• 3rd Sunday A

    Posted on January 21, 2017 by in Reflections on Sunday Gospels

    Learning from Meticulous Matthew

    The A cycle explores Matthew’s Gospel.  The first section of the Gospel

    establishes what God has commissioned Jesus to do.  The section we

    begin this Sunday indicates how Jesus carries out his mission to

    manifest God’s saving presence. (My commentaries on Matthew’s Gospel

    depend heavily on MATTHEW AND THE MARGINS by Warren Carter.)


        l)  “When Jesus heard that John had been arrested he withdrew to

    Galilee.”  This sentence has been understood as Jesus courageously

    taking up the mission of John.. It clearly signals a change of direction

    in Jesus’ life.  This change involved a geographical move but also a new

    phase in the life of Jesus. Matthew in this passage moves us rapidly

    through Jesus beginning to proclaim his theme,  calling followers,
    teaching,  proclaiming and healing. The lives of Jesus and John were
    closely intertwined. There was friendship but also foreshadowing.
    Later in the Gospel in chapter l4 when Jesus hears about the horrible
    death of John, Matthew tells us,“…he withdrew into a deserted place
    by himself.”  Jesus could see images of his own life in the life of John. 
    Our lives too are intertwined with those of others.   One point for
    our consideration this Sunday is to examine our lives in terms of
    changes of direction.


        2) “From that time on Jesus began to proclaim this theme:  Reform

    your lives!  The kingdom of heaven is at hand.”   Here Matthew edits

    Mark’s Gospel to put the exact same words on the lips of Jesus that had

    been on the lips of John.  But though the words are the same the

    understanding of John is different from that of Jesus.  Both call for

    reform of lives.  The necessity of “doing” the will of God will be

    developed in a special way in Matthew’s Gospel.  John thought that the

    coming of the kingdom of heaven would bring judgement, that sinners

    would be condemned and perish.  Instead in Jesus the coming of the

    kingdom would mean something different.  Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel will

    be portrayed as the wisdom teacher and compassionate healer.


        3) “He said to them, Come after me and I will make your fishers of

    men.  They immediately abandoned their nets and became his followers.” 

    Jesus distinguishes himself from the teachers of his day by taking the 

    positive initiative to call disciples.  The crisp format of the call

    narrative reminds us of the Old Testament call narratives when a prophet

    or king was swept into Yahweh’s service.   Here as in Mark (unlike Luke

    and John) the disciples response is motivated only be Jesus’ invitation,

    an element that emphasizes his mysterious power, his extraordinary

    attractiveness and magnetism.  Here we also have the important theme of

    discipleship being developed.  To be a disciple is to be with Jesus and

    to share in his mission.


        4) “Jesus went around all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues,

    proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and

    illness among the people.”  One author has described the author of this

    Gospel as “meticulous Matthew.”  In this summary statement of the

    mission of Jesus we see some of Matthew’s precision.  Jesus in his

    travels is doing three things: teaching, proclaiming and curing.  For

    Matthew the time of Jesus is the time of arrival of the kingdom. His
    kingdom is significantly, maybe essentially different than other kingdoms.
    AsHerald he proclaims what God does in Jesus.  In Jesus God shows a

    ministry of word and of deed.  Jesus is wisdom teacher and compassionate

    healer.  Chapters 5?7 will develop the notion of wisdom teacher and

    chapters 8?9  that of Jesus as compassionate healer.  In chapter 9: 35

    Matthew will repeat this exact summary. Chapter 10 expands Jesus’

    call to disciples to join his liberating mission  “fish for people” (4:19).


         Between now and the beginning of Lent (March 1) , we will be

    exploring the teaching of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. The

    difference between the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of the world

    is pronounced in undeniable differences.

        After the Easter season when we resume ordinary time we will

    take up Matthew’s Gospel at the second of his five great discourses,

    the Missionary discourse.

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