THE THIRD SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, THE GOSPEL MT.8.1-13.THE THURSDAY MEDITATION
GOSPEL (Matthew 8 : 1 – 13)
At that time, when Jesus was come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed Him: and behold a leper came and adored Him, saying: Lord, if Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean. And Jesus stretching forth His hand, touched him, saying: I will. Be thou made clean. And forthwith his leprosy was cleansed. And Jesus saith to him: See thou tell no man: but go, show thyself to the priest, and offer the gift which Moses commanded for a testimony unto them. And when he had entered into Capharnaum, there came to him a centurion, beseeching Him, and saying: Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, and is grievously tormented. And Jesus saith to him: I will come and heal him. And the centurion making answer, said: Lord, I am not worthy that Thou shouldst enter under my roof: but only say the word, and my servant shall be healed. For I also am a man subject to authority, having under me soldiers; and I say to this one: go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant: Do this, and he doeth it. And Jesus hearing this, marveled, and said to them that followed Him: Amen I say to you, I have not found so great faith in Israel. And I say to you that many shall come from the east and the west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven: but the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into the exterior darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. And Jesus said to the centurion: Go, and as thou hast believed, so be it done to thee. And the servant was healed at the same hour.
Go and show thy self to the prieſt, and offer thy oblation according to the law.
O Lord, doest thou free this leaper from his disease, and not from showing himself to the priest, and offering his oblation, according to the law?
Are not thy works perfect, and complete, and doest thou leave this work imperfect, and half done?
This Christ did, to preserve the authority, and dignity of the priests of the old law: If of the old law, how much more of the new, whereof the old was but a figure or shadow?
The office of the priests of the old law was not to cure the leapers; but only to judge whether they had the leprosy or no, and to discern the difference between one kind of leprosy, and another, and to judge when it was cured, and to give notice thereof to the people; that being cured, as they were sequestered from the society of men for their contagious, and follow some diseases: so they might be admitted there unto again.
The office of the priests of the new law is not only to judge, and discern of the leprosy of the soul, which is sin, (whereof the priests of the old law, and the corporal leprosy they were to judge of and to declare it to be cured, was a figure:) but to cure it by giving them absolution, and remiſſion thereof in the power, and name of God, the father, the son and the holy ghost, & thus much doeth the protestant Minister, admit in the visitation of the sick, where they are appointed to miniſter absolution in these words : Our Lord Jesus Christ who hath given power, and authority to his Church to absolve penitent Sinners: absolve thee from thy sins, and by the authority to me committed, absolve thee of all thy sins in the name of the father, and of the son, and of the holy ghost.
That of the old law of the corporal leprosy was but a figure or shadow of this of the new.
Now if Christ would honor the priests of the old law so much for that one point of their office, which was but a figure of that of the new, that he would not dispense in it him self, but send the leaper to the priest, being perfectly cured by himself: how much more are the priests of the new law to be honored, and respected, to whom Christ hath given power to remit, and retain sins, with warrant that whatsoever they bind or lose here on earth, shall be ratified in heaven? how much I say, are they to be honored, and respected for this one point alone, if there were no more; but how much more, if we add here unto the power that Christ hath given them to consecrate his natural body, and to distribute to others; and over his mystical body the Church govern and rule the same to be assumpted as Saint Paul saith from among men, in those those things that belong belong to God, that Christ him self should so much honor them, as to take upon him their function, and name, to wit, to be a priest forever according to the order of Melchiſedech, to call them Angels because they are messengers, and mediators between God, and the people, as Angels are.
These, and the like reasons Saint Gregorie the Pope surname the great urged to Mauritius the Emperor by way of objurgation or reproach, that he being Christian did not exhibit that high respect unto Christian practices, as the pagans did unto theirs, who all ways held their priests in higheſt reverence, as men nearest in function to the Gods.
For the neglect of which due reverence unto Christian priests, a certain Councel ordained that if any lay man did meet a priest, he should doe reverence unto him even in the lowliest manner and degree , becauſe a priest deserved such a venerable dignity in Christian religion; and if a lay man met a priest, both of them being a horse back, the lay man should uncover his head to doe him reverence; but if a lay man on horseback should meet a priest on foot, as soon as he cometh to him, he should alight from his horse and doe him that venerable, and charitable reverence, as his dignity required.
In regard of the high, and eminent dignity, and office of the priests of the new law, Christ, by the mouth of Saint Paul command lay men to obey them that be their governors, and pastors, and to be subject unto them with extraordinary subjection, which Saint Paul expressed with the Latin word Subiacete cis, lay under, or lay your selves under them; which signifieth more then an ordinary subjection or which more then ordinary humility, and lowliness of heart.
And no marvel: for what they do in this behalf to the priests of God, they doe unto God, whose ministers they are, and who worketh the effects of their ministry in peoples hearts, as if he did it him self.
Oh the neglect that is now in the world of priestly dignity verily this want of reverence, and respect to the priests of God, can be imputed to nothing else, but to the want of love, and respect of those heavenly things they are ministers of: wherefore we being all loathsome leapers by sine, and receiving by the institution of Christ, so great a benefit as to be cured of it, by the office of the priest, and fed with the heavenly food of the body, and blood of Christ, and many other benefits beſides: let us show our selves no less dutiful and respectful to the priests of the new law, then this leaper did by the commandment of Christ to the priests of the old law: but rather much more, yea so much more, as the priests of the new law doe excel those of the old: which is as the verity doeth excel the figure, or the substance the shadow; the priests of the new law do excel the priests of the old law being but shadows or figures of those of the new.
A PLAINE PATH-WAY TO HEAVEN BY FR.THOMAS HILL 1634