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Matthew: A Second Time Around

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Matthew the Evangelist

I was going through some of my archived posts from the Bible Notes website I used to maintain back in 2005 and found some articles on Matthew which may still come in handy this year, if they happen to coincide with the Sunday readings. I have written newer versions for some of the sections from the Gospel of Matthew (e.g., Jesus Walking on the Waters, the Canaanite Woman). Reading these just now reminds me of what I read somewhere from Origen: that the student of the Scriptures understands a passage better each time he studies it at different stages of his life. While 2005 isn’t really that far off I can truthfully say that going back to the same passages I have already reflected on did allow me to see something that I missed the first time I worked on them.

Matthew 11:19b Wisdom’s Children or Works of Wisdom?
In Matthew 11:16-19 Jesus compares the towns where he has been preaching to children playing in the marketplace: they won’t respond to the dirge of the Baptist’s asceticism or to the flute of Jesus’ joyful announcement of the good news. In Filipino, one can even interject that “this generation” is sala sa init, sala sa malamig. Then Jesus concludes his comparison with a wisdom saying that has been rendered differently by different translations.
Jesus Walks On Water: Matthew’s Version
Matthew 14:22-33 is a rewriting of Mark 6:45-52, a narrative that closely follows the feeding of the five thousand (6:34-44) and is connected to it (see Mk. 6:52). But while in Mark the disciples were not able to understand the connection between the multiplication of the loaves and Jesus on the waters, and therefore the significance itself of this latter, in Matthew, the disciples end up worshipping Jesus as the “Son of God” that is, as God* (Mark 14:33). This conclusion actually highlights the Marcan “insinuations” of Jesus’ Divinity implied in Jesus’ walking on the waters, the self-presentation “Take courage, I AM”, and the intention to pass them by.
The Faith of A Pagan: Matthew 15:21-28
The story of the persistent Canaanite woman in Matthew 15:21-28 is taken by the Catechism as an example of prayer borne out of deep faith (CCC, 2610). In fact, the figure of the Canaanite woman and her persistence in asking for the Lord’s help reminds one of Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46-52), the Parables of Persistent Prayer in Luke (cf. Luke 11:5-10;18:2-5). And while it can be compared to the case of the Roman centurion as an example of a healing at a distance, (Mt. 8:5-13), the case of the Canaanite woman is distinguished by the fact that here, her request was granted after being rebuffed.
Matthew 18:15-20 The Work of Reconciliation
“Reconciliation” in the Scriptures, means “to change a relationship of enmity into friendship”, and this task is given to the Church as is clear from today’s gospel reading. In Matthew 18:18, the task of binding and loosing — a task already given to Peter (Matthew 16: 19) — is given to the whole Church within a passage that deals with “winning your brother back” (v. 15c).
Forgiveness and reconciliation is of course incumbent upon every disciple of the Lord. We are reminded of this in passages that talk about forgiving (Matthew 18:21-22) and reconciling with another on a legal dispute (Matthew 5:25f), among others. But in Matthew 18:15-17, it is clear that among members of the Body of Christ, a process that is motivated by love should be carried out in cases where a relationship has been wounded.
Mt. 16:21-27 — Being an Alter Christus
Those who have been baptized are called “alter Christus”, an “other Christ”. This aspect of the Christian life is underscored in Mt. 16:21-27. The gospel selection for the 22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year A) can be divided in the following way:
  • vv. 21-23 Get Behind Me, Satan: The Reproach To Peter
  • vv. 24-27 The Disciples’ Way of the Cross
The statement “Whoever wants to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (v. 24) is actually a statement of the lifestyle of the one who wishes to follow Jesus. The central statement “take up his cross” points forward to the Way of the Cross. As Jesus will be carrying the cross of humiliation and shame, so too the disciple will have to carry his. The two outward statements — “deny himself … follow me” — recalls all the instances when those whom Jesus calls have to leave something of themselves behind.
Mt. 18:21-35: Forgiveness From The Heart
We can sympathize with Peter when he asks: “Lord, how many times should I forgive a brother who wrongs me?” And we find the answer to the question difficult to accept: “Don’t count the times you forgive.*” And then, so as to quash any objections that may arise from his reply, the Lord immediately proposes a parable about a man who was freed from a large debt by his master, the king, but who would not do the same for a person who owed him a mere paltry sum. When the king heard what the man did, he had him imprisoned until he paid back all he owed to him. And the Lord concludes the parable with these ominous words: “My heavenly Father will treat you in exactly the same way unless each of you forgives his brother from the heart.”
Mt. 21-33-46 The Tenants of the Vineyard
Mt. 21:33-46 is a parable closely following that found in vv. 28-32 which deal with the question: “Who is doing the Father’s will?” Both parables are tied up together by the same image, that of the “vineyard.” In the parable under consideration, Jesus hooks up with the Vineyard Song in Isaiah 5:1-7 which is actually plaintive song regarding a vineyard that refuses to give off its fruits inspite of the attention given to it by its owner. The resemblance however is immediately cut off after Mt. 21:33, for what follows is the story of a rebellion. The tenants of the vineyard refuse to give the owner his portion of the yield. Instead, they kill off the owner’s messengers one by one (vv.34-36).
Mt. 22:1-14 The Wedding Garment
Another parable proposed by the Lord as a reply to those who ask about his authority (cf. 21:23-27) is about a wedding feast. A king’s son was going to be married and so gives out the invitation to those whom he usually invites. These excused themselves due to other commitments. Not only that, some of them even killed the king’s messengers (vv.2-6). The king answers with a violent reprisal (v.7). With the usual guests finished off, the king sends out his messengers once more to call in anyone — both good and bad — into the banquet. And so the banquet did get underway…

Originally posted 2008-08-10 17:36:09. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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