July 2012 Edition
Purgatory - God's Justice and Mercy Part One from St. Paul's Epistle to the Corinthians
With this edition John Gregory embarks on a much briefer seriess than his recent thorough series on the Sermon on the Mount which encompassed the Gospel of St. Matthew Chapters 5 through 7. This time he tackles St. Paul's Epistle to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 3. We begin with the first eight verses in which the Apostle reminds them that he has gone slowly with them for like children and, because of their fallen human nature, they need milk for their spiritual lives to protect them from their carnal desires that keep them from striving for salvation. Before they can digest the meat of the matter, they must purge themselves of those obstacles that would prevent their entry into Heaven. If not in their lifetime, then in Purgatory for every one will be judged according to their works.
Over the next three parts I will be dealing with the subject of Purgatory asSt. Paul addresses in chapter three of 1 Corinthians with the theme as stated in the Douay Rheims Bible that "they must not contend about their teachers, who are but God's ministers, and accountable to Him. Their works shall be tried by fire."
The motivation behind my putting this together is to make purgatorial proofs accessible to Protestants and to motivate Catholics to avoid venial sin to the best of their ability. The commentaries in green are from the Haydock commentary, while the commentaries in blue are from Saint Thomas Aquinas. I took the Aquinas commentary from the internet and the Scripture used there appears to be a mishmash of true versions and new versions of the Bible. Perhaps the one who put the commentaries together used an old translation and added some modern words as he saw fit.
The Scripture quotations Saint Thomas uses are extensive but I could not let the quotations stand as is and translated all the verses in Thomas' commentary to English translation of the Latin Vulgate used by the Church throughout her existence. I could not resist changing the modern renderings of the names of the books in the Bible to the Catholic rendering as well.
Additionally, I made sure to quote the accurate Psalm chapters as that is yet another aspect of the numerous changes to Holy Writ made by New Church thanks to Vatican Two. Lastly there are some few quotes which I could not find in the Catholic Bible when searching at or near the Scripture verse listed of a given quote and this is indicated with [?] and the quote is left as is. Another possibility is that Saint Thomas Aquinas could have had his own translation of the Bible which might have differed from what we have today, so perhaps all the quotes were okay as they were. The source for Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians by St. Thomas Aquinas is taken from the translation by Dominican Fabian Larcher, O.P. and edited on the net by Joseph Kenny, O.P. They do provide it in both Latin and English as well as som in Greek. Nevertheless, not being sure either way, I have gone back to the tried and true and the best English translation of the Latin Vulgate Catholic Bible which is the Douay-Rheims version.
1 And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual, but as unto carnal. As to little ones in Christ,
2 I gave you milk to drink, not meat: for you were not able as yet: but neither indeed are you now able: for you are yet carnal.
3 For, whereas, there is among you envying and contention; are you not carnal, and walk according to man?
Verse 3. And walk according to man? As carnal and sensual men, as long as there are jealousies and divisions among you. (Witham) 4 For while one saith, I indeed am of Paul: and another, I am of Apollo: are you not men? What then is Apollo, and what is Paul?
5 The ministers of him whom you have believed: and to every one as the Lord hath given.
6 I have planted, Apollo watered: but God gave the increase.
7 Therefore neither he that planteth is any thing, nor he that watereth: but God Who giveth the increase. 8 Now he who planteth, and he who watereth, are one. And every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labor.
Verses 7-8. That planteth you by your first conversion. Apollo watered you by preaching the same truths. --- He that planteth and watered, are one, aim at one and the same end. (Witham) --- According to his own labor. God does not recompense His servants according to the success of their labors, because their success depends upon Him alone; but He recompenses them according to their sufferings and diligence in His service; for, whilst He crowns the labor of His apostles with success, He crowns His Own work. (St. John Chrysostom) --- This text most evidently proves that good works proceeding from grace are meritorious, and that the rewards in Heaven are different, according as God sees just to appropriate them. The Greek word here employed is misthos, (merces) or wages. See 1 Timothy 5: 18; Apocalypse 22: 12; and Matthew 16: 27. It is by our union with Jesus Christ that our actions, of themselves without value or merit, become gold, silver, and precious stones. (Haydock)
Below I provide commentary from St. Thomas Aquinas:
Above the Apostle disclosed the strife and division among the Corinthians, who disputed among themselves about the particular ministers of Christ who had baptized and instructed them. Here he begins to attack their judgment of these ministers as the root of their strife. In regard to this he does two things: first, he attacks their judgment, insofar as they attributed more than they should to those ministers in whom they boast; secondly, insofar as they looked down on the other ministers of Christ (c. 4). In regard to the first he does two things: first, he shows the loss they suffered from the strifes arising from the perverse judgment; secondly, he attacks their perverse judgment (v.4). As to the first he does two things: first, he mentions the loss they have suffered till now on account of this fault; secondly, he shows that they are still suffering from it (v. 2).
In regard to the first he does three things: first, he mentions the loss they have suffered till now from this fault. For above he had said that the apostles delivered spiritual things to spiritual men, teachings which sensual men were not able to apprehend. Now he applies this to them saying: But I, brethren, who along with all the other apostles speak spiritual things to spiritual men, could not fittingly address you as spiritual men, i.e., deliver spiritual teachings to you, but as to men of the flesh I have spoken to you. Here he calls the carnal the same ones he first called sensual, to whom must be delivered things suited to their weakness: "Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand the hearing? them that are weaned from the milk, that are drawn away from the breasts." (Isaias 28: 9), i.e., from a carnal understanding and way of life.
Secondly, he employs a simile, saying: as babes in Christ, i.e., barely introduced to the perfect teachings of the faith which is given to spiritual men: "For every one that is a partaker of milk, is unskilful in the word of justice: for he is a little child." (Hebrews 5: 13). Thirdly, he gives the reason, lest they suppose that he withholds spiritual teaching from them through envy, which would be opposed to Wisdom (7:13): "Which I have learned without guile, and communicate without envy" That is why he adds: for you were not ready for it. As if to say: It was not through envy that I kept spiritual things from you, but on account of your incapacity, because you were not ready to grasp spiritual words: "I have yet many things to say to you; but you cannot bear them now" (John 16: 12).
Then when he says, and even yet, he shows that even now they are suffering the same loss. First, he shows the incapacity under which they are still laboring when he says: But even yet you are not ready. As if to say: It was not strange that in the beginning you were unable to grasp a fuller teaching, because this was expected of your newness: "As newborn babes, desire the rational milk without guile" (1 Peter 2: 2). But it seems sinful that in spite of the time during which you could have made progress, you still show the same incapacity: "For whereas for the time you ought to be masters; you have need to be taught again what are the first rudiments of the oracles of God" (Hebrews 5: 12).
Secondly, he gives the reason why they are still unable, saying: For you are still of the flesh in life and mind. That is the reason why you cannot grasp the things of the Spirit, but have a taste for the things of the flesh: "For they who are according to the flesh, relish the things that are of the flesh" (Romans 8: 5).
Thirdly, he gives the reason behind the proof, saying: For while there is among you jealousy and strife, are you not of the flesh and behave like ordinary men? Here it should be noted that he was right in joining jealousy with strife, because jealousy is the food of contention, for a jealous person is grieved at another's good, which the latter tries to improve and from this arises strife. Hence James (3: 16) says: "For where envying and contention is, there is inconstancy, and every evil work." On the other hand, charity through which a person loves another's good is the source of peace.
Secondly, it should be noted that jealousy and strife occur only among carnal persons because, being attracted to material goods which cannot each be possessed by many persons at the same time, whenever one person owns a material good, another person is prevented from fully possessing it. From this follows jealousy and later strife. But spiritual goods, by which spiritual persons are attracted can be possessed by several persons at the same time; consequently, one's good is not another's loss. For this reason neither jealousy nor strife finds a place among them: "Which I communicate without envy" (Wisdom 7: 13).
Thirdly, it should be noted that carnal men are said to walk according to the flesh, even though man is composed of spirit and flesh. For it is consonant with human nature to obtain knowledge of the spirit from the senses of the flesh; consequently, the affections of human reason are moved by the things of the flesh, unless man's spirit is raised above man by the Spirit of God, for "And the heart fancieth as that of a woman in travail: except it be a vision sent forth from the Most High" (Ecclesiasticus 34: 6). Therefore, the sense is this: like ordinary men, i.e., according to human nature left to itself by the Spirit of God, as Psalm 4: 3: "O ye sons of men, how long will you be dull of heart? why do you love vanity, and seek after lying?"
Fourthly, he clarifies the proof, saying: For when one of you says, I belong to Paul, because I have been baptized and instructed by Paul, and another, I belong to Apollos, which shows that there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not merely men, i.e., carnal and not spiritual, indulging in jealousy and strife for human things? For as a man is, so is he affected by corresponding things and desires them: "They became abominable, as those things were, which they loved" (Osee 9: 10).
Then when he says, What then is Apollos? he spurns their judgment, insofar as they attributed more to their ministers than they deserved. First, he discloses the truth; secondly, he excluded their error (v. 18). In regard to the first he does two things: first, he describes the status of their ministers; secondly, he speaks about their reward (v.8). As to the first he does three things: first, he describes the status of the ministers; secondly, he proposes a simile (v. 6); thirdly, he explains his intent (v. 7).
Touching on the status of the ministers, he mentions two things: first, that they are not masters, but ministers, saying: You boast of Paul and Apollos. So I ask you: What then is Apollos and what is Paul?, i.e., what is their dignity and power, if you are to be reasonable in boasting of them? And he answers: they are servants of God. As if to say: what they do when baptizing and instructing, they do not do as masters but as God's ministers: "But you shall be called the priests of the Lord" (Isaias 61: 6). But someone might consider it great to be a minister of God and suppose that one should boast of men who are ministers of God. This would be true, if God could not be approached without men, as happens when men glory in the king's ministers, without whom the king cannot be approached. But this is not applicable here, because Christ's faithful have access to God by faith, as it says in Romans 5: 2 "By whom also we have access through faith into this grace, wherein we stand, and glory in the hope of the glory of the sons of God." Therefore, he is careful to say: through whom you believed. As if to say: by faith you have now been joined to God and not to men. That is why he said above (2: 5): "That your faith might not stand on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God." Therefore you should take joy first in God and not in men.
But it sometimes happens that ministers of men have some dignity or skill that makes them fit to be ministers. This is not true of God's ministers. Therefore, he shows that the worthiness and power of God's ministers is entirely from God, saying: as the Lord assigned to each. As if to say: Each one of us has as much power in ministering as the Lord has granted to him; consequently, there is no reason for boasting in us for ourselves: "Not that we are sufficient to think any thing of ourselves, as of ourselves: but our sufficiency is from God" (2 Corinthians 3: 5).
Then when he says, I planted, he stresses a similarity between ministers and husbandmen, where two differences in their activities should be noted: one is the difference between the activity of one minister and that of another. In regard to this he says: I planted, i.e., in preaching to you I was like a planter, because I was the first one to preach the faith to you: "I have put my words in thy mouth, that thou mightest plant the heavens" (Isaias 51: 16); Apollos watered, i.e., he acted as a person who waters plants to nourish them and make them grow. In the same way we read in Apocalypse (19: 1) that after Paul had converted many Corinthians, Apollos came on the scene and contributed many things to the believers, showing publicly by the Scriptures that Jesus is Christ, and fulfilling what is said in Ecclesiasticus (24: 31): "They that explain me, shall have life everlasting."
The second difference is found in the work of ministers, who by planting and watering cooperate outwardly with the work of God Who works inwardly, hence he adds, but the God gave the increase: "increase the growth of the fruits of your justice" (2 Corinthians 9: 10). So, too, in material things, planters and waterers work from without, but God works from within by the activity of nature to make plants grow.
Then when he says, so neither he that plants, he draws two conclusions from these premises. The first of these is based on the minister's dependence on God: inasmuch as Paul planted and Apollos watered, they were but ministers of God, having nothing but what they received from God; and they worked only from without, God working within. So neither he that plants, nor he that waters is important and great; but God that gives the growth. For God is independent and great by Himself: for an action is not attributed to the instrument, which a minister is, but to the principal cause. Hence Isaias (40: 17): "All nations are before him as if they had no being at all, and are counted to him as nothing, and vanity"
The second conclusion is based on a comparison between the various ministers: He that plants and he that waters, since both are God's ministers, having nothing but what they receive from God and working only from without, are equal. Since the only ground for preferring one over another is some divine gift he has received, they are equal, so far as what they have of themselves is concerned. Furthermore, since their intention is to be God's ministers, they are one in the harmony of their wills; consequently, it is foolish to have dissensions about persons who are one: "I will praise thee, O Lord, with my whole heart; in the council of the just, and in the congregation." (Psalm 110: 1); "So we, being many, are one body in Christ" (Romans 12: 5).
In part two I will focus on verses 9 to 15 of 1 Corinthians 3 where we'll see how no amount of worldly riches will gain one Heaven - neither gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay or straw for man's work will be judged on that day when he as arrived at the end of his earthly sojourn and whatever is left undone will be judged according to what foundation he built his life on. If he is saved and not thorougly spotless of sin, he must be purified through the fires of Purgatory where the time spent will be determined by his body of work on this earth.