Tag Archives: Matthew’s gospel

St. Joseph

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Readings

“Each year Jesus’ parents went up to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover, and when he was twelve years old they went up according to festival custom.” Luke 2,41

At twelve, Jesus entered a new stage in life – his “Bar Mitzvah,” when he took on the responsibilities of the law, which later he summarized as: “Love the Lord, your God, with your whole heart…Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Who led him to that new stage? It had to be Joseph and Mary. Matthew’s Gospel gives Joseph a major role in Jesus’ birth. He provides Jesus with a genealogy going back to Abraham. He’s told by the angel not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife; he shouldn’t divorce her as Jewish law called for, and he should name the child, Jesus, “for he will save his people from their sins.”

After the visit of the Magi, Joseph was directed to take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt. Then, the angel tells him to return to Israel with them after Herod’s death. Finally, he makes a home in Nazareth in Galilee, where his family would be safer away from Herod’s heir, Archelaus, who ruled in Judea.

Clearly, according to Matthew’s gospel, Joseph is an important figure in the birth and early life of Jesus Christ. Then, he silently disappears from the gospels. There’s no record of his role at Nazareth or his death.

The gospel calls Joseph an “upright” man. He was upright because, like his neighbors at Nazareth, he observed all the Jewish laws. But not from lip service. Joseph firmly believed in his heart in the God of Israel, who loved all things great and small, yes, even Nazareth and a humble carpenter.

An inward man, Joseph saw in the simple, ordinary world about him more than others saw. His neighbor casting seed on the family field he loved – wasn’t God’s passionate love for the land of Israel like that? Even as he built a village house or a table, his thoughts sometimes turned to another world: was not God building a kingdom for his people?

An inward man, Joseph saw beyond the fields and mountains of the small town of Nazareth, but he said little about his inmost dreams to others. A quiet man, he kept his own counsel.

Jesus, the Son of God, was known through his earthly life as Jesus, the son of Joseph, “the carpenter’s son.” Growing up as children do, he naturally would acquire some of Joseph’s traits, perhaps the way he walked and spoke.

From Joseph, Jesus first learned about the people of the village, their sorrows and their joys. He saw his love for Mary and the people of his village. As a child Jesus learned from him how to use a carpenter’s tools and began to work at his side. The rabbis said: A father who does not teach his son a trade teaches him to steal.

The two were constant companions at the synagogue in Nazareth. Together they celebrated regularly the great Jewish feasts, listened to the Scriptures, and journeyed as pilgrims to Jerusalem.

Jesus must have seen in Joseph a simple, holy man who trusted God with all his heart. Someone like Joseph, so unassuming, so steady, so quietly attentive to God, was like a treasure hidden in a field. He could easily go unrecognized.

Later, would Jesus remember lessons and tell stories he learned earlier at Nazareth from Joseph, the carpenter?

The Journey to Jerusalem

Jesus begins to set out for Jerusalem in today’s reading at Mass from the 10th chapter of Mark’s gospel. Matthew offers a similar account in the 19th and 20th chapters of his gospel.

Jesus doesn’t go to Jerusalem alone, he invites others to go with him. It’s a journey to resurrection and life and more than a couple of days, but as they hear Jesus describe the way to Jerusalem, people react like people do,

You can’t miss human weakness in the journey stories of Mark’s and Matthew’s gospel, beginning with the Pharisees. I suppose they represent human doubt and questioning that’s always there. The disciples rebuked the women bringing their children forJesus’ blessing, and Jesus rebukes them. Be like children to make the journey, Jesus tells them.

The rich young man wants to hold on to what he has, so he goes away sad. Peter says proudly he’ s given up everything to follow Jesus, but we know how inconstant he is. The story of the brothers, James and John, is obviously a story of human ambition.

1 Hundred Guilder Print
Rembrandt Hundred Guilder Print

Matthew offers Mark’s stories in chapter 19 and 20 of his gospel. The artist Rembrandt drew a remarkable picture of the 19th and 20th chapter of Matthew called the Hundred Guilder Print.

Jesus stands at the center of Rembrandt’s work, bathed in light, his hands outstretched to the crowds before him.

Peter stands at Jesus right, close by. Other disciples, probably James and John, are next to him. Women and their children, whom the disciples told to go away, are next to them. The rich young man is also there in the crowd. Is he reconsidering?

Some of the enemies of Jesus who plotted against him and argued with him are also there, talking among themselves, but they’re still in the picture. Rembrandt even pictures the camel, back by the city gates.

Jesus sheds his light on them all. His arms are open to them all. Rembrandt has it right. Grace is more powerful than human weakness. It’s everywhere.

Advent’s Here

 

READINGS FOR THE FIRST WEEK OF ADVENT 

Nativity

The daily Advent readings at Mass for the first week of Advent are beautifully arranged and speak of a blessed promise.

The Old Testament readings, from the Prophet Isaiah, describe a bleak world as a fierce Assyrian army heads towards Jerusalem, laying waste towns and cities of Israel and Judea. Yet Isaiah sees something else. Instead of destroying armies, all nations are streaming to God’s mountain and “They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.” (Isaiah 2,1-5) Wars end and a frightened humanity knows peace.

The nations will come to God’s mountain, Jerusalem, where the temple stands, the prophet  says.  They will be fed a rich banquet (Wednesday), there the poor will triumph (Thursday), there the blind will see (Friday). The people will be safe on this rock, where children play around the cobra’s den, and the lion and the lamb lie down together (Tuesday). The prophet’s imagery of promised peace challenges the way we see things..

In the gospels  for the 1st week  Jesus Christ fulfills the Isaian prophecies. The nations have their representation in the  Roman centurion who humbly approaches Jesus in Capernaum.  (Monday) Jesus praises the childlike; little as they are they will enter the kingdom of heaven. (Tuesday) He feeds a multitude on the mountain.(Wednesday) His kingdom is built on rock. (Thursday) He gives sight to the blind that they may find their way.  (Friday)

Many of our Advent readings are from the gospel of Matthew, who portrays Jesus teaching on a mountain (Isaiah’s favorite symbol). His miracles affect all. Jesus is the new temple, the Presence of God, Emmanuel, God with us. Jesus gives us hope beyond human hope.

Mary and Joseph,

Help us see what you and the prophets saw. Amen.

 

Matthew, the tax collector


Jews  usually turned away when they passed the customs place where Matthew, the tax-collector, was sitting. But

“As Jesus passed by, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post. He said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him.”

To celebrate their new friendship, Matthew invited Jesus to a banquet at his house with his friends – other tax collectors like himself – and Jesus came with some of his disciples. They were criticized immediately for breaking one of Capernaum’s social codes. “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

Jesus’ answer was quick: “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do.

Go and learn the meaning of the words `I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Hardly anything is known of Matthew’s part in Jesus’ later ministry, yet surely the tradition must be correct that says he recorded much of what Jesus said and did. A tax-collector was good at keeping books; did Matthew keep memories? Did he remember some things that were especially related his world?

The gospels say that wherever Jesus went he was welcomed by tax collectors. When he entered Jericho, Zachaeus, the chief tax collector of the city, climbed a tree to see him pass, since the crowds were so great. Did Matthew point out the man in the tree to Jesus, a tax collector like himself who brought them all to his house, where Jesus left his blessing of salvation? And did tax collectors in other towns come to Jesus because they recognized one of their own among his companions?

Probably so. Jesus always looked kindly on outsiders like Matthew who were targets of so much suspicion and resentment. True, they belonged to a compromised profession tainted by greed, dishonesty and bribery. Their dealings were not always according to the fine line of right or wrong.

But they were children of God and, like lost sheep, Jesus would not let them be lost.

It’s interesting to note that Pope Francis told a group of bishops recently that he got his vocation to be a priest on the Feast of St. Matthew, when he went to confession and heard God’s call, a call of mercy.

Following Jesus Christ in Lent

Lent 1

Lent is coming. Let’s join those disciples in our picture above following Jesus. One way to follow him is by reflecting on the lenten scriptural readings recommended for the Sundays and weekdays till Easter. They’re the basic book for lenten reading.

On the 1st Sunday of Lent, this coming Sunday, Mark’s gospel takes us to the Jordan River where Jesus is led into a deserted place by the Spirit and tempted for 40 days after his baptism. Our journey  begins  in a desert. Readings from Mark’s Gospel lead us through the Sundays of Lent this year.

The weekday gospels for the first three weeks of lent are mostly from Matthew, the early church’s favorite gospel for catechesis during Lent. They bring us to Galilee where Jesus began his ministry. Most are from the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus speaks “the words of eternal life.”  (Matthew 5-7) Be faithful to prayer and you will grow in wisdom, Jesus says.  ( Tuesday and Thursday, 1st week of Lent)  Love your neighbor, even your enemies and “the least,” whom we easily overlook. ( Monday, Friday, Saturday, 1st week of Lent)

Peter’s confession at Caesaria Phillipi is the highpoint of the first part of Matthew’s gospel. “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” Peter says to Jesus. “You have the words of everlasting life.” Lent invites us to join him in that same confession.

But can we possibly love and believe that way, so lofty and challenging? We’re rather weak disciples. The reading for Saturday after Ash Wednesday reminds us, though, that Jesus doesn’t call perfect disciples. He called  Matthew the tax collector and people like him–not very good keepers of the law. Outsiders and sinners like them welcome us to the lenten season. (Luke 5, 27-32)

Matthew’s gospel takes us up the Mount of the Beatitudes. Like most sacred writers, Matthew likes mountains. You see ahead  more clearly from them. On the 2nd Sunday of Lent, we go up to the Mount of the Transfiguration to glimpse the  glory found ahead.

By the 4th week of Lent,  we arrive  in the Holy City, Jerusalem, to the temple mount and  then the Mount of Calvary. Starting with the 4th week most of the weekday lenten gospels will be from the Gospel of John. I’ll say something about them before we get there.

You can follow the lenten readings online here.

Monday: 1st Week of Advent

Readings:

Isaiah 2,1-5  All nations will come to this mountain

Matthew 8:5-11:  The Roman centurion at Capernaum.

In 8th century Jerusalem Isaiah makes glowing promises about the holy mountain, Jerusalem– all people will come there. At the same time,  Assyrian armies rumble into Palestine. “What are you talking about?” people say, “Can’t you see what’s at the door?”. But the prophet insists they will beat their swords into plowshares, their spears into pruning hooks and there will be no wars any more.

The prophet continues making outrageous promises. There will be a cloud by day and a fire by night over this holy mountain. The mountain’s moving, on an exodus of its own. Wonderful imagery for solid institutions, like churches and nations, that have been around for centuries. You’re still on the move, and God will guide you.

The Assyrians must have had the equivalent of the Roman centurions as the backbone of their armies. If you can get to them, you’ve got the army, military analysts would say. Powerful men, loyal soldiers. They could  tell their troops: “Lay down your swords and spears,” and it would be done.

The Roman centurion in today’s gospel comes humbly before Jesus. “Lord, I am not worthy that you come under my roof, but say the word and my servant will be healed.” He comes with a faith not found in Israel.

The Messiah will touch the proud and the strong. The centurion is one of them.