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Ver 1. Then said he to the disciples, It is impossible but that offenses will come: but woe to him through whom they come!2. It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea than that he should offend one of these little ones.
THEOPHYL. Because the Pharisees were covetous and railed against Christ when He preached poverty, He put to them the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. Afterwards, in speaking with His disciples concerning the Pharisees, He declares them to be men who caused division, and placed obstacles in the divine way. As it follows: Then said he to his disciples, It is impossible but that offenses will come, that is, hindrances to a good life and which is pleasing to God.
CYRIL; Now there are two kinds of offenses, of which the one resist the glory of God, but the other serve only to cause a stumbling-block to the brethren. For the inventions of heresies, and every word that is spoken against the truth, are obstructions to the glory of God. Such offenses however do not seem to be mentioned here, but rather those which occur between friends and brethren, as strifes, slanders, and the like. Therefore He adds afterwards, If your brother trespass against you, rebuke him.
THEOPHYL. Or, He says that there must arise many obstacles to preaching and to the truth, as the Pharisees hindered the preaching of Christ. But some ask, If it needs be that offenses should come, why does our Lord rebuke the author of the offenses? for it follows, But woe to him through when they came. For whatsoever necessity engenders is pardonable, or deserving of pardon. But observe, that necessity itself derives its birth from free-will. For our Lord, seeing how men cling to evil, and put forward nothing good, spoke with reference to the consequence of those things which are seen, that offenses must needs come; just as if a physician, seeing a man using an unwholesome diet, should say, It is impossible but that such a one should be sick. And therefore to him that causes offenses He denounces woe, and threatens punishment, saying, It were better for him that a mill-stone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, &c.
BEDE; This is spoken according to the custom of the province of Palestine; for among the ancient Jews the punishment of those who were guilty of the greater crimes was that they should be sunk into the deep with a stone tied to them ; and in truth it were better for a guilty man to finish his bodily life by a punishment however barbarous, yet temporal, than for his innocent brother to deserve the eternal death of his soul. Now he who can be offended is rightly called a little one; for he who is great, whatsoever he is witness of; and how great soever his sufferings, swerves not from the faith. As far then as we can without sin, we ought to avoid giving offense to our neighbors. But if an offense is taken at the truth, it is better to let the offense be, than that truth should be abandoned.
CHRYS. But by the punishment of the man who offends, learn the reward of him who saves. For had not the salvation of one soul been of such exceeding care to Christ, he would not threaten with such a punishment the offender.
Ver 3. Take heed to yourselves: If your brother trespass against you, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.4. And if he trespass against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to you, saying, I repent; you shall forgive him.
AMBROSE; After the parable of the rich man who is tormented in punishment, Christ added a commandment to give forgiveness to those who turn themselves from their trespasses, lest any one through despair should not be reclaimed from his fault; and hence it is said, Take heed to yourselves.
THEOPHYL. As if He says, Offenses must needs come; but it does not follow that you must perish, if only you be on your guard: as it need not that the sheep should perish when the wolf comes, if the shepherd is watching. And since there are great varieties of offenders, (for some are incurable, some are curable,) He therefore adds, If your brother trespass against you, rebuke him.
AMBROSE; That there might neither be hard-wrung pardon, nor a too easy forgiveness, neither a harsh upbraiding, to dishearten, nor an overlooking of faults, to invite to sin; therefore it is said in another place, Tell him his fault between him and you alone. For better is a friendly correction, than a quarrelsome accusation. The one strikes shame into a man, the other moves his indignation. He who is admonished will more likely be saved, because he fears to he destroyed. For it is well that he who is corrected should believe you to be rather his friend than his enemy. For we have readily give ear to counsel than yield to injury. Fear us a weak preserver of consistency, but shame is an excellent master of duty. For he who fears is restrained, not amended. But He has well said, If he trespass against you. For it is not the same thing to shun against God and to sin against man.
BEDE; But we must mark, that He does not bid us forgive every one who sins, but him only who repents of his sins. For by taking this course we may avoid offenses, hurting no one, correcting the sinner with a righteous zeal, extending the bowels of mercy to the penitent.
THEOPHYL. But some one may well ask, If when I have several times forgiven my brother he again trespass against me, what must I do with him? In answer therefore to this question He adds, And if he trespass against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to you, saying, I repent; forgive him.
BEDE; By using the number seven He assigns no bound to the giving of pardon, but commands us either to forgive all sins, or always to forgive the penitent. For by seven the whole of any thing or time is frequently represented.
AMBROSE; Or this number is used because God rested on the seventh day from His works. After the seventh day of the world everlasting rest is promised us, that as the evil works of that world shall then cease, so also may the sharpness of punishment be abated.
5. And the apostles said to the Lord, Increase our faith.6. And the Lord said, If you had faith as a grain of mustard seed, you might say to this sycamine tree, Be you plucked up by the root, and be you planted in the sea; and it should obey you.
THEOPHYL. The disciples hearing our Lord discoursing of certain arduous duties, such as poverty, and avoiding offenses, entreat Him to increase their faith, that so they might be able to follow poverty, (for nothing so prompts to a life of poverty as faith and hope in the Lord,) and through faith to guard against giving offenses. Therefore it is said, And the Apostles said to the Lord, Increase our faith.
GREG. That is, that the faith which has already been received in its beginning, might go on increasing more and more to perfection.
AUG. We may indeed understand that they asked for the increase of that faith by which men believe in the things which they see not; but there is further signified a faith in things, whereby not with the words only, but the things themselves present, we believe. And this shall be, when the Wisdom of God, by whom all things were made, shall reveal Himself openly to His saints face to face.
THEOPHYL. But our Lord told them that they asked well, and that they ought to believe steadfastly, forasmuch as faith could do many things; and hence it follows, And the Lord; said, you had faith as a grain. of mustard seed, & c. Two mighty acts are here brought together in the same sentence; the transplanting of that which was rooted in the earth, and the planting thereof in the sea, (for what is ever planted in the waves?) by which two things He declares the power of faith.
CHRYS. He mentions the mustard seed, because, though small in size, it is mightier in power than all the others. He implies then that the least part of faith can do great things. But though the Apostles did not transplant the mulberry tree, do not you accuse them; for our Lord said not, You shall transplant, but, You shall be able to transplant. But they did not, because there was no need, seeing that they did greater things. But some one will ask, How does Christ say, that it is the least part of faith which can transplant a mulberry tree or a mountain, whereas Paul says that it is all faith which moves mountains? We must then answer, that the Apostle imputes the moving of mountains to all faith, not as though only the whole of faith could do this, but because this seemed a great thing to carnal men on account of the vastness of the body.
BEDE; Or our Lord here compares perfect faith to a grain of mustard seed, because it is lowly in appearance, but fervid in heart. But mystically by the mulberry tree, (whose fruit and branches are red with a blood-red color,) is represented the Gospel of the cross, which, through the faith of the Apostles being uprooted by the word of preaching from the Jewish nation, in which it was kept as it were in the lineal stock, was removed and planted in the sea of the Gentiles.
AMBROSE; Or this is said because faith keeps out the unclean spirit, especially since the nature of the tree falls in with this meaning. For the fruit of the mulberry is at first white in the blossom, and being formed from thence grows red, and blackens as it gets ripe. The devil also having by transgression fallen from the white flower of the angelic nature and the bright beams of his power, grows terrible in the black odor of sin.
CHRYS. The mulberry may be also compared to the devil, for as by the leaves of the mulberry tree certain worms are fed, so the devil, by the imaginations which proceed from him, is feeding for us a never dying worm; but this mulberry tree faith is able to pluck out of our souls, and plunge it into the deep.
Ver 7. But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say to him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat?8. And will not rather say to him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird yourself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward you shall eat and drink?9. Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not.10. So likewise you, when you shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.
THEOPHYL. Because faith makes its possessor a keeper of God’s commandments, and adorns him with wonderful works; it would seem from thence that a man might thereby fall into the sin of pride. Our Lord therefore forewarned His Apostles by a fit example, not to boast themselves in their virtues, saying, But which of you having a servant plowing, &c.
AUG. Or else; To the many who understand not this faith in the truth already present, our Lord might seem not to have answered the petitions of His disciples. And there appears a difficulty in the connection here, unless we suppose He meant the change from faith to faith, from that faith, namely, by which we serve God, to that whereby we enjoy Him. For then will our faith be increased when we first believe the word preached, next the reality present. But that joyful contemplation possesses perfect peace, which is given to us in the everlasting kingdom of God. And that perfect peace is the reward of those righteous labors, which are performed in the administration of the Church. Be then the servant in the field ploughing, or feeding, that is, in this life either following his worldly business, or serving foolish men, as it were cattle, he must after his labors return home, that is, be united to the Church.
BEDE; Or the servant departs from the field when giving up for a time his work of preaching, the teacher retires into his own conscience, pondering his own words or deeds within himself. To whom our Lord does not at once say, Go from this mortal life, and sit down to meat, that is, refresh yourself in the everlasting resting-place of a blessed life.
AMBROSE; For we know that no one sits down before he has first passed over. Moses indeed also passed over, that he might see a great sight. Since then you not only say to your servant, Sit down to meat, but require from him another service, so in this life the Lord does not put up with the performance of one work and labor, because as long as we live we ought always to work. Therefore it follows, And will not rather say, Make ready wherewith I may sup.
BEDE; He bids make ready wherewith he may sup, that is, after the labors of public discourse, He bids him humble himself in self-examination. With such a supper our Lord desires to be fed. But to gird one’s self is to collect the mind which has been enfolded in the base coil of fluctuating thoughts, whereby its steps in the cause of good works are wont to be entangled. For he who girds up his garments does so, that in walking he may not be tripped up. But to minister to God, is to acknowledge that we have no strength without the help of His grace.
AUG. While His servants also are ministering, that is, preaching the Gospel, our Lord is eating and drinking the faith and confession of the Gentiles. It follows, And afterward you shall eat and drink. As if He says, After that I have been delighted with the work of your preaching, and refreshed myself with the choice food of your compunction, then at length shall you go, and feast yourself everlastingly with the eternal banquet of wisdom.
CYRIL; Our Lord teaches us that it is no more than the just and proper right of a master to require, as their bounder duty, subjection from servants, adding, Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not. Here then is the disease of pride cut away. Why boast you yourself? Do you know that if you pay not your debt, danger is at hand, but if you pay, you do nothing thank-worthy? As St. Paul says, For though I preach the Gospel I have nothing to glory of, for necessity is laid upon me, yea woe is to me if I preach not the Gospel.
Observe then that they who have rule among us, do not thank their subjects, when they perform their appointed service, but by kindness gaining the affections of their people, breed in them a greater eagerness to serve them. So likewise God requires from us that we should wait upon Him as His servants, but because He is merciful, and of great goodness, He promises reward to them that work, and the greatness of His loving-kindness far exceeds the labors of His servants.
AMBROSE; Boast not yourself then that you have been a good servant. You have done what you ought to have done. The sun obeys, the moon submits herself, the angels are subject; let us not then seek praise from ourselves. Therefore He adds in conclusion, So likewise you, when you have done all good things, say, We are unprofitable servants, we have done that which it was our duty to do.
BEDE; Servants, I say, because bought with a price; unprofitable, for the Lord needs not our good things, or because the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory which shall be revealed in us. Herein then is the perfect faith of men, when having done all things which were commanded them, they acknowledge themselves to be imperfect.
Ver 20. And when he was demanded of the Pharisees when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God comes not with observation:21. Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.
CYRIL; Because our Savior, in His discourses which He addressed to others, spoke often of the kingdom of God, the Pharisees derided Him; hence it is said, And when he was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God should come. As though they said tauntingly, "Before the kingdom of God come, which you speak of, the death of the cross will be your lot." But our Lord testifying His patience, when reviled reviles not again, but the rather because they were evil, returns not a scornful answer; for it follows, He answered and said, The kingdom comes not with observation; as if he says, "Seek not to know the time when the kingdom of heaven shall again be at hand. For that time can be observed neither by men nor angels, not as the time of the Incarnation which was proclaimed by the foretelling of Prophets and the heraldings of Angels." Wherefore He adds, Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, Lo there! Or else, They ask about the kingdom of God, because, as is said below, they thought that on our Lord’s coming into Jerusalem, the kingdom of God would be immediately manifested. Therefore our Lord answers, that the kingdom of God will not come with observation.
CYRIL; Now it is only for the benefit of each individual that He says that which follows, For behold the kingdom of God is within you; that is, it rests with you and your own hearts to receive it. For every man who is justified by faith and the grace of God, and adorned with virtues, may obtain the kingdom of heaven.GREG. NYSS.. Or, perhaps, the kingdom of God being within us, means that joy that is implanted in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. For that is, as it were, the image and pledge of the everlasting joy with which in the world to come the souls of the Saints rejoice.
BEDE; Or the kingdom of God means that He Himself is placed in the midst of them, that is, reigning in their hearts by faith.
Ver 22. And he said to the disciples, The days will come, when you shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, and you shall not see it.23. And they shall say to you, See here; or, see there: go not after them, nor follow them.24. For as the lightning, that lightens out of the one part under heaven, shines to the other part under heaven; so shall also the Son of man be in his day.25. But first must he suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation.
CYRIL; When our Lord said, The kingdom of God is within you, He would fain prepare His disciples for suffering, that being made strong they might be able to enter the kingdom of God; He therefore foretells to them, that before His coming from heaven at the end of the world, persecution will break out upon them. Hence it follows, And he said to the disciples, The days will come, &c. meaning that so terrible will be the persecution, that they would desire to see one of His days, that is, of that time when they yet walked with Christ. Truly the Jews ofttimes beset Christ with reproaches and insults, and sought to stone Him, and ofttimes would have hurled Him down film the mountain; but even these seem to be looked upon as slight in comparison of greater evils that are to come.
THEOPHYL. For their life was then without trouble, for Christ took care of them and protected them. But the time was coming when Christ should be taken away, and they should be exposed to perils, being brought before kings and princes, and then they should long for the first time and its tranquillity.
BEDE; Or, by the day of Christ He signifies His kingdom, which we hope will come, and He lightly says, one day, because there shall no darkness disturb the glory of that blessed time. It is right then to long for the day of Christ, yet from the earnestness of our longing, let us not vision to ourselves as though the day were at hand. Hence it follows, And they shall say to you, Lo here! and, Lo there!
EUSEB. As if he said, If at the coming of Antichrist, his fame shall be spread abroad, as though Christ had appeared, go not out, nor follow him. For it cannot be that He who was once seen on earth, shall any more dwell in the corners of the earth. It will therefore be he of whom we speak, not the true Christ. For this is the clear sign of the second coming of our Savior, that suddenly the luster of His coming shall fill the whole world; and so it follows, For as the lightning that lightens, &c. For He will not appear walking upon the earth, as any common man, but will illuminate our whole universe, manifesting to all men the radiance of His divinity.
BEDE; And he well says, that lightens out of the one part under heaven, because the judgment will be given under the heaven, that is, in the midst of the air, as the Apostle says, We shall be caught up together with them in the clouds. But if the Lord shall appear at the Judgment like lightning, then shall no one remain hidden in the deep of his heart, for the very brightness of the Judge pierces through him; we may also take this answer of our Lord to refer to His coming, whereby He comes daily into His Church. For ofttimes have heretics so vexed the Church, by saying that the faith of Christ stands in their own dogma, that the faithful in those times longed that the Lord would if it were possible even for one day return to the earth, and Himself make known what was the true faith. And you shall not see it, because it need not that the Lord should again testify by a bodily presence that which has been spiritually declared by the light of the Gospel, once scattered and diffused throughout the whole world.
CYRIL; Now His disciples supposed that He would go to Jerusalem, and would at once make a manifestation of the kingdom of God. To rid them therefore of this belief, He informs them that it became Him first to suffer the Life-giving Passion, then to ascend to the Father and shine forth from above, that He might judge the world in righteousness. Hence He adds, But first must he suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation.
BEDE; He means the generation not only of the Jews, but also of all wicked men, by whom even now in His own body, that is, His Church, the Son of man suffers many things, and is rejected. But while He spoke many things of His coming in glory, He inserts something also concerning His Passion, that when men saw Him dying, whom they had heard would be glorified, they might both soothe their sorrow for His sufferings by the hope of the promised glory, and at the same time prepare themselves, if they love the glories of His kingdom, to fool; without alarm upon the horrors of death.
Ver 26. And as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man.27. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all.28. Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built;29. But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all.30. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed.
BEDE; The coming of our Lord, which He had compared to lightning flying swiftly across the heavens, He now likens to the days of Noah and Lot, when a sudden destruction came upon mankind.
CHRYS. For refusing to believe the words of warning they were suddenly visited with a real punishment from God; but their unbelief proceeded from self-indulgence, and softness of mind. For such as a man’s wishes and inclinations are, will also be his expectations. Therefore it follows, they eat and drank.
AMBROSE; He rightly declares the deluge to have been caused by our sins, for God did not create evil, but our deservings found it out for themselves. Let it not however be supposed that marriages, or again meat and drink, are condemned, seeing that by the one succession is sustained, by the other nature, but moderation is to be sought for in all things. For whatsoever is more than this is of evil.
BEDE; Now Noah builds the ark mystically. The Lord builds His Church of Christ’s faithful servants, by uniting them together in one, as smooth pieces of wood; and when it is perfectly finished, He enters it: as at the day of Judgment, He who ever dwells within His Church enlightens it with His visible presence. But while the ark is in building, the wicked flourish, when it is entered, they perish; as they who revile the saints in their warfare here, shall when they are crowned hereafter be smitten with eternal condemnation.
EUSEB. Having used the example of the deluge, that no one might expect a future deluge by water, our Lord cites, secondly, the example of Lot, to show the manner of the destruction of the wicked, namely, that the wrath of God would descend upon them by fire from heaven.
BEDE; Passing by the unutterable wickedness of the Sodomites, He mentions only those which may be thought trifling offenses, or none at all; that you may understand how fearfully unlawful pleasures are punished, when lawful pleasures taken to excess receive for their reward fire and brimstone.
EUSEB. He does not say that fire came down from heaven upon the wicked Sodomites before that Lot went out from them, just as the deluge did not swallow up the inhabitants of the earth before that Noah entered the ark; for as long as Noah and Lot dwelt with the wicked, God suspended His anger that they might not perish together with the sinners, but when He would destroy those, He withdrew the righteous. So also at the end of the world, the consummation shall not come before all the just are separated from the wicked.
BEDE; For He who in the mean time though we see Him not yet sees all things, shall then appear to judge all things. And He shall come especially at that time, when He shall see all who are forgetful of His judgments in bondage to this world.
THEOPHYL. For when Antichrist has come, then shall men become wanton, given up to abominable vices, as the Apostle says, Lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. For if Antichrist is the dwelling-place of every sin, what else will he then implant in the miserable race of men, but what belongs to himself. And this our Lord implies by the instances of the deluge and the people of Sodom.
BEDE; Now mystically, Lot, which is interpreted ’turning aside,’ is the people of the elect, who, while in Sodom, i.e. among the wicked, live as strangers, to the utmost of their power turning aside from all their wicked ways. But when Lot went out, Sodom is destroyed, for at the end of the world, the angels shall go forth and sever the wicked from among the just, and cast them into a furnace of fire. The fire and brimstone, however, which He relates to have rained from heaven, does not signify the flame itself of everlasting punishment, but the sudden coming of that day.
Ver 31. In that day, he which shall be upon the housetop, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away: and he that is in the field, let him likewise not return back.32. Remember Lot’s wife.33. Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it, and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.
AMBROSE; Because good men must needs on account of the wicked be sore vexed in this world, in order that they may receive a more plentiful reward in the world to come, they are here punished with certain remedies, as it is here said, In that day, &c. that is, if a man goes up to the top of his house and rises to the summit of the highest virtues, let him not fall back to the groveling business of this world.
AUG. For he is on the housetop who, departing from carnal things, breathes as it were the free air of a spiritual life. But the vessels in the house are the carnal senses, which many using to discover truth which is only taken in by the intellect, have entirely missed it. Let the spiritual man then beware, lest in the day of tribulation he again take pleasure in the carnal life which is fed by the bodily senses, and descend to take away this world’s vessels. It follows, And he that is in the field, let him not return back; that is, He who labors in the Church, as Paul planting and Apollos watering, let him not look back upon the worldly prospects which he has renounced.
THEOPHYL. Matthew relates all these things to have been said by our Lord, with reference to the destruction of Jerusalem, that when the Romans came upon them, they who were on the housetop should not come down to take any thing, but fly at once, nor they that were in the field return home. And surely so it was at the taking of Jerusalem, and again will be at the coming of Antichrist, but much more at the completion of all things, when that intolerable destruction shall come.
EUSEB. He hereby implies that a persecution will come from the son of perdition upon Christ’s faithful. By that day then He means the time previous to the end of the world, in which let not him who is flying return, nor care to lose his goods, lest he imitate Lot’s wife, who when she deaf out of the city of Sodom, turning back, died, and became a pillar of salt.
AMBROSE; Because thus she looked behind, she lost the gift of her nature. For Satan is behind, behind also Sodom. Wherefore flee from intemperance, turn away from lust, for recollect, that he who turned not back to his old pursuits escaped, because he reached the mount; whereas she looking back to what was left behind, could not even by the aid of her husband reach the mount, but remained fixed.
AUG. Lot’s wife represents those who in time of trouble look back and turn aside from the hope of the divine promise, and hence she was made a pillar of salt as a warning to men not to do likewise, and to season as it were their hearts, lest they become corrupt.
THEOPHYL. Next follows the promise, Whosoever shall seek, &c. as if he said, Let no man in the persecutions of Antichrist seek to secure his life, for he shall lose it, but whoso shall expose himself to trials and death shall be safe, never submitting himself to the tyrant from his love of life.
CYRIL; How a man may lose his own life to save it, St. Paul explains when he speaks of some who crucified their flesh with the affections and lusts, that is, with perseverance and devotion engaging in the conflict.
Ver 34. I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left.35. Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left.36. Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.37. And they answered and said to him, Where, Lord? And he said to them, Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together.
BEDE; Our Lord had just before said, that he who is in the field must not return back; and lest this should seem to have been spoken of those only who would openly return from the field, that is, who would publicly deny their Lord, He goes on to show, that there are some who, while seeming to turn their face forward, are yet in their heart looking behind.
AMBROSE; He rightly says, night, for Antichrist is the hour of darkness, because he pours a dark cloud over the minds of men while he declares himself to be Christ. But Christ as lightning shines brightly, that we may be able to see in that night the glory of the resurrection.
AUG. Or He says, in that night, meaning in that tribulation.
THEOPHYL. Or He teaches us the suddenness of Christ’s coming, which we are told will be in the night. And having said that the rich can scarcely be saved, He shows that not all the rich perish, nor all the poor are saved.
CYRIL; For by the two men in one bed, He seems to denote the rich who repose themselves in worldly pleasures, for a bed is a sign of rest. But not all who abound in riches are wicked, but if one is good and elect in the faith, he will be taken, but another who is not so will be left. For when our Lord descends to judgment, He will send His Angels, who while they leave behind on the earth the rest to suffer punishment, will bring the holy and righteous men to Him; according to the Apostle’s words, We shall be caught up together in the clouds to meet Christ in the air.
AMBROSE; Or out of the same bed of human infirmity, one is left, that is, rejected, another is taken up, that is, is caught to meet Christ in the air. By the two grinding together, he seems to imply the poor and the oppressed. To which belongs what follows. Two men shall be in the field, &c. For in these there is no slight difference. For some nobly bear up against the burden of poverty, leading a lowly but honest life, and these shall be taken up; but the others are very active in wickedness, and they shall be left. Or those grinding at the mill seem to represent such as seek nourishment from hidden sources, and from secret places draw forth things openly to view. And perhaps the world is a kind of corn mill, in which the soul is shut up as in a bodily prison. And in this corn mill either the synagogue or the soul exposed to sin, like the wheat, softened by grinding and spoilt by too great moisture, cannot separate the outward from the inner parts, and so is left because its flour dissatisfies. But the holy Church, or the soul which is not soiled by the stains of sin, which grinds such wheat as is ripened by the heat of the eternal sun, presents to God a good flour from the secret shrines of the heart. Who the two men in the field are we may discover if we consider, that there are two minds in us, one of the outer man which wastes away, the other of the inner man which is renewed by the Sacrament. These are then the laborers in the field, the one of which by diligence brings forth good fruit, the other by idleness loses that which he has. Or those who are compared we may interpret to be two nations, one of which being faithful is taken, the other being unfaithful is left.
AUG. Or there are three classes of men here represented. The first is composed of those who prefer their ease and quiet, and busy not themselves in secular or ecclesiastical concerns. And this quiet life of theirs is signified by the bed. The next class embraces those who being placed among the people are governed by teachers. And such he has described by the name of women, because it is best for them to be ruled by the advice of those who are set over them; and he has described these as grinding at the mill, because in their hands revolves the wheel and circle of temporal concerns. And with reference to these mattershe has represented them as grinding together, inasmuch as they give their services to the benefit of the Church. The third class are those who labor in the ministry of the Church as in the field of God. In each of these three classes then there are two sorts of men, of which the one abide in the Church and are taken up, the other fall away and are left.
AMBROSE; For God is not unjust that He should separate in His reward of their deserts men of like pursuits in life, and not differing in the quality of their actions. But the habit of living together does not equalize the merits of men, for not all accomplish what they attempt, but he only who shall persevere to the end shall be saved.
CYRIL; When He said that some should be taken up, the disciples not unprofitably inquire, ’Where, Lord?’
BEDE; Our Lord was asked two questions, where the good should be taken up, and where the bad left; He gave only one answer, and left the other to be understood, saying, Wherever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together.
CYRIL; As if He said, As when a dead body is thrown away, all the birds which feed on human flesh flock to it, so when the Son of man shall come, all the eagles, that is, the saints, shall haste to meet Him.
AMBROSE; For the souls of the righteous are likened to eagles, because they soar high and forsake the lower parts, and are said to live to a great age. Now concerning the body, we can have no doubt, and above all if we remember that Joseph received the body from Pilate. And do not you see the eagles around, the body are the women and Apostles gathered together around our Lord’s sepulcher? Do not you see them then, When he shall come in the clouds, and every eye shall behold him? But the body is that of which it was said, My flesh is meat indeed; and around this body are the eagles which fly about on the wings of the Spirit, around it also eagles which believe that Christ has come in the flesh. And this body is the Church, in which by the grace of baptism we are renewed in the Spirit.
EUSEB. Or by the eagles feeding on the dead animals, he has here described the rulers of the world, and those who shall at that time persecute the saints of God, in whose power are left all those who are unworthy of being taken up, who are called the body or carcass. Or by the eagles are meant the avenging powers which shall fly about to torment the wicked. AUG. Now these things which Luke has given us in a different place from Matthew, he either relates by anticipation, so as to mention beforehand what was afterwards spoken by our Lord, or he means us to understand that they were twice uttered by Him.
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Aquinas, Thomas. "Commentary on Luke 17". "Golden Chain Commentary on the Gospel". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent