Through the gracious effort of John Gregory, we can provide you the Haydock Commentaries for the Epistle and Gospel for Septuagesima Sunday to complement the Propers of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Father Haydock provides in his commentaries the essence of what Christ illustrates in His parables in St. Matthew's Gospel regarding the laborers in the field and how He compares it to Heaven and the hours of the day to times of man's life from infancy to manhood to middle age to old age to the last days of man's life in addition to equating the hours to the time from Adam to Noah to Abraham to Christ and to the end of days. In the Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians, the Apostle of the Gentiles likens life to a race for the purpose of winning the prize which is Heaven. In order to do so he must condition his soul through prayer and sacrifice and gain nourishment from the Holy Eucharist, foreshadowed by manna from Heaven in the Old Covenant. As many fall short in the race and achieving their just reward, so also our Lord concludes His Gospel parable by reminding that many are called, but few are chosen.
1 Corinthians 9: 24-27; 10: 1-5
24 Know you not that they who run in the race, all run indeed, but one receiveth the prize? So run that you may obtain.
Commentary on Verse 24 Know you not? Nothing is more famous in the annals of history than the pubic games in Greece: it is to these the apostle is here alluding. (Calmet) --- All run indeed, &c. He brings the examples of runners and wrestlers for a prize in the Grecian games, where only one could gain the prize. It is true in our case many obtain the crown for which we strive, but every one is in danger of losing it, and so must use all his endeavours to obtain it. (Witham)
25 And every one that striveth for the mastery refraineth himself from all things: and they indeed that they may receive a corruptible crown: but we an incorruptible one.
Commentary on Verse 25 He refraineth himself, &c. Curbs his inclinations, abstains from debauchery, or any thing that may weaken him, or hinder him from gaining this corruptible crown, how much more ought we to practise self-denials for an eternal crown?
In the fifth verse, where we translate, a woman, a sister, or a sister, a woman: the Protestant translation has a sister, a wife. We have reason to reject this translation, since it is evident by this epistle, that St. Paul at least then had not a wife, chap. vii. ver. 7. 8. And the ancient interpreters expressly examined and rejected this translation. See St. Jerome against Jovian. lib. i. tom. 4. part 2. p. 167. edit. Ben.; St. Augustine, lib. de opere Monach. tom. vi. chap. 4. p. 478. Nov. edit. The Greek word, as every one knows, signifies either a woman or a wife. Nor doth any thing here determine it to signify a wife. He speaks of a woman, or of women that were sisters, that is, Christians; so that a sister expounds what kind of woman it was. Dr. Hammond puts in the margin a sister-woman, as it were to correct the Protestant translation. (Witham)
26 I, therefore, so run, not as at an uncertainty: I so fight, not as one beating the air:
27 But I chastise my body, and bring it into subjection: lest, perhaps, when I have preached to others, I myself should become reprobate.
Commentary on Verse 27 I chastise, &c. Here St. Paul shews the necessity of self-denial and mortification to subdue the flesh, and its inordinate desires. (Challoner) --- Not even the labours of an apostle are exemptions from voluntary mortification and penance.
1 For I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that our fathers were all *under the cloud, and all passed through the sea:
2 And all in Moses were baptized, in the cloud, and in the sea:
Commentary on Verses 1 and 2 Our Fathers, the Jews, were all under the cloud. He means, when God conducted the camp of the Israelites, in the day-time by a cloud, and in the night by a pillar of fire. (Exodus xiii. 21.) (Witham) --- In Moses. Under the conduct of Moses they received baptism in figure, by passing under the cloud and through the sea: and they partook of the body and blood of Christ in figure, by eating of the manna, (called here a spiritual food, because it was a figure of the true bread which comes down from Heaven) and drinking the water miraculously brought out of the rock, called here a spiritual rock; because it was also a figure of Christ. (Challoner) --- Were baptized in the cloud, and in the sea, figuratively, these being figures of baptism in the new law. As Moses, who delivered them from the slavery of Egypt, was a figure of Christ, who came to deliver mankind from the slavery of sin. (Witham)
3 And they all eat the same spiritual food:
4 And all drank the same spiritual drink: (and they drank of the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ.)
Commentary on Verses 3 and 4 All eat the same spiritual food, to wit, the manna, which seemed to come from heaven, and was a figure of the eucharist, the spiritual food of our souls. --- All drank the same spiritual drink, and....rock that followed them, by which is understood the stream of water, that came miraculously out of the rock struck by Moses, and which is said to have followed them, because it ran plentifully through their camp. --- And the rock was Christ, a figure of Christ; for all these things (ver. 11.) happened to them in figure. (Witham)
5 But with most of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the desert.
Commentary on Verse 5 God was not well pleased, &c. Of 600,000, only Josue and Caleb entered the land of promise; the rest were destroyed, and perished in the wilderness. Their punishment ought to be an admonition to all to avoid such sins of idolatry, fornication, murmuring, &c.
GOSPEL: St. Matthew 20 1-16
1 The kingdom of Heaven is like to a master of a family, who went out early in the morning to hire laborers into his vineyard.
Commentary on Verse 1 For the kingdom. The participle for, is found in the Greek, and connects the present parable with the last verse of the preceding chapter: indeed it is a comment on that text, and describes to us the gospel dispensation. Thus the conduct of God in the choice he makes of members for His spiritual kingdom, the Church, and of His elect for the kingdom of heaven, is not unlike that of the father of a family, who hires workmen to labor in his vineyard. There are various opinions respecting who are meant by the first, and by the last, in this parable. Many of the fathers suppose that the saints of different states and degrees are here designed, whose reward will suffer no diminution from the circumstances of their having come to the service of Christ at a late age of the world, according to Sts. Hilary, Gregory, and Theophylactus; or, at a late age of life, according to Sts. Basil, Jerome, and Fulgentius. In the latter case, however, we must understand that their greater fervor in co-operating with divine grace, in the latter part of their life, has supplied and compensated for the defect of their preceding negligence; hence it may sometimes happen that the reward of such as enter late in life on the service of God, will exceed that of the less fervent who have entered at an earlier period. But as Christ rather seems to speak here of His militant than His triumphant Church, many commentators explain the parable of the Jews and Gentiles. For the Jews, after bearing the yoke of the Mosaic law for so many ages, received nothing more than what was promised to the observance of that law; whilst Christians receive a more plentiful reward for their more easy labor under the sweet yoke of the gospel. In which sense Christ says to the Jews, Luke xiii. 29: Publicans and harlots shall go before you into the kingdom of heaven. "And, strangers shall come from the east, and from the west, and the north, and the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God. And behold they are last that shall be first, and they are first that shall be last." (Luke xiii. 30.) --- Hence the Jews may be supposed to murmur, that they who are first in their vocation to be the people of God, and first in the observance of his law, should not be preferred to others, who in these respects have been far posterior to them. (Tirinus) --- By the vineyard, says St. Chrysostom, we here understand, the commandments of God. The time for labour is the present life. In the first, third, sixth, ninth, and eleventh hours, i.e. in infancy, youth, manhood, declining years, and extreme decrepitude of age, many individuals, yielding to the effective call of God, labour in the exact performance of the divine commandments. (Hom. lxv.)
2 And having agreed with the laborers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard.
Commentary on Verse 2 The Roman penny, or denarius, was the 8th part of an ounce; which, at the rate of 5s. per ounce, is 7Â½d. It is put here for the usual hire of a day-labourer.
3 And going about the third hour, he saw others standing idle in the market-place,
Commentary on Verse 3 About the third hour. As the Jews divided their nights into four watches, each watch comprehending three hours, so they divided their days into four greater hours, from sunrise to sunset, and each of these great hours contained three lesser hours; so that the whole day from sunrise to sunset, consisted of 12 hours, as also did the night. The first of the great hours, comprehending the three first lesser hours, contained half of the space betwixt the rising of the sun and mid-day; and the end of this time was called the third hour. The next great hour was from that time till mid-day, called the sixth hour. The following great hour contained half of the time betwixt noon and the setting of the sun, the end of which was called the ninth hour. The fourth great hour comprehended the last three lesser hours remaining till sunset, so that at the end of the eleventh hour, mentioned here, ver. 6, began the last lesser hour of the twelve hours of the day; of which our Savior said, (John xi. 9,) are there not twelve hours in the day? --- As to the moral sense of the parable, by the day is commonly expounded all the time from the creation to the end of the world, and so the third hour is reckoned from Adam to Noe; the sixth from Noe to Abraham; the ninth from Abraham to Moses; and from the ninth to the eleventh, was from Moses till Christ's coming; and the time from Christ to the end of the world, is the 12th hour. Other interpreters, by the day understand human life; and by the different hours, infancy, youth, the age of manhood, old age, and the last hour man's decrepit age. God is Master and Disposer of all, Who by His grace calls some sooner, some later. The market-place, in which men are so often found idle, as to the great concern of their eternal salvation, is the world. The design of this parable was to show that the Gentiles, though called later than the Jews, should be made partakers of the promises made to the Jews; this is also the meaning of verse 16, where it is said: the last shall be first, and the first last. (Witham)
4 And he said to them, Go you also into my vineyard, and I will give you what shall be just.
Commentary on Verse 4 I will give you what shall be just. The prospect of a reward is therefore a good motive, authorized here by Christ Himself.
5 And they went their way. And again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did in like manner.
6 But about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing, and he saith to them: Why stand you here all the day idle? 7 They say to him: Because no man hath hired us. He saith to them: Go you also into my vineyard.
Commentary on Verse 7 No man hath hired us. St. Chrysostom again puts us in mind, that in parables all the parts are not significant, but some things are to be taken as mere ornaments of parabolical discourses, as here murmurings, which cannot be found in Heaven: nor can men pretend they are not hired into God's service; God hath given lights, called, hired, and promised Heaven to all. The rewards in Heaven are also different. And they who are last called, if they labor with greater fervor, may deserve a greater reward than others called before them. (Witham) --- The Greek text finishes with, you shall receive what is reasonable. --- We must observe here, says St. Chrysostom on the words, because no man hath hired us, that this is the voice of the laborers only, in excuse for their not having entered upon their work before this late hour; for the master of the vineyard had shown his willingness to hire them all, by going out early for that purpose. Though the fault was their own, he does not upbraid them, but abstains from all harshness and severity, that he may the more easily engage them. (Hom. lxv.)
8 And when evening was come, the lord of the vineyard saith to his steward: Call the laborers and pay them their hire, beginning from the last even to the first. 9 When therefore they came, who had come about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny. 10 But when the first also came, they thought that they should have receive more: and they likewise received every man a penny. 11 And receiving it, they murmured against the master of the house,
Commentary on Verse 11 And when they received it. By those who labored all the day in the vineyard, we are to understand such as have spent their whole lives in the service of God; but we are not thence to infer, that in the kingdom of Heaven, where all receive their just reward, there is envy, discontent, or any complaint. By these words, Christ wishes to convey to our minds an idea of the immense honours that will be heaped upon all such as return with sincerity, though at the decline or even verge of life, to the Almighty. So exceeding great will be their reward, that it would excite envy, were it possible, even in the elect. (St. Chrysostom, hom. lxv.)
12 Saying: These last have worked but one hour, and thou hast made them equal to us, that have borne the burden of the day and the heats.
13 But he answering one of them, said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst thou not agree with me for a penny?
14 Take what is thine, and go thy way: I will also give to this last even as to thee.
Commentary on Verse 14 I will also give. Some are called to the service of their God, and to a life of virtue, from their infancy, whilst others, by a powerful call from above, are converted late in life, that the former may have no occasion to glory in themselves, or to despise those who, even in the 11th hour, enter upon the path of rectitude; and that all might learn that there is time sufficient, however short, left them to repair by their diligence and fervour their past losses. (St. Chrysostom, hom. lxv.) --- Jesus Christ does not count so much the number of years, as the fervor and diligence we employ in his service. Calvin is rather unhappy in his choice of this parable to prove his favorite tenet, that salvation is not the reward of good works, but of faith alone, or predestination, since Jesus Christ represents heaven as given wholly as a just reward of meritorious labour in the vineyard, though some labour a shorter, and others a longer time, and God of his great goodness may give more to some than to others, while to all He gives at least their due. And a truly humble Christian will be ever satisfied with his lot, without envying that of others. (Haydock) --- As star differeth from star in glory in the firmament, (1 Corinthians xv. 41,) so will there be different degrees of glory in Heaven. (St. Augustine, de virgin. chap. xxvi.)
15 Or is it not lawful for me to do what I will? is thy eye evil, because I am good?
16 So shall the last be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen.
Commentary on Verse 16 Few chosen: only such as have not despised their caller, but followed and believed him; for men believed not, but of their own free will. (St. Augustine, lib. i, ad Simplic. q. ii.) (Bristow) --- Hence the rejection of the Jews and of negligent Christians, and the conversion of strangers, who come and take their place, by a conversion both of faith and morals. On the part of God all are called. (Matthew xi. 28.) Come to Me all, &c. In effect, many after their call, have attained to faith and justification; but few in comparison are elected to eternal glory, because the far greater part do not obey the call, but refuse to come, whilst many of those who come fall away again; and thus very few, in comparison with those that perish, will at the last day be selected for eternal glory. (Tirinus)