Father Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on Matthew 25:14-30

Notes in red are my additions.

Mat 25:14  For even as a man going into a far country called his servants and delivered to them his goods;

For even as a man going into a far country, &c. (Vulg.). Supply from what precedes, So shall be the coming of the Son of Man to judgment (Matt 24:27). The word for denotes the scope of the parable. By it Christ would prove what He said in the verse before, Watch ye therefore, because you know not the day nor the hour.

The object of the parable is to show how exact an account Christ will require from the slothful in the Day of Judgment; and how great will be the reward which He will give to the diligent, who have carefully used His gifts to the glory of God. The parable is similar to that which Luke records (Luke 19:11), but with some differences. For they were spoken by Christ at different times, and with different objects. The parable in Luke was spoken before Palm Sunday; but this in S. Matthew after it, on the Tuesday before Good Friday. Hence S. Chrysostom, Euthymius, Jansen, and others think they are different parables, or rather, the same parable told in different ways. For instead of talents, Luke has minæ (a monetary unit of measurement for gold, silver, etc.).

Now the man here spoken of is Christ. For Christ went a long journey when He ascended into Heaven, being about to be absent a long time from earth and His Church. So Origen, Jerome, Bede. Others think that Christ’s going far off (peregre) means His transference of the preaching of the gospel from the Jews to the Gentiles by means of the Apostles, and His founding the kingdom of His Church amongst them. And this applies well to the relation of the parable by S. Luke, where it is introduced with reference to Zacchæus, a publican, and, as it were, a Gentile, to whose house Christ, leaving the Jews, brought salvation. But in such a case the whole parable of the servants and the talents would have to be restricted to the Jews. For the Master is here said to have distributed His talents before He went His long journey,-that is to say, to the Gentiles. Wherefore the former explanation is of wider scope, and so more true. By the servants all the faithful are to he understood, whether Jews or Gentiles. Talents are goods, either because the Master, like merchants and chapmen, had all His goods in money-in talents of gold and silver; or else because revenues and estates are called talents, which were valued, some at one talent, some at two, some at five talents. In like manner, in Latin, whatever is bought or valued for money is called money.

Mat 25:15  And to one he gave five talents, and to another two, and to another one, to every one according to his proper ability: and immediately he took his journey.

And to one he gave, &c. Instead of talents, Luke has mnas, or minasMna in Hebrew signifies numbered or defined, with reference to value, or weight of gold or silver. The root is mana, he numbered. It is the word used in Daniel 5:25, mene. The Hebrew mna was equal to about 2½ pounds. A Hebrew talent was equivalent to sixty Hebrew mnas. (Modern scholars note that a single talent was worth about six thousand denarii. A singe one of these (a denarius) represented the daily wage of an ordinary day laborer in Jesus’ time).

By talents understand all the gifts of God, without which we can do nothing. These gifts are, I say—1st Of grace, both making grateful,1 such as faith, hope, charity, virginity, and all the other virtues, as well as those of grace given gratis—such as the power of working miracles, the Apostolate, the Priesthood, the gift of tongues, prophecy, &c. 2d Natural gifts, such as a keen intellect, a sound judgment, a sound constitution, prudence, industry, learning, eloquence. 3d External goods and gifts, as honours, riches, rank, &c. So S. Chrysostom. For all these things God distributes unequally, according to His good pleasure. And with this end in view, that each should use them for God’s glory, and the good of himself and others. For so He will increase them, both by Himself (for all habits grow by use and exercise) and also in merit and reward. For to that man there will be added crowns and coronets celestial, as of virginity, martyrdom. Moreover, there is no man who hath not received one, ay, several of these gifts of God, though one hath more, another less. For, as S. Gregory saith (Hom. 5, in Evang.), “There is no man who can say with truth, ‘I have not received a single talent. There is nothing of which I must give an account.’ For to every poor man even this shall be reckoned as a talent, that he hath received but a very little.” For to many it is a greater gift of God, and more conducive to their salvation, that they have poverty rather than wealth, sickness and not health, a humble station instead of an exalted one. Let us take as instances S. Paul, S. Timothy, S. Onesimus. S. Paul received, as it were, five talents or gifts from God,-as the gift of tongues, miracles, the apostolate, zeal for souls, power in preaching. Timothy received, as it were, two,-knowledge of the Scriptures, and the bishopric of Ephesus. But Onesimus one, that is to say, zeal to minister to Paul in prison at Rome. By means of this he merited many others, as the bishopric of Colosse, the conversion of many, and martyrdom.

You will ask, in what manner does God distribute these His gifts according to every one’s ability (Gr. δύναμιν), power, strength? I answer, this is partly an emblema pertaining only to the adornment of the parable. For so among men, prudent masters are wont to entrust their goods to servants in such a manner that they trust more to him who possesses greater prudence and industry, less to him who has less. For it is certain, in opposition to the Pelagians, that primary grace is not given according to natural powers and merits, yea, that there is no natural disposition to grace.

But, in part, this pertains to the meaning of the parable. For favours and stations given gratis, such as magistracies, the episcopate, priesthood, &c., God often confers in accordance with natural powers, and does not raise any one to such a condition unless he be either suited to it by nature, or unless He Himself makes him fit. Men do the same when they choose any one for a shepherd, a bishop, a prelate. Indeed, when God determines to bestow any permanent gift whatsoever upon any one, He first gives him the capacity, or natural or supernatural proportional disposition or merit, by means of which he becomes suitable for the bestowment of this gift, or may make himself fitted for it. Thus God gave to Moses a zeal on behalf of his nation, that He might thereby dispose him to deliver them out of Egypt. So also He gave S. Paul a zeal for the Mosaic law, that He might make use of him when he was purified for the propagation of the Law of Christ. So He instilled into SS. Mary Magdalene and Peter an immense contrition for sin, that He might, through it, dispose them to an immense sanctity. So it is with those whom God chooses and destines to virginity, the religious life, martyrdom, mission work in India. He first infuses into them a vehement desire, by which they fit and prepare themselves for what they have to do.

Lastly, S. Thomas (1 p. quæst. 62, art. 6) teaches that God has distributed to the angels His gifts of grace and glory, according to their natural gifts. Those who are more lofty by nature are also higher in grace and glory, And he adds, that God deals in like fashion with men. For he says, “This also happens among men, that in proportion to the fervour of their conversion to God, greater grace and glory are given them.” Often, indeed, God acts in a way the reverse of this, and gives greater gifts of grace to persons of weak intellect-to the ignorant and despised-than He does to the learned, the witty, and the honourable. Thus He did to S. Francis, S. Catherine of Sienna, S. Simeon Stylites, and many others. After a like fashion God distributes His gifts of grace, freely given, in accordance with His own hidden counsels. For many are set in high station who are by no means worthy of it; many are the Priests who are unfit for the Priesthood. And yet, in no persons whatsoever are nature and natural endowments a merit, or a disposition to grace.

Wherefore it does not follow from these words of Christ that “the gifts of God are conferred upon every man, according to the measure of his merit,” according to the charge which Calvin calumniously brings against the Catholics. For it is one thing to be by nature capable of receiving the gifts of God; it is another thing to merit those gifts. It is one thing to be able to possess charity; it is another thing to possess it. This is Prosper’s teaching (lib. 2, de Vocatione Gentium, c. 2).

An immediately he took his journey. Luke adds, that Christ, before He went away, after dividing the pounds, or talents, amongst His servants, said, Trade until I come. He meant, “Increase these My talents by labouring diligently all your life long, and bring Me what you have gained when I return to judgment.” By and by he adds, But his citizens hated him and they sent an embassage after him, saying: We will not have this man to reign over us. The citizens of Christ are those Jews who rejected Him, who would not acknowledge Him as their King and Messiah, who said, “We have no king but Cæsar,” as they cried before Pilate when they asked that Christ might be crucified. And again, after His resurrection, they persecuted the Apostles and Christians who preached and spread the kingdom of Christ. Wherefore concerning the righteous chastisement which came upon the Jews, Luke subjoins that Christ said, “But as for those my enemies, who would not have me reign over them, bring them hither and kill them before me.” Christ did this when He slew the Jews by the hands of Titus. He will do it yet more in the Day of Judgment, when He will punish all his enemies with death eternal.

Mat 25:16  And he that had received the five talents went his way and traded with the same and gained other five.

And he that had received the five talents, &c. To gain talents is to increase the gifts of God by using and increasing them, especially by means of good works, and helping our neighbour to increase and multiply the grace of God in ourselves and others. This parable intimates that every one ought to co-operate with the grace of God with all his might. For example, he who has, as it were, five degrees of charity, ought to exercise charity in a corresponding degree of intensity. By this means he will gain from God five degrees more. Again, by exercising charity thus increased as ten degrees, in acts of corresponding intensity, he may gain other ten decrees, and possess, as it were, twenty degrees. And so on, marvellously doubling, and multiplying the gain of his talents, that is to say, the degrees of his charity. Let it be, therefore, that a man by his charity should gain few or none to Christ by preaching, yet will he have the same merit and reward of his charity and preaching as if he had converted multitudes. The conversion of others is not often in our power, but the merit of doing so is always in our power.

Moraliter: S. Gregory says (Hom. 9, in Evang.), “This passage of the Gospel admonishes us anxiously to beware lest we, who seem to have received somewhat more than others in this world, should, for that reason, be judged more severely by the Maker of the world. For in proportion as gifts are increased, so is the account to be rendered of the gifts.”

Mat 25:17  And in like manner he that had received the two gained other two.

And in like manner &c. This man also, by diligently and correspondingly using his talent, that is, co-operating with grace, doubled it.

Mat 25:18  But he that had received the one, going his way, digged into the earth and hid his lord’s money.

But he that had received one…hid his lord’s money. Arab. buried his lord’s silver. To bury a talent is, through negligence and sloth, not to use or exercise the grace bestowed upon one. Here observe, that this burying of his talent is ascribed to him who only received one talent. This is not because others, who have received more, do not often do the same, but in order that we may understand that if he, who had only misused his one talent, was thus severely punished by his master, far sharper will be the Lord’s censure and punishment of those who have misused more and greater talents. Wherefore Paul says, “We exhort you, that ye receive not the grace of God in vain” (2 Cor. vi. 11). And again, “His grace in me was not in vain, but I laboured more abundantly than they all” (1Cor 15:10); and, “Woe is me, if I preach not the Gospel.”

Let those who do not use genius, learning, prudence, or other gifts of God, for their own or others’ benefits, on account of sloth, or fear of sinning, or for any similar reason, note this. For of them will Christ demand an exact account of these gifts in the Day of Judgment. Observe also, that those who have received few talents, often, through sloth, leave them idle, and, as it were, bury them; whilst those who have received more are stimulated by them, and either use them rightly and meritoriously, or else abuse them to vanity. And these last are punished not so much for letting their talents lie idle, as for misusing them! Thus we commonly see that those who have great powers of intellect, if they do not employ them for good purposes, do so for bad.

Mat 25:19  But after a long time the lord of those servants came and reckoned with them.

But after a long time, &c.  This reckoning Christ makes with every one severally at death, and the particular judgment. He will make it publicly in the general Judgment.

Mat 25:20  And he that had received the five talents coming, brought other five talents, saying: Lord, thou didst deliver to me five talents. Behold I have gained other five over and above.

And he that had received the five talents coming, &c. Hear how pathetically S. Gregory depicts this scene: “In that great examination the whole multitude of the elect and the reprobate will be led forth, and it will be shown what each hath done. Then Peter will take his stand, with Judæa converted at his side. There Paul, with, I might almost say, a converted world. There will be Andrew with Achaia, John with Asia, Thomas with India, which they will bring into the presence of the Judge. There will appear all the rams of the Lord’s flock, with the souls which were given them for their hire. When, therefore, so many shepherds with their flocks shall come before the eyes of the Eternal Pastor, what shall we, miserable ones, be able to say, if we return before the Lord empty, we who have the name of pastors, but have no sheep, which we have fed, to present?”
Mat 25:21  His lord said to him: Well done, good and faithful servant, because thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will place thee over many things. Enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

His lord said to him, Well done, &c. Luke has (Luke 19:19), Be thou over five cities. The parable is taken from the idea of a king, who is accustomed to reward his faithful servants by setting them over many cities. It signifies also that the Saints, who use diligently the grace that God gives them, will be sharers in the glory and joy of His kingdom, but in greater or less degrees according to the labour and merit of each.

Our Salmeron is of opinion that it is here intimated, and tacitly promised, that the Saints in Heaven shall be set by God to preside over the places in which they laboured while on earth, so that in those places they may heal diseases and work miracles, because they have deserved this by their labours. That thus S. James works miracles at Compostella and in Spain; S. Dionysius at Paris and in Gaul; S. Ambrose at Milan; S. Boniface in Germany.

Mat 25:22  And he also that had received the two talents came and said: Lord, thou deliveredst two talents to me. Behold I have gained other two.
Mat 25:23  His lord said to him: Well done, good and faithful servant: because thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will place thee over many things. Enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

And he also that had received the two talents, &c.  The Arab. has, And these are the five talents which I have gained, as though the servant showed them, and offered them to his master. The same thing is said as in vers. 20 and 21, save that there were five talents, here there are two. For, as S. Jerome says, “The Lord does not regard so much the greatness of the gain, as the good-will and the desire. And it is possible that he who receives two talents, by trading diligently with them, may merit more than he who receives five, and uses them in a lukewarm manner.” Thus S. Nicolas Tolentinus passed his life in constant prayer and the practice of austerities. He used to fast on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays on bread and water, in honour of the Blessed Virgin, and used to punish himself by means of an iron chain. Six months before his death he heard daily at vespers angelic songs, which invited him to the marriage feast of the Lamb in Heaven. Just before his death he was filled with a marvellous joy. Being asked the reason, he said, “My Lord Jesus Christ, leaning upon His mother and our father Augustine, is saying to me, Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of thy Lord.” Presently joining and lifting up his hands, and raising his eyes to the Cross, he said, “Into Thy hands, 0 Lord, I commend my spirit.” And thus with joyful countenance he resigned his soul to God, A.D. 1306, on the 10th of September.
Mat 25:24  But he that had received the one talent, came and said: Lord, I know that thou art a hard man; thou reapest where thou hast not sown and gatherest where thou hast not strewed.
Mat 25:25  And being afraid, I went and hid thy talent in the earth. Behold here thou hast that which is thine.

But he that had received the one talent, &c. &c. There is an emblem here which only pertains to the embellishment of the parable. For this, says Frank Lucas, is the way in which lazy servants excuse their idleness, throwing it upon the severity of their masters. As if they said, “You are not willing to lose, but always want to gain. And if gain is not brought you, you take away the property of your poor servants for any reason, or none.”

It is to be observed that the reprobate in the Day of Judgment, when they behold the Saints thus rewarded by Christ and themselves sentenced to Gehenna, will, out of despair and madness, inveigh against Christ the Judge, and will shamelessly reproach Him for His too great severity, and will impiously and blasphemously throw the blame of their damnation upon Him. And thus they, in hell, being driven to madness by the severity and eternal duration of their torments, will continually blaspheme God, and Christ, and the Saints, as though they were the authors of their sufferings, directly or indirectly.
Mat 25:26  And his lord answering, said to him: Wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sow not and gather where I have not strewed.
Mat 25:27  Thou oughtest therefore to have committed my money to the bankers: and at my coming I should have received my own with usury.

His lord answering said to him, &c. This likewise is an emblem, and only signifies how we ought by all means to increase the grace of God. Observe that they are called money-changers, who make gain by exchange, and by lending and borrowing. This gain is lawful in the way of exchange and merchandise. It is unlawful in the way of lending upon interest, and is the sin of usury. Wherefore the Lord in this place does not speak so much according to the abstract right of the matter, as parabolically, partly because of the common practice of nations (for usury was allowed in many nations, especially among the Jews, who think that God permitted them to exact it from the Gentiles, in Deut. xxiii. 19), partly as a deduction from the words of the slothful servant, who attributed to his master the avarice of extorting money, by fair means or foul, from himself or others. This passage may, however, be accommodated to what is signified by the parable in the following manner-that God requires of us interest, as it were, for His gifts and graces, but that He will render us far greater interest of glory in Heaven. Hence the saying, “If thou wilt lend, lend unto God.” Also it is said in Prov. (Prov 19:17), “He that hath mercy upon the poor lendeth unto the Lord; and what he layeth out it shall be paid him again.”

Mat 25:28  Take ye away therefore the talent from him and give it him that hath ten talents.

Take ye away therefore the talent, &c. This, too, is only an emblem. The Lord throws back the charge of avarice, with which the slothful servant accused him. It is as if he said, “Thou seest, 0 thou slothful servant, that I do not covetously seek this gain for myself, but for my servants. When I take back the talent which I gave to thee, I do not put it away in a chest for myself. I bestow it upon him who used his five talents so well, that he gained five other talents with them. He therefore deserves this talent of yours, or rather mine, as a recompense of his labour and merit.”

But besides the emblematic character of these words, they are also partly applicable to the thing signified by the parable. For, in the Day of Judgment, God will actually take away His graces from the reprobate, who have misused them. He often does the same thing even in this life. Indeed, He always takes away from a man the grace which makes him pleasing in the eyes of God, when that man sins mortally, as when, for instance, he, through sloth, neglects to perform some commandment of Gad, which is binding under the penalty of mortal sin. But this which is added, Give it to him that hath ten talents, is an emblem. It tacitly intimates,—1st That the Saints, who diligently use the grace of God, are worthy of greater grace; and that as to the grace which the unworthy and the slothful possess, it is not seldom, even in this life, transferred from them to the former. Thus it is said in Rev 3:11, “Hold fast that thou hast, that no man take thy crown.” 2d That the Saints in Heaven will rejoice, both on account of their own talents, as well as those of the reprobate. 3d Because God, in Heaven, will bestow all gifts, all endowments and graces, even those which the reprobate have possessed in this world, upon the Blessed. For Beatitude is a state which is perfect by reason of the aggregation of all good, as Boetius says. Understand that these gifts are here spoken of, not as to their number, but as to their kind.

Mat 25:29  For to every one that hath shall be given, and he shall abound: but from him that hath not, that also which he seemeth to have shall be taken away.

For to every one that hath, &c. The Arab. is, Unto him that hath shall be given, and shall be added; and from him that hath not shall be taken away that which is with him.

For to every one that hath. S. Chrysostom and S. Augustine explain this to mean, all who rightly use their talents. For he, in truth, possesses a talent who rightly uses it. For the idle person, who does not make use of it, does not appear really to have it.

But from him that hath not, that is to say, the gain of the talents and the grace acquired by him; or, he who has not, in the sense that he does not use his talent, as I have said, that also which he seemeth to have, that is, the talent which he has suffered to lie idle, so that he has not so much had it, as seemed to have it, shall be taken away. After a like fashion saith the comic poet, “The covetous man lacks that which he hath as much as if he had it not.” He hides it in his chest, so that it is the chest which hath it, not himself. The covetous man does not so much possess his gold, as he is possessed and owned by his gold. He is its slave.

Mat 25:30  And the unprofitable servant, cast ye out into the exterior darkness. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Cast ye out into the exterior darkness. Contrasts with the words to the other two in verses  21 and 23: Enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

Weeping and gnashing of teeth. See Matt 8:12; 13:42, 50; 22:13; 24:51.

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Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Matthew 25:14-30

Ver 14. “For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods.15. And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey.16. Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents.17. And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two.18. But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money.19. After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them.20. And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more.21. His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.22. He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents behold, I have gained two other talents beside them.23. His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.24. Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed:25. And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine.26. His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed:27. Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received my own with usury.28. Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents.29. For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.30. And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Gloss.: In the foregoing parable is set forth the condemnation of such as have not prepared sufficient oil for themselves, whether by oil is meant the brightness of good works, or inward joy of conscience, or alms paid in money.

Chrys.: This parable is delivered against those who will not assist their neighbours either with money, or words, or in any other way, but hide all that they have.

Greg., Hom. in Ev., ix, i: The man in travelling into a far country is our Redeemer, who ascended into heaven in that flesh which He had taken upon Him. For the proper home of the flesh is the earth, and it, as it were, travels into a foreign country, when it is placed by the Redeemer in heaven.

Origen: He travels, not according to His divine nature, but according to the dispensation of the flesh which He took upon Him. For He who says to His disciples, “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world,” [Mat_28:20] is the Only-Begotten God, who is not circumscribed by bodily form. By saying this, we do not disunite Jesus, but attribute its proper qualities to each constituent substance.

We may also explain thus, that the Lord travels in a far country with all those who walk by faith and not by sight. And when we are absent from the body with the Lord, then will He also he with us. Observe that the turn of expression is not thus, I am like, or The Son of Man is like, “a man travelling into a far country,” because He is represented in the parable as travelling, not as the Son of God, but as man.

Jerome: Calling together the Apostles, He gave them the Gospel doctrine, to one more, to another less, not as of His own bounty or scanting, but as meeting the capacity of the receivers, as the Apostle says [marg. note 1Co_3:2], that he fed with milk those that were unable to take solid food. In the five, two, and one talent, we recognise the diversity of gifts wherewith we have been entrusted.

Origen: Whenever you see of those who have received from Christ a dispensation of the oracles of God that some have more and some less; that some have not in comparison of the better sort half an understanding of things; that others have still less; you will perceive the difference of those who have all of them received from Christ oracles of God. They to whom five talents were given, and they to whom two, and they to whom one, have divers degrees of capacity, and one could not hold the measure of another; he who received but one having received no mean endowment, for one talent of such a master is a great thing.

His proper servants are three, as there are three sorts of those that bear fruit. He that received five talents, is he that is able to raise all the meanings of the Scriptures to their more divine significations; he that has two is he that has been taught carnal doctrine, (for two seems to be a carnal number,) and to the less strong the Master of the household has given one talent.

Greg.: Otherwise; The five talents denote the gift of the five senses, that is, the knowledge of things without; the two signify understanding and action, the one talent understanding only.

Gloss., ord.: “And straightway took his journey,” not changing his place, but leaving them to their own freewill and choice of action.

Jerome: “He that had received five talents,” that is, having received his bodily senses, he doubled his knowledge of heavenly things, from the creature understanding the Creator, from earthly unearthly, from temporal the eternal.

Greg.: There are also some who though they cannot pierce to things inward and mystical, yet for their measure of view of their heavenly country they teach rightly such things as they can, what they have gathered from things without, and while they keep themselves from wantonness of the flesh, and from ambition of earthly things, and from the delights of the things that are seen, they restrain others also from the same by their admonitions.

Origen: Or, They that have their senses exercised by healthy conversation, both raising themselves to higher knowledge and zealous in teaching others, these have gained other five; because no one can easily have increase of any virtues that are not his own, and without he teaches others what he himself knows, and no more.

Hilary: Or, That servant who received five talents is the people of believers under the Law, who beginning with that, doubled their merit by the right obedience of an evangelic faith.

Greg.: Again, there are some who by their understanding and their actions preach to others, and thence gain as it were a twofold profit in such merchandize. This their preaching bestowed upon both sexes is thus a talent doubled.

Origen: Or, “gained other two,” that is, carnal instruction, and another yet a little higher.

Hilary: Or, the servant to whom two talents were committed is the people of the Gentiles justified by the faith and confession of the Son and of the Father, confessing our Lord Jesus Christ, to be both God and Man, both Spirit and Flesh. These are the two talents committed to this servant. But as the Jewish people doubled by its belief in the Gospel every Sacrament which it had learned in the Law, (i.e. its five talents,) so this people by its use of its two talents merited understanding and working.

Greg.: To hide one’s talent in the earth is to devote the ability we have received to worldly business.

Origen: Or otherwise; When you see one who has the power of teaching, and of benefitting souls, hiding this power, though he may have a certain religiousness of life, doubt not of such an one that he has received one talent and hides it in the earth.

Hilary: Or, This servant who has received one talent and hid it in the earth is the people that continue in the Law, who through jealousy of the salvation of the Gentiles hide the talent they have received in the earth. For to hide a talent in the earth is to hide the glory of the new preaching through offence at the Passion of His Body. His coming to reckon with them is the assize of the day of judgment.

Origen: And note here that the servants do not come to the Lord to be judged, but the Lord shall come to them when the time shall be accomplished. “After a long time,” that is, when He has sent forth such as are fitted to bring about the salvation of souls, and perhaps for this reason it is not easy to find one who is quite fit to pass forthwith out of this life, as is manifest from this, that even the Apostles lived to old age; for example, it was said to Peter, “When thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hand;” [Joh_21:18] and Paul says to Philemon, “Now as Paul the aged.”

Chrys.: Observe also that the Lord does not require the reckoning immediately, that you may learn His long suffering. To me He seems to say this covertly, alluding to the resurrection.

Jerome: “After a long time,” because there is a long interval between the Saviour’s ascension and His second coming.

Greg.: This lesson from this Gospel warns us to consider whether those who seem to have received more in this world than others shall not be more severely judged by the Author of the world; the greater the gifts, the greater the reckoning for them. Therefore should every one be humble concerning his talents in proportion as he sees himself tied up with a greater responsibility.

Origen: He who had received five talents comes first with boldness before his Lord.

Greg., Hom. in Ev., ix, 2: And bringing his talents doubled, he is commended by his Lord, and is sent into eternal happiness.

Raban.: “Well done” is an interjection of joy; the Lord shewing us therein the joy with which He invites the servant who labours well to eternal bliss; of which the Prophet speaks, “In thy presence is fulness of joy.” [Psa_16:11]

Chrys.: “Thou good servant,” this he means of that goodness which is shewn towards our neighbour.

Gloss., non occ.: “Faithful,” because he appropriated to himself none of those things which were his lord’s.

Jerome: He says, “Thou wast faithful in a few things,” because all that we have at present though they seem great and many, yet in comparison of the things to come are little and few.

Greg.: The faithful servant is set over many things, when having overcome the afflictions of corruption, he joys with eternal joy in that heavenly seat. He is then fully admitted to the joy of his Lord, when taken in to that abiding country, and numbered among the companies of Angels, he has such inward joy for this gift, that there is no room for outward sorrow at his corruption.

Jerome: What greater thing can be given to a faithful servant than to be with his Lord, and to see his Lord’s joy?

Chrys.: By this word “joy” He expresses complete blessedness.

Aug., de Trin., i, 8: This will be our perfect joy, than which is none greater, to have fruition of that Divine Trinity in whose image we were made.

Jerome: The servant who of five talents had made ten, and he who of two had made four, are received with equal favour by the Master of the household, who looks not to the largeness of their profit, but to the disposition of their will.

Origen: That He says of both these servants that they “came,” we must understand of their passing out of this world to Him. And observe that the same was said to them both; he that had less capacity, but that which he had, he exercised after such manner as he ought, shall have no whit less with God than he who has a greater capacity; for all that is required is that whatever a man has from God, he should use it all to the glory of God.

Greg., Hom. in Ev., ix: The servant who would not trade with his talent returns to his Lord with words of excuse.

Jerome: For truly that which is written, “To offer excuses excusing sins” [Psa_141:4] happened to this servant, so that to slothfulness and idleness was added also the sin of pride. For he who ought to have honestly acknowledged his fault, and to have entreated the Master of the household, on the contrary cavils against him, and avers that he did it with provident design, lest while he sought to make profit he should hazard the capital.

Origen: This servant seems to me to have been one of those who believe, but do not act honestly, concealing their faith, and doing every thing that they may not be known to be Christians. They who are such seem to me to have a fear of God, and to regard Him as austere and implacable. We indeed understand how the Lord reaps where He sowed not, because the righteous man sows in the Spirit, whereof he shall reap life eternal. Also He reaps where He sowed not, and gathers where he scattered not, because He counts as bestowed upon Himself all that is sown among the poor.

Jerome: Also, by this which this servant dared to say, “Thou reapest where thou sowedst not,” we understand that the Lord accepts the good life of the Gentiles and of the Philosophers.

Greg.: But there are many within the Church of whom this servant is a type, who fear to set out on the path of a better life, and yet are not afraid to continue in carnal indolence; they esteem themselves sinners, and therefore tremble to take up the paths of holiness, but fearlessly remain in their own iniquities.

Hilary: Or, By this servant is understood the Jewish people which continues in the Law, and says, I was “afraid of thee,” as through fear of the old commandments abstaining from the exercise of evangelical liberty; and it says, “Lo, there is that is thine,” as though it had continued in those things which the Lord commanded, when yet it knew that the fruits of righteousness should be reaped there, where the Law had not been sown, and that there should be gathered from among the Gentiles some who were not scattered of the seed of Abraham.

Jerome: But what he thought would be his excuse is turned into his condemnation. He calls him “wicked servant,” because he cavilled against his Lord; and “slothful,” because he would not double his talent; condemning his pride in the one, and his idleness in the other. If you knew me to be hard and austere, and to seek after other men’s goods, you should also have known that I exact with the more rigour that is mine own, and should have given my money to the bankers; for the Greek word here means money.

“The words of the Lord are pure words, silver tried in the fire.” [Psa_12:6] The money, or silver, then are the preaching of the Gospel and the heavenly word; which ought to be given to the bankers, that is, either to the other doctors, which the Apostles did when they ordained Priests and Bishops throughout the cities; or to all the believers, who can double the sum and restore it with usury by fulfilling in act what they have learned in word.

Greg., Hom. in Ev., ix, 4: So then we see as well the peril of the teachers if they withhold the Lord’s money, as that of the hearers from whom is exacted with usury that they have heard, namely, that from what they have heard they should strive to understand that they have not heard.

Origen: The Lord did not allow that He was “a hard man” as the servant supposed, but He assented to all his other words. But He is indeed hard to those who abuse the mercy of God to suffer themselves to become remiss, and use it not to be converted.

Greg.: Let us hear now the sentence by which the Lord condemns the slothful servant, “Take away from him the talent, and give it to him that hath ten talents.”

Origen: The Lord is able by the might of His divinity to take away his ability from the man who is slack to use it, and to give it to him who has improved his own.

Greg., Hom. in Ev., ix, 5: It might seem more seasonable to have given it rather to him who had two, than to him who had five. But as the five talents denote the knowledge of things without, the two understanding and action, he who had the two had more than he who had the five talents; this man with his five talents merited the administration of things without, but was yet without any understanding of things eternal. The one talent therefore, which we say signifies the intellect, ought to be given to him who had administered well the things without which he had received; the same we see happen every day in the Holy Church, that they who administer faithfully things without, are also mighty in the inward understanding.

Jerome: Or, it is given to him who had gained five talents, that we may understand that though the Lord’s joy over the labour of each be equal, of him who doubled the five as of him who doubled the two, yet is a greater reward due to him who laboured more in the Lord’s money.

Greg., Hom. in Ev., ix, 6: Then follows a general sentence, “For to every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance, but from him that hath not, even that which he seemeth to have shall be taken away.” For whosoever has charity receives the other gifts also; but whosoever has not charity loses even the gifts which he seemed to have had.

Chrys.: Also he who has the graces of eloquence and of teaching to profit withal, and uses it not, loses that grace; but he who does his endeavour in putting it to use acquires a larger share.

Jerome: Many also who are naturally clever and have sharp wit, if they become neglectful, and by disuse spoil that good they have by nature, these do, in comparison of him who being somewhat dull by nature compensates by industry and painstaking his backwardness, lose their natural gift, and see the reward promised them pass away to others.

But it may also be understood thus; To him who has faith, and a right will in the Lord, even if he come in aught short in deed as being man, shall be given by the merciful Judge; but he who has not faith, shall lose even the other virtues which he seems to have naturally. And He says carefully, “From him that hath not, shall be taken away even that which he seemeth to have,” for whatsoever is without faith in Christ ought not to be imputed to him who uses it amiss, but to Him who gives the goods of nature even to a wicked servant.

Greg.: Or, Whoso has not charity, loses even those things which he seems to have received.

Hilary: And on those who have the privilege of the Gospels, the honour of the Law is also conferred, but from him who has not the faith of Christ is taken away even that honour which seemed to be his through the Law.

Chrys.: The wicked servant is punished not only by loss of his talent, but by intolerable infliction, and a denunciation in accusation joined therewith.

Origen: “Into outer darkness,” where is no light, perhaps not even physical light; and where God is not seen, but those who are condemned thereto are condemned as unworthy the contemplation of God. We have also read some one before us expounding this of the darkness of that abyss which is outside the world, as though unworthy of the world, they were cast out into that abyss, where is darkness with none to lighten it.

Greg.: And thus for punishment he shall be cast into outer darkness who has of his own free will fallen into inward darkness.

Jerome: What is weeping and gnashing of teeth we have said above.

Chrys.: Observe that not only he who robs others, or who works evil, is punished with extreme punishment, but he also who does not good works.

Greg., Hom. in Ev., lx, 7: Let him then who has understanding look that he hold not his peace; let him who has affluence not be dead to mercy; let him who has the art of guiding life communicate its use with his neighbour; and him who has the faculty of eloquence intercede with the rich for the poor. For the very least endowment will be reckoned as a talent entrusted for use.

Origen: If you are offended at this we have said, namely that a man shall be judged if he does not teach others, call to mind the Apostle’s words, “Woe is unto me if I preach not the Gospel.” [1Co_9:16]

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My Notes on 1 Thessalonians 5:1-7

1Th 5:1  But of the times and moments, brethren, you need not, that we should write to you:
1Th 5:2  For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord shall so come as a thief in the night.

The first verse echoes what was said in 1 Thess 4:9 concerning love. The two verses together show that the Thessalonians had received previous instructions concerning the subject treated here (as in 1 Thess 4:2 regarding holiness). Ironically, false teachings concerning the coming of Christ-possibly in letter form-caused the Thessalonians problems a latter time, causing Paul to write a second letter to the Church (see 2 Thess 2:1-2), wherein he more forcefully appeals to the traditional faith they received (2 Thess 2:5, 13-15).

As a thief in the night. It may seem odd that Paul is comparing the coming of Christ to the unexpected and terrifying discovery of a thief in one’s home in the dead of night, but the subject of verses 3 & 4 makes its usage clear.

1Th 5:3  For when they shall say: Peace and security; then shall sudden destruction come upon them, as the pains upon her that is with child, and they shall not escape.
1Th 5:4  But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day should overtake you as a thief.
1Th 5:5  For all you are the children of light and children of the day: we are not of the night nor of darkness.

A man who gets falling-down-drunk even though he know that a thief is going to break into his house deserves all the terror that event could have. Who in their right mind would not stay alert for such an event? But Christians know full well that Christ will come in judgment, therefore they ought to be prepared for the coming of Christ; a day of destruction upon the lax, but a day of salvation for those who are ready. There will be no terror for those who are the sons of the light and the day. The reference to sons calls to mind the image of motherhood and fatherhood Paul had applied to himself and his co-missionaries in relation to the Thessalonians (1 Thess 2:5-12). Notice that the imagery ends with the words “…we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to lead a life worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.” Children ought to imitate their holy parents for their own good.

1Th 5:6  Therefore, let us not sleep, as others do: but let us watch, and be sober.
1Th 5:7  For they that sleep, sleep in the night; and they that are drunk, are drunk in the night.

1 Thess 5:6-7 The missionaries had toiled day and night among the Thessalonians (1 Thess 2:9), not sleeping on the job or seeking worldly comforts like lazy drunkards. Unfortunately, some of the Thessalonians, perhaps in a misguided attempt to prepare for the coming of Christ, had given up work (1 Thess 4:11), and become idle (1 Thess 5:14 see also 2 Thess 3:6-11). Not without reason does the Church insist on the sanctity of work (CCC 2427-2428).

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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).


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


NABRE. Used in the USA.

NJB. Used in most other English speaking countries.

Divine Office.


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.


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.


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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