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with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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Luke 5

The miraculous draught of fishes, Peter, James, and John called. (1-11) A leper cleansed. (12-16) A paralytic cured. (17-26) Levi called, Christ’s answer to the Pharisees. (27-39)

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The miraculous draught of fishes, Peter, James, and John called

1 And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret,

2 And saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets.

3 And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon’s, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship.

4 Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught.

5 And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net.

6 And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake.

7 And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink.

8 When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.

9 For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken:

10 And so was also James, and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon. And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men.

11 And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him.

A leper cleansed

12 And it came to pass, when he was in a certain city, behold a man full of leprosy: who seeing Jesus fell on his face, and besought him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.

13 And he put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will: be thou clean. And immediately the leprosy departed from him.

14 And he charged him to tell no man: but go, and shew thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing, according as Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.

15 But so much the more went there a fame abroad of him: and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by him of their infirmities.

16 And he withdrew himself into the wilderness, and prayed.

A paralytic cured

17 And it came to pass on a certain day, as he was teaching, that there were Pharisees and doctors of the law sitting by, which were come out of every town of Galilee, and Judaea, and Jerusalem: and the power of the Lord was present to heal them.

18 And, behold, men brought in a bed a man which was taken with a palsy: and they sought means to bring him in, and to lay him before him.

19 And when they could not find by what way they might bring him in because of the multitude, they went upon the housetop, and let him down through the tiling with his couch into the midst before Jesus.

20 And when he saw their faith, he said unto him, Man, thy sins are forgiven thee.

21 And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, Who is this which speaketh blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?

22 But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answering said unto them, What reason ye in your hearts?

23 Whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Rise up and walk?

24 But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power upon earth to forgive sins, (he said unto the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy couch, and go into thine house.

25 And immediately he rose up before them, and took up that whereon he lay, and departed to his own house, glorifying God.

26 And they were all amazed, and they glorified God, and were filled with fear, saying, We have seen strange things to day.

Levi called, Christ’s answer to the Pharisees

27 And after these things he went forth, and saw a publican, named Levi, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he said unto him, Follow me.

28 And he left all, rose up, and followed him.

29 And Levi made him a great feast in his own house: and there was a great company of publicans and of others that sat down with them.

30 But their scribes and Pharisees murmured against his disciples, saying, Why do ye eat and drink with publicans and sinners?

31 And Jesus answering said unto them, They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick.

32 I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

33 And they said unto him, Why do the disciples of John fast often, and make prayers, and likewise the disciples of the Pharisees; but thine eat and drink?

34 And he said unto them, Can ye make the children of the bridechamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them?

35 But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days.

36 And he spake also a parable unto them; No man putteth a piece of a new garment upon an old; if otherwise, then both the new maketh a rent, and the piece that was taken out of the new agreeth not with the old.

37 And no man putteth new wine into old bottles; else the new wine will burst the bottles, and be spilled, and the bottles shall perish.

38 But new wine must be put into new bottles; and both are preserved.

39 No man also having drunk old wine straightway desireth new: for he saith, The old is better.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 1. What S. Luke here gives till v. 10, is mentioned purposely to shew on what occasion, and by what miracle, Peter, Andrew, James, and John, were called. Maldon.

Ver. 2. Washing their nets. See S. Matt. iv. 18. and S. Mark i. 16, where it is said, that Christ saw them when they were casting their nets; i.e. some of them were casting, others washing, or mending, their nets. Wi.

Ver. 3. Why is it mentioned that there were two ships; that one of them was Simon Peter’s, that Christ went into that one, and sat down in it, and sitting he taught out of that ship? No doubt, answer many of the ancient commentators, to shew that the Church was figured by the bark of Peter, and that in it is the chair of Christ, a permanent authority, prefigured by Christ’s sitting down, and the true word of God.

Ver. 4. Epanagage eis to bathos. Put back from whence you have just now returned. Where you failed without Christ, with Christ you will prove successful. Now is the proper time, when you act in my presence, and according to my orders; before it was not, when you followed your own, and not my will. Maldon. — S. Austin interprets the text, Launch out into the deep, as spoken of distant nations, to whom the gospel was afterwards delivered: tolle signum in gentes, ad eas, quæ prope, et ad eas quæ longe. Isai. v. 26. and xi. 12.

Ver. 5. Though these words of S. Peter seem to express his little hope of success, as he had been toiling (kopiasantes) the whole night, the most favourable time for fishing, yet they were intended by S. Peter to shew his great confidence, that notwithstanding his bad success, he was willing to obey; he relied on his words, and let go his net in the same place where before he had been disappointed; and the event proved that the obedience and confidence of Peter were not in vain. Maldon. &c.

Ver. 6. When Christ commanded Peter to let go the net, as great a quantity of fishes were taken as this Lord of the land and sea wished. For the voice of the Lord is the voice of power, at the command of which, in the beginning of the world, light and every created thing sprang into existence. This it was that so much astonished Peter. S. Greg. Naz. c. xxxi. — The net is broken, but the fishes are not lost, because the Lord preserves his servants among the scandals (schisms and heresies) of his enemies. Ven. Bede.

Ver. 7. The other ship was probably at such a distance from them, that they could not be heard, had they called out to them; and this also is another proof of the greatness of the miracle, that though the other ship was fishing in the same place, though a little removed, they could catch nothing. Maldonatus. — This also shews that Peter was to call in other co-labourers, and that all were to come into Peter’s ship. S. Ambrose in Luc.

Ver. 8. Such was the excess of S. Peter’s humility, that he judged himself unworthy the presence of Christ, and by this rendered himself more worthy. So the centurion, for a similar act of self-abasement, merited to hear from Truth itself, that he was preferred to all Israel. Euthymius is however of opinion, that S. Peter desired Christ to leave him through fear, lest some evil should befall him, because he was not worthy of his presence. In the same manner as the widow of Sarepta thought her son had died, because she was not worthy of the presence of Elias. 3 Kings xvii. 18. Maldonatus.

Ver. 10. Jesus Christ answers the thought of S. Peter, that instead of any loss or evil coming to him, he should, on the contrary, receive a great reward, by being appointed a fisher of men; and, as he had taken so many fishes by the divine assistance, so he should take in his net innumerable souls, not so much by his own industry, as by the divine grace and assistance. Maldonatus.

Ver. 11. We may suppose that these four apostles, like Andrew, followed Jesus Christ at the first call, but without attaching themselves to him; and that now they attached themselves to him, never to leave him more.

Ver. 12. By falling on his face, he shewed his humility and modesty, that all men might learn to be ashamed of the stains of their lives; but this, his bashfulness, did not prevent him from confessing his misery; he exposed his wound, he solicits a cure: Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. He did not doubt the goodness of the Lord, but in consideration of his own unworthiness, he durst not presume. That confession is full of religion and faith, which places its trust in the will of God. S. Ambrose.

Ver. 13. The law forbade lepers to be touched; but he, who is the Lord of the law, dispenses with it. He touches the leper, not because he could not cleanse him without it, but in order to shew that he was not subject to the law, nor to fear of any infection. At the touch of Christ leprosy is dispelled, which before communicated contagion to all that touched it. S. Ambrose.

Ver. 14. Because men in sickness generally turn their thoughts towards God, but when they recover, forget him, the leper is commanded to think of God, and return him thanks. Therefore is he sent to the priest, to make his offering, (Lev. xiv. 4.) that, committing himself to the examination of the priest, he might be accounted among the clean. S. Chrys. hom. xxvi. in Matt. — By this our Saviour would testify to the priest, that this man was healed not by the ordination of the law, but by the power of grace, which is above the law. He likewise shews that he did not come to destroy, but to fulfil the law. S. Amb. — Jesus Christ seems here to approve of the legal sacrifices, which the Church does not receive; and this he did, because he had not yet established that most holy of all holy sacrifices, the sacrifice of his own body. The figurative sacrifices were not to be abrogated, before that, which they prefigured, was established by the preaching of the apostles, and the faith of Christian believers. S. Austin, quest. ii. b. 3. de quæst. evang. — By this leper is represented the whole human race, which was covered with a spiritual leprosy, and languishing in the corruption of sin; for all have sinned, and need the glory of God; (Rom. iii.) therefore he stretched forth his hand, i.e. he clothed himself with our human nature, that we might be cleansed from our former errors, and might offer in return for this favour our bodies, a living sacrifice to God. Ven. Bede.

Ver. 16. Christ did not stand in need of this retirement, since, being God, he was free from every stain, and likewise present in every place. But, by this his conduct, he wished to teach us the time most proper, both for our active employments, and for the more sublime duties of prayer and contemplation. S. Greg.Naz. Orat. xxviii. — en upochoron, he withdrew after his great prodigies, to avoid the praise of the multitude, and to pray assiduously, and with fresh instance, for the salvation of man.

Ver. 17. But the fame of Jesus had now spread far and wide. It was for this reason that it is here said, the Pharisees and doctors of the law came out of every town in Galilee, &c. not indeed through any intention of becoming his disciples, but through a spirit of envy; as they now saw every one leaving them, and following our Saviour. Perhaps also to calumniate him, as we often find them to have done, when they beheld him making converts from them. D. Dion. Carth.

Ver. 19. Let us learn from this example, how diligent we should be in procuring spiritual health, both for ourselves and for our friends. A.

Ver. 20. Great is the Lord, who pardons men on account of the merits of others. If you are diffident of the pardon of your grievous sins, have recourse to the Church. She will pray for you; and the Almighty, at her intercession, will grant you that pardon he might have denied to your prayers. S. Ambrose, l. v. in Luc.

Ver. 21. How great is the madness of this unbelieving people, who confessing that God alone can forgive sins, will not believe God when he grants pardon. S. Ambrose. — They indeed spoke the truth, for none can forgive sins but God only, who forgives our offences by the ministry of others, to whom he has committed this power, both in baptism and penance. But Christ, by forgiving sins as God, i.e. with his own power, clearly proves to all his divinity. Ven. Bede.

Ver. 24. The Son of man . . on earth. By which act, says S. Cyril, it is clear that the Son of man hath power on earth to remit sins; which he said both for himself and us. For he, as God-man, the Lord of the law, forgiveth sins; and we also have obtained by him that wonderful grace when he said to his disciples: Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them. John xx. 23. And how should he not be able to remit sins, who gave others the power to do the same? B.

Ver. 26. At the sight of the exertion of divine power, the Jews would rather fear than believe; for had they believed they would never have feared, but rather loved; for perfect love excludes fear. S. Ambrose.

Ver. 28. The profane Julian charged S. Matthew with levity, in leaving all and following a stranger at one word. But hereby is seen the marvellous efficacy of Christ’s word and internal working, which in a moment can alter the heart of man, and cause him to despise what before was most near and dear to him. And this was done not only whilst Christ was living on earth, but daily in his Church. Thus S. Anthony, S. Francis, and others, hearing this word in the Church, forsook all and followed Jesus. S. Jer. in Matt. ix. S. Athan. in vita. S. Anton. August. Confess. l. viii. c. 11. Bonav. in vit. S. Francisci.

Ver. 29. And Levi made him a great feast, to testify his gratitude to Jesus for the favour he had done him. It appears that both S. Mark and S. Luke affect, through consideration for S. Matthew, to designate him here by his less known name of Levi; whereas he designates himself, through humility, in this same circumstance, by his more known appellation of Matthew. See Matt. ix. 9. V.

Ver. 31. Jesus Christ gives them here to understand, that they were of the number of those who languished under a severe indisposition, and that he was come to act as their Physician. S. Chrysos. hom. xxxi. in Matt.

Ver. 33. S. Matt. says, it was S. John’s disciples themselves that objected this to Christ. Most probably both they and the Pharisees endeavoured all they could to press this objection. S. Austin de cons. Evang. l. ii. c. 27. — Why do you not fast, as is customary with all that wish to regulate their lives according to the law? The reason why the saints fasted was, that they might, by afflicting their bodies, subdue their passions. Jesus Christ, therefore, had no need of fasting, being God, and of course free from every, the least, disorderly motion of concupiscence. Neither did his attendants stand in need of fasting, for being enriched with his grace, they were strengthened in virtue, without the help of fasting. When, therefore, Christ fasted forty days, he fasted to set an example to carnal men. S. Cyril. — As long as the Spouse is with us, we are in joy, we cannot fast, we cannot mourn. But when he has been driven away by sin, then we must both fast and weep. Ven. Bede.