Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. Whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. These seem to have been some of the seditious followers of Judas, the Galilean, or Gaulonite, who denied that God’s people were to pay taxes; and it is thought that some of them, coming to offer up sacrifices in the temple, Pilate caused them to be slain at that very time, so that their blood was mixed with the sacrifices. (Witham) — Whose blood, &c. i.e. whom he had caused to be massacred in the temple, at the time they were offering sacrifices. The history, to which allusion is made in this place, is not well known; but there is great probability that these Galileans were disciples of Judas, the Galilean, who taught that they ought not to pay tribute to foreigners. As they were spreading this doctrine in Jerusalem, and perhaps even in the temple, Pilate laid violent hands upon them, and caused them to be murdered amidst the sacrifices. (Calmet) — Galileans, &c. These were the followers of one Judas, a Galilean, of whom St. Luke makes mention in the Acts of the Apostles, (Chap. v.) who held it unlawful to call any one lord. Many of this sect were punished by Pilate, because they would not allow this title to be given to Cæsar; they also maintained that no other sacrifices could lawfully be offered, except such as were prescribed by the law, by which opinion they forbade the accustomed sacrifices offered up for the emperor and people of Rome. Pilate, irritated by these their opinions, ordered them to be slain in the midst of their sacrifices, and this was their blood mixed with that of the victims. (St. Cyril in St. Thomas Aquinas)
Ver. 2. Sinners, &c. People are naturally inclined to believe, that those who are unfortunate, and afflicted with calamities, must likewise be culpable and impious. The Jews were very much given to these sentiments, as we see in many places of Scripture; John ix. 2 and 3. Our Saviour wishes to do away with this prejudice, by telling them that the Galileans, who are here spoken of, were not the most culpable among the inhabitants of that country; shewing by this, that God often spares the most wicked, and sends upon the good the most apparent signs of vengeance, that he may exercise the patience, and crown the merit of the latter, and give to the former an example of the severity which they must expect, if they continue in their disorders. Neither can it be said, that in this God commits any injustice. He uses his absolute dominion over his creatures, when he afflicts the just; he procures them real good, when he strikes them; and his indulgence towards the wicked, is generally an effect of his mercy, which waits for their repentance, or sometimes the consequences of his great anger, when he abandons them to the hardness of their reprobate hearts, and says, “I will rest, and be angry with you no longer.” (Ezechiel, Chap. xvi. 42.) This is the most terrible mark of his final fury. (Calmet)
Ver. 3. This prediction of our Saviour upon the impenitent was afterwards completely verified; for Josephus informs us, that under the government of Cumanus, 20,000 of them were destroyed about the temple. (Jewish Antiquities, lib. xx, chap. 4.) That upon the admission of the Idumeans into the city, 8,500 of the high priest’s party were slain, insomuch that there was a flood of blood quite round the temple. (The Jewish War, lib. iv, chap. 7.) That in consequence of the threefold faction that happened in Jerusalem before the siege of the Romans, the temple was every where polluted with slaughter; the priests were slain in the exercise of their functions; many who came to worship, fell before their sacrifices; the dead bodies of strangers and natives were promiscuously heaped together, and the altar defiled with their blood. (The Jewish War, lib. vi, chap. 1.) That upon the Romans taking possession of the city and temple, mountains of dead bodies were piled up about the altar; streams of blood ran down the steps of the temple; several were destroyed by the fall of towers, and others suffocated in the ruins of the galleries over the porches. (The Jewish War, lib. vii, chap. 10.)
Ver. 4. Or those eighteen, &c. The Almighty permitted these people to be thus chastised, that the others might be filled with fear and apprehension at the sight of another’s dangers, and thus become the heirs of the kingdom of heaven. But then you will say, is another punished that I may become better? No; he is punished for his own crimes; but his punishment becomes to those that witness it the means of salvation. (St. Chrysostom, Concio. 3. de Lazaro.)
Ver. 5. Unless you do penance, &c. The Jews did not penance; and therefore, forty years after our Lord’s Passion, the Romans came, and beginning with Galilee, destroyed this impious nation to its roots, and polluted not only the court of the temple, whither the sacrifices were carried, but the inner sanctuary, with human blood. (Ven. Bede)
Ver. 6. A certain man, &c. Each one, inasmuch as he holds a place in life, if he produce not the fruit of good works, like a barren tree encumbers the ground; because the place he holds, were it occupied by others, might be a place of fertility. (St. Gregory)
Ver. 9. And if happily it bear fruit. It is a way of speaking, when a sentence is left imperfect; yet what is not expressed, may be easily understood; as here we may understand, well and good, or the like. (Witham)
Ver. 14. The president of the synagogue, when he saw the woman, who before crept on the ground, now raised by the touch of Christ, and hearing the mandate of God, was filled with envy, and decried the miracle, apparently through solicitude for keeping the sabbath. But the truth is, he would rather see the poor woman bent to the earth like a beast, than see Christ glorified by healing her. (St. Cyril in St. Thomas Aquinas)
Ver. 19. Our Lord was this mustard-seed, when he was buried in the earth; and He became a tree, when he ascended into heaven; but a tree that overshadowed the whole creation, in the branches of which the birds of heaven rested; that is, the powers of heaven, and all such as by good works have raised themselves from the earth. The apostles are the branches, to repose in whose bosoms we take our flight, borne on the wings of Christian virtue. Let us sow this seed (Christ) in the garden of our hearts, that the grace of good works may flourish, and you may send forth the various perfumes of every virtue. (St. Ambrose)
Ver. 21. The flour represents us Christians, who receive the Lord Jesus into the inner parts of our soul, till we are all inflamed with the fire of his heavenly wisdom. (St. Ambrose)
Ver. 24. Shall seek, &c. Shall desire to be saved; but for want of taking sufficient pains, and not being thoroughly in earnest, shall not attain to it. (Challoner) — Our Lord answers here in the affirmative: viz. that the number of those who are saved, is very small, for a few only can enter by the narrow gate. Therefore does he say, according to St. Matthew, (Chap. vii.) Narrow is the way that leadeth to life, and few there are that enter therein. This does not contradict what is said in the 8th chapter of St. Matthew: That many shall come from the east, and sit down in the kingdom of God; for many indeed shall join the blessed company of the angels, but when considered with the number of the slain, they will appear but few. (St. Augustine, serm. xxxii. de Verb. Dei.)
Ver. 25. When the Almighty casts any off, he is said not to know them: in the same manner as a lover of truth may be said not to know how to tell a falsehood, being withheld powerfully from it by his love of truth. (St. Gregory, mor. chap. 8.)
Ver. 26. These words are addressed particularly to the Jews, because Christ was born of them according to the flesh, eat and drank with them, and taught publicly in their streets; but they apply to us Christians also, for we eat the body of Christ, and drink his blood, when each day we approach the mystical table, and we hear him teaching us in the streets of our souls. (Theophylactus) — Many very fervent at the beginning afterwards grow lukewarm; and many, though at first frozen, have suddenly glowed with virtue; many, who in this world were contemned, have received glory in the next; while others, in honour amongst men, have passed to eternal torments. (Ven. Bede)
Ver. 32. It is rather surprising that Christ should make use of these opprobrious words, which could be of no service to himself, but which would only serve to irritate king Herod, should they come to his ears. But Christ, by these words, probably wished to shew that he was not the least afraid of him whom the Pharisees feigned to have a design on his life: for it is supposed that the Pharisees had invented this fiction, in order to compel him to leave them quiet. (Maldonatus)
Ver. 33. Nevertheless I must walk, (i.e. labour in the mission, teaching, &c.) to-day, and to-morrow, &c. i.e. for a while. — It cannot be that a prophet, &c. Not that all the prophets suffered in Jerusalem, though many did; and it is rather to prophesy, that he himself, the great Prophet, and their Messias, should be put to death at Jerusalem. (Witham)
 Ver. 33. Quia non capit prophetam, &c. ouk endechetai, non contingit.
Bible Text & Cross-references:
The necessity of penance. The barren fig-tree. The cure of the infirm woman, &c.
1 And there were present, at that very time, some that told him of the Galileans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.
2 And he answering, said to them: Think you that these Galileans were sinners above all the men of Galilee, because they suffered such things?
3 I say to you, No: but unless you shall do penance, you shall all likewise perish.
4 Or those eighteen upon whom the tower fell in Siloe, and slew them: think you that they also were debtors above all the men that dwell in Jerusalem?
5 I tell you: No: but unless you do penance, you shall all likewise perish.
6 He spoke also this parable: A certain man had a fig-tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it, and found none.
7 And he said to the tiller of the vineyard: Behold these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig-tree, and I find none. Cut it done, therefore; why doth it take up the ground?
8 But he answering, said to him: Lord, let it alone this year also, until I dig about it, and dung it.
9 And if happily it bear fruit: but if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.
10 And he was teaching in their synagogue on their sabbath.
11 And behold there was a woman, who had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years: and she was bent down, and could not look upwards at all.
12 And when Jesus saw her, he called her to him, and said to her: Woman, thou art delivered from thy infirmity.
13 And he laid his hands upon her, and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God.
14 And the ruler of the synagogue, being angry that Jesus had healed on the sabbath, answering, said to the multitude: There are six days wherein you ought to work: in them therefore come, and be healed, and not on the sabbath-day.
15 And the Lord answering him, said: Ye hypocrites, doth not every one of you, on the sabbath-day, loose his ox or his ass from the manger, and lead them to water?
16 And ought not this daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath-day?
17 And when he said these things, all his adversaries were ashamed: and all the people rejoiced for all the things that were gloriously done by him.
18 He said, therefore: To what is the kingdom of God like, and whereunto shall I resemble it?
19 *It is like to a grain of mustard-seed, which a man took and cast into his garden, and it grew, and became a great tree, and the birds of the air lodged in the branches thereof.
20 And again he said: Whereunto shall I compare the kingdom of God?
21 *It is like to leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.
22 And he went through the cities and towns teaching, and making his journey to Jerusalem.
23 And a certain man said to him: Lord, are they few that are saved? But he said to them:
24 *Strive to enter by the narrow gate: for many, I say to you, shall seek to enter, and shall not be able.
25 *But when the master of the house shall be gone in, and shall shut the door, you shall begin to stand without, and knock at the door, saying: Lord, open to us: and he answering, shall say to you: I know you not whence you are.
26 Then you shall begin to say: We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets.
27 And he shall say to you: *I know you not whence you are: **depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity.
28 There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth: when you shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out.
29 And there shall come from the east, and the west, and the north, and the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God.
30 *And behold they are last who shall be first, and they are first who shall be last.
31 The same day there came some of the Pharisees, saying to him: Depart, and get thee hence: for Herod hath a mind to kill thee.
32 And he said to them: Go and tell that fox: Behold I cast out devils, and do cures, to-day and to-morrow, and the third day I am consummated.
33 Nevertheless I must walk to-day, and to-morrow, and the day following: because it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem.
34 *Jerusalem, Jerusalem, that killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent to thee, how often would I have gathered thy children, as the bird doth her brood under her wings, and thou wouldst not?
35 Behold, your house shall be left to you desolate. And I say to you, that you shall not see me till the time come, when you shall say: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.
19: Matthew xiii. 31.; Mark iv. 31.
21: Matthew xiii. 33.
24: Matthew vii. 13.
25: Matthew xxv. 10.
27: Matthew vii. 23. — ** Psalm vi. 8.; Matthew xxv. 41.
30: Matthew xix. 30. and xx. 16.; Mark x. 31.
34: Matthew xxiii. 37.