Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Matthew 21

The New Advent page for Matthew 21 can be found here.  The opening verses deal with the entry into Jerusalem, while  verses 10-17 (the cleansing of the Temple) are the Gospel for the Tuesday after First Sunday of Lent.  The chapter also includes the parable of the vineyard and the evil vineyard workers.

I want to look, however, at the story of the fig-tree, verses 17-23:

17. And he left them, and went out of the city into Bethany; and he lodged there.
18. Now in the morning as he returned into the city, he hungered.
19. And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said to it, Let no fruit grow on you henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away.
20. And when the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, How soon is the fig tree withered away!
21. Jesus answered and said to them, I say to you, If you have faith, and doubt not, you shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if you shall say to this mountain, Be you removed, and be you cast into the sea; it shall be done.
22. And all things, whatever you shall ask in prayer believing, you shall receive.

Here are some of the Catena Aurea's takes on it:

JEROME; When the shades of night were dispersed, and He was returning to the city, the Lord was hungered, thus showing the reality of His human body. 

GLOSS; For in permitting His flesh to suffer that which properly pertains to flesh, He fore-shows His passion. Mark the earnest zeal of the active laborer, Who is said to have gone early into the city to preach, and to gain some to His Father. 

JEROME; The Lord about to suffer among the nations, and to take upon Him the offense of the Cross, sought to strengthen the minds of His disciples by a previous miracle; whence it follows, And seeing a fig-tree by the wayside, He came to it, and found nothing thereon but leaves only. 

CHRYS; He came not because He was an hungered, but for His disciples' sake; for because He ever did good and inflicted suffering on none, it was necessary that He should set forth an example of His power of punishment; and this He would not exert upon man, but upon a plant. 

HILARY; Herein also we find proof of the Lord's goodness; where He was minded to show forth an instance of the salvation procured by His means, He exerted the power of His might on the persons of men; by healing their present sicknesses, encouraging them to hope for the future, and to look for the healing of their soul. But now when He would exhibit a type of His judgments on the rebellious, He represents the future by the destruction of a tree; Let no fruit grow on you henceforward for ever. 

JEROME; For ever, (in sempiternum,) or, To the end of the world, (in sæculum,) for the Greek word signifies both. 

CHRYS; This was only a supposition of the disciples that it was cursed because it had not fruit; for another Evangelist says that it was not yet the season. Why then was it cursed? For the disciples' sake, that they might learn that He had power to wither up those who crucified Him. And He worked this miracle in that which of all plants is the most juicy, that the greatness of the miracle might be more apparent. And when anything of this kind is done to brutes or vegetables, ask not whether the fig were with justice withered up, seeing it was not the season for its fruit; for to inquire thus were extreme madness, for in such creatures there can be neither fault nor punishment; but consider the miracle, and admire the Worker of it. 

GLOSS; The Creator does no wrong to the owner, but His creature at His will is converted to the profit of others. 

CHRYS; And that you may learn that this was done for their sakes, to the end, namely, that they should be stirred up to confidence, hear what is said further. Jesus answered and said to them, Verily I say to you, if you shall have faith. 

JEROME; The Gentile dogs bark against us, affirming that the Apostles had not faith, because they were not able to remove mountains. To whom we answer, that many wonders were clone by the Lord which are not written; and therefore we believe the Apostles to have done some not written; and that they were therefore not written, that the unbelieving might not have in them larger room for caviling. For let us ask them, do they believe the miracles which are written, or do they not? And when they look incredulous, we can then establish that they who believe not the lesser would not have believed the greater. 

CHRYS; This that the Lord speaks of He ascribes to prayer and faith; whence He continues, And all things whatsoever you shall ask in prayer believing you shall receive. 

ORIGEN; For Christ's disciples pray for nothing that they ought not, and as confiding in their Master they pray only for things great and heavenly. 

RABAN; But whenever we are not heard when we pray, it is either because we ask something adverse to the means of our salvation; or because the perverseness of those for whom we ask hinders its being granted to them; or because the performance of our request is put off to a future time, that our desires may wax stronger, and so may have more perfect capacity for the joys they seek after. 

AUG; It must be considered that Mark relates the wonder of the disciples at the withering of the tree, and the answer of the Lord concerning faith, to have been not on the day following the cursing of the tree, but on the third day after; and that on the second day Mark relates the casting of the merchants out of the Temple, which he had omitted on the first day. On the second day then he says that He went forth out of the city in the evening, and that as they passed by in the morning, the disciples then saw that the fig tree was withered. But Matthew speaks as though all this had been done on the day following. This must be so taken as that when Matthew, having related that the fig tree was dried up, adds immediately, omitting all the events of the second day, And when the disciples saw it, they marveled, he yet meant that it was on another day that they marveled. For the tree must be supposed to have withered at the time it was cursed, not at the time they saw it. For they did not see it withering, but when it was withered, and by that they understood that it had withered immediately upon the Lord's words.

PSEUDO-CHRYS; For had His hunger been as man for carnal food, He would not have hungered in the morning; he truly hungers in the morning who hungers after the salvation of others. 

JEROME; The tree which He saw by the wayside we understand as the synagogue, which was nigh to the way inasmuch as it had the Law, but yet believed not on the way, that is, on Christ. 

HILARY; And that is compared to a fig tree, because the Apostles being the first believers out of Israel, like green figs shall in the glory, and the time, of their resurrection, be before the rest. 

PSEUDO-CHRYS; Also the fig in respect of the multitude of seeds under one skin is as it were an assembly of the faithful. But He finds nothing on it but leaves only, that is, pharisaic traditions, an outward show of the Law without the fruits of truth. 

ORIGEN; And because this plant was figuratively a living creature, having a soul, He speaks to it as though it heard. Let no fruit grow on you hence forward for ever. Therefore is the Jewish synagogue barren, and shall continue so until the end of the world, when the multitude of the Gentiles shall come in; and the fig tree withered while Christ was yet sojourning in this life; and the disciples seeing by their spiritual discernment the mystery of the withered faith, wondered; and having faith, and not doubting, they bare it, and so it withers when their life-giving virtue passes to the Gentiles; and by each one who is brought to the faith, that mountain Satan is lifted up and cast into the sea, that is, into the abyss. 

ORIGEN; But if the Lord come seeking fruit with temptations, and one be found having nothing of righteousness but only a profession of faith, which is leaves without fruit, he is soon withered, losing even his seeming faith; and every disciple makes this fig tree to wither, by making it be seen that he is void of Christ, as Peter said to Simon, Your heart is not right in the sight of God. For it is better that a deceitful fig tree which is thought to be alive, yet brings forth no fruit, should be withered up at the word of Christ's disciples, than that by an imposture it should steal away innocent hearts. Also there is in every unbeliever a mountain great in proportion to his unbelief, which is removed by the words of Christ's disciples

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