Verse 2: And, behold, a leper. This same miracle is related by Mark (1:40), and by Luke (5:12), and actually took place before the Sermon on the Mount, but was not the first miracle of Jesus, as may be gathered from Mark 1:23 and 29, Luke 4:32 and 38.
The chronological order of this narrative goes like this:
1.) After Christ had called Peter and Andrew from their fishing to follow Him, as Matthew relates (4:18), He entered into Capharnaum.
2.) There He preached in the synagogue, and healed the demoniac. From there He proceeded to
3.) Peter's house, and healed his mother-in-law. This miracle, therefore, and the others which follow to the end of chapter 9 should, according to chronological sequence, to be inserted in Matthew chapter 4, immediately after verse 22.
The reason is, that Matthew wished to give a summary of Christs' doctrine, and then to relate in order His miracles, both those which He accomplished before His sermon, and those which He did afterwards, in confirmation of His doctrine.
1.) Luke says that it came to pass in one of the cities. We must understand, near the city. By law, lepers were ordered to be kept entirely apart, and were forbidden to enter towns and camps, so the inhabitants would not catch the disease. Some think that the Levitical law only forbade lepers living in towns, but not their passing through them, so that this leper might have been cleansed by Christ as he was passing through this city. This city, as may be gathered from the fifth verse, was Capharnaum.
2.) Both Mark and Luke speak of other miracles as previously performed.
How great, incurable and contagious, a disease was leprosy is plain to see, as lepers, both by the ancient law and even today, are barred from living or associating with others. In lepers there is a contagion which spreads by contact with the whole, whom they are able to infect by the stench of their ulcers and their fetid breath. With them, by the contagion and the infection of the disease, the face is disfigured, the hair falls off, the nostrils are enlarged, the bones are eaten away, and the tongue swells, in short, every kind of disease, and all their symptoms, are found with leprosy. Hot, stony and salt regions, and such as are exposed to excessive cold and heat, are particularly prone to this disease. Such regions were Palestine and a part of Egypt.
Adored, i.e., falling down upon his knees and face. The leper did this not with the design of rendering Him civil honor, but that he might give to Christ the highest worship of religion, as is plain from his so humble and believing petition. He asked as if he were saying, I know that You have the power of God, and therefore dominion over diseases. And if You will, the thing is done, and I am healed. This leper had faith in the Divinity of Christ, partly from His inward illumination and inspiration, partly from His miracles, several of which Christ had already performed in this first year of His preaching. This leper was healed in the second year. And also, by the words, if You will, shows the desire of being healed, combined with resignation to the will of Christ.
And Jesus stretching forth his hand, Touched him, showing that He was above the law, which forbade contact with the leper, from fear of contagion. But there was no danger of such contagion in Christ's case, but rather the certainty of healing the leper. When, Christ touched the leper, He did not to go against the law, but as fulfilling the spirit of the law.
Jesus also touched him out of kindness, that He might show His love for the leper.
I will, be made clean. From these words the Fathers prove the Divinity of Christ and His omnipotence. Manichaeus taught that Christ did not have real flesh, but only appeared to, and could not either touch or be touched.
And Jesus said to him. (Mark, threatened, i.e., commanded him with a severe and stern countenance.) He did this to avoid ostentation, and to teach us not to boast of our virtues and gifts, but rather to conceal them.
But go, show yourself to the priest; Mark has to the high priest. "He sends him to the priests," says St. Jerome, "on account of humility, that He may appear to show deference to them, so that they might either believe and be saved, or else be held without excuse; and, lastly, that He might not be accounted to violate the law.
The gift which was to be offered to the priest by lepers who were cleansed was a lamb, or, if the leper were poor, two turtle doves, or two young pigeons. (Lev. 14:13, etc.)
For a testimony unto them. The priests. By the word testimony, some understand the law, as though He had said, "Offer the gift enjoined, that you may fulfil the law which Moses commanded." In Psalm 118, the law is called a testimony.
This then, was the testimony which the leper gave to the priests that he was cleansed from his leprosy: A physical inspection of his body and his limbs was made by them. If they saw that he was healed, they accepted his gift as a thank-offering to God; but if he were not healed they refused it.
Leprosy also signifies mortal sin, especially that which is contagious, such as heresy is in a special manner, because of its extreme foulness and infectious nature. S. Augustine. Hence the cleansing of leprosy is the symbol of the sacrament of penance, and of sacramental confession, where sins are forgiven. From this figure, St. Jerome shows how the priests must be cognisant of the various kinds and varieties of sins. St. Chrysostom does the same, teaching that the office of a Christian priest is far more powerful and excellent than was that of a priest of the order of Aaron, because to these latter it was not granted to heal leprosy, but only to declare that it was healed, while the Catholic Priest does not merely declare sins are forgiven, but really cleanses and absolves them.
And this was the reason why, when Matthew writes that Christ came down from the mount (verse 1), where He had taught the Evangelical Law, Matthew shows that Jesus' first miracle is the cleansing of the leper, chiefly because the various stages of leprosy best represent the foulness and plague of sin, and the cleansing of leprosy the forgiveness of sins. And so Christ in His Passion assumed the appearance of a leper, that He might take upon Himself and heal the leprosy of our souls. As Isaiah says (53:4), "Surely He has born our infirmities, and carried our sorrows; and we thought Him as it were a leper, and as one struck by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our iniquities; He was bruised for our sins."
Verse 5: And when he had entered into Capharnaum. This was the second miracle by which Christ confirmed His teaching upon the mount, as St. Jerome says. The leper was a Jew, and the centurion was a Gentile probably a Roman, a captain of 100 men or more. This centurion was Caius Cornelius, a Spanish centurion, the father of Caius Oppias, the centurion who stood beside Christ on the cross, and saw the signs with the sun, earth, and rocks, and was converted to Christ. Both father and son afterwards preached the Gospel in Judaea and Spain.
Came to him. Luke (7:1) relates the same miracle differently. He does not say that the centurion himself came to Christ, but sent to Him, first Jews, then his friends, to ask the favor of Him that He would heal His servant. In St. Luke we supply from St. Matthew, that after his friends, the centurion himself, last of all, came to Christ, either for the sake of doing Him honor, or because of the urgency of the disease, and the imminent peril of death. St. Chrysostom. Or, we can say the centurion is here said to have come to Christ, and sought and answered Him, not personally, through his friends. Sts. Augustine and Bede.
Verse 6: Grievously tormented, and so at the point of death, as St. Luke says. This was sudden and acute paralysis. There are other slow forms of paralysis, which are without this excessive torture and immediate danger. The torment here spoken of seems to have been convulsion and drawing up of the nerves, which have their origin in the brain.
There is a second account of this miracle, again St. Luke says he asked him to come; while Matthew, and Luke himself, relate what seems a contradiction of this in his saying, Lord, I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof, but speak the word only. The explanation is, that the words asked and sent apply to the ambassadors of the centurion. He asked through them that Christ would heal his servant; but the servants added of themselves the request that He would come and heal him by touching him. And so, by means of the elders, he asked Jesus to come. Luke, for the sake of brevity, rolls together what was done and said by the Jews and the centurion, without distinguishing or separating one from the other.
Verse 8: Say in a word only. The centurion believed that Christ was at least, an extraordinary prophet, and most dear to God in other words, the Messiah promised to the Jews.
For I also am a man under authority. St. Jerome commends the faith of the centurion, who, though he was a Gentile, believed that one who was paralytic could be healed by the Saviour; his humility, in that he deemed himself unworthy that He should come under his roof; his prudence, because he beheld the Divinity lying hid beneath His human flesh.
Verse 10: And Jesus hearing this, marvelled. Could wonder really exist in Christ?
Wonder arises in us when we see or hear something new. But Christ, by means of infused knowledge, knew all things before they were done. Christ, however, stirred up in Himself, as it were, by experimental knowledge, when He met with anything new or wonderful, a certain, as it were, interior act of wonder, and the outward expression of that wonder, that so He might teach others to marvel at the same. Sts. Augustine & Thomas Aquinas: "Who indeed, save Himself, had wrought in the man that very faith at which He marvelled? But even if another had wrought it, why should He marvel who had foreknowledge? That the Lord wondered signifies that we must wonder. But all such movements in Christ are signs, not of a perturbed mind, but of one teaching authoritatively."
In Christ, besides that Divine knowledge which He had as God, there was a threefold knowledge, as He was man.
1. Beatific, by which He beheld the essence of God, and in the enjoyment of which He was blessed.
2. Infused, by which, through the appearances sent into His soul by God, at the very moment of His Conception, He knew all things.
3. Experimental, by which those things which He understood by infused knowledge, He daily saw, heard, and understood experimentally.
When Christ says, I have not found so great faith in Israel, He speaks of the ordinary run of people at the time of His preaching, for there was greater faith in the Blessed Virgin, in Abraham and Moses, and John the Baptist, and others.
Origen gives us examples of the "ordinary run" of people: "Jairus, a prince of Israel, asking in behalf of his daughter, does not say, Say in a word, but Come quickly. Nicodemus, when he heard of the Sacrament of Baptism, answered, How can these things be? Martha and Mary said, Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.
Verse 11: But I say unto you. Christ here predicts the calling of the Gentiles, and the rejection of the Jews. He alludes to Isaiah 43:5 etc., where is shown the calling of the Gentiles from the four quarters of the earth, their grace and glory.
Shall sit down i.e., shall rest, says St. Hilary. But the Greek has lie down as on a triclinium, or couch. They shall feast as guests at a magnificent entertainment. For to this the kingdom of heaven, and the felicity of Christ and His saints, is often compared, because of their perfect joy, security, and satisfaction. There is an allusion to Ps. 16:15, "I shall be satisfied when Your glory shall appear."
Verse 12: But the children of the kingdom, i.e., destined and called to the kingdom as being Israelites, as being the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to whose seed God had promised both the earthly kingdom of Judah, and the spiritual kingdom of eternal glory in heaven. By a similar Hebrew idiom, they are called children of death, of hell, of the resurrection, to whom death or hell is threatened, or to whom the resurrection has been promised.
Into the exterior darkness - hell.
The first Christians fasted until evening - Tertullian. As late as the time of St. Thomas Aquinas (1270), it was customary to fast until 3:00pm, when Christ expired upon the cross. Anyone who took food before that hour was considered not to have fasted, according to a decree of the Council of Cabillon. (Summa 2. 2, q. 147, art. 7)
The meaning of the passage is: the children of the kingdom the Jews, destined, for the sake of their fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to the kingdom of heaven, on account of their unbelief, in refusing to believe in Christ, shall be excluded from the royal and heavenly feast, and shall be driven into the outer darkness of hell.
Verse 13: And Jesus said to the centurion. This passage shows that Christ had not gone into the centurion's house, or touched his servant.
Let masters learn from this narrative what great care they ought to bestow upon their servants, and how dear they ought to be to them. So dear was this servant to the centurion, that he employed the aid of the elders and his friends to call Christ to heal him. So too, in turn, ought servants to obey their masters with the greatest zeal, love, and reverence.
Mystically, the centurion is every one who rules over his members, senses, and faculties, so that they, as it were soldiers, may fight for and serve God.
Verse 14: And when Jesus was come into Peter's house, which belonged to Peter and Andrew, as we find in Mark 1:29. This house was at Bethsaida, the native place of Peter (John 1:44). Bethsaida was close to Capharnaum, about half-hour's journey. The mention of the mother-in-law shows that Peter was married, and that he left his wife and a daughter, was called Petronilla. None of the Apostles, except Peter, are spoken of in the Gospels as having a wife.
Peter's wife was called Perpetua, says Molanus, although others called her Concordia. After, when she had converted to Christ, and was being led to martyrdom for her faith in Him, she was strengthened by S. Peter, who said, "O spouse, remember the Lord." This is related by Clement of Alexandria. Petronilla, on account of her great beauty, was sought in marriage by a nobleman named Flaccus. She asked for three days to deliberate. The term being expired, she received Holy Communion from the priest Nicomede, after which she gave up her soul to God, and is reckoned among the Virgin Saints. Her relics are still preserved at Rome, in the Basilica of S. Peter.
Sick of a fever; a great fever, says St. Luke. The fever symbolized the fever of the soul - the fire of concupiscence, the burning heat of pride, envy, gluttony, or lust.
St. Ambrose: "Under the type of Simon's wife's mother, our flesh suffers under the fevers of various spiritual sicknesses, and is tossed by the varied enticements of immoderate desires.
Verse 15: And he touched her hand. S. Luke adds, He commanded the fever. He would not always work miracles with a display of power, but sometimes hide them. By touching her body He not only banished the fever, but restored her to perfect health. Jesus in showing His power, does what medicine still cannot do - make a fever leave immediately.
Verse 16: When evening came . . . all that were sick He healed. St. Luke says (4:40), laying his hands. Christ did not hold back from touching those who had ulcers, running sores, and leprosies, that He might show the power and virtue of His Divine touch, and heal them all.
Verse 17: That it might be fulfilled. Isaiah 53:4. These words of Isaiah have a twofold meaning. The first is concerning diseases of the soul - sins and their penalty, which Christ took upon Himself, and abolished upon the cross. This was Isaiah's chief meaning, as appears from what follows, and from the words, He carried. (Isaiah has carried, New Test. has took).
The second meaning concerns diseases of the body, which are at once the types and result of diseases of the soul. These too, Matthew here says, Christ bore: not by actually becoming diseased Himself, but by compassion, and by wholly healing those who were diseased. Hence the Syriac translates, He shall sustain our sicknesses. Christ bore so many torments, and even the death of the cross. Christ had the power of healing diseases in that He Himself took them upon Himself, by atoning for and expiating them upon the cross. St. Chrysostom and Origen.
Verse 19: And a certain scribe came. This doctor of the Law seeing Jesus preparing to depart, and cross over the lake, and being moved by His preaching and miracles, and the concourse of applauding people, desired to be associated with Him as a disciple with a master.
Verse 20: And Jesus said to him. Common, worthless, and even noxious animals, such as foxes and birds of prey, have places of rest and shelter; but the Son of Man, He who was born of the Virgin, and made man, has nothing of His own, not a cushion, or a bed, or a bench on which to rest.
Christ here detects and uncovers the covetousness in the Scribe. It is as though He said to him, "You desire to follow Me because you see Me pleasing to the people, because of the healing and benefits which I bestow upon them. Hence you hope, in following Me, to increase your possessions, and pick up many gifts, as though I made Me and Mine rich by the Gospel. Sts. Hilary & Jerome. "Why," continues St. Jerome, "do you wish to follow Me for the sake of riches and worldly gain, when I have not even one little guest-room?"
This passage also refutes the heresy of those who condemn voluntary poverty, which religious profess.
The originator of this heresy was a Lombard named Desiderius, in the time of Pope Alexander IV (r. 1254-1261), and another called William of Holy Love, in the same age, who are entirely refuted by Sts. Thomas and Bonaventura. By an entirely opposite error, other heretics, called Apostolici, have falsely concluded from this passage, as St. Augustine testifies, that this absolute poverty is necessary for all men for salvation. From the same passage the Waldenses, or Poor Men of Lyons, and Wickliffe, have falsely argued that it is unlawful for bishops and priests to possess any property, but that they ought to live only on alms, because Christ did so.
But Christ did so being perfect, and gave it as a counsel, not as a command necessary to salvation. Hence this error is denounced by many decrees of Councils.
This passage also explains that poverty consists in this that a man should possess nothing as though it were his own, but should keep his affections free for God alone, to serve Him. And it is not against this spirit to possess in common things necessary for life. By a decree of the Council of Trent, all religious, except the Franciscans, are allowed to own even real property in common, that they may not be forced to beg, nor be anxious about supplies, nor become burdensome to the faithful. For even Christ and the Apostles had goods in common, of which Judas was the steward and dispenser, as appears from John 12:6.
Verse 20: Son of Man. The phrase is used about 69 times in the NT (Matt. 30, Mark 14, Luke 25, John 13). At the time of Christ it was not a common Messianic title. Jesus used the phrase (from Daniel 7:13, also in Psalms 8:5) as a means to progressively reveal Himself as the Messiah to the Jews. The expression is used on two different kinds of occasions: 1.) those which allude to the salvific mission and to the life Christ lived on earth, where He ived a life of humility, suffering and death (ex. Mark 2:10 & 28; 8:31), 2.)those which refer to His glorious Second Coming (Matt. 25:31; 26:64).
As the Son of Man, on occasions He forbade his disciples and others from openly preaching and declaring that He was the Messias. The reason for the Messianic secret lay in the fact that Jesus was a "spiritual", humble Messias, who be His servile death was to redeem men from their slavery. By this title, He also wished to indicate that His human nature was subject to the Father, and thus, correct the Messianic expectation current among the Jews of His time. The title also insinuates that He was fulfilling all the prophesies of the OT.
After His death and Resurrection neither the Apostles nor the Church made use of this title to describe Jesus, because it seemed too humble a title to refer to the glorified Jesus, who is seated at the right hand of the Father and will come to judge the living and the dead. To His disciples He gave orders to confess and preach Him as the Son of God.
Son of Man signifies more than man, because man can be created by God alone, as Adam was created; but Son of Man signifies sprung from Adam, the common parent, that first we might see the infinite humility of Christ, that He should deign to be sprung from a sinful man, and to receive in Himself his miseries and his mortality in that earthly body which He assumed. here we also see the wonderful brotherhood and charity of Christ to men, whereby He willed to be born in Bethlehem, of the same common parent Adam, that He might become the Brother of all men, and akin to them in blood, that He might be closely grafted into human nature, and united to it, even to the whole company of mankind, by human generation and natural birth from man, after the manner which was explained in chapter 1:18, according to the words of Isaiah, "Unto us a Son is born, a Child is given." Son of Man therefore denotes the perfect kindness, friendship, and condescension of Christ, and by which He offers Himself to men as the Son of Man, as a Child to children. Why do you fear to draw near to Jesus? He is the Son of Man. Why do you tremble, O sinner, at the wrath of God? Come unto Jesus, the Son of Man, made a little Child for you. For "the Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost." And "the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many." Son of Man, therefore, is a proper name of Christ. It is the mark of His dignity, and of His love, the wonder of all ages, that the Only-Begotten Son of God should, for men, deign to become the Son of Man, and to have His conversations with men, that He might teach them the way of salvation, and redeem them by His Cross, and make them happy in heaven.
Verse 21: And another of his disciples. This disciple may not have been one of the twelve Apostles, but some other person who was called by Christ to follow Him. In Luke 9:59, Christ had previously said to this same person, Follow me. He did not refuse the call of Christ, but wished, after having discharged his debt of piety, to be more free to follow Him. From the answer of this disciple, given by S. Matthew, we may understand his questioning and vocation by Christ. Jesus simply refused the permission the disciple had requested.
Lord. Reverently and obediently he speaks to Christ as desiring to do Him service; whereas the Scribe, with somewhat too much freedom, addressed Christ as Teacher (magister). The one was deservedly left, the other chosen. How much of evil was there in the Scribe? how much of good was there in this man? St. Augustine.
St. Chrysostom and others explain that his father was already dead (not soon to die, as others thought), and that Christ most opportunely called him, as though he said, "Your father is now deceased, Follow Me. I will be to you a better Father. He had need of your good work, but now you have need of Mine. He was the author of your carnal life; I will give you spiritual and eternal life."
Verse 22: But Jesus said. A second time Jesus calls him. Twice He said, Follow Me, namely before his excusing himself, and afterwards because He willed him to be His disciple. He puts aside the impediment which he alleged, and forbids him to return to bury his father. But Christ assigns most convincing reasons for His refusal. He says, Suffer the dead to bury their dead.
Christ does not intend to condemn the burial of the dead, which is a work of mercy praised in the Book of Tobit. He wished to teach that when God calls, He must immediately be obeyed. For God knows our hindrances, and when He calls us in them He wishes us to break them off, and He in effect promises us His grace and help to enable us to do so. Following the call of God is to be preferred even to the burial of our parents. That is, divine duties are to be preferred to human duties, religion to nature, God to man.
Christ here also plays on the word dead.
The dead signifies those who are spiritually dead, as unbelievers and those who are destitute of the grace of God. Sts. Chrysostom, Jerome, and Augustine.
Afterwards by dead He means those who are corporeally dead. Let the dead, such as the Jews who reject belief in Me; let those who are steeped in sin and worldliness, bury their own dead.
Luke adds (9:60), But go and preach the kingdom of God. As St. Augustine says, "When the Lord is preparing men for the Gospel, He will not receive any such excuses as have to do with fleshly and temporal affairs." For, as St. Chrysostom explains, "It is far better to preach the kingdom of God, and rescue others from death, than to bury one who is dead and can be of no use, especially when there are other persons to discharge the office." And St. Gregory adds, "Sometimes in our actions lesser good deeds are to be set aside, in favor of other things of greater usefulness. For who is ignorant that it is indeed a good work to bury the dead, but that it is better to preach the Gospel?"
Verse 23: And when he entered into the boat. The Vulgate has navicula, "a little ship," because they were small boats, which were used for crossing the lake, and for fishing. Mark adds (4:36), they took him even as he was, i.e., as he was teaching the multitudes who were standing upon the shore ("and there were other ships with them . . ." Mark).
Verse 24: And, behold, there was a great tempest in the sea. Luke adds, the waves were filling the ship, and they were in jeopardy. The other boats were also storm- tossed, for these boats were near to Christ's ship, that there might be shown the greater fury of the tempest, and the greater power of Christ in calming it. God permitted this storm to arise from natural causes, such as vapors, and winds concurring with them, so that Christ raised and sent this storm.
1) He did this that He might declare His power, and show that He is Lord of the sea as well as the land, says Origen. Hence the angel who appeared to S. John set his right foot on the sea, as though commanding it. (Apoc. 10:2) For this angel represented Christ, as Bede and others say.
2) That His disciples, and the other passengers in the ship might, through the miracle of the quelled tempest, believe in Him that He was very and omnipotent God.
3) This tempest in the sea, says St. Chrysostom, was a type or figure of the future trials of the Church. For the ship in the waves represents the Church and the soul in temptations, by which they are quickened and profited. For a life without trial is like a dead sea. And so a man who is without temptation is like one who is dead. Temptation rouses him up to exert his faculties, that he may vanquish it.
The tempest therefore of the waves and winds is the temptation of pride, gluttony, lust, envy, and so on.
Let him then who is beaten by temptation do as sailors do in a storm:
1) Sailors make for the open sea, that their ship may not strike against rocks. So we should flee from the world and worldly things, and go to God as a haven of refuge; and let us with the Psalmist, "My soul refused to be comforted: I remembered God, and was delighted." (Psalm 76)
2) Sailors cast fittings and merchandise into the sea, that they may lighten the ship; so let the tempted unburden themselves by means of contrition and confession of the heavy weight of their sins, and lighten their minds. Hence doctors teach that they who are about to go on a voyage, especially a long and perilous one, ought to go to confession, that they may place themselves in a state of grace.
But he was asleep. This was voluntary, but at the same time natural sleep, so the winds and storm might increase, that Christ's power and authority might be the more manifested by His stilling them.
Christ slept on a pillow, as Mark relates (4:38), Christ's rest mystically means:
1. A good conscience.
2. Resignation to the will of God.
3. Confidence in God's power and providence. For on this a believer rests, and as it were sleeps, in all adversities.
The sleep of Jonah when the rest who were in the ship were in peril was a type of this.
Origen says, Christ slept as to His body, but was awake as to His Deity.
Verse 26: And Jesus saith to them, Why are you fearful. He said this before He had stilled the tempest, according to Matthew's order in this place, though Mark and Luke mention it afterwards. It was fitting that the extreme terror of the disciples should be calmed before the raging of the sea, and that their waning faith should be strengthened that it might be rewarded by the ceasing of the storm.
Faith here may be taken in the strict use of the word. Little faith is the cause of little confidence. St. Luke gives the striking question of our Lord to them, Where is your faith?
St. Bernard: "Though the world rages, though the enemy roars, though the flesh itself lusts against the spirit, yet will I put my trust in You."
Then rising up. He chided, as the Arabic translates, as a master does his servant. Mark says, according to the literal translation of the Greek, He threatened the wind, and said unto the sea, Be silent.
By these expressions is denoted the great violence by which the sea was tossed with the winds, such as no human power but only Divine, could make to cease. Here, therefore, Christ shows that He was God, since He, as their Master, commanded the winds and the sea.
Symbolically, as St. Augustine teaches: "Have you heard criticism? It is the wind. Are you angry? It is the waves. For when the wind blows, the waves arise, the ship is in peril, your heart is in danger, for your heart is tossed by waves. When you hear criticism, you desire to vindicate yourself. But now that you have gotten revenge and have yielded to another's evil, you have shipwrecked yourself. And why is this? It is because Christ is asleep within you. You have forgotten Christ. Awake Him therefore; call Him to remembrance. Let Christ keep vigil within you, and think about Him. Why should you wish to be avenged? He has cut you off from vengeance by His cry upon the Cross, 'Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.'"
St. Augustine proceeds: "I will refrain from anger, and will return to the quiet of my heart. Christ commanded the sea, and there was a calm. What is said with reference to anger, you may apply to all your other temptations. Temptation arises, it is the wind. You are troubled, it is the waves. Awake Christ and let Him speak with you."
Allegorically, Bede says: "The ship is the tree of the Cross, by the help of which we who were sunk in the waves of the sea, proceed as Christ's disciples to the privileges of the eternal country. For Christ says, 'If any man will come after Me, let him take up the Cross and follow Me.'"
end of verse 26: And there came a great calm, as St. Jerome says, "All creatures feel their Creator; and things which are senseless to us are sensible to Him."
Verse 27: But the men wondered, saying. These men were not the disciples, but the sailors and others who were in the ship of Jesus, and in the other ships which accompanied it. For, as Origen says, "The disciples are never named but with the mark of distinction, Apostles, or Disciples."
What manner of man. The Greek word is not simply a question, but is uttered with an emphasis of wonder and admiration. "Who is this? He does not seem to be like other men, but a Being of a different race."
Verse 28: And when he came on the other side. Gerasa is a town of Arabia beyond Jordan, close to Mount Gilead, which was in the possession of the tribe of Manasseh, not far from the lake of Tiberias, where the swine were.
AUG; Whereas Matthew relates that there were two who were afflicted with demons, but Mark and Luke mention only one, we understand that one of them was a person of note, for whom all that country was in grief, and about whose recovery there was much care, when the fame of this miracle was the more noised abroad.
Luke says that he broke his bonds and was driven into the desert; Mark says that he often cut himself with stones. But they neither of them say that there was only one, which would contradict Matthew.
What is added respecting them - that they came from among the tombs - alludes to the error that the souls of the dead become demons. Because of this many soothsayers use to kill children, that they may have their souls to cooperate with them; and demoniacs also often cry out, I am the spirit of such an one. But it is not the soul of the dead man that then cries out, the demon assumes his voice to deceive the hearers.
None dared to bring them to Christ because of their fierceness, therefore Christ goes to them. Exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass that way. So they who hindered all others from passing that way, found one now standing in their way. They were tortured in an unseen manner, suffering intolerable things from the mere presence of Christ. And, lo they cried out, saying, What have we to do with you, Jesus, you son of David?
Have you come here to torment us before the time? From these words some have thought that the devils have not yet received the extreme punishment of their offences, and that they will not be condemned to be tormented in hell before the Day of Judgment. Sts. Hilary, Irenaeus, Justin, Lactantius, Eusebius, Nicephorus were thought to be of this opinion, but it is not found in their writings.
It is certain from Scripture and the Fathers that the devils, from the beginning of the world were condemned as soon as they sinned, and were tormented in the fire of hell. For by that fire they are tormented, even when they are away from it, having gone forth from hell, and taken up their abode in the air. This is brought about by the omnipotence of God. The fire of hell is a supernatural instrument of the omnipotent God, hence by the will of God, it can operate in the most distant places.
When therefore they said to Christ, Have you come, they did not speak of the ancient, perpetual, irrevocable torment of hell fire, but they deplored any new torment being inflicted upon them by Christ. This new torment was their expulsion from the bodies of those whom they were in the habit of possessing, as S. Chrysostom says, and their banishment to the prison-house of hell.
JEROME; This is no voluntary confession followed up by a reward to the utterer, but one extorted by the compulsion of necessity. But both the Devil and the demons may be said to have rather suspected, than known, Jesus to be the Son of God.
AUG; The other two Evangelists relate that when asked his name, he answered, Legion, showing that the demons were many. Now there was not far from there a herd of many swine feeding; and the demons prayed Him saying If You cast us out send us into the swine.
REMIG; They requested to be sent into the swine rather than into any of the other unclean animals, because this is of all animals the most unclean, and delighting in filthiness; and demons also delight in the filthiness of sin.
Verse 32: And he said to them, Go. CHRYS; Jesus did not say this, as though persuaded by the demons, but for His own reasons. One, that He might show the mighty power to hurt of these demons, who were in possession of the two men; another, that all might see that they had no power against the swine unless by His will.
He also permitted them to go into the herd of swine, so they who dwelt in those parts might know His power. JEROME; The Savior bade them go, not as yielding to their request, but that by the death of the swine, an occasion of man's salvation might be offered.
For those who believe there is no difference between the human soul and an animal soul: If the souls of men and of beasts be of one substance, and one origin, how should two thousand swine have perished for the sake of the salvation of two men?
CHRYS; The demons destroyed the swine because they are ever striving to bring men into distress, and rejoice in destruction. The greatness of the loss also added to the fame of that which was done; for it was published by many persons; namely, by the men that were healed, by the owners of the swine, and by those that fed them; as it follows, But they that fed them fled, and went into the town, and told all, and concerning them that had the demons; and behold, the whole town went out to meet Jesus. But when they should have adored Him, and wondered at His excellent power, they cast Him from them, as it follows, And when they saw him, they besought him that he would depart out of their coasts. Observe the clemency of Christ next to His excellent power; when those who had received favors from Him would drive Him away, He resisted not, but departed, and left those who pronounced themselves unworthy of His teaching, giving them as teachers those who had been delivered from the demons, and the feeders of the swine.
However, Jerome also states that this request may have proceeded from humility as well as pride; like Peter, they may have held themselves unworthy of the Lord's presence - Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.