So Great of Faith
Third Sunday after Epiphany
Comprehensive Catholic Commentary
Fr. George Leo Haydock
For the Third Sunday after Epiphany, St. Paul continues the string of loving thy neighbor and encouraging doing good to overcome evil. Something our Lord relinquishes to the exterior darkness in His condemnation of the children of the kingdom and praise for the centurion whose faith He had not seen in all of Israel. Faith in Christ trumps all others.
Epistle: Romans 12: 16-21
16 Be not wise in your own conceits:
17 Rendering to no man evil for evil: providing things good, not only in the sight of God, but also in the sight of all men.
18 If it be possible, as much as is in you, have peace with all men.
Commentary on Verse 18 If it be possible,....have peace with all. That is, if it can be without prejudice to truth or justice, &c. And even when others wrong you, seek not to revenge yourselves, but leave your cause to God. Do good offices even to those that do evil to you. (Witham)
19 Revenge not yourselves, my dearly beloved: but give place to wrath, for it is written: Revenge is Mine, I will repay, saith the Lord.
Commentary on Verse 19 Give place to wrath. That we do, says St. John Chrysostom, when we leave all to God, and endeavor to return good for evil. (Witham)
20 But if thy enemy be hungry, give him to eat: if he thirst, give him to drink: for, doing this, thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.
Commentary on Verse 20 Thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. This figurative way of speaking is differently expounded. Some say, inasmuch as by this means thou shalt make him liable to greater punishments from God. Others, as St. Jerome and St. Augustine, by coals of fire, understand kindnesses and benefits, which shall touch the heart, and inflame the affections even of thy enemies, which shall make them sorry for what they have done, and become thy friends. (Witham)
21 Be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil by good.
Commentary on Verse 21 This is the apostle's conclusion of the foregoing instructions. Be not overcome by the malice of thy enemy, so as to wish to revenge thyself, without leaving all to the just judgment of God; but overcome his malice by thy kindness. This is complied with, when upon occasion of injuries received we always make a return of kindness, and in proportion as the malice of our enemies increases, our spirit of benevolence should also increase. (Estius)
Gospel: St. Matthew 8: 1-13
1 At that time, when Jesus was come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed Him:
Commentary on Verse 1 When Jesus was come down from the mountain. St. Matthew says, that Jesus Christ ascended the mountain, and sat down to teach the people; while St. Luke affirms, that He descended, and stood in a plain place. But there is no contradiction; for He first ascended to the top of the mountain, and then descended to an even plain, which formed part of the descent. Here He stood for a while, and cured the sick, as mentioned by St. Luke; but afterwards, according to the relation of St. Matthew, He sat down, which was the usual posture of the Jewish doctors. (St. Augustine)
2 And behold a leper coming, adored him, saying: Lord, if Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean.
Commentary on Verse 2 As the three evangelists relate the cure of the leper in nearly the same words, and with the same circumstances, we may conclude they speak of the same miracle. St. Matthew alone seems to have observed the time and order of this transaction, viz. after the sermon of the mount; the other two anticipate it. The Bible de Vence seems to infer, from the connection St. Matthew makes between the sermon of the mount and the cure of the leper, that it was not the same leper as that mentioned, Mark i. 40.; Luke v. 12. (Bible de Vence) --- Adored him. In St. Mark it is said, kneeling down, chap. i. 40. In St. Luke, prostrating on His face. It is true, none of these expressions do always signify the adoration or worship which is due to God alone, as may appear by several examples in the Old and New Testament; yet this man, by divine inspiration, might know our blessed Savior to be both God and man. (Witham) --- "Make me clean;" literally, "purify me;" the law treated lepers as impure. (Bible de Vence) --- The leper, by thus addressing our Savior acknowledges His supreme power and authority, and shews his great faith and earnestness, falling on his knees, as St. Luke relates it. (St. Chrysostom, hom. xxvi.) Our prayer should be such with great faith and confidence, qualified with profound humility, and entire diffidence of self.
3 And Jesus stretching forth His hand, touched him, saying: I will. Be thou made clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.
Commentary on Verse 3 Jesus, stretching forth His hand, touched him. By the law of Moses, whosoever touched a leper, contracted a legal uncleanness: but not by touching in order to heal him, says Theophylactus. Besides, Christ would teach them that he was not subject to this law. (Witham) --- "Touched him." To shew, says St. Cyprian, that His body being united to the Divinity, had the power of healing and giving life. Also to shew that the old law, which forbad the touching of lepers, had no power over Him; and that so far from being defiled by touching him, He even cleansed him who was defiled with it. (St. Ambrose) --- When the apostles healed the lame man, they did not attribute it to their own power, but said to the Jews: Why do you wonder at this? Or, why look you at us, as if by our power or strength we have made this man to walk? But when our Savior heals the leper, stretching out His hand, to shew He was going to act of His own power, and independently of the law, he said: "I will. Be thou clean;" to evince that the cure was effected by the operation of His own divine will. (St. Chrysostom, hom. xxvi.)
4 And Jesus saith to him: See thou tell no man: but go, shew thyself to the priest, and offer the gift which Moses commanded for a testimony to them.
Commentary on Verse 4 For a testimony to them. That is, when the priest finds thee truly cured, make that offering which is ordained in the law. (Witham) --- He did this to give us an example of humility, and that the priests, by approving of his miracle, and being made witnesses to it, might be inexcusable, if they would not believe him. (Menochius) --- He thus shews his obedience to the law, and his respect for the diginity of priests. He makes them inexcusable, if they can still call him a transgressor of the law, and prevaricator. He moreover gives this public testimony to them of his divine origin. (St. Chrysostom, hom. xxvi.) St. Chrysostom, in his third book on the priesthood, says: "the priests of the old law had authority and privilege only to discern who were healed of leprosy, and to denounce the same to the people; but the priests of the new law have power to purify, in very deed, the filth of the soul. Therefore, whoever despiseth them, is more worthy to be punished than the rebel Dathan and his accomplices." Our Savior willeth him to go and offer his gift or sacrifice, according as Moses prescribed in that case, because the other sacrifice, being the holiest of all holies, viz. his body, was not yet begun. (St. Augustine, lib. ii. & Evang. ii. 3. & cont. adver. leg. & Proph. lib. i. chap. 19, 20.)
5 And when He had entered into Capharnaum, there came to Him a centurion, beseeching Him,
Commentary on Verse 5 A centurion. The same who (Luke vii. 3,) is said to have sent messengers to our Savior. But there is no contradiction: for what a man does by his servants, or friends, he is many times said to do himself. He came not in person out of humanity, but by his message shewed an extraordinary faith. (Witham) --- The centurion shews a much stronger faith in the power of Christ, than those who let down the sick man through the roof, because he thought the word of Christ alone sufficient to raise the deceased. And our Savior, to reward his confidence, not only grants his petition, as He does on other occasions, but promises to go with him to his house to heal his servant. St. Chrysostom, hom. xxvii. The centurion was a Gentile, an officer in the Roman army. According to St. Luke he did not come to Him in person, but sent messengers to Him, who desired Him to come down and heal his servant, whereas he seems here not to wish Him to come: "Lord, I am not worthy," &c. These difficulties may be easily removed. A person is said to appear before the judge, when his council appears for him; so he may be said to have come to Jesus, when he sent his messengers. Or it may be that he first sent his messengers, and afterwards went himself. As to the second difficulty, it may be said the messengers added that of their own accord, as appears from the text of St. Luke. (Menochius) --- St. Augustine is of opinion that he did not go himself in person, for he thought himself unworthy, but that he sent first the ancients of the Jews, and then his friends, which last were to address Jesus in his name and with his words. ( lib. ii de cons. Evang. chap. xx.) Thus we see that the request of the two sons of Zebedee was made by themselves to Jesus Christ, according to St. Mark; (x. 35,) and by the mouth of their mother, according to St. Matthew, xx. 20.
6 And saying: Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, and is grieviously tormented.
7 And Jesus saith to him: I will come, and heal him.
Commentary on Verse 7 On this occasion our Savior does what He never did before: every where indeed He meets the will of His supplicants, but here He runs before His request, saying: "I will come;" and this He does to teach us to imitate the virtue of the centurion.
8 And the centurion making answer, said: Lord, I am not worthy that Thou shouldst enter under my roof: but only say the word, and my servant shall be healed.
Commentary on Verse 8 Origen says, when thou eatest and drinkest the body and blood of our Lord, He entereth under thy roof. Thou also, therefore, humbling thyself, say: Domine, non sum dignus; Lord, I am not worthy, &c. So said St. John Chrysostom in his mass, Litturg. GrÅ“c. sub finem; and so doth the Catholic Church say at this day in every true Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. (See St. Augustine, Ep. cxviii. ad Janu.) (Bristow) --- See Luke vii. 6.
9 For I also am a man subject to authority, having soldiers under me, and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth: and to another, Come, and he cometh: and to my servant, Do this, and he doth it.
10 And Jesus hearing this, marvelled, and said to them that followed Him: Amen, I say to you, I have not found so great faith in Israel.
Commentary on Verse 10 Christ here compares the faith of the centurion with that of the people in general, and not with that of His Blessed Mother and the apostles, whose faith was beyond a doubt much greater. (Menochius) --- The Greek says, "neither in Israel." --- Jesus hearing this, marvelled. That is, by His outward carriage, says St. Augustine seemed to admire: but knowing all things, He could not properly admire any thing. --- I have not found so great faith in Israel. This need not be understood of every one, but of those whom He had cured. (Witham)
11 And I say unto you, that many shall come from the East and the West, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of Heaven:
Commentary on Verse 11 In consequence of the faith of this Gentile, Jesus Christ takes occasion to declare that many Gentiles would be called to sit at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of Heaven, which is frequently represented under the figure of a feast. See chap. xxii. 2; Luke xiii. 29. and xvi. 16; Apocalypse xix. 9. In ancient times, the guests were reclined on beds when they took their meals. (Bible de Vence)
12 But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into the exterior darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Commentary on Verse 12 Whilst the Jews, who glory in descending from the patriarchs, and who, on this title, are children and heirs of the celestial kingdom which had been promised them, shall be excluded for having rendered themselves unworthy by their unbelief. (Bible de Vence) --- Shall be cast out into exterior darkness. This is spoken so as to imply a comparison to a supper in a great room, with a number of lights, when they who are turned out in the night, stand without, starving, weeping, and gnashing their teeth. (Witham)
13 And Jesus said to the centurion: Go, and as thou hast believed, so be it done to thee. And the servant was healed at the same hour.