Homily Thirty Five – Gospel of Matthew

The purpose of this blog is not to discuss politics or social movements, it is here to shine a light on the only one who can heal our broken hearts (and our broken Nation), Jesus Christ. So when I heard the words of this message (Especially the second half) I felt like it was relevant to what is going on all over the world and should be shared. Kindness, Mercy and Charity are the overwhelming call to action for anyone who calls themselves a Christian. We will all answer to the Lord of all for what we have done with the life we are given.

I challenge you to read the standard set for Christian behavior here and compare your opinions and life against it. If you find yourself lacking (as I did) DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT

Homily Thirty Five, A Commentary On Matthew

Original text of this message

Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” Matthew 10:34. Once again He brings up something more difficult (and quite aggravating). The crowd was sure to object with something like “So you have come to destroy us and our offspring and to fill the world with war?!?” so he starts with “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth”

Why then does he command the disciples to pronounce peace on entering every home? And why would the angels have proclaimed “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace” Luke 2:14? Why would all the prophets also write this as a good tiding? Because this is truest form of peace, when something diseased is cut off and the insubordinate removed. For in this way it is possible for Heaven to be united to earth. This is comparable to a doctor who uses this method to preserve the rest of the body when amputating an incurable body part or the general when he removes soldiers who refused to follow orders. Also in the case of that infamous tower, for their evil peace was ended by their good discord (that is they were peaceful doing evil but good was done by their discord) Genesis 11:7-8 . Paul also confused those who were conspiring against him. Acts 23:6-7 And in Naboths example, their agreement was worse than any war 1 Kings 21. For peace or agreement is not in every case something good, since even thieves act in agreement.

Discord is not the outcome of His purpose, but of the peoples disposition. His will certainly is that all should agree in the word of Godliness; But because they disobey discord arises. But this is not what he said, what did he say? “I did not come to bring peace” to comfort them. It is if he said, “do not think that this is your fault, it is I who order them, because men are so disposed. Do not be confused, is if this was unexpected. For this reason I have come, to send war among men, for this is my will. Do not be troubled when the earth is at war, as if it were subject to some hostile plan. For when the worst part is torn away, then (and only then) Heaven will be knit into the better part left over”.

And these things Christ says, to strengthening them against the evil suspicion of the multitudes.

And he did not say “war” but something worse than that, “a sword”. If these sayings seem painful or cause alarm do not be surprised. It was his purpose to get and hold their attention by the severe nature of His words. He fashioned his words this way, so that in some future difficult circumstance they would not forget and turn away. Also to avoid anyone saying that he had only persuaded them with flattery and hiding the hardships to come. So even though there were other kinder things that he could have said, He used harsh words with the more galling and painful touch because it is better to see someone’s gentleness in actions rather than in words.

He was not yet satisfied with this but explains the very nature of this war, signifying that it is even worse than a civil war. He explains “For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household”.

Not merely friends only, He says, or fellow citizens but their very family will stand opposed one to the other. “for I came” He says, “to set man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law”. This is to say, not only members of the same household are at war, but the nearest and dearest to each other. More than anything this signifies His power, that hearing these things, they not only accepted Him but set out to persuade all others.

But of course it was not Him that did this, but the other peoples wickedness and yet he claims it as his own doing. This is the custom of the Scripture. In another place he says in a similar vein “God gave them a spirit of stupor, Eyes to see not and ears to hear not” Romans 11:8. Here He speaks in this way so as to once again encourage them so they are not confounded when suffering reproach and insults.

If anyone thinks this is intolerable let them be reminded of an ancient history. In days of old there was an event that shows how the old covenant is similar to the new and how Christ was the same one giving these commands. I am referring to the Hebrews, when each had slain his neighbor and He laid aside his anger against them. Both when they had made the golden calf and when they were worshiping Ball Peor. Where are those who say “That God was evil and this God Good?” For behold He has filled the world with blood, shed by brothers and family. Nevertheless even this we claim to be a work of great love towards man.

But if any think these things intolerable, let them be reminded of an ancient history. For in times of old also this came to pass, which thing especially shows the old covenant to be akin to the new, and Him who is here speaking, the same with the giver of those commands. I mean that in the case of the Jews also, when each had slain his neighbor, then He laid aside His anger against them; both when they made the calf Exodus 32:26-28, and when they were joined to Baal Peor Numbers 25:1-5. Where then are they that say, “That God of old is evil, and the God of this age is good?” For behold He has filled the world with blood, shed by kinsmen. Nevertheless even this we affirm to be a work of great love towards man.

So you see, He implies that it was Himself who approved those other acts of old. He also mentions a prophecy, which even if not specifically for this purpose implies the same meaning. And what is this prophecy? “a man’s enemies will be the members of his household” Matthew 10:36

Even among the Jews something like this took place. That is, there were prophets and false prophets, and the people were divided, families were in dissension. Some believed the one, and the rest the other. So the prophet admonishes them saying “Do not trust in a neighbor; Do not have confidence in a friend. From her who lies in your bosom Guard your lips.” and also “A man’s enemies are the men of his own household.” Micah 7:5-6

This He said to prepare the ones who would receive the word that was above all. For to to die is not evil, unless it is without Christ. For this reason he adds, “I have come to cast fire upon the earth” Luke 12:49 All this he said to declare the passion and temperature of the love that he requires. Because He loves us so very much He should also be loved by us. These sayings would strengthen the people present and lift them up. “For if those others” He says, “are to despise brothers, children and parents, imagine what kind of men their teachers ought to be. Since the hardships will not stop with you but also pass on to the next. For since I have come bringing great blessings, I demand great obedience and dedication of heart”

“He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me” Matthew 10:37-38

Do you see how He has a teacher’s dignity? How he shows himself to be a true Son of Him that begot Him, commanding us to let go of earthly things and to take up instead the love of Him?

“And why do I speak” He says, “of friends and kinsmen? Even if it is your own life that you prefer to my love, your place is far from my disciples”. So now what? Aren’t these things all contrary to the Old Testament? Far from it! Rather they are quite in harmony with it. For in the past He commands not only to hate the worshipers of idols, but even to stone them; And once again in Deuteronomy He says, “Who said of his father and his mother, ‘I did not consider them’; And he did not acknowledge his brothers, Nor did he regard his own sons, For they observed Your word, And kept Your covenant.” Deuteronomy 33:9 And if Paul gives a lot of instructions to parents, telling us to obey them in all things, do not be confused; He commands us to obey them, but only if it does not interfere with Godliness. It is certainly a sacred duty to render them all due honor, but if they overstep those bounds, we should not obey. This is why Luke says, “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.” Luke 14:26 He is not commanding us to simply hate them, since this would be quite contrary to the law; but “when one desires to be loved more than I am, hate him in this respect. For this ruins both the beloved himself, and the lover.” These things he has said, to render the children more determined, and to make the fathers more gentle. For when they saw that Christ had such strength and power as to sever their children from them, they saw that this seemed impossible and would desist. For this reason He then turns His discourse to the children, instructing the them to not to make the attempt, as trying to do something that is unfeasible.

So that they would not become indignant or think this is too hard watch how he leads his arguments along saying “Those that hate their father and mother” and adds “and his own life”. Why would you bring up all of your family He says, when your own life is the most important thing to anyone. However if you do not despise even your own life you will endure all of the things that happens to someone who does not love me.

Not only are we to hate it (according to His command), but expose it to war, battles, slaughter and blood. “For he that bears not his cross, and comes after me, cannot be my disciple”. We must not merely stand against death, but against a violent and humiliating end.

He does not yet mention his future passion, so that once the disciples had come to understand what He was teaching they would be more ready to hear about it. Isn’t it amazing, that after hearing these things their soul did not fly from their body? With hardships lining the road ahead and good things only promised in the future? How did they bear to hear these things, how did they not flee? Great was the power of the speaker, and the love that they had for Him. So that even hearing these intolerable and galling things (far worse than what Moses and Jeremiah dealt with) they continued to obey and not one of them spoke out against it.

“He who has found his life ” He says”, “will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.” Matthew 10:39 Do you see how how damaging it is to love your own life excessively? What a great gain it is for those who despise it? Because these commands are disagreeable, when he tells them to set themselves against their own parents, children, nature, friends, the world and even their own soul, He shows them the benefit also (which is very great). It is as if he is saying “These things, are far from harming you, but will very greatly profit you, and their opposites will injure you”. He urges them (as he continually does) by the very things people naturally desire. Why are you willing to despise your own life? Because you love it? Then for that very reason despise it and you will gain advantage in the highest degree.

And for instance take note of this unfathomable consideration. Not only in respect to our parents does he extend this reasoning, but to our children as well, but in regard to our own life, which is dearest of all. That the point of this discourse will be unquestionable and they may learn what they will extend this profit even to their family as well. Since by our own benefit those around us are blessed as well.

Now these things were good enough for the disciples to receive, who were the appointed future healers. Who would not choose to readily receive these noble men, true heros, like lions running around the earth, who despised their own needs and wants so that others might be saved? And yet he offers up another reward, indicating that He will care for the workers even more than for the patients.

And the first honor he bestows on them is by saying “He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me” Matthew 10:40 What can compare to this? That someone would recieve the Father and the Son! But he gives them another reward as well, He says, “He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward” Matthew 10:41 As before he threatens punishment to those who do not receive them, here He defines another benifit for their good. So as to teach you His greater care for them, he did not simply say “He who receives a prophet” or “he who receives a righteous man” but added, “in the name of a righteous man”. Based on receiving them as a prophet or a righteous man, not for any worldly preference or for any material thing and because of this they will receive a prophets reward and a righteous mans reward. It is good to receive one such as these, and to gain the same blessing due to that prophet or righteous man. Paul also said something like this, “your abundance being a supply for their need, so that their abundance also may become a supply for your need” 2 Corinthians 8:14

Now then, so that no one can allege that they are in poverty Christ says, “And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward” Matthew 10:42

“Though a cup of cold water is your only gift, which is free to you, even for this service a reward will be stored up for you. For I do all things for the sake of you the receivers.”

Do you see the strong persuasion He used and how he opened to them the houses of the whole world? Truly He signified that men are in their debt. First by saying “the workman is worthy of his hire” secondly by sending them into the world with nothing. Thirdly by giving them up to wars and fighting on behalf of the ones who receive them, Fourth by working miracles through them, fifth, by speaking through them, introducing peace and the font of all blessings into the homes of those who receive them. Sixth, by threatening things more grievous than Sodom to those who do not receive them. Seventh, that whoever receives them is receiving the Son and the Father. Eighth, by promising both a prophets and a righteous mans reward. Ninth, by promising that the reward will be great, even for a cup of cold water. Now each of these things, even by itself would be enough to attract them, Tell me, who, when a leader of an army who is wounded in innumerable places and dyed in blood came in sight, returning after many victories in war and conflict, would not receive him, throwing open every door in his house?

You might say, “Who in the world is like this?”. This is why he adds “In the name of a disciple or a prophet or a righteous man” to teach you that it is not the worth of the visitor himself that you receive him for, but for the worth of his purpose. This is why the reward is given to the one who receives. While here he speaks of prophets and righteous men and disciples, elsewhere he commands men to receive the lowliest outcasts and promises punishment for those who fail to do so. He said “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me. These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” Matthew 25:45

Even though this man may not be doing any great work, he is still a man, inhabiting the same world as you, seeing the same sun and having the same kind of soul, having the same Lord, a partaker with you of the same mysteries (communion), Called to the same Heaven as you. His claim to that future reward is strong, because of his poverty and want of necessary food. But those who waken you with flutes and pipes in the winter season, disturb you without purpose or benefit leave from your home with many gifts. Those who carry around swallows and cover themselves with dirt and harass everyone receive a reward for their noise. But if someone comes to you, a poor man wanting only bread, there is no end of your abusive complaints and lecturing. You accuse him of idleness, jeer and reprimand him. You do not stop to consider that you yourself are idle and God give you His good gifts. Do not tell me that you are busy with work, try and convince me that anything you are doing is important. If you try and tell me that you are busy earning money, or dealing with traffic, or taking care of the things you have (or getting more) I would say to you, These things are not work. But giving money to the poor, and prayer and protecting the injured and things like this are actual work, which is why we should all be considered completely idle. And yet God has never told us “because you are idle I will not light up the sun for you, because you aren’t doing anything of real consequence I will quench the moon, paralyze the womb of the earth, restrain the lakes, the fountains, the river, blot out the atmosphere, I will withhold the annual rains” but he gives to all of us abundantly. And to those who are not merely idle bur are actively doing evil He still freely gives the benefit of these good things.

So when you see a poor man and say “It takes my breath away that this young healthy fellow who has nothing, would rather be fed without working. He must be some kind of slave and runaway and has deserted his proper master”. I tell you to speak these same words to yourself, or even better, freely allow him to speak them to you and he will speak with fuller justice. “It takes my breath away that you, being healthy are idle and practice none of the things which God has commanded, but you have run away from the commandments of your Lord, going about your life, dwelling in wickedness, in drunkenness, gluttony, theft, extortion and subverting other mens homes”. You may impute idleness on him, but I impute evil works on you, for your plotting and swearing, lying and eagerness to do all this and more acts like it, without number.

All this I do not say to suggest that idleness should be the norm, far from it. But rather I earnestly wish for everyone to be employed because sloth is the teacher of wickedness, yet I beg you, do not be unmerciful or cruel. Since Paul having spoke of this said, “If any will not work, neither let him eat” and did not stop there but added “But you, do not be weary in well doing”. But this seems to be contradictory! If he has commanded them not to eat how can he tell us to give? Paul justifies this by another commandment saying “have no company with them” and also “count them not as enemies but admonish them”. 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15 He did not give these as contradictory laws, but they are quite harmonious with each other. Because if you are prompt to mercy, the poor man will soon be rid of his idleness and you of your cruelty.

“But he is a lier and makes up all kinds of excuses” you reply. Well, here again he is pitiable, because he has fallen into such distress that he has become so hardened that he has come to this. But we, so far from feeling pity for him cruelly add, “Haven’t you received charity more than once?”. So what? Because he was fed once, he will never need to eat again? Why don’t you try that for yourself? Tell your own stomach the same, “you ate yesterday and the day before, why are you hungry AGAIN?”. But while you fill your own stomach beyond measure, even to bursting, from him you turn away when he only asks for what is moderate. You aught to feel pity for him because he is forced to come to YOU every day. Surely, if nothing else moves you to pity you should pity him for this reason, because of the constraint of his poverty he is forced to seek charity. And Yet you do not feel pity for him, because being treated so poorly he still feels no shame and continues to seek, because his need was still to strong in him.

And even more, instead of showing pity you even make a show of helping him. While God has commanded you to give secretly, you stand exposing publicly the fellow who has asked you for help and make him feel even worse. Why, if you didn’t really want to give would you make it even worse, bruising that weary and wretched soul? He came to you, seeking safe harbor, looking to you for help. Why stir up waves and make the storm worse? Why do you ascribe to him wretchedness? Seriously? If he had thought that you would treat him this way would he have considered coming to you? If he actually expected this and still came, there certainly is good cause to pity him, and shudder at your own cruelty! How is it that when you see such a someone with such a pressing need, you do not treat him with gentleness and do not judge him to have an understandable reason for his hunger but instead you accuse him of impudence. And yet you yourself have often practiced greater impudence in matters far more grievous. At least his behavior has grounds for a pardon, while you brazenly go on doing things that aught to be punished. While we aught to keep all this in mind and be humble, we trample on those miserable men, adding to their pain when they seek solace. I say, if you will not give, why do you strike at them? If you will not be generous, why be insolent?

“but he will not stop begging if I act in any other way” Well then, do as that wise man commanded “Answer him peaceable words with meekness” Sirach 4:8 Certainly he is not so persistent for his own sake. No man desires to be put to shame for no reason. Whatever anyone may argue, I cannot be convinced that a man who was living in plenty would choose to beg.

Do not let anyone charm us with pleasant arguments. Even though Paul says “If any will not work, neither let him eat” 2 Thessalonians 3:10 This is directed to those who are not working, to us he says “Be not weary in well doing.” 2 Thessalonians 3:13. Even we do this in our homes, when two people are fighting with each other. We take each one apart and give them the opposite advice. God did this as well, and Moses. For to God he said “If you will forgive them their sin, forgive it; else blot me out also;” and on the contrary he commanded the Hebrews to slay one another. These things are contrary yet nevertheless they both were aimed to one end.

Again, God said to Moses (which Moses later retold to the Hebrews) “Let me alone, that I may consume the people” Exodus 32:10 but privately He gives him directions of the opposite tenor. And this, Moses being forced, revealed afterwards saying “What? Did I conceive them, that you say to me, Carry them, as a nurse would carry the sucking child in her bosom?”

This is what is commonly done in our homes, often a father, while blaming the tutor in private for being to strict saying “don’t be rough or too hard” to the youth he says the opposite, “Even if he is too hard on you, bear it gracefully”, out of these two opposites making up one wholesome result. In this way also Paul has said to the healthy man who is begging for food “If any man will not work, neither let him eat,” that he may urge them into employment: but those who can show mercy, “You, for your part, be not weary in well doing:” that he may lead them to give to the poor.

So also, when he was admonishing those who were Gentiles, in his Epistle to the Romans, so as to arrogant against the Jews, he mentions the wild olive, and he seems to be saying one thing to these, another to those. Romans 11:17

Do not let us fall into being cruel, but listen to Paul who tells us “Be not weary in well doing”. Let us listen to the Lord who says, “Give to every man that asks of you” Luke 6:30 and “Be merciful as your Father” Luke 6:36 And though He has spoken of many things, nowhere else has He used this expression, but in respect to our deeds of mercy only. For nothing so brings us to God as doing good.

“But nothing is more shameless than a poor man” someone might say, Why I pray you? Because he runs up and cries out after you? Let me point out then, how we are more shameless than this. Remember, now that it is the season of the fast how often, when your table was set in the evening and you had called out your table servant for moving rather leisurely. You upset everything, kicking, insulting, and reviling merely over a small delay. Even though you well know, that if not immediately, but in a short while you will enjoy your meal. And yet you do not call yourself impudent, even though you seem to be changed into a wild beast over nothing. But the poor man, alarmed and trembling about his greater interests (not worried about a delay, but about absolute famine is his fear), him you call audacious and shameless and impudence, and all the most disparaging names? How is this anything but extreme impudence.

But we do not think about any of this, we think such men annoying and troublesome. Since if we all considered our own doings and compared them to the poor man, we would not have thought them intolerable.

So do not be such a severe judge, Even if you were perfect (and clear of all sins), not even then would the law of God permit you to act in such a way concerning other men’s sins. And if the Pharisee failed on this account, what defense do we have? If God would not suffer those who do well to be bitter in dealing with another mans doings, then far less will He suffer we who are worse off.

Let us not be savage, cruel, without natural feeling, implacable or worse than the wild beasts. I know many who have gone so far, acting brutishly over a little annoyance, just to slight famishing persons. They say something like “I have no servant with me right now; we are far from home; there is no money-changer that I know”. Oh cruelty! Did you promise more and fulfill even less? To save yourself walking a little way, will he parish with hunger? Oh insolence! Oh pride! Why, if it was a mile to be walked should you balk? Do you not even consider that your reward is made greater? If you give a gift, you receive a reward for the gift only: when you go along yourself this is appointed to you a further recompense.

The patriarch himself we admire for this, that he ran out to the herd and snatched up the calf himself Genesis 18:7 and that when he had three hundred and eighteen servants in his house. But now some people are filled with so much pride, that they only do these things by servants and are not ashamed. “But do you require me to do these things myself?” one might say, “How then should I not seem to be arrogant”? And more than that, you are led by another kind of arrogance, being ashamed to be seen talking with a poor man.

But I am in no way totally strict about this, simply give, and do not accuse, do not smite, do not revile. For help, not hurt the one in need comes to you, mercy, not a sword. Tell me, if anyone was struck by a stone in the head, were to run up and fall at your knees, drenched in his own blood, would you really strike him with another stone and add another wound? I certainly think not, but I think that you would try to help him. Why then do you do the opposite with the poor? Don’t you realize how much power a word has, to raise someone up or to cast them down? “for a word is better than a gift” Sirach 18:16

Don’t you realize that you are thrusting a sword into yourself and receiving a terrible wound when he is rejected and silently withdraws with tears and sorrow? Certainly God had sent him to you. Think about who you are truly hurting, when you insult the poor, after God had set him on your path and commands you to give, but you, so far removed from charity, insult him at the outset.

And if you are not aware of how backwards this is, look at a worldly example and you will see what a great sin this is. If you had commanded your servant to go retrieve money of yours from another of your servants and the first came back not only empty handed but abused and downtrodden, what would you do to the servant who had done this wrong? What penalty would you levy against him after this, as if it had been you yourself who had been treated like this?

This is how we should imagine God to be as well, for certainly He sends the poor to us, and it is of his goods that we give to them (if we actually do). But, if besides not giving to them, we also insult them and send them away, consider how much lightning and thunder we deserve having behaived this way.

Duly considering all these things, let us hold our tongue, put away inhumanity and be ready at all times to give to the poor. Not just with money, but with words as well, let us be kind and put at ease those who are in need. So that we will escape the punishment for abusing the poor, and may inherit the kingdom which is for blessing and charity. By the grace of love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and might forever and ever. Amen

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