Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Wednesday, Oct 22: Some Commentaries on Today's Readings

Commentary on the First Reading: 

Fr. de Piconio's Commentary on Ephesians 3:2-12.

Update: Father Callan's Commentary on Ephesians 3:2-12. On 1-13

Navarre Bible Commentary on Ephesians 3:2-13. Off site. Will open in new window.

Commentary on the Responsorial:

 Pope John Paul II's Commentary on Isaiah 12:1-6.

Commentary on the Gospel Reading: 

Fr. Cornelius a Lapide's Commentary on Luke 12:39-48.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Luke 12:39-48. Off site. Will open in new window.

Cornelius a Lapide's Commentary on Luke 12:39-48

Text in red are my additions.
Luk 12:39  But this know ye, that if the householder did know at what hour the thief would come, he would surely watch and would not suffer his house to be broken open.
Luk 12:40  Be you then also ready: for at what hour you think not the Son of man will come
. No commentary is provided by Lapide for these verses. I’ve posted a few notes of my own.
In chapter nine our Blessed Lord set fast (literally, “hardened”) his face towards Jerusalem (Luke 9:51). The phrase indicates a prophetic judgment (see Jer 21:10; Ezekiel 21:2, for Jerusalem’s judgement see Luke 13:31-35; Luke 19:41-44). It may also indicate his resolve to commit himself to the Passion (see the Suffering Servant Song of Isaiah 50:7). The theme of judgement and the Passion are both highlighted in Luke’s “Journey to Jerusalem” narrative (Luke 9:51-19:44). The aged Simeon had predicted that Jesus would be a sign of contradiction who would cause the rise and fall of many in Israel (Luke 2:34). His coming was one of judgement, a judgement determined by how you respond. Will you be a faithful or unfaithful servant (Luke 12:41-48)? Can you handle the opposition of those family members who will not respond favorably (Luke 12:49-53)? Can you see the impending crisis and respond (Luke 12:54-59), i.e., will you repent (Luke 13:1-5) while the time of grace and favor remains (Luke 13:6-10)? Or will you be overtaken by the thief for you lack of vigilance (Luke 12:39-40)?
Luk 12:41  And Peter said to him: Lord, dost thou speak this parable to us, or likewise to all?
To all men, especially the faithful, as well to those who are now living as to those who shall live hereafter. Peter doubted of this, because Christ was accustomed to give some doctrines to the Apostles alone, others to all the faithful, and He had here said some things which seemed fitted only to the Apostles and men of perfect lives, as verses 32-37. The rest about watching and waiting for the coming of the Lord seemed to apply to all the faithful.
Luk 12:42  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?
Christ replied to Peter that He spoke indeed to all the faithful, but especially to him and the Apostles. For upon them were incumbent greater watching and care, that they might save not only themselves but others of the faithful as well. And Peter was the steward whom Christ set over His household, that is, His Church, as also the other Apostles, according to the words of S. Paul, “Let a man so account of us as of ministers of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.”
To give them their measure of wheat in due season.  (The Vulgate has mensuram tritici, on which Cornelius comments). Our, Lord alludes to the custom of the ancients, with whom slavery was common and severe. For servants had in abundance many things that Christians have now need of. They put one of the slaves over the mancipii, to distribute, every month, a measure (hence called demensus) of provisions and corn, wheat perhaps, or barley, if they were of inferior degree, as I have shown on Hos 3:2.
Secondly, wheat (tritici) may refer to time. For it is the duty of a good steward, like Joseph, when it is the season of wheat harvest, to dispense it frugally by measure to each head of a family, that it may not be sold or expended on the poor, and so there be an insufficiency for the household. I have explained the rest on Matt 24:45.
Observe the words “steward” and “portion.” For a just steward does not give the same measure to all, but to each his own and according to his age, rank, and desert. It is the proper task of a steward to distribute what is appropriate to each. One kind and proportion of food is proper for an infant, and another for a youth, a third, for a full grown man, a fourth, for the aged—one for a man, another for a woman—one for a daughter, another for a servant—one for sons, another for slaves.
From this Christ moraliter, teaches, Bishops, Pastors, Confessors, Preachers, that they ought not to set forth the same food of doctrine to all the faithful, nor (in general) speak of virtues to all only in a general way, but in particular they should instil into them such as are fit and proper to their age and position.  S. Paul, by his own example, taught the praxis of this parable and sentence when he gave one kind of monition and precept to sons, another to fathers, another to servants, Eph 6:1 and following, and when he wrote to Timothy, 1Tim 5:1-4; so to Titus 2:2, and following.
S. Gregory Thaumaturgus, Bishop of New Cæsarea, followed Christ and S. Paul, as Gregory of Nyssa writes in his life: “A mourner would bear from him what would comfort him; youth were corrected and taught moderation—medicine in fitting conversation was offered to the aged, servants were taught to be well affected to their masters, masters to be kind and gentle to those under their rule; the poor were taught to hold grace the only true riches, the possession of which was in the power of every one; he who boasted himself of his wealth was aptly reminded that he was the steward and not the lord of what he had. Profitable words were given to women, suitable ones to children, and befitting ones to fathers.” And S. Cyprian, as Pontius the deacon wrote in his life, used to urge maidens to a becoming rule of modesty and a manner of dress which was adapted to sanctity. He taught the lapsed penitence, heretics truth, schismatics unity, the sons of God peace and the law of evangelical prayer. He comforted Christians under the loss of their relatives with the hope of the future. He checked the bitterness of envy by the sweetness of befitting remedies. He incited martyrs by exhortation from the divine discourses. Confessors who were signed with the mark on their foreheads he animated by the incentive of the heavenly host. The same, especially, and before all others.
Luk 12:43  Blessed is that servant whom, when his lord shall come, he shall find so doing.
Luk 12:44  Verily I say to you, he will set him over all that he possesseth.
Luk 12:45  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.

No commentary is given on these verses. Verse 44 may be intended to call to mind the patriarch Joseph (see Ps 105:21 and Gen 41:37-43.

Luk 12:46  The lord of that servant will come in the day that he hopeth not, and at the hour that he knoweth not: and shall separate him and shall appoint him his portion with unbelievers

Shall separate him (see note at end of paragraph). That is, shall separate him from Himself, and His household, the Church triumphant; from the society of the Blessed and from the Beatitude promised to the faithful servants. See St. Jerome on Matt 24: “Shall cut him asunder, that is, shall separate him from the Communion of Saints.” St. Hilary: “Shall separate him from the good promises;” Origen: “Shall cut him off from the gift of the Holy Spirit and from the society and guardianship of the Angels, for Christ will deprive him of all grace, all virtue, all help, and all hope of salvation.”

The Greek dichotomein means literally “to cut in two.”  Some see here a reference to the ancient practice of covenant making, wherein an animal would be split in two and the covenant parties would pass between the parts of the carcass while declaring that they would suffer the animal’s fate if they broke the pact.  Some see such a practice alluded to in Gen 15:7-18..

Contextually, the word should be taken in relation to what preceded (vs 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 (Gr. sitometron) follows in the present verse: “Shall appoint him his portion (meros) with unbelievers.” Dichotomein, sitometron, and meros all have the basic meaning of portion, division, etc.  If the steward does not portion out (sitometron) the masters food fairly to the other servants (vs 42) he will not have a portion in the master house, but will be portioned in two (dichotomein)  and assigned a portion (meros) with unbelievers (vs 46).  Seen in this way the term “cut in two” has the sense of “being halved off, separated, hence the interpretation given by Lapide.

Shall appoint his position with the unbelievers. That is, shall punish him with the other servants who were unfaithful to him, although they pretended to be the contrary. Hence Mat 24:51 has “with the hypocrites.” These unfaithful are perhaps the unbelieving—they who would not believe in Christ, and of whom it is said, “He that believeth not hath been judged already.” John 3:18.

Luk 12:47  And that servant, who knew the will of his lord and prepared not himself and did not according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.

And that servant, who knew the will of his lord and prepared not himself. Did not prepare for the coming of his lord by distributing to his fellow-servants their portions of food in season, but by ill-treating them, and by debauchery, squandered the goods of his master, “shall be beaten with many stripes.”

Luk 12:48  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.

But he that knew not and did things worthy of stripes shall be beaten with few stripes.  That is, with fewer than he who knew his lord’s will, according to the measure as well of his ignorance as of his act and fault. There are four degrees of ignorance, the first invincible, which is without blame; the second vincible, but hardly so, which has some fault and is subject to punishment; the third crass, which has more blame; the fourth wilful, which has the most blame and the heaviest punishment. Of this the Ps 36:4 speaks, “He deviseth mischief upon his bed; he setteth himself in a way that is not good, he abhorreth not evil.” “This man,” says Euthymius, “despised everything; that one was slothful. But contempt is worse than sloth.” For the slothful man knew not when he might have known, and, as Titus says, he neglected to learn and despised, and derided contemptuously. Hence it is plain against Jovinian and modern heretics that there are degrees even of mortal sin, and some are worse than others, and will therefore meet with more heavy punishment in hell, but one of a milder the other of a more severe punishment.

And unto whomsoever much is given.  And to whomsoever much is given—a greater knowledge that is, and recognition of his master’s will—of him shall much be required, by Christ the judge, and in the particular as well as general judgment. For, as S. Gregory (Hom. 9) says, “When gifts are increased the responsibility is increased also,” and to whom they commit much (that is, the care and superintendence of souls), of him will they ask the more. “Many things,” says Bede, “are entrusted to him, to whom is committed, with his own salvation, the salvation also of the flock of God. From such will Christ, His assessors the Apostles, and the other judges, require the more, not only their own safety and salvation as far as lies in them, but those also of the faithful committed to them. “In the pastor,” says S. Bernard, “is required the care of souls, not the cure (cura requiritur, non curatio). The latter may be impossible from the virulence or pertinacity either of the disease or of the patient.” “These things,” says Titus “clearly show the judgment of the surgeons and pastors, whilst that of the rest is not less grave and perilous. Let them not therefore show pride because of their degree and office, but discharge their duties and feed their flocks with the greater humility, zeal, and diligence.” “Each one, therefore,” says S. Gregory, “ought to be the more humble and prompt to serve God, from the office given to him, as he knows himself to be under the greater obligation of giving account.”

Again, S. Bernard (Lib. iv. de Consid.), lays down forcibly, and point by point, to Pope Eugenius III. what, and how much, God requires from Pontiffs, Bishops, and Prelates. “Consider thyself,” he says, “as the form of justice, the mirror of holiness—the exemplar of piety—the assertor of the truth, the defender of the faith, the doctor of the Gentiles, the leader of Christians, the friend of the bridegroom, the ordainer of the clergy, the pastor of the people, the governor of the unwise, the refuge of the oppressed, the advocate of the poor, the hope of the wretched, the tutor of the young, the judge of widows, the eyes of the blind, the tongue of the dumb, the staff of the aged, the avenger of crimes, the dread of the wicked, the glory of the good, the rod of the powerful, the hammer of tyrants, the father of kings, the judge of the laws, the dispenser of canonries, the salt of the earth, the light of the world, the priest of the Most High, the Vicar of Christ. Who would not be struck with fear, and tremble, when he heard this, all of which is required of your see?” Thus S. Paul to the Heb. xiii. 17, on which, says S. Chrysostom, “I wonder if any guardian of souls can be saved.” Cardinal Bellarmine said the same of Pontiffs. Hence wise and holy men have avoided prelacies, and have only accepted them by compulsion. S. Cyprian, in his Epist. 2, lib. iv., wrote thus of Cornelius the Pontiff. “He did not demand the popedom for himself, nor seize it by force, as others puffed up by their arrogance and pride have done, but quietly and modestly, and like others who have been divinely called to this office, he endured force lest he should be compelled to accept it.” In like manner, as far as they could, SS. Gregory, Chrysostom, Ambrose, Basil, Nazianzen, Nicholas, Athanasius, shunned the office of Bishops; and in our own times Pius V., when chosen Pontiff, turned pale and almost fell into a faint. When asked the reason he frankly answered, “When I was a Religious of the Order of Benedict, I had very good hope of my salvation; when I was afterwards made a Bishop I began to have a dread about it: now that I am chosen Pontiff I almost despair of it, for how am I to give account to God for so many thousands of souls as are in this whole city, when I can scarcely answer for my own soul?” So it is in his life. Finally, the Council of Trent declares the burden of a Bishop’s office to be one formidable to the shoulders of angels.

Wednesday, Oct 22: Pope John Paul II's Commentary on Isaiah 12:1-6

Draw water with joy at the fountain of salvation 

1. The hymn just proclaimed appears as a song of joy in the Liturgy of Lauds. It is a concluding seal on the sections of the Book of Isaiah known for their Messianic reading. It includes chapters 6-12, generally known as the “Book of Emmanuel”. In fact, at the centre of those prophetic sayings towers the figure of a sovereign, who while belonging to the historic Davidic dynasty, reveals transfigured features and receives glorious titles:  “Wonderful counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of peace” (Is 9:6).

The concrete figure of the king of Judah that Isaiah promises as son and successor of Achaz, the sovereign of the time, known to be far removed from the Davidic ideals, is the sign of a higher promise:  that of the Messiah-King who will bring to its fullness the name “Emmanuel”, namely, “God-with-us”, becoming the perfect presence of the divine in human history. It is easy to understand, then, how the New Testament and Christianity did intuit in the profile of the king the personal features of Jesus Christ, Son of God become man in solidarity with us.

2. Scholars now think that the hymn which we are dealing with (cf. Is 12:1-6), on account of its literary quality and its general tone, to be a composition written at a time later than that of the prophet Isaiah who lived in the eighth century before Christ. It is almost like a quotation, a text that resembles a psalm, thought out, perhaps, for liturgical use, that has been inserted here as the conclusion for the “Book of Emmanuel”. In fact, it repeats some of the themes:  salvation, trust, joy, divine action, the presence among the people of the “Holy One of Israel”, an expression that indicates both the “holy” transcendence of God, and his loving and active closeness on which the people of Israel can rely.

The singer is a person who has lived a bitter experience, felt to be an act of divine judgment. But now the trial is over, the purification has taken place; in the place of the Lord’s anger there is a smile, his readiness to save and console.

3. The hymn’s two stanzas delineate two moments. In the first (cf. Is 12:1-3), that begins with the invitation to pray:  “You will say on that day”, the word “salvation” stands out, it is repeated three times and applied to the Lord:  “God indeed is my salvation…. He has become my salvation … the wells of salvation”. Let us recall that the name Isaiah like that of Jesus contains the root of the Hebrew verb ylsa‘, which alludes to bringing about “salvation”. For this reason the one praying has the absolute certainty that divine grace is at the root of his liberation and hope.

It is important to note that he refers implicitly to the great salvific event of the exodus from the slavery of Egypt, as he quotes the words of Moses’ song of deliverance, “the Lord God is my strength and my song” (Ex 15:2).

4. The salvation granted by God, that can make joy and trust flower even on the dark day of the trial, is portrayed by the classic image in the Bible of water:  “You will draw water with joy at the fountain of salvation” (Is 12:3). It reminds us of the scene of the Samaritan woman, when Jesus offers her the possibility of having in herself a “spring of water that will well up to eternal life” (Jn 4:14).

Cyril of Alexandria commented in a marvelous way:  “Jesus calls the life-giving gift of the Spirit living water, the only one through which humanity, even though it was completely abandoned, like the tree trunks on the mountains, and dry, and deprived of every kind of virtue by the deceit of the devil, is restored to the former beauty of its nature…. The Saviour calls the grace of the Holy Spirit water, and if one participates in him, he will have in himself the source of divine teachings, so that he will no longer need the advice of others, and will be able to exhort those who are thirsting for the Word of God. Such were the holy prophets and apostles of God and their successors in the ministry while they were alive on earth. Of them it is written:  “You will draw water with joy at the fountain of salvation” (Commento al Vangelo di Giovanni [Comment on the Gospel of John], II, 4, Roma 1994, pp. 272,275).

Unfortunately, humanity often abandons this fountain that will quench the thirst of the entire being of the person, as the Prophet Jeremiah points out with sadness:  “They have abandoned me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns, that can not hold water” (Jer 2:13). Even Isaiah, a few pages before, exalted the “waters of Shiloah, that run slowly”, symbol of the Lord present in Zion, and threatened the chastisement of the flooding of the “waters of the river, namely, the Euphrates, great and mighty” (Is 8,6-7), symbol of the military and economic might and of idolatry, waters that then fascinated Judah, that would later submerge her.

5. Another invitation, “On that day you will say” the second stanza begins (cf. Is 12:4-6), that is a continual call to joyful praise in honour of the Lord. The commands to praise are multiplied:  “Praise, invoke, manifest, proclaim, sing, shout, exult”.

At the centre of the praise there is a unique profession of faith in God the Saviour who works in history and is beside his creature, sharing his up’s and down’s:  “The Lord has done great works … great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel” (Is 12:5-6). This profession of faith also has a missionary function:  “Among the nations make known his deeds … let this be known throughout all the earth” (12:4-5). The salvation that they have obtained must be witnessed to the world, so that all humanity may run to the fountain of peace, joy and freedom.

Wednesday, October 22: Father de Piconio's Commentary on Ephesians 3:2-13

Although today's first reading begins with verse 2 this post begins with verse 1. Verse 1 draws a direct connection with Eph 2:19-22 and the reader may wish to consult that passage first. Of course, one who is not well acquainted with this Epistle would do well to read the first two chapters. You may also wish to consult the following footnotes found in the NABRE: 

Text of Eph 1:3-14. Footnote to 1:3-14
Text of Eph 1:15-23. Footnote to 1:15-23.
Text of Eph 2:1-10. Footnote to 2:1-10.
Text of Eph 2:11-22. Footnote to 2:11-22
Text of Eph 3:1-13. Footnote to 3:1-13

In this post the reading will appear in full first, followed by individual verses with commentary. Text in red, if any are my additions.

Eph 3:1. For this thing’s sake I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles.
Eph 3:2. If indeed you have heard the dispensation of the grace of God, which was given me towards you.
Eph 3:3. That by revelation the mystery was made known to me, as I have briefly written above.
Eph 3:4. So that you are able, when }ou read, to understand my wisdom in the mystery of Christ
Eph 3:5. Which in other generations was not known to the sons of men, as now it is revealed to his holy Apostles and Prophets in the Spirit.
Eph 3:6. That the nations are coheirs, and united in one body, and fellow participators of his promise, in Christ Jesus, through the Gospel.
Eph 3:7. Of which I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God, which was given me according to the operation of his power.
Eph 3:8. To me of all the saints the least this grace was given, to preach among the Gentiles the untraceable riches of Christ.
Eph 3:9. And to enlighten all men what is the dispensation of the mystery hidden from the ages in God, who created all things.
Eph 3:10. That the multiform wisdom of God may become known to the principalities and powers in the heavenly regions, through the Church,
Eph 3:11. According to the purpose of the ages, which he made in Christ Jesus our Lord;
Eph 3:12. In whom we have trust and access in confidence through his faith.
Eph 1:1. For this thing’s sake I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles. 

For this thing’s sake, because you are, and in order that you may remain, fellow-citizens of the Saints, and the household and temple of God (Eph 2:19-22).  I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ. The article is prefixed to prisoner in the Greek. The prisoner of whom you have so often heard, for the captivity of the Apostle was a great political event, well known throughout the Roman empire. I Paul, who have been chosen by Jesus Christ to carry his name before nations and kings. Act 9:15. It was the indignation and anger of the Jews at his assiduous and successful accomplishment of this mission, which occasioned his imprisomnent, as appears from the narrative in the Acts of the Apostles, 20-28, and accordingly he describes himself as the prisoner, literally the bound, of Jesus Christ, for you Gentiles. It will be observed that St. Paul is not at all ashamed of his imprisonment, or of its cause, but glories in both as a high honour and distinction. This imprisonment was either that of two years at Rome, described Acts 28:30, which is most probable; or that which took place two years later, and ended in the martyrdom of the Apostle, June 29, A.D. 67.

Eph 3:2. If indeed you have heard the dispensation of the grace of God, which was given me towards you. 

You will recognize that I am a prisoner on your account, if, which is most probable, you have heard of the Apostolic mission which God has entrusted to me, towards the Gentiles.  St. Paul had resided and taught three years at Ephesus, but the Saints never, unless absolutely compelled, speak of God’s graces shown to themselves, and it was possible that some of the Ephesians, who had been converted since the visit of the Apostle to their city, might not be sufficiently aware of his claims on their attention. He calls his apostolate the dispensation, or economy, of the grace of God. Economy means the prudent management of domestic affairs, or sometimes of the administration of the government of a state. Here it is God’s prudent provision for the extension of the Gospel and the welfare of the Church. Every apostolate, prelacy, or charge of preaching is a grace of God, given gratuitously for the welfare and advantage of others. It should therefore not be sought for personal reasons, or from the favour of man, or for repose or pleasure; but only for labour.

Eph 3:3. That by revelation the mystery was made known to me, as I have briefly written above. 

You have heard that the mystery was made known to me by divine revelation. The Vulgate here uses the word sacramentum, and in the next verse mysterium, for the Greek term, which is the word last named. What the mystery is, he explains in the following verses. Here he states that God had directly revealed it to him, as is briefly recorded in the former chapters of this Epistle, especially in Eph 1:9. 

Eph 3:4. So that you are able, when }ou read, to understand my wisdom in the mystery of Christ. 

When you read what I have already said, and what I am about to say, you will at once perceive the source from which my information is drawn. The Greek has my intelligence, Theophylact, my knowledge. St. Paul does not always meticulously distinguish between prudence, wisdom, intelligence, and science. 

Eph 3:5. Which in other generations was not known to the sons of men, as now it is revealed to his holy Apostles and Prophets in the Spirit. 

The secret was absolutely unknown, in former generations, to the greater part of the nations of the earth. Neither was it known to any one of those nations, or even to their Prophets, with the same clearness and certainty with which it has now been revealed by the Holy Spirit to the holy Apostles and Prophets of the new law. The vocation of the Gentiles is, indeed, mentioned not obscurely by Isaias and other Prophets, but still there was silence as to many circumstances not then fully revealed, as, for instance, that the Gentiles were to be admitted without becoming; Jewish proselytes, without circumcision and obedience to the precepts of Moses. And to many nations the writings of these Prophets were wholly unknown. The truth was only revealed in its fulness to the Apostles and Prophets of the Christian Church. Of these Prophets there were many in the Apostolic age, as is evident from the writings of St. Paul, and particularly his first Epistle to the Corinthians.

Eph 3:6. That the nations are coheirs, and united in one body, and fellow participators of his promise, in Christ Jesus, through the Gospel. 

The Gentiles, without becoming Jewish proselytes, are heirs with the Jews of God’s heavenly kingdom, members of the holy Catholic Church, which is the mystical body of Christ, and partakers of the promised benediction of all nations, which was announced of old to the patriarch Abraham. Or else, of the Holy Spirit, which God had promised to pour forth upon mankind. And this inheritance, with all its glorious privileges in the present, and anticipations in the future, they obtain by faith in the Gospel of Christ. Those who listen to the teaching of the Apostles, have, therefore, a deeper insight into the mysteries of God, than was communicated even to the Prophets of the Old Testament.

Eph 3:7. Of which I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God, which was given me according to the operation of his power.

I was made a minister and herald of this Gospel, not for any merits of my own, for I was a persecutor of the Church of God, but by the grace of God freely given to me. But this grace was efficacious for the conversion of the nations, through the energy (ενεργειαν = energian) of the strength of God, evidenced by the miracles I was able to accomplish.

Eph 3:8. To me of all the saints the least this grace was given, to preach among the Gentiles the untraceable riches of Christ. 

In a genuine spirit of humility St. Paul is not satisfied to call himself the last and least of Christians, but coins a comparative of this superlative, ἐλαχιστότερος (elachistoteros) less than the least, behind the last (or, “the leaster”) Yet his trust in God’s power was equal to his sense of his own personal unworthiness. St. Chrysostom says that St. Paul brought three things to his preaching; a dauntless courage, an unequalled wisdom, a blameless life. We are not worthy even to remember him. In fol. gog of this Father will be found some comparisons illustrating the difficulty of imitating him. The grace, or favour, which St. Paul declares to have been conferred upon himself, was the privilege of making known to the nations the unsearchable, inexhaustible, literally the untraceable, riches of Christ. The riches of Christ is his generosity, the infinite richness, splendour, and felicity of the gifts which he has in store for those who believe in him, in the life to come, never to be exhausted or understood, and which he gives in part and in anticipation during this mortal life.

Eph 3:9. And to enlighten all men what is the dispensation of the mystery hidden from the ages in God, who created all things. 

To teach all men what is the economy of this mystery. The Economy, in the language of theologians, means the Incarnation of Christ and the work of our redemption. To let all men see how God retained through the ages this great purpose, known only to himself, and how wisely and wonderfully, in the fulness of the times, he has accomplished it, by the Incarnation and death of Christ.

This Economy was a mystery known only to God, and hidden during the ages from all other knowledge than his. Who created all things. The Greek text has: who created all things by Jesus Christ, and this is the reading of Saint Chrysostom and of Theodoret. The last-named writer has, who made all things, his Son co-operating with him.

The same statement is made also by St. John, 1:3, Thorough him (the Word) were all things made, and apart from him was nothing made; and has been incorporated, almost in the expressions of Saint John, in the Creed of Nicæ: By whom, Jesus Christ, our one Lord, per quern omnia facta sunt ("through whom all things were made"), through him, or by his instrumentality, were all things made. St. Paul’s introduction of this truth into his argument in this place, is in all probability directed against the heresy of the followers of Simon Magus, who maintained that the corporeal world was not made by Christ, nor by God the Father, but by inferior agents, or Angels of great power, but infinitely removed from the Supreme Deity. The same or similar heresies were still extant when St. John wrote his Gospel, at Ephesus, many years later, for which reason that Evangelist also repeats this wonderful truth. For it is in reality the foundation of the Christian faith, that the Creator of the world is Mary’s Son, that is, its immediate Creator, acting in concert with his Father. But as God created all things by Jesus Christ, so also by Jesus Christ he re-created, restored, and regenerated all things in the great Economy, the Incarnation and death of God the Son.

The office of Apostles, Evangelists, and preachers is to enlighten all men. They are on earth what the higher ranks of angels are among the lower in heaven. Their function is to purify, enlighten, and make perfect. This is why the Angel in Rev19:20, would not receive worship from an Apostle. See that you do it not,for I am your fellow-servant.

Eph 3:10. That the multiform wisdom of God may become known to the principalities and powers in the heavenly regions, through the Church, 

The statement of the Apostle in this verse is that God had called him to make known the Gospel of Christ to the Gentile nations of the world, in order, doubtless among other reasons, chat the multiform wisdom of God may now (this word is in the Greek text) become known, as it never was known before, to the highest spirits of creation, who bear rule, authority, and power, in God’s great empire in the heavens. This revelation is made to them through the fortunes, the history, the extension, and the wonderful permanence and preservation, of the holy Catholic Church, in all which Paul, as one of the founders of that Church, had a special share. And they will now understand, what they could not so clearly perceive before, how throughout all the history of the world in former ages God has been preparing the way for, and disposing the history and migrations of the nations, and the vicissitudes of empires, to the accomplishment of the great purpose he had all along in view, which was, one day to bring the nations to reconciliation with himself and the hope of eternal salvation, in his Son Jesus Christ, the Lord of Creation and second founder and chief of the human race. Thus, says Theophylact, God’s mercy to man teaches his
wisdom to the Angels. Paul is the Evangelist of angels, and enlightens them, says St. Chrysostom. The mysteries of God are made known to the highest orders of creation, through the Church; a consideration which adds inconceivably to the dignity and honour of the human species. The Angel in the Apocalypse, 19:1o, as before observed, would not accept the worship of the Apostle, because the function and office of the Apostle were higher than his own. The statement in the text is doubtless directed against the followers of Simon Magus, who held that the angels, especially the higher orders of the celestial hierarchy, are our mediators with God, and ought to be adored as gods. 

Eph 3:11. According to the purpose of the ages, which he made in Christ Jesus our Lord; 

The purpose of the ages which he made in Christ Jesus. There is some ambiguity in this verse, there being nothing either in the Greek or Latin phrase to show whether the antecedent to the relative pronoun which is the wisdom, or the Church, or the purpose. St. Jerome thinks it is the multiform wisdom of God, which he formed or planned in Christ. Others understand that this is made known through the Church, which God founded in Christ. More commonly it is understood of the purpose of the ages, which God from eternity, before the world was, intended to accomplish in Christ.

Eph 3:12. In whom we have trust and access in confidence through his faith. 

The result of this eternal purpose of God, carried into effect by the mediation and propitiation of Jesus Christ, and the end and object it was intended to effect, is that we are enabled to draw near to God in full trust and confidence, as children to a Father. We have access with confidence through faith in Christ. And this was God’s purpose from eternity, that for which he created man, and redeemed him.


Wednesday, Oct 22: Eph 3:1-13~The Revelation of the Mystery Through the Preaching of St Paul

Although today's first reading is on Eph 3:2-12 this post opens with Fr. Callan's summary of Ephesians 3:1-13 followed by the text and notes. Text in red, if any, are my notes.

A Summary of Ephesians 3:1-13.

Having spoken in the first Chapter of this Epistle of God's eternal purpose to unite Jewish and non-Jewish peoples in the one Church of Christ, and having shown in the second Chapter how this purpose has been realized in the present period of grace with its prospect of glorious consummation in the Church Triumphant hereafter, the Apostle, according to his custom after such meditations on the wondrous ways of God, begins a prayer of thanksgiving on behalf of the "Ephesians"; but he has only begun (Eph 3:la) when he is somehow reminded of his chains and what has made him a prisoner for Christ, and this causes him to digress (Eph 3:1b-13) to consider the part he has played in the realization of God's eternal purpose to unite all the nations of the world in the one spiritual fold of Christ, and to unfold again the unsearchable wisdom of God hidden in the purpose of that divine mystery and age-old secret. For a parallel parenthesis see Rom. 5:13-18.

Eph 3:1. For this cause, I Paul the prisoner of Jesus Christ, for you Gentiles;

For this cause, a phrase repeated again in ver. 14, where Paul resumes his prayer ; it refers back to what he has been saying in Eph 2:11-22.

I Paul is a characteristic way of introducing himself when he is about to treat matters of grave importance or defend his authority (cf. 2 Cor. 10:1; Gal. 5:2; Col. 1:23; 1 Thess. 2:18; Phlm. 9, 19). St. Chrysostom would insert "am" here after Paul, so as to read: "I Paul am the prisoner, etc." But if this were the meaning, the article before "prisoner" in Greek should be omitted. Hence, it is better with Theodoret, Theodore of Mopsuestia, and all modern interpreters to recognize the break in the sentence here and its resumption at ver. 14.

The prisoner, etc., i.e., a prisoner according to the will of his Master, and for the cause of his Master (Phlm. 1, 9; 2 Tim. 1:8).

For you Gentiles, i.e., on behalf of you Gentiles, for preaching to you the Messianic salvation and admitting you on a level with the Jews in the Church of Christ (cf. Acts 21:21 ff.).

Eph 3:2. If at least you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me towards you:

If at least you have heard. Abbott and many others hold that these words prove that St. Paul was addressing readers personally unknown to him. Westcott thinks there is nothing in the words to sustain such a conclusion. Moule believes we have here "a phrase of almost irony, an illusion to well-known fact under the disguise of hypothesis." Alexander says the words are expressive of gentle assurance. As a compromise, Robinson holds they mean that some, at least, of the readers were personally unknown to the Apostle. Hitchcock explains that St. Paul first had the intention of writing to the Ephesians, as he had written to the Colossians, but that his outlook changed as he wrote, embracing the Churches of the Lycus Valley and other Gentiles. Voste would translate: "Since indeed you have heard, etc." If we explain the words as conditional, as in Eph. 4:21, we still may hold that they are rhetorical, not implying any real doubt.

The dispensation of the grace, etc., better, "the stewardship of the grace, etc." The Messianic Kingdom is a reign of grace, and St. Paul was designated by Christ to be His steward in dispensing the Messianic grace to the Gentiles. Cf. 1 Cor. 917; Col. 1:24-25.

Eph 3:3. How that, according to revelation, the mystery has been made known to me, as I have written above in a few words;

The Apostle now begins to explain how the mystery of grace was made known to him, that is, his apostleship among the Gentiles, as he has explained above in Eph 2:11-22. That is, the Apostle, having presented a summary of the mystery of God's gracious plan in Eph 2:11-22, now moves to tell how this revelation and his duty to make it known came to him. In the process he will remind and allude to things he has written earlier in the letter.

How. The Vulg. quoniam should be quomodo, used to indicate the object of St. Paul's ministry, namely, that the Gentiles were to be fellow-heirs, etc. (ver. 6). 

According to revelation, made to Paul directly on the road to Damascus at the time of his conversion, and elsewhere later on (Acts 9:4-18; Gal. 1:12, 2:2; 2 Cor. 12:1,, 7, etc). 

The mystery, i.e., the purpose of God to save Gentiles as well as Jews through Christ (cf. Eph 3:5-6 below).

As I have written, etc., in this letter (Eph 1:4-14, 2:4-9, 11-22).

Eph 3:4. Whereby, as you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ,

Whereby, as you read, etc. The meaning is that, as they read what he has already written in the first two Chapters of this letter, they will perceive his deep insight into God's world-purpose as revealed in the Incarnation of His Son, namely, the salvation of the world by means of the cross and the incorporation of the Gentiles with the Chosen People

Eph 3:5. Which in other generations was not known to the sons of men, as it is now revealed to his holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit;

Which eternal purpose and deep mystery was never before known to mankind as it is now revealed in the Gospel by means of a special revelation communicated to chosen Apostles and
prophets whom the Holy Ghost has inspired and set apart in order that they may make it known to the world. 

Was not known, at all to the pagan world, and was only dimly shadowed forth among the Chosen People, the most of whom did not understand it. 

Sons of men is a Hebraism meaning all men. 

Holy apostles, etc., i.e., men especially selected and consecrated for their supernatural work, but not necessarily sanctified personally. That there is question here only of New Testament prophets is clear from the phrase "now revealed."

In the Spirit, i.e., in the Holy Ghost, by whom the human mediums were inspired.

Eph 3:6. That the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and co-partners of the promise in Christ Jesus, by the gospel: (see Eph 2:13, 18-19)

St. Paul now gives a brief definition of the content of the long hidden mystery in so far as it pertained to the Gentiles, namely, that God has made the Gentiles equal to the Jews as regards salvation; they are now "fellow-heirs" with the Jews to heaven, members of the same mystical body, the Church, sharers in the same high destiny "in Christ" (i.e., in vital union with Him), which was long ago promised to Abraham and his offspring (Gen. 12:3; Gal. 3:8; 4:29 ; Rom. 4:13, 16), and is now made manifest in the preaching of the Gospel.

The promise. The correct reading according to the best Greek and Latin MSS. Lesser authorities have "His promise."

Eph 3:7. Of which I am made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God, which is given to me, according to the operation of his power.

The Apostle begins now to speak of the mission that has been entrusted to him, the dispensation spoken of above in Eph 3:2. He has been made a "minister" of the Gospel, not by his own choice or because of his merits, but by a gratuitous gift of divine grace, which made an Apostle out of a persecutor and gave him invincible strength to pursue his vocation. The grace here referred to was a gratia gratis data, a divine gift to be used for the benefit of others.

According to . . . according to. Note the parallelism: divine grace made him a minister of the Gospel, and divine grace sustains him in his work for the Gospel; his vocation was a divine gift, and his labors were the result of a divine operation, of God-given working power. Cf. Col. 1:29; Gal. 2:8.

Eph 3:8. To me, the least of all the saints, is given this grace, to preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,

Here and in the following verse St. Paul will speak of the purpose of his preaching.

To me. The thought of the greatness of the mission confided to him by the grace of God reminds the humble Apostle of his personal unworthiness and insignificance.

The least in the Greek is a word probably coined by the Apostle himself, which literally means "leaster," or "more least."

Of all the saints, i.e., of all the Christians (cf. 1 Cor. 15:8-9). St. Paul never forgets his past life as a persecutor, and the more he realizes the greatness of the grace of God bestowed on him, the more clearly his own unworthiness appears.

To preach, etc. Behold the grace and the mission vouchsafed to Paul, to announce to the Gentile world the infinite treasures of divine truth, love and power, which God has provided for mankind through Jesus Christ.

Unsearchable, literally, "untrackable by footprints," untraceable, a word found only here and in Rom. 11:33 in all the New Testament; it means incomprehensible. So vast are the treasures of
grace hidden in the Gospel and confided to the Church that they utterly transcend our powers of understanding.

Eph 3:9. And to enlighten all men that they may see what is the dispensation of the mystery which hath been hidden from eternity in God, who created all things: 

To enlighten, etc. Such was the further effect of Paul's preaching of the Gospel, to make known to all men the divine plan, hidden from eternity, of saving the whole world by means of the human life, labors, sufferings, death, and glorious resurrection of the eternal Son of God made man. 

All men. The Greek word is omitted by some ancient MSS. and good authorities, but the weight of authority favors its retention. 

Hidden from eternity, etc. Not until the coming of Christ, the Messiah, was the divine economy relative to the salvation of men actually and completely made known; till then it was known in its fullness only to the Godhead. 

Who created all things. The Apostle adds this to remind his readers that He who was able to create all things through the Son in the beginning is now able to redeem all through the Son. Some lesser authorities add, "by means of Jesus Christ," which may be rejected as a gloss, Cf. Col. 1:25-27 for a parallel passage to verses 8 and 9 here.

Eph 3:10. That now the manifold wisdom of God may be made known to the principalities and powers in heavenly places through the church,

As it was the purpose of the preaching of Paul to make known to the nations the revelation of the mystery hidden in God from eternity (Eph 3:8-9), so in turn was it the purpose of that revelation to make known to the world the unsearchable riches of the Messiah and His stewardship, hidden from the beginning in the Creator (Eph 3:10-11), that is, "that now" (in contrast to the ages that preceded the coming of the Christ) "the manifold wisdom of God, etc." (i.e., the many-sided and infinitely varied wisdom of God in providing for the salvation of man through the Incarnation of the Son of God) might be made known through the Church to the world of angelic intelligences, including both the good and the evil angels. 

Now (Vulg. nunc), omitted in the Douai, is expressed in the Greek. 

Manifold. Literally, "much variegated." The word is found here only in the New Testament. 

Principalities and powers, i.e., good and bad angels, according to St. Chrysostom and the evidence of Eph 6:12 below (cf. also Eph 1:21 above). 

In the heavenly places. See on Eph 1:3. Here is what Fr. Callan wrote regarding the phrase in 1:3~In heavenly places (literally, In the heavenlies) . This unusual phrase occurs four more times in this Epistle (Eph 1:20, Eph 2:6, Eph 3:10, Eph 6:12), but nowhere else; and each time there is question of locality, save the last, perhaps. These blessings therefore come from heaven and lead to heaven, they are both present and future; and they are given “in Christ”—that is, through Christ, by virtue of our union with Christ, who is the way, the truth and the life that lead to the Father. Christ is the head, and we are the members of His mystical body, the Church; we share in His life. This doctrine of the union of the faithful with Christ, their mystical head, is uppermost in this section and throughout the whole Epistle. The phrase “in Christ” is found twenty-nine times in the Pauline Epistles, and only three times elsewhere, and that in 1 Peter. In forty-three other passages of St. Paul we find the enlarged phrase, “in Christ Jesus,” and four times “in the Christ.” Everywhere these phrases denote our close union with Christ as members of His mystical body.

Through the church, in which the divided human family has been united, and which contains and dispenses the treasures of grace, thus continuing the work of the Redeemer till the end of time in the sight of men and angels. "It is by no means repugnant that through the work of Christ, which the Church continues and carries out to the end of the present world, the infinite riches of the wisdom and mercy of the Redeemer should be successively manifested to the angels themselves" (St. Thomas.).

Eph 3:11. According to the eternal purpose, which he made in Christ Jesus, our Lord:

According to the eternal purpose, etc., literally, "according to the purpose of the ages, etc." The manifold wisdom of God was hidden in the eternal purpose; and that purpose, running through the whole course of the ages, has now been "made" (i.e., realized) in "Christ Jesus, our Lord," sacrificed, risen, and enthroned forever as the center and Sovereign of the universe; and with the
realization of the purpose the multifarious wisdom of God has been made known in part already, and is continually being unfolded to men and angels down to the end of the world. It is disputed whether the words, "which he made," refer to the decree which God made from eternity regarding future ages, etc., or to the execution of that decree in time; but the context seems to favor the latter

Eph 3:12. In whom we have boldness, and access with confidence by the faith of him.

St. Paul has just discussed the purpose of God's revelation made known through the preaching of that revelation, which was to disclose to heavenly intelligences the manifold wisdom of God, as realized in Christ. Now, in verses 12-13, he will treat of the consequences of that same revelation. The first of these consequences is that in Christ, that is, by reason of our mystical union with Him, "we have boldness, etc.," i.e., we now enjoy freedom of speech and communication with the Father, "and access" (i.e., introduction) to Him, not in fear, but in confidence (Rom. 8:38-39), and this through the faith we have in Christ.

The faith of him means the faith we have "in Him," as we know from similar constructions in Mark 11:22; Gal. 2:16, 3:22; Rom. 3:22, 26; Phil. 3:9.

Eph 3:13. Wherefore I pray you not to faint at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.

Another consequence of the revelation preached by Paul is the sufferings it brought upon him; but here he prays that his readers may not grow remiss and faint-hearted as a result of the afflictions he has to endure for preaching the Gospel to them; for his sufferings are their glory, inasmuch as they are an evidence of God's love for them, since God was willing to permit His Apostle to endure so much for their sakes: the privileges they enjoy and the afflictions Paul has undergone that they might have those privileges indicate how dear they are to God.

Wherefore, i.e., in view of your dignity and privileges, resulting from God's eternal decree realized in Christ.

I pray. This is more probably to be understood of a real prayer to God for the Apostle's readers, as we gather from the similar use of the verb in Eph. 3:20 and Col. 1:9.

Not to faint should not be interpreted as applying to the Apostle himself, who gloried in his tribulations and declared that nothing could separate him from the love of Christ (Rom. 5:3, 8:38-39; 2 Cor. 12:10; Col. 1:24), but to his readers, to whose glory it was that he had to suffer, and who therefore should not be discouraged.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Father MacEvilly's Commentary on Galatians 5:1-6

This post opens with a brief analysis of the chapter as a whole, followed by the comments on today's first reading (Gal 5:1-6). Text in purple indicates MacEvilly's paraphrasing of the scripture he is commenting on. Text in red, if any, are my additions.


 The Apostle commences this chapter, by exhorting the Galatians to persevere in the Gospel liberty, into which Christ had asserted them (Gal 5:1)—and adduces several motives for deterring them from submitting to the bondage of the Mosaic law. First, if they submit to circumcision, their Christian profession will prove of no avail to them (Gal 5:2); secondly, they would be bound to the entire law by receiving circumcision (Gal 5:3); thirdly, they would forfeit all the blessings of Christianity (Gal 5:4); fourthly, because it is by faith, animated by charity, and not by any carnal means, justification is obtained (Gal 5:5-6). He deplores the interruption that happened the Galatians in their onward course of Christian perfection; their deviation from the straight path he ascribes to their intercourse with false teachers, whom the father of lies employed to corrupt their faith, as a little leaven corrupts the entire mass (Gal 5:7–9). He expresses his firm hope that, through God’s grace they will repent, and denounces a merited sentence of judgment against the men, who were instrumental in unsettling their faith (Gal 5:10). He refutes the calumny circulated regarding himself by his enemies—viz., that he observed the legal ceremonies, by referring to the notoriety of his persecution for having insisted on the abolition of these ceremonies (Gal 5:11). He expresses a wish, that these false teachers would be not only circumcised, but altogether cut off from the Church (Gal 5:12). He exhorts the Galatians to the practice of the Christian virtues, especially of charity, to which the whole law is reduced (Gal 5:13-14). He animadverts on the deplorable absence of charity for one another from among them (Gal 5:15). He assigns one general means of observing charity, which is, to walk according to the impulse of God’s spirit, the motions of which are diametrically opposed to those of the flesh (Gal 5:16-18). In order to guard them against all error on a subject which so vitally concerns their salvation, he recounts the works of the flesh, and the fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5:19-23). He next points out the obligations imposed upon them by the very nature of their Christian professions, to mortify the deeds of the flesh, and live according to the Spirit (Gal 5:24-26).

Gal 5:1  Stand fast and be not held again under the yoke of bondage.

Persevere firmly in the Gospel liberty which Christ has secured for you (Gal 4:31), and suffer not yourselves to be again held under the yoke of servitude—viz., the yoke of the Mosaic law.

  “Stand fast.” These words are, in the ordinary Greek and Syriac versions, joined with the words of the preceding verse, thus: stand fast (therefore) in the freedom with which Christ made us free. The meaning is the same as in our construction, which is that of St. Jerome, St. Augustine, and several old Greek editions. From the words, “stand fast,” some interpreters infer that the Galatians had not lost the faith. From verse 4, it appears, however, that some had, and the words, “stand fast,” are, probably, addressed to those who persevered. The words, “stand fast,” probably contain a military metaphor, in allusion to their persevering under the banner of Christ.

“And be not held again,” &c., i.e., be not tied down and held fast under another yoke of bondage. “Again” is used in reference to bondage in general; they were before under the bondage of idolatry. He now refers to bondage of a different kind viz., that of the Mosaic law.—(See Gal 4:9).

Gal 5:2  Behold, I Paul tell you, that if you be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing.

Behold, I, Paul, your divinely commissioned Apostle, openly announce and proclaim to you, that if you submit to circumcision, you shall have no share in the benefits of Christ; your Christian profession shall be of no avail to you.

“Behold, I Paul.” He used the word, “Behold,” for the purpose of arresting their attention, and he introduces his own name, to show that he is about to address them authoritatively, in quality of true Apostle, on an important subject of faith, touching the necessity of uniting the legal ceremonies with the Gospel—a point on which they were led astray by the false teachers. “Christ shall profit you nothing.” The benefits of Christ’s death and passion shall be lost to them, since, by such a course, they renounce their Christian profession altogether. Of what avail shall his Christian profession be to the sinner, who by his profane, carnal, and animal life, expels Christ and his Holy Spirit from his breast? It shall serve only to deepen his damnation.

Gal 5:3  And I testify again to every man circumcising himself that he is a debtor to do the whole law.

And in addition to the declaration just made, I once more solemnly declare to every man, who, by submitting to circumcision, wishes to be incorporated with the Jewish synagogue, that he is bound to the observance of the entire law.

The false teachers taught the Galatians, that it was sufficient for them to observe the leading points of the Mosaic law, such as the observance of Sabbaths, new moons, &c. The Apostle, on the contrary, informed them, that so long as they labour under their erroneous convictions, and submitted to circumcision, they are bound to the numberless burthens of the law; because circumcision was a public profession of the Jewish religion, as baptism is of Christianity. Hence, a man is obliged to follow the dictates of an erroneous conscience.

Gal 5:4  You are made void of Christ, you who are justified in the law: you are fallen from grace.

You have rendered void in your regard all the blessings of Christianity, or, you have renounced Christianity; by seeking to be justified through the law, you have fallen away from sanctifying grace.

You are made void of Christ,” convey a strong repetition of the words, verse 2, “Christ shall profit you nothing.” In other words, they cease to be true Christians, notwithstanding their external profession of Christianity.

“You are fallen from grace.” Hence, grace is not inamissible, as some of the Galatians must have sinned mortally.

Gal 5:5  For we in spirit, by faith, wait for the hope of justice.

For we, true and sincere Christians, seek for, and hope to obtain, the justice for which we long, through the spirit of grace and charity which is imparted by faith.

A proof that they ceased to be Christians, is their having recourse to means of justification quite different from that pointed out by the law of Christ. “We,” true Christians, “wait for,” απεκδεχομεθα (apekdechometha), patiently wait for, “the hope of justice,” i.e., the justice which we all hope and long for, including perseverance in the same justice, and its final consummation in eternal glory, by spiritual means, of which the groundwork and source is faith (“by faith”); whereas the Galatians resorted to carnal ceremonies and the works of the law.

Gal 5:6  For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing nor uncircumcision: but faith that worketh by Charity.

For in Christianity, it conduces no way to justice or salvation, whether a person be circumcised or uncircumcised, the only thing of avail is faith, which is perfected, and which operates, by charity, that is, which is joined to the observance of the commandments, and the performance of good works.

 The reason why recourse should be had to faith rather than to the works of the law for justification is, because in “Christ Jesus,” i.e., in Christianity, or in our union and fellowship with Christ, it avails not for justification whether one be circumcised or not. The system of justification, in the present order of things, is founded on faith; but this faith must not be sterile or inoperative, like the faith of demons; it must be active and operative, animated and “worked by charity.” The Greek for “worketh,” or, displays its energy, ενεργουμενη (energoumene), might be also rendered passively, which is energized, or, worked, i.e., formed or animated “by charity.” The meaning, however, is the same; for, if faith be animated by charity, it proceeds to works, and so “worketh by charity.” Hence, faith alone is not sufficient for justification or salvation.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

My Notes on First Thessalonians 1:1-6

Summary od 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10: 

Following the standard epistolary format of hellenistic times, the letter opens with an address (1 Th 1:1) consisting of three elements: 1. the senders; 2. the addressees; 3. a wish or blessing. This is then followed by a prayer of thanksgiving, which was also typical of ancient letters. The authors of the NT letters, and especially St Paul, often use these prayers (or blessings; see Eph 1:3-14) to indicate major themes or ideas dealt with and expressed in the body of the missive; therefore, readers should pay special attention to them.

Calling to mind the church’s origin in Thessalonica, the prayer celebrates the three theological virtues so active among the people (1 Th 1:2-3). This prayer is motivated by Paul’s (and his companions) knowledge of how the church was elected or chosen through the power of the Holy Spirit at work in their mission (1 Th 1:4-5). This knowledge is confirmed by the fact that, in spite of all the troubles and afflictions which came upon the people due to their acceptance of the gospel, they have not only remained faithful in imitation of the missionaries, but, like the missionaries, they have themselves become witnesses to the gospel as they await the return of the risen Jesus (1 Th 1:6-10).

NOTES ON 1 Thessalonians 1:1-6:

1 Th 1:1. (my translation).  Paulos (Paul) and Silouanos (Silvanus, a.k.a Silas) and Timotheos (Timothy) to the ekklesia (church; those called together; an assembly) of (i.e., made up of) the Thessalonians in (or “assembled by”) God the Father and Lord Jesus Christ: grace and peace to you. (Some texts add: “From God our father, and the Lord Jesus Christ)

Paul is, of course, the Apostle Paul; an Israelite from the tribe of Benjamin (Rom 11:1); a rigid Pharisee and one time persecutor of the Church (Phil 3:5-6). While on the road to Damascus, “breathing murderous hatred” and seeking to arrest and imprison Christians (Acts 9:1), he was converted by by the risen Christ himself, manifesting God’s mercy towards this one time blasphemer and persecutor of the Church of God (1 Tim 1:12-17). Coming to realize that he had been chosen from his mother’s womb for the task to which he was called (Gal 1:15), he became the Church’s most zealous missionary by the grace of God (1 Cor 15:10).

Silvanus is most certainly to be identified with Silas, who is mentioned in the Acts of Apostle. A Christian prophet, he appears to have been an influential member of the church in Jerusalem. Along with a certain Judas/Barsabbas, he was chosen by the twelve apostles to accompany Paul and Barnabas to the churches of Antioch to make known the decrees of the council of Jerusalem (Acts 15:22-35). Having fulfilled this function Judas and Silas returned to Jerusalem, while Paul and Barnabas stayed in Antioch for a time, possibly to deal with some difficulties. after this they decided to go to Syria and Cilicia to deliver the council’s decision and strengthen the churches they had founded. However, a dispute arose between Paul and Barnabas and the two men parted company; as a result, Paul decided to choose Silas as his companion on the mission(Acts 15:36-41). (He must have sent word back to Jerusalem of what had transpired between him and Barnabas. Recall that Barnabas was from Jerusalem and provided a “Jerusalem connection” with the pagan-in-origin people who were predominant in the churches founded by Paul). Silvanus worked with Paul throughout much of the so-called second missionary journey (Acts 15:36-21:14), but disappears from Luke’s narrative after (Lk 18:5). Besides here, his name appears twice more in Paul’s letters; in the opening address of 2 Thess and in 2 Cor 1:19. He at some point joined up with St Peter in Rome, and may have acted as his amanuensis (1 Pt 5:12).

Timothy was the son of a Jewish mother and a Greek father (Acts 16:1; 2 Tim 1:5). He was probably a native of Lystra or Iconium, and may have been converted by the preaching of Paul and Barnabas on the so-called first missionary journey. Though young (1 Tim 4:12), and apparently rather timid (1 Cor 16;10), he was well spoken of and respected by the Christians of the two cities just mentioned, this no doubt helped determine Paul’s decision to ask Timothy to accompany him on the mission (Acts 16:1-5). With Silvanus, he remained at Beroea for some time after Paul was forced to leave the city(Acts 17:10-15), rejoining him at Corinth (Acts 18:5), where the three men spent a year and half evangelizing (Acts 18:11). It was during this period that Paul sent him back to Thessalonica to ascertain the situation which is dealt with in the letter we are examining (see 1 Thess 3:1-8). Later, he, along with a certain Erastus, was sent by Paul into Macedonia, apparently to prepare for further mission work (Acts 19:22). It is rather clear from Scripture that Timothy became Paul’s right-hand man. At some point and time he was sent by Paul back to Corinth to deal with some troubles that had arisen there (1 Cor 4:17). Apparently, a second visit by Timothy was planned (1 Cor 16:10), but we do not know if it ever happened. The Same can be said of a planned visit to Philippi (Phil 2:19). Finally, two letters in the Pauline corpus are addressed to him. The words which St Paul uses to describe Timothy are full of affection and respect, I’ve always considered it unfortunate that we do not know more about him.

To the ekklesia (church) made up of Thessalonians… This is an odd way for Paul to describe the church, at least in comparison to his other letters; for Paul usually speaks of “the church of God” at such and such a place (see 1 Cor 1:2). Perhaps Paul speaks of the Church in this fashion here in order to emphasize the fact that one does not have to be a circumcised Jew to be a member of the people of God. Recall that this letter was written not long after the Jerusalem council.
Ekklesia is a Greek term designating a group called together:

751 The word “Church” (Latin ecclesia, from the Greek ek-ka-lein, to “call out of”) means a convocation or an assembly. It designates the assemblies of the people, usually for a religious purpose. 139 Ekklesia is used frequently in the Greek Old Testament for the assembly of the Chosen People before God, above all for their assembly on Mount Sinai where Israel received the Law and was established by God as his holy people. 140 By calling itself “Church,” the first community of Christian believers recognized itself as heir to that assembly. In the Church, God is “calling together” his people from all the ends of the earth. The equivalent Greek term Kyriake, from which the English word Church and the German Kirche are derived, means “what belongs to the Lord.”
752 In Christian usage, the word “church” designates the liturgical assembly, 141 but also the local community 142 or the whole universal community of believers. 143 These three meanings are inseparable. “The Church” is the People that God gathers in the whole world. She exists in local communities and is made real as a liturgical, above all a Eucharistic, assembly. She draws her life from the word and the Body of Christ and so herself becomes Christ’s Body. (Cat. Cath. Ch.)

The church is called together by God, through Christ, by the power of the Spirit at work in the Church’s ministry (see Col 1:3-8).

Which is in (or “assembled by”) God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ… I accept Earl J. Richards view that the workhorse Greek dative en, which has many possible nuances, should be translated as “assembled by”. Grammatically and contextually, the dative could qualify any of the three parts of the salutation. It could relate to the missionaries, in which case it would be a witness to their authority “in” or “by” God. It could relate to the wish/blessing of grace and peace, denoting the origin of these gifts. In this regard it should be noted that in other letters Paul often speaks of the origin of the gifts as being “in” or “by God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (see 1 Cor 1:3). No such phrase occurs here except in a few manuscripts. Scholars consider the phrase a gloss, not original. Also, as Richards notes, in the other Pauline letters, the phrase is introduced with the preposition apo followed by a genitive. He takes the dative en here in an instrumental sense and translates “assembled by God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” In doing this he sees the dative as related to the phrase “the church (ekklesia, assembly) of the Thessalonians”, thus emphasizing the initiative of the Father and Christ in establishing the church in that city. The fact that the letter associates both the father and Christ in this, using the single cunjunctive kai (and) strongly suggests the divinity of Christ.

Grace and peace- Typically, letters written in Greek contained the wish charien (rejoice, have joy), but Paul replaces it with the related word charis, (grace). For Paul the word has the sense of “the saving will of God executed in Jesus Christ and communicated to men through him” (Dictionary of the Bible John L. McKenzie, S.J.). For more on grace, see here. And a more technical treatment here. See also these articles in the Catholic Encyclopedia.

Peace reflects the Hebrew word shalom, meaning a total state of well being, especially in relation to God and Man. 

Read 1 Th 1:2-3

As he usually does in his letters, Paul opens the body with a prayer for his readers. Anyone wishing to study his letters would do well to pay special attention to these prayers, for Paul often uses them to bring up key themes he will treat of latter. Prayer was extremely important to St Paul. At the end of the letter (1 Th 5:17) he will tell the Thessalonians to pray without ceasing, using the very same word he uses in verse 3; he insists that they give thanks in everything since this is God’s will in Christ Jesus. (see 1 Th 5:17-18) . He also will request their prayers for him (1 Th 5:25).
The missionaries prayer is one of thanksgiving (eucharisteo, see verse 2 and 1 Th 2:13), Eucharisteo, when used with the dative to Theo (to God), implies that thanks is being give for some unmerited gift. Paul and his companions give thanks to God for the Thessalonians, for they are the missionaries unmerited gift from God: “Our hope, joy, and crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming” (1 Th 2:19).

What motivates their prayer, and is indeed part of its subject, is expressed in a threefold pattern : “Calling to mind (1) your work of faith, and (2) your labor of love, and (3) your steadfastness (endurance, constancy) of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the presence of our God and Father.” 

Work of faith means acting in accord with what one believes on the basis of God’s revealed will. The idea seems to be similar to the Pauline idea of “the obedience of faith. Faith is a total surrender and commitment to God (on which, see here). 

Labor of love- Love, or charity, is the expression of faith, and without it faith is dead:”If I have faith strong enough to move mountains, yet have not love, I am nothing” (1 Cor 13:3). “in Christ Jesus” writes Paul, only faith working through love counts for anything (Gal 5:17). Kopos (labor) expresses hard, strenuous activity, and Paul will use the word in 1 Th 2:19 and 1 Th 3:5 to describe his apostolic labors in Thessalonica. Recall that those labors were done in the face of oppression (see Act 16:16-17:10). Paul will focus on his own apostolic kopos in 1 Th 2:1-12 in order to encourage his readers in their kopos of faith as they too face oppression because of the Gospel (1 Th 2:13-14). He will also exhort them to respect and show special love to those who labor among them and are over then in the Lord and who admonish them (1 Th 5:12-13) Part of the work of faith is not to be a burden on others, in imitation of the missionaries who were no burden on the Thessalonians (see 2:9). Latter in the letter, the recipients will be exhorted to work with their own hands so as not to burden others; this comes in the context of brotherly love (see 1 Th 9-12).

Endurance of hope- The Greek word hypomone means patiently enduring all circumstances. Like the phrase work of faith it seems to relate in this letter to the suffering of the Thessalonians. They patiently bear oppression and opposition caused by their adherence to the Gospel. This they do in hope of the coming of Christ who will judge their work of faith and labor of love.

At the very beginning of this letter we find the three theological virtues in what Stanley B Morrow calls their “salvation history sequence” (see Col 1:4-5; for a different sequence see 1 Cor 13:13). At the end of this letter, and in the context of Christ’s second coming, Paul will once again mention the three virtues, portraying them as defenses against an unfavorable judgment that will come upon many on that day (5:8). 

Read 1 Th 1:4

Earl J Richard describes this as the ultimate reason for the prayer. The word “knowing” (DRB) or the phrase “for we know” (RSV) are not adequate translations of the word oida as it is used here, for the word is in this context a perfect participle active, denoting not simply knowledge, but certainty as well. This certainty is based upon what will be said in the verses that follow (1 Th 1:5-7). The circumstances of the letter are important here, for the missionaries were not sure their new converts were holding up under persecution (1 Th 3:5). Timothy’s return from Thessalonica with a good report (1 Th 3:6-8) must have given Paul and Silvanus a great relief, and one can feel that relief as he reads the letter. 

Read 1 Th 1:5-6 

Note how verse 5 focuses on the divine action in the work of the human missionaries. Without God’s power through Christ, in the Holy Spirit, the Church would have no real mission.

The fact that power and the Holy Spirit were at work in the missionary endeavor to evangelize the city (Vs 5) is a prime reason for Paul’s certainty that the Thessalonians were chosen by God. No doubt Paul has in mind here the fact that the Holy Spirit prevented him and his companions from preaching in the Roman province of Asia and the city of Bithynia (Acts 16:6-7), yet they received a vision to evangelize the province of Macedonia, of which, Thessalonica was the chief city (Acts 16:9-10). Verse 6 is further reason for Paul’s certainty: the good response of the Thessalonians to his preaching, even in the face of much opposition (Acts 17:1-9).

Saturday, September 06, 2014

My Notes on Sirach 27:30-28:7

Quotations are taken from the RSVCE. The [New] Revised Standard Version Bible may be quoted and/or reprinted up to and inclusive of five hundred (500) verses without express written permission of the publisher, provided the verses quoted do not amount to a complete book of the Bible or account for fifty percent (50%) of the total work in which they are quoted.   
Notice of copyright must appear on the title or copyright page of the work as follows:  “The Catholic Edition of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1965, 1966 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”

Background~Sirach 24:1-32:13 is generally taken as forming a literary unit. The unit opens with a praise of wisdom in two parts (Sir 24:1-22; 23-29). In the first part (Sir 24:1-22) wisdom is personified and speaks about herself. In the second part the authors chimes in with his own praises, identifying wisdom with the Law (Sir 24:23).  He describes the wisdom embodied in the Law in terms of  abundant, life-giving waters: the four rives of Eden, along with the Jordan and Nile (Sir 24:25-27). He then notes that the first man (Adam) did not fully comprehend wisdom, anymore than the last man will succeed in doing, for she is deeper than the sea, the great abyss (Sir 24:28-29).

The praise of wisdom ends and the author then takes up the life-giving water image and applies it to himself as a seeker and holder of wisdom. Just as a channel or irrigation ditch can deliver the life-giving waters of a river to a garden where it is needed, so did Sirach deliver his teaching to his immediate disciples, described as his orchard and garden. But we are dealing with abundant, fruitful wisdom, and so his little canal of wisdom became a torrent, a deep sea, thus enabling him to extend the flood of wisdom further and further (Sir 24:30-34). Thus Sirach 24:1-31constitutes an introduction to the unit. The rest of the unit (Sir 25:1-32:13) is concerned with practical matters concerning how one ought to conduct oneself in family and society.

Since it would be rather lengthy for me to detail the remaining content of the unit, I will here simply direct the readers attention to the various sectional footnotes in the NAB (please note that the NABRE does not contain them): See the footnotes on 25:1-11; 25:12-25; 26:1-19; 26:20-27:15; 27:16-28:11; 28:12-26; 29:1-20; 29:21-28; 30:1-13; 30:14-25; 31:1-11; 31:12-32:13.  

Immediate Context~Sirach 27:16-28:11 forms the immediate context from which today's reading is taken.  The primary concern of these verses is to highlight the dangers to personal integrity and friendship. The betrayal of secrets can ruin a friendship, and very well might make reconciliation with the injured party impossible (Sir 27:16-21). Insincerity of conduct towards those you are having discourse with,  and the twisting of their word into a meaning not intended by them, is reprehended by Sirach, and he insists that the Lord hates such a man (sir 27:22-24). In typical Old Testament fashion Sirach 27:25-29 speaks of the inexorable law of retribution: what goes around comes around. It is at this point that today's reading, Sirach 27:30-28:7 begins.

Sir 27:30. Anger and wrath, these also are abominations, and the sinful man will possess them.
Sir 28:1. He that takes vengeance will suffer vengeance from the Lord, and he will firmly establish his sins.

Anger and wrath are things directed towards other people. In spite of the fact that retribution will come upon the wicked eventually, they continue to maintain their hold on it.   

The sinful man will possess them. The evil man may come to "possess" anger and wrath as a recipient of such things; either from men in this life, or from God at the judgment. The latter (from God) is more likely the meaning here in light of the exiplicit statement in 28:1, and the reference to his not knowing where retribution comes from in Sirach 27:27.

Sir 28:2 Forgive your neighbor the wrong he has done, and then your sins will be pardoned when you pray. 
Sir 28:3 Does a man harbor anger against another, and yet seek for healing from the Lord? 
Sir 28:4 Does he have no mercy toward a man like himself, and yet pray for his own sins? 
Sir 28:5 If he himself, being flesh, maintains wrath, who will make expiation for his sins?

Verse 2 should certainly call to mind the sixth petition of the Lord's prayer, and verses 3-5 serve as commentary, while at the same time highlighting the hypocrisy of seeking reconciliation with God when still at enmity with your neighbor. Betrayal of friends (Sir 27:16-21) and insincerity of conduct (Sir 27:22-23) are both examples of such hypocrisy. The end result of the evil man's hypocrisy towards his fellow man is treating God in the same base fashion.

Sir 28:6 Remember the end of your life, and cease from enmity, remember destruction and death, and be true to the commandments.
Sir 28:7 Remember the commandments, and do not be angry with your neighbor; remember the covenant of the Most High, and overlook ignorance

Remember, though you may think you can get away with something during this life, at its end their will be a reckoning: the law of retribution mentioned in Sirach 27:25-29. (see Sir 7:36;

do not be angry with your neighbor...overlook ignorance. Overlook the faults of your neighbor rather than bearing a grudge, for this is enshrined in the law (Lev 19:17-18; Ex 23:4-5).

Sunday, August 31, 2014

My Notes on Luke 4:31-37

Lk 4:31 And he went down into Capharnaum (Capernuam), a city of Galilee: and there he taught them on the sabbath days.
Lk 4:32 And they were astonished at his doctrine: for his speech was with power

We have already seen that the episode in Nazareth, narrated in Lk 4:16-30, was not the first act of Jesus' Galilean ministry, and that he has previously operated in Capernuam  (Lk 4:23). Whether the four events which follow in Lk 4:31-44 are to be dated as preceding the Nazareth visit, or are subsequent to it cannot be determined from Luke. The markan parallel places these events before the Nazareth visit (Mark 1:21-29; 6:1-6).

There he taught them. Literally, "he was teaching them." The imperfect tense of "was" indicates continual action, suggesting that whenever He was in that city on a Sabbath he made it a point of teaching. Jesus spent a great deal of time in Capernuam and it seems that it was a sort of missionary base of operations during his early Galilean ministry (see Mk 2:1; Matt 11:23-24; Lk 10:15).

(He taught them) on the Sabbath days. Literally, "on the Sabbaths." The plural is sometimes used by Luke even when a single Sabbath is in view (Lk 13:10, and Lk 6:2 in one manuscript). As used here the plural may be taken as bolstering the suggestion given above in connection with the imperfect tense of the phrase "he was teaching them,' i.e., that "whenever He was in that city on a Sabbath he made it a point of teaching."

And they were astonished at his doctrine, i.e., his teaching. The reason is given in the remainder of the verse: for his speech was with power. The word here translated as power is exousia, and it is better translated as "authority." The same word is used in the second temptation at Luke 4:6 where Satan promises to give Jesus all the authority and glory of the kingdoms of the world if he will bow down and worship him. But Jesus' authority transcends what Satan has or can claim to have. His authority is through the power of the Spirit  (Lk 4:14, 18). The response of the people to Jesus was a theme introduced in Lk 4:14-15. There nothing was said specifically about what motivated the spread of Jesus fame among the people and the praise of him which accompanied it, though the implication to the reader-as opposed to those in the account-was that it was the result of the spirit's power and Jesus' teaching. Here the crowd begins to understand that something of significance is at work in Jesus. At Nazareth the people were amazed at Jesus' words because they were seemingly at odds with his nondescript existence as the son of Joseph. The people in Capernuam have advanced a little farther.

Lk 4:33 And in the synagogue there was a man who had an unclean devil: and he cried out with a loud voice,
Lk 4:34 Saying: Let us alone. What have we to do with thee, Jesus of Nazareth? Art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the holy one of God

Unlike the people of Nazareth and Capernuam, the unclean devil shows that he knows significantly more about who Jesus is. Why he cried out with a loud voice is not indicated here; what he says however suggests that the level of his voice is motivated by hostility.

Let us alone. These words translate a single word in the Greek text: εα (ea). Most translations take the word as an imperative of ἐάω (eao), meaning, "let be." In reality it is an ejaculatory phrase suggesting displeasure (as here) or surprise.

What have we to do with thee, Jesus of Nazareth? Art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art.  It should here be noted that the possessed man has lost his individuality, while the demon has kept his. Note how he speaks on behalf of both himself and the man as he attempts to distance both himself and his victim from Jesus: "What have we to do with thee..." Note also how the demon seeks to hide behind the man he possesses by implying that what Jesus might do to him (the demon) will adversely affect the man as well: "Art thou come to destroy us? On the other hand his individuality show through when he talks of recognizing Jesus: "I know thee"...

Lk 4:35 And Jesus rebuked him, saying: Hold thy peace and go out of him. And when the devil had thrown him into the midst, he went out of him and hurt him not at all. 

The demon's attempt to associate his victim with his own hostility and lack of common cause with Jesus is all for naught. Though the demon attempted to speak on behalf the the man Jesus rebuked him (the demon), saying: hold thy peace and go out of him. Likewise, the demon's suggestion that whatever Jesus does to him will be done to the victim comes to nothing. It is the demon (not Jesus) who attempts to hurt the man by throwing him, but Jesus' forced separation of demon and man leads to the man being  hurt not at all by the demon

 Lk 4:36 And there came fear upon all; and they talked among themselves, saying: What word is this, for with authority and power he commandeth the unclean spirits, and they go out? 

Once again we recall that Satan had promised Jesus the authority (exosuia) of all the kingdoms of the world if he had bowed down to his will and worshiped him (Lk 4:6). But here we see in the defeat of Satan's minion, the unclean demon, that Jesus' authority is something other than that possessed by the kingdoms of this world.

We were told that after the temptations in the desert that Satan (the Devil) left Jesus "for a time," implying that he would again attempt to thwart Jesus' mission. Even a person reading the gospel for the first time might, however, begin here to have a sense that all will not end well for him, whatever his future machinations might be.

Lk 4:37 And the fame of him was published into every place of the country

Recalls Lk 4:14-15 and helps explain the actions of the people in Lk 4:40 and the pressing of the crowd in Lk 5:1.