. Euthymius. The reward of a prophet—i.e., shall be equal to a prophet in his reward, shall be accounted worthy of equal honours with him.

3. And best. Shall receive, &c., because as he co-operates with the prophet, and assists him because he is a prophet and a preacher, so shall he be partaker of his labour, his merit, and his reward, and yet not in equal degree, but proportionably with the prophet, according to the co-operation and love with which he co-operates with the preacher. For so by common law the receivers of thieves and robbers are awarded similar (though not equal) punishment with the thieves themselves. Thus S. Chrysostom explains: “He shall receive that reward of a prophet which it is fitting that he should receive who receives a prophet.” S. Gregory (Hom. 20 in Evang.) says the same. Although the elm bears no fruit of itself, yet it supports the vine with its grapes: thus she makes her own what she kindly sustains of another’s.

The same rule is indicated by the old law of war. “There shall be an equal share to him who goeth down into the battle with him who remaineth by the baggage. They shall alike divide the spoils.” (1 Sam 30:24). The reward of a prophet, then, is that he shall receive the reward of his prophecy, or his preaching, because he assisted and promoted it, for without that assistance the preacher could not have preached, forasmuch as he would have lacked food.

Lastly, by the reward of a prophet some understand the gift of prophecy; which S. Jerome (On Obadiah) thinks the prophet Obadiah obtained because he fed the prophets with bread and water in Jezebel’s persecution. “Forasmuch as he nourished a hundred prophets, he received the grace of prophecy, and from a prince became a general of the Church’s army. He fed at that time a little flock in Samaria; now he feeds the churches of Christ throughout all the world.” S. Epiphanius, S. Isidore, and others think the same, though it is more probable that the Obadiah of 1 Kin. 18 and the fourth of the Minor Prophets were different persons, as I have shown in the preface to Obadiah.

He that receiveth a just man, &c. In the same way as I have said of a prophet. Yea, though such a one shall be in sin, he shall receive the grace of repentance, and shall be made righteous. For to this men are often brought by the word and example of saints who are their guests, who obtain the grace of repentance by their prayers. So S. Francis, being received by a soldier to hospitality, foretold his speedy death, persuaded him to make his confession, and obtained from God his eternal salvation. For as soon as the soldier had confessed, he expired. (See S. Bonaventura, in his Life, c. II.)

Mat 10:42  And whosoever shall give to drink to one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, amen I say to you he shall not lose his reward.

And whosoever shall give to drink, &c. Cold water, as the cheapest of all things, and within the competence of the poorest to bestow. He does not say, says S. Jerome, warm water, lest any one should make the want of fuel an excuse. And he does not speak of a goblet, or a flagon, but He says a cup, or glass. For who is so poor that he could not give, or at least carry, a cup of water? S. Augustine gives the same explanation.

In the name of a disciple, i.e., because he is My disciple, because he adheres to My teaching, and believes in Me. For this having respect to Christ, ennobles and exalts both the intention of the giver and the work itself; that which is given to a Christian, Christ esteems as bestowed upon Himself, and as such recompenses it with a great reward. For if you should do the same work for a different reason, because the person benefited is your servant, or relation, or friend, the deed is of little or no merit in the eyes of God. For this would be an alms, or an act of natural pity; but the former an act of supernatural mercy. So theologians and Suarez (lib. 2, de necessitat. gratiæ, c. xvi. 10). By these words of Christ it is intimated that a work of mercy done to a man only because he is a man, is of the natural order: but if it be done because he is a believer, a fellow citizen with the saints, and of the household of God, it is a work of mercy of a higher, that is, of a supernatural order.

An illustrious example of this occurs in the life of S. Anastasia, V. and M. After her tongue had been cut off (Lat. Præscinderetur), and her teeth knocked out, being athirst, she asked for water (poposcit). A certain man named Cyril gave her to drink, and by that one cup of cold water purchased the crown of martyrdom. For when Probus the governor understood that he had done this for a Christian woman because he was a Christian, he sent him to a martyr’s death.

From these words of Christ some theologians (with Suarez) gather as probable, that grace in a just man is increased by remisser acts: as if, for example, a just man should have intense degrees of grace, say as eight, but should perform an act of almsgiving, by giving, for example, a cup of cold water to a poor man in a remiss kind of way—say as three—by which act he would nevertheless acquire an augmentation of his habitual intense grace as eight, by three additional grades, so that it would be intensified, or extended as eleven. See the full discussion of this question in Suarez (Tom. 3 de Gratia, lib. 9, cap. 3, nu. 36).

Lastly, Christ here signifies that no work, however small, done to a preacher, shall go without its reward. Of this nature are those remiss works which just men do in great abundance. And they would lose the reward of very many of their works, were it not that remiss works increase the more intense grace; for few Christians perform acts so intense that they equal, or exceed the habit; and Christ here teaches that they do not lose their reward.

Mat 11:1  And it came to pass, when Jesus had made an end of commanding his twelve disciples, he passed from thence, to teach and to preach in their cities.

And it came to pass, &c. He passed from thence: That means, He separated Himself from His Apostles, whom He sent to preach the Gospel by themselves, both that they might prepare the way for Christ who was about to follow them, and that they might make trial of themselves and their courage in this Mission, being separated from their Master. What the Apostles did when thus sent forth by Christ, S. Matthew is silent upon, but S. Luke relates it (Luke 9:6), and so does S. Mark (6:12).

Note: The above translation of 11:1 reflects most modern translations inasmuch as it reads he passed from thence, to teach and to preach in their cities making the referent to Jesus, but the actual referent is unexpressed in the Greek text. As the following comment show, Lapide understands it as applying to the twelve.

That they should teach and preach in their cities: i.e., in the cities of the Jews and the Galilæans, to whom He sent them. Note the Hebraism here. For the Heb. frequently leaves unexpressed the antecedent of the relative, or demonstrative pronoun, but leaves it to be understood from the circumstances of the case by the reader or hearer. There are similar instances to be found in Ps 99:8, 2 Sam17:24, &c.

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One Response to Father Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on Matthew 10:34-11:1

  1. Pingback: Commentaries for the Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A | stjoeofoblog

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