TLDR: We completed the year of Luke on November 20, and we start Matthew in Advent, on November 27. For Matthew to belong to Christ requires a lifestyle which produces the fruits of a true disciple. Join us as we hear Matthew present us with a fairly different Messiah than Luke.
Happy Thanksgiving to all of you. Please know that I am praying for you on this amazing day. May God continue to shower you with his blessings as we start a new liturgical year together this weekend. We completed the year of Luke on November 20, and we will be entering into the year of Matthew in Advent, on November 27. For the next Church year the Gospel readings will be taken almost exclusively from the Gospel of Matthew. Matthew is often seen as no more than the Gospel of Mark with some additional material thrown in for good measure. Matthew incorporates 90% of the gospel of Mark into its narrative, almost in a verbatim fashion. This corresponds to about 50% of the entire Gospel of Matthew. Matthew is more than an expanded version of Mark, however. “The structure of Matthew is not determined by the narrative, but by the succession of great discourses, and the Markan narrative is only one of several elements which Matthew has built into his own highly original presentation of Jesus, the gospel of the kingdom, and the Church” (Beare, “The Gospel According to Matthew”, preface).
Matthew is the most Jewish of all the gospels. His intent is to create a pattern for the Christian way of life, which resembles the life of Christ himself. Matthew sees Christ as the fulfillment of the prophesies given to Israel by God, which were preserved in the Jewish Scriptures. Jesus Christ has inaugurated by his words and actions the kingdom of God on earth. “In his life and death, all has come to pass in accordance with the prophetic scriptures... (Mt 1:22)” (Beare, 5). Christ is the fulfillment of Israel’s scripture, but their rejection of the Messiah has opened the promises made to Israel to all peoples of the world, open to all who do the will of God. Saying that you are a descendant of Abraham or Moses will no longer ensure your salvation, if you have rejected God’s Messiah (Mt. 8:11). In fact, saying that you believe in Jesus, when that faith is void of any fruit that is expected of true disciples of Christ, will not be sufficient (Mt. 7:21).
This emphasis on a Christian Ethic has made the Gospel of Matthew a favorite of many Christians who emphasize a “works-righteousness ethic”. We see this ethic in the five speeches that Matthew enters into Mark. The first is found in Matthew 5:1-7:29, which ends with the formula, “When Jesus had finished these sayings…” (7:28-29). It includes:
The Beatitudes (5:1-16), Salt and Light (5:13-16),
The Law and the Prophets (5:17-20), Anger (5:21-26),
Adultery (5:27-30), Divorce (5:31-32),
Oaths (5:33-37), Retaliation (5:38-42),
Love of Enemies (5:43-48), Almsgiving (6:1-5),
Prayer (6:5-15), Fasting (6:16-18),
Treasures (6:19-21), The Sound Eye (6:22-23),
Serving Two Masters (6:24), Do Not Worry (6:25-34),
Judging Others (7:1-6), Profaning the Holy (7:6),
Ask, Search, Knock (7:7-11), The Golden Rule (7:12)
The Narrow Gate (7:13-14), A Tree and Its Fruit (7:15-20),
Self-Deception (7:21-23), Hearers and Doers (7:24-29).
The second major speech in Matthew is found in 9:36-11:1. It also ends with the customary rubric, “After Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples...” (11:1.) It contains:
The Harvest (9:36-38), The Twelve Apostles (10:1-4),
The Mission of the Twelve (10:5-15), The Coming Persecutions (10:16-25),
Teaching on Fear (10:26-33), No Peace, but a Sword (10:34-39),
The third discourse, 13:1-52, is a collection of parables, four of which are only found in the gospel of Matthew (the wheat and the tares, the buried treasure, the priceless pearl, and the fishnet). The section ends with “When Jesus had finished these parables, he moved on from there” (13:53.) The speech includes:
The Parable of the Sower (13:1-9), The Purpose of Parables (13:10-17),
Explanation of the Sower (13:18-23), Weeds and Wheat (13:24-30),
The Mustard Seed (13:31-32), The Yeast (13:33),
The Use of Parables (13:34-35), Explanation of the Weeds (13:36-43)
Three Small Parables (13:44-50), Treasures New and Old (13:51-52).
The fourth discourse is found in chapter 18:1-35. This is a combination of materials, which include the answer to the question, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” (18:1-9). This section ends with the formula, “When Jesus had finished saying these things...” (19:1.) This speech includes:
True Greatness (18:1-5), Temptations to Sin (18:6-9),
The Parable of the Lost Sheep (18:10-14), Reproving Another Who Sins (18:15-20),
Forgiveness (18:21-22), The Unforgiving Servant (18:23-35).
The last speech is found in 23:1-25:46. The theme of this last speech is judgment. It also ends with the traditional formula, “When Jesus had finished saying all these things...” (26:1). It includes the following sections:
Against Scribes and Pharisees (23:1-36), The Lament over Jerusalem (23:37-39),
Temple Destruction Foretold (24:1-8), The End of the Age (24:3-8).
Persecution Foretold (24:9-14), The Desolating Sacrilege (24:15-28),
The Coming of the Son of Man (24:29-31), The Fig Tree (24:32-35),
The Necessity of Watchfulness (24:36-44), Faithful and Unfaithful Slave (24:45-51),
The Ten Bridesmaids (25:1-13), The Parable of the Talents (25:14-30),
The Judgement of the Nations (25:31-46).
I invite you to read these five speeches of Matthew and become familiarized with the message of this beloved evangelist. Matthew wants to convince us that Jesus of Nazareth is the fulfillment of the Jewish Scripture. Perhaps this is the reason why he divides his book into five sections, giving us the message that Christ’s New Law is the new Pentateuch. For Matthew, to belong to Christ requires a way of being, a lifestyle which produces the fruits of a true disciple. It is no longer sufficient to be a descendant of Abraham or Moses. Jesus fulfilled the old law and it is now the new law, as fulfilled and interpreted by Jesus, that requires our obedience. The whole law and the teaching of the prophets now hang on the commandments to love God above all things and your neighbor as yourself (22:34-40). God’s promises to his people are now open to all those who do the will of God. We are all each other’s neighbors, which means that we are responsible to care for each other in the way that Jesus has cared for us. May God bless us this new Church year, as we listen to Matthew and reflect on Christ’s loving sacrifice for us on the Cross.
Blessings to all,