Friday, 4 July 2014

Week 13 Friday (Year 2)

Readings: Amos 8:4-6, 9-12; Psalm 119; Matthew 9:9-13

The gospel of Matthew can seem ordinary compared with the other three. Each of the others seems more exotic in some way, more unusual. Luke, represented by the ox, gives us more of the compassion of Jesus, more about women, and great parables not recorded elsewhere. John, represented by the eagle, soars to mystical heights and theological depths. Mark, represented by the lion, is more existentialist, surreal in parts, focused on secrets and suffering.

But Matthew is represented by the human being and is more ordinary. It is concerned with keeping things going and with holding things together. In this it is more social, perhaps even more 'churchy'. It is concerned with tradition and community, ways in which things will be held together. It gives us more of the history of things, the time before Jesus in his genealogy and it speaks of the time after Jesus, with the sending of the disciples. It speaks of continuity in the fulfillment of Old Testament promises. It stresses the abiding presence of Jesus in the community of his disciples: where two or three are gathered in his name, behold I am with you always, and the figure of Peter with his particular responsibility in the church is a confirmation of the continuing help of the Lord.

Matthew is more ordinary, more human, then, than the other gospels. The call of Matthew is encouraging as the conversions of Paul and Peter, of Augustine and Teresa of Avila, are encouraging. Grace is not powerless before sin because where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more. But neither is grace powerless before the ordinary, routine, perhaps mediocre, turning of our days.

Christ came to call sinners, not those who are well. And he came to call ordinary and mediocre sinners not just the dramatically apostate, the desperately corrupt, the cruel and the callous. He came for those whose sins are mainly cowardice and weakness. Likewise he came not just for those tuned in to the mysticism of John or the existentialism of Mark or the dramatic emotional power of Luke. He came also for those who feel more secure in Matthew's world, a world of law and tradition, of social organisation and custom, of continuity and reliability.

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