7 And when they went their way, Jesus began to say to the multitudes concerning John: What went you out into the desert to see? a reed shaken with the wind? 8 But what went you out to see? a man clothed in soft garments? Behold they that are clothed in soft garments, are in the houses of kings.
Chrysostom: Why did ye leave the towns and go out into the wilderness? So great multitudes would not have gone with such haste into the desert, if they had not thought that they should see one great, and wonderful, one more stable than the rock.
Pseudo-Chrysostom: They had not gone out at this time into the desert to see John, for he was not now in the desert, but in prison; but He speaks of the past time while John was yet in the desert, and the people flocked to him.
Chrysostom: He clears John of fickleness, which the multitude had suspected him of, saying, “A reed shaken by the wind?”
Gregory: A reed shaken by the wind John was not, for no variety of circumstance bent him from his uprightness.
Chrysostom: John was neither inconstant by natural disposition; this he means by saying, “What went ye out for to see, a reed shaken by the wind?” Neither had he corrupted an excellent nature by self-indulgence, for that he had not served the flesh is shewn by his raiment, his abode in the desert, his prison. Had he sought soft raiment, he would not have dwelt in the desert, but in kings’ houses.
Gregory: John was not “clothed in soft raiment,” that is, he did not encourage sinners in their sinful life by speaking smooth things, but rebuked them with sharpness and rigour, saying, “Generation of vipers, etc.” [Matt 3:7]
Jerome: The desert is that which is deserted of the Holy Spirit, where there is no habitation of God; in the reed is signified a man who in outward show lives a pious life, but lacks all real fruit within himself, fair outside, within hollow, moved with every breath of wind, that is, with every impulse of unclean spirits, having no firmness to remain still, devoid of the marrow of the soul; by the garment wherewith his body is clothed is his mind shewn, that it is lost in luxury and self-indulgence. The kings are the fallen angels; they are they who are powerful in this life, and the lords of this world. Thus, “They that are clothed in soft raiment are in kings’ houses;” that is, those whose bodies are enervated and destroyed by luxury, it is clear are possessed by demons.
Augustine: In all such things we blame not the use of the things, but the lust of those that use them.
Scripture from the Douay-Rheims Bible. Commentary from St. Thomas Aquinas, Catena Aurea, Vol. I (London: Rivington, 1842).