Thoughts from the Early Church

Commentary by Hilary of Poitiers

Whoever does not take up his cross
and follow me is not worthy of me. (Matthew 10:38)

Christ commanded the apostles to leave everything in the world that they held most dear, adding: “Whoever does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me” (Mt 10:38). For those who belong to Christ have crucified their lower nature with its sinful passions and desires.

No one is worthy of him who refuses to take up his cross, that is to say, to share the Lord's passion, death, burial, and resurrection, and to follow him by living out the mystery of faith in the newly received grace of the Spirit.

  “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Mt 10:39).  This means that thanks to the power of the word and the renunciation of past sins, temporal gains are death to the soul, and temporal losses salvation.

Apostles must therefore take death into their new life and nail their sins to the Lord's cross. They must confront their persecutors with contempt for things present, holding fast to their freedom by a glorious confession of faith, and shunning any gain that would harm their souls. They should know that no power over their souls has been given to anyone, and that by suffering loss in this short life they will achieve immortality.

“Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me” (Mt 10:40). Christ gives us all a love for his teaching and a disposition to treat our teachers with courtesy.

Earlier he had shown the danger facing those who refused to receive the apostles by requiring these to shake the dust off their feet as a testimony against them; now he commends those who do receive the apostles, assuring them of a greater recompense than they might have expected for their hospitality, and he teaches that since he still acts as mediator, when we receive him God enters us through him because he comes from God.

Thus whoever receives the apostles receives Christ, and whoever receives Christ receives God the Father, since what is received in the apostles is nothing else than what is received in Christ; nor is there anything in Christ but what is in God. Through this disposition of graces to receive the apostles is to receive God, because Christ is in them and God is in Christ.
Commentary on Saint Matthew's Gospel
10, 25-27; SC 254, 246-251.

Hilary (315-367) was elected bishop of Poitiers in 353. Because of his struggles with the Arians and his treatise on the Trinity, for which he was exiled, he has been called “the Athanasius of the West.” He also wrote a commentary on Saint Matthew's gospel and another on a selection of the psalms. His style is difficult and obscure and he makes much use of allegory.

 

**From Saint Louis University

Kristin Clauson