1. At the same time came the disciples to Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?
2. And Jesus called a little child to him, and set him in the midst of them,
3. And said, I say to you, Except you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
4. Whoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
5. And who shall receive one such little child in my name receive me.
JEROME; The disciples seeing one piece of money paid both for Peter and the Lord, conceived from this equality of ransom that Peter was preferred before all the rest of the Apostles.
CHRYS; Thus they suffered a human passion, which the Evangelist denotes by saying, At the same time came the disciples to Jesus, saying, Who, we pray you, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? Ashamed to show the feeling which was working within, they do not say openly, Why have you honored Peter above us? but they ask in general, Who is the greatest; When in the transfiguration they saw three distinguished, namely, Peter, James, and John, they had no such feeling, but now that one is singled out for especial honor, then they are grieved. But do you remember, first, that it was nothing in this world that they sought; and, secondly, that they afterwards laid aside this feeling? Even their failings are above us, whose inquiry is not, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? but, Who is greatest in the kingdom of the world.
ORIGEN; Herein we ought to be imitators of the disciples, that when any question of doubt arises among us, and we find not how to settle it, we should with one consent go to Jesus, Who is able to enlighten the hearts of men to the explication of every perplexity. We shall also consult some of the doctors, who are thought most eminent in the Churches. But in that they asked this question, the disciples knew that there was not an equality among the saints in the kingdom of heaven; what they yet sought to learn was, how they were so, and lived as greater and less. Or, from what the Lord had said above, they knew who was the best and who was great; but out of many great, who was the greatest, this was not clear to them.
JEROME; Jesus seeing their thoughts would heal their ambitious strivings, by arousing an emulation in lowliness; whence it follows, And Jesus calling a little child, set him in the midst of them.
CHRYS; He chose, I suppose, quite an infant, devoid of any of the passions.
JEROME; One whose tender age should express to them the innocence which they should have. But truly He set Himself in the midst of them, a little one who had come not to be ministered to, but to minister, that He might be a pattern of holiness Others interpret the little one of the Holy Spirit, whom He set in the hearts of His disciples, to change their pride into humility. And he said, I say to you, Except you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. He does not enjoin on the Apostles the age, but the innocence of infants, which they have by virtue of their years, but to which these might attain by striving; that they should be children in malice, not in understanding. As though He had said, As this child, whom I set before you as a pattern, is not obstinate in anger, when injured does not bear it in mind, has no emotion at the sight of a fair woman, does not think one thing while he speaks another; so you, unless you have the like innocence and purity of mind, shall not be able to enter into the kingdom of heaven.
HILARY; He calls infants all who believe through the hearing of faith; for such follow their father, love their mother, know not to will that which is evil, do not bear hate, or speak lies, trust what is told them, and believe what they hear to be true. But the letter is thus interpreted.
GLOSS; Except you be converted from this ambition and jealousy in which you are at present, and become all of you as innocent and humble in disposition as you are weak in your years, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven; and since there is none other road to enter in, who shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven; for by how much a man is humble now, by so much shall he be exalted in the kingdom of heaven.
REMIG; In the understanding of grace, or in ecclesiastical dignity, or at least in everlasting blessedness.
JEROME; Or otherwise; Who shall humble himself as this little child, that is, who shall humble himself after My example, he shall enter into the kingdom of heaven.
It follows, And who receive one such little one in my name, receive me.
CHRYS; Not only if you become such yourselves, but also if for My sake you shall pay honor to other such, you receive reward; and as the return for the honor you pay them, I entail upon you the kingdom. He puts indeed what is far greater, Receive me.
JEROME; For whoever is such that he imitates Christ's humility and innocence, Christ is received by him; and by way of caution, that the Apostles should not think, when such are come to them, that it is to themselves that the honor is paid, He adds, that they are to be received not for their own desert, but in honor of their Master.
10. Take heed that you despise not one of these little ones; for I say to you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.
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 you 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 you see that they hold to their sins, it is better that you be saved, than that you perish in much company.
CHRYS; Or otherwise, As to shun the evil, so to honor the good, has great recompense. Above then He had bid them to cut off the friendships of those that gave offense, here He teaches them to show honor and service to the saints.
GLOSS; Or otherwise; Because so great evils come of brethren being scandalized, Take heed that you 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, Who is least among you, you shall be great.
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; 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 to 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 layer 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 known 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 shows that their presence before God is free and open, and their honor great.
GREG; But Dionysus 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.
ID; 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 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; Or; 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. 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.
Catena Aurea Matthew 18