Thursday, 28 August 2014

St Luke 17:1-19

Et ait ad discipulos suos: Impossibile est ut non veniant scandala: væ autem illi per quem veniunt. 2 Utilius est illi si lapis molaris imponatur circa collum ejus, et projiciatur in mare quam ut scandalizet unum de pusillis istis. 3 Attendite vobis: Si peccaverit in te frater tuus, increpa illum: et si pœnitentiam egerit, dimitte illi. 4 Et si septies in die peccaverit in te, et septies in die conversus fuerit ad te, dicens: Pœnitet me, dimitte illi.5 Et dixerunt apostoli Domino: Adauge nobis fidem. 6 Dixit autem Dominus: Si habueritis fidem sicut granum sinapis, dicetis huic arbori moro: Eradicare, et transplantare in mare, et obediet vobis.7 Quis autem vestrum habens servum arantem aut pascentem, qui regresso de agro dicat illi: Statim transi, recumbe: 8 et non dicat ei: Para quod cœnem, et præcinge te, et ministra mihi donec manducem, et bibam, et post hæc tu manducabis, et bibes? 9 Numquid gratiam habet servo illi, quia fecit quæ ei imperaverat? 10 non puto. Sic et vos cum feceritis omnia quæ præcepta sunt vobis, dicite: Servi inutiles sumus: quod debuimus facere, fecimus.11 Et factum est, dum iret in Jerusalem, transibat per mediam Samariam et Galilæam. 12 Et cum ingrederetur quoddam castellum, occurrerunt ei decem viri leprosi, qui steterunt a longe: 13 et levaverunt vocem, dicentes: Jesu præceptor, miserere nostri. 14 Quos ut vidit, dixit: Ite, ostendite vos sacerdotibus. Et factum est, dum irent, mundati sunt. 15 Unus autem ex illis, ut vidit quia mundatus est, regressus est, cum magna voce magnificans Deum, 16 et cecidit in faciem ante pedes ejus, gratias agens: et hic erat Samaritanus. 17 Respondens autem Jesus, dixit: Nonne decem mundati sunt? et novem ubi sunt? 18 Non est inventus qui rediret, et daret gloriam Deo, nisi hic alienigena. 19 Et ait illi: Surge, vade: quia fides tua te salvum fecit.

And he said to his disciples: It is impossible that scandals should not come: but woe to him through whom they come. [2] It were better for him, that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should scandalize one of these little ones. [3] Take heed to yourselves. If thy brother sin against thee, reprove him: and if he do penance, forgive him. [4] And if he sin against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day be converted unto thee, saying, I repent; forgive him. [5] And the apostles said to the Lord: Increase our faith.[6] And the Lord said: If you had faith like to a grain of mustard seed, you might say to this mulberry tree, Be thou rooted up, and be thou transplanted into the sea: and it would obey you. [7] But which of you having a servant ploughing, or feeding cattle, will say to him, when he is come from the field: Immediately go, sit down to meat: [8] And will not rather say to him: Make ready my supper, and gird thyself, and serve me, whilst I eat and drink, and afterwards thou shalt eat and drink? [9] Doth he thank that servant, for doing the things which he commanded him? [10] I think not. So you also, when you shall have done all these things that are commanded you, say: We are unprofitable servants; we have done that which we ought to do.[11] And it came to pass, as he was going to Jerusalem, he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. [12] And as he entered into a certain town, there met him ten men that were lepers, who stood afar off; [13] And lifted up their voice, saying: Jesus, master, have mercy on us. [14] Whom when he saw, he said: Go, shew yourselves to the priests. And it came to pass, as they went, they were made clean. [15] And one of them, when he saw that he was made clean, went back, with a loud voice glorifying God.[16] And he fell on his face before his feet, giving thanks: and this was a Samaritan. [17] And Jesus answering, said, Were not ten made clean? and where are the nine? [18] There is no one found to return and give glory to God, but this stranger. [19] And he said to him: Arise, go thy way; for thy faith hath made thee whole. 

Commentary (de Lapide)

Ver. 5.—And the Apostles said to the Lord, Increase our faith. The Apostles said this, when, from their little faith, they had been unable to cast out the devil from the lunatic. They then asked for greater faith, as appears from the above words compared with those of S. Matt. xvii. 19, &c., for Christ made the same reply in each place, “If you had faith as a grain of mustard seed you would move mountains.”

Ver. 6.—If ye had faith. “This indeed,” says S. Chrysostom, “is small in quantity but great in power. He means that the least portion of faith can do great things.” And Bede, “Perfect faith is a grain of mustard seed: in appearance it is small, in the heart it is fervent.”

You would say unto this sycamine tree (a mulberry tree (moro) close at hand, to which Christ pointed). Be thou rooted up and be thou east into the sea, and it would have obeyed you.—For mulberry tree, Matt. xvii. 20 has mountain. Christ therefore said both. It is called the mulberry tree allegorically, as if μώζος (foolish); that is by antithesis, because it is the wisest of trees; not putting forth its leaves till the frost is over, lest they should be cut off. The mulberry signifies the gospel of the cross of Christ, which to the Gentiles appears foolishness, but to the faithful is “the power of God and the wisdom of God,” 1. Cor. i. 24. Hence S. Augustine (Lib. II, Quæst. Evan.: quæst. 39): “Let those servants speak through the grain of mustard seed, to this mulberry tree; that is, to the gospel of the cross of Christ through the blood-coloured apples hanging like wounds on that tree which is to give food to the nations. Let them say that it is rooted up by the unbelief of the Jews, and transferred to the sea of the Gentiles and planted there, for by this home service they will minister to the hungering and thirsting Lord.” 

So too Bede. “The mulberry tree,” he says, “by the blood colour of the fruit and shoots, is the gospel of the cross of Christ, which, through the faith of the Apostles, when it was held as it were in the stem of its kind, was rooted up from the Jews, and planted in the sea of the Gentiles.” The Gloss adds, “The leaves of the mulberry, offered to the serpent, bring death upon him, as the word of the cross destroys all hurtful and venomous things of the soul.” On the other hand, SS. Ambrose and Chrysostom and the Gloss understand by the mulberry tree, the devil, whom the faith of Christ casts out and sends into hell. “The fruit of the mulberry, tree,” says S. Ambrose, “is firstly white, when in flower, when fully blown red, and when ripe it becomes black. The devil also, from the white flower of his angelic nature and power, when cast out by his reddening wickedness, grew horrible from the foul odour of sin. Behold Christ saying to the mulberry tree, ‘Be thou rooted up and cast into the sea;’ when He cast the Legion out of the man, He permitted them to enter into the swine which, being driven by the spirit of the devils, cast themselves into the sea.”

Hear also S. Chrysostom in the Catena: “As the mulberry feeds worms (silkworms) which spin silk from its leaves, so does the devil, from thoughts springing from those leaves, nourish in us an undying worm; but faith has power to root this tree out of our souls, and to plunge it into hell.”

Lastly, the Arabic for the mulberry has “sycamine,” or “sycamore,” of which, chap. xix. 4. Christ, moreover, exalts the power of faith, that He might implant in the Apostles an additional desire of increasing its keenness, and of praying for its gift to them; for He who gave to men the mind and desire of praying, wished also to increase the faith of those who prayed. Hence He subsequently increased their faith, especially when He sent the Holy Spirit upon them at Pentecost. Hence too, by the strength of their excelling faith, they wrought so great wonders and miracles, converting the whole world; and, lest they should grow proud of such deeds, and become vainglorious, Christ, by the following Parable, teaches them to be humble-minded, and to say, “we are unprofitable servants.”...

Vers. 8, 9...The heretics object, “Christ here calls His faithful, useless servants, therefore by their merits they deserve nothing, nay, they do nothing good, because they contribute nothing useful ” I .answer, Their first premiss is false, for Christ does not call His own servants unprofitable, nay, in Matt. xxv. 23, He says, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” &c. But He warns each one of the faithful to call himself unprofitable, to the avoidance of vainglory, and to the greater increase of humility and equally so of their merit, as say SS. Ambrose, Chrysostom, Theophylact, Bede, and others, passim; and that, in a sense not false and pretended but true and sincere. 

Because the faithful servant, in merely fulfilling the precepts of God, does nothing peculiar or remarkable, but only that which by the law of God he ought to do, and to which he was bound under the penalty of sin. He therefore both is, and is called, unprofitable, because he has fulfilled the commandments alone, but has omitted the counsels and works of supererogation, as Christ Himself explains: “All things that are commanded,” and “what we ought to do we have done.” He therefore gains only the ordinary reward of such observance of His commands; but to that exceptional glory, and crown, and aureole of the observance of the Evangelical counsels he does not attain; as says S. Paul, whose words I will shortly cite. Again, says S. Chrysostom, “When we say, with humility, we are unprofitable servants,” Christ says, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

S. Bernard again, in his treatise de Præcept et Dispens., thus explains the matter, “We are unprofitable servants, we have done what we ought;” i.e. If you are content with the mere precept and traditions of the law, and do not give yourselves up to the counsels and persuasions of perfection, you are free indeed from debt, but you are not praiseworthy for merit; you have escaped punishment, you have not gained the crown. It is this which S. Paul, when preaching the Gospel freely, and when he might have required food from the faithful, 1 Cor. ix. 15, calls his glory.

...Even S. Paul himself, the other Apostles, and the Religious, in observing not only the precepts but also the counsels of Christ, can truly say, “We are unprofitable servants: we have done what we ought to do.” Firstly, because we owe to God our souls, our bodies, our lives, and all that we have, which, whatever good we do, we can never pay back. This debt is infinite and manifold, but it is especially fourfold. 

First, there is the debt of creation, for as we were created out of nothing by God, the whole that we are we owe to God our Creator. Thus Plato in his Phædo, “Man is one of the possessions of God.” “Behold,” says S. Bernard on “Our Fourfold Debt,” “He is at the door who made the heavens and the earth. He is thy Creator and thou art His creature: thou art the end of His work.” 

The second is the debt of emption and redemption, for Christ redeemed us from death and hell at the price of His own blood. We are therefore slaves of purchase, nay, “the purchased servants of Christ,” 1 Cor. vi. 20.  S. Bernard, in the sermon already cited: “Firstly, we owe all our lives to Christ Jesus, for He laid down His life for us, and endured bitter torments, that we might not have to undergo eternal ones.” He sums up thus: “When I give to Him all that I am, all that I can do, is not this as a star to the sun, a drop to the river, a stone to the mountain, a grain to the heap?” So in his tract, De Deo dilig.: “If I owe my whole self for my first creation, what shall I add for my second, and that brought about as it was? For a second creation is not effected as easily as a first. He who made me once and only by a word, in creating me a second time spoke many words and did wonderful things and endured hard things, and not only hard but even undeserved things. In the first creation He gave me to myself, in the second He gave Himself to me, and when He gave Himself to me He restored me to myself. Given, then, and restored, I owe myself for myself, and I have a double debt. What reward shall I give to God for Himself, for if I were to weigh myself a thousand times, what am I to God?”

The third debt is, that renouncing Satan in our baptism we have given ourselves wholly over to the obedience of Christ; He in regenerating us in Himself has made us new men, and divine, who are the Temple of God and of the Holy Ghost.

The fourth is that He is our beginning and final end, and He to whom we ought to direct all our actions. For He has promised us the happiness of heaven, and everlasting glory, which is nothing else than the vision and fruition of God. See Jerome (Platus, Book I., On the Grace or a Religious State, chapters iii. iv.), where he recounts seven titles of our service, on account of which we are not of our own right, but are God’s and Christ’s.

To these add that we are unprofitable servants in respect of God; for, to God who is immense, most rich, and most blessed, we can add no good thing. Hence S. Augustine on Psalm xxxix. “He possesses thee that thou mayest possess Him. Thou wilt be His land, Thou wilt be His house. He possesses thee, He is possessed by thee, that He may profit thee. Canst thou profit Him in any way? For I said to the Lord, ‘Thou art my God, therefore shall I want no good thing.’”...

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