"Make straight His paths"
Comprehensive Catholic Commentary
Fr. George Leo Haydock
Editor's Note: This special feature, provided by John Gregory with the Haydock Commentary found at the bottom of each page of the Douay-Rheims Bible, With the type so small in most bibles, we publish it here in larger type in conjunction with the Epistle and Gospel for the Sunday Mass provided by John Gregory with the cogent comprehensive Catholic Commentary penned by Father George Leo Haydock on the Douay-Rheims version of the New Testament. The commentary for the Fourth Sunday of Advent lays out the expectations of the great Light in the darkness Who will redeem man as has been foretold with the immediate precursor of the Messias being St. John the Baptist proclaiming the Lord by being the Voice of one crying in the wilderness in fulfilling the prophecy of Isaias that "all flesh shall see salvation" by alerting the world to pray and repent, to "make straight His paths." A manifestation that God depends on man for cooperation in abiding by His holy will.
Epistle: 1 Corinthians 4: 1-5
Let a man so account of us as of the ministers of Christ, and the dispensers of the mysteries of God.
Commentary on Verse 1 Mysteries of God. That is, the dogmas of faith, revealed by the Almighty. (Estius)
Here now it is required among the dispensers, that a man be found faithful.
But to me it is a very small thing to be judged by you, or by man's day; but neither do I judge my own self.
Commentary on Verse 3 Or by human judgment. Literally, by human day. The sense, says Saint Jerome, is, by any human judgment, or by men, whose judgment is in the day, or time of this life: but God judges in His day, after this life, and chiefly at the last day of judgment. – Neither do I judge myself, so as to look upon myself absolutely certain of the state of my soul, or that I am for certain justified, though I am not conscious to myself of any thing, because I am to be judged by an omniscient God, the great searcher of hearts, who perhaps may discover faults, which I, partial to myself, overlook. Now if Saint Paul durst not say, he was justified, what presumption is it for others to pretend to an absolute certainty, that they are just in the sight of God! (Witham)
For I am not conscious to myself of any thing, yet am I not hereby justified; but He that judgeth me, is the Lord.
Commentary on Verse 4 For I am not conscious. This great apostle of the Gentiles, though conscious to himself of no breach of duty, still does not dare to call himself just. How different is the conduct of this apostle, from those wicked impostors, who teach, that a man is justified by believing himself so. (Estius) – If this privileged apostle was afraid to form any judgment of his own heart and thoughts, whether they were pure or not, but left the trial thereof to the day of judgment, the day of his death, how presumptuous are they, who dare to pronounce on their election and predestination!
Therefore judge not before the time; until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts; and then shall every man have praise from God.
Commentary on Verse 5 Judge not, & c. He gives them an admonition against rash and false judgments, and hints at those among them, who said, this man is better, this man is greater than such a one, & c. See Saint Chrysostom. (Witham)
Gospel: St. Luke 3: 1-6
At that time, in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and Philip his brother tetrarch of Iturea, and the country of Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilina;
Commentary on Verse 1 Pilate being governor of Judea, literally, procurator; i.e. with a subordination to the president of Syria. (Witham) – This was Herod Antipas, son of herod the great, mentioned in Chapter 1: 5.
Under the high priests Annas and Caiphas; the word of the Lord was made unto John, the son of Zachary, in the desert.
Commentary on Verse 2 Under the high priests, Annas and Caiphas. There was properly but one high priest at the time; and Caiphas had this office and title all the ten years that Pilate governed Judea. See Josephus, lib. 18. Antiq. Chapter 3. – In these short notes I shall not pretend to examine the chronological difficulties, as to Christ’s birth, death & c. (Witham)
And he came into all the country about the Jordan, preaching the baptism of penance for the remission of sins;
Commentary on Verse 3 To all who read, it is plain, that Saint John [the Baptist] not only preached baptism, but likewise conferred it upon many; yet, he could not give baptism to the remission of sins. (Saint Gregory, homily 20) – When the victim was not yet immolated, how could they obtain remission of sins? How could Saint Luke say, preaching the baptism of penance, for the remission of sins? The ignorant Jews not considering the greatness of their transgressions, Saint John came exhorting them to acknowledge their sins, and do penance for them; that being converted, and truly contrite, they might seek after their Redeemer, and thus obtain remission of their offences. (Saint Chrysostom, homily 10 in Matthew) – From these words originated an opinion, that the baptism of John remitted sins. The Prudentius, in his hymn on Saint John:
Hortatur ille primus, et Doctor novae
As it was written in the book of the sayings of Isaias the prophet: A voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight His paths.
Fuit salutis, nam sancto in flumine
Veterum pictas lavit errorum notas.
The fallacy of this sentiment, now universally exploded, may be detected from two passages of Scripture: 1. Where John himself declares that he does not baptize with the Holy Ghost; and secondly, in the Acts, (Chapter 19) where Saint Paul orders those who had only been baptized by John, and had not heard of the Holy Ghost, to be rebaptized. We must then conclude, that Saint John’s baptism was only a ceremony or initiation, by which they enrolled themselves as his disciples, to do penance, as a preparation for the remission of sins by means of the second baptism, viz. of Jesus Christ. (Jansenius, Evan. Conc.)
Every valley shall be filled; and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight; and the rough ways plain;
Commentary on Verse 5 Every valley, & c. If these words, in one sense, were a prediction of the deliverance of the Israelites from their captivity, (Isaias 40: 30) and an admonition to level the roads for those that were to return, they also signified the redemption of mankind from the slavery of sin; and that all obstacles, which retarded this benefit, should be removed, and also that the proud should be depressed, and the humble receive graces. (Witham)
And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.
Commentary on Verse 6 This text is given according to the Septuagint.
Haydock Commentary for the Fourth Sunday of Advent