Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and evangelist

Today is the Feast of Matthew, whom we venerate as one of the four Evangelists, that is, the inspired human writers of the Holy Gospels. The Gospel According to St. Matthew is clearly the most Judaic of the four canonical Gospels, built as it is around five discourses, which are reminiscent of the first five books of the Bible, which Christians call the Pentateuch (Greek for "five books") and Jews revere as Torah, a Hebrew word meaning "Instruction."

The first discourse is Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, which makes up chapters 5-7. His second discourse, found in chapter 10, is termed Missionary Instructions. Collection of Parables is the third discourse and comprises chapter 13. The Lord's fourth discourse, which is chapter 18, is called Community Instructions. The fifth and final discourse, which runs from chapter twenty-three to chapter twenty-five, is His Sermon on Eschatology.

Given all of this it is fitting to look to the Sermon on the Mount for continuity, not only between the Hebrew Scriptures and the uniquely Christian Scriptures, but between Jews, Christians, and Muslims, those things that constitute our fundamental praxis: prayer, fasting, alms-giving.

St. Matthew

take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father. When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you (Matt. 6:1-4)

When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you (Matt. 6:5-6)

When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you (Matt. 6:16-18)
I am convinced that if we practiced these disciplines more fervently and regularly we would not have as many personal problems and far fewer ecclesial problems. After all, humility is necessary to advance in virtue. Besides, these practices help us to judge according to all the factors that make-up reality, thus helping us to overcome the very human tendency to reduce.

St. Matthew, pray for us.

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