vol 22, no. 292
In verses eleven through twenty we can see Christ now turns to the Scribes and Pharisees to see if they are worth their salt. Jesus knows they are not, but He wants them to know He knows and to let others know that not all is as it seems and for men to seek after the kingdom of Heaven. He lays out what measures to take and it has nothing to do with the Jewish rites, but rather to encourage souls to not hide their God-given talents under a bushel basket but be the light of the world to outshine the darkness. Here we have the Master Light of the world giving the charge to His disciples in electrifying souls to seek Heaven above all else.
Having covered the first ten verses of the Fifth Chapter of the Gospel of Saint Matthew, I will now focus on the next ten verses which are so powerful and inspiring as given by our Lord on the mount.
11 Blessed are ye when they shall revile you, and persecute you, and speak all that is evil against you untruly, for My sake;
12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for your reward is very great in Heaven: for so they persecuted the prophets, that were before you.
Saint Augustine weighs in on these verses above:
"Blessed are ye," says He, "when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake. Rejoice and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in Heaven." Let any one who is seeking after the delights of this world and the riches of temporal things under the Christian name, consider that our blessedness is within; as it is said of the soul of the Church by the mouth of the prophet, "All the beauty of the king's daughter is within"; for outwardly revilings, and persecutions, and disparagements are promised; and yet, from these things there is a great reward in heaven, which is felt in the heart of those who endure, those who can now say, "We glory in tribulations: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope: and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us." For it is not simply the enduring of such things that is advantageous, but the bearing of such things for the name of Christ not only with tranquil mind, but even with exultation. For many heretics, deceiving souls under the Christian name, endure many such things; but they are excluded from that reward on this account, that it is not said merely, "Blessed are they which endure persecution"; but it is added, "for righteousness' sake." Now, where there is no sound faith, there can be no righteousness, for the just [righteous] man lives by faith. Neither let schismatics promise themselves anything of that reward; for similarly, where there is no love, there cannot be righteousness, for "love worketh no ill to his neighbor"; and if they had it, they would not tear in pieces Christ's body, which is the Church.
But it may be asked, What is the difference when He says, "when men shall revile you," and "when they shall say all manner of evil against you," since to revile is just this, to say evil against? But it is one thing when the reviling word is hurled with contumely (contempt - JG) in presence of him who is reviled, as it was said to our Lord, "Say we not the truth that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil?" and another thing, when our reputation is injured in our absence, as it is also written of Him, "Some said, He is a prophet; others said, Nay, but He deceiveth the people." Then, further, to persecute is to inflict violence, or to assail with snares, as was done by him who betrayed Him, and by them who crucified Him. Certainly, as for the fact that this also is not put in a bare form, so that it should be said, "and shall say all manner of evil against you," but there is added the word "falsely," and also the expression "for my sake"; I think that the addition is made for the sake of those who wish to glory in persecutions, and in the baseness of their reputation; and to say that Christ belongs to them for this reason, that many bad things are said about them; while, on the one hand, the things said are true, when they are said respecting their error; and, on the other hand, if sometimes also some false charges are thrown out, which frequently happens from the rashness of men, yet they do not suffer such things for Christ's sake. For he is not a follower of Christ who is not called a Christian according to the true faith and the catholic discipline.
"Rejoice," says He, "and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven." I do not think that it is the higher parts of this visible world that are here called heaven. For our reward, which ought to be immoveable and eternal, is not to be placed in things fleeting and temporal. But I think the expression "in heaven" means in the spiritual firmament, where dwells everlasting righteousness: in comparison with which a wicked soul is called earth, to which it is said when it sins, "Earth thou art, and unto earth thou shalt return." Of this heaven the apostle says, "For our conversation is in heaven." Hence they who rejoice in spiritual good are conscious of that reward now; but then it will be perfected in every part, when this mortal also shall have put on immortality. "For," says He, "so persecuted they the prophets also which were before you." In the present case He has used "persecution" in a general sense, as applying alike to abusive words and to the tearing in pieces of one's reputation; and has well encouraged them by an example, because they who speak true things are wont to suffer persecution: nevertheless did not the ancient prophets on this account, through fear of persecution, give over the preaching of the truth. (Emphasis mine - JG) (Saint Augustine, "Of the Lord's Sermon on the Mount According to Matthew")
Ver. 12. Reward, in Latin merces, in Greek misthos, signifies wages done for hire, and due for work, and presupposes merit. (Bristow) --- If you participate in the sufferings of the prophets, you will equally participate in their glory, their reward. (Haydock)
13 You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt lose its savor, wherewith shall it be salted? It is good for nothing any more, but to be cast out, and to be trodden on by men.
Ver. 13. The former instructions Jesus Christ gave to the multitude. Now he addresses his apostles, styling them the salt of the earth, meant to preserve men from the corruption of sin, and to make them relish the truths of salvation. He tells them not to suffer their faith or their charity to slacken, in which all their power consists, lest they come to be rejected by God, and despised by man. (Calmet) --- I send you, says Jesus Christ, not to two, ten, or twenty cities, not to one single nation, as the prophets were sent, but to the whole world, a world oppressed with numberless iniquities. It is not the property of salt to restore what is already corrupted, but to preserve from corruption. Therefore the virtue of the merits of Christ delivers us from the corruption of sin; but the care and labour of the apostles preserves us from again returning to it. (St. Chrysostom, hom. xv.) --- It appears from Luke xiv. 34, that this comparison is taken from agriculture. We observe these properties of salt in the different manures that fertilize the soil, but suffer the salts to evaporate, and all their virtue is lost. (Haydock)
Salt is good: but if the salt became unsavory; wherewith will you season it? Have salt in you, and have peace among you. (St. Mark 9: 49)
Salt is good. But if the salt shall lose its savour, wherewith shall it be seasoned? (Luke 14: 34)
14 You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a mountain cannot be hid.
15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but upon a candlestick, that it may give light to all that are in the house.
Might this be why, at least in part, that Christ established a visible head on earth, lest that great light be hid?
Ver. 15. This light of the world, city on a mountain, and candle upon a candlestick, signify the Catholic Church, so built upon Christ, the mountain, that it must be visible, and cannot be hidden or unknown. (St. Augustine, cont. Fulg.) Therefore the Church being a candle not under a bushel, but shining to all in the house, i.e. in the world, what shall I say more, saith St. Augustine than that all are blind, who shut their eyes against the candle which is set on the candlestick? (Tract ii. in ep. Jo.)
And He said to them: Doth a candle come in to be put under a bushel, or under a bed? and not to be set on a candlestick? (St. Mark 4: 21)
Now no man that lighteth a candle, covereth it with a vessel, or putteth it under a bed: but setteth it upon a candlestick, that they who come in, may see the light. (St. Luke 8: 16)
No man lighteth a candle, and putteth it in a hidden place, nor under a bushel: but upon a candlestick, that they that come in may see the light. (St. Luke 11: 33)
16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father Who is in Heaven.
Actions really do speak louder than words. People can say what they like about you, but you will be judged by others ultimately on what you do. If the people that hear bad things about you see you doing good works, they will think you to be good. Therefore, knowing you to be Catholic they will be more likely to be curious about your Faith. If the people that hear good things about you see you doing evil, they will judge you to be evil. Therefore the anti-Catholics will be reaffirmed in their erroneous suppositions about the Catholic Faith.
Having your conversation good among the Gentiles: that whereas they speak against you as evil doers, by your good works, they may glorify God in the day of visitation. (1 Peter 2: 12)
17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.
Ver. 17. Not to destroy the law, &c. It is true, by Christ's coming, a multitude of ceremonies and sacrifices, and circumcision, were to cease; but the moral precepts were to continue, and to be complied with, even with greater perfection. (Witham) --- To fulfil. By accomplishing all the figures and prophecies, and perfecting all that was imperfect. (Challoner) --- Our Savior speaks in this manner, to prepare the minds of the Jews for his new instructions. For although they were not very solicitous about fulfilling the law, still they were extremely jealous of any change being made in the letter of the law; more particularly, if the proposed change exacted a more perfect morality. Our Lord fulfilled the law three several ways: 1. By his obedience to the prescribed rites; therefore he says, it behooveth us to fulfil all justice: and who shall accuse me of sin? 2. He observes the law, not only by his own observance of it, but likewise by enabling us to fulfil it. It was the wish of the law to make man just, but found itself too weak; Christ therefore came justifying man, and accomplished the will of the law. 3. He fulfilled the law, by reducing all the precepts of the old law to a more strict and powerful morality. (St. Chrysostom, hom. xvi.)
18 For amen, I say unto you, till Heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall not pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
Ver. 18. Amen. That is, assuredly, of a truth. This Hebrew word Amen, is here retained by the example and authority of all the four evangelists, who have retained it. It is used by our Lord as a strong asseveration,(to state something earnestly or strongly – JG), and affirmation of the truth. (Challoner) --- Not one jot (or not one jota), nor one tittle, i.e. not the least letter, nor stroke of a letter; that is, not the least moral precept. Besides every type and figure of the former law, now by my coming shall be fulfilled. (Witham) --- Amen, is retained in the Hebrew, Greek, Syriac, and Armenian languages, as well as in all vulgar idioms. It is a term of asseveration, and equivalent to an oath; and in many places, to make the asseveration still stronger, it is repeated. St. Luke very accurately translates it into nai. St. Paul and St. John unite them nai and amen. (Haydock)
And it is easier for Heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail. (St. Luke 16: 17)
19 Whosoever, therefore, shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of Heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach, he shall be called great in the kingdom of Heaven.
Ver. 19. He shall be called; i.e. (by a frequent Hebrew idiom) he shall be the least in the kingdom of Heaven; that is, according to St. Augustine he shall not be there at all; for none but the great in sanctity and virtue shall find admittance into heaven. (Witham) --- Do not then imitate the Scribes and Pharisees, who content themselves with instructing other in the precepts of the law, without practising them themselves, or if they observe the letter, neglect the spirit of the law, performing what it ordains, not to please God, but to satisfy their vanity. (Calmet)
Now whosoever shall keep the whole law but offend in one point, is become guilty of all. (James 2: 10)
20 For I say to you, that unless your justice abound more than that of the Scribes and of the Pharisees, you shall not enter into the kingdom of Heaven.
Ver. 20. Of the Scribes and of the Pharisees. The Scribes were the doctors of the law of Moses; the Pharisees were a precise set of men, making profession of a more exact observance of the law: and upon that account greatly esteemed among the people. (Challoner) --- See how necessary it is, not only to believe, but to keep all the commandments, even the very least. (Bristow) --- Our Savior makes this solemn declaration at the opening of his mission, to shew to what a height of perfection he calls us. (St. Aquinas) --- "Your justice." It is our justice when given us by God. (St. Augustine, in Ps. xxx. lib. de. spir. & lit. chap. ix.) So that Christians are truly just, and have in themselves inherent justice, by observing God's commandments, without which justice of works, no man can be saved. (St. Augustine, de fide & oper. chap. xvi.) Whereby we see salvation, justice and justification, do not come by faith only, or imputation of Christ's justice. (Bristow)
And the Lord said to him: Now you Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup, and of the platter: but your inside is full of rapine and iniquity. (St. Luke 11: 39)
"Catholics who remain faithful to Tradition, even if they are reduced to but a handful, they are THE TRUE CHURCH" Saint Athanasius, "Apostle of Tradition" AD 373
John Gregory's FAITHFUL TO TRADITION Wednesday, October 19, 2011,
Volume 22, no. 292