Mathew was used to assessing a person’s worth and he could determine their value, he was a taxman. Then Jesus said follow me, and that taxman did. In doing so, he began a new system of appraisal. People were no longer valued in terms of income, or status. All people are precious in the eyes of God, this is Jesus’s reminder to his followers. This is the reminder to the tax collector that once valued people according to earnings; Matthews’s valuation turned from the earthly to the heavenly. Through his discipleship he learned the true value of mankind. That’s something to think of on his feast-day. How often are people thought of as precious in the eyes of God today? How many are valued instead on their wealth, or their intelligence, or their profession, or their heritage. How often do people forget that all people are precious in the eyes of God? So often when people think of Saint Matthew they become focused on Matthew the sinner because that is how he was perceived in his day. How many forget that Matthew himself once valued people incorrectly, according to a materialistic scale. How many forget that he drastically changed his approach once he became a disciple of the LORD. How many are willing to take the same leap of faith that Matthew did, and realize that all people are precious in the eyes of God.
The feast of the apostle Matthew
21 September 2017
It is only fitting that the day after the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross is the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows, for although the cross is exalted for our redemption that redemption was at a cost. Our Lady of Sorrows is a reminder of that cost. It was Mary who witnessed the price of salvation, it was she who endured the suffering of her Son and it is she who bears the sorrow of our sin. It was through Mary’s fidelity to God that she bore Jesus, and that fidelity is consistent through his ministry. Her sorrow is predicted by Simeon at the presentation, she bears the sorrow of the flight into Egypt during the Martyrdom of the Innocents, the loss of Jesus in the Temple and the sorrows of Cavalry; Jesus death upon the cross, receiving his lifeless body and his burial. It is her sorrows that realize the price of sin, her grace that bears these sorrows as a price of our redemption. Her willingness to accept these sorrows on our behalf, are proof positive of her willing grace to intercede on our behalf
I never really did finish this post. The above is from previous years. Every year the coincidence of the Cross and Mary’s sorrows leaps at me. The Cross, an instrument of torment and of fear. An instrument of cruelty and inhumanity, and yet it is exulted. It is raised up and adored. But why, because it killed someone? Because it killed many? A landscape littered with crosses and their decaying bodies were common throughout the Roman Empire, but why celebrate them? The one Cross gives reason, the Sacred Cross. That Sacred Cross. The Cross upon which the LORD hung, it was that particular Cross that redeemed the world. That Cross. Upon it hung our sins and failure, and condemnation. Upon it the forgiveness and the redemption that has set us free. But still, worship an instrument of terror and pain? No, that is not the case. The point is we celebrate one Cross, one in particular that is the Cross of our LORD. One Cross is exalted, the Cross of salvation. Ponder the symbol of salvation, the symbol of Christianity. No, it was not two intersecting beams because they brought horror to the original Christians. The symbol in fact was Pisces, the fish. The Pontiff wears a fisherman’s ring, a fisher of men. The Cross, a reminder of the price paid. The price of redemption, and the price was great. Who knew that price, who witnessed the ransom? Who was there? Mary, our Lady of Sorrows. She stood beneath that Cross, the one that bore her Son the redeemer, the voice of Christian witness. Our Lady of Sorrows. Coincidence that the Exaltation of the Cross and the Sorrows of Mary are remembered side by side? I think not
I thought of this juxtaposition. The Mother of God standing beneath the Crucifix, the Cross that bore Her Son. Of course I could understand her agony and her pain and her suffering, but what could I say? How can I describe it, my mind went blank. But then the Pope spoke. He spoke about women standing in a line, standing outside a prison. Standing outside waiting to see their sons. Their sons incarcerated for crimes horrific and scandalous. Their sons, murders and thieves and villains. Their sons horrific, yet still their sons. Still their sons, the ones they carried and the flesh they bore. The flesh that hung in a cross, their flesh and they stood by it. Certainly they too, the women outside a prison, were scandalized, and pierced, and wounded, and humiliated, and spat on. Because of association, and fidelity. But they stood there. The ladies beneath the cross. I understand the days, both days. I understand how they relate, and what they mean. It has been put into perspective and it has focus. The elevating of tortious Cross because of what had occurred on it. The memorial of the Cross and who stood beneath it, a remembrance of Mary’s sorrows. Mary’s sorrows in our world today. With those women standing in line outside a prison, waiting to see their children, I wonder why they do not walk away. Why don’t they stand there humiliated? Who encouraged them to do so, who set the example? Mary, beneath a Cross.
How many consider that Thomas’s absence was part of a divine plan? Thomas’s absence from originally seeing the risen LORD separates him from the group. His questions are a contrast to the disciple’s testament, Thomas questions both the LORD and His Apostles. Thomas challenges a cult mentality by introducing doubt and reason, and by demanding proof. By way of the doubt and the questions and the demands, Thomas proclaims both the LORD has truly risen, and My LORD and my GOD. With his doubts Thomas declares the presence of the Easter Christ. Thomas proclaims a Christ of the resurrection.
But Thomas said to them,
“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands
and put my finger into the nailmarks
and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
An Easter Christ is the Christ that as revealed to Saint Paul, and Paul also was known for his doubting Christ. Paul was the persecutor of Christians who encountered the Easter Christ in the road to Damascus. That encounter was after the Ascension. Peter also had his doubts about the LORD, his were famously acknowledged by the crowing of a rooster at the crucifixion. Interesting how the LORD revealed Himself at the transfiguration with the inner group of disciples. That is Peter’s experience, an experience that is challenged by the crucifixion. Then there is Thomas, also one who walked with Christ. Finally Paul, who persecutes the followers of Christ. All three are challenged, yet all three proclaim Christ as truly risen, and Christ as LORD. With questioning minds they make their declaration.
Thomas’s doubt bridges that Christ of the Transfiguration and the Easter Christ. Thomas did walk with Christ as a disciple, and then proclaim the Christ of Easter. The same with Peter. For Paul a Christ after the resurrection. For us? Ours is a Christ of the resurrection, an Easter Christ. And our doubts, do we have them? Are we any less human than the other three? Thomas’s doubts serve a purpose, as does any inquisitive mind. Ours is a God given ability to question, to ponder the LORD.
When Jesus encounters Thomas’s doubts and questions the Lord does not chastise or condemn him. Jesus asks that Thomas seek the answers to his questions. He says to place his hands into the wounds of Christ. Jesus has Thomas explore the risen LORD. The doubts are a natural part of the human experience. Thomas needed to see and touch Jesus to believe, and he does so. He declares Christ truly risen. Jesus also tells that it is better that those who do not see believe. Not to see, and yet believe is go have faith. Both are important, naturally seeking and being guided simply by faith. For certain I can probe this planet and see the works of Christ. I can also follow Christ in faith when I am blinded by darkness. Perhaps it is the first, the questioning, that feeds and strengthens the second that is faith. (Faith & Reason)
The celebration of these two disciples seems to be a fitting summation of this past weeks readings. It was Saint Irenaeus who was instrumental in guaranteeing the Apostles gospel message received from Jesus was faithfully transferred to the following generations. It was Paul that delivered this message outside of his own culture to a gentile people eager to understand Jesus teachings.It was Peter who was first instructed to tend to Jesus’s flock. I continue to notice that Jesus did not preach to only one group, or one nationality.He preached to all who were receptive to Gods word. The teachings applied to all, and I keep taking away the message that the underlying message was that God is available to all, that Jesus continuously opens up the God of the Israelites to all people.
Peter and Paul,”Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my church..” Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles. Peter is the one that walked with Christ while Paul’s experience was with the Easter Christ. Peter started out as a disciple, yet frequently stumbled in his faith. He grew into the faithful preacher of the Gospel and defended the word with his life. Paul started out as a persecutor of Christianity ,”Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?” . Paul ends up preaching and defending this teachings of Jesus.Peter and Paul start out in different paths, yet reach the same destination.They enter the narrow gate and follow the narrow path. Peter who delivers this message to its original and intended Jewish recipients ; and Paul who also delivers the message to its intended Gentile people.
A gospel faithfully preached to all nations as Jesus intended. Paul who seeks Peters guidance in delivering this gospel to a people likely unfamiliar with Hebrew culture, and Peter who counsels his colleague.Most importantly Peter who accepts Paul as a disciple even though Paul originally was his persecutor.Just as Jesus continued to accept Peter though he denied him three times! It is through these traditions that this message was delivered to me.It was made available to me as it was to members of all nations. It was delivered faithful to Christ’s teachings. It also rests on a firm foundation so that this tradition can continue.