Sermon on the Mount
In Part Fifteen John Gregory completes this series on the Sermon on the Mount as he finishes up with verses 24 through 29 of the Gospel of St. Matthew 7 where the evangelist relates our Lord's parable of the house built on the rock - here, the Church and the winds are the storms of the world in the heresies and false prophets who rain down on those not strong in their faith, those whose houses are built on sand for they are not wise. When the floods come, they will be inundated with doubts and confusion and will be washed away in apostasy. Those who plant their foundation on the Rock and heed our Lord's words and the truths and traditions He passed down through His Mystical Bride as infallible doctrine and upheld by the perennial Magisterium of the Church will survive, for they know the rock is in no way the counterfeit church of conciliarism for that is built upon sand, and, in God's time, will be swept into satan's sewer. Remain steady on the rock and heed St. Paul's words to "stand fast; and hold the traditions which you have learned."
For the fifteenth part of The Sermon on the Mount I will finish up with the last verses of Matthew 7 before beginning a similar series next month on 1 Corinthians 3. During this lengthy series on the Beatitudes and other virtues Christ speaks of in His Sermon on the Mount, recorded by Saint Matthew in the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Chapter of his Gospel, I have endeavored to apply our Lord's words to show how we can better stay on the straight and narrow with no doubt as to what direction we are heading even if everyone else seems to be heading in the opposite direction. I hope this has provided some shelter from all the heretical rain that has fallen over the last several decades and inundated so many souls. That rain is what Jesus pinpoints in verses 24 through 29 as we see how it all circles back to the Beatitudes. 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, 6 and the first twenty-three verses of 7) is to get the meaning, without overwhelming the senses with a multiplication of electronic ink.
24 Every one, therefore, that heareth these My words, and doth them, shall be likened to a wise man, who built his house upon a rock.
In the Greek text, "I will compare him;" an apposite comparison, to shew the necessity of good works. It is the duty of each individual to erect this spiritual edifice of good works in the interior of his soul, which may be able to resist all the attacks of our spiritual enemy: whilst those men who have true faith and no works are compared to a fool, and are sure to perish. (Menochius) ---Here again our Saviour dispenses his rewards to such as order their lives according to his instructions; but as before he promised the kingdom of heaven, divine consolations, and other rewards, so here he promises them the numberless blessings attendant on virtue in this life. The just alone are surrounded with virtue as with a strong guard, and amidst the high swelling waves of worldly troubles, enjoy a calm and unchangeable tranquillity. Thus was Job strengthened by his virtue against the attacks both of men and satan. (St. John Chrysostom)
25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and they beat upon that house, and it fell not, for it was founded upon a rock.
The Scribes and Pharisees only explained the law, and laid open the promises of Moses, whereas our Saviour gives new laws, and makes new promises in his own name; But I say to you, &c. The energy also with which our Saviour spoke, together with the miracles which he wrought, had far greater influence on the minds of the people than the frigid manner in which the Scribes delivered their doctrines. (Menochius)
26 And every one that heareth these My words, and doth them not, shall be like a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand.
Nothing can be more foolish than to raise an edifice on sand: it carries punishment with it, causing indeed abundance of labour, but yielding neither reward nor repose. The slaves of malice, luxury, and voluptuousness, labour in the pursuit of their desires, yet not only receive no reward, but, on the contrary, the greatest punishment. They sow in the flesh, from the flesh they shall reap corruption. (Galatians 6) (St. John Chrysostom)
27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and they beat upon that house, and it fell, and great was the fall thereof.
Such again shall be the end of all false prophets. Their death shall be in the same proportion, ignominious and miserable, as their life had been glorious and attractive. They shall be punished with so much greater severity, than others, as their sins have proceeded from greater knowledge and greater malice. (Haydock)
St. John Chrysostom: Because there would be some who would admire the things that were said by the Lord, but would not add that shewing forth of them which is in action, He threatens them before, saying, "Every man that hears these words of Mine, and does them, shall be likened to a wise man."
Pseudo-Chrysostom: He said not, I will account him that hears and does, as wise; but, "He shall be likened to a wise man." He then that is likened is a man; but to whom is he likened? To Christ; but Christ is the wise man who had built His house, that is, the Church, upon a rock, that is, upon the strength of the faith.
The foolish man is the Devil, who has built his house, that is, all the ungodly, upon the sand, that is, the insecurity of unbelief, or upon the carnal, who are called the sand on account of their barrenness; both because they do not cleave together, but are scattered through the diversity of their opinions, and because they are innumerable.
The rain is the doctrine that waters a man, the clouds are those from which the rain falls. Some are raised by the Holy Spirit, as the Apostles and Prophets, and some by the spirit of the Devil, as are the heretics.
The good winds are the spirits of the different virtues, or the Angels who work invisibly in the senses of men, and lead them to good. The bad winds are the unclean spirits.
The good floods are the Evangelists and teachers of the people; the evil floods are men full of an unclean spirit, and overflowing with many words; such are philosophers and the other professors of worldly wisdom, out of whose belly come rivers of dead water.
The Church then which Christ has founded, neither the rain of false doctrine shall sap, nor the blast of the Devil overturn, nor the rush of mighty floods remove. Nor does it contradict this, that certain of the Church do fall; for not all that are called Christians, are Christ's, but, "The Lord knows them that are his." [2 Tim 2: 19]
But against that house that the Devil has built comes down the rain of true doctrine, the winds, that is, the graces of the Spirit, or the Angels; the floods, that is, the four Evangelists and the rest of the wise; and so the house falls, that is, the Gentile world, that Christ may rise; and the ruin of that house was great, its errors broken up, its falsehoods laid open, its idols throughout the whole world broken down. He then is like unto Christ who hears Christ's words and does them; for he builds on a rock, that is, upon Christ, who is all good, so that on whatsoever kind of good any one shall build, he may seem to have built upon Christ. But as the Church built by Christ cannot be thrown down, so any such Christian who has built himself upon Christ, no adversity can overthrow, according to that, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" [Rom 8: 35]
Like to the Devil is he that hears the words of Christ, and does them not. For words that are heard, and are not done, are likened to sand, they are dispersed and shed abroad. For the sand signifies all evil, or even worldly goods. For as the Devil's house is overthrown, so such as are built upon the sand are destroyed and fall. And great is that ruin if he have suffered any thing to fail of the foundation of faith; but not if he have committed fornication, or homicide, because he has whence he may arise through penitence, as David.
Rabanus: Or the great ruin is to be understood that with which the Lord will say to them that hear and do not, "Go ye into everlasting fire." [Matt 25: 41]
St. Jerome: Or otherwise; On sand which is loose and cannot be bound into one mass, all the doctrine of heretics is built so as to fall.
St. Hilary: Otherwise; By the showers He signifies the allurements of smooth and gently invading pleasures, with which the faith is at first watered as with spreading rills (streams - JG), afterwards comes down the rush of torrent floods, that is, the motions of fiercer desire, and lastly, the whole force of the driving tempests rages against it, that is, the universal spirits of the Devil's reign attack it.
St. Augustine: Otherwise; Rain, when it is put to denote any evil, is understood as the darkness of superstition; rumors of men are compared to winds; the flood signifies the lust of the flesh, as it were flowing over the land, and because what is brought on by prosperity is broken off by adversity. None of these things does he fear who has his house founded upon a rock, that is, who not only hears the command of the Lord, but who also does it. And in all these he submits himself to danger, who hears and does not. For no man confirms in himself what the Lord commands, or himself hears, but by doing it.
But it should be noted, that when he said, "He that heareth these words of Mine," He shews plainly enough that this sermon is made complete by all those precepts by which the Christian life is formed, so that with good reason they that desire to live according to them, may be compared to one that builds on a rock.
28 And it came to pass when Jesus had fully ended these words, the people were in admiration at His doctrine.
With reason were the people enraptured with his doctrines; for he taught as having authority from himself, and not like their doctors, who only spoke in the name of Moses, and whose only ambition was to please, and not to correct. In the Greek text there is only mention of the Scribes or doctors, but not of the Pharisees.
29 For He was teaching them as one having power, and not as their Scribes and Pharisees.
He taught as one having power, exousian, to found a law of his own. Hence he said: Ego autem dico vobis; "But I say to you," viz. as a legislator, announcing to you not the law of Moses, or of any other, but my own law. (Estius, in different location) --- All agree that St. Matthew anticipates the sermon on the mount, in order thus to prefix the doctrines of Christ to the account of his miracles; for we cannot doubt that the discourse on the mount, which is mentioned by St. Matthew, is the same as that recorded by St. Luke. The beginning, the middle, and the conclusion correspond with each other. If St. Matthew mentions some particulars omitted by St. Luke, it is because his design was to collect together several instructions, which Jesus delivered on different occasions; and these, for the most part, are to be found in other parts of St. Luke. --- This admirable sermon may be divided into three parts, viz. the exordium (the first part - JG), the body of the discourse, and the conclusion. The exordium comprises the eight beatitudes, and merits our most serious attention. The body of the discourse is chiefly addressed to the apostles, whom Jesus had recently chosen, in order to instil into them, and all succeeding pastors of the Church, a right sense of the great duties belonging to their ministry; and, in the second place, it refers to all the faithful in general. The conclusion consists of an exhortation to a life of piety, and contains several advices, some of which chiefly regard pastors, others indiscriminately all the faithful in general. --- May this excellent abridgment of thy doctrine, O Jesus! be the rule of our manners, the pattern of our life. Amen. (Haydock)
Gloss: Having related Christ's teaching, he shews its effects on the multitude, saying, "And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these words, the multitude wondered at His doctrine."
Rabanus: This ending pertains both to the finishing the words, and the completeness of the doctrines. That it is said that "the multitude wondered," either signifies the unbelieving in the crowd, who were astonished because they did not believe the Saviour's words; or is said of them all, in that they reverenced in Him the excellence of so great wisdom.
Pseudo-Chrysostom: The mind of man when satisfied reasonably brings forth praise, but when overcome, wonder. For whatever we are not able to praise worthily, we admire. Yet their admiration pertained rather to Christ's glory than to their faith, for had they believed on Christ, they would not have wondered. For wonder is raised by whatever surpasses the appearance of the speaker or actor; and thence we do not wonder at what is done or said by God, because all things are less than God's power. But it was the multitude that wondered, that is the common people, not the chief among the people, who are not wont to hear with the desire of learning; but the simple folk heard in simplicity; had others been present they would have broken up their silence by contradicting, for where the greater knowledge is, there is the stronger malice. For he that is in haste to be first, is not content to be second.
St. Augustine: From that which is here said, He seems to have left the crowd of disciples - those out of whom He chose twelve, whom He called Apostles - but Matthew omits to mention it. For to His disciples only, Jesus seems to have held this Sermon, which Matthew recounts, Luke omits. That after descending into a plain He held another like discourse, which Luke records, and Matthew omits. Still it may be supposed, that, as was said above, He delivered on and the same Sermon to the Apostles, and the rest of the multitude present, which has been recorded by Matthew and Luke, in different words, but with the same truth of substance; and this explains what is here said of the multitude wondering.
St. John Chrysostom: He adds the cause of their wonderment, saying, "He taught them as one having authority, and not as the Scribes and Pharisees." But if the Scribes drove Him from them, seeing His power shewn in works, how would they not have been offended when words only manifested His power? But this was not so with the multitude; for being of benevolent (kind - JG) temper, it is easily persuaded by the word of truth. Such however was the power wherewith He taught them, that it drew many of them to Him, and caused them to wonder; and for their delight in those things which were spoken they did not leave Him even when He had done speaking; but followed Him as He came down from the mount. They were mostly astonished at His power, in that He spoke not referring to any other as the Prophets and Moses had spoken, but every where shewing that He Himself had authority; for in delivering each law, He prefaced it with, "But I say unto you."
St. Jerome: For as the God and Lord of Moses himself, He of His own free will either added such things as seemed omitted in the Law, or even changed some; as above we read, "It was said by them of old . . . . But I say unto you." But the Scribes only taught the people what was written in Moses and the Prophets.
Pope St. Gregory the Great Or, Christ spoke with especial power, because He did no evil from weakness, but we who are weak, in our weakness consider by what method in teaching we may best consult for our weak brethren.
St. Hilary: Or; They measure the efficacy of His power, by the might of His words.
St. Augustine: This is what is signified in the eleventh Psalm, "I will deal mightily with him; the words of the Lord are pure words, silver tried in the fire, purified of earth, purged seven times." [Ps 12: 5-6]
The mention of this number admonishes me here to refer all these precepts to those seven sentences that He placed in the beginning of this Sermon; those, I mean, concerning the beatitudes. For one to be angry with his brother, without cause, or to say to him, Racha, or call him fool, is a sin of extreme pride, against which is one remedy, that with a suppliant (humble and sincere - JG) spirit he should seek pardon, and not be puffed up with a spirit of boasting.
"Blessed," then, "are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven." He is consenting to His adversary, that is, in shewing reverence to the word of God, who goes to the opening His Father's will, not with contentiousness (creating disagreement; argumentative - JG) of law, but with meekness of religion, therefore, "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth."
Also, whosoever feels carnal delight rebel against his right will, will cry out, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" [Rom 7: 24] And in thus mourning he will implore the aid of the counsoler, whence, "Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted."
What is there that can be thought of more toilsome than in overcoming an evil practice to cut off those members within us that hinder the kingdom of heaven, and not be broken down with the pain of so doing? To endure in faithful wedlock all things even the most grievous, and yet to avoid all accusation of fornication. To speak the truth, and approve it not by frequent oaths, but in probity (goodness - JG) of life.
But who would be bold to endure such toils, unless he burned with the love of righteousness as with a hunger and thirst? "Blessed," therefore, "are they that hunger and thirst, for they shall be filled." Who can be ready to take wrong from the weak, to offer himself to any that asks him, to love his enemies, to do good to them that hate him, to pray for them that persecute him, except he that is perfectly merciful?
Therefore, "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall find mercy." He keeps the eye of his heart pure, who places the end of his good actions not in pleasing men, nor in getting those things that are necessary to this life, and who does not rashly condemn any man's heart, and whatever he gives to another gives with that intention with which he would have others give to him. "Blessed," therefore, "are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." It must needs be moreover, that by a pure heart should be found out the narrow way of wisdom, to which the guile of corrupt men is an obstacle; "Blessed are the peaceful, for they shall be called the sons of God." But whether we take this arrangement, or any other, those things which we have heard from the Lord must be done, if we would build upon the rock.