Seek sanctity and the approval of God in all you do
Comprehensive Catholic Commentary
Fr. George Leo Haydock
Editor's Note: Begun last Sunday, we continue with this special feature provided by John Gregory with the Haydock Commentary found at the bottome of each page of the Douay-Rheims Bible. We publish it here in conjunction with the Epistle and Gospel for the Sunday Mass, with the cogent comprehensive Catholic Commentary penned by Father George Leo Haydock. The problem has always been that the typeface is so small that many cannot read the gems contained in these commentaries and miss out on discernments listed by the Fathers and Doctors of the Church as well as many saints and theologians. Now, thanks to John's efforts, we can provide readers with those words republished here in larger type and immediately following each respective verse to aid the contemplation of our readers. Today for the Second Sunday of Lent we can see the sage discernment of the Scriptures as provided by such august luminaries as St. John Chrysostom and St. Jerome among others in clarifying the discernment of these verses, especially in the Gospel on the Transfiguration in how this very mystical event would have confirmed to the unbelieving Jews that Christ was indeed the Messias, though Jesus knew their stubborn and perfidious blindness would not allow them to acknowledge Him thus.
Epistle: 1 Thessalonians 4: 1-7
1 For the rest therefore, brethren, we pray and beseech you in the Lord Jesus, that as you have received from us, how you ought to walk, and to please God, so also you would walk, that you may abound the more.
Commentary on Verse 1: In this chapter the apostle begins to remind them of their obligation of always striving to increase in virtue. Though he praises them through the whole epistle, he still thinks it necessary to warn them not to be surprised in uncleanness. He repeats what he had taught them before; first, that there is vengeance awaiting the workers of evil; and secondly, that the favour of God is the reward of those who deal with the brethren in simplicity, and preserve themselves from the defilements of the Gentiles. St. Ambrose.
2 For you know what commandments I have given to you by the Lord Jesus.
3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from fornication:
4 That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honor:
Commentary on Verse 4: His vessel. That is, his own body. See 1 Kings 21: 5.
5 Not in the passion of lust, like the Gentiles, who know not God:
6 And that no man overreach, nor deceive his brother in business: because the Lord is the avenger of all these things, as we have told you before, and have testified.
Commentary on Verse 6: That no man overreach, nor deceive his brother in business. The Protestants and Mr. N. even in their translations, add, in any matter, because some expound it of frauds and circumventions in any kind of business. But this addition of any, should be left out, seeing the best interpreters expound it of a prohibition of adultery, and the injury thereby done to another, and of sins of that kind only, which is confirmed by what follows and what goes before. See St. Jerom in c. iv. ad Ephes. tom. 4. p. 369. St. John Chrysostom. serm. 3 on this place. Here, says he, he speaks of adultery, as before of fornication, & c. See Theodoret.
7 For God hath not called us to uncleanness, but to holiness.
Gospel: St. Matthew 17: 1-9
1 And after six days Jesus taketh unto him Peter and James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into a high mountain apart:
Commentary on Verse 1: And after six days. St. Matthew reckons neither the day of the promise, nor the day of the transfiguration; St. Luke, including both calls the interval about eight days. St. John Chrysostom - He took Peter, as head of the apostolic college; James, as first to shed his blood for the faith; and John, as he was to service all the rest, and to transmit to posterity the circumstances of this glorious mystery; or, according to St. John Chrysostom on account of their more excellent love, zeal, courage, sufferings and predilection. The mountain is generally believed to be Thabor, and as such is considered by Christians as holy, and was much frequented by pilgrims, as St. Jerome testifies. Venerable Bede tells us that three churches were built upon it: and Mr. Maundrell, in his Journey from Aleppon to Jerusalem, p. 112, says there are still three grottoes, made to represent the three tabernacles proposed by St. Peter. According to Le Brun, Thabor is situated about 12 miles from the sea of Galilee, and eight from Nazareth. Others, however, do not think the transfiguration took place on Mount Thabor, which was in the middle of Lower Galilee, because St. Mark (11: 29,) says, that Christ and His apostles, departing thence, passed through Galilee, and not out of Galilee, and suppose it might be Libanus, because it was near Caesarea Phillippi; in the borders of which Christ appears at this time to have been, at least the promise of the transfiguration was made there, and this place is distant about 60 miles from Mount Thabor. St. Matthew 16: 13. - Mount Libanus is the highest in Palestine, according to S. Jerm; and of it Isaias prophesied: "the glory of Libanus is given to it, the beauty of Carmel and Saron; they shall see the glory of our God." xxxv. 2. But, as we said above, Thabor is very generally supposed to have been the mountain.
2 And he was transfigured before them. And his face did shine as the sun: and his garments became white as snow.
Commentary on Verse 2: Transfigured. Let no one think that He changed His natural form, laying aside His corporeal, and assuming a spiritual form; but when the evangelist says His countenance shone like the sun, and describes the whiteness of His garments, He shews in what the transfiguration consisted. He added to His former appearance splendour and glory, but laid not aside His substance. . . . The Lord was transfigured into that glory with which He will appear again at the day of judgment, and in His kingdom. St. Jerome - Calvin translates (the word) as transformed, but contrary to the sentiment of the holy fathers. He did not shew them His divinity, which cannot be seen by the eyes of the body, but a certain glimpse or sign of the same: hence the hymn -
Quicunque Christum quaeritis,
Oeculos in altum tollite;
Illic licebit visere
Signum perennis gloriae.
3 And behold there appeared to them Moses and Elias, talking with him.
Commentary on Verse 3:
Moses and Elias. Jesus Christ had been taken by the people for Elias, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He therefore chose the chief of all the prophets to be present, that He might shew His great superiority over them, and verify the illustrious confession of Peter. The Jews had accused Christ of blasphemy, and of breaking the sabbath; the presence of Moses and Elias refuted the calumny; for the founder of the Jewish laws would never have sanctioned him who was a transgressor of those laws; and Elias, so full of zeal for the glory of God, would never have paid homage to One Who made Himself equal to God, had He not really been the Son of the Most High. St. John Chrysostom. St. Hilary thinks that Moses and Elias (who represent the law and the prophets, and who here bear witness to the divinity of Jesus Christ,) will be the precursors of His second coming, alluded to in the Apocalypse, ch. xi, though the general opinion of the Fathers is, that the two witnesses there mentioned are Enoch and Elias. Jans. - It is hence evident, that the saints departed can and do, with the permission of God, take an interest in the affairs of the living. St. Augustine - For as angels elsewhere, so here the saints also, served our Savior; and as angels, both in the Old and New Testament, were frequently present at the affairs of men, so may saints. All interpreters agree that Elias appeared in his own body, but various are their opinions with regard to the apparition of Moses.
4 Then Peter answering, said to Jesus: Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles, one for Thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.
5 And as He was yet speaking, behold a bright cloud overshadowed them. And behold a Voice out of the cloud, saying: This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased: hear ye Him.
6 And the disciples hearing, fell upon their face, and were very much afraid.
Commentary on Verse 6:
And were very much afraid. There were two causes that might produce this fear in the apostles, the cloud that overshadowed them, or the voice of God the Father, which they heard. Their human weakness could not bear such refulgent beams of glory, and trembling in every limb, they fall prostrate on the ground. St. Jerome - The Almighty, it seems, was pleased to fulfill the wish of Peter, thereby to shew that Himself is the tent or pavilion, under the shade of which the blessed shall live for ever, and to sanction the public and explicit confession of Peter relative to the divinity of Jesus Christ, by his own no less public and explicit confession, joined with an express command to hear and obey. St. John Chrysostom very justly remarks, that this voice was not heard to whom it was referred, and that it was to Christ only and to no other. - Hear ye Him: i.e. as the law and the prophets are fulfilled and verified in Jesus Christ, your new legislator and prophet, you are to hear and obey Him in preference to either Moses or Elias, or any other teacher.
7 And Jesus came and touched them: and said to them: Arise, and be not afraid.
Commentary on Verse 7:
And Jesus came and touched. The terrified disciples were still prostrate on the ground, and unable to rise, when Jesus, with His usual benevolence, approaches, touches them, expels their fear, and restores them to the use of their limbs. St. Jerome.
8 And lifting up their eyes, they saw no man but only Jesus.
9 And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying: Tell the vision to no man, till the Son of man be risen from the dead
Commentary on Verse 9:
Tell the vision to no man, till the miracle of His resurrection has prepared the minds of men for the belief of this. Expose not an event so wonderful to the rash censure of the envious Pharisees, who calumniate and misrepresent My most evident miracles. Jesus Christ also gave a lesson here to His followers to observe the closest secrecy in all spiritual graces and favors.
Note the next verse is not part of today's Gospel, but helps in understanding the full content of the Gospel so we have included it here:
10 And His disciples asked Him, saying: Why then do the Scribes say that Elias must come first?
Commentary on Verse 10:
Elias must come first. The prophet Elias will come again in person before My second coming to judgment, and will re-establish all things, by the conversion of the Jews to the Christian faith, according to the common opinion. But John the Baptist, who was Elias in spirit, is already come. See St. Matthew xi. 14. This was a vulgar error spread by the Scribes among the Jewish people. It proceeded from an erroneous interpretation of Scripture. They confounded the two comings of our Savior. The Baptist was the precursor of Christ at His first coming, and was styled by our Lord Elias, because He performed the office of Elias; and he shall go before Him in the spirit and power of Elias. St. Luke i: 17 - But this prophet in person will be the precursor of the second coming of Christ. Wherefore Malachy, predicting this coming of Christ, says: I will send to you Elias the Thesbite; thus evidently distinguishing him from the Baptist, who was also Elias in spirit and in the dignity of his office. St. John Chrysostom. Jesus Christ here confirms the literal sense of the prophecy; (Malac. iv. 5,) but, in the next verse, He shews a prior, though less perfect accomplishment of the same in the person of John the Baptist, who was raised by God to prepare the ways of the Lord.