Fish Eaters: The Whys and Hows of Traditional Catholicism

Matthew 13:9 "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear."

The Wise Man Who Builds on Rock
and the Fool Who Builds on Sand

Matthew 7:15-29

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in the clothing of sheep, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. By their fruits you shall know them. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit, and the evil tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can an evil tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit, shall be cut down, and shall be cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits you shall know them.

Not every one that saith to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven: but he that doth the will of my Father who is in heaven, he shall enter into the kingdom of heaven. Many will say to me in that day: Lord, Lord, have not we prophesied in thy name, and cast out devils in thy name, and done many miracles in thy name? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity. Every one therefore that heareth these my words, and doth them, shall be likened to a wise man that built his house upon a rock, And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and they beat upon that house, and it fell not, for it was founded on a rock.

And every one that heareth these my words, and doth them not, shall be like a foolish man that built his house upon the sand, And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and they beat upon that house, and it fell, and great was the fall thereof.

And it came to pass when Jesus had fully ended these words, the people were in admiration at his doctrine. For he was teaching them as one having power, and not as the scribes and Pharisees.

Luke 6:43-49

For there is no good tree that bringeth forth evil fruit; nor an evil tree that bringeth forth good fruit. For every tree is known by its fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns; nor from a bramble bush do they gather the grape. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth that which is evil. For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.

And why call you me, Lord, Lord; and do not the things which I say? Every one that cometh to me, and heareth my words, and doth them, I will shew you to whom he is like. He is like to a man building a house, who digged deep, and laid the foundation upon a rock. And when a flood came, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and it could not shake it; for it was founded on a rock. But he that heareth, and doth not, is like to a man building his house upon the earth without a foundation: against which the stream beat vehemently, and immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.

By St. John Chryostom

"And every one," saith He, "that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened to a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand."

And well did He call this man "foolish": for what can be more senseless than one building a house on the sand, and while he submits to the labor, depriving himself of the fruit and refreshment, and instead thereof undergoing punishment? For that they too, who follow after wickedness, do labor, is surely manifest to every one: since both the extortioner, and the adulterer, and the false accuser, toil and weary themselves much to bring their wickedness to effect; but so far from reaping any profit from these their labors, they rather undergo great loss. For Paul too intimated this when he said, "He that soweth to his flesh, shall of his flesh reap corruption."To this man are they like also, who build on the sand; as those that are given up to fornication, to wantonness, to drunkenness, to anger, to all the other things.

Such an one was Ahab, but not such Elijah (since when we have put virtue and vice along side of one another, we shall know more accurately the difference): for the one had built upon the rock, the other on the sand; where fore though he were a king, he feared and trembled at the prophet, at him that had only his sheepskin. Such were the Jews but not the apostles; and so though they were few and in bonds, they exhibited the steadfastness of the rock; but those, many as they were, and in armor, the weakness of the sand. For so they said, "What shall we do to these men?"Seest thou those in perplexity, not who are in the hands of others, and bound, but who are active in holding down and binding? And what can be more strange than this? Hast thou hold of the other, and art yet in utter perplexity? Yes, and very naturally. For inasmuch as they had built all on the sand, therefore also were they weaker than all. For this cause also they said again, "What do ye, seeking to bring this man's blood upon us?" What saith he? Dost thou scouge, and art thou in fear? entreatest thou despitefully, and art in dismay? Dost thou judge, and yet tremble? So feeble is wickedness.

But the Apostles not so, but how? "We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard."Seest thou a noble spirit? seest thou a rock laughing waves to scorn? seest thou a house unshaken? And what is yet more marvellous; so far from turning cowards themselves at the plots formed against them, they even took more courage, and cast the others into greater anxiety. For so he that smites adamant, is himself the one smitten; and he that kicks against the pricks, is himself the one pricked, the one on whom the severe wounds fall: and he who is forming plots against the virtuous, is himself the one in jeopardy. For wickedness becomes so much the weaker, the more it sets itself in array against virtue. And as he who wraps up fire in a garment, extinguishes not the flame, but consumes the garment; so he that is doing despite to virtuous men, and oppressing them, and binding them, makes them more glorious, but destroys himself.For the more ills thou sufferest, living righteously, the stronger art thou become; since the more we honor self-restraint, the less we need anything; and the less we need anything, the stronger we grow, and the more above all. Such a one was John; wherefore him no man pained, but he caused pain to Herod; so he that had nothing prevailed against him that ruled; and he that wore a diadem, and purple, and endless pomp, trembles, and is in fear of him that is stripped of all, and not even when beheaded could he without fear see his head. For that even after his death he had the terror of him in full strength, hear what He saith, "This is John, whom I slew,"Now the expression, "I slew," is that of one not exulting, but soothing his own terror, and persuading his troubled soul to call to mind, that he himself slew him. So great is the force of virtue, that even after death it is more powerful than the living. For this same cause again, when he was living, they that possessed much wealth came unto him, and said, "What shall we do?" Is so much yours, and are ye minded to learn the way of your prosperity from him that hath nothing? the rich from the poor? the soldiers from him that hath not even a house?

Such an one was Elias too: wherefore also with the same freedom did he discourse to the people. For as the former said, "Ye generation of vipers;"so this latter, "How long will ye halt upon both your hips?" And the one said, "Hast thou killed, and inherited?" the other, "It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother Philip's wife."

Seest thou the rock? Seest thou the sand; how easily it sinks down, how it yields to calamities? how it is overthrown, though it have the support of royalty, of number, of nobility? For them that pursue it, it makes more senseless than all.

And it doth not merely fall, but with great calamity: for "great indeed," He saith, "was the fall of it." The risk not being of trifles, but of the soul, of the loss of Heaven, and those immortal blessings. Or rather even before that loss, no life so wretched as he must live that follows after this; dwelling with continual despondencies, alarms, cares, anxieties; which a certain wise man also was intimating when he said, "The wicked fleeth, when no man is pursuing."For such men tremble at their shadows, suspect their friends, their enemies, their servants, such as know them, such as know them not; and before their punishment, suffer extreme punishment here. And to declare all this, Christ said, "And great was the fall of it;" shutting up these good commandments with that suitable ending, and persuading even by the things present the most unbelieving to flee from vice.

For although the argument from what is to come be raster, yet is this of more power to restrain the grosser sort, and to withdraw them from wickedness. Wherefore also he ended with it, that the profit thereof might make its abode in them.

Conscious therefore of all these things, both the present, and the future, let us flee from vice, let us emulate virtue, that we may not labor fruitlessly and at random, but may both enjoy the security here, and partake of the glory there: unto which God grant we may all attain, by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory and the might forever and ever. Amen.

by St. Thomas Aquinas

(15) Beware of false prophets. He teaches them to be wary of certain ones whom they should avoid. They are described from their profession, namely, prophets. But one might ask of which prophets, because the Law and the prophets last until John; hence in that time there were no prophets concerning Christ, because they ended in him. Therefore, it must be said that prophets are teachers in the Church and prelates. But what does he mean by false? The false prophets are those not sent. Abut these Jeremiah (23:21): "I did not send them and they ran." Likewise, false prophets are the ones who lie; hence, Jeremiah (2:8): "His prophets have prophesied by Baal." So, too, there were many pseudo-prophets among the people, just as among us there will be lying teachers.

Beware, i.e., take care to avoid, because they are concealed; and one must beware of hidden snares. Hence their contagion hides within. He says, therefore, who come to you in sheep's clothing. The sheep are the faithful: "We are his sheep and the sheep of his pasture" (Ps 100:3). Their clothing are fasts and almsgiving, with which they cover themselves: "Having the appearance of piety, but denying its power" (2 Tim 3:5). But note that if wolves clothe themselves with the pelts of sheep, the sheep does not lose his pelt for this purpose; similarly, although those evil ones are covered with good works, the good make much progress. But inwardly are ravenous wolves. This is explained especially of heretics, and secondarily of evil prelates. Hence, a comment on John (10:11): "I am the good shepherd," says: "It is said that the shepherd is one who governs and rules; the wolf, who intends harm; the mercenary, who seeks his own convenience. Hence, the shepherd should be loved, the wolf fled from, and the mercenary tolerated." Therefore, inwardly they are ravenous wolves is understood of those who intend to pervert the people, and they deserve to be called wolves. Also, mercenaries, namely, evil Christians who scatter the flock by bad example, who lead a wicked life; although in the effect of their conduct they imitate wolves: "because after my departure ravenous wolves will enter among you, not sparing the flock" (Acts 20:29). And he says, within, because they have the evil intention of killing the people.

(16) You will know them by their fruits, i.e., actions. But it seems to be the opposite, because they have sheep's clothing, and clothing is works. Therefore, they will be known from them. Chrysostom: "Fruit is the confession of faith." Hence, if they confess the faith, they are not heretics: "For the fruit of the light is in all goodness and justice and truth" (Eph 5:9). But if it is taken for pretenders, then it is explained so that by clothing is meant external works: "But the fruit of the spirit is charity, joy and peace" (Gal 5:22). But you will ask: How can they be recognized? The answer is that scarcely any hypocrite can be so clever, that no evil in word or act will appear: "As in water face answers face, so the hearts of men are reflected to the prudent" (Pr 27:19). Seneca: "No one can long bear a fake personality." Indeed, they are especially revealed in two ways: in things that suddenly occur to be done, because in matters done after deliberation one is cautious. Also in troubles: "There is a friend who is such at his own convenience, but will not stand by you on the day of trouble" (Sir 6:8). They are also revealed when they cannot do what they want or when they have already obtained it. Hence dominion shows the man.

Are grapes gathered from thorns? By grapes, from which wine is made, is understood spiritual joy, because "wine gladdens the hear of man" (Ps 104:15); by figs, the sweetness of ecclesial peace, which is charity. This cannot be produced from thistles, i.e., sinners, because "thorns and thistles it shall bring forth to you" (Gen 3:18).

(17) He proves this with an example: Every sound tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears evil fruit. From this the Manicheans assumed two natures, namely, good and evil. But this is not true, because we see good fruit formed from an evil creation, and vice versa. Hence from this you should understand that the tree is the principle of the fruit. But there are two principles: that of nature and that of conduct. The principle from nature is the soul, and whatever comes from it naturally is good. But the principle of conduct is the will. Therefore, if the will is good, the work is good, since it has a good will with a good intention; because if one wills to steal for almsgiving, even though the will is good, the intention is not right.

(19) But what will happen to the bad tree? Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down, because if it does not bear or if it omits doing what it can, it will be cut down: "If anyone does not abide in me, he will be cast out, and they will gather him up and throw him into the fire, and he will burn" (Jn 15:6). Hence in Luke (8:7) it is said of the fig tree which the Lord commanded to be cut down and taken away: "Take away the wicked one, lest it see God's glory"

(20) He concludes: Thus you will know them by their fruits.

(21) Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord'... Having presented the doctrine, he shows that it must be observed, because nothing else suffices for salvation In regard to God's commands or doctrine four things are required or praiseworthy: that we confess them with our mouth, that they be confirmed by miracles, that God's word be heard and performed in action. Concerning the first: "Man believes with his heart and he confesses with his lips" (Rom 10:10). Concerning the second: "The Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that attended it" (Mk 16:20). Concerning the third: "He that is of God hears the word of God" (Jn 8:47). Fourthly, it is required that he do: "Be doers of the word, and not hearers only" (Jas 1:22). Hence he wishes to show that three without the fourth do not profit; hence he says, not everyone who says to me 'Lord, Lord''.

But this seems contrary to the Apostle: "No one can say, 'Lord Jesus' except in the Holy Spirit" (1 Cor 12:3). But whoever has the Holy Spirit enters the kingdom of heaven. Augustine answers that "to say" has a number of meanings: general, and strict and proper. Strictly, it is nothing less than to manifest affection and will. In this way the Apostle says: "No one can say 'Lord Jesus' except in the Holy Spirit." And this is no more than to believe and obey the Lord. Likewise, commonly, i.e., to proclaim with the lips in any way whatever. Concerning this, Is (29:13): "This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me." Or, in this way: Not everyone who says to me 'Lord, Lord.' He says the word Lord twice to signify that confession is twofold, namely, of the voice and of praise, neither of which is enough.

Who then will enter? Not one who says "Lord, Lord," but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. "No one ascends into heaven, except he that came down from heaven" (Jn 3:13), Hence no one can ascend, unless he descends like Christ, of whom John (6:38): "I have come down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me." Hence it is necessary to do God's will: "This is the will of god, your sanctification" (1 Th 4:3). Hence David said: "Teach me to do your will" (Ps 143:10). And as the Lord taught us to pray: "Your will be done." But it should be note that by saying, kingdom, he touches on the eternal reward; hence he says, will enter. For that kingdom consists in spiritual goods, not in external goods; therefore, he says, will enter. Consequently, Song of Songs (1:4) says: "The king has brought me into his chamber." Likewise, he says, of heaven, because although someone here may have riches or honors, all this is for the sake of that. Hence the reward will consist in lofty things.

(22) But someone could say that it is enough for salvation to work miracles. He excludes that, because On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophecy in your name...? He says, many, to signify those who secede from unity, because they are included under a multitude, for "the number of fools is infinite" (Ec 1:15). Likewise, he introduces this to stress what he had said, namely, that every tree that does not bear fruit will be cut down. But he had not said by whom; therefore, he said, to me, appointed as judge, because "the Father has given all judgment to the Son" (Jn 5:22). Likewise, he says, on that day. Day names a terminus, but not according to the quality of time, because the day of judgment is sometimes called night. But sometimes it is called day and sometimes night, because it is not certain when it will come. Hence below (25:6): "At midnight there was a cry, 'Behold the bridegroom! Come and meet him'." The Apostle calls it day in 1 Cor (4:3); and in Ps 37 (v. 6): "He will bring forth my vindication as the light, and my judgment as the noonday." 'Lord, Lord.' He repeats it to signify greater confusion and fear: "They will be disturbed with a horrible fear" (Wis 5:2). Did we not cast out demons in your name? This is a supernatural power: "No power on earth can be compared to this," namely, the devil's power (Jb 41:24).

But one asks: How do those who cast out devils become rejected? Chrysostom answers that they lie. Another answer is that at one time they were good and worked miracles; later, they became evil. But this cannot stand, because the Lord said, (23) I never knew you. In another way, it must be said that they say, in your name, not in the name of the Holy Spirit. For some act in the name of the Holy Spirit, and some not; as it says in Jeremiah (2:8) that some prophesied in the name of Baal. Some, too, by the arts of magic.

But it may be asked how demons work miracles. I say that they cannot; but they do things that seem to be miracles, although they are not miracles. Miracles are things whose effect is obvious, but the cause is latent. Hence, something that seems marvelous to the ignorant is not so among the wise; for example, and eclipse. Hence, since demons have a truer understanding of natural things, they can do things that seem miraculous to us. In another way, according to Jerome: Among the gifts of the Holy Spirit some are graces gratuitously given, but charity alone distinguishes between the sons of God and sons of the devil: "To each is given the manifestation of the Holy Spirit for the common good" (1 Cor 12:7), or for the growth of his holiness or of the Church, that the faith they preach may be manifested. And thus, even prelates leading a wicked life can work miracles.

[And then I will declare to them that I do not know you, that is, I do not approve of you, even when you have worked miracles; II Timothy 2:19: The Lord knows who belong to him.]

(24) Everyone who hears these words... He shows that without works nothing profits, not even listening to the word of God; because hearing is ordained to faith: "Faith comes by hearing" (Rom 10:17). For hearing is not enough. He manifests this in two ways, because he indicates the lot of one who hears and does, and of one who hears without doing.

First, he does three things: first, he mentions the building; secondly, the assault (v. 25); thirdly, its sturdiness (v. 25b).

He says, therefore, that hearing is not enough, although it is necessary: "He that is of God hears the words of God" (Jn 8:49); "not the hearers of the word, but doers, will be justified" (Rom 2:13). Likewise, he says well, these my words; because whatever pertains to salvation is contained there. Hence he who hears these my words and does them will be like a wise man... He does not say that he is wise but will be like a wise man. And this simile can be understood of a material building, and then the text is clear; or it can be understood spiritually, and then the man is Christ: "I have found one man in a thousand" (Ec 7:29). Christ's building is the Church, for he knows how it should be built. Hence, it says of him in Proverbs (9:1): "Wisdom built itself a house"; and Proverbs (14:1): "The wise woman built her house." Upon a rock: "The rock was Christ" (1 Cor 10:1). Hence Christ built on himself, for he is the foundation: "No one can lay any foundation except that which has been laid, which is Christ Jesus" (1 Cor 3:11). For this is the foundation of eternal truth, which is absolutely unchangeable: "Those who trust in the Lord are like mount Zion" (Ps 125:1).

(25) The assault on this house follows: And the rain came. Rain is taken as doctrine, so that there is good rain and bad rain. Therefore, what collapses is bad doctrine: "The Lord rained sulphur and fire on Sodom" (Gen 19:24). Likewise, floods are good and not good: "The floods divided their land" (Is 18:2); and by this the wise, who regard themselves as wise, are signified. Those floods are produced by rains. By winds are signified the devils; hence in Jude (v. 12): "Waterless clouds, carried along by winds." They beat on that house, i.e., the Church, and it did not fall: "Its cords will never be broken" (Is 33:21). And why? Because it had been founded upon the rock, i.e., Christ.

Then he presents the simile indicating the outcome of one who hears and does not do. In regard to this he mentions the construction; secondly, the assault (v. 27); thirdly, the ruin (v. 27b).

(26) He says: and everyone who hears these my words and does not do them, will be like a foolish man, who fell from the light of wisdom. Hence Ec (4:13): "Better is a wise servant than a foolish king." Likewise, the fool is the devil; the house he builds is the assembly of unbelievers. Hence Ps 73 (v. 30): "The earth is filled with houses of sin." The house is built on sand. By sand is meant unbelievers, who are unfruitful. And they are numerous: "The number of fools is infinite" (Ec 1:15). Again, sand does not cohere; similarly, they are always at odds. He builds on sand, i.e., makes as his end, which is as a foundation, a temporal good.

(27) The rain came, i.e., good doctrine, the floods came, i.e., sacred teachers, the winds blew, i.e., angels: "Who makes spirits his angels" (Ps 104:4). And they beat against that house, and it fell: "Babylon has fallen, has fallen: (Rev 14:8), namely, through preaching. And great was the fall thereof. If we wish to adapt the simile, we must say that a man should build like Christ. The Apostle teaches this: "Let each man take care how he builds upon it" (1 Cor 3:10). For someone builds a dwelling-place for God; some do the opposite, as below and as in 1 Corinthians (3:7), some build on straw. For a foundation is that upon which someone bases his intention. For some hear to learn, and these build on the intellect; and this is building on straw. Hence James (1:23): "One who hears and does not do is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror." Hence they build on the changeable. But another hears in order to do and love; and he builds on a rock, because it is on something firm and stable: "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it" (Ec 22:6). For that foundation is laid on charity: "Who will separate us from the love of Christ?" (Rom 8:35).

But one might ask why a foundation on the intellect is unstable and not solid, but that on the affections is. The reason is that the intellect deals with universals, for it cannot know much except in a general way. 'Therefore, stability is not based on wandering about the universal. But actions and affections deal with particulars and good habits; consequently, if temptation comes, it clings to what it is accustomed to, namely, good action; and so it resists.

But what is understood by rain? The answer is the devil never tempts first in important matters, but first in lesser and then goes on to the greater; hence by rain, evil thoughts. He tempts, therefore, to evil thoughts; and if there is consent, he then tempts to something graver, and thus they increase. From these come floods, and then he rushes in with all his powers, so that the victim necessarily falls: "He who despises small things will fail little by little" (Sir 19:1). Or, in this way: rain, temptations of the flesh; floods, temptations of the world; winds, temptations of the devil. Or, according to Augustine, rain is superstitious doctrine. When one adheres to these, he falls most gravely; and this is the great ruin. But it is not great, when he hesitates and does not fall, because when the temptation occurs, he fears and grieves. But some give in completely: "Raze it, raze it! Down to its foundation" (Ps 137:7). Or it is called a great rain, because the heart is impenitent: "They spend their days in prosperity, and in peace they go down to Sheol" (Job 21:13).

(28) And when Jesus finished these words, the crowds were astonished. There were three types of men who followed the Lord Jesus: some were astonished and scandalized, as the Pharisees, about whom below (c. 15). Some were astonished, but not scandalized, as the crowds. But some, as the perfect, were not astonished. But we must inquire about his saying, the crowds, because there were no crowds there. It can be said that the sermon was made to the crowds and to the disciples, but in the mountain below its summit was a plain. The disciples, therefore, were on the summit with Christ; but the crowds in the plain. Or, it can be said that it was given first to the apostles and then to the crowds. Or, crowds of disciples followed him.

But what was the reason for the astonishment? Because he taught them as one having authority. Hence in him is fulfilled Ec (8:4): "His speech is full of power." Therefore, as having authority [power], because he spoke as a lord or as a lawgiver. Or, as having power, i.e., with the ability to penetrate the heart: "Lo, he sends forth his voice, his mighty voice" (Ps 68:33). Or, with the power to work miracles, because he confirmed what he said with miracles.

Augustine says that everything preached in this sermon should be reduced to the seven gifts and to the beatitudes, because the first thing said, you shall not kill, pertains to the gift of fear and to the beatitude of piety. Then what follows, make friends with your adversary, pertains to the gift of piety, through which meekness is fulfilled. You shall not commit adultery... pertains to the gift of knowledge, by which the beatitude of mourning is fulfilled. The one concerning endurance pertains to the gift of courage, by which it is fulfilled, and to the beatitude, blessed are those who hunger and thirst after justice. The part which says, love your enemies, pertains to the gift of counsel, by which the beatitude of mercy is fulfilled. But by the part which follows in c. 6 about not being anxious, up to c. 7, enter by the narrow gate, he intends to cleanse the heart; hence it pertains to the gift of understanding and to the beatitude which is cleanness of heart; hence blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God. The rest that follows pertains to the gift of wisdom.

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