Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. What St. Luke here gives till ver. 10, is mentioned purposely to shew on what occasion, and by what miracle, Peter, Andrew, James, and John, were called. (Maldonatus)
Ver. 2. Washing their nets. See St. Matthew iv. 18. and St. Mark i. 16, where it is said, that Christ saw them when they were casting their nets; i.e. some of them were casting, others washing, or mending, their nets. (Witham)
Ver. 3. Why is it mentioned that there were two ships; that one of them was Simon Peter’s, that Christ went into that one, and sat down in it, and sitting he taught out of that ship? No doubt, answer many of the ancient commentators, to shew that the Church was figured by the bark of Peter, and that in it is the chair of Christ, a permanent authority, prefigured by Christ’s sitting down, and the true word of God.
Ver. 4. Epanagage eis to bathos. Put back from whence you have just now returned. Where you failed without Christ, with Christ you will prove successful. Now is the proper time, when you act in my presence, and according to my orders; before it was not, when you followed your own, and not my will. (Maldonatus) — St. Augustine interprets the text, Launch out into the deep, as spoken of distant nations, to whom the gospel was afterwards delivered: tolle signum in gentes, ad eas, quœ propè, et ad eas quœ longè. (Isaias v. 26. and xi. 12.)
Ver. 5. Though these words of St. Peter seem to express his little hope of success, as he had been toiling (kopiasantes) the whole night, the most favourable time for fishing, yet they were intended by St. Peter to shew his great confidence, that notwithstanding his bad success, he was willing to obey; he relied on his words, and let go his net in the same place where before he had been disappointed; and the event proved that the obedience and confidence of Peter were not in vain. (Maldonatus, &c.)
Ver. 6. When Christ commanded Peter to let go the net, as great a quantity of fishes were taken as this Lord of the land and sea wished. For the voice of the Lord is the voice of power, at the command of which, in the beginning of the world, light and every created thing sprang into existence. This it was that so much astonished Peter. (St. Gregory of Nazianzus, chap. xxxi.) — The net is broken, but the fishes are not lost, because the Lord preserves his servants among the scandals (schisms and heresies) of his enemies. (Ven. Bede)
Ver. 7. The other ship was probably at such a distance from them, that they could not be heard, had they called out to them; and this also is another proof of the greatness of the miracle, that though the other ship was fishing in the same place, though a little removed, they could catch nothing. (Maldonatus) — This also shews that Peter was to call in other co-labourers, and that all were to come into Peter’s ship. (St. Ambrose, in Luc.)
Ver. 8. Such was the excess of St. Peter’s humility, that he judged himself unworthy the presence of Christ, and by this rendered himself more worthy. So the centurion, for a similar act of self-abasement, merited to hear from Truth itself, that he was preferred to all Israel. Euthymius is however of opinion, that St. Peter desired Christ to leave him through fear, lest some evil should befall him, because he was not worthy of his presence. In the same manner as the widow of Sarepta thought her son had died, because she was not worthy of the presence of Elias. (3 Kings xvii. 18.) (Maldonatus)
Ver. 10. Jesus Christ answers the thought of St. Peter, that instead of any loss or evil coming to him, he should, on the contrary, receive a great reward, by being appointed a fisher of men; and, as he had taken so many fishes by the divine assistance, so he should take in his net innumerable souls, not so much by his own industry, as by the divine grace and assistance. (Maldonatus)
Ver. 11. We may suppose that these four apostles, like Andrew, followed Jesus Christ at the first call, but without attaching themselves to him; and that now they attached themselves to him, never to leave him more.
Ver. 12. By falling on his face, he shewed his humility and modesty, that all men might learn to be ashamed of the stains of their lives; but this, his bashfulness, did not prevent him from confessing his misery; he exposed his wound, he solicits a cure: Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. He did not doubt the goodness of the Lord, but in consideration of his own unworthiness, he durst not presume. That confession is full of religion and faith, which places its trust in the will of God. (St. Ambrose)
Ver. 13. The law forbade lepers to be touched; but he, who is the Lord of the law, dispenses with it. He touches the leper, not because he could not cleanse him without it, but in order to shew that he was not subject to the law, nor to fear of any infection. At the touch of Christ leprosy is dispelled, which before communicated contagion to all that touched it. (St. Ambrose)
Ver. 14. Because men in sickness generally turn their thoughts towards God, but when they recover, forget him, the leper is commanded to think of God, and return him thanks. Therefore is he sent to the priest, to make his offering, (Leviticus xiv. 4.) that, committing himself to the examination of the priest, he might be accounted among the clean. (St. Chrysostom, hom. xxvi. in Matt.) — By this our Saviour would testify to the priest, that this man was healed not by the ordination of the law, but by the power of grace, which is above the law. He likewise shews that he did not come to destroy, but to fulfil the law. (St. Ambrose) — Jesus Christ seems here to approve of the legal sacrifices, which the Church does not receive; and this he did, because he had not yet established that most holy of all holy sacrifices, the sacrifice of his own body. The figurative sacrifices were not to be abrogated, before that, which they prefigured, was established by the preaching of the apostles, and the faith of Christian believers. (St. Augustine, quest. ii. b. 3. de quæst. evang.) — By this leper is represented the whole human race, which was covered with a spiritual leprosy, and languishing in the corruption of sin; for all have sinned, and need the glory of God; (Romans iii.) therefore he stretched forth his hand, i.e. he clothed himself with our human nature, that we might be cleansed from our former errors, and might offer in return for this favour our bodies, a living sacrifice to God. (Ven. Bede)
Ver. 16. Christ did not stand in need of this retirement, since, being God, he was free from every stain, and likewise present in every place. But, by this his conduct, he wished to teach us the time most proper, both for our active employments, and for the more sublime duties of prayer and contemplation. (St. Gregory of Nazianzus, Orat. xxviii.) — en upochoron, he withdrew after his great prodigies, to avoid the praise of the multitude, and to pray assiduously, and with fresh instance, for the salvation of man.
Ver. 17. But the fame of Jesus had now spread far and wide. It was for this reason that it is here said, the Pharisees and doctors of the law came out of every town in Galilee, &c. not indeed through any intention of becoming his disciples, but through a spirit of envy; as they now saw every one leaving them, and following our Saviour. Perhaps also to calumniate him, as we often find them to have done, when they beheld him making converts from them. (Denis the Carthusian)
Ver. 19. Let us learn from this example, how diligent we should be in procuring spiritual health, both for ourselves and for our friends. (Haydock)
Ver. 20. Great is the Lord, who pardons men on account of the merits of others. If you are diffident of the pardon of your grievous sins, have recourse to the Church. She will pray for you; and the Almighty, at her intercession, will grant you that pardon he might have denied to your prayers. (St. Ambrose, lib. v. in Luc.)
Ver. 21. How great is the madness of this unbelieving people, who confessing that God alone can forgive sins, will not believe God when he grants pardon. (St. Ambrose) — They indeed spoke the truth, for none can forgive sins but God only, who forgives our offences by the ministry of others, to whom he has committed this power, both in baptism and penance. But Christ, by forgiving sins as God, i.e. with his own power, clearly proves to all his divinity. (Ven. Bede)
Ver. 24. The Son of man … on earth. By which act, says St. Cyril, it is clear that the Son of man hath power on earth to remit sins; which he said both for himself and us. For he, as God-man, the Lord of the law, forgiveth sins; and we also have obtained by him that wonderful grace when he said to his disciples: Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them. (John xx. 23.) And how should he not be able to remit sins, who gave others the power to do the same? (Bristow)
Ver. 26. At the sight of the exertion of divine power, the Jews would rather fear than believe; for had they believed they would never have feared, but rather loved; for perfect love excludes fear. (St. Ambrose)
Ver. 28. The profane Julian charged St. Matthew with levity, in leaving all and following a stranger at one word. But hereby is seen the marvellous efficacy of Christ’s word and internal working, which in a moment can alter the heart of man, and cause him to despise what before was most near and dear to him. And this was done not only whilst Christ was living on earth, but daily in his Church. Thus St. Anthony, St. Francis, and others, hearing this word in the Church, forsook all and followed Jesus. (St. Jerome, in Matt. ix.; St. Athanasius, in vita. St. Anthony; St. Augustine, Confess. lib. viii. chap. 11.; St. Bonaventure, in vit. St. Francis.)
Ver. 29. And Levi made him a great feast, to testify his gratitude to Jesus for the favour he had done him. It appears that both St. Mark and St. Luke affect, through consideration for St. Matthew, to designate him here by his less known name of Levi; whereas he designates himself, through humility, in this same circumstance, by his more known appellation of Matthew. (See Matthew ix. 9.) (Bible de Vence)
Ver. 31. Jesus Christ gives them here to understand, that they were of the number of those who languished under a severe indisposition, and that he was come to act as their Physician. (St. Chrysostom, hom. xxxi. in Matt.)
Ver. 33. St. Matthew says, it was St. John the Baptist’s disciples themselves that objected this to Christ. Most probably both they and the Pharisees endeavoured all they could to press this objection. (St. Augustine, de cons. Evang. lib. ii. chap. 27) — Why do you not fast, as is customary with all that wish to regulate their lives according to the law? The reason why the saints fasted was, that they might, by afflicting their bodies, subdue their passions. Jesus Christ, therefore, had no need of fasting, being God, and of course free from every, the least, disorderly motion of concupiscence. Neither did his attendants stand in need of fasting, for being enriched with his grace, they were strengthened in virtue, without the help of fasting. When, therefore, Christ fasted forty days, he fasted to set an example to carnal men. (St. Cyril) — As long as the Spouse is with us, we are in joy, we cannot fast, we cannot mourn. But when he has been driven away by sin, then we must both fast and weep. (Ven. Bede)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
The miraculous draught of fishes. The cure of the leper and of the paralytic. The call of Matthew.
1 And *it came to pass, that when the multitudes pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Genesareth,
2 *And saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets.
3 And going into one of the ships that was Simon’s, he desired him to thrust out a little from the land. And sitting down, he taught the multitudes out of the ship.
4 Now when he had ceased to speak, he said to Simon: Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught.
5 And Simon answering, said to him: Master, we have labored all the night, and have taken nothing: but at thy word I will let down the net.
6 And when they had done this, they enclosed a very great multitude of fishes, and their net was breaking.
7 And they beckoned to their partners that were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they were almost sinking.
8 Which when Simon Peter saw, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying: Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.
9 For he was wholly astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken:
10 And so were also James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were Simon’s partners. And Jesus saith to Simon: Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt be taking men.
11 And when they had brought their ships to land, leaving all things, they followed him.
12 *And it came to pass, when he was in a certain city, behold a man full of leprosy, who seeing Jesus, and falling on his face, besought him, saying: Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.
13 And stretching forth his hand, he touched him, saying: I will: Be thou cleansed. And immediately the leprosy departed from him.
14 And he charged him to tell no man: but, Go, shew thyself to the priest, *and offer for thy cleansing according as Moses commanded, for a testimony to them.
15 But the fame of him went abroad the more: and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed of their infirmities.
16 And he retired into the desert, and prayed.
17 And it came to pass on a certain day, that he sat teaching. And there were Pharisees and doctors of the law sitting by, that were come out of every town of Galilee, and Judea, and Jerusalem: and the power of the Lord was to heal them.
18 *And behold, men brought in a bed a man who had the palsy: and they sought means to bring him in, and to lay him before him.
19 And when they could not find by what way they might bring him in, because of the multitude, they went up upon the roof, and let him down through the tiles, with his bed, into the midst, before Jesus.
20 And when he saw their faith, he said: Man, thy sins are forgiven thee.
21 And the Scribes and the Pharisees began to think, saying: Who is this who speaketh blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?
22 And when Jesus knew their thoughts, answering, he said to them: What is it you think in your hearts?
23 Which is it easier to say: Thy sins are forgiven thee: or to say: Arise, and walk?
24 But that you may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (he saith to the sick of the palsy) I say to thee: Arise, take up thy bed, and go into thy house.
25 And immediately rising up before them, he took up the bed on which he lay: and he went away into his own house, glorifying God.
26 And all were astonished, and they glorified God. And they were filled with fear, saying: We have seen wonderful things to-day.
27 *And after these things he went forth, and saw a publican, named Levi, sitting at the custom-house, and he said to him: Follow me.
28 And leaving all things, he rose up, and followed him.
29 And Levi made him a great feast in his own house: and there was a great company of publicans, and of others, that were at table with them.
30 *But the Pharisees and Scribes murmured, saying to his disciples: Why do you eat and drink with publicans and sinners?
31 And Jesus answering, said to them: They who are in health need not the physician: but they that are sick.
32 I came not to call the just, but sinners, to penance.
33 And they said to him: *Why do the disciples of John fast often, and make prayers, and the disciples of the Pharisees in like manner: but thine eat and drink?
34 And he said to them: Can you make the children of the bridegroom fast, whilst the bridegroom is with them?
35 But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them; then shall they fast in those days.
36 And he spoke also a similitude to them: That no man putteth a piece from a new garment upon an old garment: otherwise he both rendeth the new, and the piece taken from the new agreeth not with the old.
37 And no man putteth new wine into old bottles: otherwise the new wine will burst the bottles, and it will be spilled, and the bottles will be lost.
38 But new wine must be put into new bottles, and both are preserved.
39 And no man drinking old, hath presently a mind to new: for he saith, The old is better.
1: about the year A.D. 31.
2: Matthew iv. 18.; Mark i. 16.
12: Matthew viii. 2.; Mark i. 40.
14: Leviticus xiv. 4.
18: Matthew ix. 2.; Mark ii. 3.
27: Matthew ix. 9.; Mark ii. 14.
30: Mark ii. 16.
33: Mark ii. 18.