Tag Archives: St. Matthew’s Gospel.

Mission: St. Clement’s Parish, Matawan-Aberdeen, NJ

We know from the gospels that Jesus used examples from his time to speak to the people of his day. Today’s readings tell us that.  Since Jesus lived most of his life in Galilee in northern Palestine, and most of the people he preached to were farmers who made their living on the land or fishermen fishing the sea, Jesus talked to people about fishing and their farms and vineyards and planting seeds.

So how would he speak to us now?  Would he Google the place?

I’m here for your parish mission for the next three days. Tonight, tomorrow night and Tuesday night at 7:30 PM.  I googled “Matawan” for information about your town, or borough, to use the right word, and Wikipedia said there are about 9,000 people here in Matawan. in a space of 2.3 square miles. The median age about 36.

In a New York Times article last year entitled 2 Lakes, the Shore and a Train to the City  the writer said that Matawan was a good place to live, to bring up kids,  close to the train, close to the shore, close to the water. The statistics say you’re more prosperous here than other parts of the country, but the 2000 census did say that 5.5 of your population were below the poverty line. I’d guess that might be greater these days.

Now, I don’t think that Jesus, if he came here to talk to you, would go on a lot about statistics. The gospels say he urged people to be grateful to God for what they had.  Don’t forget God who gave you everything; God should be at the center of your life.

Be like your Father in heaven, aim high. Live a grateful life and love the way God loves.

The gospel also says that Jesus was not someone who was always calling people out. He saw the heartbreak, the sorrow, the sickness, the pain that’s present in everyone, no matter where they live. He saw sinners. Sinners are those who get life wrong. He spent a lot of time with them. He’s God’s face for us to see.

For the next few evenings I’ll be using the Gospel of Matthew to follow Jesus Christ through the last days of his life and his appearances as Risen from the dead. These are the most important parts of the gospel.  We’ll  follow him as disciples, which means we’ll learn from him, our teacher and Lord, how to live today from the way he lived yesterday.  I’ll go slowly through the scriptures step by step, so if you come to these evening sessions might be good to bring a bible along.

I hope this mission helps us to appreciate Jesus Christ and give us a greater appreciation for the scriptures that speak of him. In our church today, the scriptures have become our catechism and our prayerbook.

But you know as well as I that many don’t read the scriptures much or understand them too.

An article in a recent issue of the Jesuit magazine, America, (http://www.americamagazine.org/content/current-issue.cfm?issueid=786) discussed the way American Catholics read the scriptures. Actually, they don’t read them much or know much about the writings we call the Word of God, the author, Brian B. Pinter, says. Also, Catholics who do read the scriptures, may read them literally, like fundamentalists. But the Pontifical Bible Commission in 1993, Pinter points out, warned that  “Fundamentalism actually invites people to a kind of intellectual suicide.”

Last summer the pope urged Catholics to take up and read the scriptures. It wasn’t a pious wish, he was dead serious. The scriptures are the Word of God that nourish our faith and help us know God’s will.

A couple of weeks ago was catechetical Sunday, when parishes began their religious education programs for the year. Most of these programs are for our young people.  But you know religious education involves more than young people. All of us are called to grow in our faith and live what we believe.

Unfortunately, adults may think that faith is something you learn as a child in school or in a religious education program and you never have to learn about it again.

The Catholic writer Frank Sheed once said the problem with adult Catholics is that they don’t keep engaged in the faith they learned as children. He used the example of our eyes. We have two eyes. Let’s say one of them is the eye of faith; the other is the eye of experience.

As children, in religious education we may  see the world with two eyes; but as adults we may see the world only with the eye of experience. And so we lose the focus that faith gives, another dimension. We won’t see right. Faith helps us to see.

“You are all learners,” Jesus said. It’s not just children who learn, all of us learn. We are lifelong learners. Lifelong believers, engaged believers, struggling believers, even till the end.

So, I invite you to our mission this week as lifelong learners. Some of you may not be able to make it, but let me make a deal with you. How about doing a little online learning? I have a blog on the web called “Victor’s Place.” I’ll put up some material from our mission every day, starting with this homily. If you can’t get here yourself, or have a neighbor who wont darken the church door, or have a daughter in California who’s not going to church, take a look at “Victor’s Place.”

You saw me bring up a cross at the beginning of Mass and put it next to the pulpit. That was to remind me and to remind you that Someone Else is here speaking during these days of mission. The Lord is with us. He wants to speak to us here in this place where 9,000 people live, a place of  “2 Lakes, near the Shore and a trainride to the City.”

The mission services, a short catechesis, a longer reflection on the scriptures, hymns, prayers and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament will be about 1 hour. Sunday, Monday and Tuesday Nights at 7:30.

I’ll be celebrating the morning Masses on Monday and Tuesday at 8 AM  and preaching a short homily. Afterwards I’ll be available for confessions.

Fr. Victor Hoagland, CP


mission poster 2


Tuesday Night at the Mission

Praying from the Gospel of Matthew: Chapters 1-16

Matthew’s gospel gives important information about the origin and birth of Jesus Christ, so it’s an important gospel to read in Advent. We’re also going to read it most Sundays this coming year.

Matthew’s gospel is the Church’s first Catechism, the most popular gospel read in the early Church.

Where and when was it written?

It was written probably around 90 AD scholars suggest, and they offer three possible places: Antioch in Syria, Sepphoris near Nazareth and Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee. When the gospel was written, these cities had become centers for Jewish leaders who had fled from Jerusalem after the destruction of the city and its temple in 70 AD.  From these cities, they were trying to rebuild Judaism after the tragedy of 70 AD.

In their efforts to rebuild they came into conflict with the followers of Jesus Christ who saw him as the new hope for his people and for all the world. The Gospel of Matthew reflects the deep conflict between these two groups. The sharp critique of the scribes and pharisees in the 23rd chapter of Matthew is an example of the contentious spirit that must have existed on both sides.

Galilee and Judea

Matthew’s gospel focuses on two places of Jesus’ life and ministry: Galilee and Judea. He was raised in Nazareth of Galilee. Joseph tells the story of his origins there. After his baptism by John, Jesus spent some years in Capernaum, along the Sea of Galilee; he called others to follow him, and taught and performed great wonders in that region.  Matthew’s gospel recalls the origins and ministry of Jesus in Galilee in the first 16 chapters of his gospel. His sources are the tax-collectors and fishermen who followed Jesus during this period. Peter speaks for them all as he calls Jesus “the Messiah, Son of the Living God.” (Chapter 16)

In the remaining chapters, Matthew’s gospel recalls Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem, to Judea, where he will die and rise again. Afterwards, he sends his followers into the whole world to preach and baptize.

In Jesus’ time in Galilee, Herod Antipas (4 BC-39 AD), son of the infamous Herod the Great, who put the children of Bethlehem to death at the time of Jesus’ birth, ruled the region from his newly-built capital of Tiberias, only a few miles from Capernaum. His influence is important in the Gospel of Mattew even though he is mentioned only a few times in the New Testament. He ordered John the Baptist beheaded and later wondered if Jesus might be John come back from the dead. Jesus called him “that Fox.”

Later in Jerusalem, Herod came to celebrate the Passover and Pontius Pilate sent Jesus to him before passing the death sentence, but Jesus wouldn’t say a word to him. One interesting connection to Herod: Johanna, wife of Herod’s steward Cusa, was a follower of Jesus who stood with Mary and the other women at his cross.

Like his father, Herod the Great, Herod Antipas loved to build, and his splendid Greco-Roman city of Tiberias arose from 20 and 27 AD, while Jesus lived in Nazareth. It was a typical Roman city, with a Roman gate, stadium, spacious squares with marble statues, a grand palace with a golden roof and a large synagogue. To pay for it, and other big building projects in Galilee –Sepphoris, Caesaria Maritima– Herod sent his tax-collectors into the cities and towns of Galilee–places like Capernaum and Nazareth– to squeeze the fishermen and farmers for whatever they could get.

Herod was intent on exploiting the rich resources of Galilee and building up its economic potential, but for that  he needed money. Herod and his tax collectors weren’t popular among the people.

Highlights of the Gospel of Matthew

The highpoint of Matthew’s Gospel is found in chapter 16. At Caesaria Philippi  Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” “Some say you are John the Baptist, some say you are Elijah,” they answer. “Who do you say that I am?” he asks them. Peter answers “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Peter’s strong confession would be fiercely disputed by the  Jewish authorities from Tiberias in the year 90, and others before them during the time of Jesus himself.

We recognized some of their objections. Jesus came from nearby, inconspicuous Nazareth where his own neighbors rejected him.   Did he really rise from the dead? Rumors were that his disciples stole his body from the tomb. Perhaps he resembled Elijah, or John the Baptist, or one of the prophets, but he could be a false prophet too.

The Jewish authorities would also question the credentials of the chief followers of Jesus– uneducated fishermen and unpopular tax-collectors. How could they be authentic teachers in Israel?

Modern scriptural studies, by pointing out the real life situations that influenced the creation of our gospels, help us  understand them better. Our gospels  didn’t drop down from heaven, they came from people struggling over the questions Jesus asked  Peter: “Who do people say that I am?” “Who do you say that I am?” The gospels were written to answer his critics then;  even now,  we can appreciate these old disputes.

For example, Matthew’s gospel speaks to questions about the origins of Jesus, born of a virgin and conceived through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Matthew’s gospel begins with a genealogy tracing Jesus back the David. He is a son of David. Joseph attests to his davidic origins, inspired by an angel. He testifies to Mary’s virginity. He guards the Child and Mary against the powers of darkness

Matthew’s Jesus speaks to the crowds from a mountain, like Moses, not just in a synagogue like the Pharisees. The gospel is filled with Old Testament references and miracles backing up his claims. Matthew’s gospel challenges the story that after his resurrection his body was stolen by his own disciples.

Matthew’s witnesses are ordinary people like Joseph, the just man, Peter, the fisherman, and Matthew, the tax-collector. “Flesh and blood” hasn’t revealed Jesus to them, but the Father in heaven. He has made them his star witnesses.

Did the Christians Lose in Galilee?

I think the followers of Jesus lost the battle with the new Jewish establishment in Galilee at the end of the 1st century, and many moved on to other places. Only some  remained in Galilee. The final words of Jesus to his eleven disciples in Matthew’s gospel seem to indicate a call to other places.

“The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them.  When they saw him they worshipped, but they doubted. Then Jesus approached and said to them, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”  Mt 28, 16-20

Our church is ever on the move, but  we are empowered to go with it to wherever the Spirit leads.

Here are two biographies of leading characters in Matthew’s gospel: Joseph and Peter.

Joseph, the Foster Father of Jesus http://www.cptryon.org/holylives/nt/joseph/index.html

Peter: “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” http://www.cptryon.org/holylives/nt/peter/index.html

A Mission at St. Margaret’s: Monday

Monday Mass: November 29

This morning in St. Margaret Church in Madison, Ct,  I celebrated Mass and afterwards gave a short morning catechesis on the Holy Eucharist, our great common prayer.  Here are some simple suggestions I made about praying at Mass.



Tonight at 7 PM our mission continues. Here’s the lineup.

Monday: Searching for God: St. Elizabeth Ann

Opening hymn

Announcements and opening prayer

Catechesis  (10 minutes): Growing in faith:  The US Catholic Catechism for Adults

Praying today: Prayers and prayerbooks

Reflective hymn

Sermon:   (35 minutes)     The Saint of Wall Street: St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

Benediction hymns, short prayer, closing hymn) (15 minutes)

The way we’re learning about our faith is changing. One example is the new US Catholic Catechism for Adults. It’s a catechism for adults, instead of a catechism for children. It’s for adult Catholics, and not just for priests or special catechetical teachers. All of us are invited to learn and keeping learning about our faith, and then live what we know and believe.

The new Catholic Catechism for Adults, besides definitions and explanations, uses the lives of saints and holy people, many of them American, as examples and guides of faith. Faith doesn’t exist in a book, it’s lived by people.

St. Elizabeth Seton is the first saint the catechism offers. She a wonderful example of what’s meant when we say we are searching for God. All of us are searching for God. Her life took an extraordinary number of twists and turns, from childhood, to married life, to prosperity and then to adversity,  to her conversion to Catholicism and her life as a dedicated religious involved in the ministry of the church.Through it all she kept searching for God who made her and mysteriously called her.

Another way we use to learn about our faith today is the scriptures. Tuesday night and Wednesday night we’re going to look at Jesus as he is presented in the Gospel of Matthew, which is often called the first Christian catechism.

I’ll give a summary of these presentations afterwards in blogs at Victor’s Place