Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. Beware ye of the leaven, &c. Christ calls the hypocrisy of the Pharisees leaven, which changes and corrupts the best intentions of men; for nothing is more destructive than hypocrisy to such as give way to it. (Theophylactus)
Ver. 3. House-tops. Our divine Saviour speaks here according to the custom of his own nation, where it was not uncommon for men to preach from the house-top, when they wished to deliver any thing to the public; for their houses had flat roofs. (Ven. Bede)
Ver. 8. Whosoever shall confess me. By these words we are informed, that more than bare inward protestations of fidelity will be demanded of us; for he moreover requires an exterior confession of our faith. (St. Ambrose)
Ver. 13. The inheritance. This man might think, that Jesus being the Messias, would act like a king and a judge. (Witham) — Speak to my brother, &c. See in this the spirit of this world, at the very time Jesus is teaching disinterestedness, and the contempt of riches, he is interrupted by a man, who begs him to interfere in a temporal concern: deaf to every thing else, this man can think of his temporal interest only. (Calmet) — He begged half an inheritance on earth; the Lord offered him a whole one in heaven: he gave him more than he asked for. (St. Augustine)
Ver. 14. Judge, &c. Our Saviour does not here mean to say that he or his Church had not authority to judge, as the Anabaptists foolishly pretend; for he was appointed by his Father, the King of kings, and the Lord and Judge of all. He only wished to keep himself as much detached as possible from worldly concerns: 1. Not to favour the opinion of the carnal Jews, who expected a powerful king for the Messias. 2. To shew that the ecclesiastical ministry was entirely distinct from political government, and that he and his ministers were sent not to take care of earthly kingdoms, but to seek after and prepare men for a heavenly inheritance. (St. Ambrose, Euthymius, Ven. Bede)
Ver. 19. Much goods, &c. It is evident how far this poor man was mistaken, when he called these things goods, which with more reason ought to be esteemed evils. The only things that can rightly be called goods, are humility, modesty, and its other attendants. The opposite to these ought to be esteemed evils; and riches we ought to consider as indifferent. (St. Chrysostom)
Ver. 22. Therefore I say to you, &c. Our Lord proceeds step by step in his discourse, to inculcate more perfect virtue. He had before exhorted us to guard ourselves against the fatal rocks of avarice, and then subjoined the parable of the rich man; thereby insinuating what folly that man is guilty of, who applies all his thoughts solely to the amassing of riches. He next proceeds to inform us that we should not be solicitous even for the necessities of life: wishing by this discourse to eradicate our wicked propensity to avarice. (Theophylactus)
Ver. 29. And be not lifted up on high. St. Augustine (lib. ii. QQ. Evang. q. 29. t. 3, part 4, p. 257.) expounds it thus: do not value yourselves for the plenty and variety you have of things to eat. Others, by the Greek, look upon it as a metaphor, taken from meteors in the air, that appear high, and as it were in suspense whether to remain there or to fall down; so that they expound it: be not distracted and disturbed with various thoughts and cares how to live. (Witham)
Ver. 32. Christ styles the elect in this place, his little flock, on account of the greater number of the reprobate; or rather through his love of humility, because though the Church be most numerous, yet he wishes it to continue in humility to the end of the world, and by humility to arrive at the reward which he has promised to the humble. Therefore, in order to console us in our labours, he commands us to seek only the kingdom of heaven, and promises us that the Father will bestow it as a reward upon us. (Ven. Bede)
Ver. 33. Be not solicitous that whilst you are fighting for the kingdom of heaven, the necessities of this life will be wanting to you, on account of his command. Sell what you possess, that you may bestow charity; which those do, who having left all things, nevertheless labour with their hands for their livelihood, and to bestow the rest in charity. (Ven. Bede)
Ver. 35. Let your loins be girded; i.e. be prepared to walk in the way of virtue; a comparison taken from the custom of the eastern people, who girded up their long garments, when they went about any business. (Witham) — After our divine Saviour had given his disciples such excellent instructions, he wishes to lead them still farther in the path of perfection, by telling them to keep their loins girt, and to be prepared to obey the orders of their divine Master. By lamps burning in their hands he wished to insinuate, that they were not to pass their lives in obscurity, but to let their lights shine before men. (Theophylactus)
Ver. 38. In the first watch is childhood, the beginning of our existence, and by the second is understood manhood, and by the third is meant old age. He, therefore, who does not comply with our divine Master’s injunctions in the first or second watch, let him be careful not to lose his soul by neglecting to be converted to God in his old age. (St. Gregory in St. Thomas Aquinas)
Ver. 39. Some have imagined that the devil, our implacable enemy, is designated by the thief, and our souls by the house, and man by the householder: yet this interpretation does not agree with what follows; for the coming of our Lord is compared to the thief, as if surprising us on a sudden. This latter opinion, therefore, seems to be the more probable one. (Theophylactus)
Ver. 48. Shall be beaten with few stripes. Ignorance, when it proceeds from a person’s own fault, doth not excuse, but only diminisheth the fault. (Witham)
Ver. 49. I am come to send fire on the earth. By this fire, some understand the light of the gospel, and the fire of charity and divine love. Others, the fire of trials and persecutions. (Witham) — What is the fire, which Christ comes to send upon the earth? Some understand it of the Holy Ghost, of the doctrine of the gospel, and the preaching of the apostles, which has filled the world with fervour and light, and which was signified by the flames of fire which appeared at the descent of the Holy Ghost upon the apostles. My words, says the Lord, in Jeremias, (Chap. xxiii. 29.) are as a fire, and as a hammer, that breaketh the rock in pieces. Others understand it of the fire of charity, which Christ came to enkindle upon the earth, and which the apostles carried throughout the whole world. But the most simple and literal opinion seems to be, the fire of persecution and war. Fire is often used in Scripture for war: and our Saviour declares in St. Matthew that he is come to bring the sword, and not peace; that is, the doctrine of the gospel shall cause divisions, and bring persecutions, and almost an infinity of other evils, upon those who shall embrace and maintain it. But it is by these means that heaven must be acquired, it is thus that Jesus Christ destroys the reign of Satan, and overturns idolatry, superstition, and error, in the world. So great a change could not be made without noise, tumult, fire, and war. (Calmet)
Ver. 50. I am to be baptized, with troubles and sufferings. — And how am I straitened? &c. not with fear, but with an earnest desire of suffering. (Witham)
Ver. 54. In these words he reproaches them, that they knew well enough how to judge of the weather by the appearance of the heavens; but were ignorant how to distinguish the times: i.e. could not discern that the time marked by the prophets, for the coming of the Messias, was accomplished. In Palestine, the Mediterranean Sea, which was to the west, was accustomed to send clouds and rain; and the south winds, which came from Arabia and Egypt, very warm countries, caused dryness and heat. (Calmet)
 Ver. 29. Nolite in sublime tolli, me meteorizesthe; See St. Augustine, incipit superbire de talibus. lib. v. QQ. Evang. Q. 29.
Bible Text & Cross-references:
Christ warns us against hypocrisy, the fear of the world, and covetousness: and admonishes all to watch.
1 And when great multitudes stood about him, so that they trod one upon another, he began to say to his disciples: *Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.
2 *For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed: nor hidden, that shall not be known.
3 For whatsoever things you have spoken in darkness, shall be published in the light: and that which you have spoken in the ear, in the chambers, shall be preached on the house-tops.
4 And I say to you, my friends: Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.
5 But I will shew you whom ye shall fear: fear ye him who, after he hath killed, hath power to cast into hell. Yea, I say to you, fear him.
6 Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God?
7 But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore: you are of more value than many sparrows.
8 And I say to you: *Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the Angels of God.
9 But he that shall deny me before men, shall be denied before the Angels of God.
10 *And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but to him that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven.
11 And when they shall bring you into the synagogues, and to magistrates, and powers, be not solicitous how or what you shall answer, or what you shall say.
12 For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what you ought to say.
13 And one of the multitude said to him: Master, speak to my brother that he divide the inheritance with me.
14 But he said to him: Man, who hath made me a judge or divider over you?
15 And he said to them: Take heed and beware of all covetousness: for a man’s life doth not consist in the abundance of things which he possesseth.
16 And he spoke a similitude to them, saying: *The land of a certain rich man brought forth plenty of fruits.
17 And he thought within himself, saying: What shall I do, because I have no place to lay up together my fruits?
18 And he said: This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and will build greater: and into them will I gather all things that are grown to me, and my goods.
19 And I will say to my soul: Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years, take thy rest, eat, drink, make good cheer.
20 But God said to him: Thou fool, this night do they require thy soul of thee: and whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?
21 So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich towards God.
22 And he said to his disciples: Therefore I say to you: *Be not solicitous for your life, what you shall eat: nor for your body, what you shall put on.
23 The life is more than the food, and the body is more than the raiment.
24 Consider the ravens, for they do not sow, nor do they reap, neither have they store-house, nor barn, and God feedeth them. How much are you more valuable than they?
25 And which of you by thinking can add to his stature one cubit?
26 If then you are not able to do even the least thing, why are you solicitous for the rest?
27 Consider the lilies how they grow: they labour not, neither do they spin. But I say to you, not even Solomon, in all his glory, was clothed like one of these.
28 Now if God clothe in this manner the grass that is to-day in the field, and to-morrow is cast into the oven: how much more you, O ye of little faith?
29 And seek not you what you shall eat, or what you shall drink: and be not lifted up on high:
30 For all these things do the nations of the world seek after. But your Father knoweth that you have need of these things.
31 But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his justice: and all these things shall be added unto you.
32 Fear not, little flock, for it hath pleased your Father to give you a kingdom.
33 *Sell what you possess, and give alms. Make to yourselves bags which grow not old, **a treasure in heaven which faileth not: where the thief approacheth not, nor moth corrupteth.
34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
35 Let your loins be girded, and lamps burning in your hands,
36 And you yourselves like to men who wait for their lord, when he shall return from the wedding: that when he cometh, and knocketh, they may open to him immediately.
37 Blessed are those servants, whom the Lord, when he cometh, shall find watching. Amen, I say to you, that he will gird himself, and make them sit down to meat, and passing, will minister to them.
38 And if he shall come in the second watch, or if he shall come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants.
39 *But this know ye, that if a master of a family did know at what hour the thief would come, he would surely watch, and would not suffer his house to be broke open.
40 Be you also ready: *for at what hour you think not, the Son of man will come.
41 And Peter said to him: Lord, dost thou speak this parable to us, or likewise to all?
42 And the Lord said: Who (thinkest thou) is the faithful and wise steward, whom his lord setteth over his family, to give them their measure of wheat in due season?
43 Blessed is that servant, whom when his lord shall come, he shall find so doing.
44 Verily I say to you, he will set him over all that he possesseth.
45 But if that servant shall say in his heart: My lord is long a coming; and shall begin to strike the men-servants, and maid-servants, and to eat, and to drink, and be drunk:
46 The lord of that servant will come in a day that he expecteth not, and at an hour that he knoweth not, and shall separate him, and shall appoint him his portion with unbelievers.
47 And that servant who knew the will of his lord, and hath not prepared, and did not according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.
48 But he that knew not, and did things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. And unto whomsoever much is given, of him much shall be required: and to whom they have committed much, of him they will demand the more.
49 I am come to send fire on the earth, and what will I but that it be kindled?
50 And I have a baptism, wherewith I am to be baptized: and how am I straitened until it be accomplished?
51 *Think ye that I am come to give peace on earth: I tell you no, but separation:
52 For there shall be from henceforth five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three
53 Shall be divided: the father against the son, and the son against his father, the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother, the mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.
54 And he said also to the multitudes: When you see a cloud rising out of the west, presently you say: A shower is coming: and so it happeneth:
55 And when ye see the south wind blow, you say: There will be heat: and it cometh to pass.
56 You hypocrites, you know how to discern the face of the heavens, and of the earth; but how is it that you do not discern this time?
57 And why even of yourselves do you not judge that which is just?
58 *And when thou goest with thy adversary to the ruler, whilst thou art in the way, endeavour to be delivered from him: lest, perhaps, he draw thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the exactor, and the exactor cast thee into prison.
59 I say to thee: thou shalt not go out thence, until thou pay the very last mite.
1: Matthew xvi. 6.; Mark viii. 15.
2: Matthew x. 26.; Mark iv. 22.
8: Matthew x. 32.; Mark viii. 38.; 2 Timothy ii. 12.
10: Matthew xii. 32.; Mark iii. 29.
16: Ecclesiasticus xi. 19.
22: Psalm liv. 23.; Matthew vi. 25.; 1 Peter v. 7.
33: Matthew xix. 21. — ** Matthew vi. 20.
39: Matthew xxiv. 43.
40: Apocalypse xvi. 15.
51: Matthew x. 34.
54: Matthew xvi. 2.
58: Matthew v. 25.