Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 2. The order of time is not here observed by the evangelist. St. John’s deputation to Jesus Christ took place some time before; and the text of the 7th chap. of St. Luke, gives it soon after the cure of the centurion’s servant; hence all that follows, in chap. xi. of St. Matthew, is placed by persons who have drawn up evangelical harmonies, immediately after the first 17 verses of chap. viii. (Haydock)
Ver. 3. Art thou he that is to come? (Greek, who cometh?) i.e. the Messias. John the Baptist had already, on several occasions, declared that Jesus was the Messias. (John i). He could not then doubt of it himself, but sent his disciples to take away their doubt. (Witham) — St. John the Baptist sent his disciples not to satisfy his own doubts, but for the sake of his disciples, who, blinded by the love they bore their Master, and by some emulation, would not acknowledge Christ to be the Messias. (St. Chrysostom in Baradius) — This expression of St. John is much taken notice of, as conveying with it a very particular question. “Tell me, says St. John, now that I am departing out of this world, whether thou art coming to redeem the patriarchs and holy fathers; or wilt thou send another?” (St. Thomas Aquinas) — And St. Chrysostom also explains it thus, Art thou he that art to come to limbo? but the Baptist omitting this last word, sufficiently indicated to our Saviour what was the purport of this question. St. Jerome and St. Gregory say, that by his death, he was going to preach to the holy fathers that Christ, the Messias, was come. John does not here propose this question as ignorant of the real case, but in the same manner as Christ asked where Lazarus was laid. So John sends his disciples to Jesus, that seeing the signs and miracles he performed, they might believe in him. As long, therefore, as John remained with his disciples, he constantly exhorted them to follow Jesus; but now that he is going to leave them, he is more earnest for their belief in him. (St. Thomas Aquinas)
Ver. 4. Go, and relate, &c. St. Luke here relates that Christ wrought more miracles when the disciple of St. John came than usual, by which he proved in a much stronger manner than he could have done by words, that he was the Messias. For the prophets only wrought miracles by invoking the name of God, whereas he did it by his own authority. (St. Cyril) — The reason why our Saviour did not return a plain answer in words to St. John’s disciples is, because as the Jews expected the Messias to be a great and powerful king, had he acknowledged himself to be the Messias in the presence of the multitude, he might have given umbrage to the secular power, or afforded a pretext to the Scribes and Pharisees of calumniating him, and putting him to death before the time preordained for his passion. (Baradius)
Ver. 5. The blind see, &c. Christ shews them who he was by the miracles, which were foretold concerning the Messias. — The poor have the gospel preached to them. This is the sense held forth by the prophet Isaias. (Chap. lxi. ver. 1) (Witham) — That is, they are declared to have the kingdom of heaven, and are styled blessed. Here also he fulfils the prophecy of Isaias, (Chap. lxi.) which in the Septuagint version is rendered, He sent me to preach the gospel to the poor. (Nicholas of Lyra.)
Ver. 6. Scandalized in me. That is, who shall not take occasion of scandal or offence from my humility, and the disgraceful death of the cross which I shall endure: (Challoner) or on my account, that is, at the doctrine of the cross; or when I shall die on an infamous cross. (Witham) — Blessed is he, &c. That is, who shall not be offended by my doctrine or manners; for Christ was a stumbling block to many, but this was entirely their own fault. He seems indeed directly to mark the disciples of St. John, and at the same time to shew that he knew their hearts. (Menochius)
Ver. 8. Clothed in soft, &c. That the Baptist was not like the reeds, changeable by nature, the respect that the whole Jewish people paid him sufficiently evinced. Our Redeemer, therefore, proceeds to shew that St. John was not changeable by his manner of life. Delicacies and effeminacy (the ordinary sources of fickleness of behaviour,) being found in the houses of kings, and the great ones of this earth, were far from being desired by the precursor. This he shewed to the world by his garments of camels’ hair, his habitation in the wilderness, his slender and insipid food of wild honey and locusts, and the prisons to which his constancy brought him. (St. Chrysostom, hom. xxxviii).
Ver. 9. More than a prophet. John was a prophet, because he foretold the coming of Christ; and he was more than a prophet, because he saw him, which was a privilege that none of the ancient prophets enjoyed; and not only did he see him, but pointed him out, before he was acknowledged in that character. Again, he was more than a prophet, in as much as he was the precursor of the Messias, who even deigned to receive baptism at his hands. (Menochius)
Ver. 11. He that is the lesser, &c. Many understand this of Christ, who is less in as much as he is more humble, younger in age, and according to the erroneous opinion of men, of less sanctity than John. Maldonatus and Tolletus suppose the meaning to be, that he who is the least in sanctity in the Church of Christ is greater than John; not that John did not excel in sanctity many, nay even most of the children of the Church of Christ, but that those who belong to the Church, on account of this circumstance of their being under the new law, which is the law of children, are greater than those under the old law, which was the law of bondsmen, as the least among the children is greater than the greatest among the bondsmen. Now John in this respect did not belong to the Church of Christ, as he was slain before Christ’s death, before which time the gospel was not fully established. (Menochius) — There hath not risen … a greater, &c. This comparison, by what we find, Luke vii. 28, is only betwixt John and the ancient prophets, to signify that John was greater than any of the prophets, at least by his office of being the immediate precursor of the Messias. The comparison cannot be extended to Christ himself, who was both God and man, nor to his blessed Virgin Mother; nor need we understand it of his apostles. (Witham)
Ver. 12. Suffereth violence, &c. It is not to be obtained but by main force, by using violence upon ourselves, by mortification and penance, and resisting our perverse inclinations. (Challoner) — Certainly it is great violence for a man to look for a seat in heaven, and to obtain that by his virtue which was refused him by his nature. (St. Jerome in St. Thomas Aquinas) — The kingdom of heaven, &c. That is, the kingdom of heaven is to be obtained by mortification, penance, poverty, and those practices of austerity which John, both by word and example, pointed out. According to this interpretation, the kingdom of heaven means eternal life. Or the meaning may be, the kingdom of heaven is taken by the violent, because it is not now confined, as in the old law, to one people, but open to all, that whoever will may enter in and take possession of it. The kingdom of heaven, in this interpretation, is taken for the Church of Christ, for the gospel, and also for eternal life. (Menochius)
Ver. 13. All the prophets and the law prophesied until John: as if he had said, all they who prophesied before, foretold the coming of the Messias; but now John points him out present with you, so that now all the types and figures of the ancient law will be fulfilled, and are at an end. (Witham)
Ver. 14. He is Elias, &c. Not in person, but in spirit. (Luke i. 17) (Challoner) — John is here styled Elias, not in the same manner as those who taught the transmigration of souls; but the meaning is, that the precursor came in the spirit and virtue of Elias, and had the same fulness of the Holy Ghost. The Baptist is not undeservedly styled Elias, both for the austerity of his life, and for his sufferings. Elias upbraided Achab and Jezabel for their impieties, and was obliged to flee. John blamed the unlawful marriage of Herod and Herodias, and died for his virtue. (St. Jerome in St. Thomas Aquinas)
Ver. 16. Is like to children, &c. This similtude signifies that there was nothing necessary for their salvation, which God had not abundantly provided for; but they had pertinaciously continued in their incredulity. To explain this, he uses a similitude taken from morose children, whom nothing can please; he appears to refer to some custom of that time with which we are little acquainted. (Menochius)
Ver. 17. We have piped. Christ, says, St. Jerome on this place, was represented by the children that piped, or played on pipes, and St. John by those that mourned; because Christ refused not upon occasions, to eat and converse with sinners. (Witham) — Jesus shews the Jews by this simile, that he had endeavoured to induce them, by the common life he led, to an imitation of his virtues; and they had not complied with his desire. — We have lamented. This part is to be understood of St. John, who led a most austere life, and notwithstanding was despised by the Jews. (St. Jerome in St. Thomas Aquinas) — Similar to this is the complaint of the Almighty, by the mouth of the prophet Isaias: What is there that I should have done to my vineyard, and have not done? Our Redeemer and the Baptist imitated skilful huntsmen, who made use of various and opposite stratagems, that if the nimble animal escape one, he may fall into another. As men are commonly more engaged by fasting and austerities, therefore did the Baptist practise them in the highest degree, that they thus might be prevailed upon to believe his words. Christ, condescending more to their weakness, did not embrace this rigid manner of life, though at the same time he sanctified and approved it by his fast of forty days, and extreme poverty, not having where to recline his head. It was better that our Saviour’s doctrine should be approved of by one who practiced austerity, than that he himself should fast and live rigidly. If the Jews admired fasting and penance, whose words should have led them to the Son of God? If fasting appeared sorrowful and forbidding, why did they not join themselves to Jesus, who came eating and drinking, and compassionating their infirmities? which way soever they chose they might have arrived at salvation? (St. Chrysostom, hom. xxxviii.)
Ver. 18. He hath a devil. Those possessed by devils, were often accustomed to pass their time in the open air, to use unusual food, and sometimes to refrain a considerable time from meat and drink. (Menochius)
Ver. 19. Come eating and drinking. Whereas John came living in the wilderness on locusts, wild honey, &c. Yet most part of the Jews neither regarded Christ nor St. John: nay the Pharisees here (ver. 18) say of John, that he is possessed with a devil. — Wisdom is justified by her children. That is, by such as are truly wise; and the sense seems to be, that the divine wisdom and Providence hath been justified, i.e. approved, owned, and declared just and equitable by those that being truly wise, have made good use of the favours and graces offered them at this time of their redemption, when others have remained obstinate in their blindness, and refused to believe in Christ. (Witham) — That is, the multitude of believers by their faith justify the providence and justice of God, against the calumnies of the wicked; for as these believed, what hindered others also from believing? where it appears that Divine Providence omitted nothing of those things, which were necessary to procure and promote the salvation of men. (Menochius)
Ver. 21. Woe to thee, Corozain, &c. These four verses shew us how dangerous it is to resist the divine graces, and not to make good use of those favourable opportunities which the divine Providence hath placed us in, of working our salvation and of improving ourselves in virtue and sanctity. (Witham) — Sack-cloth and ashes, &c. It was the custom for those who were in mourning, to be clothed with sack-cloth, and sit in ashes. (Menochius)
Ver. 22. More tolerable, &c. For as the fault of him who never had the truth announced to him, was less than of him who rejected it when offered, so also his punishment would be less. (Menochius)
Ver. 23. If we compare this with Luke x. 15, it will appear that Jesus Christ made twice this reproach to these two impenitent cities. (Bible de Vence)
Ver. 25. Jesus answered, &c. lit. Jesus answering, said: where we may take notice, that answering, in the style of the Scripture, is often put when it is no answer to any thing that was said before. (Witham) — Because thou hast hid, &c. Jesus gives thanks to his heavenly Father, because he had revealed the secret of his coming to his disciples, who, according to the false opinion of men, are called children and fools, and had hid it from the Scribes and Pharisees, whom he in ridicule calls the wise and prudent. By this prayer, he also begs that his heavenly Father would complete what he had begun in his apostles. (St. Jerome) — Christ does not rejoice that it was not revealed to the wise and prudent, but because it was revealed to his little ones. (St. Thomas Aquinas)
Ver. 26. Yea, Father, &c. St. Chrysostom interprets this passage as if Christ would say, Go on, Father, as you have begun; or the sense may be, I give thee thanks, O Father, that it has pleased thee to act thus, that since the wise men of this world have rejected the gospel, thou hast deigned to manifest it to little ones. (Menochius)
Ver. 28. All you that, &c. That is, you who are wearied with the heavy load of your sins, and the grievous yoke of the old law. (Menochius)
Ver. 29. Take up my yoke, &c. Fear not the yoke of Christ, for it is a yoke of the greatest sweetness. Be not disheartened when he mentions a burden, because it is a burden exceeding light. If then our Saviour says, that the way of virtue is exceeding narrow, and replete with difficulties and dangers, we must call to mind that it is so to the slothful only. Perform therefore with alacrity what is required, and then will all things be easy; the burden will be light, and the yoke sweet. (St. Chrysostom, hom. xxxix.)
Ver. 30. For my yoke is sweet, &c. For though, in regard of our weak nature, it be a very heavy yoke, yet the grace of God renders it easy and light, because our Lord himself helps us to bear it, according to that of the prophet Osee, (Chap. xi, ver. 4) I will be unto them as he that takes the yoke from off their heads. St. Bernard says, that our Saviour sweetens by the spiritual unction of his grace, all the crosses, penances, and mortifications of religious souls. St. Augustine owns, that before he knew the power of grace, he could never comprehend what chastity was, nor believe that any one was able to practice it; but the grace of God renders all things easy. (Rodriguez, On Mortification. Chap. xix.)
 Ver. 3. Qui venturus es, o erchomenos, qui venit, who cometh.
 Ver. 5. Pauperes Evangelizantur, ptochoi euaggelizontai. In the prophet Isaias, euaggelizesthai ptochois epestalke me.
Bible Text & Cross-references:
John sends his disciples to Christ, who upbraids the Jews with their incredulity, and calls to him such as are sensible of their burdens.
1 And it came to pass, when Jesus had made an end of commanding his twelve disciples, that he passed from thence, to teach and preach in their cities.
2 *Now when John had heard, in prison, the works of Christ, sending two of his disciples, he said to him:
3 Art thou he that is to come, or do we look for another?
4 And Jesus making answer, said to them: Go and relate to John what you have heard and seen.
5 *The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead rise again, **the poor have the gospel preached to them.
6 And blessed is he that shall not be scandalized in me.
7 *And when they went their way, Jesus began to say to the multitude, concerning John: What went you out into the desert to see? a reed shaken with the wind?
8 But what went you out to see? a man clothed in soft garments? Behold they that are clothed in soft garments, are in the houses of kings.
9 But what went you out to see? a prophet? yea, I tell you, and more than a prophet.
10 For this is he of whom it is written: *Behold I send my angel before thy face, who shall prepare thy way before thee.
11 Amen I say to you, there hath not risen among them that are born of women a greater than John the Baptist: yet he that is the lesser in the kingdom of Heaven is greater than he.
12 And from the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent bear it away.
13 For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John:
14 And if you will receive it, *he is Elias that is to come.
15 He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
16 But to what shall I liken this generation? It is like to children sitting in the market-place, who crying out to their companions,
17 Say: We have piped to you, and you have not danced: we have lamented, and you have not mourned.
18 For John came neither eating nor drinking; and they say: He hath a devil.
19 The son of man came eating and drinking, and they say: Behold a man that is a glutton and a wine-drinker, a friend of publicans and sinners. And wisdom is justified by her children.
20 Then began he to upbraid the cities, wherein were done the most of his mighty works, because they had not done penance.
21 *Wo to thee, Corozain, wo to thee, Bethsaida: for if in Tyre and Sidon the mighty works had been done that have been done in you, they would long ago have done penance in sack-cloth and ashes.
22 But I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment, than for you.
23 And thou, Capharnaum, shalt thou be exalted up to heaven? thou shalt go down even unto hell. For if the mighty works had been done in Sodom that have been done in thee, perhaps it would have remained unto this day.
24 But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for thee.
25 At that time Jesus answered, and said: I give thanks to thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent and hast revealed them to little ones.
26 Yea, Father; for so hath it seemed good in thy sight.
27 All things are delivered to me by my Father. *And no one knoweth the Son, but the Father: neither doth any one know the Father, but the Son, and he to whom it shall please the Son to reveal him.
28 Come to me, all you that labour, and are burdened, and I will refresh you.
29 Take up my yoke upon you, and learn of me, because I am meek, and humble of heart: *and you shall find rest to your souls.
30 *For my yoke is sweet and my burden light.
2: Luke vii. 18.
5: Isaias xxxv. 5. — ** Isaias lxi. 1.
7: Luke vii. 24.
10: Malachias iii. 1.; Mark i. 2.; Luke vii. 27.
14: Malachias iv. 5.
21: Luke x. 13.
27: John vi. 46. and vii. 28. viii. 19. and x. 15.
29: Jeremias vi. 16.
30: John vi. 3.