Communion of Saint Bernard

Luke 12:42

The faithful and wise servant, whom his lord setteth over his family: to give them their measure of wheat in due season.

Catena Aurea

41. Then Peter said unto him, Lord, speakest thou this parable unto us, or even to all? 42. And the Lord said, Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season? 43. Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. 44. Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he hath. 45. But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken; 46. The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.

THEOPHYLACT. Peter, to whom the Church had already been committed, as having the care of all things, inquires whether our Lord put forth this parable to all. As it follows, Then Peter said unto him, Lord, speakest thou this parable unto us, or even unto all?

BEDE. Our Lord had taught two things in the preceding parable unto all, even that He would come suddenly, and that they ought to be ready and waiting for Him. But it is not very plain concerning which of these, or whether both, Peter asked the question, or whom he compared to himself and his companions, when he said, Speakest thou to us, or to all? Yet in truth by these words, us and all, he must be supposed to mean none other than the Apostles, and those like to the Apostles, and all other faithful men; or Christians, and unbelievers; or those who dying separately, that is, singly, both unwillingly indeed and willingly, receive the coming of their Judge, and those who when the universal judgment comes are to be found alive in the flesh. Now it is marvellous if Peter doubted that all must live soberly, piously, and justly, who wait for a blessed hope, or that the judgment will to each and all be unexpected. It therefore remains to be supposed, that knowing these two things, he asked about that which he might not know, namely, whether those sublime commands of a heavenly life in which He bade us sell what we have and provide bags which wax not old, and watch with our loins girded, and lamps burning, belonged to the Apostles only, and those like unto them, or to all who were to be saved.

CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. Now to the courageous rightly belong the great and difficult of God’s holy commandments, but to those who have not yet attained to such virtue, belong those things from which all difficulty is excluded. Our Lord therefore uses a very obvious example, to shew that the above-mentioned command is suited to those who have been admitted into the rank of disciples, for it follows, And the Lord said, Who then is that faithful steward?

AMBROSE. Or else, the form of the first command is a general one adapted to all, but the following example seems to be proposed to the stewards, that is, the priests; and therefore it follows, And the Lord said, Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his Lord shall make ruler over his household, to give, them their portion of meat in due season?

THEOPHYLACT. The above-mentioned parable relates to all the faithful in common, but now hear what suits the Apostles and teachers. For I ask, where will be found the steward, that possesses in himself faithfulness and wisdom? for as in the management of goods, whether a man be careless yet faithful to his master, or else wise yet unfaithful, the things of the master perish; so also in the things of God there is need of faithfulness and wisdom. For I have known many servants of God, and faithful men, who because they were unable to manage ecclesiastical affairs, have destroyed not only possessions, but souls, exercising towards sinners indiscreet virtue by extravagant rules of penance or unseasonable indulgence.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. 77. in Matt.) But our Lord here asks the question not as ignorant, who was a faithful and wise steward, but wishing to imply the rareness of such, and the greatness of this kind of chief government.

THEOPHYLACT. Whosoever then has been found a faithful and wise steward, let him bear rule over the Lord’s household, that he may give them their portion of meat in due season, either the word of doctrine by which their souls are fed, or the example of works by which their life is fashioned.

AUGUSTINE. (de Qu. Ev. l. ii. c. 26.) Now he says portion, because of suiting His measure to the capacity of his several hearers.

ISIDORE OF PELEUSIUM. (l. 3. Ep. 170.) It was added also in their due season, because a benefit not conferred at its proper time is rendered vain, and loses the name of a benefit. The same bread is not equally coveted by the hungry man, and him that is satisfied. But with respect to this servant’s reward for his stewardship, He adds, Blessed is that servant whom his Lord when he cometh shall find so doing.

BASIL. (in Proœm. in reg. fus.) He says not, ‘doing,’ as if by chance, but so doing. For not only conquest is honourable, but to contend lawfully, which is to perform each thing as we have been commanded.

CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. Thus the faithful and wise servant prudently giving out in due season the servants’ food, that is, their spiritual meat, will be blessed according to the Saviour’s word, in that he will obtain still greater things, and will be thought worthy of the rewards which are duo to friends. Hence it follows, Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he hath.

BEDE. For whatever difference there is in the merits of good hearers and good teachers, such also there is in their rewards; for the one whom when He cometh He finds watching, He will make to sit down; but the others whom He finds faithful and wise stewards, He will place over all that He hath, that is, over all the joys of the kingdom of heaven, not certainly that they alone shall have power over them, but that they shall more abundantly than the other saints enjoy eternal possession of them.

THEOPHYLACT. Or, he will make him ruler over all that he hath, not only over His own household, but that earthly things as well as heavenly shall obey him. As it was with Joshua the son of Nun, and Elias, the one commanding the sun, the other the clouds; and all the Saints as God’s friends use the things of God. Whosoever also passes his life virtuously, and has kept in due submission his servants, that is, anger and desire, supplies to them their portion of food in due season; to anger indeed that he may feel it against those who hate God, but to desire that he may exercise the necessary provision for the flesh, ordering it unto God. Such an one, I say, will be set over all things which the Lord hath, being thought worthy to look into all things by the light of contemplation.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. 77. in Matt.) But our Lord not only by the honours kept in store for the good, but by threats of punishment upon the bad, leads the hearer to correction, as it follows, But if that servant shall say in his heart, My Lord delayeth his coming.

BEDE. Observe that it is counted among the vices of a bad servant that he thought the coming of his Lord slow, yet it is not numbered among the virtues of the good that he hoped it would come quickly, but only that he ministered faithfully. There is nothing then better than to submit patiently to be ignorant of that which can not be known, but to strive only that we be found worthy.

THEOPHYLACT. Now from not considering the time of our departure, there proceed many evils. For surely if we thought that our Lord was coming, and that the end of our life was at hand, we should sin the less. Hence it follows, And shall begin to strike the man servants and maidens, and to eat and drink and be drunken.

BEDE. In this servant is declared the condemnation of all evil rulers, who, forsaking the fear of the Lord, not only give themselves up to pleasures, but also provoke with injuries those who are put under them. Although these words may be also understood figuratively, meaning to corrupt the hearts of the weak by an evil example; and to eat, drink, and be drunken, to be absorbed in the vices and allurements of the world, which overthrow the mind of man. But concerning his punishment it is added, The Lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, that is, the day of his judgment or death, and will cut him in sunder.

BASIL. (in lib. de Sp. San. c. 16.) The body indeed is not divided, so that one part indeed should be exposed to torments, the other escape. For this is a fable, nor is it a part of just judgment when the whole has offended that half only should suffer punishment; nor is the soul cut in sunder, seeing that the whole possesses a guilty consciousness, and cooperates with the body to work evil; but its division is the eternal severing of the soul from the Spirit. For now although the grace of the Spirit is not in the unworthy, yet it seems ever to be at hand expecting their turning to salvation, but at that time it will be altogether cut off from the soul. The Holy Spirit then is the prize of the just, and the chief condemnation of sinners, since they who are unworthy will lose Him.

BEDE. Or He will cut him in sunder, by separating him from the communion of the faithful, and dismissing him to those who have never attained unto the faith. Hence it follows, And will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers; (1 Tim. 5:8.) for he who has no care for his own, and those of his own house, has denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.

THEOPHYLACT. Rightly also shall the unbelieving steward receive his portion with the unbelievers, because he was without true faith.

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