Catena Aurea Commentary with Douay Rheims Bible
10. “Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.
11. For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.
12. How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?
13. And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray.
14. Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.”
Jerome: The Lord had said, under the type of hand, foot, and eye, that all kin and connection which could afford scandal must be cut off. The harshness of this declaration He accordingly tempers with the following precept, saying, “Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones;” i. e. As far as you may avoid despising them, but next to your own salvation seek also to heal them. But if ye see that they hold to their sins, it is better that ye be saved, than that ye perish in much company.
Chrys.: Or otherwise; As to shun the evil, so to honour the good, has great recompense. Above then He had bid them to cut off the friendships of those that gave offence, here He teaches them to shew honour and service to the saints.
Gloss., ap. Anselm: Or otherwise; [p. 629] Because so great evils come of brethren being scandalized, “Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones.”
Origen: The little ones are those that are but lately born in Christ, or those who abide without advance, as though lately born. But Christ judged it needless to give command concerning not despising the more perfect believers, but concerning the little ones, as He had said above, “If any man shall offend one of these little ones.” A man may perhaps say that a little one here means a perfect Christian, according to that He says elsewhere, “Whoso is least among you, he shall be great.” [Luke 9:48]
Chrys.: Or because the perfect are esteemed of many as little ones, as poor, namely, and despicable.
Origen: But this exposition does not seem to agree with that which was said, “If any one scandalizes one of these little ones;” for the perfect man is not scandalized, nor does he perish. But he who thinks this the true exposition, says, that the mind of a righteous man is variable, and is sometimes offended, but not easily.
Gloss., ap. Anselm: Therefore are they not to be despised for that they are so dear to God, that Angels are deputed to be their guardians; “For I say unto you, that in heaven their Angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.”
Origen: Some will have it that an Angel is given as an attendant minister from the time when in the laver of regeneration the infant is born in Christ; for, say they, it is incredible that a holy Angel watches over those who are unbelieving and in error, but in his time of unbelief and sin man is under the Angels of Satan.
Others will have it, that those who are foreknown of God, have straightway from their very birth a guardian Angel.
Jerome: High dignity of souls, that each from its birth has an Angel set in charge over it!
Chrys.: Here He is speaking not of any Angels, but of the higher sort; for when He says, “Behold the face of my Father,” He shews that their presence before God is free and open, and their honour great.
Greg., Hom. in Ev., 34, 12: But Dionysius says, that it is from the ranks of the lesser Angels that these are sent to perform this ministry, either visibly or invisibly, for that those higher ranks have not the employment of an outward ministry.
Greg., Mor., ii, 3: And therefore the Angels always behold the face of the Father, and yet they come to us; for by a spiritual presence they come forth to us, and yet by internal contemplation [p. 630] keep themselves there whence they come forth; for they come not so forth from the divine vision, as to hinder the joys of inward contemplation.
Hilary: The Angels offer daily to God the prayers of those that are to be saved by Christ; it is therefore perilous to despise him whose desires and requests are conveyed to the eternal and invisible God, by the service and ministry of Angels.
Aug., City of God, book xxii, ch. 29: They are called our Angels who are indeed the Angels of God; they are Gods because they have not forsaken Him; they are ours because they have begun to have us for their fellow citizens. As they now behold God, so shall we also behold Him face to face, of which vision John speaks, “We shall see Him as he is.” [1 John 3:2]
For by the face of God is to be understood the manifestation of Himself, not a member or feature of the body, such as we call by that name.
Chrys.: He gives yet another reason weightier than the foregoing, why the little ones are not to be despised, “For the Son of Man is come to save that which was lost.”
Remig.: As much as to say, Despise not little ones, for I also for men condescended to become man. By “that which was lost,” understand the human race; for all the elements have kept their place, but man was lost, because he has broken his ordained place.
Chrys.: And to this reasoning He adds a parable, in which He sets forth the Father as seeking the salvation of men, and saying, “What think you, If a man have a hundred sheep.”
Greg., Hom. in Ev., xxxiv, 3: This refers to the Creator of man Himself; for a hundred is a perfect number, and He had a hundred sheep when He created the substance of Angels and men.
Hilary: But by the one sheep is to be understood one man, and under this one man is comprehended the whole human race. He that seeks man is Christ, and the ninety and nine are the host of the heavenly glory which He left.
Greg.: The Evangelist says they were left “on the mountains,” to signify that the sheep, which were not lost, abode on high.
Bede, ap. Anselm: The Lord found the sheep when He restored man, and over that sheep that is found there is more joy in heaven than over the ninety and nine, because there is a greater matter for thanksgiving to God in the restoration of man than in the creation of the Angels. Wonderfully are the Angels made, but more wonderfully man restored.
Raban.: [p. 631] Note, that nine wants only one to make it ten, and ninety and nine the same to be a hundred. Thus members which want one only to be perfect, may be larger or smaller, but yet the unit remaining invariable, when it is added makes the rest perfect. And that the number of sheep might be made up perfect in heaven, lost man was sought on earth.
Jerome: Others think that by the ninety and nine sheep are understood the number of the righteous, and by the one sheep the sinners according to that said in another place, “I am not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” [Matt 9:13]
Greg.: We must consider whence it is that the Lord declares that He has joy rather over the converted sinners, than over the righteous that stand. Because these last are often slothful and slack to practise the greater good works, as being very secure within themselves, for that they have committed none of the heavier sins. While on the other hand those who have their wicked deeds to remember, do often through the compunction of sorrow glow with the more heat in their love of God, and when they think how they have strayed from Him, they replace their former losses by gains following.
So the general in a battle loves best that soldier who turns in his flight and courageously presses the enemy, than him who never turned his back, yet never did any valorous deed. Yet there be some righteous over whom is joy so great, that no penitent can be preferred before them, those, who though not conscious to themselves of sins, yet reject things lawful, and humble themselves in all things. How great is the joy when the righteous mourns, and humbles himself, if there be joy when the unrighteous condemns himself wherein he has done amiss?
Bede: [ed. note: These two passages, to which the name of Bede is prefixed in all the editions, have been sought for in Bede without success. They occur in Anselm’s ‘Enarrationes,’ and the latter may perhaps be originally derived from Aug., Quaest. Ev., ii, 32.]
Or; By the ninety-nine sheep, which He left on the mountains, are signified the proud to whom a unit is still wanting for perfection. When then He has found the sinner, He rejoices over him, that is, He makes his own to rejoice over him, rather than over the false righteous.
Jerome: What follows, “Even so it is not the will, &c.” is to be referred to what was said above, “Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones;: and so He shews that this parable was set forth to enforce that same saying. Also in [p. 632] saying, “It is not the will of my Father which is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish,” He shews that so oft as one of these little ones does perish, it is not by the Father’s will that it perishes.