January 30, 2012
vol 23, no. 30

Sermon on the Mount
Part Ten

    Part ten brings home the golden rule and the generosity of God for all we need do is ask and we shall receive. Jesus reminds us that we should trust totally in the Father Who provides for all our needs and if we have doubt, Christ illustrates the ridiculousness of such mistrust with the metaphor of giving one bread and not a stone or a serpent instead of a fish. Here our Lord has done all He can to convince the multitudes how easy it really is for if they would only live by the law of the prophets the loving Father will give them whatever good things they so request.

    For the tenth part of The Sermon on the Mount I will cover verses 7 through 12 of Chapter 7. Thus I should like to continue to produce the commentaries only, without adding related Scripture to it. The reason for this, rather than skipping over the context, (we have read and interpreted chapter 5 and 6) is to get the meaning, without overwhelming the senses with a multiplication of electrical ink. As always the first commentary under each verse is generally from Father Leo George Haydock, author of the Haydock Commentary, where credit is given to the commentator at the end of the commentary, while the rest are from Saint Thomas Aquinas' Catena Aurea or "Golden Chain", where the credit is given at the beginning. I have cleaned up the commentary for easier reading, deleting the long names of the works they have come from, but leaving you with the name of the proposed commentator alone. The name "Psuedo-Chrysostom" is from a work that was once, but wrongly, attributed to Saint John Chrysostom, and "Gloss", I believe, is generally from commentaries found in the margins of the Scripture translation. When it comes to "St. Gregory" I suppose the source(s) could be any number of "Gregory's" - most likely St. Gregory the Great - though, as far as I can tell the on-line version of this great work of Saint Thomas Aquinas does not share this information:

    Part ten deals with confidence in prayer, and how earnest endeavors for salvation are recommended.

7 Ask, and it shall be given you: seek, and you shall find: knock, and it shall be opened to you.

    After having preached these great and wonderful truths, after having commanded his apostles to keep themselves free from the vices of mankind, and make themselves like not to angels or archangels only, but to the Lord of all things; and not only observe justice themselves, but likewise to labour for the correction of others, lest they should be disheartened at these almost insurmountable difficulties: our Redeemer subjoins, Ask, and you shall receive, &c. When we offer our petitions to the Almighty, we must imitate the example of Solomon, who immediately obtained what he asked of the Lord, because he asked what he ought. Two things, therefore, are necessary to every prayer, that it be offered up with perseverance and fervour, and that it contain a lawful prayer. (St. Chrysostom --- The reasons why so many do not obtain the effects of their prayers, are,---1st. Because they ask for what is evil; and he that makes such a request, offers the Almighty an intolerable injury by wishing to make him, as it were, the author of evil: 2nd. Although what they ask be not evil, they seek it for an evil end. (St. James 4): 3rd. Because they who pray, are themselves wicked; (St. John 9) for God doth not hear sinners: 4th. Because they ask with no faith, or with faith weak and wavering: (St. James 1) 5th. Because although what we ask be good in itself, yet the Almighty refuses it, in order to grant us a greater good: 6th. Because God wishes us to persevere, as he declares in the parable of the friend asking bread, (Luke 2); and that we may esteem his gifts the more: 7th. We do not always receive what we beg, because, according to St. Augustine, God often does not grant us what we petition for, that he may grant us something more useful and profitable. (Maldonatus)

8 For every one that asketh, receiveth: and he that seeketh, findeth: and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened.

    Whatever we ask necessary to salvation with humility, fervour, perseverance, and other due circumstances, we may be assured God will grant when it is best for us. If we do not obtain what we pray for, we must suppose it is not conducive to our salvation, in comparison of which all else is of little moment. (Haydock)

    Jerome: Having before forbidden us to pray for things of the flesh, He now shews what we ought to ask, saying, "Ask, and it shall be given you."

    Augustine: Otherwise; when He commanded not to give the holy thing to dogs, and not to cast pearls before swine, the hearer conscious of his own ignorance might say, Why do you thus bid me not give the holy thing to dogs, when as yet I see not that I have any holy thing. He therefore adds in good season, "Ask, and ye shall receive."

    Pseudo-Chrysostom: Otherwise; Having given them some commands for the sanctification of prayer, saying, "Judge not," He adds accordingly, "Ask, and it shall be given unto you," as though He were to say, If ye observe this mercy towards your enemies, whatever seems to your shut, "knock, and it shall be opened to you."

        Ask therefore in prayer, praying day and night; seek with care and toil; for neither by toiling only in the Scriptures do we gain knowledge without God's grace, nor do we attain to grace without study, lest the gift of God should be bestowed on the careless. But knock with prayer, and fasting, and alms. For as one who knocks at a door, not only cries out with his voice, but strikes with his hand, so he who does good works, knocks with his works.

        But you will say, this is what I pray that I may know and do, how then can I do it, before I receive? Do what you can that you may become able to do more, and keep what you know that you may come to know more.

        Or otherwise; having above commanded all men to love their enemies, and after enjoined that we should not under pretext of love give holy things to dogs; He here gives good counsel, that they should pray God for them, and it shall be granted them; let them seek out those that are lost in sins, and they shall find them; let them knock at those who are shut up in errors, and God shall open to them that their word may have access to their souls.

        Or otherwise; Since the precepts given above were beyond the reach of human virtue, He sends them to God to whose grace nothing is impossible, saying, "Ask, and it shall be given you," that what cannot be performed by men may be fulfilled through the grace of God. For when God furnished the other animals with swift foot, or swift wing, with claws, teeth, or horns, He so made man that He Himself should be man's only strength that forced by reason of his own weakness he might always have need of his Lord.

    Gloss: We ask with faith, we seek with hope, we knock with love. You must first ask that you may have; after that seek that you may find; and lastly, observe what you have found that you may enter in.

    Augustine: Asking, is that we may get healthiness of soul that we may be able to fulfil the things commanded us; seeking, pertains to the discovery of the truth. But when any has found the true way, he will then come into actual possession, which however is only opened to him that knocks.

    Augustine: How these three differ from one another, I have thought good to unfold with this travail; but it were better to refer them all to instant prayer; wherefore He afterwards concludes, saying, "He will give good things to them that ask him."

    Chrysostom: And in that He adds "seek," and "knock," HE bids us ask with much importunateness and strength. For one who seeks, casts forth all other things from his mind, and is turned to that thing singly which he seeks; and he that knocks comes with vehemence and warm soul.

    Pseudo-Chrysostom: He had said, "Ask, and ye shall receive;" which sinners hearing might perchance say, The Lord herein exhorts them that are worthy, but we are unworthy. Therefore He repeats it that He may commend the mercy of God to the righteous as well as to sinners; and therefore declares that "every one that asketh receiveth;" that is, whether he be righteous or a sinner, let him not hesitate to ask; that it may be fully seen that none is neglected but he who hesitates to ask of God. For it is not credible that God should enjoin on men that work of piety which is displayed is doing good to our enemies, and should not Himself (being good) act so.

    Augustine: Wherefore God hears sinners; for if He do not hear sinners, the Publican said in vain, "Lord, be merciful to me a sinner;" [Luke 18: 13] and by that confession merited justification.

    Augustine: He who in faith offers supplication to God for the necessities of this life is heard mercifully, and not heard mercifully. For the physician knows better than the sick man what is good for his sickness. But if he asks that which God both promises and commands, his prayer shall be granted, for love shall receive what truth provides.

    Augustine: But the Lord is good, who often gives us not what we would, that He may give us what we should rather prefer.

    Augustine: There is need moreover of perseverance, that we may receive what we ask for.

    Augustine: In that God sometimes delays His gifts, He but recommends, and does not deny them. For that which is long looked for is sweeter when obtained; but that is held cheap, which comes at once. Ask then and seek things righteous. For by asking and seeking grows the appetite of taking. God reserves for you those things which He is not willing to give you at once, that you may learn greatly to desire great things. Therefore we ought always to pray and not to fail.

9 Or what man is there among you, of whom if his son shall ask bread, will he reach him a stone?

    Lest any one considering the great inequality between God and man, should despair of obtaining favours of God, and therefore should not dare to offer up his petitions, he immediately introduces this similitude of the Father; so that if we were on the point of despairing on account of our sins, from his fatherly tenderness we might still have hopes. (St. Thomas Aquinas)

10 Or if he shall ask a fish, will he reach him a serpent?

11 If you then being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children: how much more will your Father, Who is in Heaven, give good things to them that ask Him?

    Augustine: As above He had cited the birds of the air and the lilies of the field, that our hopes may rise from the less to the greater; so also does He in this place, when He says, "Or what man among you?"

    Chrysostom: There are two things behoveful for one that prays; that he ask earnestly; and that he ask such things as he ought to ask. And those are spiritual things; as Solomon, because he asked such things as were right, received speedily.

    Pseudo-Chrysostom: And what are the things that we ought to ask, he shews under the likeness of a loaf, and a fish. The loaf is the word concerning the knowledge of God the Father. The stone is all falsehood that has a stumbling-block of offence to the soul.

    Remigius: By the fish we may understand the word concerning Christ, by the serpent the Devil himself. Or by the loaf may be understood spiritual doctrine; by the stone ignorance; by the fish the water of Holy Baptism; by the serpent the wiles of the Devil, or unbelief.

    Rabanus: Or; bread which is the common food signifies charity, without which the other virtues are of no avail. The fish signifies faith, which is born of the water of baptism, is tossed in the midst of the waves of this life and yet lives. Luke adds a third thing, "an egg," [Luke 11: 12] which signifies hope; for an egg is the hope of the animal. To charity, He opposes "a stone," that is, the hardness of hatred; to faith, "a serpent," that is, the venom of treachery; to hope, "a scorpion," that is, despair, which stings backward, as the scorpion.

    Remigius: The sense therefore is: we need not fear that should we ask of God our Father bread, that is doctrine or love, He will give us a stone; that is, that He will suffer our heart to be contracted either by the frost of hatred or by hardness of soul; or that when we ask for faith, He will suffer us to die of the poison of unbelief. Thence it follows, "If then ye being evil."

    Chrysostom: This He said not detracting from human nature, nor confessing the whole human race to be evil; but He calls paternal love "evil" when compared with His own goodness. Such is the superabundance of His love towards men.

    Pseudo-Chrysostom: Because in comparison of God who is preeminently good, all men seem to be evil, as all light shews dark when compared with the sun.

    Jerome: Or perhaps he called the Apostles evil, in their person condemning the whole human race, whose heart is set to evil from his infancy, as we read in Genesis. Nor is it any wonder that He should call this generation, "evil," as the Apostle also speaks, "Seeing the days are evil."

    Augustine: Or He calls "evil" those who are lovers of this age; whence also the good things which they give are to be called good according to their sense who esteem them as good; nay, even in the nature of things they are goods, that is, temporal goods, and such as pertain to this weak life.

    Augustine: For that good thing which makes men good is God. Gold and silver are good things not as making you good, but as with them you may do good. If then we be evil, yet as having a Father who is good let us not remain ever evil.

    Augustine: If then we being evil, know how to give that which is asked of us, how much more is it to be hoped that God will give us good things when we ask Him?

    Pseudo-Chrysostom: He says "good things," because God does not give all things to them that ask Him, but only good things.

    Gloss: For from God we receive only such things as are good, of what kind soever they may seem to us when we receive them; for all things work together for good to His beloved.

    Remigius: And be it known that where Matthew says, "He shall give good things," Luke has, "shall give His Holy Spirit." [Luke 11: 13] But this ought not to seem contrary, because all the good things which man receives from God, are given by the grace of the Holy Spirit.

12 All things, therefore, whatsoever you would that men should do to you, do you also to them. For this is the law and the prophets.

    For this is the law and the prophets; that is, all precepts that regard our neighbor are directed by this golden rule, do as you would be done by. (Witham) --- The whole law and all the duties between man and man, inculcated by the prophets, have this principle for foundation. The Roman emperor Alexander Severus, is related to have said, that he esteemed the Christians for their acting on this principle. (Haydock) --- This is the sum of the law and of the prophets, the whole law of the Jews. (Menochius)

    Augustine: Firmness and strength of walking by the way of wisdom in good habits is thus set before us, by which men are brought to purity and simplicity of heart; concerning which having spoken a long time, He thus concludes, "All things whatsoever ye would, &c." For there is no man who would that another should act towards him with a double heart.

    Pseudo-Chrysostom: Otherwise; He had above commanded us in order to sanctify our prayers that men should not judge those who sin against them. Then breaking the thread of his discourse He had introduced various other matters, wherefore now when He returns to the command with which He had begun, He says, "All things whatsoever ye would, &c." That is; I not only command that ye judge not, but "All things whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye unto them;" and then you will be able to pray so as to obtain.

    Gloss: Otherwise; The Holy Spirit is the distributor of all spiritual goods, that the deeds of charity may be fulfilled; whence He adds, "All things therefore, &c."

    Chrysostom: Otherwise; The Lord desires to teach that men ought to seek aid from above, but at the same time to contribute what lays in their power; wherefore when He had said, "Ask, seek, and knock," He proceeds to teach openly that men should be at pains for themselves, adding, "Whatsoever ye would &c."

    Augustine: Otherwise; The Lord had promised that He would give good things to them that ask Him. But that He may own his petitioners, let us also own ours. For they that beg are in every thing, save having of substance, equal to those of whom they beg. What face can you have of making request to your God, when you do not acknowledge your equal? This is said in Proverbs, "Whoso stoppeth his ear to the cry of the poor, he shall cry and shall not be heard." [Prov 21: 13] What we ought to bestow on our neighbor when he asks of us, that we ourselves may be heard of God, we may judge by what we would have others bestow upon us; therefore He says, "All things whatsoever ye would."

    Chrysostom: He says not, "All things whatsoever," simply, but "All things therefore," as though He should say, If ye will be heard, besides those things which I have now said to you, do this also. And He said not, Whatsoever you would have done for you by God, do that for your neighbor; lest you should say, But how can I? but He says, Whatsoever you would have done to you by your fellow-servant, do that also to your neighbor.

    Augustine: Some Latin copies add here, "good things," which I suppose was inserted to make the sense more plain. For it occurred that one might desire some crime to be committed for his advantage, and should so construe this place, that he ought first to do the like to him by whom he would have it done to him. It were absurd to think that this man had fulfilled this command. Yet the thought is perfect, even though this be not added.

        For the words, "All things whatsoever ye would," are not to be taken in their ordinary and loose signification, but in their exact and proper sense. For there is no will but only in the good; in the wicked it is rather named desire, and not will. Not that the Scriptures always observe this propriety; but where need is, there they retain the proper word so that none other need be understood.

    Cyprian: Since the Word of God, the Lord Jesus Christ came to all men, He summed up all His commands in one precept, "Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them;" and adds, "for this is the Law and the Prophets."

    Pseudo-Chrysostom: For whosoever the Law and the Prophets contain up and down through the whole Scriptures, is embraced in this one compendious precept, as the innumerable branches of a tree spring from one root.

    Gregory: He that thinks he ought to do to another as he expects that others will do to him, considers verily how he may return good things for bad, and better things for good.

    Chrysostom: Whence what we ought to do is clear, as in our own cases we all know what is proper, and so we cannot take refuge in our ignorance.

    Augustine: This precept seems to refer to the love of our neighbour, not of God, as in another place He says, there are two commandments on which hang the Law and the Prophets. But as He says not here, The whole Law, as He speaks there, He reserves a place for the other commandment respecting the love of God.

    Augustine: Otherwise; Scripture does not mention the love of God, where it says, "All things whatsoever ye would;" because he who loves his neighbour must consequently love Love itself above all things; but God is Love; therefore he loves God above all things.

John Gregory

        "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 Monday, January 30, 2012, Volume 22, no. 30