Spiritual Reflections on the Gospel of Matthew
Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.” When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.” - Matthew 2:13-15
The Evangelist Matthew draws upon the prophet Hosea to express the Holy Family’s flight to and return from Egypt. We see here a singular and a plural movement. Just as the Patriarch Joseph represents himself and the later Hebrew people who come to Egypt. Then under Moses they flee from Egypt when there arises, “a Pharaoh who knew not Joseph” (Exodus 1:8). The Flight into Egypt and eventual return is about Jesus, the Holy Family, the Jewish people and the Church.
Like Our Lord Jesus, the People of God are always on the move; to follow Jesus is to always be on pilgrimage, for this world (our Egypt) is not our permanent home and is only at times a place where we can rest for awhile. Like Our Lord had as a Holy Child, his Holy Mother is with us, Joseph is with us, plus we have the multitude of martyrs and saints who shine as lights on the path to our true and eternal home.
“But of that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. For as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. In [those] days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day that Noah entered the ark. They did not know until the flood came and carried them all away. So will it be [also] at the coming of the Son of Man. - Matthew 24:36-39
“We believe in One God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth….” The Father is Pantocrator in Greek, Almighty; all things belong to Him, he is the creator of and ruler of all. Eternally, His divinity is shared with the Son and the Holy Spirit, who are his Word and his Power. Therefore, our faith is in the Eternal and Most Holy Trinity.
Our faith tells us that this created world is always passing, always moving towards its end. Space, Time, and Matter is the substance of the created realm in which we through the exercise of our spiritual and rational faculties (faith and reason) use our free will to search the depths of faith, that form us to become Christ-like, to become men and women of love like our Savior.
We do not know when our life will end or when space and time as a whole will end. We do know that both are moving towards an end; just as we have so many years of life in this realm of space, time, and matter, so too space, time, and matter has but so many years. The Kingdom of God will come in its fullness, the glory of God will reign supreme; all will be given back to the Father, who is Almighty.
Yet, unlike anything else in this created world, we have been given freedom, a particular type of freedom where our actions, our dispositions, our affections, and our goals, can be shaped by faith and grace; by Christ the object of our faith and the Spirit who is the reality of grace. Through faith in Christ and living in the grace of the Holy Spirit, we become the sons and daughters of the Father who made us.
We have been created for true life in the Kingdom of our God and Father.
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” - Matthew 11:28-30
Restlessness seems to plague so many people in today's world. So many people live their lives in a constant state of discontent; nothing is ever right, where we work, live, play, study, along with the people we live and work and study with. We are always looking for tomorrow without enjoying today. We have lost our human center, if you will, and we tend to live at the end of our fingers (feelings), rather than by the beat of our heart (interiority/depth).
The only true and lasting remedy for restlessness, is to find the find the center and axis of life itself, that is to find God. We find God in the One Divine Son of the Father, who took our restlessness to the Cross, so that we might have the peace that passes all understanding. In him we find rest and in him we find that our burdens have become light.
In the Holy Spirit of the Father and in his Son, made flesh, Jesus Christ; we are brought into the fullness of life, we are brought into unity with the One who fashioned us out of love, saved us out of divine compassion, and brings us to full stature. In God we find our center, our axis, our peace, and our life.
When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them [a scholar of the law] tested him by asking, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” - Matthew 22:35-40
Marriage it seems is as old as human life itself. While marriage as the foundation of family and tribe had very practical applications for survival, the presence of love and fidelity were certainly not absent.
By the time we arrive at the last millennium before the birth of Christ, we see that many peoples such as the Jews gradually ceased polygamy for monogamy. The Greeks even developed the philosophical underpinnings of love; understanding that eros, the love of attraction, philia, the love within friendship, and agape, unconditional love, were worthy of their own names for the different levels and complexities of love.
In the history of the Jewish people we see that God is not only a distant and unmoved perfect being as in the thought of Aristotle, but a God who loves his creation and especially man and woman, who he made in his image and likeness; therefore beings who are able to love and through that love to create.
In Christ we see the depth of God’s love, so much so that we can say, God is Love. As we read in Matthew’s Gospel:
“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”
When we love we truly reflect the fact that we are children of God, made in his image and likeness. For that reason the Church realized early in its history that marriage is not just another societal construct; it is a Holy Mystery a Sacrament.
In the Holy Mystery or Sacrament of Matrimony, which we celebrate in the Syriac Maronite Catholic Church, in the Liturgy of the Mystery of Crowning. We experience the bond of love that Christ has for his Church, through the blessings, vows, and crowning in this sacred celebration of the Church.
Lastly, the Crowns represent the royalty of love and marriage and also the sacrifice of love as martyrdom. Through the self-sacrificial love a married couple gives to each other they share in the crown of martyrs and saints, and share in the marriage of supper of the Lamb, Jesus Christ.
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’ Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’ He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ 46 And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” - Matthew 25:31-46
Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel gives us a blueprint for sanctity: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.” Christians are called to see Christ in their neighbor, the neighbor who may be in need, sick, hungry, thirsty, and in need of the simple requirements for living. Our neighbor may be a stranger, or a prisoner, it may be someone we never expected to be called upon to love and care for.
It has always been one of the greatest challenges to Christianity, and that is to see Jesus in all men and women. It has often been said that Sunday is the most segregated day of the week. Where we Christians tend to worship with those who look like us, believe like us, and live like us. Few Catholics in America remember the days of the ethnic parishes. Even though most Catholics in America were Roman/Latin Catholics, and the Mass was in Latin in every parish; the various ethnicities desired to worship with only their particular ethnic group. How many times do we read in the Scriptures that with Christ there is no longer Jew or Gentile, rich or poor; all are one in Christ.
The path to sanctity is to see Christ in all, especially those who are most in need, most vulnerable, and forgotten. If we do not see Christ in those who are most isolated and on the margins; how can we understand that when we were dead to our sins, the Son of God, became flesh and died for us, and destroyed our enemy death, once and for all. So that we might have life and life in its fullness.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” - Matthew 11:28-30
Life inevitably at times is wearisome and burdensome. The rest and relief that we seek for those times of spiritual weariness, is not found in sleep, food, binge watching or our favorite stations or websites. The peace that we seek can only be found in the Lord Jesus.
Turning to the one who loved us to the point of death on the Cross, and loved us with the gift of eternal life; only Jesus has the light that will see us through and out of the darkness, that we sometime find ourselves immersed in. As much as modern society might deceive us in believing that we are gods and in-charge; remember only one is the way, the truth, and the life. Jesus is Lord and that gives us peace, in knowing all will be well.
As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give. - Matthew 10:7-8
While the calling of the twelve is unique and the Apostolic foundation of the Church is from Christ himself; we who are members of this Holy Apostolic Church, the Body of Christ, are called to proclaim Christ to the world.
Our message is in union with the message of the Apostles,“the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This message of truth is the message of salvation, peace, and fullness of life with God. This message has been given to us, the People of God, given freely and we are too freely deliver it to others, to the world which is in so much need of hearing it.
- Rev. David A. Fisher