Daily Readings Reflection for 9/21/09

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Reflection on the Daily Readings for 9/21/09 by Fr. Bertrand Buby, SM

Today’s Readings

Scripture:  ST. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist.  Sept. 21, 2009.
Ephesians 4:1-7,11-13. Psalm 19:2-3.4.5.  Matthew 9:9-13:
Matthew is preeminent among the four evangelists in our liturgical
celebrations and Church traditions.  More than the other Gospels, this
“first” Gospel was proclaimed at most Sunday masses before Vatican II.
Matthew is listed both as an apostle and an evangelist. He appears in every
list naming the apostles and may also have been known as Levi.  In one of
his passages, he has this saying of Jesus that may have been actually a
description of Matthew: “…every scribe who has been trained for the
kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his
treasure what is new and what is old.” (Mt.13:52).  Matthew is aware of the
past, the present, and the future in his writings.  He is the master of
presenting fulfillment texts that are cited directly from the Hebrew
Scriptures. He has familiarity with both the Hebrew and the Greek of the
Septuagint in these fulfillment texts. Five of them appear in the Birth
narrative of Jesus in chapters one and two.
As a convert, Matthew is an inspired scribe who is talented in
organizational skills, didactic repetitions, parables of the kingdom in
colorful language, and a structured presentation easily used in communal
celebrations and readings.His calling in life before he met Jesus was that
of a tax collector, thus he would have developed these skills of
exactitude, order, and preciseness.  He has a penchant for using certain
numbers like fives and fourteens (the double of seven) or tens (the double
of fives).  Perhaps, he saw the fivefold sermon developments as an echo of
the Torah’s five scrolls from Genesis to Deuteronomy.
In the ecclesial epistle of Paul to the Ephesians we notice that five
ministries are considered the gifts given (charisms) for the Church:
Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors, and Teachers. These five gifts
were present in Matthew, the Apostle, the great Evangelist of the kingdom
of heaven, the Prophetic voice echoing the fulfillment of prophecies in the
person of Jesus;  the Pastor concerned with reconciling the Jewish converts
and the Gentiles who came into the Christian Churches probably in northern
Israel or possibly in Antioch in Syria. And as Teacher who presented Jesus
as a new Moses, the teacher of the Torah.  Matthew was working with a
church divided against itself and wanted it to be a new Israel in which
both Jew and Gentile could worship side by side.  He was interested in
attaining unity of faith within the Church.  As an evangelist he is the
only one who uses the term “ekklesia” or “church” in his Gospel.  In art he
is portrayed usually writing with a pen with an Angel beside him or in the
prophetic images used by Ezekiel and taken up again in the Book of
Revelation.  Matthew is the man with angel wings in the background. (Mark
the lion, Luke, the ox, and John, the eagle). In the Epistle there is the
phrase “mature manhood” leading to the full statue of Jesus Christ; this
fits Matthew perfectly.
The call of Matthew comes directly from his Gospel and is in our
Tradition associated with the same person who becomes the Apostle and
Evangelist.  He immediately leaves his profession, invites Jesus and his
friends to table, and then follows Jesus on his journeys. We learn how he
makes strong decisions quickly without a fuss, and responds generously by
throwing a party and inviting many to his table.  Jesus wanted such mercy
and compassion rather than sacrifices of animals or food.
Matthew presents Jesus as the Messiah, the Master Teacher, the Son of
Man at the endtime, the Son of God, and also calls Jesus “Emmanuel” or God
is with us.  He speaks of Church discipline, of sacraments, universal
mission, Mary, baptism, and kingdom theology through imaginative and
compelling parables.  Dennis C. Duling, a Matthean scholar says it so well,
“These elements have contributed to his preeminence as the First Gospel of
the orthodox Christian canon.  Only in this Gospel is the word
“church” (ekklesia) used, first in relation to the authority of Peter
(Mt.16:17-19), and later in relation to the assembled group’s power to
excommunicate errant members (Mt.18:17).  Duling continues, “…it has a
marvelous vision of Jesus as the compassionate, healing Messiah/Son of
David, the royal Son of God, and the apocalyptic Son of man who is claimed
as the fulfillment of the Torah and the prophets (Mt.5:17-20) and the whole
world.” (Mt.28-16-20). Amen.

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