Friday, September 21, 2007

The Proper of the Day: St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist

Today the Church celebrates the writing of the Gospel According to St. Matthew, and the Apostle and Evangelist who wrote it. It's thought now that it wasn't really the one named in the lists of the Twelve, but even so, the Gospel of St. Matthew is of course central in its place in the life of the Church. In fact, in the BCPs before 1979 (in TEC, at least) you will find that most of the Gospel readings in the Eucharist come from Matthew, except during Easter, when they usually come from John. (In part, this is because prior versions of the BCP used a 1-year lectionary cycle, rather than the 3-year cycle we use today. Nowadays, we get pretty much all of Matthew, Mark, and Luke once every three years, with lots of John during Easter and and at other times, esp. Holy Week.)

Matthew's agenda of showing Christ as the New Moses permeates his Gospel, especially in places like the Sermon on the Mount and the Teaching on the Kingdom, Chapter 13 (amoung others.) It's thought by some that Matthew is the "Jewish Gospel," in that its primary audience was Jewish converts to Christianity, with the idea of showing Jesus as the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. Hence Matt. 5:18, "For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished." Jesus goes on to tell us what that means; he is the definitive New Lawgiver who can say (six times!) "You have heard it said, but I say to you...." It's been suggested by some that Paul's idea of grace is a "new dispensation" and that Jesus, per Matt 5:18, had no intention of setting aside the Torah. The structure and content and really the entirety of the "Jewish Gospel" seem to point to a different conclusion.

We thank you, heavenly Father, for the witness of your apostle and evangelist Matthew to the Gospel of your Son our Savior; and we pray that, after his example, we may with ready wills and hearts obey the calling of our Lord to follow him; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


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