1. Christ foretells the persecution which would come on the Apostles, and promises them the Holy Spirit, to convince the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment, and to glorify Him. 16 Explains the words, A little while and ye shall met see me. 23 The meaning of whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in My name, He will give it you, and in the world ye shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.
HESE things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not he offended.
Douay Rheims Version
The conclusion of Christ's last discourse to his disciples.
HESE things have I spoken to you things have I spoken to you that you may not be scandalized.
Ver. 1.—These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended. (1.) Some think that this refers to Matt. xxvi. 31, All ye shall be offended because of Me this night. And that the meaning is, I have foretold you, that ye would flee away, when ye shall see Me taken: and I did so, in order that your shock and trouble of mind might be less, when it came to pass; and that thus ye might regain your courage and come back to Me. (2.) S. Cyril (x. 34), Maldonatus, and others, refer these words to the persecutions which Christ just before said were impending on the Apostles. And He did so that they might strengthen themselves against them. For evils which come unexpectedly, greatly stagger even brave men, while those which are foreseen take less effect. (3.) Bede, Euthymius, and others refer the words to the Holy Spirit Who had just been spoken of, thus explaining them, I have spoken these things of the Holy Spirit Who will come to you, in order that ye may not be offended when ye see yourselves assailed by persecutions, but may boldly withstand them with the thought that the Holy Spirit will render you His aid. S. Augustine says (in loc.) much the same:—“Having promised the Holy Spirit, by whose operation they would become His witnesses, He rightly added, These things have I spoken unto you; for when the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given us, great peace is theirs who love the Law of God (Ps. cxix. 165), so that they are not offended.” (4.) Toletus, Ribera, and others, by the last two explanations, give the best meaning:—“I have said all these things about persecution and the hatred of the world, and also of the coming of the Holy Spirit to strengthen you, that ye may not stumble in the way of eternal life in which ye are walking, and fall away from Me, as though I did not foresee, or were unwilling to warn you, or as if your sufferings were intolerable, and had befallen you unexpectedly. He removes therefore from the Apostles a stumbling-block, and ground of offence, both by forewarning them of the danger, and by promising the aid of the Holy Spirit to withstand it.” The Syriac and the Arabic connect this verse with what follows by the word “for,” meaning thereby that persecutions would be a ground of offence.
Ver. 2.—They shall put you out of the synagogue.—The assembly of the Jews was called a synagogue, as was also the place of the assembly. For God had ordained that there should be only one Temple in Judea, where sacrifices were to be offered. And this could not contain all the Jews, nor could they all attend it weekly. Accordingly the Jews had one or more Synagogues in every city (in Jerusalem at the time of its destruction there were 480) which the people frequented weekly, only to pray, and to hear the Law expounded by the scribes. They seem to have been set up in the time of the judges. To be put out of the synagogue was accordingly the same as being excommunicated (see ch. ix.) But Christ here promised His Church to the Apostles, when the Jews excommunicated them.
But the time cometh, that whoso killeth you will think that he doeth God service. Maldonatus takes “but” to mean “because” from the Hebrew word ki being so translated by the LXX. Service, the service that is, which is due to God alone. Both Jews and Gentiles will offer you up as a sacrifice to God, counting you the offscouring of all things (1 Cor. iv. 23). Moreover, S. Augustine (in loc) thinks that this was said to console the Apostles. The Jews will cast you out, but I will gather you, and ye will convert so vast a multitude of men to Me, that the Jews, fearing the desertion of the Temple and the Law, would kill you, considering that they would thus greatly honour God, by killing you in their defence. The martyrs of Lyons considered that this was fulfilled in their case (see Euseb. v. i.), quoting this very text.
Christ here foretells the persecutions of the Roman Emperors for three hundred years, in which more than 200,000 Christians were martyred. They were led to this by various motives. As though fearing the destruction of their empire which rested in their hereditary religion. As regarding with abhorrence the worship of a crucified man which the Apostles taught. As seeing their own vices and impurities uprooted by the Apostles. As persuaded by their priests that the Christian religion was the cause of all public calamities.
Ver. 3.—And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father nor Me. He says this not to excuse the persecutors, but rather to comfort the Apostles. “The reason why Jews and Gentiles will persecute you, He would say, is because they refuse to acknowledge Me as the Son of God the Father, though established by countless miracles. And therefore their ignorance only aggravates their guilt. But it will be a consolation to you in your persecutions, that ye know Me and My Father, and are suffering for both Our sakes. For if it is glorious to die for one’s country, it is much more glorious to die for God.” So S. Augustine. S. Chrysostom adds this, “If a prince or his ambassador enters a city, unattended and consequently not known, and is treated with indignity, he cares little for it, for when his retinue arrives, he will make himself known, and put to shame those who derided him.”
Ver. 4.—But these things have I told you, that when the hour shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them. (1.) S. Cyril (x. 13) supplies the connection thus. I have not said these things to enervate you, but that, remembering I told you them before, your faith may be more firm and established in the time of peril. (2.) Rupertus, without supplying anything, explains the words more closely:—“I tell you these things now in order that ye may remember what I promised, that in all your sufferings not a hair of your head shall perish, and that though your enemies kill your bodies, ye shall in patience possess your souls.” The latter part is not applicable, for, Christ reminds them only of what He had just said. (4.) Ribera and Maldonatus give the genuine meaning:—“Ye shall suffer these things, but I give you this remedy against them; that you should remember Me, that as being God, they could not escape my notice, and that I could have prevented them, had I so willed. And that you should therefore rely on Me as God, believing that I will be with you, and so strengthen you that ye may be able to overcome all adversities, and that I may crown you afterwards with the martyr’s chaplet.”
S. Augustine, Bede, and Rupert read “the hour for these things.” S. Chrysostom, Theophylact, and Euthymius much more correctly, “remember them.”
Ver. 5.—But these things I said not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you. Christ here answers an implied objection of the Apostles, Why did you not tell us this at the first, that we might see whether it were expedient or not for us to follow Thee? He answers, that He did it purposely, both because they could not as yet understand these things, and also because He was with them to guide and protect them. But that now, when He was about to leave them to themselves, He would still strengthen them by His grace, and enlighten them by the Holy Spirit Whom He would send them.
But what were those things which He then first told the Apostles? (1.) S. Augustine (in loc.) understands the whole passage to refer only to the coming of the Holy Ghost as the other Comforter, when He was gone. For His words refer not only to the coming of the Holy Ghost, but also to the persecutions He had foretold. (2.) The Gloss applies it to all Christ’s words of consolation which (said He) I did not speak before, because I was Myself present to comfort you. This is too vague an explanation. (3.) Jansen and Maldonatus think that S. Matt. (ch. x.) spoke by anticipation. For (1.) The Apostles, when first sent forth, did not suffer any persecution. (2.) It could not refer to Gentile persecutions, for they were forbidden to go to them. (3.) S. Mark and S. Luke state that they were spoken at another time, and in diverse places from whence it is inferred that they were spoken after the Resurrection, but inserted, as they were by S. Matthew, from their close connection with the subject in hand.
Ribera and Toletus expound this view at great length, but their arguments are not convincing. It may be explained most simply by saying, that though Christ had said something about persecutions, yet He did not speak of them particularly nor describe their severity and atrocity; for instance, He did not foretell their being cast out of the synagogues, as He does here; nor yet the martyrdom they would all of them suffer; nor yet that their murderers would be supposed to do God service; nor again that these persecutions would soon come upon them. S. Chrysostom, Theophylact, Euthymius, Toletus, Ribera, and others, add to this (from S. Augustine) that He did not mention the promised aid of the Holy Spirit, as He does here.
Because I was with you. And bore in My own Person all the hatred and revilings of the Jews. But now, when I am gone, they will assail you on My account. I therefore forewarn you, that ye may be forearmed, and I will also send My Holy Spirit to protect and arm you on every side.
Morally. Hence learn that God does not in the beginning reveal the difficulties, temptations, and trials of those whom He calls, lest they should shrink back. But when they are confirmed and strengthened in their calling, He sends them upon them, or permits them to be sent, by the world, the flesh, and the devil, in order to train them as His soldiers for the battle, that thus they may learn to conquer, and that He may crown them as conquerors. As it was said (Ex. xiii. 17) to the Hebrews, on going out of Egypt. For this reason He preserves novices in religion from temptation, and soothes them with spiritual consolation, as a mother gives suck to her infant.
But now I go My way to Him that sent Me. By My Cross and Death I am going to My Resurrection and to My glorious Ascension, and return to My Father.
And none of you asketh Me, Whither goest Thou? For though Thomas asked Him that very question, yet neither he nor anyone understood the answer of Christ, which was sufficiently obscure, nor did any one ask Christ to explain its meaning more fully, so absorbed were they all by their sorrow at His coming departure. So S. Cyril, Euthymius, Maldonatus, Jansen, and others.
Christ therefore quietly reproves the Apostles for not asking Him more on the subject, as, e.g., Where He was going; to what joys, glory, and kingdom; what aid He would send them from thence; what rewards He would give. For this knowledge would assuredly have lessened their sorrow, if it did not entirely remove it.
Ver. 6.—But because I have said these things to you, sorrow hath filled your heart.—Maldonatus explains “but” by “for,” i.e., This (your sorrow) is the reason why ye ask Me not. But Toletus explains it by “Nay, rather,” meaning “Ye not only do not ask Me, but more than this, ye are overwhelmed with sorrow.” But it is simpler to understand as conveying a tacit reproof for being so given up to sorrow, as to have no courage to ask Him that which would have alleviated their sorrow, and would have been to them the greatest consolation and joy: namely, that He was going to the Father, and would send His Holy Spirit to prepare a place for them in heaven.
Ver. 7.—Nevertheless I tell you the truth, it is expedient for you that I go away. (1.) S. Chrysostom (Hom. lxxvii.) explains it thus, “I say not this to please you, but though you will be made more sorrowful, you must hear what is expedient. Ye indeed would wish Me to be near, but utility demands the contrary. But it is the duty of one who loves, when he learns the utility, not to allow his beloved ones to be deprived of it.” And S. Cyril (x. 39) almost in the same words, “I perceive that ye are affected with great sorrow, because I have resolved to go away. And that too, not unreasonably, especially when ye hear that great tribulations will befall you. But since utility is to be preferred to what is pleasant, I will make known to you the truth.”
Christ does not here oppose “truth” to grace, but to sorrow, and makes truth refer to the consolation of the Apostles. For He says this to take away their sorrow by the joyful message of consolation. Ye are sorrowful (He would say) at My departure, as if it were your greatest loss. But be assured, both that ye have sorrow, and that it is in truth expedient for you that I go away. For My departure to the Father will be to you of the greatest benefit. For I will send from thence the Holy Spirit on you, Who will fill you with all virtue and strength. And therefore My departure will not only be to your highest profit, but even to your pleasure, as you will experience at Pentecost. Whence He adds, For if I go not away, the Comforter (your consoler and encourager) will not come unto you; but if I depart I will send Him unto you (see above and chap. vii. 39). For the disciples, as children with their mother, and chickens with the hen, being too much accustomed to converse with Christ as a man, and to His corporeal presence, could not understand the Holy Spirit and His spiritual gifts. And Christ accordingly withdrew from them, that being weaned from Him, and their minds wholly fixed on the Holy Spirit, they might be raised by Him to heroic deeds, by which they would convert the whole world. And accordingly the Holy Spirit coming on them at Pentecost, made them masters instead of disciples, and created them teachers of the whole world. (See S. Augustine, in loc., and S. Gregory, Moral. viii. 33.) The Holy Spirit is here appositely called the Paraclete, to signify that He would amply console the disciples, who were sad at Christ’s departure, and would fill them with every joy. Hence S. Chrysostom (Hom. lxxvii.) proves against Macedonius that the Holy Spirit is truly God; for were He not the Creator, but merely a creature, how would it be expedient that Christ, on account of His coming, should leave the disciples, being their Creator and God? Again, lest it should be thought that the Holy Spirit is the same with the Son, Christ adds, “I will send Him unto you,” for the Sender is really and personally distinguished from the Sent. And it is signified also that the Holy Spirit proceeds alike from the Father and the Son. For in the Holy Trinity whatever Person sends another Person produces It, that is, begets or breathes it, as the Father sending the Son, begets Him also, and He likewise together with the Son, by sending the Holy Spirit, also breathes Him forth.
Ver 8.—And when He is come, He will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment. By the world He means both Jews and Gentiles who believe not in Christ. These the Holy Spirit will reprove, i.e., will reproach, blame, and refute them, will so convince by arguments as to make it plain that they are convinced—though obstinate, continuing in their unbelief, they will be loth to admit it—and will refuse to believe in Christ, as heretics who are pertinacious in their error.
Ver. 9.—Of sin, because they believed (believe, Greek and Syriac version) not in Me. He will convict My enemies, both Jewish and Gentile unbelievers, both of the great sin of unbelief (S. Chrysostom and Augustine), and of every other sin (S. Cyril), for refusing to believe in Me, after the many reasons they have heard, and the miracles they have seen. For the Spirit will bring home to them the state of their soul, both outwardly, by earnest preaching, by the sanctity of the Apostles, and the miracles He will work through them; and inwardly, by enlightening their minds by His Inspiration, so that they will acknowledge, even against their will, that they are in their former infidelity and other sins, and that they cannot be liberated from them, except by faith in Me, which they refused to accept. For He will demonstrate to them that there is no other Saviour who can atone for sin, but Myself. See Acts iv. 12. And consequently, though many were moved by this preaching of the Apostles, yet others, by persisting in their unbelief, became inexcusable, and worthy of damnation and hell. See Acts ii. 37. So S. Cyril, Leontius, and others.
Ver. 10.—Of righteousness. The Holy Spirit will prove that the righteousness of the world is false; that of the Jews, because they sought it by the ceremonies of the Law, which could not purify the soul; and that of the Gentiles, because they sought it only in things which were naturally and morally honest, and despised Christ. But He, the Holy Ghost, will set forth Christ, who was despised and counted unrighteous, to be alone Righteous, and the source and origin of all righteousness. So S. Cyril, lib. vi.
Tropologically, S. Bernardine (Serm. xxi.) says, “The Holy Spirit reproves the world of sin, because it dissembles; of righteousness, which it does not order rightly, while it gives it to itself and not to God; of judgment, which it usurps, in rashly judging both of itself and others.”
Because I go to My Father. It is an offence to the world, and worldlings, that, seeming to be a mere man, I preach new and paradoxical doctrines. But the contrary will soon be made manifest to them, viz., that I have been sent by God the Father to reconcile the world to God by My death on the Cross, and to raise them to the rights of His children. For, ascending unto heaven I shall return to Him, so that the world will see Me no more, nor be scandalised by the sight of My infirmity in the flesh. And I will from thence send the Holy Spirit to justify and sanctify those who believe in Me, and from this it will be clear to the whole world that I am not a mere man, but the God-man, the justifier and Sanctifier of the world. So Leontius, S. Chrysostom, Theophylact, and Euthymius. S. Chrysostom adds that the Holy Spirit distributed His gifts and graces to the faithful at the invocation of the Name of Jesus.
And ye will see Me no more. He speaks not of them personally, but of men in general. Ye will see Me ascending to My Father, but afterwards ye will see Me no more in this life. So Maldonatus, Ribera, and others.
Toletus adds that Christ said this, to signify that there was no need for Him to come again into the world, to suffer and to die. For by My death once for all I have fulfilled all righteousness for all men, past, present, and to come. Ye will therefore see Me no more as ye have hitherto seen Me. Having then completed all righteousness, the world must after My departure be at once convicted of righteousness, that is to say, that it has been completed and consummated by Me. S. Augustine (in loc.) adds, “The world is reproved of sin, because it believes not in Christ. It is reproved too concerning the righteousness of those who believe; for to compare the faithful with unbelievers is to blame the unbelieving. But because it is the common cry of unbelievers, ‘How can we believe that which we do not?’ He therefore defined the righteousness of those who believe, in these words, ‘Because I go to My Father, and ye shall see Me no more. Blessed are they who do not see and yet believe.’ This then will be your righteousness, of which the world is reproved, that ye believe in Me, whom ye will not see.” He says also (de Verb. Dom. Serm. lxi.), “They believed not, but He goes to the Father. It was their sin, but His righteousness. For His coming to us was an act of mercy, His going to the Father was His righteousness,” as the apostle said, “Wherefore God hath also highly exalted Him.” And also (Quæs. N. et V. Test. xxxix.), “By His returning He proved that He had come from thence.” And S. Chrysostom, “His going to the Father was a proof that He had lived a blameless life, so that they could not say, He is a sinner, and is not from God.”
Ver. 11.—Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged. (1.) S. Chrysostom and Euthymius explain it thus, “The Holy Spirit will prove that the judgment of the world is false in saying that I work miracles by the power and craft of the devil; for He will prove that the devil has been condemned, cast out, and judged by Me. 2d, He will convict the world of sloth in being unwilling to trample Satan under foot, when wounded and deprived of strength by Christ. 3d, He will reprove the world of being led astray, by placing its hope in the devil who has been condemned by Me, or for forsaking God, and worshipping the devil in idols or in creatures. 4th, Toletus and others explain thus: The Holy Spirit will manifest Me to the world as the just judge of quick and dead, when He will make it seen that the devil is condemned by Me. For if I judge and condemn devils, much more do I condemn men. 5th, and most aptly, He will make the world see its own condemnation, when it beholds itself condemned in the person of its head; when He will enable the Apostles, by invoking the Name of Jesus, to cast him forth from the temples and idols in which the world worshipped him, and also from the souls and bodies of men, thus overthrowing his kingdom. For if God spared not the angels who sinned, neither will He spare the guilty world; if He spared not the head, so also will He spare not his members and subjects. So S. Augustine, Bede, Rupertus, Maldonatus, Ribera, and others.
Justin Martyr uses this same argument (Dial. cum Tryphone), also Tertullian (ad Serpulam and Apolog. cap. xxxvi.), S. Cyprian (ad Demetrius), Origen (lib. i. contr. Celsum), S. Athanasius (de Incar. Verbi), Lactantius (ii. 6), and others.
Hear S. Augustine (de Verb. Dom. Serm. lx.): “By his very casting out he was judged, and the world is convicted by this judgment, because he who refuses to believe in Christ, in vain complains about the devil: For since he has been cast out and sentenced, though he is permitted to assail us from without, yet not only men but even women and boys have triumphed over him, as martyrs.” Also the same father (in loc.), “He is judged, that is irrevocably doomed to the judgment of eternal fire, and by this judgment is the world reproved, because it is judged with its prince, whom it imitates in his pride and impiety. Let men therefore believe in Christ, lest they be convicted of the sin of unbelief, which binds fast all sins; let them pass over into the ranks of the faithful, lest they be reproved by the righteousness of those, whom they do not imitate in being justified; let them beware of the future judgment, lest they be condemned with the prince of this world whom they do imitate.”
Ver. 12.—I have yet many things to say unto you (of the mysteries of the faith, of the conversion of the Gentiles, of the foundation and government of the Church, of the institution of priests and bishops, and the whole ecclesiastical hierarchy), but ye cannot bear them now. Your mind cannot take in such weighty matters, both because it is weak and ill-informed, and so accustomed to the carnal ordinances of the Jews, as to be unable to conceive such lofty and spiritual subjects; and also because it is entirely occupied with sorrow, which keeps it from rising to the apprehension of so many and such noble subjects. But I will send the Holy Spirit, who will by His enlightenment make you capable of hearing and comprehending them. So S. Chrysostom, Cyril, Theophylact, and S. Augustine. Christ encourages His Apostles to lift up their hearts, and cherish the desire of apprehending these great mysteries by the coming of the Holy Spirit. We may thence infer that the Apostles and the Church advanced only by degrees in the knowledge of the mysteries of the faith, as the light of the sun gradually increases from dawn to mid-day. (See Cant. vi. 9.) And every believer gradually grows in faith and holiness, as is said Prov. iv. 18.
Ver. 13.—Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth (see above xiv. 17), shall come, He will teach you all truth, which it is fitting you should know in this life, both for guiding yourselves and all nations into the way of salvation. So S. Cyril, Theophylact, Euthymius. For He would not teach them all truth in this life, but in heaven. So S. Augustine and Bede. In the Greek [as in English Version] we read “will guide you into all truth.” For the way to attain truth is study, examination of Holy Scripture, the works of the Fathers, prayer and invocation of the Holy Spirit. It is therefore clear that the Holy Spirit gradually taught the Apostles more and greater mysteries. It is plain from Acts x. that long after Pentecost He revealed to S. Peter that the Gospel was to be preached to the Gentiles, and from Acts xv. that the Gentiles were not to be circumcised, or obliged to keep the law of Moses. Wherefore on the Thursday after Pentecost the Church prays, “We beseech Thee, 0 Lord, that the Comforter, who proceedeth from Thee, may enlighten our hearts, and lead them, as Thy Son promised, into all truth.”
For He shall not speak of Himself, but whatsoever He shall hear, He shall speak. (1.) S. Chrysostom explains, He shall not teach anything contrary to what I have taught (so also S. Cyril, Theophylact, Rupertus, Maldonatus). S. Chrysostom says, This is added, lest by saying that the Holy Spirit would teach all truth, He should make Him greater than the Son, as though He did not teach all truth. (2.) S. Ambrose (de Spirit. Sancto, ii. 12) explains, “He shall not speak of Himself,” i.e., not without participation with the Father and Myself, and therefore what He shall speak the Father and the Son will speak also. (3.) S. Augustine: “He speaks as breathed by the Father and the Son.” (4.) It is best explained by joining together the last two meanings in this way: He will not speak of Himself, but by the will of the Father and Myself, for He is “of” Both. (See Didymus de Sp. S.) Christ here alludes to men who are said to speak “of themselves” when they invent anything out of their own brain, and not according to the truth of things. But to speak in this way “of Himself,” the Spirit could not do. But again, Christ wished to teach that the Father and Himself were both the source of truth, and also of the Holy Spirit Himself, and therefore that the Holy Spirit would teach the same truth as He had taught. For what He hath heard from eternity, He hears, and will hear for ever, as deriving it together with His Divine Essence both from the Father and the Son. Christ also often said that He spake not of Himself, but what He heard from the Father. For to the Father belongs the source of origin, of essence, and of knowledge. Hear S. Augustine (in loc.): “For Him to hear is to know, and to know is to Be. From Him from whom He proceeds, is His essence, His knowledge and His hearing. The Holy Spirit ever hears, because He ever knows.” And Didymus: “But that the Father speaks and the Son hears, signifies their common nature and consent. But the Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of truth and wisdom, cannot when the Son speaks hear what He knew not before, since it is of His very nature to proceed from the Son, proceeding as the truth from the truth, the Comforter from the Comforter, God from God.”
Again, S. Augustine (ibid.) “Let it not move you that the word is used in the future tense, for that hearing is sempiternal, because that knowledge is sempiternal. But in that which is sempiternal, without beginning and without end, a verb of particular tense is put. Nor do we say untruthfully, ‘Was,’ and ‘Is,’ and ‘Will be:’ ‘Was’ because it never was wanting, ‘Will be’ because it never will be wanting, ‘Is’ because it ever is.”
And He will show you things to come. He will teach you every truth which concerns yourselves and your office: not only past and present, but also future. He will make you, not only Apostles and Evangelists, but will bestow on you the gift of Prophecy (see Acts x. 28; xx. 29; xxi. 11.) The Apocalypse of S. John is almost a continuous prophecy, for it was fitting that the Apostles should be superior to the Prophets of old. Whence Didymus says (de Spirit. Sancto): “By the Spirit of truth a perfect knowledge of future events is conferred on the Saints, and by this Prophets looked on things future as though they were present. For the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth which reveals all truths, even those that are future. For it is the Spirit of Eternal Wisdom which maketh friends of God and Prophets” (Wisd. vii. 27). S. Chrysostom gives the reason. He roused in this way the mind of the Apostles; for mankind are most eager to know the future. He therefore freed them from this anxiety, by showing that the future would be revealed to them.
Analogically, Bede says: “Show them things to come; i.e., the joys of the heavenly country and the sufferings they would have to endure for Christ. The Interlinear Gloss says, ”Not only what will happen in time, but also in eternity, inflaming them with the love of them.”
Ver. 14.—He will glorify Me. By showing Me to be the Son of God: or with S. Augustine (in log.), “By shedding abroad love in men’s hearts, and making them spiritual, He declared to them that the Son was equal to the Father, though they had before known Him in the flesh. And the Apostles, filled with boldness by that very love, and having banished fear, proclaimed Christ to men, and thus was His fame spread abroad over the whole world; for that which they would do by the Holy Spirit, He said that the Holy Spirit would Himself do.”
For He shall receive of mine. That is, of My Divine Essence, says Nazianzen (Orat. de Fide.), and consequently of My will and knowledge, for this He ought to announce to you, say S. Cyril, Chrysostom, Jansenius, Toletus, and others. Didymus observes: “The Son, in giving, loses not that which He bestows, nor does He impart it to others, to His own loss. Nor does the Holy Spirit receive that which He had not before. The Holy Spirit must be understood to receive from the Son in such a manner that the substance of both the giver and receiver should be recognised as One: and so also the Son receives His subsistence from the Father.” Maldonatus thus, “He will receive of Mine, that is, He will come in My name, and as My Legate will teach no other doctrine than Mine.” But this seems foreign to the subject. Nonnus wrongly paraphrased, “He shall receive of My Father,” as though the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father only.
From this passage the Fathers (and even the Council of Florence, sess. 25) prove both the Divinity of Christ, and the Procession of the Holy Spirit from both the Father and the Son. Maldonatus quotes them fully, and also Bellarmine (de Christo, lib. ii. 23 and 24 chap.) And Theodorus of Heraclea (in Cat. Græc.) learnedly says, “The Holy Spirit was a witness of the Divinity of the Only Begotten, since He came of His essence, and made known His essence,” for the Holy Spirit could not have been breathed forth except by Him who was God.
But why did Christ say “of Mine” and not “of Me”? I reply, Because the Holy Spirit received not from the Son all that is in the Son. He received His essence, but not His filiation. But it is from His essence and filiation that He is constituted as the Son, according to our mode of conceiving it. And Christ so explains it in the next verse, “All things that the Father hath are mine,” &c. Hence it is plain that “of Mine” means the same as “all things that the Father hath are Mine,” i.e., the Godhead with all its attributes. Hence Theophylact explains, “of Mine,” i.e., of the Treasure of the Godhead, which is in Me. Heretics therefore wrongly contended from these words that the Holy Spirit was not God by nature, but only by participation (see S. Augustine in loc., and S. Cyril, Thesaur. xiii. 4), for He participates in the Divine Nature, which has no parts, but is wholly indivisible and most simple Being.
He will receive. That is, He has received from all eternity, still receives, and will ever receive; for the future embraces all time, and is most like eternity, for it endures for ever, just like the breathing of the Holy Spirit. The meaning of the passage is this: Sorrow not, because when I am gone ye will be deprived of your Teacher. For I will send you the Holy Ghost, who, as being purely the Divine Spirit, will teach you all things which concern the salvation of your spirit. But when He is teaching you, because He receives all things from Me from whom He proceeds, He will make known to you My Brightness and Glory, for He will receive from Me all things which He will declare to you, and thus I shall speak through Him, and show Myself to you. And marvel not at this: for I, by My eternal generation, have received from My Father everything which He Himself has, and I have therefore received from Him to be with Him the one principle (origin) of the Holy Spirit.
Ver. 15.—All things that the Father hath are Mine. For all things, saying His paternity (says the Council of Florence), the Father, by begetting the Son, communicated to Him. He therefore communicated to the Son the power of breathing forth the Holy Spirit, which He Himself has. He therefore adds in explanation, “Therefore I said, He shall receive of Mine and shall declare it to you. By using the Name Father He declared Himself to be the Son, but did not claim the Paternity, as Sabellius taught. But all things which the Father hath in His substance, His eternity, His unchangeableness, His goodness—all these hath the Son also.” And S. Hilary (de Trinit. lib. viii.) says, “He teaches that all things which are to be received from the Father, are yet received from Himself, for all things the Father hath are His. The general statement (universitas) does not admit of distinction.” And hence it is again inferred that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son, for the Son hath all things which the Father hath, saving His Paternity. But the Father has actively the power of breathing forth the Holy Spirit, therefore the Son hath the same. For if the Father and the Son had not all things in common, saving their opposite relation to each other [as Father and Son], they would be distinguished by more than relation, and consequently be diverse in substance. For the Father as breathing forth [the Spirit] is not correlative to the Son. And therefore if He is distinguished from the Son by His breathing forth the Spirit, He is distinguished by it, not as something relative, but as a kind of “form” subsisting in the Father, and therefore the Father and the Son differ in substance, which is the Arian heresy.
Ver. 16.—A little while, and ye shall not see Me; and again, a little while, and ye shall see Me, because I go to the Father. For in a few hours I shall die on the cross, and be buried, but in three days I shall rise again, and manifest Myself to you with great joy, for I shall shortly afterwards ascend into heaven, and sit at the right hand of the Father. For I shall not be detained by death, but shall conquer it in My own Person, and with you overcome it also. So S. Chrysostom, Cyril, Leontius, Theophylact, Euthymius, &c., S. Augustine, Bede, and Maldonatus explain it otherwise. I shall abide with you for forty days only, and then after My ascension ye will see Me no more, then after another “little time,” ye will see Me again, in the day of judgment, and the general resurrection, when I shall take you both in body and soul into heaven with Myself, I will bless and glorify you. For I go to My Father, to reign with Him in glory until that time. And this whole period, though one of many thousand years, is but like a small point compared with the eternity of God.
Hear S. Augustine (in loc.): “The whole space which the present age of the world passes through is but a little while. As the same Evangelist says (1 John ii. 18), ‘It is the last hour.’” And further on, “This ‘little while’ seems long to us, because it is yet going on. But when it is ended, we shall feel how short it has been. Let not then our joy be like that of the world, of which it is said ‘the world shall rejoice.’ Nor let us be sorrowful, and without joy, in our travailing with this longing desire, but as the Apostle says, ‘Rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation,’ because she who is in travail (to whom we are compared) rejoices more at the child which will be born of her, than she sorrows for her present suffering.” Hence the Psalmist and after him 2 Peter iii. 8, One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, &c.
Ver. 17.—Then said some of His disciples among themselves, What is this that He saith unto us? . . . We cannot tell what He saith. Christ’s words seemed to be obscure, a very enigma, and no wonder, for it is just the same to many Christians even now. Christ did this intentionally, to rouse the minds of the sorrowing Apostles to ask the meaning of this strange expression: so that He, in His answer, might remove, or anyhow mitigate, their sorrow. S. Chrysostom, Theophylact, and Euthymius give two reasons for their asking: because His words were obscure in themselves; and secondly, because they were weighed down with sorrow. Rupertus adds that they did not yet certainly believe that He would rise again on the third day. S. Augustine and Bede give a further reason for their being troubled at the twice repeated expression “a little while;” namely, that the brief pleasure of this life is changed, in the next life, into eternal and unbounded joy. Sec 2 Cor. iv. 17. Take which view you prefer.
Ver. 19.—But Jesus knew that they wished to ask Him. But dared not through fear and dread. Christ knew this by the Power of His Godhead, looking into their secret thoughts and inward desires. He therefore anticipated their reply, to show that He knew all hearts, and was therefore God (so Cyril); and He adds,
Ver. 20.—Verily, verily, I say unto you, that ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. Understand by this that the joy of the world will be changed into sorrow, says Rupertus. But (1.) S. Chrysostom, Cyril, Leontius, Theophylact, and others, explain this of our Lord’s sufferings and death, which will cause just sorrow to you, and rejoicing to the Jews, and of His Resurrection on the third day, at which the Jews will be sorrowful, and full of indignation at My victory over them. But in a secondary sense He intended to signify the like sufferings they would have to endure for His sake. Whence (2.) S. Augustine, Bede, and Maldonatus explain of the sufferings which the Apostles would have to undergo in preaching the faith (at which the world will rejoice), and of the eternal blessedness they would afterwards enjoy with Him.
Morally. Holy Scripture frequently teaches that the righteous suffer adversities in this life, and that the ungodly exult in their prosperity. (See Job xxi. 9; Ps. lxxxiii. 2; Jer. xii; Hab. iii.) Daily experience teaches us the same. But Scripture teaches us also that the godly are happy and the wicked are sorrowful at their death; see Luke vi. 25; S. James v. 2, 3; and Rom. viii. 18. “It is difficult (says S. Jerome, Epist. xxxiv.), nay, impossible, for any one to enjoy his good things both here and hereafter, to fill his belly here, and his soul there, to pass from delight to delight, to be the first in both worlds, to appear high in glory both in heaven and earth.”
Accordingly, Tertullian (de Spect. cap. 28), commenting with elegance and tenderness on these words, thus writes: “This is ordered in turns. Now they rejoice, we are in conflict. ‘The world will rejoice; but ye will be sorrowful.’ Let us mourn while the heathen rejoice, that we may rejoice when they begin to mourn; lest if we now rejoice with them, we shall then also mourn with them. Thou art over-nice, 0 Christian, if thou desirest pleasure in this world; also most foolish, if thou considerest it pleasure.” And again, Pray tell me, cannot we live without pleasure, since we must die without it? For what else is our wish than that of the Apostles, to depart out of the world, and to be received with the Lord? This is our pleasure, as it is also our desire.” He goes on, “What greater pleasure than the loathing of pleasure, than contempt of the world, than true liberty, than a pure conscience, than sufficiency of life, than no dread of death, than trampling down the gods of the heathen, than casting out devils, than working cures, than living to God? These are the pleasures of Christians, holy, ever abiding, free, &c. Bestir thyself at the signal of God, awake at the trump of the angel, glory in the palms of martyrdom. Behold uncleanness cast down by chastity, unbelief slain by faith, cruelty beaten by mercy, wantonness overshadowed by modesty. Such are the contests in which we are crowned.” And again, “What is that exultation of angels, what the glory of the rising saints, what hereafter the kingdom of righteousness, what the city of the New Jerusalem?” Isaiah graphically describes this (Ixv. 14).
Hence S Cecilia, who ever bare the Gospel of Christ in her bosom, and also preached it, converted Tiburtius and others. And she inculcated this first of all: Seek not the fleeting joy of this life, in order that ye may obtain the eternal joy of that life which follows after. In this ye will live but a short time, in that ye will live for ever. And when the Prefect Almachius said that she was foolish in despising the joys of this world and embracing the hard and austere life of Christians, her husband Valerian replied, “The time will come when we shall receive a thousand-fold the fruits of our affliction, and they who are now elated with joy will weep when we are rejoicing.” This is the time of sowing. They therefore who sow tears in this life will in that blessed and eternal life reap everlasting joy.
Lastly, S. Cyprian in his treatise De Mortalitate (the Pestilence), chap. 3, says:- “If to see Christ is to rejoice, and our joy cannot be, unless we see Him, what blindness is it, what madness, to love the sufferings, the pains and tears of the world, and not rather to hasten to that joy which cannot be taken from us?”
Ver. 21.—A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but when she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world. As hoping that the child will be a support and credit to her in this life, and will succeed her after her death. For since men cannot themselves live for ever, they hope in a sense to live in their children. A queen rejoices in her first-born as having borne a king. This illustration is most apposite. For Christ compares His death to child-birth, and His resurrection to the joy after child-birth. For Christ suffered anguish and tortures like a woman in child-birth, but when He saw Himself rising again through the merit of His death, and knew that we should in like manner rise again, He greatly rejoiced Himself, and inspired the Apostles and all the faithful with great joy. For He brought them forth as His children, by dying for them on the Cross. So S. Chrysostom, Cyril, Theophylact, Euthymius. You may apply this also to the persecutions and sufferings of the Apostles and faithful in this life, and to their joy and exultation at the Resurrection.
A man-child. “Because,” as says S. Augustine (in loc.), “the joy is wont to be greater when a boy is born, to signify mystically that the faithful ought to be of a masculine mind both in doing and suffering, for they are called to the contemplation of heavenly things, and even to take heaven by storm, not to the softness of this world,” as says Gloss. inter. Moreover, this man-child is afterwards called “a man” to signify the Resurrection of Christ, for by His resurrection Christ, as it were, is born again, not as a child, but as a perfect man. So S. Chrysostom says: By saying a man He simply suggests His own Resurrection, and our own blessedness after death; further, says Alcuin, “we shall be born into eternal life.” Whence Bede says, “It ought not to seem a strange thing, if he who departs out of this life is said to be ‘born.’ For as he who comes forth from his mother’s womb into this light, so is he who is freed from the bonds of the flesh raised up to eternal life. Hence the solemnities of the Saints are said to be their birthdays, not their burials.”
Moreover, the sorrow of the disciples is rightly compared to that of a woman in travail: (1.) Because both are painful, and the pain is greater at the birth of a boy. (2.) Because they are short. (3.) And perilous. (4.) Both turned into joy, the one by the birth of a child, the other by the Resurrection of Christ and His followers. So S. Cyril. (5.) As the same child is the cause of pain in being born, and of joy afterwards, so Christ also caused great pain to the disciples by His death, and great joy by His Resurrection. (6.) The joy in either case is surpassing and very great, and swallows up all the preceding pain.
Ver. 22.—And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your hearts shall rejoice, &c. This is the application of the parable, points out its scope and profitable teaching. He compares the two cases, of a woman in child-birth and the Apostles, both in the present suffering and the subsequent joys. Your joy will remain for ever. For I shall rise glorious and immortal, I shall die no more. I shall be present to aid you in all your persecutions and afflictions; I will make you superior to all adversities, and at last crown you with a glorious martyrdom, and raise you to heavenly and eternal joys which no one will take from you. Christ then speaks first of the joy of the Apostles at His own Resurrection, and secondarily of their own resurrection and happiness, which is brought forth by the labour and pain of this life, as a child by the pain of child-birth. S. Cyprian (ad Demetrium) [chap. xi.] excellently says, “A man whose whole glory and happiness is in the world, suffers punishment by worldly misfortunes. He weeps and groans if evil befall him in this world, who cannot fare well when life is past. Whose pleasure is all enjoyed in this life, whose consolations all end here, whose frail and brief life counts upon having some sweetness and pleasure here. But when they go hence, pain and sorrow alone await them. But they whose hopes rest on future blessings, feel no pain at the assaults of present ills. In a word, we are not astounded, or crushed, or grieved by adversities. We murmur not at any disaster, or bodily weakness; living in the Spirit more than in the flesh, we triumph over the weakness of our body by the strength of our mind.” And just below: “There flourishes among us the strength of hope, and the stedfastness of faith, and even among the ruins of a falling world our mind is erect, our resolution unmoved, our patience is ever full of joy, and our soul ever rests secure on its God.”
Ye have sorrow. Ye are sorrowful on account of My departure and by death, and after My death ye will be sorrowful on account of your impending persecutions and crosses. “And so also will other believers be full of sorrow, who through tears and sufferings are striving after eternal joys,” says Alcuin. Moreover, as S. Augustine observes on these sufferings, “we are not sorrowful without joy, but as the Apostle says (Rom. xii. 12) “rejoicing in hope,” for the travailing woman to whom we are compared, is gladdened more at the child who is about to be born, than saddened by her present pangs.”
Tropologically. The mind of a penitent sinner, and also the mind of a righteous man, when thinking on martyrdom, entrance into “religion,” or any other difficult and heroic work, is like a woman in her pangs, because he strives with great pain and labour to bring His conversion, martyrdom, or entrance into religion, to the birth. Read S. Augustine (Conf. viii. 8), where he records with what great effort he brought to the birth his purpose of a new life. As Isaiah says (chap. xxvi. 17.) But yet this travailing causes great joy. But the ungodly in like manner bring their evil deeds to the birth with great labour and pain, which turns into the torments of hell at last. See Isaiah lix. 4; Ps. vii. 14; Wisd. v. 7, and elsewhere.
Again, a preacher, a confessor, or any one else who strives to win souls to God, does it with great travail. Whence S. Gregory (Moral. xxx. 9) compares such an one to a labouring hind, which with great difficulty brings forth her young, and bellows through pain. Explaining Job xxxix. 1. Few persons think what labour is displayed in the preaching of the Fathers. With what pangs, with what efforts in faith and conversation, do they bring forth souls. How do they look round with careful observation, so as to be bold in their directions, compassionate in infirmities, gentle in their exhortations, humble in displaying authority, resolute in contempt of earthly things, unbending in enduring hardships, and yet weak in not ascribing their strength to themselves. How pained for those that fall, how anxious for those that still stand, with what fervour they strive to attain to more, with what fear to keep fast what they have already attained to.
And your joy no man will take from you. “Because Christ, who dieth no more, is their joy” (Gloss Inter.) And that will be more true in heaven. Hence S. Augustine (in loc.), “Nor will any end suffice, save that of which there is no end.”
Ver. 23.—And in that day ye shall ask Me nothing. The word ε̉ζωτήσετε signifies either, ye will ask Me no questions, or ye will ask Me for nothing, make no request.
1. S. Cyril explains it in the first sense: There will be no need to ask Me anything, when I have risen and sent the Holy Spirit. For I by my rising, and He by His coming, will teach you all things which concern your office. They had in their ignorance asked Him many things: ‘Whither goest Thou?’ ‘How can we know the way?’ ‘Show us the Father.’ ‘Why dost Thou manifest Thyself to us, and not unto the world?’ see chap. xiv. 5, 8, 2 2. And here too as to the meaning of the words ‘a little while.’ He fittingly replies, the Holy Spirit will so enlighten you, that ye will have no need to ask questions, as ye did before.” So also Euthymius.
2. S. Chrysostom (Hom. 78), Theophylact, Ribera, and others explain it thus, “After My Resurrection ye will have no need to pray to Me, ye will have only to ask the Father in My name. This is supported by what next follows.” (3.) S. Augustine combines both these explanations, and refers to the day of heavenly glory. “He was asked by the disciples,” he says, “when He would restore the kingdom to Israel. He was asked by S. Stephen to receive his spirit. I therefore think that what He here says must be referred to the time when we shall see Him as He is, when nothing will remain to be desired, no secret will have to be inquired about.”
Verily, Verily, I say unto you (I most surely promise you, S. Augustine says, “I swear,” regarding the words as an oath, whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in My Name, He will give it you. This is a fresh consolation of the Apostles, a fresh instruction given by Christ that they should use His aid, though absent, to obtain all that they needed from the Father, viz., by asking in His Name. Be not distressed at My absence. For I solemnly promise that the Father will give whatever ye ask in My Name. Ye used to ask everything from Me. I am going away, and I put the Father in My place. What ye used to ask of Me, ask now of the Father. He will as readily, as lovingly, and as fully, hear and understand you as I used to do. And object not to the absence or the distance, the Father being in heaven, and you on earth. For the Father is on earth also (since He is everywhere). Nay, He is within you, in your mind and soul, and that not merely by His essence, presence, and power, but also by His Grace. For your soul is His abode and temple, in which He desires to be praised, worshipped, and invoked by you. Therefore invoke Him there as most familiarly and intimately present, and He will hear you then.
Each word is emphatical. (1.) I promise you, because ye are My intimates, My disciples and Apostles, whom I specially love, that I will have a special care of you, and provide for you in everything. And this is said through the Apostles to the faithful in every age, as represented by them. (2.) Whatsoever, that is, which is profitable for you, and for the honour of God. “Something which is something, and not a mere nothing,” (Gloss Inter.) And as S. Augustine says (in loc.), “something, which is not ‘nothing’ in comparison with the Blessed Life.” He therefore who asks for anything unlawful or hurtful is not heard. And though we may ask for things temporal, as health, wealth, &c., yet ye ought to ask them for a good purpose, that by them we may the more please God, and perform more good works. (3.) We should ask in a proper manner: that is, humbly, reverently, confidently, ardently, perseveringly. (4.) The Father, as sons asking a father, for He loves you supremely with fatherly affection. 5. “In My Name,” by Me and My merits, not your own. 6. “He shall give it you,” surely and certainly, if ye ask aright.
In My Name. Plead this with the Father, and it will obtain everything. “He sets forth the virtue of His Name” (says S. Chrysostom), “for when He is merely ‘named’ before the Father, He worketh marvellous things. Think not that ye will be left; My Name will give you full confidence.”
But what is it to ask in the Name of Christ? S. Gregory (Hom. xxvii.) tells us “Jesus is the Name of the Son. It means Saviour. He therefore asks in the Name of the Saviour, who asks that which pertains to real salvation, for if that is asked which is not expedient, it is not asked in Christ’s Name. The Lord therefore says to the Apostles, who were still weak in the faith, “Hitherto have ye asked nothing in My Name, because ye know not how to seek for eternal salvation. And hence it is that S. Paul was not heard, because if he had been freed from temptation it would not have profited him” (2 Cor. xii.) And further on, “Weigh well your petitions; see if ye ask in the Name of Jesus. For ye seek not Jesus, in the house of Jesus, if in the temple of eternity ye pray importunately for temporal things; for a wife, a house, clothing, or food.” And S. Augustine. “A thing is not asked in the Name of the Saviour, if it be asked contrary to the purpose of salvation; and he who thinks of Christ what he ought not to think of the only Son of God, does not ask in His Name. But he who asks as he ought receives when he ought to receive. For some things are not denied but deferred, in order that they may be given at a fitting time.” So Bede, Rupert, and S. Thomas. All this is quite true, not literally but symbolically.
2d. S. Cyril, and after him Jansenius, say more literally, “He speaks in My Name who so speaks that Christ may manifest Himself as the Mediator, and, together with the Father, the Giver of grace. For as God He and the Father together confer gifts upon us, but as Mediator He presents our prayers to the Father, for He gives us boldness and confidence to approach the Father.”
3d. Euthymius says “In My name” means as My people, as Christians.
4th. The genuine meaning is given by S. Chrysostom, Theophylact, Toletus, and others, who say, “To ask in the Name of Christ is to ask through the merits of Christ. For He, by His death, merited for us that we should obtain whatever we ask of God. This with respect to us is grace, with respect to Christ is but justice. His name signifies in Scripture His strength, virtue, merits, grace, dignity, and authority. To ask in the Name of Christ, is in asking to allege His merits, and to trust in them, not in our own; that God may thus look, not on our unworthiness and our sins, but upon the face of His Anointed, and for His holiness and merits grant us that which we do not deserve. Christ therefore points here not merely to God, but to God Incarnate, and obedient as far as unto the death of the Cross. For He merited for us, that the Father should. hear our prayers. And thus the Church ends all her prayers ‘through our Lord Jesus Christ.’” The Jews, in like manner, used to pray through the merits of Abraham, &c. We through the merits of Christ, which infinitely surpass theirs.
Fifthly, Ribera explains thus, “Ask as sent by Me, as though I through you ask this of the Father. Ask not as though it were to be given to you, but to Me, as a king makes request to the Pontiff through his legate, and as the brethren of Joseph prayed him for their father’s sake to forgive their iniquity, as though He had taken it upon himself, and demanded that it should be forgiven. In like manner Christ confers on us His merits, the authority and grace which He has with the Father, that we may ask the Father through them.”
Again, to ask in the name of Christ, is to ask those things which He wishes and desires to be given us, those namely which concern the salvation of the soul. Hence such a prayer is effectual, and is heard by God. And so too the prayers which many use, “0 Lord, give me that which my Lord Christ desires to be in me, which He wishes to be given me, for which He prayed when dying on the Cross, and entreated should be given me: again, what the Blessed Virgin wishes for me, and asks for me, for she greatly longs for my salvation, and knows better than myself what is best for me.” This is a pious meaning of the words, but the fourth is more literal, and to the point.
He will give it you. But you will say, ‘We find that many ask of God, and obtain not; how then can this be said?’ I answer, The reason they obtain not, is because they ask not the things which they ought, nor in the way they ought. As S. James says (iv. 3). For many affirmative propositions in Scripture require certain conditions. And prayer requires: (1.) Humility and reverence, and therefore he who has it not, but prays proudly and presumptuously, like the Pharisee, gains nothing. (2.) It requires contrition for sin, so that he who prays may be, or may heartily wish to be, a friend of God. Sinners therefore, wilfully persisting in sin, are not heard by God. Dost thou wish God to hear thee? Do thou first obey His will, and so God will do thy will, and fulfil thy desires. See Isa. i. 15. (3.) It requires great faith and confidence that we shall obtain what we ask for through the merits of Christ. This confidence many have not, and therefore they obtain not (James i. 6). Hence S. Basil (Constit. Monast. cap. ii) assigns the reason for our not being heard, “Thou hast not asked rightly, for thou askedst either with doubting, or when engaged on something else.” (4.) It requires perseverance (see Luke xi. 7 and 8). S. Augustine (Tract. lxxiii.) rightly observes, “God occasionally refuses what we ask for, because this is more expedient for our salvation and His glory: God therefore hears us, not according to our wishes, but as it is best for our salvation. And thus He hearkened not to S. Paul when he prayed to be delivered from the thorn in the flesh, because it was more profitable to him, to humble him, and that he might continually struggle with and overcome it.” See 2 Cor. xii. 9.
Give it you. Hence S. Augustine (in loc.) thinks that the result of prayer is promised only when we pray for ourselves, but not when we pray for others; for, says he, “The Saints are heard for themselves, not for all. For it is said, ‘I will give it you.’” But S. Basil (Reg. brevier, 261), Toletus, and others, more correctly, and in a more liberal sense, think that the promise holds good, whether we pray for ourselves or for others. For God gives us that which He gives to others for whom we pray. When we pray, He gives us the fruit of our prayer. And this more accords with the very bountiful beneficence of God. Besides, to pray for others, is a work of greater charity, especially if we pray for our enemies. And such a prayer as this is wont to be heard, as Christ was heard in behalf of His crucifiers, and S. Stephen when praying for Saul. S. Gregory (Hom. xxvii.) gives the reason: “The virtue,” he says, “of true prayer is the very sublimest charity. And a man obtains that which he rightly asks for, when his mind is not darkened when he prays, even by hatred of his enemy. But we often overcome the reluctance of our mind to pray, when we pray for our enemies.”
Moreover, when occasionally we are not heard when we pray for others, it is either our own fault, or the fault of them for whom we pray, who by their sloth or evil disposition render themselves unworthy of the grace of God, and at times rail against Him, and despise His call.
There is an instance in the Lives of the Fathers. A certain man tempted with the spirit of lust, asked the prayers of a holy anchoret, that he might obtain deliverance. He prayed again and again, but to no purpose. When he wondered at this, God replied, He does not deserve to be heard, because by lazily cherishing obscene thoughts and trifling with them, he is the cause of his own temptation. The anchoret told him this, and then, moved with compunction, the man gave himself to prayer, watching and fasting, and obtained deliverance from his temptation. Those who are tempted should therefore co-operate with those who are praying for them, in order that they may be heard. Just as a sick man should co-operate with his physician, in order to his cure. But if he refuses to do so, all the labour of the physician is useless.
Ver. 24.—Hitherto have ye asked nothing in My Name. Because ye have trusted in My presence, have asked all things of Me in person, and I have gained them from My Father. But now, as I am about to leave you, I refer you to My Father, that ye may obtain from him all that ye require, through the intervention of My Name. For though the Apostles cast out devils, &c., in Christ’s Name, yet they did so by asking help from Him who was present with them.
Ask, and ye shall receive. Because I have obtained this from the Father by My merits. Be not sorrowful at My departure, for He will give you greater things than I have ever given, if invoked in My Name. So Euthymius, Maldonatus, &c.
That your joy may be full. (1.) S. Augustine (in loc.) explains thus, “Ask of God to comfort you in My absence, and to confer on you fulness of joy in eternal happiness.” (2.) S. Cyril. If ye ask of God, He will give you the fulness of joy, namely, remission of sins and plenteous grace. (3.) The word “that” signifies the effect and result of your prayers. Ye will rejoice at My Resurrection, but in order to perfect your joy, ask of the Father in My Name all the graces ye need, so that by obtaining them from the Father ye may have fulness of joy, and wish for nothing more in this life. So Ribera, Toletus, Jansenius, and others. This is the true meaning.
Ver. 25.—These things have I spoken to you in proverbs; but the cometh when I shall no longer speak unto you in proverbs, but shall show you plainly of the Father. I said (Preface to Prov.) that a proverb, parable, and adage often meant the same thing, viz, some occult, obscure, and mysterious saying, though it does not contain a parable. This is the meaning here. What I have said about “a little while,” “the Holy Spirit,” “My departure to the Father,” “your joy,” &c., seems to you now obscure and enigmatical. But you will soon have full experience of them, both by My own teaching in the forty days, when I shall make known to you the meaning of Holy Scripture (Acts i. 3), and more fully by the Holy Spirit, whom I will send to you at Pentecost, to teach you clearly and distinctly the mysteries of the faith, and to inflame you with the love of them. So S. Augustine, Bede, Maldonatus, and others. S. Gregory (Moral. xxx. 5) refers this promise to the state of blessedness in heaven, for there it will be most abundantly fulfilled, when we shall see God face to face.
Ver. 26.—In that day ye shall ask in My Name; and I say not unto you that I shall pray the Father for you. I said (xiv. 16), “I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter.” But now there will be no need of My praying, for I shall soon send the Holy Spirit, who will teach you to pray to God in My Name with such great earnestness, that the Father will grant you all things at your prayer, and therefore ye will not then need such prayers as I offered to God when present with you. Hence some Fathers think that Christ does not pray for us in Heaven with prayers, properly so called, but merely by presenting His wounds to the Father. (See Vasquez, par. iii. tome 1, Quæst. 21). But it is more probable that Christ does pray for us in heaven with prayers properly so called, as I have explained in Rom. viii. 24. Christ means that His earthly presence was not needed in order to pray for them as He used to do.
Ver. 27.—For the Father Himself loveth you, because ye have loved Me. He first loveth us, in calling and urging, us sinners to repentance and love of Him. And we then begin to love Him, and He then pours into us charity and justifying grace, making us His sons and friends. Hence it is clear that charity is the bond between God and man for it causes us to love God, and God in turn to love us, as a friend loves a friend and is loved by him in return.
And have believed that I came forth from God: that is, that I am the Son of God, sent by Him into the world for your and others’ salvation. But you will say: “If God loves us, why does not He give of His own accord those things He knows we need, but wishes to be asked?” (1.) Because the reverend Majesty of God demands of us that we should reverence Him by our prayers, and testify that we need His bounty, and that no one can relieve our wants but Himself. We owe to Him the tribute of our prayers.
(2.) The state of man requires us to acknowledge that we depend on Him, are fostered and protected by Him, and that in all things we need His aid and bounty. “Nay, let him openly confess,” says S. Augustine, “that he is God’s mendicant. Let him humble himself before Him, and with bended neck beg from Him what he needs.”
(3.) The greatness of the thing asked for demands it. For we ask of God grace and glory, and there is nothing more excellent than these. God wishes us therefore to buy them by prayer, as it were by a price, that we may value them the more, and carefully preserve them. See S. Basil (Conat. Monast. chap. ii.)
(4.) The utility and the excellence of prayer demands it. For therein we exercise, 1. Faith, in believing that God is Almighty, All-wise, and Most Good. 2. Hope, for we hope that He will give as all things necessary for this life and the next. 3. Love, whereby we as children ask all these things from a most loving Father. S. Chrysostom says thus on Ps. iv., “Prayer is no slight bond of our love towards God: for it accustoms us to speak to Him, and leads us on to the study of wisdom. For if he who holds much converse with some great and wonderful man, gains thereby great benefit, how much more does he who holds perpetual converse with God?” For “prayer” (as he says elsewhere) “is a talking with God, which makes man a kind of familiar angel with God.” See his book “De orando Deum,” and Climacus (gradu xxviii), where he gives many excellent testimonies in favour of prayer, and adds, “Prayer is a kind of holy tyranny over God,” for it compels Him, as it were, to grant those things which are asked for.
Ver. 28.—I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world. Again I leave the world and go to the Father. I came forth, not by birth of the Virgin, as Jansen maintains, but by My Eternal Generation from the Father. So say the Fathers. Listen to S. Augustine (in loc.), “He came forth from the Father, because He is of the Father, and He came into the world, because He showed to the world the Body which He took of the Virgin.” And Cyril, “To have come forth from the Father, is nothing else than to have been born, and to have shone forth from the Substance of the Father by that going forth by which He is, and is thus understood to be as in proper subsistence.” Euthymius, “I came forth from the Father, signifies that He is of the Substance of the Father, or by every right the Son of the Father.” So also Bede, S. Thomas, Lyranus, Ribera, Toletus, and others. This will be more clear from verse 30. And so, too, it is said “they came forth from the Joins of their father” (Heb. vii. 10; and Is. xxxix. 7). To go forth from the Father is the same as being begotten of Him.
Ver. 29.—His disciples say unto Him, Lo, now speakest thou plainly and speakest no proverb: we now clearly understand that which we did not comprehend before. For Thou spakest obscurely, “A little while, and ye shall not see Me,” &c. But now thou explainest it clearly.
Ver. 30.—Now we know that Thou knowest all things. “From our seeing and hearing that Thou understandest our secret thoughts, our doubts, and our desires to understand the meaning of Thy words, for Thou hast anticipated our questionings, and hast of Thine own accord cleared up our doubts. And for this cause we believe the more firmly that Thou art in truth the Son of God, and 183begotten by Him, because Thou knowest all things, and seest the secrets of hearts; which is the property of God.” So Cyril; or as Toletus says, “This alone is sufficient to make us believe that Thou camest forth from God, because Thou discoverest our secret thoughts, and makest answer to, them. And if other arguments (many as they are) were wanting, this alone would suffice to make us believe in Thee.”
Ver. 31.—Jesus answered them, Do ye now believe?
Ver. 32.—Behold the hour cometh; yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered every man to his own, and shall leave Me alone; and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. This first clause is read either as a question (with Theophylact, Euthymius, Jansenius, and others) or as an affirmation. The meaning is the same in either case. Do ye believe? But ye will soon show how little and feeble is your faith. Or else, Ye now have faith in Me, but much feebler than you think, for you will flee away, and leave Me. Each of you hasting away to the place which is nearest, and none of you waiting for any others.
I am not alone. I say not this for My own sake, but for your sake. I need not your protection, as I have the Almighty Father withi Me.
Ver. 33.—These things have I spoken unto you, that in Me ye might have peace. The things I said before (ver. 5, and ch. xvi. 18 and 19). That ye might trust confidently in Me, with a mind calm and tranquil, unmoved, and unterrified by the waves of persecution.
In the world ye shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. I have begun to overcome it, by My holy Life and heavenly doctrines, but I will now fully and completely overcome it by My Passion and Death. Be confident then, that as I have overcome it, so will ye overcome it if ye persevere in faith and love. If therefore ye abide in Me, ye also, by My example, and by the grace of the Holy Spirit, which I will give you, will overcome the world; i.e., all the hatred, persecutions, &c., of the Jews (see 1 John v.). Understand by the world, the prince of the world, and all other adversaries of Christ. So Toletus, Ribera, and others. Be assured then, under every worldly trial, that I have overcome the world, not for Myself but for your sakes I have overcome, that ye might overcome, that I might give you a rule and pattern, that I might obtain from God the grace of victory for you. Contend therefore resolutely, because I will contend in you, and overcome in you, by making you conquerors. For, as S. Augustine says here, He would not have overcome the world, if the world were to conquer His members.
Montanus, and his fellow-martyrs, the disciples of S. Cyprian, trusting in these words were strengthened by them, and exulted in their dark and gloomy prison; for they said, “Where the temptation is great, there is He, the Greater One, who overcomes it in us, and there is no contest in which, by the protection of the Lord, there is not victory.” See their Acts in Surius, Feb. 24. And S. Cyprian himself (Ep. ad. Fortunatum) says, “If any one, keeping the commands of the Lord, and boldly cleaving to Christ, has stood against the adversary, he must needs be conqueror, for Christ is unconquerable.” Also in Epist. to Donatus, “He can seek for nothing from the world who is above the world.” And again (Epist. to people of Thibaris), e.g. “The Christian soldier, instructed by His precepts and warnings, trembles not at the battle, but is ready for the Crown.” And just before, “The Lord wished we should rejoice in persecutions, because when they come, then the crowns of faith are given, the soldiers of God are proved, the heavens are opened to martyrs.” And again, “He is not alone, whose companion in flight is Christ, who keeping the temple of God, wherever he may be, is not without God. And should a robber assault him when flying in solitude, or on the mountains, or a wild beast attack, or hunger, or thirst, or cold afflict, or when hastening over the sea storm and tempest overwhelm him, Christ everywhere beholdeth His soldier, and if he dies in persecution for the honour of His name, He gives Him the reward He has promised He will give in the resurrection.” And also in the Treatise de Mortal., “He who is a soldier of God, who, stationed in the heavenly camp, is already hoping for things above, should recognise what He is, in order that there may not be any trepidation or faltering in us at the storms and tempests of the world. For the Lord foretold that these things should come to pass, instructing and teaching us beforehand by His word of encouragement, and preparing and strengthening us to meet them.” And he says (Epist. i. ad Cornelium): “That the soldiers of Christ cannot be conquered, though they can die, and that they are unconquered because they are not afraid to die.” And the Confessors, too, who were in prison and destined to martyrdom, wrote thus touchingly to S. Cyprian, as the encourager of Martyrs:-“What more glorious or what more happy can be granted to any man by Divine favour, than fearlessly to confess the Lord God in the midst of his murderers, and that while the various and exquisite torments of the secular power are raging, even with a racked, tortured, and mangled body, to confess Christ the Son of God with his departing but still free spirit? having broken through all worldly hindrances, to present himself before God freed from them all,—than to win the heavenly kingdom without delay, than to become a fellow-sufferer with Christ by suffering in His Name?” And so too S. Chrysostom, when his banishment was in debate, addressed to his people eleven discourses, beginning thus:- “Many are the floods, and huge the waves, but I fear not drowning, for I stand on the rock. But what think they? Lest I should fear death, to whom to live is Christ and to die is gain? lest I should be afraid of exile, though I know that the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof? or the proscription of my goods, though I know that I brought nothing into the world, neither can I take anything out? The terrors of the world—I despise them; its pleasures—I deride them. I desire not riches, I dread not poverty, I fear not death.”