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with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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Luke 12

Christ reproves the interpreters of the law. (1-12) A caution against covetousness The parable of the rich man. (13-21) Worldly care reproved. (22-40) Watchfulness enforced. (41-53) A warning to be reconciled to God. (54-59)

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Christ reproves the interpreters of the law

1 In the mean time, when there were gathered together an innumerable multitude of people, insomuch that they trode one upon another, he began to say unto his disciples first of all, Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.

2 For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known.

3 Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops.

4 And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.

5 But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.

6 Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God?

7 But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.

8 Also I say unto you, Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God:

9 But he that denieth me before men shall be denied before the angels of God.

10 And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but unto him that blasphemeth against the Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven.

11 And when they bring you unto the synagogues, and unto magistrates, and powers, take ye no thought how or what thing ye shall answer, or what ye shall say:

12 For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say.

A caution against covetousness The parable of the rich man

13 And one of the company said unto him, Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me.

14 And he said unto him, Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you?

15 And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.

16 And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully:

17 And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits?

18 And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods.

19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.

20 But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?

21 So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.

Worldly care reproved

22 And he said unto his disciples, Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on.

23 The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment.

24 Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls?

25 And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit?

26 If ye then be not able to do that thing which is least, why take ye thought for the rest?

27 Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

28 If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith?

29 And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind.

30 For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things.

31 But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you.

32 Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

33 Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth.

34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

35 Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning;

36 And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately.

37 Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them.

38 And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants.

39 And this know, that if the goodman of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through.

40 Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not.

Watchfulness enforced

41 Then Peter said unto him, Lord, speakest thou this parable unto us, or even to all?

42 And the Lord said, Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season?

43 Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.

44 Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he hath.

45 But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken;

46 The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.

47 And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.

48 But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.

49 I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled?

50 But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!

51 Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division:

52 For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three.

53 The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.

A warning to be reconciled to God

54 And he said also to the people, When ye see a cloud rise out of the west, straightway ye say, There cometh a shower; and so it is.

55 And when ye see the south wind blow, ye say, There will be heat; and it cometh to pass.

56 Ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky and of the earth; but how is it that ye do not discern this time?

57 Yea, and why even of yourselves judge ye not what is right?

58 When thou goest with thine adversary to the magistrate, as thou art in the way, give diligence that thou mayest be delivered from him; lest he hale thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and the officer cast thee into prison.

59 I tell thee, thou shalt not depart thence, till thou hast paid the very last mite.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 1. Beware ye of the leaven, &c. Christ calls the hypocrisy of the Pharisees heaven, which changes and corrupts the best intentions of men; for nothing is more destructive than hypocrisy to such as give way to it. Theophylact.

Ver. 3. House-tops. Our divine Saviour speaks here according to the custom of his own nation, where it was not uncommon for men to preach from the house-top, when they wished to deliver any thing to the public; for their houses had flat roofs. Ven. Bede.

Ver. 8. Whosoever shall confess me. By these words we are informed, that more than bare inward protestations of fidelity will be demanded of us; for he moreover requires an exterior confession of our faith. S. Ambrose.

Ver. 13. The inheritance. This man might think, that Jesus being the Messias, would act like a king and a judge. Wi. — Speak to my brother, &c. See in this the spirit of this world, at the very time Jesus is teaching disinterestedness, and the contempt of riches, he is interrupted by a man, who begs him to interfere in a temporal concern: deaf to every thing else, this man can think of his temporal interest only. Calmet. — He begged half an inheritance on earth; the Lord offered him a whole one in heaven: he gave him more than he asked for. S. Aug..

Ver. 14. Judge, &c. Our Saviour does not here mean to say that he or his Church had not authority to judge, as the Anabaptists foolishly pretend; for he was appointed by his Father, the King of kings, and the Lord and Judge of all. He only wished to keep himself as much detached as possible from worldly concerns: 1. Not to favour the opinion of the carnal Jews, who expected a powerful king for the Messias. 2. To shew that the ecclesiastical ministry was entirely distinct from political government, and that he and his ministers were sent not to take care of earthly kingdoms, but to seek after and prepare men for a heavenly inheritance. S. Ambrose, Euthymius, Ven. Bede.

Ver. 19. Much goods, &c. It is evident how far this poor man was mistaken, when he called these things goods, which with more reason ought to be esteemed evils. The only things that can rightly be called goods, are humility, modesty, and its other attendants. The opposite to these ought to be esteemed evils; and riches we ought to consider as indifferent. S. Chrys.

Ver. 22. Therefore I say to you, &c. Our Lord proceeds step by step in his discourse, to inculcate more perfect virtue. He had before exhorted us to guard ourselves against the fatal rocks of avarice, and then subjoined the parable of the rich man; thereby insinuating what folly that man is guilty of, who applies all his thoughts solely to the amassing of riches. He next proceeds to inform us that we should not be solicitous even for the necessities of life: wishing by this discourse to eradicate our wicked propensity to avarice. Theophy.

Ver. 29. And be not lifted up on high.[1] S. Aug. (l. ii. QQ. Evang. q. 29. t. 3, part 4, p. 257.) expounds it thus: do not value yourselves for the plenty and variety you have of things to eat. Others, by the Greek, look upon it as a metaphor, taken from meteors in the air, that appear high, and as it were in suspense whether to remain there or to fall down; so that they expound it: be not distracted and disturbed with various thoughts and cares how to live. Wi.

Ver. 32. Christ styles the elect in this place, his little flock, on account of the greater number of the reprobate; or rather through his love of humility, because though the Church be most numerous, yet he wishes it to continue in humility to the end of the world, and by humility to arrive at the reward which he has promised to the humble. Therefore, in order to console us in our labours, he commands us to seek only the kingdom of heaven, and promises us that the Father will bestow it as a reward upon us. Ven. Bede.

Ver. 33. Be not solicitous that whilst you are fighting for the kingdom of heaven, the necessities of this life will be wanting to you, on account of his command. Sell what you possess, that you may bestow charity; which those do, who having left all things, nevertheless labour with their hands for their livelihood, and to bestow the rest in charity. Ven. Bede.

Ver. 35. Let your loins be girded; i.e. be prepared to walk in the way of virtue; a comparison taken from the custom of the eastern people, who girded up their long garments, when they went about any business. Wi. — After our divine Saviour had given his disciples such excellent instructions, he wishes to lead them still farther in the path of perfection, by telling them to keep their loins girt, and to be prepared to obey the orders of their divine Master. By lamps burning in their hands he wished to insinuate, that they were not to pass their lives in obscurity, but to let their lights shine before men. Theophy.

Ver. 38. In the first watch is childhood, the beginning of our existence, and by the second is understood manhood, and by the third is meant old age. He, therefore, who does not comply with our divine Master’s injunctions in the first or second watch, let him be careful not to lose his soul by neglecting to be converted to God in his old age. S. Greg. in S. Tho. Aquin.

Ver. 39. Some have imagined that the devil, our implacable enemy, is designated by the thief, and our souls by the house, and man by the householder: yet this interpretation does not agree with what follows; for the coming of our Lord is compared to the thief, as if surprising us on a sudden. This latter opinion, therefore, seems to be the more probable one. Theophylactus.

Ver. 48. Shall be beaten with few stripes. Ignorance, when it proceeds from a person’s own fault, doth not excuse, but only diminisheth the fault. Wi.

Ver. 49. I am come to send fire on the earth. By this fire, some understand the light of the gospel, and the fire of charity and divine love. Others, the fire of trials and persecutions. Wi. — What is the fire, which Christ comes to send upon the earth? Some understand it of the Holy Ghost, of the doctrine of the gospel, and the preaching of the apostles, which has filled the world with fervour and light, and which was signified by the flames of fire which appeared at the descent of the Holy Ghost upon the apostles. My words, says the Lord, in Jeremias, (C. xxiii. 29.) are as a fire, and as a hammer, that breaketh the rock in pieces. Others understand it of the fire of charity, which Christ came to enkindle upon the earth, and which the apostles carried throughout the whole world. But the most simple and literal opinion seems to be, the fire of persecution and war. Fire is often used in Scripture for war: and our Saviour declares in S. Matt. that he is come to bring the sword, and not peace; that is, the doctrine of the gospel shall cause divisions, and bring persecutions, and almost an infinity of other evils, upon those who shall embrace and maintain it. But it is by these means that heaven must be acquired, it is thus that Jesus Christ destroys the reign of Satan, and overturns idolatry, superstition, and error, in the world. So great a change could not be made without noise, tumult, fire, and war. Calmet.

Ver. 50. I am to be baptized, with troubles and sufferings. — And how am I straitened? &c. not with fear, but with an earnest desire of suffering. Wi.

Ver. 54. In these words he reproaches them, that they knew well enough how to judge of the weather by the appearance of the heavens; but were ignorant how to distinguish the times: i.e. could not discern that the time marked by the prophets, for the coming of the Messias, was accomplished. In Palestine, the Mediterranean Sea, which was to the west, was accustomed to send clouds and rain; and the south winds, which came from Arabia and Egypt, very warm countries, caused dryness and heat. Calmet.

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[1] V. 29. Nolite in sublime tolli, me meteorizesthe; See S. Augustine, incipit superbire de talibus. l. v. QQ. Evang. Q. 29.