MATTHEW INTRODUCTION Who was Matthew, known also as Levi? We read in the Bible that he was a tax collector and that Jesus called him to be one of his apostles (Mt 9:9 and Mk 2:13). Yet we know for certain that the Gospel under his name was drawn up in its actual form towards the year 80 CE that is after his death. Could the author have been one of his disciples and used a first draft compiled by Matthew? (See Introduction to New Testament.) Most probably this Gospel was written in a Christian community of both Jews and Greeks, possibly at Antioch (see Acts 12:19 and 13). It was a time deeply marked by conflict between Jews and Christians, when the Jewish community – suffering terribly from the war with Rome that destroyed the nation – was reorganizing itself under the direction of the Pharisees. These latter had only recently decided to exclude all Jews who believed in Jesus and were members of a Christian community. This Gospel intends to assure Christians that they have no reason to be troubled even if their own people reject them. The very fact that the Jewish community did not recognize its Messiah resulted in the loss of its right to speak and to decide about God’s promises. Matthew refers to numerous texts in the Old Testament to prove that Christians are the true heirs of the people of the covenant. In this perspective the whole history of Jesus is presented as a conflict, ending in a separation. The turning point corresponds with the end of chapter 13 where Jesus no longer speaks to the crowd, but to his disciples. Matthew was impressed by the fact that Jesus during his two or three years of ministry presented himself most often as a preacher, as a teacher of Scripture. He therefore insists on the words of Jesus, which are more numerous in his Gospel than in the others. It does not surprise us then that Matthew builds his gospel around five “discourses,” in which he has put together the words of Jesus spoken on different occasions. These discourses are: – The New Law: 5–7. – Instructions to Missionaries: 10. – Parables of the Kingdom: 13. – Admonitions for the Christian community: 18. – The Future of the Church: 23–25. 9 MATTHEW 1 Lk The roots of Jesus 12 After the deportation to Babylon 3:23 • 1 This is the account of the geneal- Jechoniah was the father of Salathiel 1 ogy of Jesus Christ, son of David, and Salathiel of Zerubbabel. 13 son of Abraham. Zerubbabel was the father of Abi- 2 Abraham was the father of Isaac, ud, Abiud of Eliakim, and Eliakim of Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the Azor. 14 Azor was the father of Zadok, father of Judah and his brothers. Zadok the father of Akim, and Akim the Gen 3 Judah was the father of Perez and father of Eliud. 15 Eliud was the father of 38:29 Zerah (their mother was Tamar), Perez Eleazar, Eleazar of Matthan, and Mat- 1Chr 2:4 was the father of Hezron, and Hezron of than of Jacob. Ru 16 4:18 Aram. 4 Aram was the father of Amina- Jacob was the father of Joseph, dab, Aminadab of Nahshon, Nahshon the husband of Mary, and from her of Salmon. came Jesus who is called the Christ – 5 the Messiah. Ru Salmon was the father of Boaz. His 17 4:13 There were then fourteen genera- mother was Rahab. Boaz was the father tions in all from Abraham to David, and of Obed. His mother was Ruth. Obed fourteen generations from David to the was the father of Jesse. 6 deportation to Babylon, and fourteen 2S Jesse was the father of David, the 12:24 generations from the deportation to king. David was the father of Solomon. Babylon to the birth of Christ. His mother had been Uriah’s wife. 7 Solomon was the father of Reho- Jesus born of a virgin mother boam. Then came the kings: Abijah, (Lk 1:27) Asaph, 8 Jehoshaphat, Joram, Uzziah, • 18 Thisis how Jesus Christ was 9 Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah, 10 Manas- born. Mary his mother had been given seh, Amon, Josiah. to Joseph in marriage but before they 2:5, 11 11 2K Josiah was the father of Jechoniah lived together, she was found to be 24:12 2Chr and his brothers at the time of the de- pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 36:9, 19 20 portation to Babylon. Then Joseph, her husband, made • 1.1 Many books in the Bible are careful to was sufficient for Jesus to be considered, like show that the events and persons they speak Joseph, son of David. about are rooted in earlier history, for the whole Four names included in the list belong to Bible draws its strength from a continuity of women, all described in the Bible: Tamar, who history and from the fidelity of God to his gave everything so as not to lose the divine promises. That is the meaning of this list of blessings; Rahab, a foreign prostitute whom the ancestors. Matthew prefers to call it as do the Bible praises (Jos 2); Ruth, another foreigner of other books of the Bible: the document of the exemplary conduct; and the widow of Uriah, the origins. beautiful Bathsheba, who shared David’s sin. Luke 3:23 has another genealogy of Jesus All of this background discreetly announces that aims to emphasize his solidarity with the him who came down to save sinners and to open whole human race. the Kingdom of Israel to the multitudes coming There are 42 names on the list, arranged in from the pagan world. three series of 14 names each, a symbolic The Savior is the flower and fruit of our earth number for the Jews. It is obvious that it is not a and of the chosen race at the same time (Is 45:8). complete list. God led the Jewish people to a degree of human Jesus is the son of Abraham. Abraham is the and religious maturity where the coming and father of the believers. God promised to unite all teaching of Jesus would take on its full meaning. nations around his race. Jesus is also the son of We must understand that we are in solidarity David: all Israel knew that the Savior would be a with Christ first of all through human ties. The descendant of David. history of the present time, as well as the history The first series of names appears in Ruth of our families, prepares the second coming of 4:18. The second is made up of kings, descen- Christ to humankind. dants of David, mentioned in the Book of Kings. The Bible does not say anything about the • 18. The wording of verse 16 should be descendants of Zerubbabel (Ezra 2:3). noted. Jesus is not the son of Joseph. The The list extends to Joseph, the adoptive father beginning of the paragraph intends to remind us of Jesus (v. 16). Among the Jews, this adoption that Jesus is both a legitimate son of David MATTHEW 1 10 plans to divorce her in all secrecy. He Jews? We saw the rising of his star in was an upright man, and in no way did the east and have come to honor he want to discredit her. him.” 20 While he was pondering over this, 3 When Herod heard this he was an angel of the Lord appeared to him in greatly disturbed and with him all a dream and said, “Joseph, descendant Jerusalem. 4 He immediately called a of David, do not be afraid to take Mary meeting of all high-ranking priests and as your wife. She has conceived by the the scribes, and asked them where the 1:25 Holy Spirit, 21 and now she will bear a Messiah was to be born. Lk 1:31 son. You shall call him ‘Jesus’ for he 5 “In the town of Bethlehem in Jn Acts 4:12 will save his people from their sins.” Judea,” they told him, “for this is what 7:42 22 All this happened in order to fulfill the prophet wrote: 6 And you, Beth- Mic what the Lord had said through the lehem, in the land of Judah, you are by 5:1 2S Is prophet: 23 The virgin will conceive and no means the least among the clans of 5:2 7:14 bear a son, and he will be called Em- Judah, for from you will come a leader, manuel which means: God-with-us. the one who is to shepherd my people 24 When Joseph woke up, he did what Israel.” the angel of the Lord had told him to do 7 Then Herod secretly called the wise Lk and he took his wife to his home. 25 So men and asked them the precise time 1:31 2:21 she gave birth to a son and he had not the star appeared. 8 Then he sent them had marital relations with her. Joseph to Bethlehem with the instruction, “Go gave him the name of Jesus. and get precise information about the Wise men from the east child. As soon as you have found him, • 1 When Jesus was born in Beth- report to me, so that I too may go and 2 lehem, in Judea, during the days honor him.” 9 of King Herod, wise men from the east After the meeting with the king, Num arrived in Jerusalem. 2 They asked, they set out. The star that they had 24:17 “Where is the newborn king of the seen in the East went ahead of them through Joseph and the Son of God conceived The Gospel is not precise as to his reasons for so through the Holy Spirit by a virgin-mother. doing. In any case it is unthinkable that people These short and almost bashful sentences do might have doubted Mary’s fidelity. not dare to unveil the mystery of Mary, the virgin The intervention of the angel in the Gospel is through whom life on earth touches God and not to reassure Joseph but to inform him of his offers itself as an oblation. A messenger breaks role in the plan of God: You shall call him through the night and speaks with silent words: ‘Jesus’, and you will receive him as your son.” the world is open to the active presence of God. Joseph was a “descendant of David” and Jesus Mary was engaged. Engagements gave to the adopted by Joseph would be a legitimate descen- Jewish people practically every right of mar- dant of David. Most probably Mary did not even riage, especially conjugal rights. The only differ- belong to the tribe of Judah, which was that of ence was that women continued to live under the David, but like her cousin Elizabeth, she be- parents’ tutelage and in their parental home. longed to a family of priests of the tribe of Levi. The Jews were markedly a “macho” society. A woman necessarily belonged to a man, either to • 2.1 From the first Christian generations her father, her husband, or her son. Mary was there have been popular narratives trying to already the wife of Joseph, but she could not be relate all that was not known about Jesus and not under his authority until he brought her to his part of the Gospel. These closely resembled the home (vv. 20 and 24). Jewish stories of the childhood of Abraham and With reference to the virginity of Mary, see Moses. The wise men, the star and the massacre Luke 1:26. of the children of Bethlehem have sprung di- The virginity of Mary was not in keeping with rectly from those stories and it is useless today to the Jewish mentality that gave first place to study astronomical maps to find a comet that fecundity. It was not so unusual that Joseph was visible at that time. would accept such a situation. At this time In this chapter then, Matthew uses these sto- certain Jews belonging to the party of the ries without the slightest problem about their Essenes lived celibacy, as did the monks. authenticity. He uses them to show how Jesus Joseph made plans to divorce her secretly. lived in his own way what his people had under- 11 MATTHEW 2 and stopped over the place where the furious. He gave orders to kill all the child was. 10 The wise men were over- boys in Bethlehem and its neighbor- Lk joyed on seeing the star again. 11 They hood who were two years old or under. 2:16 Is went into the house and when they saw This was done in line with what he had 60:1- 6 the child with Mary his mother, they learned from the wise men about the Ps 72:10- knelt and worshiped him. They opened time when the star appeared. 17 15 their bags and offered him their gifts of In this way, what the prophet Jere- gold, incense and myrrh. miah had said was fulfilled: 18 A cry is Jer 12 31:15 2:22 In a dream they were warned not to heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lam- go back to Herod, so they returned to entation: Rachel weeps for her chil- their home country by another way. dren. She refuses to be comforted, for Escape to Egypt they are no more. 1:20 • 13 After the wise men had left, an Joseph and Mary return to Nazareth 2:19 • 19 After angel of the Lord appeared in a dream Herod’s death, an angel of to Joseph and said, “Get up, take the the Lord appeared in a dream to Jo- child and his mother and flee to Egypt, seph and said, 20 “Get up, take the child Ex 4:19 and stay there until I tell you for Herod and his mother and go back to the land will soon be looking for the child in of Israel, because those who tried to kill order to kill him.” the child are dead.” 21 So Joseph got 14 Joseph got up, took the child and up, took the child and his mother and his mother, and left that night for Egypt, went to the land of Israel. 15 22 where he stayed until the death of But when Joseph heard that Archi- Herod. In this way, what the Lord had laus had succeeded his father Herod as Hos said through the prophet was fulfilled: I king of Judea, he was afraid to go 11:1 called my son out of Egypt. there. He was given further instruc- 16 When Herod found out that he had tions in a dream, and went to the been tricked by the wise men, he was region of Galilee. gone. That accounts for the quotations from the Matthew quotes two verses from the prophets Old Testament with each one repeating the Hosea and Jeremiah about the trials and suffer- phrase: “in this way… was fulfilled….” It is a way ings of God’s people in past times. Jesus must of saying that the texts should be reread. They live in exile and anguish, as did his ancestors. spoke of the people, and at the same time they Persecution begins with his birth and will follow announced the coming of Jesus. In a way, he him till his death. Mary (and Joseph to a lesser would live what had already been lived – journey- degree) was associated with Jesus’ sufferings and ing, searching, rejoicing, grieving – but with him saving mission. all would have a new meaning. Christian tradition has always held that the The Wise Men could have been respected “Innocents” associated with the Passion of priests and seers of Zoroastrian religion. Here Christ without having wished it also shared in his they stand for all the non-biblical religions. While glory without having merited it. This invites us to the Jewish priests, chiefs of the people of God, be mindful of the fact that the mysterious love of do not receive notice of the birth of Jesus, God God envelops millions of massacred children and communicates the news to some of his friends in other hundreds of millions killed before seeing the pagan world. This lesson is good for all times: the light of day. What should we think of so many Jesus is the Savior of all people, and not only of stifled possibilities? Individuals and society re- those who belong to the Church. sponsible for this disaster suffer the conse- The star reminds us that God calls each one quences; but God has all destinies in hand, he according to him or her own personality. Jesus knows them in advance, and no one by destroy- calls the fishermen of Galilee after a miraculous ing life is able to limit God’s generosity. No catch of fish; the pagans who look at the stars, matter how much innocent blood the enemies of God calls by means of a star. God knows how to the Gospel spill, they will not be able to extin- communicate with us by means of events and guish the Church or to block God’s plans. through our own ideals, which guide us as stars. Whatever be the way, it will lead us to the one • 19. The return to Nazareth. Here we have who is the light of God. the end of these stories that are intended to introduce us to the Gospel. They announce the • 13. In relating the story about the slaughter mission of Christ: savior misjudged by his own, of innocent children and the flight into Egypt, hounded by authority, he will turn towards the MATTHEW 2 12 Jdg • 23 Therehe settled in a town called tized, he said to them, “Brood of vipers! Rom 13:5 1:18 Is Nazareth. In this way what was said by Who told you that you could escape the 2:5 11:1 5:9 53:2 the prophets was fulfilled: He shall be punishment that is to come? 8 Let it be Eph Lk 2:39 called a Nazorean. seen that you are serious in your con- 5:6 Col Acts John the Baptist prepares the way version, 9 and do not think: We have 3:6 2:22 Rev (Mk 1:1; Lk 3:1 Jn 1:19) Abraham for our father. I tell you that 6:16 • 1 In the course of time John the God can raise children for Abraham Jn 3 Baptist appeared in the desert of from these stones! 10 The axe is already 8:33 Rom 4:12 Judea and began to proclaim his mes- laid to the roots of the trees; any tree 7:8 sage, 2 “Change your ways, the King- that does not produce good fruit will be 7:19 Lk Mk dom of heaven is now at hand!” 3 It was cut down and thrown in the fire. 13:7 11 Jn 1:15 about him that the prophet Isaiah had I baptize you in water for a change 15:6 Is spoken when he said, A voice is shout- of heart, but the one who is coming Jn 1:26 40:3 ing in the desert: prepare a way for the after me is more powerful than me; Acts 1:5 Lord; make his paths straight. indeed I am not worthy to carry his 11:16 4 John had a leather garment around sandals. He will baptize you in the Holy 13:24 19:4 his waist and wore a cloak of camel’s Spirit and fire. 12 He has the winnowing 11:3 Is hair; his food was locusts and wild fan in his hand and he will clear out his 41:16 honey. 5 People came to him from threshing floor. He will gather his wheat Jn 1:15, Jerusalem, from all Judea and from the into the barn, but the chaff he will burn 33 whole Jordan valley, 6 and they were in everlasting fire.” baptized by him in the Jordan as they Jesus baptized by John confessed their sins. (Mk 1:9; Lk 3:2; Jn 1:29) 12:34 7 When he saw several Pharisees and • 13 At that time Jesus arrived from 23:33 Lk Sadducees coming to where he bap- Galilee and came to John at the Jordan 21:23 pagan nations. For Galilee was considered by which Jesus began teaching. Later on, Matthew the Jews of Judea as half-foreign and pagan and Luke wrote a little about Jesus’ childhood to (4:15). Jesus was to remain thirty years in this help us understand the secret of his person. small village where he grew up and worked as a Secondly, let us read Matthew 13:54-56. The “carpenter” (Mk 6:3) while the world waited for people of Nazareth, astounded by his deeds, do salvation. not say: surely Jesus has learned this in foreign countries because he was abroad so much. They • 23. He shall be called a Nazorean. Mat- wonder: what has happened to the carpenter’s thew plays with this word that brings to mind son? We have known him for a long time… what nezer, or shoot (Is 11:1) and nazorite (Num 6). has happened to him? In those days there were religious groups who Thirdly, we can say that to speak the word of preached and baptized, as did John, and they God is at the same time to speak a word of were considered nazorites. Jesus was both human experience. The prophets speak words nezer and nazorite. of God, not as a tape recorder, but as people who Many people wonder what Jesus did between feel something and have something to cry out. the ages of twelve, when he was seen in the Jesus could not speak the word of God if he had Temple (Lk 2:41), and thirty, the approximate not acquired, as a man, an exceptional wisdom age of Jesus when he began his ministry. False of what is inside man (Jn 2:25). The years Jesus pretenders take advantage of this Gospel’s si- spent in Nazareth were not really lost. He ab- lence to speculate that Jesus went to India to sorbed the culture of his people and observed learn magic and how to work miracles from the events affecting his nation experiencing manual Hindu wonder workers, or even that he visited labor, human relations, feelings, suffering and some outer-space goblins. It does not take much oppression. Jesus had to experience all these to imagine things! things to be our savior, so that his words would Let us remember, first of all, that the Gospel is be true, weighty and valuable for all times. not a biography of Jesus, a narration of his life from birth to death. It seeks only to tell us the most • 3.1 We have just said that the real begin- important deeds and words of Jesus by which he ning of the Gospel is the preaching of John the gives us his message. It does not tell us what Jesus Baptist. Here Matthew compares Jesus with looked like, whether he was tall or stout, blond or John, John’s baptism with that of Jesus. See dark, and many other things that did not interest commentaries on Mk 1:1 and Lk 3. the first Christians. The Gospels of Mark and John open with Jesus’ baptism by John, after • 13. In this baptism Jesus identifies himself 13 MATTHEW 4 to be baptized by him. 14 But John tried the Son of God, throw yourself down, to prevent him, and said, “How is it you for scripture says, God has given orders come to me: I should be baptized by to his angels about you. Their hands Ps 91:11 you!” will hold you up lest you hurt your foot 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be against a stone.” 7 Jesus answered, Dt 6:16 like that for now that we may fulfill the “But scripture also says: You shall not 1Cor 10:9 right order.” John agreed. put to the test the Lord your God.” 16 8 As soon as he was baptized, Jesus Then the devil took Jesus to a very came up from the water. At once, the high mountain and showed him all the heavens opened and he saw the Spirit of nations of the world in all their great- God come down like a dove and rest ness and splendor. And he said, 9 “All 2:11 18:26 12:18 upon him. 17 At the same time a voice this I will give you, if you kneel and Dn 17:5 Is from heaven was heard, “This is my worship me.” 10 Then Jesus answered, 3:5 1Cor 42:1 Jn Son, the Beloved; he is my Chosen One.” “Be off, Satan! Scripture says: worship 14:25 Dt 1:34 the Lord your God and serve him 6:13 Jesus tempted in the wilderness Rev (Lk 4:1; Mk 1:12) alone.” 4:10 11 22:8 • 1 Then the devil left him, and angels Heb Then the Spirit led Jesus into the came to serve him. 2:18 4:15 4 desert that he be put to the test by (Mk 1:14; Lk 4:14) the devil. 2 After spending forty days 12 and nights without food, Jesus was When Jesus heard that John had hungry. been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. 3 13 Then the devil came to him and He left Nazareth and went to settle said, “If you are the Son of God, order down in Capernaum, a town by the lake 27:40 these stones to turn into bread.” 4 But of Galilee, at the border of Zebulun and Dt Jesus answered, “Scripture says: one Naphtali. 8:3 14 does not live on bread alone, but on In this way the word of the prophet every word that comes from the mouth Isaiah was fulfilled: 15 Land of Zebulun Is 8:23 of God.” and land of Naphtali crossed by the 5 Is Then the devil took Jesus to the Road of the Sea, and you who live by 52:1 holy city, set him on the highest wall of the Jordan, Galilee, land of pagans, lis- 27:40 the temple, and said to him, 6 “If you are ten: with his people, more precisely with this world of out food, Jesus was hungry. This duration of “untitled” people who went to hear a call to forty days (which symbolically represents the conversion. For him it is an occasion of deep forty weeks a child remains in its mother’s womb religious experience recalling that of the great in preparation for a new birth) was already prophets. What the voice says gives Jesus his present in the life of Moses and Elijah: Ex 24:18; mission. He will be Son and Servant of the 1 K 19:8. This fast is for Jesus what the com- Father (Ps 2 and Is 42:1). mand to sacrifice his son had been for Abraham, and for Moses the rebellion of a thirsty people or • 4.1 The commentary of this event is partly the incident of the golden calf. In a moment of found in Luke’s Gospel (4:1-13). full lucidity, when Jesus felt physically exhausted Jesus is then Son of God in the sense this word and spiritually strengthened by his fast, the devil had in his time: he is sent as king, prophet and tried to convince him that it was impossible to savior and he knows it. How will he live this and carry out his mission with the means God had how will God act towards his Son? He will be put proposed. to the test in the desert. In reality Jesus would Strange as it is, the Gospel presents this undergo this test throughout his ministry: his encounter of Jesus with the tempter (devil) as a opponents would ask for signs and miracles, and discussion on biblical texts between masters of his own disciples would want him to center more the Law. The purpose, no doubt, is to show us on himself. It is this permanent test that is here that even biblical texts may lead us astray if we presented in a figurative way. The Gospel inten- are without a spirit of obedience to God. The tionally places this temptation in the desert at the three temptations recall to mind those of the beginning, and affirms that Jesus defeated the Hebrews in the desert (Ex 16:2; Ex 17:1; Ex 32). evil spirit before he had begun his mission. At the waters of Massah they grumbled against After spending forty days and nights with- God for leading them where the going was MATTHEW 4 14 16 Lk The people who lived in darkness dom, and curing all kinds of sickness 1:79 have seen a great light; on those who and disease among the people. 24 live in the land of the shadow of death, The news about him spread Mk 6:55 a light has shone. through the whole of Syria, and the • 17 From that time on Jesus began people brought all their sick to him, and to proclaim his message, “Change your all those who suffered: the possessed, ways: the kingdom of heaven is near.” the deranged, the paralyzed, and he Lk 18 As Jesus walked by the lake of healed them all. 25 Large crowds fol- Mk 3:7 5:1 Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon lowed him from Galilee and the Ten Jn called Peter, and Andrew his brother, Cities, from Jerusalem, Judea, and 1:40 casting a net into the lake, for they were from across the Jordan. fishermen. 19 He said to them, “Come, The Beatitudes follow me, and I will make you fish for (Lk 6:17) people.” • 1 When Jesus saw the crowds, he 20 At once they left their nets and 5 went up the mountain. He sat down followed him. and his disciples gathered around him. 2 13:47 21 He went on from there and saw two Then he spoke and began to teach other brothers, James, the son of Zebe- them: 3 dee, and his brother John in a boat with Fortunate are those who are poor in their father Zebedee, mending their spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of nets. Jesus called them. heaven. 22 4 At once they left the boat and their Fortunate are those who mourn, father and followed him. they shall be comforted. 23 5 9:35 Jesus went around all Galilee, Fortunate are the gentle, they shall Ps Mk 37:11 1:39 teaching in their synagogues, pro- possess the land. 6 claiming the good news of the King- Fortunate are those who hunger Is 51:1 Sir difficult; later they put God to the test: “Could means a renewal of life from inside out. The 24:21 not he do something for them?” Finally they Gospel will tell us that this renewal follows the exchanged God and his Glory for another god of discovery of God’s mercy and is the work of his their own making: a golden calf. Jesus replies by Spirit within us (see commentary on Mk 1:14). quoting three texts from Deuteronomy, a book The kingdom of heaven is near. The Jews at that speaks at length of the rebellion of the that time said “kingdom of Heaven” instead of people of God in the desert. The perfect obedi- “kingdom of God” (see commentary on Mt 5:1). ence of the Son contrasts with the infidelity of Jesus proclaims that God comes to reign among the Father’s chosen people. us meaning that we receive definitive salvation. Jesus is victor in this trial, but after him the Church will have to confront these same temp- The Ten Cities (v. 25). This is the territory also tations. She could be tempted to satisfy human called Decapolis, where Jews and non-Jews desires instead of offering true salvation. Jesus were mixed. Let us note that Jesus’ ministry teaches us to be strong against the tricks of the begins, not at the heart of Israel, but where is felt devil in using, as he did, the word of God. the presence of that majority of humankind who have not yet received the word of God. The angels came to serve him. After rejecting the temptations, Jesus finds total peace. His • 5.1 Jesus went up the mountain. Mat- purity of heart opens up for him a spiritual world thew places this discourse somewhere in the hill hidden from human eyes, a world as real as the country bordering the lake of Tiberias. The material things and beings surrounding him. In reason for mentioning a mountain is to remind this spiritual world, as Son of God he is king us of Mount Sinai where Moses received the Law among the spirits who are servants of his Father (Ex 19). In this first “discourse of Jesus” (see (see commentary on Dn 12:6). Introduction) Matthew presents him as a Master • 17. Change your ways. The Greek word is giving to Israel and to all humankind the new and oftentimes translated as “convert”, or “repent”. definitive Law. The formula: but I say to you is In 3:11 we put “change of heart”, which is the repeated six times in order to highlight the closest to the Greek word. This term can be contrast between the Law of Moses and the New understood in many ways. In the mouth of John Law. the Baptist, “Be converted” means “turn away Fortunate! This first paragraph introduces the from your sins.” With Jesus, “conversion” new people of God; to them the Law is given. Let 15 MATTHEW 5 and thirst for justice, for they shall be secuted for the cause of justice, for Heb 2:14 satisfied. theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 1P 7 11 3:14 18:23 Jas Fortunate are the merciful, for they Fortunate are you, when people 2:13 shall find mercy. insult you and persecute you and speak Jas 8 1:2 Ps Fortunate are those with a pure all kinds of evil against you because 24:4 Ex heart, for they shall see God. you are my followers. 12 Be glad and 10:22 33:20 9 Jas Fortunate are those who work for joyful, for a great reward is kept for you 5:10 1P Pro peace, they shall be called children of in God. This is how this people perse- 4:14 12:20 Ps God. cuted the prophets who lived before 34:15 10 Jas Fortunate are those who are per- you. 3:18 us not forget that for the Bible, the Law is not cause of what they suffer: the expression would only a matter of commandments; it includes also not ring true. They are fortunate because they God’s interventions and declarations which have are admitted to the Kingdom. made Israel a special people, called to a world The kingdom of heaven is theirs (v. 3) and mission. The Law had been given to the “chil- following immediately: they possess the land. dren of Abraham and Israel” who were guided There is no real contradiction, it is only appar- out of Egypt by Moses. Exclamations like these ent. abound: How fortunate you are, Israel! Mean- First of all we must understand the term ing: What luck to have been chosen! And How Heaven as used in Jesus’ time. Being exceed- privileged you are to be God’s people among all ingly respectful of God, the Jews would not other nations! You are indeed fortunate for it is pronounce his name, referring to him with other to you that God has spoken (Dt 33:29; Ps words like Heaven, The Glory, The Power… 144:15; Bar 4:4). The kingdom of Heaven means literally the Right away the Gospel speaks of a converted kingdom of God, like the Father of Heaven people of God. No longer the people of the means simply: God the Father. On reading the twelve tribes, with their land, their language, word Heaven, remember that Jesus usually their frontiers, their national ambitions, but meant by this word, not the reward we will obtain rather those God will seek among all nations. after death “in heaven,” but the kingdom of God Who are these chosen ones who surely must that comes to us on this earth together with consider themselves overjoyed to be so called? Jesus. They are the poor, those who weep, those who Likewise we translated as a great reward is have often been tempted to curse their misfor- kept for you in God (v. 12) the sentence that tune, their sins, their personal conflicts. says “is kept for you in heaven.” Here Matthew gives us eight beatitudes, while The real meaning of the land must also be Luke 6:20-26 has only four. It is not important, understood. This land, for the Bible, was Pales- however, for they form but one theme. The main tine, because it was there that God would come difference between Matthew and Luke arises to save his people. The Gospel, in turn, does not from the fact that their beatitudes are addressed oppose what is material with what is spiritual: to two different groups. actually, the term “spiritual” is not used at all Luke presents the Beatitudes in the way they throughout the Gospel. When God spoke were proclaimed by Jesus. In Luke, Jesus ad- through the prophets, he promised his people a dresses the whole assembly of common people, world where all their needs would be satisfied: speaking as one of them. Like the prophets he banquets with wine aplenty (Is 25:6), long life, a speaks boldly and clearly: you, the poor, are the land well-watered, freedom from oppression, a first beneficiaries of the promises of God. kingdom of justice. Over and above all that, God Matthew instead adapts Jesus’ words to his would live among his people and to them he audience of Christian believers. The Church had would communicate his Spirit: They will be my already spread and Christian communities people and I will be their God (Ezk 37:27). brought together all kind of people: slaves, In the Beatitudes, the kingdom of God is at the ordinary people and wealthy ones. Matthew tells same time the land of Palestine promised to the them that the Gospel is significant for each of children of Abraham and the land where peace them. It is not only by being poor that they will reigns for God is present there. Those who please God, but by their inner attitude and way hunger for justice will be given both bread and of life. He says: Fortunate are those who are the holiness of God, because in the Bible justice spiritually poor, adding the pure of heart, those also signifies: being as God wishes us to be. who work for peace… Because of this Jesus tells us that we shall be Luke points out those to whom the Gospel satisfied or consoled. Our consolation on earth gives priority: the masses who are poor, the is to know and see that God loves us and cares workers, the peasants and the marginalized. for us and in spite of all, can overturn the Matthew for his part teaches those already situation of the oppressed. It is also to know that within the Church how they should behave to be even when it seems he does not hear our prayer, worthy of the God who chose them. our cross has meaning and purpose. Finally we Those said to be “fortunate” are not so be- must not forget that in our future life God will give MATTHEW 5 16 Salt and light remove the Law and the Prophets. I (Mk 4:21; Lk 14:34; 8:16; 11:33) have not come to remove but to fulfill Lev • 13 You are the salt of the earth. But if them. 18 I tell you this: as long as Lk 16:17 2:13 Mk salt has lost its strength, how can it be heaven and earth last, not the smallest 21:33 9:50 made salty again? It has become use- letter or stroke of the Law will change less. It can only be thrown away and until all is fulfilled. people will trample on it. 19 So then, whoever breaks the least Jas 2:10 • 14 You important of these commandments Lk are the light of the world. A 8:16 and teaches others to do the same will 11:33 city built on a mountain cannot be hid- Jn be the least in the kingdom of heaven. den. 15 No one lights a lamp and covers 8:12 On the other hand, whoever obeys 9:5 it; instead it is put on a lampstand, Phil them and teaches others to do the 2:15 where it gives light to everyone in the same will be great in the kingdom of Jn house. 16 In the same way your light 3:21 heaven. 15:8 must shine before others, so that they 20 1Cor 10:31 may see the good you do and praise I tell you, then, that if you are not Rom 10:3 your Father in heaven. righteous in a much broader way than Phil 2:3 the teachers of the Law and the Phari- More perfect law sees, you cannot enter the kingdom of Rom • 17 Do not think that I have come to heaven. 3:31 us more than we could ever hope for or merit. It new Law. It is far from what is often sought in a is certain, however, that Matthew more than religion: practices to observe, fasts, prayers, Luke, has reorientated the language of Jesus, good works with which one wins salvation. Jesus inviting us to look higher than what is immediate. says little about this because the Bible has dealt Waiting lasted until the coming of Jesus. Jesus at length with this subject, and the study of the tells us that a new age has begun: God is with us Bible itself shows that these laws and practices and his Kingdom is already here for those with a are always linked to a certain culture, and have clean heart, meaning that their desires have to be adapted to the times. been purified: they will see God. Law (v. 18): At times this word indicates all the Fortunate – the persecuted. Matthew, like religion of Israel. The Law and the Prophets: Luke, develops this last beatitude, for, no matter was a way of indicating the whole Bible. wherever we are, we cannot live the Gospel Not the smallest letter or stroke of the Law without suffering persecution. will change until all is fulfilled (v. 18). Jesus • 13. Jesus has just designated those who are does not refer to the commandments. Rather he called to the Kingdom. First of all he will clarify affirms that the religion founded on the Old their mission: to be the light of the world and Testament’s Scripture was a temporary, yet not merely a light in the world. This does not necessary, step in the history of salvation. The mean that all people are to enter the Church, but prophecies had to be fulfilled; the rites and that the Church has to be salt and light to the sacrifices of that religion expressed in a veiled world. The Bible mentions salt as the element manner the mystery of sin and mercy that would that preserves food. The covenant of salt was be fulfilled in the person and the work of Jesus. the covenant of God with those who were to With him comes the perfect and definitive serve him forever (Num 18:19). So the disciples fellowship of God with humankind. of Jesus are called salt of the earth because For us as well, observing the laws of the Bible through them the world benefits from the lasting is not an end in itself. They are an expression of Covenant with God. They must continually en- real love and are its guidelines. In obeying them kindle in the world the desire and struggle for true we become receptive to the Spirit who will lead justice and perfection, and not allow human us. In this way we discover a “righteousness” or societies to become satisfied with mediocrity. perfection far superior to the canonists of the You are the light: Jesus does not mean “You time: the teachers of the Law and the Phari- are the best in the world,” but “God has chosen sees. you to be a minority and through you he will In 5:19 Jesus is referring to the command- make himself known.” You will experience, ments. (both you and the Church) much that you would In 5:20, If you are not righteous in a better perhaps prefer to avoid, but which will be for the way, Jesus refers to the spirit of the Law. world, a sign from God. Just when he is about to teach a new way of • 14. Children of light: Eph 5:8; 1 P 2:12; understanding the Law of God, Jesus warns us 1 Thes 5:4. against the temptation of the easy way. Many could misinterpret the words of Jesus and say: It • 17. Here begins the presentation of the would be better if religion were less demanding 17 MATTHEW 5 Ex • 21 You have heard that it was said are together on the way to court. Other- 20:13 Dt to our people in the past: Do not com- wise he will turn you over to the judge, 5:17 mit murder; anyone who does kill will who will hand you over to the police, Rom have to face trial. 22 But now I tell you: who will put you in jail. 26 There you will 13:9 Eph whoever gets angry with a brother or stay, until you have paid the last penny. 4:26 Jas sister will have to face trial. Whoever • 27 You have heard that it was said: 1:19 insults a brother or sister deserves to be Do not commit adultery. 28 But I tell you Ex brought before the council; whoever this: anyone who looks at a woman to 20:14 calls a brother or a sister “Fool” de- lustfully has in fact already committed Sir serves to be thrown into the fire of hell. adultery with her in his heart. 9:5 23 Mk So, if you are about to offer your gift 29 So, if your right eye causes you to 11:5 at the altar and you remember that sin, pull it out and throw it away! It is your brother has something against much better for you to lose a part of you, 24 leave your gift there in front of your body than to have your whole the altar, go at once and make peace body thrown into hell. 30 If your right 18:8 with him, and then come back and offer hand causes you to sin, cut it off and Mk 9:43 your gift to God. throw it away! It is better for you to lose 25 Pro Don’t forget this: be reconciled a part of your body than to have your 17:14 Lk with your opponent quickly when you whole body thrown into hell. 12:58 and easier to practice! Because of this, Jesus Repairing the damage means more than just points out that anyone who does not intend to returning the money I have illegally taken. I must fulfill the entire Law will not enter the Kingdom; also question why I am so weak that I am carried nor will those who have ready excuses for their away by any desire. laziness: these commandments are not so im- Often we recognize how lukewarm our love portant! To those who obey the Law, Jesus for God is and how short-lived our perseverance shows the spirit of the Law. For such as these the in doing good. This is the result of many years of Gospel is not a comfortable road, but the call to wrongdoing. We are able to forget about the a more perfect life. wrong we have done, but we fail to repair the damage caused to our whole person. Although • 21. Here we have the beginning of the we may feel happy and unconcerned, we carry opposites: You have heard… but now I tell a load within ourselves from the unsettled debts you. This formula will be repeated six times. and accounts. Jesus alludes to the reading of the Bible which If we are not purified during this life, we will be takes place each Sabbath in the synagogues; just during or after our death. The Church calls this as in the Church today each week has its as- painful purification “purgatory.” The transfor- signed readings. It was the Hebrew text or its mation that should take place in us (1 Cor 15:51) Aramaic translation (the spoken language) that is impossible unless the Spirit has completely was used. The leaders of the synagogue or burned out (Mt 3:11) our roots of evil. visitors passing through gave a commentary. Jesus was known for speaking often in the • 27. Do not commit adultery. For many, assemblies and it is highly probable that he would conjugal fidelity is a burdensome and old-fash- have often said: You have heard (vv. 21, 27, 38) ioned law, which they merely admire in others. and I tell you, for he spoke with authority (Mt Jesus replaces fidelity among the laws of the 7:29). interior world, where God, the Faithful One is to Jesus does not question the demands of the reign. Bible, nor is he satisfied with a mere commen- If your right eye… Here we must underline tary; the law of Christ is a call for purification of the opposition between: your hand, your eye, heart, that is, of our intentions and our desires. and: you. In another place Jesus will say that we It is a fresh enlightenment born of a new expe- must be able to give up everything, but here he rience of God. When we turn towards the Father dares to add: even your physical integrity. (and that is the great innovation: the imitation of All of us are looking for happiness, promotion God the Father: 5:48), we discover how imper- and security, but what are those criteria worth? fect are the human criteria of morality. There- All strive to live fully their life and enjoy without fore, let us not call sin only that which is seen or limits their own health and body, but here Jesus condemned as such by people. Indeed my sins tells us that true life is elsewhere and that true self are all the bad thoughts that I keep inside and that creates itself while accepting mutilations of the produce evil fruits when the opportunity comes. present life. See also Mt 12:34. Is it only a matter of sacrificing what could drag Until you have paid the last penny (v. 26). us to “major fault and sin”? The word of Jesus MATTHEW 5 18 • 31 It was also said: anyone who di- when you mean yes and say no when 19:7 Dt 24:1 vorces his wife must give her a written you mean no. Anything else you say Mk 10:4 notice of divorce. 32 But what I tell you is comes from the devil. Lk this: If a man divorces his wife except in Love of enemies 16:18 the case of unlawful union, he causes (Lk 6:29) Mal her to commit adultery. And the man • 38 You have heard that it was said: 2:14 1Cor who marries a divorced woman com- An eye for an eye and a tooth for a 7:10 mits adultery. tooth. 39 But I tell you this: do not op- Ex 21:24 Oaths pose evil with evil; if someone slaps Lev Ex • 33 You have also heard that people you on your right cheek, turn and offer 24:20 Dt 20:7 Lev were told in the past: Do not break your the other. 40 If someone sues you in 19:21 19:12 oath; an oath sworn to the Lord must court for your shirt, give your coat as Jas 5:12 be kept. 34 But I tell you this: do not take well. 41 If someone forces you to go one Jn Is 18:22 66:1 oaths. Do not swear by the heavens, for mile, go also the second mile. 42 Give 1Cor 6:7 23:22 they are God’s throne, 35 nor by the when asked and do not turn your back Ps 48:3 earth, because it is his footstool, nor by on anyone who wants to borrow from Lk 6:30 Jerusalem because it is the city of the you. great king. 36 Do not even swear by • 43 You have heard that it was said: Lev 19:18 your head, because you cannot make a Love your neighbor and do not do good Job 31:29 2Cor single hair white or black. 37 Say yes to your enemy. 44 But this I tell you: Acts 1:17 7:60 Rom goes far beyond. As much as we complain about to testify to our sincerity when we do not even 12:20 the misery and meaninglessness of our life, we recognize all that is false and unclean within us! conserve it at any cost with the hope of still All the rest comes from the devil, and even enjoying this world. What if real sin were to avoid the preoccupation of defending and justifying any risk and self-sacrifice when God is calling? oneself in the eyes of others. See also Mt 23:16; Jesus speaks of a hell of fire, because there is James 5:12. nothing worse than this final result: a lost life that has not been fruitful, and the abortion of our • 38. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a eternal self. tooth. We read this in the Bible because in the world of that time it was a wholesome maxim (Dt • 31. Anyone who divorces his wife… See 19:18-21). It claimed to put a limit to the thirst commentaries on Mk 10:1; Mt 19:3. for vengeance and reminded judges and the Here this saying of Jesus is given as an ex- community itself of the duty to defend its mem- ample of the courageous decisions that a Chris- bers against those who abuse the weak. tian may be called upon to make. God some- Do not oppose evil with evil. Jesus asks us to times asks for heroic sacrifices. The one who approach an adversary in the same way as this does not choose the difficult way necessarily adversary may be approaching us: who is the loses something of the Gospel. wicked one? Except in the case of unlawful union. These Offer the other cheek: be the first to be free words are not found in the other quotations of of the web of violence. As in judo, surprise the this saying of Jesus. Why did Matthew put them? other by making the very move he was not In fact there are two possible interpretations. expecting: he may then see that he was mis- First, it can be understood that one spouse has taken. Jesus has no doubt that this renunciation an extra licentious relationship, and then the of violence and of our own interests obliges the other is allowed to separate. Father to intervene and come to our aid. Do not Second, it can be understood that the one forget that Jesus wants us to “see God” at work entering the Church through baptism is living in our lives. with an unlawful union, and then this marriage or If someone forces you to go one mile. Jesus concubinage does not tie him. speaks to farmers who are humiliated and op- pressed by foreign armies. Many times they are • 33. Do not take an oath. This sentence obliged to carry the burden of the soldiers Their must not be understood: “You shall never take usual reaction is resigned submission concealing an oath”, but: “In a general way, don’t take hatred and desire for revenge. Would they be oaths.” capable of responding to such a counsel? It is Many invoke the name of God on any occa- certain that had they practiced it, they might sion. Is it because they truly know him and have have saved their nation from destruction. him in mind? If we use his name casually, it is because we do not experience the weight of his • 43. Love your neighbor. Here we come to presence. What a lack of respect to call on God the last of the opposites between the Old Law 19 MATTHEW 6 3 Love your enemies, and pray for those If you give something to the poor, Ex who persecute you, 45 so that you may do not let your left hand know what 23:4 Pro be children of your Father in Heaven. your right hand is doing, 4 so that your Ps 25:21 139: For he makes his sun rise on both the gift remains really secret. Your Father 2 wicked and the good, and he gives rain who sees what is kept secret, will re- to both the just and the unjust. ward you. 5 46 If you love those who love you, When you pray, do not be like those 6:16 what is special about that? Do not even who want to be seen. They love to stand tax collectors do as much? 47 And if you and pray in the synagogues or on street are friendly only to your friends, what is corners to be seen by everyone. I as- so exceptional about that? Do not even sure you, they have already been paid Lev the pagans do as much? 48 For your in full. 6 When you pray, go into your 2K 19:2 4:33 Dt part you shall be righteous and perfect room, close the door and pray to your Dn 6:11 18:23 Jas in the way your heavenly Father is Father who is with you in secret; and 1:4 righteous and perfect. your Father who sees what is kept se- 1P 1:16 cret will reward you. Doing good for God alone • 1 • Our Father… 23:5 Be careful not to make a show of Lk 16:14 6 your righteousness before people. (Lk 11:1; Mk 11:25) 7 Jn 5:44 If you do so, you do not gain anything When you pray, do not use a lot of Ecl 5:1 from your Father in heaven. 2 When you words, as the pagans do, for they hold Am give something to the poor, do not have that the more they say, the more 4:5 it trumpeted before you, as do those chance they have of being heard. 8 Do 6:32 Lk who want to be seen in the synagogues not be like them. Your Father knows 12:30 and in the streets in order to be praised what you need, even before you ask by the people. I assure you, they have him. 9 been already paid in full. This, then, is how you should pray: and the New. The Old Testament spoke of loving see things as God does and are perfect as the a neighbor and this was a matter of solidarity Father is perfect. among the members of the people of God. With Love your enemies: Mk 12:31; Lk 10:27; the Gospel the word “love” is not only given a Rom 13:9; Gal 5:14; Rom 12:20; Lk 23:34; wider dimension: it introduces us into a world Acts 7:60; Rom 12:14; Eph 5:1. totally different. Solidarity within the group is supported by an instinct inscribed in nature. This • 6.1 After the six opposites (“but I say to love however does not cross the frontiers that you”), Matthew gives us three examples of an- separate social groups: these only exist and find other secret without which we shall not see God: their identity in opposing others. work for him alone without wanting anyone to Do not do good to your enemy: The text is know, and in such a way that we ourselves will not found in the Bible as it stands but its equiva- have immediately forgotten what we have done. lent is in several places (Dt 7:2). Referring to Those who make a show. The expression enemies of the nation rather than to personal appears three times with reference to good enemies, we are asked to be wary of them, not deeds, prayer and fasting. Jesus uses a word to help them and even to exterminate them, often translated as “being hypocrites,” which rather than share their errors. If in many coun- refers in a general way to those who make a show, or who are shallow, and make fun of the tries today it is understood that there is no things of God. frontier for love, it must be recognized that this It is perhaps difficult not to want to be seen by ideal is a fruit of the Gospel: Jesus has enlight- others, but it is far more difficult to do good ened our minds by asking us to model the love of without looking at oneself and being satisfied our neighbor on the universal love of God the because: “I am good.” It is, nevertheless, the way Father. We have only to open a newspaper to of enabling us to enter into the secrets of God. see that this love of neighbor, whatever he be, and even if he comes from a social, national or • 7. The value of prayer does not lie in the religious group, in enmity with ours, remains quantity of words and the mere repetition of incomprehensible to the majority, even in Chris- formulas, as if accomplishing a task. The value of tian countries. When we realize that there is a prayer lies chiefly in our inner attitude of faith place for everyone in the present world and that and love of God. We should try to lift our mind God directs everything for the benefit of all, we and heart to God as a Father and a friend, a God MATTHEW 6 20 13 Ezk Our Father in heaven, Do not bring us to the test 26:41 36:23 Jn Jn holy be your name, but deliver us from the evil one. 17:15 17:6 10 14 your kingdom come If you forgive others their wrongs, Mk 11:25 26:39 and your will be done, your Father in heaven will also forgive Eph 4:32 on earth as in heaven. yours. 15 If you do not forgive others, then Col Pro 11 Give us today our daily bread. your Father will not forgive you either. 3:13 Sir 30:8 • 16 When 28:1 12 Forgive us our debts you fast, do not put on a 18:21 just as we have forgiven those who miserable face as do the hypocrites. Is 58:5 are in debt to us. They put on a gloomy face, so people 23:5 who loves us and is always waiting for us to share The Father only wants to pour out his holiness a silent moment with him. To pray is not to talk and happiness on the children he has chosen and much, but to surrender our lives into God’s loved. He wants to seal us with his Name so that, loving hands. day and night, we will be united with him, like Jesus gives the Our Father to his disciples as the Father and the Son are united by the Holy the perfect prayer coming from the heart of Spirit. God’s children, expressing as it does, what they Your Kingdom come. With the coming of should ask and the order in which the requests Jesus, that Kingdom has come near to us. God should be made. Actually we have two texts of reigns in every place where people have known the Our Father; Luke’s text is shorter (11:1). him through the teaching of Jesus. There he can Many hold that Matthew gives a slightly enlarged act without danger of being misinterpreted for formula and better composed which was gener- he is now known for what he is. The believers ally used in the first Christian generation, but this now perceive him, not as a God who imposes is not at all certain. In Matthew’s text there are obligations, nor as a Savior more powerful than twelve verses expressing seven petitions: two the evil ones, but they recognize him in the gift perfect numbers. Three (God’s number) that of his Son, in the humiliation of the Son and in refers to God, four (earth’s number) that refers to their mutual love. From this discovery, love and our needs. In the language spoken by Jesus, the mercy pour forth and, in time, we will see on key word is come: Your kingdom come. earth some fruits of this Kingdom. The recon- The contemporaries of Jesus used the word ciled children of God are a leavening element in Heaven to signify God, because they would not society, and the whole of humanity with its pronounce his name. Jesus says likewise: Father projects, labor, economic and political plans in Heaven, meaning: God the Father. moves towards a common goal: everyone and For us the limitless sky by day and by night is everything must return to the Father. the image of a wonderful world where God is Whether we are good, bad or indifferent, the everything. In calling on our Father in Heaven, Kingdom of God will come, with or without our we do not mean that he is far or near, above or help, because it is actually already here. below or inside. We only intend to raise our Your will be done. These are the words of spirits to Him. We recognize that our words are Jesus in Gethsemane (Mt 26:39). This prayer not worthy, that our concerns are selfish and condemns many of our prayers through which limited, when we compare them with the we want to force God to act. Some people breadth of His thoughts and the generosity of His consider themselves to have faith because they love. That we can address him and call him always wait for God to solve their problems. The Father is not something natural, but a very children of God instead lift up their spirit to him special privilege. “My Father,” says Jesus; also: so that God’s will may be, at last, their own will. “Your Father.” For he is the only one, and we are On earth as in heaven. This applies to the adopted children, by the mercy of God who previous three petitions. It reminds us that eve- allowed us to be born again (Jn 3:1). rything in this world that is created and subject to The Bible speaks of God, and also of the time depends on another, uncreated world, Name of God. All of creation is but a manifesta- where time does not exist and which is nothing tion of God, and he fills this universe. He is not less than the mystery of God. There the Father, contained in it, nor is he in a determined place. source of the divine being, enjoys his infinite Because of this, we speak of his Name as a way perfection in the mutual gift of the divine per- of designating his active presence, radiance, and sons. In him there is neither sadness nor resent- splendor which covers everything. It is rather like ment and before him are the elect: he sees them acknowledging that there is a distance between as they will be after the resurrection. He sees the what we know of him and what he is. universe unified in Christ and his will fulfilled and Holy be your name! May your Name be glorified by all. We, who live in time, are in known and proclaimed Holy! May your splendor anguish because of an imperfect situation, in a and generosity be seen in those who become world in labor where evil appears to triumph. We your children. May your perfection be recog- pray that everything may come about according nized through their good works (5:16). May your to the initial plan of God, as it truly will. presence and your riches be welcomed by those We ask the Father for the bread he has who keep your word, according to John 14:23. promised to those who listen to his word. Mod- 21 MATTHEW 6 can see they are fasting. I tell you this: (Lk 11:34; 12:13) they have been paid in full already. • 19 Do not store up treasure for your- Sir 17 29:11 When you fast, wash your face and self here on earth where moth and rust Jas 5:2 make yourself look cheerful, 18 because destroy it, and where thieves can steal 19:21 you are not fasting for appearances or it. 20 Store up treasure for yourself with Col 3:1 for people, but for your Father who sees God, where no moth or rust can destroy beyond appearances. And your Father, nor thief come and steal it. 21 who sees what is kept secret will reward For where your treasure is, there Pro 20:27 you. also your heart will be. Lk 11:34 ern people believe that their material welfare demns fasting. He himself fasted: 4:2; 9:15; depends only on their own effort. The Bible, 17:21. Fasting is unworthy when done to obtain however, says that it depends on both God and human approval rather than God’s. us. Alone we can bring some economic miracles All religions know fasting. It is a way of calling about for a while, but we may waste the accumu- upon God, especially when great misfortunes lated riches. Only by listening to the word of God come upon us (Jl 2:12); it befits people who feel (Dt 8:3) will people have bread and be able to guilty, and want to move to compassion the One distribute it. A person who expects from God, who forgives them (Jon 3:5). It also teaches self- not his or her bread but our bread, will strive to control and integrates our energies in prepara- find work, to work in useful ways, and to pro- tion for divine communication (Ex 34:28). mote justice where he is working. Scripture puts limited emphasis on fasting. What should we say? The bread “we need” or The prophets asserted that fasting without jus- our “daily” bread or sustenance? The original tice towards the neighbor is of no use: Is 58; Zec text uses a difficult word that has different mean- 7:4. ings. Many have understood that the children of From the time of Gandhi, persons and groups God feel the need of much more than what is have also used fasting as a means of social asked for the body and that the eucharist was pressure, as a political weapon to call attention already meant as it is in the miracle of the to some demands. This is all right, although it is multiplication of the loaves. different from the religious fast of which Jesus The Our Father speaks of debts that we must speaks. The difference is that a religious fast is forgive (6:12). In 6:14, we read wrongs. Jesus addressed to God, not to public opinion (Mt considers debts and wrongs as the same thing. 6:18), and it entails an inner disposition of When we forgive someone who asks for forgive- conversion and sorrow for personal sin on the ness, we are not doing that person a favor, nor part of the fasting person. do we deserve any credit for doing it; we actually free ourselves from some rancor or hatred that • 19. Do not store up treasures. The Gos- is poisoning us. Inasmuch as we stick to our pel says: “Do not treasure treasures,” treasures rights, we hold fast to this world. God wants to meaning those savings held in reserve rather forgive us and bring us closer to him, but how can than something that is loved. For centuries the he if we remain anchored to the things of this majority of human beings rarely had personal world? reserves: the family or the clan took charge of the Jesus speaks to the poor who are accustomed reserve in times of adversity. Today each one is to being burdened with debts, which many in charge of his own resources; it is perhaps times they cannot settle. They are obliged to better, but how do we escape the obsession of a live together with neighbors they have not secure future? Once more Jesus invites us to chosen. All this increases the occasions for believe in the Providence of the Father: if we offending one another. Many people today live have his interests at heart, he will look after ours. very independent lives and hold as an ideal not Store up with God Gospel says “in Heaven”, to owe anything to anyone. This independence and we know that Heaven is one of the names of can make it harder for us to understand God’s God. mercy towards us, poor as we really are before There also your heart will be. (In the Jewish God. culture the heart is where judgments and deci- Do not bring us to the test. Thus speak those sions are made). I do not possess things but they who know their weaknesses and little faith. possess me and by degrees impose on me a We will be more prudent if we know that the certain life-style. enemy is not simply evil, but the evil one. There also your heart will be. It is this Somebody stronger than ourselves is watching certitude that motivates any effort made towards to deceive us, to make us lose faith and fall, as “evangelical poverty.” It is a question of being as soon as we feel sure of ourselves and abandon free as possible for action and for love. Jesus calls the means given by Jesus for perseverance in the us to disinterested action and at the same time faith and in the Church. warns us against inordinate attachment to per- See another shorter text in Luke 11:1. sons, to ideas and possessions: we are to be ready for anything but must never get attached to • 16. Here Jesus neither justifies nor con- the fruits of action. MATTHEW 6 22 • 22 The lamp of the body is the eye; if they grow. They do not toil or spin. 29 your eyes are sound, your whole body But I tell you that not even Solomon 1K 10 will be in the light. 23 If your eyes are in all his wealth was clothed like one of diseased your whole body will be in these. 30 If God so clothes the grass in darkness. Then, if your light has be- the field which blooms today and is to come darkness, how dark will be the be burned tomorrow in an oven, how darkest part of you! much more will he clothe you? What little faith you have! Set your heart on the kingdom 31 (Lk 12:23; 16:13) Do not worry and say: What are we Ps • 24 No one can serve two masters; going to eat? What are we going to 62:11 for he will either hate one and love the drink? Or: what shall we wear? 32 The 6:7 Lk other, or he will be loyal to the first and pagans busy themselves with such 12:30 look down on the second. You cannot at things; but your heavenly Father knows the same time serve God and money. that you need them all. 33 Set your heart Wis 1:1 25 first on the kingdom and justice of God This is why I tell you not to be and all these things will also be given to worried about food and drink for your- you. 34 Do not worry about tomorrow Is self, or about clothes for your body. Is for tomorrow will worry about itself. 51:11 not life more important than food and is Each day has enough trouble of its Ex not the body more important than own. 16:4 10:31 clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow, they do not harvest Don’t be a judge and do not store food in barns, and yet (Lk 6:37; 11:9; 6:31; 13:23) your heavenly Father feeds them. Are • 1 Do not judge and you will not be 1Cor you not worth much more than birds? 7 judged. 2 In the same way you 4:5 27 Can any of you add a day to your judge others, you will be judged, and life by worrying about it? 28 Why are the measure you use for others will be you so worried about your clothes? used for you. 3 Why do you look at the Rom 2:1 Look at the flowers in the fields how speck in your brother’s eye and not see 14:4 • 22. Here eye is the conscience. To be thing great. Liberation is the work of God bright-eyed signifies generosity, to be dark-eyed throughout history, and we, shall we have signifies meanness. Jesus emphasizes what he enough faith to free ourselves from so many has just said: a misinformed conscience leads us worries? astray and turns us in on ourselves. The comparison with the flowers and the birds does not mean that we can fold our arms and be • 24. No one can serve two masters. This idle, because when God gave us arms and brains, opening line helps us understand what follows, it was for us to use them. Rather Jesus teaches that Jesus wants us to be free, not of concerns that, if God takes care of and beautifies the but of all worries, in order to serve God. smallest of creatures, how much more will he Scripture had already taught that we must care for us that our lives may be beautiful and choose between God and false gods. Jesus perfect. affirms that money is a false god, because it Set your heart first on the Kingdom. It is a offers happiness and security for the future, but matter of concrete realities: the kingdom means robs us of our only riches, that is, the present the transparentness of God in our life; his justice time. Caught up in making money, we are is a “putting in order” under his attention of all unable to live truly and freely; we neglect our that we are and all that we do. A risk to run for personal growth and family life, keep silent a young person, or a couple: to begin to think of before evil and lie. We ignore our neighbor and the future, family and apostolic activity accord- grovel before the powerful. ing to the criteria of the Gospel, no longer under Why are you so worried? After worrying pressure of Malthusian fear or the race to main- much because we do not have money, or be- tain their life-style. cause we are having a hard time, or because our work is being delayed, we are ashamed at meet- • 7.1 No doubt when Jesus spoke these ing simple persons who share the little they words it was with the same meaning as in 5:43. possess with others poorer than they, without Usually those who consider themselves as good, feeling sad or thinking they have done some- or belonging to the group of the converted, judge 23 MATTHEW 7 1Cor the plank in your own eye? 4 How can heaven give good things to those who 5:12 Jas you say to your brother: ‘Come, let me ask him! 4:11 take the speck from your eye,’ as long 12 So, do to others whatever you Rom Mk as that plank is in your own? 5 Hypo- would that others do to you: there you 13:8 4:24 Jn crite, take first the plank out of your have the Law and the Prophets. 8:7 own eye, then you will see clear enough • 13 Enterthrough the narrow gate; to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. for wide is the gate and broad is the • 6 Do road that leads to destruction, and not give what is holy to the many go that way. 14 How narrow is the Acts dogs, or throw your pearls to the pigs: 14:22 gate that leads to life and how rough the they might trample on them and even road; few there are who find it. turn on you and tear you to pieces. • 7 Ask and you will receive; seek and The tree is known by its fruits Lk 18:19 6:26 Lk (Lk 6:43) Gal 11:9 you will find; knock and the door will be • 15 Beware 1:8 Mk opened. 8 For everyone who asks, re- of false prophets: they Ezk 22:28 11:24 Jn ceives; whoever seeks, finds; and the come to you in sheep’s clothing but 2P 14:14 door will be opened to him who knocks. inside they are wild wolves. 16 You will 2:1 9 Would any of you give a stone to your recognize them by their fruits. Do you Mt 10:16 15:7 son when he asks for bread? 10 Or give ever pick grapes from thornbushes, or Jn 10:12 16:23 Jas him a snake, when he asks for a fish? figs from thistles? Acts 1:5, 11 17 20:29 17 As bad as you are, you know how to A good tree always produces good 1Jn 3:22 give good things to your children. How fruit, a rotten tree produces bad fruit. Sir 27:6 18 5:14 much more, then, will your Father in A good tree cannot produce bad fruit Jas 3:12 and criticize those of a different standing. It is a saved?” (Mt 19:25). In no instance did Jesus say form of pride that spiritual authors call the “fault whether those who would share in eternal life of beginners.” So strongly inscribed is it in would be many or few. He did say many times human nature that many among the “just” of the that very few would be chosen from among the Bible have expressed their disapproval of the many called. That means that among the many “sinner” who did not observe the law of God. people privileged to meet him, very few would Contrariwise the new law tells us not to consider experience the Gospel’s riches and bring forth ourselves superior or be judges of those who take fruit in themselves and for others. The chosen or a different road, or who are led by God to do so. approved are those who persevere and strive for Do not judge. We must exercise good judgment perfect freedom. in order to distinguish between the good and evil For wide is the gate and broad is the road around us. Though it is a factor of success never that leads to destruction, and many go that to displease anyone, we must have the courage way. They stray from leading a life in which Jesus to tell others the wrong that they do. Here “to is everything for them. They waste the gifts of judge” means to condemn. God entrusted to them and apparently become When we look at our own lives, we realize that useless for the Kingdom. Yet, even so, they are those who helped us grow were those who not deprived of God’s mercy. supported and understood us, not those who judged and condemned us. • 15. Most probably Matthew gives us these Do not judge. See Rom 2:1; 14:4; words of Jesus for the benefit of certain believers 1 Cor 5:12; James 4:11. in the early Church who considered themselves as charismatic prophets. They may well have • 6. Do not give what is holy to the dogs, or received gifts of the Spirit but have degenerated throw your pearls to the pigs. Jesus addressed since then. In a wider sense Jesus’ words address this warning to his followers living in a hostile all who encourage division, untruth and vio- world. They should not tell everything to every- lence, even when they pretend to serve a just one. God has given each of us wonderful gifts: cause. we must not share them with everyone at once, Prophets wore a sheepskin by way of a cloak: believing that it will bring them to faith. a wolf could hide in one. The world has always • 7. See commentary on Luke 11:9; Mark had a number of “false prophets,” usually proph- 11:24; John 14:13; 15:7; James 1:5. ets of easy life, and if the Word of God condemns them, many will say that word has been misinter- • 13. Enter through the narrow gate. preted. It would be well however to ask ourselves Maybe someone was asking Jesus: “Who will be why our holy and sacred liberalism tends to sow MATTHEW 7 24 and a rotten tree cannot bear good fruit. lapsed, and what a terrible fall that 19 3:10 Any tree that does not bear good fruit was!” Lk 3:9 is cut down and thrown in the fire. 20 So • 28 When Jesus had finished this dis- Lk 13:6 Jn you will know them by their fruit. course, the crowds were struck by the 7:1 15:6 12:33 Wise and foolish builders way he taught, 29 because he taught (Lk 6:46; 13:26; Mk 1:22) with authority unlike their teachers of Rom • 21 Not everyone who says to me: the Law. 2:13 Jas Lord! Lord! will enter the kingdom of Cure of a leper 1:22 1Jn heaven, but the one who does the will of (Mk 1:40; Lk 5:12) 2:17 my heavenly Father. 22 Many will say to • 1 When Jesus came down from Jer 14:14 me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not 8 the mountain, large crowds fol- 27:15 speak in your name? Did we not cast lowed him. Mk 9:38 out devils and perform many miracles 2 Then a leper came forward. He Mk in your name?” 23 Then I will tell them knelt before him and said, “Sir, if you 1:40 Lk 10:33 openly: I have never known you; away want to, you can make me clean.” 5:12 Ps 6:9 from me, you evil people! 3 Jesus stretched out his hand, touched 2Tim 24 2:12 “So, then, anyone who hears these him, and said, “I want to, be clean words of mine and acts accordingly is again.” At that very moment the man like a wise man, who built his house on was cleansed from his leprosy. 4 Then 9:30 rock. 25 The rain poured, the rivers Jesus said to him, “See that you do not 12:16 Mk flooded, and the wind blew and struck tell anyone, but go to the priest, have 7:36 Lev that house, but it did not collapse be- yourself declared clean, and offer the 14:2 13:41 cause it was built on rock. 26 But any- gift that Moses ordered as proof of it.” Lk 17:14 25:41 Jas one who hears these words of mine and 1:22 The faith of the centurion does not act accordingly, is like a fool (Lk 7:1; Jn 4:46) Ezk who built his house on sand. 27 The rain 13:10 • 5 When poured, the rivers flooded, and the wind Jesus entered Capernaum, blew and struck that house; it col- an army captain approached him to death in all domains and smothers in so many the resistance to evil inclinations, sharing in the ability to believe and hope. Christian community – then everything will Do you ever pick grapes from thornbushes? tumble down later. Jesus invites us to look at the facts before coming to conclusions. We find it hard to care- • 28. With this paragraph Matthew closes fully observe the reality in which we live. We the first Discourse wherein he gathers words of prefer to discuss and debate about ideas rather Jesus that might serve as a “call to all people of than to analyze particular situations. Jesus, ac- good will.” A new Discourse will begin in chapter customed to manual labor, distrusts ideas and 10. theories. • 8.1 In this new section of his gospel (8:1– • 21. Many will say to me on that day. 9:35) Matthew has placed a collection of Matthew probably quotes this sentence pointing miracles. For him, these miracles are not only out to the charismatic prophets who disturb his extraordinary events: they contain lessons on communities by not obeying precepts that are what a disciple of Jesus is. To begin with: the addressed to everyone. cure of a leper; on the part of Jesus this is an act Whether we teach or work miracles, these of courage, and an act that openly violates the abilities and ministries given us for the good of law of purity (see Mk 1:40). the community do not assure us that we are in Then, the faith of the centurion, a Roman the grace of God. True faith works through love officer (8:5). Jesus speaks of the Jews who will be (Gal 5:6) and moves us to fulfill all the Law: excluded from the kingdom of God. That may James 2:8. also be the case of the new heirs of the Kingdom Anyone who hears these words of mine (v. who are the Christians of the West. 24). Jesus means those who listen to his words and are converted: they believe themselves al- • 5. See commentary on Luke 7:1. ready saved. If they do not use their initial The heirs of the Kingdom (v. 12). These enthusiasm to build their lives on solid founda- words are intended to express the Jewish term tions, such as scriptural meditation, generosity, used by Jesus: the sons of the Kingdom, that is: 25 MATTHEW 8 ask his help, 6 “Sir, my servant lies sick around him, Jesus gave orders to cross Mk 4:35 at home. He is paralyzed and suffers to the other shore. 19 A teacher of the terribly.” 7 Jesus said to him, “I will Law approached him and said, “Master, come and heal him.” I will follow you wherever you go.” 20 Lk 8 The captain answered, “I am not Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes 5:8 worthy to have you under my roof. Just and birds have nests, but the Son of give an order and my boy will be Man has nowhere to lay his head.” 21 Ps healed. 9 For I myself, a junior officer, Another disciple said to him, 2Cor 107: 8:9 20 give orders to my soldiers. And if I say “Lord, let me go and bury my father 1K 19:20 to one: ‘Go,’ he goes, and if I say to first.” 22 But Jesus answered him, “Fol- another: ‘Come,’ he comes, and to my low me, and let the dead bury their own servant: ‘Do this,’ he does it.” dead.” 10 When Jesus heard this he was as- Jesus calms the storm tonished and said to those who were (Mk 4:35; Lk 8:22) following him, “I tell you, I have not 23 Jesus got into the boat and his Lk found such faith in Israel. 11 I say to you, disciples followed him. 24 Without warn- 13:29 many will come from east and west and ing a fierce storm hit the lake, with sit down with Abraham, Isaac and waves sweeping the boat. But Jesus Jacob at the feast in the kingdom of was asleep. Lk heaven; 12 but the heirs of the kingdom 25 They woke him and cried, “Lord 13:28 will be thrown out into the darkness; save us! We are lost!” 26 But Jesus an- 6:30 there they will wail and grind their swered, “Why are you so afraid, you of 8:10 teeth.” little faith?” Then he stood up and or- 13 9:29 Then Jesus said to the captain, dered the wind and sea; and it became 15:28 Jn “Go home now. As you believed, so let completely calm. 4:50 it be.” And at that moment his servant 27 The people were astonished. They was healed. said, “What kind of man is he? Even the 14 Jesus went to Peter’s house and winds and the sea obey him.” found Peter’s mother-in-law in bed with Mk fever. 15 He took her by the hand and The demoniacs and the pigs 9:27 (Mk 5:1; Lk 8:26) Acts the fever left her; she got up and began 3:7 to wait on him. 28 When Jesus reached Gadara on 16 Towards evening they brought to the other side, he was met by two Jesus many possessed by evil spirits, demoniacs who came out from the and with a word he drove out the spirits. tombs. They were so fierce that no one He also healed all who were sick. 17 In dared to pass that way. 29 Suddenly Lk 4:34 doing this he fulfilled what was said by they shouted, “What do you want with Acts 16:17 Is the prophet Isaiah: He bore our infirmi- us, you, Son of God? Have you come to 53:4 Jn ties and took on himself our diseases. torture us before the time?” 1:29 18 When he saw the crowd press 30 At some distance away there was those who belong, or: those who side with, are faith that he admires and praises; see Matthew associated with the Kingdom. Because all of 9:2; 9:22; 9:28. Jewish life was aimed at inheriting the kingdom Many will come (v. 11). Likewise for us, promised to them. practices and religious habits will not introduce Among the Jewish people, at that time, reli- us to the Kingdom. We must discover the loving gion was taught by the religious community. presence of the Father while experiencing the There was no problem of personal conversion; power of Jesus’ word and controversial deeds. the children of Jewish families became Jewish They will be thrown out into the darkness (v. believers. The Jewish teachers did not belittle 12). Let us not immediately think of hell: Jesus faith, but in fact they always spoke about prac- is using the style of the prophets. Staying with tices and commitment. the appearance of a learned religion, one goes Jesus does not belittle the practices, but it is everywhere except where life is. MATTHEW 8 26 a large herd of pigs feeding. 31 So the Jesus calls Matthew demons begged him, “If you drive us (Mk 2:13; Lk 5:27) out, send us into that herd of pigs.” • 9 As Jesus moved on from there, he 32 Jesus ordered them, “Go.” So they saw a man named Matthew at his seat left and went into the pigs. The whole in the custom-house, and he said to herd rushed down the cliff into the lake him, “Follow me.” And Matthew got up and drowned. and followed him. 10 Now it happened, 33 The men in charge of them ran off while Jesus was at table in Matthew’s to the town, where they told the whole house, many tax collectors and other story, also what had happened to the sinners joined Jesus and his disciples. men possessed with the demons. 11 When the Pharisees saw this they 11:19 34 Lk Then the whole town went out to said to his disciples, “Why is it that your 7:34 meet Jesus; and when they saw him, master eats with those sinners and tax 15:1 19:7 they begged him to leave their area. collectors?” 12 Jesus cures a paralytic When Jesus heard this he said, 1Tim 1:15 (Mk 2:1; Lk 5:17) “Healthy people do not need a doctor, • 1 Jesus got back into the boat, but sick people do. 13 Go and find out 12:7 9 crossed the lake again, and came what this means: What I want is mercy, Hos 6:6 8:6 to his hometown. 2 Here they brought a not sacrifice. I did not come to call the Acts paralyzed man to him, lying on a bed. righteous but sinners.” 9:33 14 Jesus saw their faith and said to the Then the disciples of John came to 11:18 Lk paralytic, “Courage, my son! Your sins him with the question, “How is it that we 18:12 are forgiven.” and the Pharisees fast on many occa- Lk 3 Then some teachers of the Law said sions, but not your disciples?” 7:48 15 to themselves, “This man insults God.” Jesus answered them, “How can Jn 4 Jesus was aware of what they were you expect wedding guests to mourn as 10:33 thinking, and said, “Why have you such long as the bridegroom is with them? evil thoughts? 5 Which is easier to say: Time will come when the bridegroom ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or ‘Stand up and will be taken away from them, then Dn walk’? 6 You must know that the Son of they will fast. 7:10 Jn Man has authority on earth to forgive 16 No one patches an old coat with a Rom 5:27 sins.” He then said to the paralyzed piece of unshrunken cloth, for the 7:6 2Cor man, “Stand up! Take your stretcher patch will shrink and tear an even big- 5:17 Acts and go home.” 7 The man got up, and ger hole in the coat. 17 Besides you 9:33 went home. don’t put new wine in old wineskins. If 8 When the crowds saw this, they you do, the wineskins will burst and the were filled with awe and praised God for wine be spilt. No, you put new wine in giving such power to human beings. fresh skins; then both are preserved.” • 9.1 See commentary on Mk 2:1; Lk 5:17. Cor 2:5-11). When we establish relations of mercy and trust, and accept fraternal correction They praised God for giving such power to humbly, when there is mutual forgiveness be- human beings (v. 8). This formula is rather tween spouses, Christ is the one who forgives clumsy. The crowd is astonished to see how and pardons, and what is forgiven among us on God’s saving power is manifest among people, earth, is forgiven in heaven (Mt 18:18). and through a man, Jesus. Matthew has no wish to separate the Church from Christ: every Chris- • 9. See commentary on Mark 2:13. tian community received the gifts of God for healing and reconciliation. It is known that the • 18. See commentary on Mark 5:21. ministers of the Church have special authority to She touched the edge of his cloak (v. 20). As pardon, but the grace of God also flows in many a good Jew, Jesus had fringes on his cloak (Num other very different channels. (1 Cor 5:3-5; 2 15:38; Mt 23:5). 27 MATTHEW 9 A woman healed, a child raised to life two blind men followed him, shouting, (Mk 5:21; Lk 8:40) “Son of David, help us!” 28 When he was • 18 While Jesus was speaking to about to enter the house, the blind men them, an official of the synagogue caught up with him, and Jesus said to came up to him, bowed before him and them, “Do you believe that I am able to 8:3 said, “My daughter has just died, but do what you want?” They answered, Mk 6:5 come and place your hands on her, and “Yes, sir!” 8:23 Lk she will live.” 19 Jesus stood up and 29 Then Jesus touched their eyes and 20:34 8:13 13:13 followed him with his disciples. said, “As you have believed, so let it 5:28 20 Lev Then a woman who had suffered be.” 30 And their eyes were opened. 15:25 from a severe bleeding for twelve years Then Jesus gave them a stern warning, came up from behind and touched the “Be careful and let no one know about Acts 19:12 edge of his cloak. 21 For she thought, “If this.” 31 But as soon as they went away, Mk 7:36 I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.” they spread the news about him 22 Acts Jesus turned, saw her and said, through the whole area. 3:16 32 “Courage, my daughter, your faith has When they had just left, some peo- 12:22 saved you.” And from that moment the ple brought to Jesus a man who was woman was cured. dumb because he was possessed by a 23 When Jesus arrived at the official’s demon. 33 When the demon was driven Mk 7:32 house and saw the flute players and the out, the dumb man began to speak. 9:17 Lk Jn excited crowd, he said, 24 “Get out of The crowds were astonished and said, 11:14 11:11 here! The girl is not dead. She is only “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Mk 2:12 sleeping!” And they laughed at him. Israel.” (34 But the Pharisees said, “He 25 But once the crowd had been turned drives away demons with the help of out, Jesus went in and took the girl by the prince of demons.”) Mk the hand, and she stood up. 26 The • 35 Jesus went around all the towns 4:23 1:34 news of this spread through the whole and villages, teaching in their syna- area. gogues and proclaiming the good news 20:29 • 27 As Jesus moved on from there, of the Kingdom, and he cured every • 27. Two blind men followed him shout- the devil is responsible for more than individual ing. In what manner, if they were blind? Stum- maladies. bling and being carried by others perhaps. When People seek after those who can cure their you sin, shout to the Lord and keep on looking illnesses, and so great crowds followed Jesus. for Christ. For him, however, sickness as well as the exploi- tation of the human person, hunger and war, are • 35. With this paragraph that briefly sum- only fruits and signs of a deeper illness attached marizes the ministry of Jesus in Galilee, Matthew to our heart, which is sin. Constant work and the intends to show that indeed the kingdom of God unity of all people of goodwill are sufficient to is there: evil has been given a fatal blow. remedy some of our misfortunes, but the only He was moved with pity, because they were way to eradicate evil at its roots is to restore like sheep without a shepherd. See Num human persons to their dignity as children of 27:17; Ezk 34:5; Zec 10:3; Jn 4:35; Mk 6:34; God. This requires a personal transformation and Lk 10:2. that comes from God sending us his Spirit. Jesus asks each of us to serve humankind with HEALINGS our own talents. He needs also workers for the harvest of the Kingdom, that is, to gather into God himself, in Jesus, had come down to cure the Church those who receive a call from God. humankind. Because this work would be very “Pray,” says Jesus, “and you will perhaps hear long and painful, it was necessary to provide God’s call.” some visible signs to help people believe in this Of course, each Christian community prays to almost imperceptible healing. God and the Spirit brings forth the charisms and Jesus ought to heal sick persons and, even in ministers and pastors that are needed. Here our days, the Christian community should give Jesus asks us to pray for workers in the mission signs of what they preach. They must cure field: they are and always will be too few, today’s world of its sicknesses. The gifts of especially those who evangelize and build the healing are not limited to healing bodily ills and Church among the poor. MATTHEW 9 28 14:14 sickness and disease. 36 When he Jesus sends out the first missionaries 15:32 (Lk 9:1; 10:1; Mk 6:7) 1K saw the crowds he was moved with pity, 22:17 for they were harassed and helpless • 5 Jesus sent these twelve on mis- Lk 9:53 Lk like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then sion with the instruction: “Do not visit Jn 10:2 4:9 he said to his disciples, “The harvest is pagan territory and do not enter a Sa- Acts abundant but the workers are only few. maritan town. 6 Go instead to the lost 8:5 38 Jn Ask the master of the harvest to send sheep of the people of Israel. 15:24 4:35 7 Jer workers to gather his harvest.” Go and proclaim this message: The 50:6 kingdom of heaven is near. 8 Heal the 4:17 The twelve apostles Lk (Mk 3:13; Lk 6:12) sick, bring the dead back to life, 10:9 Is cleanse the lepers, and drive out de- 55:1 • 1 Then he called his twelve dis- Mk mons. You received this as a gift, so Acts 6:7 Lk 10 ciples to him and gave them au- give it as a gift. 9 Do not carry any gold, 8:20 9:1 thority over the unclean spirits to drive silver or copper in your purses. 10 Do Lk 10:4 9:35 them out and to heal every disease and not carry a traveler’s bag, or an extra Num Mk 1:34 sickness. shirt, or sandals, or walking-stick: 18:31 1Cor 2 Jn These are the names of the twelve workers deserve their living. 9:14 1:35, 11 40, apostles: first Simon, called Peter, and When you come to a town or a 43 Acts his brother Andrew; 3 James, the son of village, look for a worthy person and 1:13 Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip stay there until you leave. 12 and Bartholomew, Thomas and Mat- As you enter the house, wish it thew, the tax collector; James, the son peace. 13 If the people in the house de- 26:25 of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4 Simon, serve it, your peace will be on them; if 27:3 Jn the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, the they do not deserve it, your blessing 6:64 man who would betray him. will come back to you. • 10.1 Till then, Jesus had spoken only in means “being sent.” The Father has sent his Son the synagogues around Capernaum. Now he to earth, and the Son, in turn, sends his apostles. attracts fame and followers and begins to draw The Father sends messengers of his word, but he multitudes. In that moment he establishes the also sends his Spirit to touch the hearts and group of the Twelve. He needs them to prepare minds of those who listen. Through the Spirit meetings, to spread his doctrine, to multiply the they recognize the word of God in the poor miraculous signs effected among the sick. preaching of these messengers who have re- At the same time, Jesus is planning his Church ceived no great instruction. The Spirit will give and wants to give it a head: this will be the group signs: healings and astounding graces support- of the apostles. They will be the witnesses of ing the witness of the missionaries. Jesus among people, so he teaches them a way The successors of the apostles will be mission- of living a common life that will serve as a pattern aries like them. They will not be primarily the for the Church. administrators of an established Church, but These are the names of the Twelve. The living poorly among the poor, they will establish Jewish nation was integrated into twelve tribes. new Churches (see 1 Cor 3:10; 12:28). This This is why Jesus calls twelve apostles: he wants new chapter will speak of a mission, the major them to understand that they are the foundation responsibility of a Christian community. In the of the new people of God will form (Ps 102:19). first part (vv. 5-16) Jesus addresses the first See Luke 22:30; Revelation 21:14. missionaries of Galilee. In the second part (vv.17-42) we find Jesus’ words pronounced in He called those he wanted (Mk 3:13). These, different circumstances that Matthew adapts for in turn, will call others. In the Church everyone his readers at the very time in which the Church can do “apostolic work,” but no one makes begins to be persecuted in the Roman world. himself into an apostle, an official witness of See commentary on Mark 6:7 and Luke 10:1. Christ: one has to be called to this responsibility. Do not visit pagan territory. Let us not forget Regarding these twelve, see commentary on that many pagan communities were established Mark 3:16. in Galilee together with the Jewish ones. Jesus follows his Father’s plan of salvation as described • 5. From the paragraph beginning in 9:35, in the Bible. The Savior should first gather the Matthew was preparing this third “Jesus’ dis- strayed sheep of Israel, and then bring salvation course” (see Introduction). Jesus has begun his to all the pagan nations: Is 49:6; 60:1-10; Zec mission, he forms and sends out missionaries. 14:16; Mt 15:24. Apostles means “sent” and “mission” also Whoever welcomes you (v. 40). To reject the 29 MATTHEW 10 Lk 14 And if you are not welcomed and • 19 But when you are arrested, do 10:10 Acts your words are not listened to, leave not worry about what you are to say 13:51 18:6 that house or that town and shake the and how you are to say it; when the 11:24 dust off your feet. 15 I assure you, it will hour comes, you will be given what you Gen 19 go easier for the people of Sodom and are to say. 20 For it is not you who will Ex Lk 4:10 10:12 Gomorrah on the day of judgment than speak; but it will be the Spirit of your Jn 15:26 2P 2:6 it will for the people of that town. Father in you. Acts 21 Jud Brother will hand over brother to 4:8 7 You will be persecuted (Lk 12:11; Mk 13:9; 8:38) death, and a father his child; children Mi 7:6 • 16 Look, will turn against parents and have them Jn I send you out like sheep put to death. 22 Everyone will hate you 24:9, 10:12 Acts among wolves. You must be clever as because of me, but whoever stands 13 20:29 Rom snakes and innocent as doves. 17 Be on firm to the end will be saved. 16:19 your guard with respect to people, for Mk they will hand you over to their courts • 23 When they persecute you in one 16:28 13:9 24:27 and they will flog you in their syna- town, flee to the next. For sure, you will 25:31 26:64 15:27 gogues. 18 You will be brought to trial not have gone through all the towns of Mk Jn 16:1 before rulers and kings because of me, Israel before the Son of Man comes. 13:26 24 and so you may witness to them and A student is not above his teacher, Lk 6:40 the pagans. or a slave above his master. 25 A stu Jn 13:16 15:20 12:24 messengers is to ignore the call of the Father and and so submit in order to avoid the worst. to lose the greatest opportunity of one’s life. Others, on the contrary, understand that God is asking them to witness (18) to the Good News • 16. THE MARTYRS that is opposite to what is imposed. In so doing Matthew here puts advice that Jesus gave to they face the repression by which Society de- his witnesses on how to confront persecution. fends itself. Revelation affirms that the murder of Jesus himself spent long weeks hidden away and witnesses advances Salvation History. his first missionaries probably had to take similar precautions. In relating these instructions Mat- • 19. Brother will hand over brother to thew has perhaps adapted them a little to the death… (v. 21) you will be hated by all. This is situation of Christians of his time; he has not usual in a climate of terror. Without going so far, invented them. witnesses to Christ may find themselves unap- We have just spoken of witnesses, and martyr preciated by a majority, in their own Church, in Greek means: witness. Certain of these mar- while perhaps their persecutors are acclaimed tyrs were before long glorified, but the majority (Lk 6:26). In time the Holy Spirit will reveal the remain unknown. They have often been disfig- truth, but the majority of those witnesses, the ured by calumny (5:11; Lk 21:17) isolated even lowly, often those who suffer most and are the from the Christian community and later elimi- greatest, will remain unknown until the day nated. In certain cases entire Christian commu- when Jesus himself will acknowledge them nities were massacred as in the time of the before his Father (v. 32). Roman empire. Today in certain countries such In reality, Jesus does not only speak of those atrocities continue without the media even men- who are massacred. Far more numerous and tioning it. In many other cases, persons or doubtless nearer to us are those who have had to Christian groups became martyrs that had as- conquer fear (26; 28; 31) of being his witnesses sumed a risky position. When Stephen was on the streets, in schools and in every area of this assassinated (Acts 7) the apostles were not pur- perverted and evil world. (Gal 1:4; Phil 2:15). sued, and many may have taken Stephen to be Do not worry. The witnesses of Jesus do not a fanatic. When the young Christian women of work on their own, and the more they are the Roman Empire were persecuted for having identified with Jesus in persecution and in decided to remain virgins many said: Why do prison, the more they are assisted by the Spirit. they flout their family duties? When the Catholics By worrying while preparing their legal case, of England, France or China refused to form they would hinder the freedom of the Spirit and national churches separated from communion also lose the peace that the Spirit grants the with Rome, were they not rebelling against the persecuted. laws of their nation? Maybe we must recognize that martyrdom is a • 23. You will not have gone through…. grace and is not given to everyone. Many would Possibly this sentence would have been better be ready to give their life for Christ, but con- placed in the first part of the speech, which is fronted with situations of violence or corruption, about the mission in Galilee. But it may refer also they do not see the necessity to expose a scandal to Christians of Jewish origins who were perse MATTHEW 10 30 dent should be glad to become like his • 34 Do not think that I have come to Lk 12:51 teacher, and the slave like his master. If establish peace on earth. I have not the head of the family has been called come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 Beelzebul, how much more the mem- For I have come to set a man against Lk 2:34 bers of the family! So, do not be afraid his father and daughter against her 22:36 of them. mother; a daughter-in-law against her 26 Mk There is nothing covered that will mother-in-law. 36 Each one will have as Mic 4:22 7:6 Lk not be uncovered, and nothing hidden enemies those of one’s own family. 8:17 that will not be made known. 27 What I 37 Whoever loves father or mother Dt 33:9 am telling you in the dark, you must more than me is not worthy of me. And Lk 14:26 speak in the light. What you hear in whoever loves son or daughter more private, proclaim from the housetops. than me is not worthy of me. 38 And 16:24 •28 Do whoever does not take up his cross and 1P not be afraid of those who kill 3:14 come after me is not worthy of me. Rev the body, but have no power to kill the 39 One who wants to benefit from his life Lk 2:10 soul. Rather be afraid of him who can 17:33 will lose it; one who loses his life for my Jn destroy both body and soul in hell. 12:25 29 sake will find it. Jas For only a few cents you can buy two 40 4:12 Whoever welcomes you welcomes sparrows, yet not one sparrow falls to me, and whoever welcomes me wel- the ground without your Father’s con- comes him who sent me. 41 The one 18:5 1S sent. 30 As for you, every hair of your Jn 14:45 who welcomes a prophet as a prophet 12:44 Acts head has been counted. 31 So do not be 27:34 will receive the reward of a prophet; the Gal afraid: you are worth much more than 4:14 one who welcomes a just man because 1K 6:26 many sparrows. 17:9 12:12 he is a just man will receive the reward 2K •32 Whoever acknowledges me be- of a just man. 42 And if anyone gives 4:8 Lk 9:26 2Tim fore others I will acknowledge before even a cup of cold water to one of these Mk 9:41 2:12 Rev my Father in heaven. 33 Whoever re- little ones, because he is a disciple of 3:5 jects me before others I will reject be- mine, I assure you, he will not go unre- 2Tim fore my Father in heaven. warded.” 2:12 cuted by the Pharisees at the time Matthew recognizing him in the ultimate sense, that is, by wrote his Gospel. not denying our Christian faith before others; his Matthew gives this sentence a broader mean- words also convey a day-by-day demand. We ing: though people may cast out the future must not be ashamed to act or talk as people of missionaries, they will never be short of work faith, to go public about our Christian convic- until the second coming of Jesus. tions when necessary. • 28. We are cowards and Jesus is aware of • 34. Do not think that I have come to this. He has already said, “Do not fear,” when he establish peace. The peace of the believer invited us not to look for security in money. Now, comes from the certainty of being loved by God: dealing with the fear of repression, he adds, “If the angels of Bethlehem said so: Luke 2:14. you cannot free yourselves from cowardice, Jesus gives no peace to the world, because the consider where the greater threat comes from, rest of the world is made up of confusion, half- from God or people?” truths, people who live midway between greed This is the only time Jesus refers to “fear of and fear of risking. The peace of the world, God.” When the Old Testament mentioned fear whether in a family or in society, veils unjust of God, it generally meant giving due respect to conditions imposed by the strongest, or a shared God. Respect is far from fear. Respect is an mediocrity. The Gospel awakens everywhere a attitude proper to a free person. God does not critical spirit; so that the presence of only one threaten to throw us into hell; rather he reminds Christian living by the truth is enough to worry us that to lose him is to lose ourselves also, and many persons: John 3:20; 15:18. this is hell. The Gospel moves us to make decisions with greater freedom, disregarding the criticism of • 32. Whoever acknowledges me. After those close to us whenever we are convinced stressing the sovereign power of his Father, that they cannot understand the Gospel values Jesus puts himself on the same level: He will which motivate us. Take, for example, a preg- decide our eternal fate. Jesus refers not only to nant girl resisting her parents’ advice to obtain 31 MATTHEW 11 Jesus and John the Baptist A man dressed in fine clothes? People (Lk 7:18; 16:16; 10:13) who wear fine clothes live in palaces. • 1 When Jesus had finished giv- 9 What did you actually go out to see? A Dt 11 ing his twelve disciples these in- prophet? Yes, indeed, and even more 18:15 Lk 1:76 structions, he went on from there to than a prophet. 10 He is the man of Ex teach and to proclaim his message in whom Scripture says: I send my mes- 23:20 Mal their towns. 2 When John the Baptist senger ahead of you to prepare the way 3:1 Jn heard in prison about the activities before you. 1:15 11 6:14 of Christ, he sent a message by his I tell you this: no one greater than disciples, 3 asking him: “Are you the John the Baptist has come forward one who is to come or should we expect among the sons of women, and yet the someone else?” least in the kingdom of heaven is 4 Jesus answered them, “Go back greater than he. 12 From the days of and report to John what you hear and John the Baptist until now the kingdom Is see: 5 the blind see, the lame walk, the of heaven is something to be con- 26:19 42:18 lepers are made clean, the deaf hear, quered and the unyielding seize it. 13 the dead are brought back to life and Up to the time of John, there was Lk 16:16 13:57 good news is reaching the poor. 6 And only prophesy: all the prophets and the 26:31 Jn how fortunate is the one who does not Law; 14 and if you believe me, John is Mal 6:61 3:23 take offense at me.” this Elijah, whose coming was pre- Mk 9:11 7 As the messengers left, Jesus be- dicted. 15 Let anyone with ears listen! Lk 16 gan to speak to the crowds about John, Now, to what can I compare the 1:17 Jn “When you went out to the desert, what people of this day? They are like chil- 1:21 Rev did you expect to see? A reed swept by dren sitting in the marketplace, about 2:7 14:5 the wind? 8 What did you go out to see? whom their companions complain: 21:26 Lk 1:76 an abortion. Christians have been persecuted in God for the poor and for those who share with many countries for teaching that divine law is them in their poverty. The Gospel is not for them above parental authority, which was considered also, but for them first. the supreme authority. Thus it happened with the ancient Romans and, more recently, in EVANGELIZATION OF THE POOR AS A Korea and China. PRIORITY Moreover, the devil stirs up persecutions against every person who becomes converted, in Good news is reaching the poor (v. 5). This order to scare her and make her turn away. text is to be read together with Luke 1:52; 4:18; He is not worthy… (v. 37). Jesus addresses 6:20; 10:23. this to others besides missionaries or persons It would be wrong to interpret this text as with an exceptional mission. Each one must thinking only that God asks of us to catechize less break away from forms of dependency within instructed people, or those of lower condition in the family, which do not nurture the human and life. In the time of Jesus the Pharisees already spiritual growth of the members. One who loves thought their duty was to teach simple and Christ finds a thousand and one opportunities to uneducated people; Jesus instead sent his free himself from activities, entertainments and apostles, poor among the poor, to enable them worries about his own family, which keep both to discover the presence and working of God the him and the family at a mediocre level. Father. The concrete life of the rural and urban poor is the context in which fundamental expe- • 11.1 See commentary on Lk 7:18. riences occur that will renew the world and the Jesus has sent the first missionaries: for Mat- spiritual life of everyone. thew it is the time to show how the Kingdom V. 6. See another way of translating this comes – the coming of which they have pro- sentence in Luke 7:23. claimed. The visit of the disciples of John will V. 11. No one greater than John the Baptist help us to understand what Jesus brings and has come forward. This verse refers to a what cannot be expected of him. prophet or to a political leader. The paragraph which follows in 11:25 will V. 12. This sentence could also be translated: show in its way that what is all-important in the “The kingdom of heaven is advancing force- Kingdom is the person of Jesus himself. fully.” The kingdom of God is the moving force Good news is reaching the poor… (v. 5). that makes history progress, taking advantage of Jesus’ message includes a preferential love of both gentle and violent changes in human life. MATTHEW 11 32 Lk 17 ‘We played the flute for you but you Sodom on the day of judgment than for 1:15 would not dance. We sang a funeral- you.” song but you would not cry!’ 18 Take my yoke upon you 3:4 For John came fasting and people (Lk 10:21) 9:14 9:11 said: ‘He is possessed.’ 19 Then the Son • 25 On Lk of Man came, he ate and drank, and that occasion Jesus said, Jn 7:48 15:1 19:17 people said: ‘Look at this man! A glut- “Father, Lord of heaven and earth, I 1Cor 1:17 ton and drunkard, a friend of tax collec- praise you, because you have hidden 1:26 tors and sinners!’ Yet the outcome will these things from the wise and learned prove Wisdom to be right.” and revealed them to simple people. 26 Yes, Father, this is what pleased you. • 20 Then Jesus began to denounce 27 13:58 Jn Everything has been entrusted to 28:18 15:24 the cities in which he had performed me by my Father. No one knows the Wis 2:13 most of his miracles, because the Son except the Father, and no one Jn 1:18 people there did not change their ways, knows the Father except the Son and 3:35 21 10:15 Is “Alas for you Chorazin and Bethsai- those to whom the Son chooses to re- 13:3 23:1 Ezk da! If the miracles worked in you had veal him. 17:2 Phil 26:28 Jl taken place in Tyre and Sidon, the peo- 28 Come to me, all you who work 2:9 3:4 Am ple there would have repented long ago hard and who carry heavy burdens and Jer 1:9 in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I assure I will refresh you. 29 Take my yoke upon 31:25 Hos Zec 9:2 you, for Tyre and Sidon it will be more you and learn from me for I am gentle 10:11 Es 4:1 bearable on the day of judgment than and humble of heart; and you will find Jer Is for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will rest. 30 For my yoke is good and my 6:16 Pro 14:13 you be lifted up to heaven? You will be burden is light.” 3:17 1Jn thrown down to the place of the dead! 5:3 For if the miracles which were per- Jesus, Lord of the Sabbath (Mk 2:23; 3:1; Lk 6:1; 14:1) formed in you had taken place in So- Gen dom, it would still be there today! 24 But • 1 It happened that Jesus walked 19 2P I tell you, it will be more bearable for 12 through the wheat fields on a 2:6 The believers are called to participate actively in Must we translate “learn from me for I am…” this constant transformation. Death and or “learn from me that I am…”? The humility of resurrection are at work among us and all over Jesus reveals to us the humility of God who never the world. seeks to put us down or intimidate us, but instead always wants to raise us to him. Such humility • 20. Chorazin and Bethsaida: these two cit- does not prevent him from being God, and he ies were the seats of higher schools of religion may exact everything from us because he does but had not received the Gospel. Tyre and not use external force: his influence reaches to Sidon: two pagan cities, cursed by the prophets. the depths of our heart. See Lk 10:21. Come to me: I will not relieve you of your load • 25. Jesus’ prayer impressed the disciples. but by placing my yoke on you, I give you the In this text it is a short prayer, prompted by the means of carrying the load. most recent events; events and daily life are also Jesus plays with the two words yoke and load, a source of prayer. for the Jews used to call “load” the divine You have hidden these things. Intelligent teachings imparted to pupils, and yoke the people are not excluded from the faith, of balancing of the teacher’s sentences, which course, but it is the glory of God that faith should should be learned by heart. not seem to be the privilege of the wise and the Jesus, the patient and humble teacher, en- intelligent; human wisdom never gives what is ables us to see the mercy of God in our lives and essential and often hides it. There were in Pales- in our own cross. He shows us the love of God tine at the time some wise people and many even in the requirements of the Law. Only God others who pretended to be so, but they were is Good; and good is the authority of Christ. rarely seen among the disciples of Jesus. Everything has been entrusted to me. God • 12.1 This chapter records the conflicts of does what is needed for people to have always Jesus with the Pharisees regarding the Sabbath. and in all places thousands of ways of knowing Why does the gospel make so much of these him. In this life it is only through Jesus that we conflicts? Perhaps because at the time of Jesus have the revelation of the Father. the heavy load of religious obligations was a 33 MATTHEW 12 Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, arm.” He stretched it out and it was 7:23 9:13 and began to pick some heads of wheat completely restored, as sound as the Dt and crush them to eat the grain. 2 When other one. 23:25 14 Ex the Pharisees noticed this, they said to Then the Pharisees went out and 27:1 20:10 Mk Dt Jesus, “Look at your disciples; they are made plans to get rid of him. 15 As 11:18 Jn 5:14 doing what is prohibited on the Sab- Jesus was aware of the plot, he went 5:16 bath!” away from that place. Many people fol- 3 1S Jesus answered, “Have you not lowed him and he cured all who were 21:2 Lev read what David did when he and his sick. 16 Then he gave them strict orders 8:4 24:5 9:30 men were hungry? 4 He went into the not to make him known. Mk 17 3:12 house of God, and they ate the bread In this way Isaiah’s prophecy was 5:43 offered to God, although neither he nor fulfilled: 7:36 his men had the right to eat it, but only 18 Here is my servant whom I have Is 42:1 Num the priests. 5 And have you not read in chosen, the one I love, and with whom 28:9 the Law that on the Sabbath the priests I am pleased. I will put my Spirit upon in the Temple break the Sabbath rest, him and he will announce my judg- yet they are not guilty? ment to the nations. 6 I tell you, there is greater than the 19 He will not argue or shout, nor will Temple here. 7 If you really knew the his voice be heard in the streets. 20 The Hos meaning of the words: It is mercy I bruised reed he will not crush, nor 6:6 12:41 want, not sacrifice, you would not have snuff out the smoldering wick. He will Lk 11:30 condemned the innocent. persist until justice is made victorious 8 Jn Besides the Son of Man is Lord of 21 and in him all the nations will put 5:16 the Sabbath.” their hope.” 9 Lk Jesus then left that place and went 14:3 The unforgivable sin into one of their synagogues. 10 A man (Mk 3:22; Lk 11:15) was there with a paralyzed hand, and • 22 Then some people brought to people who wanted to bring a charge against Jesus asked him, “Is it permit- him a possessed man who was blind ted to heal on the Sabbath?” and who could not talk. Jesus healed 11 But he said to them, “What if one the man, who was then able to speak of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit and see. 23 All in the crowd were on the Sabbath? Will you not take hold amazed and wondered, “Could he be 6:26 of your sheep and lift it out? 12 But a the Son of David?” 24 When the Phari- 10:31 Lk human person is much more valuable sees heard this, they said, “It is by Beel- 12:7 than a sheep! It is therefore permitted to zebul, prince of the devils, that this man Lk do good on the Sabbath.” 13 Then Jesus drives out devils.” 13:16 25 Jn said to the man, “Stretch out your Jesus knew their thinking, so he 5:9 formidable obstacle for those searching for God. the Jewish exorcists who cast out demons with It may have been also because the Christians lost prayers and formularies, as told in Acts 19:13. no time making new laws to which they gave an Slander against the Holy Spirit. This means exaggerated importance. If Jesus deliberately attributing to the devil the good actions of the violated the most sacred of the laws given by God Spirit, as we see in Mark 3:30. to Moses, what about our ecclesiastical laws not Either in this age or in the age to come guaranteed by the Word of God? In the name of (v. 32). This is a Jewish idiom meaning that this man-made laws, adapted to a context that is not sin cannot be forgiven, by God or people. How ours, Christian communities have at times been can God forgive one who puts himself out of paralyzed and we let millions of people look for reach of the forgiving God? churches where they have the communities and If you have a sound tree (v. 33). This is pastors they have been deprived of. another application of the sentence read in 7:16. It deals here with the accusation against • 22. See commentary on Mark 3:22. the Pharisees: they slander whatever is good Your own people (v. 27). Jesus refers here to because they have an evil heart. MATTHEW 12 34 said to them, “Every kingdom that is produces good things from his good divided by civil war will fall apart, and store, and an evil person produces evil every dynasty that is divided cannot from his evil store. last. 26 So if Satan drives out Satan, he 36 I tell you this; on the judgment day Jas 3:1 is divided: how then can his reign people will have to give an account of stand? 27 And if it is by Beelzebul that I any unjustified word they have spoken. drive out devils, by whom do your own 37 Your own words will declare you ei- people drive them out? They them- ther innocent or guilty.” selves will give you the answer. Acts 28 But if it is by the Spirit of God that I Jesus criticizes his own generation 10:38 (Mk 8:11; Lk 11:16) drive out devils, then the kingdom of • 38 Then some teachers of the Law God has already come upon you. Is 29 How can anyone break into the and some Pharisees spoke up, “Teach- 49:25 Jn strong man’s house and make off with er, we want to see a sign from you.” 39 12:31 his belongings, unless he first ties him Jesus answered them, “An evil and up? Only then can he plunder his unfaithful people want a sign, but no house. sign will be given them except the sign Mk 30 The one who is not with me is of the prophet Jonah. 40 In the same Jon 9:40 2:1 Lk against me, and the one who does not way that Jonah spent three days and 9:50 gather with me scatters. three nights in the belly of the monster 31 And so I tell you this: people can fish, so will the Son of Man spend three be forgiven any sin and any evil thing days and three nights in the depths of they say against God, but whoever says the earth. 41 evil words against the Spirit will not be At the judgment, the people of 1Tim forgiven. 32 The one who speaks Niniveh will rise with this generation 1:13 Lk against the Son of Man, will be forgiven; and condemn it, because they re- 12:10 but the one who speaks against the formed their lives at the preaching of Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in Jonah, and here there is greater than this age or in the age to come. Jonah. 42 At the judgment, the Queen of 1K 10:1 33 If you have a sound tree, its fruit the South will stand up and condemn will be sound; if you have a rotten tree, you. She came from the ends of the its fruit will be rotten. For you can know earth to listen to the wisdom of Solo- 3:7 a tree by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers, mon, and here there is greater than 23:33 Lk how can you say anything good, when Solomon. 3:7 43 you are so evil? For the mouth speaks When an evil spirit goes out of a 15:18 of what fills the heart. 35 A good person person, it wanders over arid wastelands Mk 7:21 Your own words will declare you either Bible means the unfaithful believer who, without innocent or guilty (v. 37). See Lk 19:22. Not denying God in words, keeps other gods to only the isolated acts of our life are to be judged. himself. Throughout the years we have built up a prac- The story of the unclean spirit, meaning the tical philosophy and a vision of existence. Be- devil, is directed towards the contemporaries of ginning with that we judge all which in other Jesus. They accepted John’s call to conversion people questions our own choices. It is that and for a while changed their way of life. Theirs itself, these words with which we justify our- was not a real experience of God, neither did selves and condemn others, that deserve to be they discover the inner power that would have condemned. enabled them to persevere, and so their blind- ness remained. • 38. Jesus did not perform any miracle that The Ninivites: see Jonah 3:5. day, because the experts in religion were de- The Queen of the South: 1 Kings 10. manding an account of him, instead of listening The sign of Jonah is the resurrection of Jesus. to him. The similarity seen in the three days that Jonah An evil and unfaithful people. Gospel says in was in the belly of the fish and the time Jesus fact: “evil and adulterous”. This expression in the spent in the tomb is somewhat forced. 35 MATTHEW 13 looking for a place to rest but it cannot lakeside. 2 As many people gathered find one. 44 Then it says to itself: ‘I will around him, he got in a boat. There he go back to my house which I had to sat while the whole crowd stood on the leave.’ So it goes back and finds the shore, 3 and he spoke to them in par- Mk house empty, clean, and in order. 45 Off ables about many things. 5:9 Lk it goes again to bring back with it, this 4 Jesus said, “The sower went out to 8:2 2P time, seven spirits, more evil than itself. sow and, as he sowed, some seeds fell 2:20 They move in and settle there, so that along the path and the birds came and this person is finally in a worse state ate them up. 5 Other seeds fell on rocky than he was at the beginning. This is ground where there was little soil, and what will happen to this evil genera- the seeds sprouted quickly because the tion.” soil was not deep. 6 But as soon the sun Jn • 46 While Jesus was still talking to rose the plants were scorched and with- 2:12 Acts the people, his mother and his brothers ered because they had no roots. 7 Again 1:14 wanted to speak to him and they waited other seeds fell among thistles; and the outside. 47 So someone said to him, thistles grew and choked the plants. 8 “Your mother and your brothers are just Still other seeds fell on good soil and 11:15 13:43 outside; they want to speak with you.” produced a crop; some produced a 48 Jesus answered, “Who is my hundredfold, others sixty and others Mk 4:23 mother? Who are my brothers?” thirty. 9 If you have ears, then hear!” Lk 14:35 49 Then he pointed to his disciples and • 10 Thenhis disciples came to him Rev 2:7 said, “Look! Here are my mother and with the question, “Why do you speak Lk my brothers. 50 Whoever does the will of to them in parables?” 2:49 my Father in heaven is for me brother, 11 sister, or mother.” Jesus answered, “To you it has 1Cor 4:1 been given to know the secrets of the Eph The parable of the sower kingdom of heaven, but not to these 3:3 6:19 (Mk 4:1; Lk 8:4; 10:23; 13:20) people. 12 For the one who has, will be Col 2:2 Lk • 1 That same day Jesus left the given more and he will have in abun- 4:3 5:1 13 house and sat down by the dance. But the one who does not have Mk 4:25 Lk 8:18 • 46. His mother and his brothers. If they people, and this called for clear explanation. 19:26 were true brothers of Jesus, sons of Mary, the Jesus, for his part, could only give an answer to Gospel would say: “his mother and the sons of those who accompanied him; for the Kingdom is his mother,” for this was the Jewish manner of one of those things that cannot be seen as long speaking. See commentary on Mark 3:31. as one has no belief in it. Jesus will only speak of it in images and we will understand according to • 13.1 Here we have the beginning of the the degree of our experience of that Kingdom third “discourse of Jesus” in Matthew’s Gospel which is developing throughout the world. (see Introduction). Jesus had his apostles pro- For this parable of the Sower which gives the claim the coming of the Kingdom; the first signs general direction of this chapter, see the com- were seen: healings and victories over demons mentary of Mk 4:1 and Lk 8:4. but opposition was not wanting and it would seem that on the whole, people did not respond. • 10. To you it has been given to know the What must we think of this “Kingdom of God” secrets of the Kingdom. To you who took which changes very little of real life? Matthew Christ’s call seriously and decided to follow him. replies with the following seven parables. Because you came to be the co-workers of Jesus uses comparisons just as simple country Christ, the Father will reveal to you his secrets. folk and working people usually do. Proverbs The quotation from Isaiah that follows may and parables have always been an effective way shock us due to the fact of our not fully under- of teaching wisdom. But we must observe that a standing Hebrew expressions. Does Jesus speak parable is not just any comparison; its character- in parables because the audience does not want istic is to awaken in the listeners an awareness of to understand, or so that they will not under- their present situation and oblige them to make stand? It could be both at the same time (com- a decision. pare vv. 13 and 15, and also 35). See the For those listening to Jesus, the reign of God commentary on Mk 4:11. signified first of all a liberation of his oppressed For the one who has will be given more. Here MATTHEW 13 36 will be deprived of even what he has. himself, the devil comes and snatches 13 That is why I speak to them in par- away what was sown in his heart. This ables, because they look and do not is the seed that fell along the footpath. see; they hear, but they do not listen or 20 The seed that fell on rocky ground understand. stands for the one who hears the word 14 Is In them the words of the prophet and accepts it at once with joy. 21 But 6:9 Jn Isaiah are fulfilled: Much as you hear, such a person has no roots. No sooner 12:40 Acts you do not understand; much as you is he harassed or persecuted because 28:26 see, you do not perceive. of the word, than he gives up. 15 For the heart of this people has 22 The seed that fell among the Lk grown dull. Their ears hardly hear and thistles is the one who hears the word, 12:16 1Tim their eyes dare not see. If they were to but then the worries of this life and the 6:9 see with their eyes, hear with their ears love of money choke the word, and it and understand with their heart, they does not bear fruit. would turn back and I would heal 23 As for the seed that fell on good Jn them. 15:8 16 soil it is the one who hears the word and Gal Lk But blessed are your eyes because understands it; this bears fruit and pro- 5:22 10:23 they see, and your ears, because they duces a hundred, or sixty, or thirty hear. times more.” 17 Eph For I tell you that many prophets 3:5 The parable of the weeds 1P and upright people would have longed 1:12 to see the things you see, but they did • 24 Jesustold them another parable, not, and to hear the things you hear, but “The kingdom of heaven can be com- they did not hear it. pared to a man who sowed good seed • 18 Nowlisten to the parable of the in his field. 25 While everyone was sower. asleep, his enemy came and sowed 19 When a person hears the message weeds among the wheat and left. 26 of the Kingdom but without taking it to When the plants sprouted and pro- has means produce, bear as does the tree that puts us on a road in life, this road will lead “has” fruit. It will be given to those who are somewhere. Hope is courage and endurance. fruitful. Next are those that fell among the thistles. The kingdom of heaven. We already said that They are believers, but the fruits to be harvested “Heaven” was a Jewish expression referring to along the difficult path seem not to satisfy them. God. The kingdom of heaven is the kingdom of They want to “save their lives,” to serve God and God, as the Father of Heaven is God the Father. Money at the same time. They are dragged down Not realizing this, many have mistakenly thought by their aim of winning material success, and that the Gospel announced only the kingdom of hope in the kingdom of God becomes but a God in Heaven after our present life. Actually flimsy desire for them. Jesus came to tell us that God had come to rule among us. • 24. With the parable of the weeds, Jesus Kingdom or Reign of God? See commentary answers those who are scandalized at seeing evil on Lk 8:10. everywhere. Good and bad will be mixed till the end of the world. Good and evil will always be • 18. Who will welcome the Word of God? found together in persons and institutions. This has nothing to do with intelligence or ability God respects people. He knows that tempta- to reflect, or interest in religious things: those tion is often stronger than their good intentions who are open to hope receive the Word. and they need time to find and to choose steadily Those along the footpath are those not what is good. interested in the word they have received, per- God is patient. The reconciliation of so many haps because they cannot see further than their contradictory groups, forces and cultural cur- own interests (they are selfish), or perhaps they rents active in the world will be attained only at have taken another direction in life. the end of time. In the meantime we are not to Next come those who do not dare to face label any of them as “the” good ones and “the” contradiction and are easily discouraged and bad ones. cowed: these are soon burnt. Yet to hope Jesus himself commented on this parable: see means to be firm despite any obstacle. If God v. 36. 37 MATTHEW 13 duced grain, the weeds also appeared. mustard seed, that a man took and 27 Then the servants of the owner came sowed in his field. 32 to him and said: ‘Sir, was it not good It is smaller than all other seeds, 17:20 Lk seed that you sowed in your field? but once it has fully grown, it is bigger 17:6 Ezk Where did the weeds come from?’ than any garden plant; like a tree, the 17:23 28 He answered them: ‘This is the birds come and rest in its branches.” 31:6 Dn 33 work of an enemy.’ They asked him: He told them another parable, 4:12 ‘Do you want us to go and pull up the “The kingdom of heaven is like the 1Cor 5:6 weeds?’ 29 He told them: ‘No, when you yeast that a woman took and buried in Gal 5:9 pull up the weeds, you might uproot the three measures of flour until the whole Jn wheat with them. 30 Let them just grow mass of dough began to rise.” 15:6 together until harvest; and at harvest • 34 Jesus taught all this to the time I will say to the workers: Pull up the crowds by means of parables; he did weeds first, tie them in bundles and not say anything to them without using burn them; then gather the wheat into a parable. 35 So what the Prophet had Ps my barn.” said was fulfilled: I will speak in 78:2 The mustard seed and the yeast parables. I will proclaim things kept (Mk 4:30; Lk 13:18) secret since the beginning of the world. • 31 Jesus put another parable before • 36 Then he sent the crowds away 15:15 Mk them, “The kingdom of heaven is like a and went into the house. And his dis 4:10 • 31. With the parable of the mustard seed • 34. Jesus taught all this to the crowds by Jesus shows us that the kingdom of God must be means of parables. On reading Matthew 13:12, a sign; it has to be something very noticeable in we might think that Jesus speaks in parables in the world. order to hide his teaching. Here we find another Any spiritual aspiration, cultural innovation or explanation that corrects and completes the revolutionary movement must be expressed first. Jesus spoke in parables because that was concretely, through one or several institutions, the best method to convey a teaching relevant to make it a clearer and more visible entity. for all times. Likewise Jesus projects his Church as the bearer I will speak in parables. These are the first (not the owner) of the kingdom of God. Church words of Psalm 78, as adapted by the evangelist. means: “Assembly of those called together.” He means that the secrets of the kingdom of God Two of the characteristics of this Church are revealed by Jesus answer the most important indicated here: questions of humankind. – first it must be very visible and fruitful for the From the beginning of civilization, people world, like a tree giving shade to birds; were confronted with problems and challenges – secondly, it must be immersed in human they could not solve on their own, and Jesus reality. offers the key to these contradictions. Science Believers are not to separate themselves from has discovered many elements of human des- those who do not believe, for they are the yeast tiny; we have still to discover who we are. of the world. Jesus’ answer is not given as a theory and it Jesus does not want an “invisible Church,” upsets the “little intellectuals” who are used to that is an emotional fellowship and spiritual the language of books. He gives us something communion among all those in the whole world much richer with these images or enigmas which who believe in him. He wants a gigantic tree (in require some creativity and to which we have to another place Jesus says: a city built on a hill), so return. Each of us will have to ponder them as that everyone can recognize that the seed was long as we live, and humankind as long as good and full of life. We need organized Chris- history. Only with time shall we discover all that tian communities, and ties between these com- they mean. munities, a hierarchy… Nevertheless the believ- ers are not to enclose themselves in their chapels • 36. The field is the world. This parable or little communities or to spend all their ener- does not refer to what happens within each of us, gies working for “their” Church. They must be or only in the Church, as described in the net useful and fruitful in the world together with all (13:47). Rather it teaches that the kingdom of people of goodwill. God exists and grows in the world, in all dimen- Let them be yeast for the dough, not small sions of the secular world. Sacred history is more separate and finer dough. The yeast transforms than an ancient history in the land of Jesus; it is human history, not by bringing all people into the entire human story of which the risen Christ the Church, but by infusing into human activity is Lord. the spirit that gives life to humankind. So will it be at the end of time. Jesus speaks MATTHEW 13 38 ciples came to him saying, “Explain to who do evil. 42 And these will be thrown Dn 3:6 us the parable of the weeds in the field.” in the blazing furnace, where there will Rev 37 21:8 Jesus answered them, “The one who be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 8:12 43 sows the good seed is the Son of Man. Then the just will shine like the sun in 22:13 24:51 38 The field is the world; the good seed the kingdom of their Father. If you have 25:30 Dn are the people of the Kingdom; the ears, then hear. 12:3 weeds are those who follow the evil The treasure, the pearl and the net Jn one. 39 The enemy who sows them is 8:44 • 44 The kingdom of heaven is like a 1Jn the devil; the harvest is the end of time Pro 2:4 3:10 and the workers are the angels. treasure hidden in a field. The one who 4:7 3:10 40 Just as the weeds are pulled up finds it buries it again; and so happy is 7:19 Jn and burned in the fire, so will it be at the he, that he goes and sells everything he 15:6 end of time. 41 The Son of Man will send has, in order to buy that field. Rev 45 14:15 his angels, and they will weed out of his Again the kingdom of heaven is Zep kingdom all that is scandalous and all like a trader who is looking for fine 1:3 to us of a judgment. The expectation of God’s us, the separation is not made, even if after a judgment on the world was an essential element conversion or two, until we have taken decisive of prophetic teaching. Let us not only see in it a steps. desire for vengeance on the part of honest The servants represent the believers, but es- people who suffered. To know for certain that pecially the “supervisors” of the Church. Their our life will be judged by one who knows us zeal for repressing those they judge as straying in through and through is one of the bases of the order to preserve what seems good to them may Christian vision of existence. This enables us to well be tainted interiorly. They would like to understand the tragic character of the decisions suppress all the errors. Rather they rely too we make from day to day directing us either to much on force, or on authority. If the “masters” the truth or a refusal of the light. of the faith were not to give the faithful the This certitude shocks many of our contempo- possibility to think for themselves and make raries just as in the past it terrified the majority of mistakes, the Church would be without life. people. It is for that reason they have often taken God prefers to let matters clarify: he wants refuge in metempsychosis – a series of exist- people to learn from experience. Evil is part of ences. The faults of the present life could be the mystery of the cross; in doing what is good rectified in the one that followed. The impor- and living in the light we defeat evil (Rom 12:21). tance of our choices is doubted, and the sense of sin is blurred just as is the sense of the presence • 44. The parables of the treasure and the of God. Before long we could doubt the unique pearl invite us not to let opportunities pass by, value of our life and of the human person. when the kingdom of God comes to us. While reaffirming the judgment, this short Some have been waiting for years for that parable contains an extremely revolutionary el- word, or person or sign of hope that would give ement: the judgment is God’s secret and up to new meaning to their lives. One day they found the end of the world, both good and evil are in it. Sometimes it was found through simple each of us, as well as in institutions. When we things: a forgiving word, a friendly smile, a first read the Bible, we are perhaps shocked to see commitment offered to them and accepted. that not only in the Old Testament but also even Then they understood that this was the way to in the New, the world is constantly divided gain all they were waiting for, and they entered between the good and the wicked. It seems to us the Kingdom happily. that it should not be: the inner being of a human The parable says: he hides it again. Ordinarily is a deep mystery. There isn’t a group of the it is God who hides the treasure again after good (we, of course, and those who believe in having shown it to us, for it will be really ours God, and those who observe the same morality when we have worked for it and persevered. that we observe…) and then the others. Why Everything must be sold. We have to divest then does Jesus divide humans? ourselves of all those habits, pleasures… that Our quick reply is that Jesus has spoken as the occupy our hearts without filling them. When prophets spoke. To speak of the good and the trials come upon us like a frosty, icy night, we wicked was a simple way, suitable to the mental- should not forget the treasure we have once ity of people less developed than ourselves, to seen, until we recover it. Plato, the great pagan show that each one of us, in each of our acts, philosopher, said, “It is during the night that it is takes a step in one of two opposed directions. beautiful to believe in the light.” For centuries women and men have felt them- “The pearl” is, in a certain sense, Christ selves interpreted by this way of speaking: it is himself. He alone gives meaning to all the still effective and pedagogic for us on many sacrifices of a Christian life. These are not really occasions. It is very important to understand that “sacrifices,” but the search for a love that has Jesus is not duped by images. For the majority of already been proven. 39 MATTHEW 13 pearls. 46 Once he has found a pearl of stood all these things?” “Yes,” they an- exceptional quality, he goes away, sells swered. 52 So he said to them, “You will everything he has and buys it. see that every teacher of the Law who • 47 Again, the kingdom of heaven is becomes a disciple of the Kingdom is like a big fishing net let down into the like a householder who can produce sea, in which every kind of fish has from his store things both new and old.” been caught. 48 When the net is full, it is • 53 When Jesus had finished these dragged ashore. Then they sit down parables, he left the place. 54 He went to Jn 7:15 and gather the good fish in buckets, but his hometown and taught the people in throw the worthless ones away. 49 That their synagogue. They were amazed is how it will be at the end of time; the and said, “Where did he get this wis- angels will go out to separate the dom and these special powers? 55 Isn’t Lk Dn wicked from the just 50 and throw them he the carpenter’s son? Isn’t Mary his 3:23 Jn 3:6 Mt into the blazing furnace, where they will mother and aren’t James, Joseph, 6:42 13:42 weep and gnash their teeth.” Simon and Judas his brothers? 56 Aren’t 51 Jesus asked, “Have you under- all his sisters living here? How did he EVIL IN THE CHURCH that has no end and we readily support this with philosophic argument. • 47. The Church has given the Kingdom to Certainly Jesus spoke the language of his time, those who entered, but some of them belong to the visible family of the chosen ones, without not ours. This division of the world into good and having the spirit of the Kingdom. bad was present in all culture. It is also certain that Jesus had deep and true knowledge of God By speaking of the net, Jesus reminds us that and human beings. Had he found in this punish- the first activity of the Church must be mission: ment something contrary to the infinite good- “to catch people.” Many of them surely will not ness of God he would have said so without any persevere, but a Church that closes itself would concern of scandal. He has spoken as he did die. because the infinite love of God does not take How we would like to have a perfect Church away our freedom to escape him and defy him. made of upright persons, in which each one However it is to be noted that Jesus does not would discover the gifts of God! Christ, however, only speak of condemnation for some horrible did not want a Church like that, nor is that the crimes: loss or salvation is an option for all. We way for the Church to save the world. must also recognize that he does not speak according to our categories of hell and purga- HELL tory: Gehenna (Mt 5:22; 10:28), or fire (Mk They will throw them into the blazing fur- 9:42) are imprecise terms that can designate nace. This affirmation which we have already both at the same time. The “fire of hell” is said seen (13:30) only confirms what the whole Bible to be “eternal” in several places (Mk 9:47; Mt says: we shall be judged and the plenitude of life 18:8; Mt 25:41), but this word has not exactly offered to those who will be “in” God will have as the meaning we give it: it could be something counterpart the despairing lot of those who have that goes beyond our experience of time. refused life. We can then ask questions, but we must also The Church has always spoken, according to question ourselves on two matters. Firstly, to the terms of the Bible, of an eternal hell. She has speak of what God should or should not do is also adopted towards the twelfth century the rather like asking him to be just. But “justice” is word “purgatory” to designate the painful puri- not something that exists in itself: it is only an fication the saved will experience, unless they aspect of the mystery of God. What do we know have already known on earth the terrible burning of his mystery? Then let us not teach him justice. of the pure love of God. We must also reply to this question: if Jesus The affirmation of purgatory shocks those wanted to say that certain people go to unending who have not experienced divine holiness which suffering, how must he say it in order that we is never without a burning of everything that may not doubt it? belongs to us; have they ever really pondered The mystery remains. If we understood to what “becoming God in God” exacts of us? Hell what God invites us – and for an eternity in its does not hurt less. We know, of course, that fire truest sense, and that life is unique and that here is only a figure and we should not interpret it as below we shall give our response and finally give a vengeance of God: it is the “damned” who are birth to our eternity – are there words too strong unable to renounce the harrowing solitude in for someone who has lost everything? which they have enclosed themselves; it is at the same time their enjoyment and their torture. • 53. Compare Luke 4:14. See commentary However, we no longer accept the idea of pain on Mark 3:31. MATTHEW 13 40 get all this?” 57 And so they took offense head brought on a dish and given to the at him. girl. The girl then took it to her mother. 12 Jn Jesus said to them, “The only place Then John’s disciples came to 4:44 where prophets are not welcome is take his body and bury it. And they their hometown and in their own fam- went to bring the news to Jesus. ily.” 58 And he did not perform many First miracle of the loaves miracles there because of their lack of (Mk 6:32; Jn 6) faith. • 13 On hearing this, Jesus set out John the Baptist beheaded secretly by boat for a secluded place. (Mk 6:14; Lk 9:7) But the people heard of it, and they • 1 At that time the news about followed him on foot from their towns. 16:14 14 Jesus reached King Herod. 2 And 14 When Jesus went ashore, he saw the 9:36 15:32 he said to his servants, “This man is crowd gathered there and he had com- John the Baptist. John has risen from passion on them. And he healed their the dead, and that is why miraculous sick. powers are at work in him.” 15 Late in the afternoon, his disciples 3 Herod had, in fact, ordered that came to him and said, “We are in a John be arrested, bound in chains and lonely place and it is now late. You put in prison because of Herodias, the should send these people away, so they Lev wife of his brother Philip. 4 For John had can go to the villages and buy some- 18:16 said to him, “It is not right for you to thing for themselves to eat.” have her as wife.” 5 Herod wanted to kill 16 But Jesus replied, “They do not him but he did not dare, because he need to go away; you give them some- feared the people who regarded John thing to eat.” 17 They answered, “We as a prophet. have nothing here but five loaves and 6 On Herod’s birthday the daughter two fishes.” 18 Jesus said to them, of Herodias danced in the midst of the “Bring them here to me.” guests; she so delighted Herod 7 that he 19 Then he made everyone sit down promised under oath to give her any- on the grass. He took the five loaves thing she asked. 8 The girl, following the and the two fishes, raised his eyes to advice of her mother, said, “Give me heaven, pronounced the blessing, the head of John the Baptist here on a broke the loaves and handed them to dish.” the disciples to distribute to the people. 9 20 The king was very displeased, but And they all ate, and everyone had 2K 4:43- because he had made this promise un- enough; then the disciples gathered up 44 der oath in the presence of the guests, the leftovers, filling twelve baskets. 21 he ordered it to be given her. 10 So he About five thousand men had eaten had John beheaded in prison 11 and his there besides women and children. • 14.1 For chapters 14 and 15 see com- food and to eat bread signified to have a meal mentaries on Mark 6 and 7. (15:2). It would seem that this series of narratives that On the other hand there were few needs occupy chapters 14 and 15 and the beginning of besides food and clothing, so religion gave much chapter 16 formed a collection dating from the importance to everything related to food and first years of the Church; an identical collection cooking. That explains the questions presented is found in Mark and a part in Luke. As in all these in these chapters and the answers given by texts that have been passed on orally over a time, Jesus. Even the bread of the children (15:26) there were general ideas and keywords that gave the opportunity to complete the teaching helped them to be linked to each other. Here about the eucharist that was drawn from the two bread must have been one of the common miracles of the loaves. themes. Do not forget that bread was by far the main • 13. See commentary on Mk 6:32 and Jn 6. 41 MATTHEW 15 Jesus walks on the water to him, 36 begging him to let them touch (Mk 6:45; Jn 6:16) just the fringe of his cloak. All who • 22 Immediately Jesus obliged his touched it became perfectly well. disciples to get into the boat and go God’s command and human tradition ahead of him to the other side, while he (Mk 7:1) sent the crowd away. • 1 Then some Pharisees and 23 And having sent the people away, 15 teachers of the Law who had he went up the mountain by himself to come from Jerusalem gathered around pray. At nightfall, he was there alone. 24 Jesus. And they said to him, 2 “Why Lk Meanwhile, the boat was very far 11:38 don’t your disciples follow the tradition Gal from land, dangerously rocked by the 1:14 of the elders? In fact, they don’t wash Col waves for the wind was against it. 25 their hands before eating.” 2:8 At daybreak, Jesus came to them 3 Jesus answered, “And you, why do walking on the lake. 26 When they saw you break God’s command for the sake him walking on the sea, they were terri- of your traditions? 4 For God com- Ex fied, thinking that it was a ghost. And 20:12 manded: Do your duty to your father 21:17 they cried out in fear. 27 But at once Eph and your mother, and: whoever curses Jesus said to them, “Courage! Don’t be 6:2 his father or his mother is to be put to Jn afraid. It’s me!” 28 Peter answered, 21:7 death. 5 But you say that anyone may “Lord, if it is you, command me to say to his father or mother: ‘What you come to you walking on the water.” 29 could have expected from me, I have 8:26 Jesus said to him, “Come.” And Mk reserved for the Temple.’ 6 In this case, 4:39 Peter got out of the boat, walking on the 16:16 according to you, a person is freed of water to go to Jesus. 30 But, in face of 26:63 his duty to his father and mother. And 27:54 the strong wind, he was afraid and be- Mk so, you have nullified the command of 14:61 gan to sink. So he cried out, “Lord, save Lk God for the sake of your traditions. 22:70 me!” 31 Jesus immediately stretched out 7 Jn Hypocrites! Isaiah rightly proph- his hand and took hold of him, saying, 1:49 esied of you when he said: 8 This people Is “Man of little faith, why did you doubt?” 29:13 32 honors me with their lips, but their Ps As they got into the boat, the wind 78:36 heart is far from me. 9 The worship they dropped. 33 Then those in the boat offer me is worthless, for they only bowed down before Jesus saying, teach human rules.” “Truly, you are the Son of God!” 34 They came ashore at Gennesa- Washing hands and cleanness of heart reth. 35 The local people recognized (Mk 7:14; Lk 6:39) Jesus and spread the news throughout • 10 Jesus then called the people near the region. So they brought all the sick him and said to them, “Listen and under • 22. See commentary on Mark 6:45. in 6:30; 8:26; 16:8; 17:20) – in order to They were terrified: thinking that it was a convince future disciples, like us, that much is still ghost. The apostles shared the same fears and lacking in our faith. superstitions that their kinsfolk had. Only in time would they reach mature faith which drives away • 15.1 See commentary on Mark 7:1. these paralyzing beliefs. They don’t wash their hands. The Pharisees uphold something that is excellent and which we Command me to come to you (v. 28). Mat- ourselves practice. Jesus’ vision, however, goes thew is not interested in emphasizing Peter’s further: all these good customs and religious doubt, but his faith. Peter alone dared to attempt practices (feasts and meditations included) easily something that seemed to be reserved for Jesus, become a smoke screen, hiding the essential and after joining his companions again in the from us: a constant readiness to listen to God’s boat he was, though soaked, the happiest of call, a simple trust in his mercy which alone can them all. save us. Man of little faith (v. 31). Once more Jesus’ reproaches are addressed to his best disciples (as • 10. See commentary on Mark 7:14. MATTHEW 15 42 stand: 11 what enters into the mouth does “Lord, Son of David, have pity on me! not make a person unclean, what defiles My daughter is tormented by a demon.” 23 one is what comes out of his mouth.” But Jesus did not answer her, not 12 After a while the disciples gathered even a word. So his disciples ap- around Jesus and said, “Do you know proached him and said, “Send her that the Pharisees were offended by away: see how she is shouting after us.” what you said?” 13 Jesus answered, 24 Then Jesus said to her, “I was sent “Every plant which my heavenly Father only to the lost sheep of the nation of has not planted shall be uprooted. Israel.” 14 23:16 Pay no attention to them! They are 25 But the woman was already kneel- Lk 6:39 blind leading the blind. When a blind ing before Jesus and said, “Sir, help Rom 2:19 person leads another, the two will fall me!” 26 Jesus answered, “It is not right into a pit.” to take the bread from the children and 15 Peter said to him, “Explain this throw it to the little dogs.” 27 The Lk sentence to us.” 16 Jesus replied, “So woman replied, “It is true, sir, but even 16:21 even you, too, are dull? 17 Do you not the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall see that whatever enters the mouth from their master’s table.” 28 Then 8:10 8:13 goes into the stomach, and then out of Jesus said, “Woman, how great is your 9:29 the body? 18 But what comes out of the faith! Let it be as you wish.” And her mouth comes from the heart, and that daughter was healed at that moment. is what makes a person unclean. 19 Second miracle of the loaves 1Cor Indeed, it is from the heart that evil (Mk 7:31) 5:10 6:9 desires come – murder, adultery, im- • 29 From Eph morality, theft, lies, slander. 20 These there Jesus went to the 5:3 Col are the things that make a person un- shore of Lake Galilee, and then went up 3:5 1Tim clean; but eating without washing the into the hills where he sat down. 30 1:9 hands does not make a person un- Great crowds came to him, bringing 5:1 2Tim 3:2 clean.” the dumb, the blind, the lame, the Rev 21:8 crippled, and many with other infirmi- 22:15 The faith of the Canaanite woman ties. The people carried them to the feet (Mk 7: 24) of Jesus, and he healed them. 31 All 21 Leaving that place, Jesus with- were astonished when they saw the drew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. dumb speaking, the lame walking, the 22 9:27 Now a Canaanite woman came from crippled healed and the blind able to 20:30 Mk those borders and began to cry out, see; so they glorified the God of Israel. 10:47 Using only human criteria, human societies • 29. On two occasions Jesus multiplied are not able to distinguish good from evil. bread. It is one of his miracles that most im- For the Jewish people, the worship of God presses us. was everything and they felt very much con- The word “miracle” is often devalued. The cerned about exactly who and what things were Bible uses different words to denote what clearly worthy of being part of this worship. Thus they appears as an act of God: sign, wonder, work of made a distinction between the clean and the power. Miracle in its full meaning is all that at the unclean. Jesus shows that true purity is that of same time: a sign by which God makes us the heart. discover his will or the invisible order of the It could be that the code for correct behavior world, a wonder that disconcerts our limited in our society and its numerous goodwill institu- vision, a work which God alone is capable of tions be just a modern way of distinguishing the doing. pure and the impure. In the Church itself, in past The multiplication of loaves is the kind of centuries, there has been a tendency to attribute miracle which most shocks our contemporaries to sacred ministers a “purity” that reserved to and their absolute faith in the “laws of nature” them the handling of sacred things. It is one of that God himself would not have the power to the reasons why in the Middle Ages Communion surpass, or which he could not ignore without was not given in the hand, as had been the contradicting himself. Many do not openly deny custom for over ten centuries. the testimony of the apostles, but they avoid 43 MATTHEW 16 32 2 9:36 14:14 Jesus called his disciples and said Jesus answered, “(When evening to them, “I am filled with compassion comes, you say: ‘It will be a good day for these people; they have already fol- for the sky is red.’ 3 And in the morning lowed me for three days and now have you say: ‘Stormy weather today, for the nothing to eat. I do not want to send sky in the east is red.’ If you know how them away fasting, or they may faint on to interpret the appearance of the sky, the way.” 33 His disciples said to him, why can’t you interpret the signs of the “And where shall we find enough bread times?) 4 An evil and unbelieving 12:38 Jn in this wilderness to feed such a people want a sign, but no sign will be 6:30 crowd?” 34 Jesus said to them, “How given them except the sign of Jonah.” 1Cor 1:22 many loaves do you have?” They an- So Jesus left them and went away. Mt 12:39 swered, “Seven, and a few small fish.” • 5 When Lk 35 So Jesus ordered the people to sit the disciples went to the 11:29 on the ground. 36 Then he took the other side, they forgot to take bread. 6 It seven loaves and the small fish and was then that Jesus said to them, “Be- gave thanks to God. He broke them and ware and do not trust the yeast of the gave them to his disciples, who distrib- Pharisees and Sadducees.” 7 And the uted them to the people. disciples said to one another, “He 37 They all ate and were satisfied, and means the bread we did not bring.” 8 the leftover broken pieces filled seven Jesus was aware of this, so he said wicker baskets. 38 Four thousand men to them, “You of little faith! Why do you had eaten, besides women and chil- speak about the bread you haven’t got? 9 dren. 39 Then Jesus sent away the Do you still not understand? Do you crowd, got into the boat and went to not remember the five loaves for the Magdala. five thousand and how many baskets you gathered? 10 Or the seven loaves The Pharisees ask for a sign for the four thousand and how many (Mk 8:11; Lk 11:16; 12:54) wicker baskets you gathered? 19:3 • 1 The Pharisees and Sadducees 11 How can you fail to understand 16 appeared. They wanted to put that I was not talking of bread when I Jesus to the test and asked him for told you: Beware of the yeast of the some heavenly sign. Pharisees and Sadducees?” 12 Then taking any stand and say for example: “The to prove his authority by multiplying miracles. miracle is still more beautiful if we imagine that People who love truth and seek what is right will Jesus merely invited the people to share their recognize the seal of God in the deeds of Jesus individual snacks, so that finally there was – and of his followers – no matter how many enough for everyone: a miracle of solidarity!” speak ill of them. Here the Gospel is not praising solidarity: it The sign of Jonah is the resurrection of Jesus wishes rather to celebrate the absolute freedom (see 12:40). Yet this resurrection that is the most of God and of Christ: nature itself must be silent, decisive sign, will be understandable only to the because here the dead are raised to life. For a believers. Thus people who demand miracles Christian, creation is not a huge machine that before they will believe, receive no answer. God has passed on to people as he abdicated; it Verses 2-4: the sentences we put in parenthe- is a reflection of God where the laws – shadows sis are lacking in the oldest manuscripts. of the wisdom, the order and the justice that are in God – never exclude his freedom. • 5. The Gospel has kept very little of all that Throughout all Christian history the Lord has would have been exchanged between Jesus and multiplied and continues to multiply bread, items his apostles over the long months of their life of food and even canned food for those who together. How fortunate that at least they re- have given everything or risked all for him: many corded here one of the many stupid things are able to witness to this. uttered in his presence! If they misunderstood his warning, it was that they were over concerned • 16.1 They asked for some heavenly sign. with important matters that it would be better for They want a miracle that will undoubtedly be the everyone to leave in the hands of God. work of God. Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and No sign will be given to them. Jesus refuses Sadducees. See commentary on Mark 8:11. MATTHEW 16 44 they understood that he was not talking do you say I am?” 16 Peter answered, of yeast for bread, but of the teaching of “You are the Messiah, the Son of the the Pharisees and Sadducees. living God.” 17 Jesus replied, “It is well Peter’s faith; Jesus’ promises for you, Simon Barjona, for it is not (Mk 8:27; Lk 9:18; Jn 6:69) flesh or blood that has revealed this to • 13 After that Jesus came to Caesarea you but my Father in heaven. 18 Philippi. He asked his disciples, “Who do And now I say to you: You are Peter 18:18 Rev people say the Son of man is?” 14 They (or Rock) and on this rock I will build 3:7 said, “For some of them you are John my Church; and never will the powers the Baptist, for others Elijah or Jeremiah of death overcome it. 19 or one of the prophets.” I will give you the keys of the king- 17:9 15 Mk Jesus asked them, “But you, who dom of heaven: whatever you bind on 9:9 Very often the Gospel associates these two David. When God chose David, the first king of names. We have already seen that the Israel, he promised him that his sons would rule Sadducees were the party of the chief priests. the Kingdom of God forever: this promise was They were by family right, responsible for the fulfilled in Christ. Now Jesus chooses Peter to be national and religious life of the people of God. forever the visible foundation of the building. In The Pharisees for their part were a party devoted the future his successors will be for the Church, to defending the law of God. They were enemies what Peter was in the early Church. of the Sadducees. Let us not say: “They were For the Jews, to bind and to unbind (v. 19) perverse people.” Opposition to Jesus came meant to state what is forbidden and what is quite naturally from the civil and religious au- allowed. So Peter and his successors will have thorities of his people. How could God visit his the last word about what is, or is not, the faith of people and be welcomed by the majority of its the Church. The history of the primitive Church leaders, if they feel and act as owners of their shows that already in the first centuries the local titles, of their authority, of their own merits? churches were conscious of the supreme author- ity of the bishop of Rome, successor of Peter. His • 13. One parable of the kingdom of God role could not but develop in the course of already foretold the Church (Mt 13:31-33). This history, which was all the more necessary be- present text openly refers to the Church: cause of the growing tensions between Chris- – it tells us what its foundation is: faith in Jesus, tians, and diverse continents and cultures end- the Christ and Son of God; lessly divided in their religious expressions. In – it focuses on the primacy of Peter among all spite of the fact that as humans Peter’s succes- the apostles; sors can commit mistakes, Christ does not ig- – it suggests that the Church will always need nore what they ultimately decide on: whatever a visible head. This is the successor of Peter, the you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven. pope. The recognition of this mission of Peter’s Faith in the Son of God, which Peter, among successor, however, does not mean that his the apostles is the first to proclaim, really comes word drowns all other voices in a silent Church, from God. This faith is not a human opinion, or or that his authority justifies a structure that a sentimental attachment. It does not come from might crush life. flesh and blood, an expression that for the Jews This text does not contradict other statements meant what is purely human, what a human of the Gospel that are equally important, where being does and understands by his own capacity. the basis of the Church is a “college” of apostles, The words with which Jesus greets Peter, happy where nothing is done without dialogue. Peter is are you, Simon, are true for all the believers. For the “door keeper” (Mk 13:34) but he is neither it is the Father who has chosen us and has “master” nor “Father” (Mt 23:9). brought us to Christ: see John 6:37; 6:44. His authority is only genuine in a Church Next the primacy of Peter is emphasized. His where all have the right to express themselves, name was Simon, but Jesus gave him this where the leaders are not only imposed, but also surname of Rock, foreseeing that he would be accepted. for his Church a foundation rock (Jn 1:40). This The powers of death (v. 18). The text says change of his name attests that a mission is “the gates of Hades.” “Gates” here signifies given to him as happened to Abraham and “Power”; as for Hades, it designates the nether- Jacob (Gen 17:5 and 32:19). Other texts attest world, the world of the dead and demonic to the leadership and faith of Peter: Mt 10:2; powers. Even if deathly strength tried to crush 14:28; 17:25; Lk 5:8-10; 22:32; Jn 6:68; the Church, or sow there the seed of corruption 21:15-19. it would not be prevented from accomplishing its Is what Jesus tells Peter true also of his succes- mission of salvation. A part of Revelation (Rev sors? No one can deny that even in the Old 12–17) depicts such a confrontation. Testament God wanted his people to have a The fact that Peter is the foundation of the visible head. Jerusalem and the nation had as Church does not contradict other verses that say their center the Temple and the kings, sons of that its basis is the Twelve Apostles (Eph 2:20 45 MATTHEW 17 earth shall be bound in heaven, and The transfiguration of Jesus what you unbind on earth shall be un- (Mk 9:2; Lk 9:28) bound in heaven.” • 1 Six days later, Jesus took with 20 Then he ordered his disciples not 17 him Peter and James and his to tell anyone that he was the Christ. brother John and led them up a high Jesus predicts his death mountain where they were alone. 2 (Mk 8:31; Lk 9:22; 12:9; 14:27) Jesus’ appearance was changed be- 4:8 28:16 • 21 From fore them: his face shone like the sun 17:12 that day Jesus began to and his clothes became bright as light. 20:17 Lk make it clear to his disciples that he 3 Just then Moses and Elijah appeared 28:3 2:38 13:33 must go to Jerusalem; he would suffer to them, talking with Jesus. many things from the Jewish authori- 4 ties, the chief priests and the teachers Peter spoke and said to Jesus, of the Law. He would be killed and be “Master, it is good that we are here. If raised on the third day. you so wish, I will make three tents: one 22 for you, one for Moses, and one for Then Peter took him aside and be- Elijah.” gan to reproach him, “Never, Lord! No, 5 this must never happen to you.” 23 But Peter was still speaking when a 24:30 Ex Jesus turned to him and said, “Get be- bright cloud covered them in its 40:35 12:18 hind me, Satan! You are an obstacle in shadow, and a voice from the cloud Dt my path. You are thinking not as God said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, my 18:15 Is does, but as people do.” Chosen One. Listen to him.” 42:1 Mk 6 10:38 24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If On hearing the voice, the disciples 1:11 Lk 14:37 you want to follow me, deny yourself, fell to the ground, full of fear. 7 But Lk take up your cross and follow me. 25 For Jesus came, touched them and said, 17:33 Jn whoever chooses to save his life will “Stand up, do not be afraid.” 8 When 12:25 lose it, but the one who loses his life for they raised their eyes, they no longer 4:8 my sake will find it. 26 What will one saw anyone except Jesus. 9 And as gain by winning the whole world if he they came down the mountain, Jesus destroys himself? There is nothing you commanded them not to tell anyone can give to recover your own self. what they had just seen, until the Son of 25:31 27 Know that the Son of Man will Man be raised from the dead. 2Thes 10 1:7 come in the Glory of his Father with the The disciples then asked him, 16:14 Mal Ps 28:4 holy angels, and he will reward each “Why do the teachers of the Law say 3:23 Sir Ps one according to his deeds. 28 Truly, I that Elijah must come first?” 11 And 48:10 62:13 Rev tell you, there are some here who will Jesus answered, “So it is: first comes 22:12 10:23 not die before they see the Son of Man Elijah to set everything as it has to be. 12 20:21 coming as king.” But I tell you, Elijah has already come 16:21 17:22 and Rev 21:14). They also receive the power to behind Jesus and follow him as is proper for a bind or loose in John 20:21, but in this case it disciple. refers clearly to the forgiveness of sins. Whoever chooses to save his life will lose it. Upon reading the narratives in Mk 8:27 and Jesus draws attention to the great option of Lk 9:18, some questions regarding Peter’s faith every human life: we cannot discover God; we arise: see commentary on Lk 9:18. cannot make a success of life without sacrificing Jesus, Rock and Foundation: Mk 12:10; 1 Cor it. All the rest is idle talk. The option terrifies us 3:11; 1 P 2:6. in the same measure that life for us seems promising. It is also the reason why marriage and • 21. See commentary on Mark 8:31. family frighten many. Get behind me, Satan… (v. 23). When Peter He will find his life (v. 25). In 10:39 we stands in front of Jesus to block the way to the translated this phrase: “benefit one’s life”. cross, Jesus recognizes in his words the same spirit that tempted him in the desert. Jesus calls • 17.1 See commentaries on Mark 9:2 and him Satan, meaning tempter. Let Peter get Luke 9:28. MATTHEW 17 46 and they did not recognize him, but sible to you. 21 (Only prayer and fasting treated him as they pleased. And they can drive out this kind of spirit.”) will also make the Son of Man suffer.” • 22 While 11:14 13 Then the disciples understood that Jesus was in Galilee with Mk 9:30 Lk Jesus was referring to John the Baptist. the Twelve, he said to them, “The Son 1:17 of Man will be delivered into human Jesus heals an epileptic boy hands, 23 and they will kill him. But 16:21 (Mk 9:14; Lk 9:37) 17:12 he will rise on the third day.” The 20:17 • 14 When they met the people, a Twelve were deeply grieved. man approached Jesus, knelt before The Temple tax him and said, 15 “Sir, have pity on my • 24 When they returned to Caper- son who is an epileptic and is in a Ex 30:13 wretched state. He has often fallen into naum, the Temple tax collectors came the fire and at other times into the wa- to Peter and asked him, “Does your ter. 16 I brought him to your disciples but master pay the temple tax?” 25 He an- they could not heal him.” swered, “Certainly.” 17 Jesus replied, “You, faithless and Peter then entered the house, but evil people! How long must I be with immediately Jesus asked him, “What you? How long must I put up with you? do you think, Simon? Who pay taxes or Bring him here to me.” 18 And Jesus tributes to the kings of the earth: their commanded the evil spirit to leave the sons or the other people?” 26 Peter re- boy, and the boy was immediately plied, “The others.” And Jesus told healed. him, “The sons, then, are tax-free. 19 27 Lk The disciples then gathered But so as not to offend these people, 17:6 1Cor around Jesus and asked him privately, go to the sea, throw in a hook and open 13:2 “Why couldn’t we drive out the spirit?” the mouth of the first fish you catch. 20 Jesus said to them, “Because you You will find a coin in it, take it and let it have little faith. I say to you: if only you pay for you and for me.” had faith the size of a mustard seed, Who is the greatest? Scandals you could tell that mountain to move from here to there, and the mountain • 1 At that time the disciples Lk would obey. Nothing would be impos- 18 came to Jesus and asked him, 22:24 • 14. See commentary on Mark 9:14. tures even fish, and see also his intimate solidar- Verse 21 is lacking in many old texts: compare ity with Peter. with Mk 8:28-29. The coin mentioned in 27 was worth the Temple tax. Matthew may have had a special • 22. Several times Jesus announced his interest for this story because at the time he death: see 16:21; 20:17. Never did he present wrote Christians of Jewish origins were wonder- it as a misfortune that might counteract his ing whether they should be still paying this tax. mission. John will say that Jesus looked for it as the means for giving glory to his Father and • 18.1 Here we have the beginning of the reconciling humankind (Jn 17). Jesus speaks of fourth Discourse of Matthew’s Gospel, not very himself in the third person: the Son of Man, consonant but centered on the life of the com- because he looks at his destiny as an outsider. munity. Those who say “Our Father” are not This is the will of his Father, and he is not isolated. In place of the nation of Israel, Jesus concerned about himself. offers them his Church, which is first of all community of communities. • 24. All the Jews paid a tax for the mainte- 6-11: concern for the little ones; nance of the Temple. 12-14: care for those who have strayed; The collectors approach Peter as owner of the 15-20: a fraternal community in the presence house where Jesus also lives. of Christ; Jesus observes the Law, but takes this oppor- 21-35: a community of pardon. tunity to give a hint as to who he is: the collectors do not realize they are addressing “the Son.” For the commentary on verses 1–5 see Mk Notice how the Lord has control over all crea- 9:33. 47 MATTHEW 18 “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of hand or a foot than to be thrown into heaven?” eternal fire with your two hands and two 19:14 2 Then Jesus called a little child, set feet. 9 And if your eye drags you into Mk 10:15 the child in the midst of the disciples, sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is Lk 18:17 3 and said, “I assure you that unless you better for you to enter life with one eye Jn change and become like little children, than to be thrown into the fire of hell 3:5 20:26 you cannot enter the kingdom of with your two eyes. 10 10:40 heaven. 4 Whoever becomes lowly like See that you do not despise any of Acts Lk 12:15 10:16 this child is the greatest in the kingdom these little ones, for I tell you: their Heb 1:14 Jn 13:20 of heaven, 5 and whoever receives such angels in heaven continually see the a child in my name receives me. face of my heavenly Father. 11 6 If any of you should cause one of (The Son of Man has come to save these little ones who believe in me to the lost). stumble and fall, it would be better for • 12 What do you think of this? If Ezk 34:1 you to be thrown into the depths of the someone has a hundred sheep and one Lk sea with a great millstone around your of them strays, won’t he leave the 15:3 neck. ninety-nine on the hillside, and go to 7 Lk Woe to the world because of so look for the stray one? 13 And I tell you: 17:1 many scandals! Scandals necessarily when he finally finds it, he is more come, but woe to the one who has pleased about it than about the ninety- brought it about. nine that did not get lost. 14 It is the 8 If your hand or foot drags you into same with your Father in heaven: there sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is they don’t want even one of these little better for you to enter life without a ones to be lost. THE LITTLE ONES structures. Jesus invites us to be aware of sin, With verse 5 we pass from the children to the personal and social: the bad structures will be little ones, that is, simple people (such a child destroyed, no matter how, by tears and blood (Lk refers perhaps to the lowly one). They are little, 23:28). because they do not count for much in society. These scandals necessarily come. Jesus lived Woe to the world because of so many scan- in a world of violence, but apparently he did not dals. Must we recall the real meaning of the word complain about the situation. He did not encour- “scandal”? “Scandalon” in Greek is the little age us to dream of paradise on earth. While pebble that when unnoticed causes a fall: scandal some Christian communities aspire to be a flock is not something that makes noise or causes a stir of sheep meekly surrounding their shepherd, in society but which leads consciences astray and Jesus has a different vision of Christian life. causes those who seemed honest to fall. The real world, the one God is saving, was not Jesus then speaks (v. 7) of the harm caused by created to be an oasis of happiness, but a place social pressures. Many times the little ones strive where free persons grow through their struggles. to raise their standard of living and become more Scandals are part and parcel of this world, but self-reliant, better educated and able to earn the power of evil does not diminish in any way more. Often enough, society puts obstacles in the glory that God will receive in the end. the way of anyone who does not want to play Through suffering and hunger for justice God dirty and who refuses to imitate the lifestyle of will awaken love and make it grow. selfish persons. Because of this, the little ones Verse 10: See commentary on Dn 12:6. will have to give up, to accept failure, to lose an • 12. The parable of the one hundred sheep eye before losing the most important thing, is also found in the Gospel of Luke (15:1). It which is to live in the sight of God. teaches us several things: Jesus’ special concern It is better for you to enter life without a for sinners and those who stray and, therefore, hand or a foot. Jesus stresses the incomparable the missionary dimension of his apostolate. In value of eternal life. At times, to gain the King- fact, Jesus came “to seek and save the lost” dom we will have to sacrifice even our job, our (Lk 19:10), “to call the outcasts, not the respect- security and our life. able people” (Mt 9:13). This attitude should Woe to the world because of so many scan- impel our parishes and Christian communities to dals (v. 7). Sometimes it is an individual who constantly reach out to the unchurched and leads others to sin; at other times it is society itself marginalized, instead of just working with those with its corruption, violence and unjust social who already are in touch with the Church. MATTHEW 18 48 Living together in the Church • 21 ThenPeter asked him, “Lord, Lk (Lk 17:3) 17:3 how many times must I forgive the of- Lk • 15 If your brother or sister has fenses of my brother or sister? Seven 17:3 sinned against you, go and point out times?” 22 Jesus answered, “No, not the fault when the two of you are in seven times, but seventy-seven times. private, and if he listens to you, you The unmerciful servant Dt have won your brother. 16 If you are not 19:15 • 23 This story throws light on the 25:19 Jn listened to, take with you one or two 8:17 2Cor others so that the case may be decided kingdom of heaven. A king decided to 13:1 by the evidence of two or three wit- settle the accounts of his servants. 1Tim 24 5:19 nesses. 17 If he still refuses to listen to Among the first was one who owed 1Cor them, tell it to the assembled Church. him ten thousand gold ingots. 25 As the 5:11 Tit But if he does not listen to the Church, man could not repay the debt, the king 3:10 then regard such a one as a pagan or a commanded that he be sold as a slave publican. with his wife, children and all his goods 16:19 18 I say to you: whatever you bind on in payment. 26 earth, heaven will keep bound; and The official threw himself at the Lk 7:42 whatever you unbind on earth, heaven feet of the king and said, ‘Give me time, will keep unbound. and I will pay you back everything.’ 27 7:7 19 In like manner, I say to you: if on The king took pity on him and not 21:22 Mk earth two of you are united in asking for only set him free but even canceled his 11:24 Jn anything, it will be granted to you by debt. 15:7 my heavenly Father. 20 For where two 28 This official then left the king’s 28:20 or three are gathered in my Name, I am presence and he met one of his com- Jn 14:23 there among them.” panions who owed him a hundred • 15. If your brother or sister has sinned… of God in truth, thus knowing the Father in truth. Jesus had told Peter before: Whatever you tie on The Church, therefore, is that sacred place earth will be tied in Heaven. He declares it now where we find God, and to express this reality for the whole Church. The believers must at- we say that the Church is “the sacrament of tempt to settle their suits among themselves, God.” knowing that Christ is among them, as signified We also speak of several “sacraments”: bap- in his name Emmanuel: God-with-us. tism, eucharist… Some people want to receive The text of 18:15 is doubtful. Perhaps it was the sacraments without having any commitment written if your brother or sister has sinned, go to the Church; they forget that religious rites … in which case it would refer to the effort of the confer the grace of God because they are ges- Christian community to correct one who has tures of the Church, which is “the” sacrament of gone astray. God. God is not contained inside things, but Gathered in the name of Jesus (v. 20). The rather reveals himself through the family of prayer of the community, of the apostolic group, Christ, where he wants us to find him: Whatever of the Christian couple. you tie on earth… Our faithfulness within the Have we noticed that this chapter on the Christian community, even if we have to dissent Church is so short? Yet Matthew is the one who from it, is a sign that we are in the grace of God. is most concerned about the Church of Jesus, whether in the parables of the kingdom or in • 21. Seventy-seven times. Compare with Peter’s profession of faith. Genesis 4:24. Forgiveness must replace the Jesus does not seem to have said anything thirst for revenge. whatsoever to his apostles about structures that would emerge (or even disappear): nothing but a This is about the forgiveness of one who community spirit. Welcome for the poor and returns repentant: see Luke 17:1. lowly, never-ending forgiveness and acceptance of others, prayer of a community that has apos- • 23. THE PARDON tolic ambitions and cries to God to give what is The offenses we suffer from our companions asked of him; there we have the sum total of the are nothing compared with our offenses against wisdom and means the Church has in order to God. While God forgives all, we do not even confront all that challenges its evangelization. give others enough breathing space. God does While we participate in the common activities, not demand his rights, but we, in demanding overcoming unavoidable conflicts, and per- them, behave like wicked servants (see severing in apostolic work, we grow as children Mt 5:43). 49 MATTHEW 19 3 pieces of silver. He grabbed him by the Some Pharisees approached him. 16:1 Lk neck and almost strangled him, shout- They wanted to test him and asked, “Is 11:54 Jn ing, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ 29 His com- a man allowed to divorce his wife for 8:6 panion threw himself at his feet and any reason he wants?” 4 asked him, ‘Give me time, and I will pay Jesus replied, “Have you not read Gen 1:27 everything.’ 30 The other did not agree, that in the beginning the Creator made Gen 2:24 but sent him to prison until he had paid them male and female, 5 and he said: 1Cor all his debt. Man has now to leave father and 6:16 Eph 31 His companions saw what hap- mother, and be joined to his wife, and 5:31 pened. They were indignant and so the two shall become one body? 6 So they went and reported everything to they are no longer two but one body; let their lord. 32 Then the lord summoned no one separate what God has joined.” 7 his official and said, ‘Wicked servant, I They asked him, “Then, why did Dt 24:1 forgave you all that you owed when you Moses command us to write a bill of begged me to do so. 33 Weren’t you dismissal in order to divorce?” 8 Jesus bound to have pity on your companion replied, “Moses knew your stubborn 5:25 as I had pity on you?’ 34 The lord was heart, so he allowed you to divorce Lk 12:58 now angry, so he handed his servant your wives, but it was not so in the over to be punished, until he had paid beginning. 9 Therefore I say to you: 1Cor 7:10 his whole debt.” whoever divorces his wife, unless it be 5:32 6:15 35 Jesus added, “So will my heavenly for concubinage, and marries another, Mk 11:15 Father do with you unless each of you commits adultery.” 10 Eph sincerely forgive your brother or sister.” The disciples said, “If that is the 1Cor 4:32 7:1 Col condition of a married man, it is better 7:7 3:13 Jesus speaks about divorce not to marry.” 11 Jesus said to them, (Mk 10:2; Mt 5:31; Lk 16:18) “Not everybody can accept what you Lk • 1 When Jesus had finished this have just said, but only those who have 9:51 19 teaching, he left Galilee and ar- received this gift. 12 There are eunuchs rived at the border of Judea, on the born so from their mother’s womb. other side of the Jordan River. 2 A great Some have been made that way by crowd was with him and there, too, he others. But there are some who have healed their sick. given up the possibility of marriage for This parable goes beyond personal problems. • 19.1 See commentary on Mark 10:2; The world needs, above everything else, the Matthew 5:31. forgiveness of God, and those who want a more Every human society has had its laws on just society will not achieve it through accusa- marriage, and it was the same for Israel. There tions and hatred. was then a law on divorce, in harmony with the The parable helps us understand much better difference of status accorded by society to man another verse in the Bible: Revenge is mine, and woman; it was in Scripture (Dt 24:1). Jesus says the Lord; I will pay each one according to does not want to be involved in the discussions of his own conduct. God will not demand an teachers and interpreters of the Law: he op- account regarding his own rights, (what we owe poses this law with another word of Scripture him), but regarding the rights of the little ones which presents God’s point of view regarding who, unable to pay, were deprived of them. He human attitudes which he tolerates. will also demand an accounting regarding those In doing this Jesus shows how he brings the who were sorry for their sins but were not Law to “perfection” (5:17), but clearly this “law forgiven by others. of God” can only be heard by those who have The fourth Discourse of Matthew’s Gospel received the Spirit from Jesus, a fact that is ends with this parable on the duty to forgive. The emphasized in the reaction of the disciples (v. Church has not always been as holy as she 10). should have been. Yet nobody can deny that, at Better not to marry (v. 10). Jesus does not all times, in the Church the mercy of God has apologize for these demanding words. He only been preached and people have learned to proposes something more difficult to under- forgive. MATTHEW 19 50 the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let swered, “If you wish to be perfect, go Acts 2:45 the one who can accept it, accept it.” and sell all that you possess and give 4:34 6:20 the money to the poor and you will Ps Jesus and the children (Mk 10:13; Lk 18:15) become the owner of a treasure in 62:11 13 heaven. Then come back and follow Then little children were brought to me.” Jesus that he might lay his hands on 22 On hearing this answer, the young them with a prayer. But the disciples man went away sad for he was a man of scolded those who brought them. great wealth. 14 Jesus then said, “Let them be! Do not 23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, stop the children from coming to me, “Truly I say to you: it will be hard for for the kingdom of heaven belongs to one who is rich to enter the kingdom of Lk people such as these.” 15 So Jesus laid heaven. 24 Yes, believe me: it is easier 9:47 1P his hands on them and went his way. for a camel to go through the eye of a 2:1 The rich young man needle than for the one who is rich to (Mk 10:17-22; Lk 18:18-23) enter the kingdom of heaven.” 25 19:29 • 16 Itwas then that a young man On hearing this the disciples were Lk 13:23 Lk 10:25 approached him and asked, “Master, astonished and said, “Who, then, can Lev what good work must I do to receive be saved?” 26 Jesus looked steadily at Gen 18:5 18:14 eternal life?” 17 Jesus answered, “Why them and answered, “For humans it is Job 42:2 do you ask me about what is good?” impossible, but for God all things are Lk Only one is Good. If you want to enter possible.” 1:37 27 eternal life, keep the commandments.” Then Peter spoke up and said, Lk 18 The young man said, “Which com- “You see we have given up everything 10:28 Rom mandments?” Jesus replied, “Do not to follow you: what will be our lot?” 13:9 Ex kill, do not commit adultery, do not 28 Jesus answered, “You who have Dn 7:9 20:12 steal, do not bear false witness, 19 honor followed me, listen to my words: on the Wis 3:8 Lev your father and mother, and love your Day of Renewal, when the Son of Man 20:21 19:18 neighbor as yourself.” sits on his throne in glory, you, too, will Lk 22:28 20 Mk The young man said to him, “I sit on twelve thrones to rule the twelve 1Cor 14:5 6:2 Lk have kept all these commandments, tribes of Israel. 29 As for those who have Rev 12:33 3:21 Jn what is still lacking?” 21 Jesus an- left houses, brothers, sisters, father, 12:5 stand. He praises those to whom have been we do not “merit” eternal life: salvation is always given to choose celibacy as a way of life for love a gift of God. of the Kingdom. Finally there is the question that bothers us most for all that touches money affects us deeply, • 16. See commentary on Mark 10:17. and it is there that the Gospel shocks us: it is Jesus faces a question. He discloses three easier for a camel… aspects and gives three answers: The call of the rich young man has always been Only one is Good (v. 17). This man has been considered the model of the religious, apostolic captivated by the personality of Jesus, and Jesus, vocation. Without effective, voluntary poverty a as always, directs him to the Father. There is, in person will never attain union with God that is fact, a distortion to Christian faith, dangerous as the goal of the true religious. Besides, as long as it is subtle: to speak only of Jesus: “Jesus sees the apostles share the life of comfortable people, you…” “Jesus loves you…” “Jesus is love…” as they will be able to be their friends but they will if we were not living for God. Love of the Father never have deep conversions nor will they during means wanting to be perfect as the Father is and this time reach the immense world of the poor. working for his Kingdom. First of all it needs to The problem of poverty is also at the heart of be free, and the rich can only be free through the family in today’s world: for the greater voluntary poverty. number, believers or non-believers, the joys and This man also wanted to know how to receive blessings that God showers on a large family will eternal life (the text says in Hebrew style “to have only be given to those who have ceased to in heritage”) and Jesus will clearly state at the evaluate everything according to the criteria of end, that even if we obey the commandments, money and security. 51 MATTHEW 20 mother, children or property for my and were given a denarius each (a sil- Name’s sake, they will receive a hun- ver coin). 10 When it was the turn of the dredfold and be given eternal life. first, they thought they would receive 30 20:16 Many who are now first will be last, more. 11 But they, too, received a denar- and many who are now last will be first. ius each. So, on receiving it, they be- gan to grumble against the landowner. The workers in the vineyard 12 • 1 They said: ‘These last hardly This story throws light on the 20 kingdom of heaven. A landowner worked an hour, yet you have treated them the same as us who have endured went out early in the morning to hire the day’s burden and heat.’ 13 The 21:28 workers for his vineyard. 2 He agreed to owner said to one of them: ‘Friend, I pay the workers a salary of a silver coin have not been unjust to you. Did we not for the day, and sent them to his vine- agree on a denarius a day? 14 So take yard. what is yours and go. I want to give to 3 He went out again at about nine in the last the same as I give to you. the morning, and seeing others idle in 15 Don’t I have the right to do as I please the square, 4 he said to them: ‘You, too, with my money? Why are you envious go to my vineyard and I will pay you when I am kind?’ what is just.’ So they went. 16 So will it be: the last will be first, the 19:30 The owner went out at midday and first will be last.” again at three in the afternoon, 5 and he did the same. 6 Finally he went out at the Third prophecy of the passion last working hour – it was the eleventh – (Mk 10:32; Lk 18:31) 17 and he saw others standing there. So he When Jesus was going to Jerusa- said to them: ‘Why do you stay idle the lem, he took the Twelve aside and said whole day?’ 7 They answered: ‘Because to them on the way, 18 “See, we are no one has hired us.’ The master said: going to Jerusalem. There the Son of ‘Go and work in my vineyard.’ Man will be given over to the chief 8 Lev When evening came, the owner of priests and the teachers of the Law who 19:13 Dt the vineyard said to his manager: ‘Call will condemn him to death. 19 They will 16:21 17:12 24:14 the workers and pay them their wage, hand him over to the foreigners who will Lk 9:22 beginning with the last and ending with mock him, scourge him and crucify 24:7 the first.’ 9 Those who had come to him. But he will be raised to life on the 1Cor 15:4 work at the eleventh hour turned up third day.” • 20.1 THE MASTERS group in order to leave Egypt and that has continued throughout history. The elders never Many are surprised at this parable. They find cease to claim their right to receive better treat- it unfair to give the same reward to everyone, ment than the others. Actually the vineyard has without taking into account the labor and sacri- not been confided to them exclusively. fices of everyone. Without doubt Jesus wanted to shock us and Then, with the coming of Christ, the Gospel shatter the idea we obstinately cling to: that we was brought to other nations that were until then have merits that God must recognize. However pagan. They came into the Church and shaped we should pay closer attention to the story: Jesus Christianity. They also claimed to be owners of makes a comparison, not of several laborers, but the kingdom of God and the Church. of several groups of laborers. Each group repre- To this day, there are also social groups that sents a nation or a social class, and while some are amazed when the Church criticizes their of them have long ago received the word of God, demand for privileges and does not assign them others have just become believers. the first benches in the temple for they had All throughout history, God has been calling always believed that the Church was theirs. different people to work in his vineyard. He In this parable, all are treated on equal terms called Abraham first and placed his descendants and receive one silver coin each. Let them be in charge of his work in the world. Later on, happy for having been invited to work, as they during the time of Moses many others joined his were unemployed. MATTHEW 20 52 The mother of James and ing by, they began to call out, “Son of John asks for the first seats David, have mercy on us!” 31 The (Mk 10:35) people told them to keep quiet. But • 20 Then the mother of James and they shouted even louder, “Lord, Son of John came to Jesus with her sons, and David, have mercy on us!” 32 Jesus Lk she knelt down to ask a favor. 21 Jesus stopped, called out to them and asked, 22:30 said to her, “What do you want?” And “What do you want me to do for you?” she answered, “Here you have my two 33 They said, “Lord, open our eyes.” sons. Grant that they may sit, one at 34 Jesus was moved with compas- your right and one at your left, when sion and touched their eyes. Immedi- you are in your kingdom.” ately they recovered their sight and 22 26:39 Jesus said to the brothers, “You do they began to follow Jesus. Jn 18:11 not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I am about to drink?” Jesus enters Jerusalem (Mk 11:1; Lk 19:28; Jn 12:12) They answered, “We can.” 23 Jesus re- • 1 When they drew near Jerusa- plied, “You will indeed drink my cup, but to sit at my right or at my left is not 21 lem and arrived at Bethphage, on for me to grant. That will be for those the mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of for whom the Father has prepared it.” his disciples, 2 saying, “Go to the village 24 The other ten heard all this and in front of you, and there you will find a were angry with the two brothers. donkey tied up with its colt by her. 25 Then Jesus called them to him and Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If said, “You know that the rulers of the anyone says something to you, say: nations act as tyrants, and the powerful The Lord needs them but he will send 23:11 oppress them. 26 It shall not be so them back immediately.” Mk 4 9:35 among you; whoever wants to be more This happened in fulfillment of what Gen 49:11 important in your group shall make the prophet said: 5 Say to the daughter Is 62:11 26:28 himself your servant. 27 And if you want of Zion: See, your king comes to you in Zec Phil 2:7 to be first, make yourself the servant of all simplicity, riding on a donkey, a 9:9 11:29 1Tim 2:6 all. 28 Be like the Son of Man who has beast of burden, with its colt. 6 Rom 5:6 come, not to be served but to serve and The disciples went as Jesus had 1K 1:33 to give his life to redeem many.” instructed them, 7 and they brought the Mk 29 As they left Jericho, a great crowd donkey with its colt. Then they threw 2K 10:46 9:13 Lk followed them on the way. 30 Two blind their cloaks on its back, and Jesus sat 18:35 men were sitting by the roadside, and on them. 8 9:27 when they heard that Jesus was pass- Many people also spread their 15:22 • 20. See commentary on Mark 10:35. brated in September), than of the days before the Compare Matthew 20:23 and Mark 10:46. Passover: – The joyous spirit of the people is more • 21.1 See commentary on Mark 11. Mat- appropriate to that feastday, which was the most thew, Mark and Luke place the incident about popular of all. those selling in the Temple at the time of Jesus’ – The branches and palms, as in the proces- entrance into Jerusalem. John, on the other sion of the feastday, on the way to the fountain hand, situates this event at the beginning of of Siloe, while singing Psalm 118: “Blessed be Jesus’ mission. Once more we see how each of he who comes in the name of the Lord!” and the evangelists disposes of events following the shouts of “Hosannah!” (that is: Save us!). plan he has chosen to develop the mystery of – Mention of the Mountain of Olives, where Salvation. Their aim is not to draw up a life of tents of branches and leaves were erected for the Jesus where events would be placed in the exact feast. order in which they occurred. See, in this respect, Zec 14 that refers to this Besides, there are several details in this trium- feastday (14:16) and foretells the purification of phant entrance of Jesus that remind us more of the Temple. the Feast of the Tabernacles (which was cele- Very possibly, the evangelists placed the en- 53 MATTHEW 21 cloaks on the road, while others cut indignant and said to Jesus, “Do you leafy branches from the trees and hear what they say?” Jesus answered 23:39 spread them on the road. 9 The people them, “Yes. Have you never read this Ps 118: who walked ahead of Jesus and those text: From the mouths of children and Ps 26 8:3 who followed him began to shout: “Ho- infants you have got perfect praise?” 17 sanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he So leaving them he went out of the who comes in the name of the Lord! city and came to Bethany where he Hosanna, glory in the highest!” spent the night. 10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, Jesus curses the fig tree the whole city was disturbed. The (Mk 11:12; Lk 13:6) people asked, “Who is this man?” 11 And • 18 While returning to the city early Lk the crowd answered, “This is the Pro- in the morning, Jesus felt hungry. 19 He 13:6 phet Jesus from Nazareth of Galilee.” noticed a fig tree by the road, went up Jesus expels the dealers to it and found nothing on it but leaves. (Mk 11:11; Lk 13:35; Jn 2:14) Then he said to the tree, “Never again • 12 So Jesus went into the Temple bear fruit!” And immediately, the fig and drove out all who were buying and tree withered. 20 selling in the temple area. He over- When the disciples saw this, they turned the tables of the money chang- were astonished and they said, “How ers, and the stools of those who sold did the fig tree suddenly dry up!” 21 Is pigeons. 13 And he said to them, “It is Jesus told them, “Truly, I say to you: 17:20 Lk 56:7 Jer written: My house shall be called a if you had faith and did not doubt, not 17:6 1Cor 7:11 house of prayer. But you have turned it only could you do what I have done 13:2 into a den of thieves.” with the fig tree, but you could even say Jas 1:6 2S 14 The blind and the lame also came to that mountain: ‘Go and throw your- 5:8 to him in the Temple and Jesus healed self into the sea!’ and it would be done. 22 them. Whatever you ask for in prayer full of 7:7 18:19 15 faith, you will receive.” Jn Jn 12:19 The chief priests and the teachers 14:13 of the Law saw the wonderful things Jesus’ response to the authorities Jesus had just done, and the children (Mk 11:27; Lk 20:1) shouting in the temple area, “Hosanna • 23 Jesus had entered the Temple Jn 2:18 to the Son of David!” 16 They became and was teaching when the chief trance of Jesus into Jerusalem on the eve of the God, he inaugurates the new era of religion in Passover for the simple reason that they only spirit and in truth. That is how John also under- related one trip of Jesus to Jerusalem. stood this event in John 2:21, where he speaks They arrived at Bethphage. The small village of the new Temple, Christ. of Bethphage was the entrance to the district of You have got perfect praise (v. 16). These Jerusalem towards the east. According to the words of Psalm 8 were addressed to God, but Law, the Passover should be celebrated in Jesus applies them to himself, as he did with Jerusalem, but the city was not big enough to some other Scriptural texts. accommodate more than a hundred and fifty thousand pilgrims for the festival. So it was • 18. This incident helps us understand the necessary to enlarge the juridical limits of Jerusa- strange behavior of Jesus in looking for figs out lem, embracing therefore some small villages of season and then cursing the tree as if it were like Bethphage. During those days, Jesus also responsible. Jesus behaved this way for a pur- used to lodge in Bethany (21:17). pose: to call something to the attention of the apostles, through a teaching method used by the • 12. See commentary on Mark 11:15. prophets. The fig tree is a figure of the Jewish people, who did not produce the fruits expected Jesus cleanses the Temple, fulfilling the pro- by God. phecy of Zechariah 14:21. Malachi 3 also fore- told this event: The Lord would come to purify • 23. Jesus is what we would call today a his people and his temple. Jesus comes as a simple layman. He respects the priests of the prophet to demand respect for God. Also, as people of God and their high priest. He shows MATTHEW 21 54 priests, the teachers of the Law and the but you did not believe him, yet the Jewish authorities came to him and publicans and the prostitutes did. You asked, “What authority have you to act were witnesses of this, but you neither like this? Who gave you authority to do repented nor believed him. all this?” 24 The parable of the tenants Jesus answered them, “I will also (Mk 12:1; Lk 20:9) ask you a question, only one. And if 33 you give me an answer, then I will tell Listen to another example: There you by what authority I do these things. was a landowner who planted a vine- When John began to baptize, was it a yard. He put a fence around it, dug a work of God, or was it merely some- hole for the winepress, built a watch- thing human?” tower, leased the vineyard to tenants Jn 25 They reasoned out among them- and then went to a distant country. 34 1:6 3:27 selves, “If we reply that it was a work of When harvest time came, the land- God, he will say: Why, then, did you not owner sent his servants to the tenants 21:32 believe him? 26 And if we say: The bap- to collect his share of the harvest. 35 But tism of John was merely something the tenants seized his servants, beat human, beware of the people: since all one, killed another and stoned another. 36 hold John as a prophet.” 27 So they Again the owner sent more ser- answered Jesus, “We do not know.” vants, but they were treated in the Lk And Jesus said to them, “Neither will same way. 37 3:12 7:30 I tell you by what right I do these Finally, he sent his son, thinking: Jn 3:16 19:1 things.” ‘They will respect my son.’ 38 But when the tenants saw the son, they thought: Gal The parable of the two sons 3:16 ‘This is the one who is to inherit the 4:7 Is • 28 Jesus went on to say, “What do vineyard. Let us kill him and his inherit- Heb 1:2 5:1 you think of this? A man had two sons. ance will be ours.’ 39 So they seized He went to the first and said to him: him, threw him out of the vineyard and ‘Son, today go and work in my vine- killed him. 40 yard.’ 29 And the son answered: ‘I don’t Now, what will the owner of the Heb 13:12 want to.’ But later he thought better of it vineyard do with the tenants when he and went. 30 Then the father went to the comes?” 41 They said to him, “He will second and gave him the same com- bring those evil to an evil end, and lease mand. This son replied: ‘I will go, sir,’ the vineyard to others who will pay him but he did not go. in due time.” 31 42 22:6 Which of the two did what the fa- And Jesus replied, “Have you Ps 118: ther wanted?” They answered, “The never read what the Scriptures say? 22 Is first.” And Jesus said to them, “Truly, I The stone which the builders rejected 28:16 say to you: the publicans and the pros- has become the cornerstone. This was Acts 4:11 titutes are ahead of you on the way to the Lord’s doing; and we marvel at it. 1P 43 2:4-7 the kingdom of heaven. 32 For John Therefore I say to you: the kingdom came to show you the way of goodness of heaven will be taken from you and Acts 13:5 Rom 11:11 however that if they want others to be account- A good number of sinners were converted by able, for their part they must be ready to take a John’s preaching and confessed their sins. Such stand on the things of God when the people need people were well disposed to receive the mes- this. They had been and were unwilling to give sage of Jesus that opened for them the kingdom such a response in the case of John the Baptist. of God and showed them the true face of God the Father. Because of that, they were ahead of • 28. This parable refers to the refusal of the the priests, who were indifferent to John’s call, chief priests to recognize John the Baptist as a for they felt neither the desire nor the need to messenger of God. change. 55 MATTHEW 22 given to a people who will yield a har- paid no attention and went away, some vest. to their fields, and others to their work. 44 6 (Whoever falls on this stone will be While the rest seized the servants of broken to pieces, and it will ground to the king, insulted them and killed them. 7 dust on whom it falls.)” The king became angry. He sent his 45 14:5 When the chief priests and the troops to destroy those murderers and 21:26 16:14 Pharisees heard these parables, they burn their city. 8 Then he said to his 21:11 Lk realized that Jesus was referring to servants: ‘The wedding banquet is pre- 7:16 Jn them. 46 They would have arrested him, pared, but the invited guests were not 4:19 but they were afraid of the crowd who worthy. 9 Go, then, to the crossroads regarded him as a prophet. and invite everyone you find to the Pro The wedding feast wedding feast.’ 10 9:1-6 (Lk 14:15) The servants went out at once into Rev 19:7 • 1 the streets and gathered everyone they Jesus went on speaking to 22 them in parables: found, good and bad alike, so that the 2 hall was filled with guests. 21:34 “This story throws light on the king- 11 The king came in to see those who 13:47 dom of heaven. A king celebrated the were at table, and he noticed a man not wedding of his son. 3 He sent his ser- wearing the festal garment. 12 So he Rev vants to call the invited guests to the 19:8 said to him: ‘Friend, how did you get in wedding feast, but the guests refused to without the wedding garment?’ But the come. 4 man remained silent. 13 So the king said 8:12 Again he sent other servants order- 25:30 to his servants: ‘Bind his hands and feet Lk ing them to say to the invited guests: ‘I 13:28 and throw him into the dark where there have prepared a banquet, slaughtered is weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ my fattened calves and other animals, and now everything is ready; come • 14 Knowthat many are called, but then, to the wedding feast.’ 5 But they few are chosen.” Every parish that carries out a mission experi- The only table of Christ that Christians usu- ences the same thing: many uncommitted Chris- ally know is the Eucharist. While taking part in tians will neither work as missionaries, nor receive it, we must not forget what has been said above. them, believing they do not need conversion. Our meeting in the Mass should remind us that God calls us to prepare, in our daily lives, for the • 22.1 THE BANQUET banquet reserved by him for all humankind. This parable contains two parts. Ours is the task of uniting and reconciling all In the first part, God invites us to a banquet people. where there is a place for everyone. All through What if we do not answer? Then, little by little, history he has been sending his prophets to the life of the holy and universal Church will be preach justice, the mercy of God and trust in withdrawn from our assemblies of comfortable him. The Jewish nation, however, did not heed Christians, and others will be called to take God’s call through these prophets and now will charge of the work of God: invite to the wed- pay even less heed to Jesus. God’s plan will not ding. fail. He will send his apostles to preach the The second part of the parable points this out: Gospel in foreign nations (go to the exits of the You, Christians, who are already inside the ways) so that non-Jews, too, may enter Church, do you wear the new garment – a life of the Church. Some Jews, however, the selected justice, honesty and trustworthiness? few among so many called, will be the first Let us not believe that the surprised guest who members of the Church. was not properly dressed for the occasion was The king celebrates the wedding of his son, some kind of poor person. No, for it was custom- Christ, who deserves to be called “the bride- ary during those times to supply all guests with groom” of humankind (Mk 2:19), because he the robe they should wear at the banquet. This has become one body with it. All throughout one could have put on the robe but did not, so he history the Risen Christ gathers together mortal had nothing to answer. and divided human beings. The Spirit of God will transform and raise them from the dead, so that • 14. Many are called (v. 14). Some are they may sit at the table of the living, according disturbed upon reading this: does it mean that to the parable. only a few persons will be saved? MATTHEW 22 56 • Paying taxes to Caesar first married a wife, and he died; since (Mk 12:13; Lk 20:20) he had no children, he left his wife to his 15 The Pharisees went out and took brother. 26 The same thing happened to counsel on how they could trap Jesus the second and to the third until the with his own words. 16 They then sent seventh. 27 Then, last of all, the woman their disciples with the members of also died. 28 Now, in the resurrection of Herod’s party for this purpose. the dead, to which of the seven will she They said to Jesus, “Master, we be wife, for all had her as wife?” 29 know that you are an honest man and Jesus answered, “You are totally truly teach God’s way; you are not in- wrong because you understand neither fluenced by others nor are you afraid of the Scriptures nor the power of God. 30 anyone. 17 Tell us, then, what you think: First of all, in the resurrection of the is it against the Law to pay taxes to dead, neither men nor women will Caesar or not?” marry, but they will be like the angels in 18 But Jesus understood their evil in- heaven. 31 As for the resurrection of the tent, and said to them, “Hypocrites! dead, have you never reflected on what Why are you testing me? 19 Show me God said to you: 32 I am the God of Ex 3:6 the coin with which you pay the taxes.” Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the They showed him a denarius, 20 and God of Jacob? He is God, not of the Jesus said to them, “Whose head is dead but of the living.” 33 this, and whose name?” 21 They an- The people who heard him were 7:28 13:54 swered, “Caesar’s.” Then Jesus re- astonished at his teaching. 34 plied, “Therefore, return to Caesar what When the Pharisees heard how is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they 22 Astonished by his answer, they left came together. 35 One of them, a teacher him and went away. of the Law, tried to test him with this question, 36 “Teacher, which is the most The resurrection of the dead important commandment in the Law?” (Mk 12:18; Lk 20:27) 37 Jesus answered, “You shall love Dt • 23 That 6:5 Acts same day, some of the the Lord, your God, with all your heart, 23:8 Sadducees came to Jesus. Since they with all your soul and with all your claim that there is no resurrection, they mind. 38 This is the first and the most 5:43 7:12 Gen questioned him in this way, 24 “Master, important of the commandments. Lev 38:8 39 19:18 Dt Moses said that if anyone dies without But after this there is another one Rom 25:5 any children, his brother must take the very similar to it: You shall love your 13:9 Gal wife and have a child who will be con- neighbor as yourself. 40 The whole Law 15:14 sidered the child of the deceased man. and the Prophets are founded on these 25 Now, there were seven brothers. The two commandments.” If we associate this sentence with the first it also in other places in the Gospel. Here Jesus part of the parable, it means that, of those first advises us (as in 7:13) that only a few discover invited, few will enter the banquet. These through the Gospel true freedom and new life. guests were the Jews and very few, indeed, Then, are they saved? Yes and no – because entered the Church of Jesus. Interpreted in salvation, for Jesus, does not mean to escape connection with the second part of the parable, from the punishment of hell, but to reach perfec- it would mean that few of those entering the tion. Church have the necessary dispositions, so the majority would be condemned at the time of • 15. See the commentary in Mk 12:13. judgment. This contradicts what was related in the parable, because only one of the guests was • 23. See the commentary in Mk 12:18. thrown out. In verse 24 the text reads: “take as a wife the It is better not to associate this saying too much sister-in-law and raise a descendant to his with the parable of the banquet, because we find brother.” 57 MATTHEW 23 The Messiah, Son of God • 2 “The teachers of the Law and the Rom (Mk 12:35; Lk 20:41) 2:17 Pharisees sat on the seat of Moses. 3 So 41 As the Pharisees were gathered you shall do and observe all they say, there, Jesus asked them, 42 “What do but do not do as they do, 4 for they do 11:30 Lk you think of the Messiah? Whose son is not do what they say. They tie up heavy 11:46 he to be?” They answered, “David’s.” burdens and load them on the shoul- 2S 43 Jesus then asked, “Why did David, ders of the people, but they do not even 7:1 inspired by God, call the Messiah Lord? raise a finger to move them. 5 They do 6:1 Num Ps For he says in a psalm: 44 The Lord said everything in order to be seen by 15:38 110: Lk 1Acts to my Lord: Sit at my right until I put people; so they wear very wide bands 14:7 2:34 1Cor your enemies under your feet. 45 If of the Law around their foreheads, and 15:25 David calls him Lord, how can he be his robes with large tassels. 6 They enjoy Heb 1:13 son?” the first place at feasts and reserved 46 No one could answer him, not seats in the synagogues, 7 and being even a word. From that day on, no one greeted in the marketplace and being dared question him anymore. called ‘Master’ by the people. 8 But you, do not let yourselves be Do not imitate the teachers of the Law called Master because you have only (Lk 20:45; Mk 12:38) one Master, and all of you are brothers • 1 ThenJesus said to the crowds and sisters. 9 Neither should you call 23 and to his disciples: anyone on earth Father, because you • 23.1 The fifth Discourse of Matthew’s selves the authority over the people of God and Gospel begins here. Only a few days separate us that to a certain point God tolerates it. Matthew, from Jesus’ departure from this world and it is in recording these words of Jesus, wants to here that Matthew places the words and parables preserve in the Church fundamental equality. It of Jesus that enlighten the disciples on the is the whole Church that enjoys the Holy Spirit, attitude to adopt in face of the times to come. and the heads or doctors will have no authority Scarcely born, the Church will have to face the unless they are deeply rooted in the community’s formidable opposition of Jewish power, espe- life. cially that of the Pharisees. She will therefore Paul will speak of Christ and the Church using follow her own way and separate herself from the comparison of the head and the body (Eph the Jewish communities. This is the main theme 5:25). Likewise in the Church the authority of of chapter 23. Chapter 24 declares that God will the bishop goes hand in hand with fidelity to the confirm this separation through the ruin of the Church that he governs. He has accepted the Jewish nation. The Church, then, should turn Church as it is and does not seek to impose his towards the future and await the return of Christ. own projects. Let her not waste time in waiting for the end of Do all they say. The bad example of the the world but be always ready in active vigilance: authorities does not discredit the word of God. this is chapter 25. Nor does it lessen the principle of authority. Their bad attitude discredits only their pretense • 2. RELIGIOUS AUTHORITIES at being superior to others. They cannot re- Jesus was not from the tribe of Levi, to which nounce their authority on the pretext of humble the priests and those in charge of religious service and then carry out what the majority has activities belonged. He did not, likewise, belong decided. to any religious association, as the Pharisees did. Jesus speaks of the form of authority. Do not He was on the side of the people and saw how be called master or father. Do not be called the leaders of God’s people and the organized “master,” the one “who knows” and before religious elite acted. whom one is silent; neither must you be called Obviously Matthew wants the words of Jesus “father,” the one who is venerated and imitated, to fall on the ears of important personages in the forgetting to look directly at the One who alone communities. Jesus judges in advance the au- is good. No one in the Church should eclipse the thorities of the Church and more especially any only “Father.” group that sees itself the better, the more aware Doubtless everyone will say that the word and the more efficacious. The Pharisees pre- “Father” is simply the expression of respectful tended to be just that, and in a sense they were. affection but Jesus affirms that the word has The teachers of the Law and the Pharisees perverse effects. sat on the seat of Moses. The Gospel says it with The purity of faith, which submits to God more precision: they have seated themselves in alone, always suffers because of the cult of the chair of Moses. This rather ironic formula personality. The Church should be a community suggests that the ambitious appropriate to them- of free persons able to speak frankly. MATTHEW 23 58 have only one Father, he who is in the offering on the altar or the altar 20:26 heaven. 10 Nor should you be called which makes the offering sacred? Lk 20 1:52 leader, because Christ is the only leader Whoever swears by the altar is Ex 14:11 29:37 22:26 for you. 11 Let the greatest among you swearing by the altar and by every- Job be the servant of all. 12 For whoever thing on it. 21 Whoever swears by the 22:29 Pro makes himself great shall be humbled, Temple is swearing by it and by God 29:23 Lk and whoever humbles himself shall be who dwells in the Temple. 22 Whoever 5:33 14:11 made great.” swears by heaven is swearing by the throne of God and by him who is Seven woes for the Pharisees (Lk 11:39) seated on it. 23 Woe to you, teachers of the Law Lev • 13 Therefore, woe to you, teachers 27:30 and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You do of the Law and Pharisees, you hypo- not forget the mint, anise and cumin crites! You shut the door to the kingdom seeds when you pay the tenth of every- of heaven in people’s faces. You your- thing, but then you forget what is most selves do not enter, nor do you allow fundamental in the Law: justice, mercy others to do so. and faith. These you must practice, 14 15:14 Woe to you, teachers of the Law without neglecting the others. 24 Blind Mic Rom 6:8 2:19 and Pharisees, you hypocrites! 15 You guides! You strain out a mosquito, but Am 5:21 travel by sea and land to win a single swallow a camel. convert, yet once he is converted, you 25 Woe to you, teachers of the Law Mk 7:4 turn him twice as fit for hell as your- and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You fill selves. the plate and the cup with theft and 16 Woe to you, blind guides! You say: violence, and then pronounce a bless- To swear by the Temple is not binding, ing over them. 26 Blind Pharisee! Purify but to swear by the treasure of the the inside first, then the outside too will Temple is. 17 Blind fools! Which is of be purified. 27 more worth? The gold in the Temple or Woe to you, teachers of the Law Acts 23:3 the Temple which makes the gold a and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are sacred treasure? You say: 18 To swear like whitewashed tombs beautiful in ap- by the altar is not binding, but to swear pearance, but inside there are only by the offering on the altar is. 19 How dead bones and uncleanness. 28 In the Lk 16:15 blind you are! Which is of more value: same way you appear as religious to • 13. You shut the door to the kingdom THE DEFENDERS OF THE FAITH of heaven (v. 13). Do not forget that “the king- dom of Heaven” means the kingdom of God. How could Jesus call such men hypocrites Many teachers of the people of God are an when they were so versed in the knowledge of obstacle on the path leading to the true knowl- the Bible? edge of God the Father. Even in the smallest In the language of Jesus, the word “hypocrite” village, the Jews had teachers of the Law but in equally denotes what is superficial as well as the fact, crowds came to Jesus to ask for what those one who makes light of what is of God. All the priests and teachers did not give them. How can Pharisees were obviously not hypocrites; but we forget that even in the Church religious Jesus denounces a frequent deformation in the education is often limited to moral compartment religious elite. He calls us to be wary of those and keeping within religious norms? Hearing and institutions born of possessors of wealth and constantly meditating on the Word of God would culture who aspire to direct others – and the have favored the awakening of great ambitions: Church – without having learned from the poor the search for God and apostolic creativity. or practiced true humility. You say: To swear by the treasure of the Temple (vv. 16-22). Jesus refers to the common The mystery of God is so deep that no one can practices in his time. Some teachers found ways present himself as his lieutenant. The Pharisees to get around certain oaths. In that manner, trained, taught and gained many followers in the clever people could swear falsely and deceive faith but their fasts and alms were already re- their opponents by swearing firmly without warded. Pride and love of money were given promising much. their place. 59 MATTHEW 24 others, but you are full of hypocrisy and blood of upright Abel to the blood of wickedness within. Zechariah, son of Barachiah, whom • 29 Woe you murdered between the altar and to you, teachers of the Law the Sanctuary. 36 Truly, I say to you: the and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You present generation will pay for all this. build tombs for the prophets and deco- rate the monuments of the righteous. • 37Jerusalem, Jerusalem! You mur- Lk 30 13:34 You say: Had we lived in the time of der the prophets and stone those sent 1K our ancestors, we would not have to you by God. How often would I have 9:7 Jer joined them in the blood of prophets. gathered your children together, just as 7:14 31 Ezk So, you yourselves confess to be kins a hen gathers her chicks under her 11:23 Tob of those who murdered the prophets. wings, but you refused! 38 Now you will 14:4 32 And now, finish off what your ances- be left with an empty Temple. 39 I tell Ps 118: tors began! you that you will no longer see me until 26 33 Acts Serpents, race of vipers! How can you say: “Blessed is he who comes in Mk 11:9 7:52 you escape condemnation to hell? the name of the Lord!” 34 Lk And so I am sending you prophets, 3:7 10:23 sages and teachers, but you will murder The ruin of Jerusalem and the end of 1 and crucify them, and flog others in the the world Thes (Mk 13; Lk 21; 17:23; 12:36) 2:15 synagogues or drive them from one city to another. • 1 Jesus left the Temple and as 27:25 35 Because of this you will be ac- 24 he was walking away, his dis- Gen 4:10 countable for all the innocent blood that ciples came to him and boasted about Heb 11:4 has been shed on the earth, from the the imposing Temple buildings. 2 But he Lk 19:44 Rev 16:6 THE PROPHETS the sacred books, another to accept the criticism addressed to them by God, not in the sacred • 29. We have on one side “the prophets” books, but from the lips of Jesus, the carpenter. and on the other those who “kill the prophets.” The Bible shows us that the prophets meet with Thus it was that the prominent Jews let the much opposition among the people of God and moment when God visited them slip by – especially among its leaders. following the path that would lead their nation to There is a people of God and this people has ruin. necessarily its institutions which help it to be The example of the Jewish nation must serve faithful to its mission. In fact this people follows as a warning to us. Are our Christian communi- their reflexes and social prejudices, and the ties, confronted today by a major crisis, able to whole institution, even if born of the Spirit, build a poorer and more demanding Church? becomes heavy and hardens with time. Prophets Will they be less preoccupied with their personal are readily condemned when they challenge survival rather than giving the Gospel to the peace and unity in mediocrity or even unfaithful- world? ness to the word of God. The Jewish people, harassed by foreigners, • 37. How harshly Jesus speaks! Jerusalem closed ranks around the Temple, religious prac- was destroyed in the year 587 B.C. If we read the tice and the Pharisee group. Moved by fear, the prophets, we find that Jerusalem’s destruction Jews did what any society would do when was a punishment for its crimes. Now, Jesus threatened: they became fanatically conserva- announces another destruction of wider histori- tive and felt secure in the institutions God had cal consequences: the blood of the prophets, given them in the past. (We are at present the blood of Christ, the blood of the first experiencing the same phenomenon. Our gen- Christians killed by the Jews. eration suddenly finds itself facing, in all areas, You will be left with an empty Temple. The crises and threats for which it was not prepared; presence of God in his Temple would leave them all our certitudes are questioned, and because of once more and be established among the con- this we see emerging in all religions fundamen- verted pagans, as in Ez 8. There will be no further talist groups offering an appearance of safety intervention by God to establish his Kingdom in by enclosing themselves in structures and sys- Israel among the Jewish people until the day tems of thought – or no thought – inherited they welcome the Christ. from the past.) The defenders of the Jewish community were • 24.1 With reference to this great discourse not ready to listen to their prophet. It was one see commentary on Mark 13. thing to honor the prophets of the past and keep In this discourse the Gospel uses the style of MATTHEW 24 60 said, “You see all this? Truly I say to those days, many will stumble and fall; you: not one stone will be left upon they will betray one another and be- another here. All will be thrown down.” come enemies. 11 False prophets will Lk 18:8 3 13:39 Later when Jesus was sitting on the appear and mislead many people, 2Thes 12 2:3 Mount of Olives, the disciples ap- and because of such great wicked- proached him privately and asked, ness, love will grow cold in many “Tell us when this will take place. What people. 13 But the one who holds out to 28:19 10:18 sign will be given us before your com- the end will be saved. 14 The Good Rom 10:18 ing and the end of history?” News of the Kingdom will be pro- 4 Jesus answered, “Be on your guard claimed throughout the world for all the Jn and let no one mislead you. 5 Many will nations to know; then the end will 5:43 come, claiming my title and saying: ‘I come. 15 am the Messiah,’ and they will mislead When you see what the prophet 1Mac 1:54 many people. 6 You will hear about war Daniel foretold: the idol of the invader 6:7 Dn and threats of war, but do not be set up in the Temple (may the reader 9:27 troubled, for these things must happen, understand!), 16 then let those in Judea Jn but it is not yet the end. 7 Nations will flee to the mountains. 16:21 17 Rom fight one another, and kingdom oppose If you are on the housetop, do not Lk 8:22 17:31 1Thes kingdom. There will be famines and come down to take anything with you. 18 5:3 Rev earthquakes in several places, 8 but all If you are in the field, do not turn back 12:2 these are only the beginning: the first to fetch your cloak. 19 How hard it will pains of childbirth. be for pregnant women and mothers 10:17 9 Then they will arrest you, and they with babies at the breast! 20 Pray that it Jn 16:2 will torture and kill you. All nations will may not be in winter or on a sabbath hate you for you bear my name. 10 In that you flee. apocalyptic books (see the Introduction to Rev- generation (vv. 32-35). The day of Jesus (vv. 36 elation). In this kind of literature signs announced and 42) will come much later. great events. Hence the question of those closest The comparison of the two men (or women) to Jesus: “What will be the sign of your coming working together means that, upon the coming at the end of time?” of Jesus, the Judgment will take place, and there The discourse that follows comprises words might be a separation within the same social or pronounced by Jesus in very diverse circum- family group: some headed towards the Lord, stances. Jesus refuses speculation and reminds others to be condemned (vv. 37 and 41). us that Christian history is one of persecution; he Why is it that the Gospel draws a parallel with encourages us to be faithful. the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of In paragraph 24:4-28 Jesus speaks of the time? Simple, because Matthew addresses days of trial (vv. 21 and 29) that will conclude Christians who have just experienced the first with the destruction of Jerusalem that Jesus’ event and are awaiting the second. It is the listeners will witness. It will be possible to run moment when there emerges the Christian vi- away before the disaster occurs (vv. 15-20). sion of the history of these two great stages. The idol of the invader. The Gospel repeats First, we have the time of the Old Testament. an expression of Daniel (9:27) to indicate on this God taught the people of Israel and nurtured occasion, the taking over of the Temple by the their development in order that their history and Roman troops (see commentary on Mk 13:14). experiences be enlightening for other peoples. It will be a time for evangelization, a time for At the end of this period, Jesus came during a persecutions and for Christians’ testimony be- national crisis to give them the full knowledge of fore the Jewish and pagan worlds (vv. 9-14). their mission as a people of God. A minority The Jewish people who did not recognize Jesus believed, but the nation did not convert and as their Savior, will let other saviors, or messiahs, crashed. stir them up against the Romans. The message is then presented to other na- In paragraph 26-28, Jesus shows that this tions, and thus began the time of the New general confusion about the true savior is very far Testament. The Church teaches all peoples who removed from what will happen when he returns must mature as nations and Christians. The at the end of time. Bible implies that New Testament times are In paragraph 29-31 Jesus talks about his leading up to a universal crisis where the Gospel glorious coming. Then Jesus again asserts two will more than ever be a reality: “Believe or you things: the events and signs that refer to the end will die.” It is then that both the New Testament of Jerusalem will take place in the present and history will end. 61 MATTHEW 24 21 Jl For there will be great tribulation earth will pass away, but my words will 2:2 Dn such as was never known from the not pass away. 12:1 Rev beginning of the world until now, and is 36 But as for that Day and that Hour, Acts 7:14 never to be known again. 22 And if that no one knows when it will come, not 1:7 1Thes time were not to be shortened, no one even the angels of God nor the Son, but 5:2 would survive. But God will shorten it only the Father. for the sake of his chosen ones. 37 23 At the coming of the Son of Man it Gen Then, if anyone says to you: ‘Look! 7 will be just as it was in the time of The Messiah is here! He is there!’, do Noah. 38 In those days before the Dt not believe it. 24 For false Messiahs and 13:2 Flood, people were eating and drink- 2Thes false prophets will appear and perform 2:9 ing, and marrying, until the day when signs and wonders so great that they 1Jn Noah went into the ark. 39 Yet they did Jas 2:18 would deceive even God’s chosen 5:7 4:1 not know what would happen until the 2P Rev people, if that were possible. 25 See, I 3:4 13 flood came and swept them away. So have told you everything ahead of 1Jn will it be at the coming of the Son of 2:28 time. 26 Man. 40 Of two men in the field, one will So, if anyone tells you: ‘He is in the be taken and the other left. 41 Of two desert,’ do not go. If they say: ‘He is in women grinding wheat together at the such a secluded place,’ do not believe mill, one will be taken and the other it. 27 For the coming of the Son of Man left. will instead be like lightning which flashes from the east even to the west. Be on the alert 28 Lk ‘Wherever the body is, the vultures 42 17:37 Stay awake, then, for you do not 25:13 will gather.’ know on what day your Lord will come. 43 Is The coming of the Son of Man Just think about this: if the owner of 13:10 Ezk (Mk 13:28; Lk 17:20) the house knew that the thief would 32:8 29 come by night around a certain hour, Jl For later, after that distress, the 3:4 he would stay awake to prevent his Am sun will grow dark, the moon will not house to be broken into. 44 So be alert, 1Thes 8:9 give its light, the stars will fall from the 5:2 Rev for the Son of Man will come at the hour 2P 6:12 skies, and the whole universe will be 3:10 1Thes you least expect. 3:13 shaken. 30 Then the sign of the Son of Rev 3:3 45 2Thes 2:1 Man will appear in heaven: as all the Imagine a capable servant whom 2P nations of the earth beat their breasts, his master has put in charge of his 3:4 Zec they will see the Son of Man coming in household to give them food at the 12:10 Dn the clouds of heaven with divine power proper time. 46 Fortunate indeed is that Lk 12:43 7:13 Rev and the fullness of Glory. 31 He will send servant whom his master will find at 1:7 his angels to sound the trumpet and work when he comes. 47 Truly, I say to Is 27:13 gather the chosen ones from the four you, his lord will entrust that one with 1Cor 15:52 winds, from one end of the earth to the everything he has. 1Thes 48 4:16 other. Not so with the bad servant who 19:28 32 25:21 Learn a lesson from the fig tree. thinks: My master is delayed. 49 And he When its branches grow tender and its begins ill-treating his fellow servants leaves begin to sprout, you know that while eating and drinking with drunk- summer is near. 33 In the same way, ards. 50 But his master will come on the 8:12 13:42 when you see all that I have told you, day he does not know and at the hour know that the time is near, even at the he least expects. 51 He will dismiss that 10:23 door. 34 Truly, I say to you, this gene- servant and deal with him as with the 16:28 ration will not pass away until all these hypocrites, where there will be weeping things have happened. 35 Heaven and and gnashing of teeth. MATTHEW 25 62 The ten bridesmaids are going out.’ 9 The sensible ones an- (Mk 13:35; Lk 13:25) swered: ‘There may not be enough for Lk • 1 This story throws light on what both you and us. You had better go to 12:35 25 will happen in the kingdom of those who sell and buy for yourselves.’ heaven. Ten bridesmaids went out with 10 They were out buying oil when the Rev 19:7 their lamps to meet the bridegroom. bridegroom came, and those who were 2 Five of them were careless while the ready went with him to the wedding others were sensible. feast, and the doors were shut. 3 The careless bridesmaids took their 11 Later the rest of the bridesmaids Mk 13:25 lamps as they were and did not bring arrived and called out: ‘Lord, Lord, extra oil. 4 But those who were sensible, open to us.’ 12 But he answered: ‘Truly, I brought with their lamps flasks of oil. do not know you.’ 5 As the bridegroom delayed, they all 13 So, stay awake, for you do not Mk grew drowsy and fell asleep. know the day nor the hour. 13:35 6 But at midnight, a cry rang out: ‘The bridegroom is here, come out and The parable of the talents (Lk 19:12; Mk 4:25; 13:34) meet him!’ 7 All the maidens woke up at once and trimmed their lamps. 8 Then • 14 Imagine someone who, before Mk 13:34 the careless ones said to the sensible going abroad, summoned his servants ones: ‘Give us some oil, for our lamps to entrust his property to them. 15 He • 25.1 FAITHFULNESS • 14. TO WORK – TO TRUST ONESELF The three parables that follow tell us how to During the time of Jesus, a talent was an await the return of Christ, being alert and amount, thirty kilograms of precious metal, but active. The first, “the ten bridesmaids” is the in this parable when Jesus spoke of talents he most beautiful parable on fidelity. The ten girls referred to the abilities given by God to each of followed the custom of waiting through the us. Since then, people came to understand the night for the bridegroom who will be accompa- word “talent” in this sense. nied to his house. The bridegroom is late, Good and faithful servant (v. 21). Faithful: it something that should astonish no one. The would be better translated: “reliable.” We do not bride is not mentioned: perhaps they will dis- find any word of religious vocabulary in this cover at the end that there was no other than parable. themselves. God sees the way one has used his talents, and They fell asleep. Once the sun has set, all is the sin is to have kept for self what one has dark and nothing more can be done (Jn 9:4). No received. What condemnation of a society where further work except fidelity of heart (Dt 5:2): oil it is usual to enjoy and consume what has been will be needed to keep the flame alive. received: a better human formation and knowl- Here as in other places, the Gospel shows us edge inherited from the homeland which should that more than conversion and enthusiasm is be transmitted to one’s descendants, the bless- needed: it is necessary to last (7-24). Being sure ings and benefits of a family where the parents of having a reserve of oil is to take the means that knew how to sacrifice themselves for their chil- enable us to persevere in our vocation. dren, and perhaps the Word of God to be carried out in order to realize God’s great plan for the Some will say that Matthew has placed this world. parable here for the benefit of the first Chris- I will entrust you with much more. What we tians, for after having awaited the return of achieve on earth is not definitive but only the Christ, they saw that nothing happened. Error! scaffolding: quite other will be the riches that Jesus speaks to the believers of all times. For God will distribute to those who will live in him. them one day or another fidelity becomes You know that I reap where I have not sown burdensome: “I did not know to what I was (v. 26). As in Luke 18:1, Jesus is aware of our committing myself.” There lies the grandeur of unavowed defiance towards God and takes us at fidelity. It cannot be known in advance; giving our word. If we do not aspire to the place that the one’s hand to God is a jump into the unknown. husband reserves for a wife (25:1), let us try at Only through this perseverance can we be least not to be useless servants. saved (Mt 24:13), in other words, find our- There are many opportunities for us to take selves. initiatives, but we often are afraid to put our- The Lord demands faithfulness and persever- selves forward: “I am not the most qualified.” ance from those he has chosen: this is how we What if those who are qualified have not budged? save a world that seeks truth everywhere and Then, take the talent from him and give it to does not know to which Lord to surrender. someone else. 63 MATTHEW 25 24 gave five talents of silver to one, then Finally, the one who had received Jn 4:37 two to another, and one to a third, each one talent came and said: ‘Master, I one according to his ability; and he know that you are an exacting man. went away. You reap what you have not sown and 16 He who received five talents went gather what you have not invested. 25 I at once to do business with the money was afraid, so I hid your money in the and gained another five. 17 The one who ground. Here, take what is yours.’ 26 But received two did the same and gained his master replied: ‘Wicked and worth- another two.18 But the one with one tal- less servant, you know that I reap ent dug a hole and hid his master’s where I have not sown and gather money. where I have not invested. 27 Then you 19 After a long time, the master of should have deposited my money in those servants returned and asked for a the bank, and you would have given it 18:23 reckoning. 20 The one who received five back to me with interest on my return. talents came with another five talents, 28 Therefore, take the talent from saying: ‘Lord, you entrusted me with him, and give it to the one who has ten. five talents, but see I have gained five 29 For to all those who have, more will 13:12 19:28 more with them.’ 21 The master an- be given, and they will have an abun- 24:47 Lk swered: ‘Very well, good and faithful dance; but from those who are unpro- 16:10 Jn servant, since you have been faithful in ductive, even what they have will be 15:10 a few things, I will entrust you with taken from them. 30 As for that useless much more. Come and share the joy of servant, throw him out into the dark your master.’ where there will be weeping and gnash- 22 Then the one who had two talents ing of teeth.’ came and said: ‘Lord, you entrusted me with two talents; I have two more which The last judgment (Lk 9:26) I gained with them.’ 23 The master said: ‘Well, good and faithful servant, since • 31 “When the Son of Man comes in Zec 14:5 you have been faithful in little things, I his glory with all his angels, he will sit Rev will entrust you with much more. Come on the throne of his Glory. 32 All the 3:21 20:11 and share the joy of your master.’ nations will be brought before him, and • 31. THE UNIVERSAL JUDGEMENT afterlife, the kingdom of God is presented to We know that Christians are a minority in the them with its only law: Love. world. As we do now, the Jews wondered about There is no neutral place. The fire means the the majority of nations in the world, who were torment of those who condemned themselves by not among the Chosen People and did not know closing and freezing their hearts so that they about God or his promises. The Jews envisioned became incapable of love: now the splendor of a huge multitude, ready to “devour them,” a God, who is love, burns and pains them. restless world where God should one day impose Whenever you did this to these little ones his Law. They used to call them: the nations. who are my brothers and sisters (v. 40). Jesus Jesus goes beyond these narrow perspectives speaks of looking after our neighbor, be he friend and shows us how he will judge everyone, mak- or foe, not of serving the community, or a class, ing no distinctions based on origins when he or a nation in general, because using these words, comes as King of all nations. All those who, we often exclude a group of our brothers and without knowing Christ, have shared in the sisters, who do not belong to our nation or to our common destiny of humankind, will be judged by class. On the other hand, one who really loves, him. In fact, he never abandoned them, but acknowledges his sisters and brothers without placed at their side “those little ones who are his giving too much importance to any labels: it is the brothers and sisters,” as his representatives. person who exists and lives for God. See, Christ reveals the innumerable human And these will go into eternal punishment deeds that have built what is best in our civiliza- (v. 46). There is something that shocks us today tion, and people brought before him look with in the division of the good and the wicked, and amazement at the God whom they loved or it seems to us to be an outdated view (see com. despised in the person of their neighbor. Al- on Mt 13:36). In one sense it is true. Up to the though the majority of them never thought of the recent times people were mainly “of one idea.” MATTHEW 25 64 as a shepherd separates the sheep from into your house; I was naked and you Ezk the goats, 33 so will he do with them, did not clothe me; I was sick and in 34:17 Lk placing the sheep on his right and the prison and you did not visit me.’ 12:32 goats on his left. 44 They, too, will ask: ‘Lord, when did 34 Lk The King will say to those on his we see you hungry, thirsty, naked or a 22:30 Rom right: ‘Come, blessed of my Father! stranger, sick or in prison, and did not 8:17 Eph Take possession of the kingdom pre- help you?’ 45 The King will answer 1:4 pared for you from the beginning of the them: ‘Truly, I say to you: whatever you Is world. 35 For I was hungry and you fed did not do for one of these little ones, 58:7 me, I was thirsty and you gave me you did not do for me.’ drink. 36 I was a stranger and you wel- 46 And these will go into eternal pun- Dn comed me into your house. I was naked ishment, but the just to eternal life.” 12:2 Jn and you clothed me. I was sick and you 5:29 visited me. I was in prison and you 1 came to see me.’ When he 26 wanted Jesus had finished alldis- to say, he told his 37 Then the good people will ask him: ciples, 2 “You know that in two days’ Ex 12:1 ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and time it will be the Passover and the Son give you food; thirsty and give you of Man will be handed over to be cruci- drink, 38 or a stranger and welcome fied.” you, or naked and clothe you? 39 When 3 Then the chief priests and the Jew- Jn did we see you sick or in prison and go ish authorities gathered together at the 11:47 Acts Pro to see you?’ 40 The King will answer, palace of the High Priest whose name 4:25 19:17 Mk ‘Truly, I say to you: whenever you did was Caiaphas, 4 and they agreed to trap 9:41 Lk this to these little ones who are my Jesus and kill him. 5 But they said 10:16 Acts brothers and sisters, you did it to me.’ among themselves, “Not during the 41 9:5 Then he will say to those on his feast, lest there be an uprising among 7:23 left: ‘Go, cursed people, out of my sight the people.” Mk 9:48 into the eternal fire which has been pre- Rev pared for the devil and his angels! 42 For The anointing at Bethany 20:10 (Jn 12; Mk 14:9) I was hungry and you did not give me 6 anything to eat, I was thirsty and you While Jesus was in Bethany in the Lk 7:36 gave me nothing to drink; 43 I was a house of Simon the leper, 7 a woman stranger and you did not welcome me came up to him carrying a precious jar It did not take long for youth to see what were the To say that God is so good that he will save options in life, rarely did a person find more than them at the last moment is to affirm something one religion in the local milieu and she would that Jesus never intended to say. It would mean choose either the “right” road or the “wrong” that all that a person lived through was of slight road. Some conversions for better or worse importance and that our freedom was no more would follow (Ez 8), but humanity seemed to be than a game. divided between the good and the evil. Today it What Jesus says about judging non-Christian is quite different: the choices we make are people likewise applies to us. But we would be extremely complex and it takes time to discern mistaken if we repeatedly presented this par- clearly. All of life or much of it today may be lived able as expressing the totality of Christian by a person who has within the self a good and duties. What the world needs above all is not an evil being at the same time. bread and water and clothing, but the truth and Let us understand then that Jesus spoke the the hope that God entrusted to his chosen language of the prophets, schematizing options. people. Christians would be unfaithful to their In fact Jesus denounces, not heinous crimes but mission if they confined themselves to merely selfishness in daily life as is found in each of us, talking about assistance, housing and the like and he depicts, like a father to his children the and forgot what is really life for humankind – end towards which we are heading. It is to be first, the knowledge and love of their Lord. He hoped that the great majority will not reject the will always be first and we need him to be so for truth; certain persons consciously choose their us. He takes as done to himself all that we do for own ruin and unfortunately are capable of con- our sisters and brothers but does not want to be tinuing in their choice to the bitter end. confused with them. 65 MATTHEW 26 of expensive perfume. She poured it on the dish with me. 24 The Son of Man is Job 3:3 Jesus’ head as he was at table. 8 Seeing going as the Scriptures say he will. But Ps 22 this the disciples became indignant, alas for that one who betrays the Son of Jn protesting, “What a useless waste! Man; better for him not to have been 17:12 9 The perfume could have been sold for born.” 25 Judas, who was betraying 14:19 15:36 a large sum and given to the poor.” him, also asked, “You do not mean me, 10 But Jesus was aware of this, so he Master, do you?” Jesus replied, “You said to them, “Why are you troubling have said it.” 26 this woman? What she has just done for While they were eating, Jesus took 1Cor 10:16 Dt me is indeed a good work. 11 You al- bread, said a blessing and broke it, and Ex 15:11 24:8 ways have the poor with you but you gave it to his disciples saying, “Take Jer will not have me forever. 12 She was and eat; this is my body.” 27 Then he 31:31 Zec preparing for my funeral when she took a cup and gave thanks, and 9:11 Heb anointed my body with this perfume. passed it to them saying, “Drink this, 9:20 13 Truly, I say to you: wherever the Gos- all of you, 28 for this is my blood, the pel is proclaimed, all over the world, blood of the Covenant, which is poured what she has done will be told in praise out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 of her.” Yes, I say to you: I will not taste the Jn 12:23 Jn 14 Then one of the Twelve, who was fruit of the vine from now until the day I 13:1 11:57 17:1 called Judas Iscariot, went off to the drink new wine with you in my Father’s 27:3 chief priests and said, 15 “How much kingdom.” Gen 30 37:28 will you give me if I hand him over to After singing psalms of praise, Zec 11:12 you?” They promised to give him thirty they went out to the Mount of Olives. pieces of silver, 16 and from then on he 31 Then Jesus said to them, “You will Zec 13:7 kept looking for the best way to hand falter tonight because of me, and all will him over to them. fall. For the Scripture says: I will strike the shepherd and the sheep will be The last supper (Mk 14:12; Lk 22:7; Jn 13:1) scattered. 32 But after my resurrection I 17 will go ahead of you to Galilee.” Ex On the first day of the Festival of 33 Peter responded, “Even though all 12:14 the Unleavened Bread, the disciples doubt you and fall, I will never fall.” came to Jesus and said to him, “Where 34 Jesus replied, “Truly, I say to you: this do you want us to prepare the Passover very night before the cock crows, you Jn meal for you?” 18 Jesus answered, “Go will deny me three times.” 35 Peter said, Jn 2:4 into the city, to the house of a certain “Though I have to die with you, I will 11:16 man, and tell him: ‘The Master says: My never deny you.” And all the disciples hour is near, and I will celebrate the said the same. Passover with my disciples in your house.” Gethsemane Jn 12:27 19 (Mk 14:32; Lk 22:39) The disciples did as Jesus had or- dered and prepared the Passover meal. 36 Jesus came with them to a place Jn 18:1 20 When it was evening, Jesus sat at called Gethsemane, and he said to his table with the Twelve. 21While they were disciples, “Sit here while I go over to eating, Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you: pray.” 37 Ps one of you will betray me.” 22 They were He took Peter and the two sons of 17:1 41:10 Mk Jn deeply distressed and asked him in Zebedee along with him, and he began 5:37 13:18 turn, “You do not mean me, do you, to be filled with anguish and distress. 38 Lord?” And he said to them, “My soul is filled 23 Is He answered, “He who will betray with sorrow even to death. Remain here 53:9 me is one of those who dips his bread in and stay awake with me.” MATTHEW 26 66 39 Heb He went a little farther and fell to Jesus and said, “Good evening, Mas- 5:7 Jn the ground, with his face touching the ter” and he gave him a kiss. 50 But Jesus 4:34 6:38 earth, and prayed, “Father, if it is pos- said to him, “Friend, do what you came Rom 5:19 sible, take this cup away from me. Yet for.” Then they laid hold of Jesus and Phil not what I want, but what you want.” arrested him. 2:8 40 He went back to his disciples and 51 One of those who were with Jesus found them asleep, and he said to Pe- drew his sword and struck at the ser- ter, “Could you not stay awake with me vant of the High Priest, cutting off his 6:13 for even an hour? 41 Stay awake and ear. 52 So Jesus said to him, “Put your Gen 20:22 9:6 pray, so that you may not slip into sword back into its place, for he who Rev temptation. The spirit indeed is eager, uses the sword will perish by the sword. 13:10 but human nature is weak.” 53 Do you not know that I could call on Jn 18:36 2Cor 42 He again went away and prayed, my Father, and he would at once send 12:8 “Father, if this cup cannot be taken me more than twelve legions of angels. 54 away from me without my drinking it, If Scripture says that this has to be, let your will be done.” 43 When he came should it not be fulfilled?” back to his disciples, he again found 55 At that moment, Jesus said to the Lk 19:47 them asleep, for they could not keep crowd, “Why do you come to arrest me 21:37 Jn their eyes open. 44 He left them and with swords and clubs, as if I were a 18:20 again went to pray the third time, say- robber? Day after day I was seated ing the same words. among you teaching in the Temple, yet 45 Jn Then he came back to his disciples you did not arrest me. 56 But all this has Zec 14:30 13:7 and said to them, “You can sleep on come about in fulfillment of what the Jn 16:32 now and take your rest! The hour has Prophets said.” Then all his disciples come and the Son of Man is now given deserted him and fled. over into the power of sinners. 46 Get Jesus before the Sanhedrin up, let us go. Look: the betrayer is (Mk 14:53; Lk 22:54) here.” • 57 Those who had arrested Jesus Jesus arrested brought him to the house of the High • 47 Jesus was still speaking when Priest Caiaphas, where the teachers of Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With the Law and the Jewish authorities him was a crowd armed with swords were assembled. 58 and clubs, who had been sent by the Peter followed him at a distance as Jn 18:15 chief priests and the Jewish authorities. far as the courtyard of the High Priest; 48 The traitor had arranged a signal for he entered and sat with the guards, them: “The one I kiss, he is the man; waiting to see the end. arrest him.” 49 And he went directly to 59 The chief priests and the whole • 47. See commentary on Mark 14:43. • 57. We find two accusations against Jesus. The kiss of Judas: this was the usual way a The first: I am able to destroy (v. 61) is false in disciple greeted his master. one sense, but it refers to the words Jesus had spoken about replacing the Temple of Jerusa- He drew his sword (v. 51). Peter, like other lem with another religion centered in his own apostles who took part in resistance movements person (Jn 2:19) and that was indeed subversive. against Roman oppression, brought swords (Lk Nothing was more sacred to the Jews than the 22:49). Temple of Jerusalem, and to attack the Temple He who uses the sword. This sentence does was, at the same time, to threaten the position of not condemn soldiers and policemen in a world the priests whose power was based on the fact of violence, but Jesus asserts that weapons do that they alone could perform sacrificial rites in not establish the kingdom of God, nor do they the Temple. They also amassed wealth from lead to life. Force leads to death (in one way or offerings and taxes that the people paid to the another) for those (and for the institutions) who temple. In defending the holy things, they were use it, even where it is necessary. also protecting their own interests. 67 MATTHEW 27 Supreme Council needed some false Peter disowns Jesus evidence against Jesus, so that they (Mk 14:66; Lk 22:56) might put him to death. 60 But they were • 69 Meanwhile, as Peter sat outside 26:34 unable to find any, even though false in the courtyard, a young servant-girl 27:40 witnesses came forward. 61 At last, two of the house said to him, “You also were Jn 2:19 men came up and declared, “This man with Jesus of Galilee.” 70 But he denied Acts 6:14 said: I am able to destroy the temple of it before everyone, saying, “I do not God and rebuild it in three days.” know what you are talking about.” 62 Is The High Priest then stood up and 71 And as Peter was going out to the 53:7 asked Jesus, “Have you no answer at gateway, another servant-girl saw him all? What is this evidence against you?” and told the bystanders, “This man was 63 But Jesus kept silent. with Jesus of Nazareth.” So the High Priest said to him, “In the 72 Peter denied it again with an oath, name of the living God, I command you swearing, “I do not know that man.” to tell us: Are you the Messiah, the Son 73 After a little while, those who were 24:30 of God?” 64 Jesus answered, “It is just as standing there approached Peter and Dn 7:13 you say. I tell you more: from now on, said to him, “Of course you are one of Ps 110: you will see the Son of Man seated at the the Galileans; your accent gives you 1 right hand of the Most Powerful God and away.” 74 Peter began justifying himself coming on the clouds of heaven.” with curses and oaths protesting that 65 Then the High Priest tore his he did not know the man. Just then a clothes, saying, “He has blasphemed. cock crowed. What more evidence do we need? You 75 And Peter remembered the words have just heard these blasphemous of Jesus, “Before the cock crows, you Num words. 66 What is your decision?” They will deny me three times.” And he went 14:6 Ezra answered, “He must die!” 67 Then they away weeping bitterly. 9:3 Jer began to spit on Jesus and slap him 36:24 while others hit him with their fists, • 1 Early in the morning all the 12:14 Acts 14:14 Lev 68 saying, “Messiah, prophesy! Who hit 27 chief priests and the Jewish au- 24:16 you?” thorities met to look for ways of putting Jn 19:7 For the second accusation, which is the most least of all the men; instead they mock him for his important, see commentary on Mark 14:53. provincial Galilean accent, the same as Jesus’ Jesus kept silent (v. 63). Not out of contempt accent! It was enough to make Peter lose his for those men, who were the religious authori- composure. ties, but because he saw it was useless to argue In placing this episode just after the witness of with them. He remained silent and felt confident, Jesus in the presence of the High Priest, the as do those who put their cause in the hands of Gospel intends to contrast Peter’s attitude with God. that of his Master. It is just as you say (v. 64). Perhaps this • 27.1 Why this second appearance of answer of Jesus should be translated: “You are Jesus before the Supreme Council or the one saying it,” which is to say that Jesus did Sanhedrin? It is difficult to find agreement on this not agree with the terms used by Caiaphas. The point in the Gospels. expression “Son of God” signified the kings and It would seem that during the night Jesus was saviors of Israel, and Jesus is the Son of God in presented to Annas, ex-high priest, (succeeded a very different sense. Jesus identifies himself by five sons and son-in-law Caiaphas). He re- with the prophecy of Daniel 7:13, announcing a tained real authority among the great priestly Savior, a Son of Man, who comes directly from families. The Sanhedrin was not complete: the God from all eternity. seventy-one members could not be accommo- dated in the house of Caiaphas. Besides, the • 69. This denial by Peter is most amazing. Council could not legally hold a session during His friend John is well known in the house of the the night; so it met in the morning. high priest and Peter was introduced as his friend For the enemies of Jesus this private interro- (Jn 18:16). The young girl knows very well who gation was the most important, and that is why John is and does not say anything beyond an Matthew and Mark place there all that they know ironic word to Peter. Nobody is threatening him, of the trial of Jesus (Mt 26:57-64). MATTHEW 27 68 Jesus to death. 2 They had him bound question, so that the governor won- and led him away to be handed over to dered. Pilate, the governor. • 15 It was customary for the gover- The death of Judas nor to release any prisoner the people Acts • 3 When Judas, the traitor, realized asked for on the occasion of the Pass- 1:18 that Jesus had been condemned, he over. 16 Now there was a well-known was filled with remorse and returned prisoner called Barabbas. 17 As the Acts 3:14 the thirty pieces of silver to the chief people had gathered, Pilate asked priests and the elders, 4 saying, “I have them, “Whom do you want me to set sinned by betraying an innocent man to free: Barabbas, or Jesus called the death.” They answered, “What does it Messiah?” 18 For he realized that Jesus matter to us? That is your concern.” had been handed over to him out of 27:24 5 So, throwing the money into the envy. 19 Temple, he went away and hanged As Pilate was sitting in court, his himself. wife sent him this message, “Have 6 The priests picked up the money, nothing to do with that holy man. Be- and said, “This money cannot be put cause of him I had a dream last night into the Temple treasury, for this is the that disturbed me greatly.” 20 price of blood.” 7 So they met together But the chief priests and the El- and decided to buy the Potter’s Field ders stirred the crowds to ask for the with the money and make it a cemetery release of Barabbas and the death of for foreigners. 8 This is why that place Jesus. 21 When the governor asked has been called Field of Blood to this them again, “Which of the two do you day. want me to set free?” they answered, Zec 9 So what the prophet Jeremiah said “Barabbas.” 22 Pilate said to them, “And 11:12 was fulfilled: They took the thirty pieces what shall I do with Jesus called the of silver, the price the sons of Israel set Messiah?” All answered, “Crucify him!” 23 on him. 10 And they gave them for the Pilate insisted, “What evil has he Acts 13:28 Potter’s Field, as the Lord commanded done?” But they shouted louder, “Cru- me. cify him!” Jesus before Pilate • 24Pilate realized that he was getting (Mk 15:1; Lk 23:2; Jn 18:29) nowhere and that instead there could 2:2 11 Jesus stood before the governor be a riot. He then asked for water and who questioned him, “Are you the King washed his hands before the people, of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “You saying, “I am not responsible for his say so.” blood. It is your doing.” 25 And all the Dn 13:46 12 The chief priests and the Elders people answered, “Let his blood be Acts 18:6 accused him, but he made no answer. upon us and upon our children.” 13 26 Pilate said to him, “Do you hear all Then Pilate set Barabbas free, but the charges they bring against you?” had Jesus scourged, and handed him 14 Jn 19:9 But he did not answer even a single over to be crucified. • 3. Judas, as soon as he betrays Jesus, Pilate proposes to the people a choice between disappears from the scene and dies. We do not Jesus called Barabbas and Jesus called the Mes- even know what happened with the thirty coins: siah. see Acts 1:18. • 24. Pilate asked for water… (v. 24). The • 15. According to very old texts of the Jews understood this gesture as a clear expres- Gospel of Matthew the name of the trouble- sion of his refusal to become the judge or accuser maker was Jesus, his nickname being Barabbas. of Jesus (see Dt 21:6; Ps 26:6). 69 MATTHEW 27 The way of the cross Calvary) which means the Skull, (Mk 15:16; Lk 23:11) 34 they offered him wine mixed with Ps • 27 The 69:22 Roman soldiers took Jesus gall. Jesus tasted it but would not take into the palace of the governor and the it. 35 whole troop gathered around him. There they crucified him and di- Ps 22:19 28 They stripped him and dressed him vided his clothes among themselves, in a purple military cloak. 29 Then, casting lots to decide what each should twisting a crown of thorns, they forced take. 36 Then they sat down to guard it onto his head, and placed a reed in him. 37 The statement of his offense was his right hand. They knelt before Jesus displayed above his head and it read, and mocked him, saying, “Long life to “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” 38 the King of the Jews!” 30 They spat on They also crucified two bandits with Lk 22:37 him, took the reed from his hand and him, one on his right and one on his left. 39 struck him on the head with it. People passing by shook their Lm 2:15 31 When they had finished mocking heads and insulted him, 40 saying, him, they pulled off the purple cloak “Aha! So you will destroy the Temple 26:61 Jn and dressed him in his own clothes and build it up again in three days. Now 2:19 again, and led him out to be crucified. save yourself and come down from the 32 On the way they met a man from cross, if you are Son of God.” 41 Cyrene called Simon, and forced him to In the same way the chief priests, carry the cross of Jesus. 33 When they the Elders and the teachers of the Law reached the place called Golgotha (or mocked him. 42 They said, “The man • 27. In the inner yard called the Pretorium, with God, hated and killed, (and so different from the soldiers make fun of Jesus in full view of the God worshiped in heaven) will gush waters Pilate and all the people employed in the of pardon and purification (Zec 13:1). palace. They offered him wine mixed with gall Twisting a crown of thorns, they forced it (v. 34). According to Mark, they gave him bitter- onto his head (v. 29). In all probability, local reed sweet wine, a drink of the soldiers, mixed with was woven in the form of a cap and entwined myrrh, to dull the pain. This drink had probably with long thorns. been prepared according to custom by the chari- The soldiers enjoy the game of the fallen king. table women of Jerusalem, perhaps the same In many cultures the king was a divine character mentioned by Luke in 23:28. Matthew speaks of and, at the same time, often became the victim wine with bile (a detestable drink) to give us an responsible for all evils. Therefore, the game of inkling of all the bitterness that Jesus had to the king was known in many places. One en- swallow, and also to recall Psalm 69:22. graved tile that was a soldiers’ game has been They also crucified two bandits with him (v. found in Jerusalem. On it is seen the journey of 38). Perhaps they were, like Barabbas, national- the king through many trials ending with his ist terrorists opposed to the Romans. They could assassination. have been the companions of Barabbas, and The soldiers made this game a reality, without their execution enhanced the favor done to Ba- realizing how true it actually was. A triumphal rabbas. If so, they would have to die along with Procession with Palms led to the arrest of Jesus, Jesus instead of Barabbas. They could also have but the humiliation of Jesus prepared him to be belonged to a group of bandits who assaulted the king, the Savior of all, as told in the story of and robbed pilgrims in the hills of Palestine. Joseph (Gen 37–44), or more vividly described This is Jesus, the king of the Jews (v. 37). For by the Prophet Isaiah (52:13). Pilate and the people in general, this expression Jesus is Savior, because he is the victim. He signified a nationalist leader in the movement for broke the mechanism of violence, because he liberation from the Roman yoke. suffered the greatest violence without becoming The Jews are the people of God and the Father violent himself. In his humiliation, Jesus shows arranged that they would be associated, in a very the greatness and the power of God. He took special way, with the salvation Christ brings. In upon himself all the humiliations of the defense- fact, they were later subjected to many trials and less, the dejected, the victims on whom were persecutions. Many Jews have suffered like heaped the mindless violence of peoples and Jesus without believing in him, but confident in their leaders. Jesus bears the sin of the world, as the promises of God and in the kingdom of announced by Isaiah. In the future, no one will be Justice. Jesus is really their king. able to look at him without discovering their own In Latin, the letters I.N.R.I. (that we read on wickedness, and mourning for him who was crucifixes) are the initial letters of Jesus of Naza- their victim (Zec 12:12). From this encounter reth, King of the Jews. MATTHEW 27 70 who saved others cannot save himself. were Mary Magdalene, Mary the Let the King of Israel now come down mother of James and Joseph, and the from his cross and we will believe in mother of Zebedee’s sons. Ps him. 43 He trusted in God; let God res- 22:9 cue him if God wants to, since he him- The burial Wis 2:17 (Mk 15:42; Lk 23:50; Jn 19:38) self said: I am the Son of God.” 57 Jn 44 Even the robbers who were cruci- It was now evening and there ar- 5:18 10:36 fied with him insulted him. rived a wealthy man from Arimathea, 19:7 45 From midday darkness fell over named Joseph, who was also a disciple the whole land until mid-afternoon. of Jesus. 58 He went to Pilate and asked Dt 21:23 Mk 46 At about three o’clock, Jesus cried for the body of Jesus, and the governor 15:34 Ps out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lamma ordered that the body be given him. 59 22:2 Sabbacthani?” which means: My God, So Joseph took the body of Jesus, my God, why have you forsaken me? wrapped it in a clean linen sheet 60 and Acts 13:29 47 As soon as they heard this, some of laid it in his own new tomb which had the bystanders said, “He is calling for been cut out of the rock. Then he rolled Elijah.” 48 And one of them went a huge stone across the entrance of the quickly, took a sponge and soaked it in tomb and left. 61 Mary Magdalene and Jn 19:25 vinegar and, putting it on a reed, gave the other Mary remained sitting there in him to drink. 49 Others said, “Leave him front of the tomb. alone, let us see whether Elijah comes The guards at the tomb to his rescue.” 50 Then Jesus cried out again in a 62 On the following day (the day after loud voice and gave up his spirit. the Preparation for the Passover), the After the death of Jesus chief priests and the Pharisees went to • 51 Just Pilate 63 and said to him, “Sir, we re- 12:40 Ex then the curtain of the member that when that impostor was 16:21 26:33 Rev Temple sanctuary was torn in two from still alive, he said: I will rise after three 21:2 top to bottom, the earth quaked, rocks days. 64 Therefore, have his tomb se- were split, 52 tombs were opened, and cured until the third day, lest his dis- several holy people who had died were ciples come and steal the body and say 1P raised to life. 53 They came out of the to the people: He was raised from the 3:19 tombs after the resurrection of Jesus, dead. This would be a worse lie than the entered the Holy City and appeared to first.” 65 Pilate answered them, “You many. have soldiers, go and take all the nec- 54 Rev The captain and the soldiers who essary precautions”. 66 So they went to 11:13 guarded Jesus were greatly terrified the tomb and secured it, sealing the when they saw the earthquake and all stone and placing it under guard. that had happened, and said, “Truly, this man was a Son of God.” Jesus appears to the women 55 (Mk 16:1; Lk 24:1; Jn 20:1) There were also some women there who watched from a distance; • 1 After the Sabbath, at the dawn they had followed Jesus from Galilee 28 of the first day of the week, Mary Lk and saw to his needs. 56 Among them Magdalene and the other Mary went to 8:2 13:55 20:20 • 51. This paragraph declares in apocalyptic tombs signify that the Risen Christ conquers the style that the death of Jesus marked the comple- kingdom of the dead. tion of definitive salvation. Some apparitions of dead persons were interpreted as a sign of • 28.1 THE RISEN CHURCH fulfillment of the prophecies of Daniel (12:2) On the apparitions of the risen Jesus, see the referring to the Day of Salvation. The open commentary on Lk 24:1. 71 MATTHEW 28 visit the tomb. 2 Suddenly there was a worshiped him. 10 But Jesus said to violent earthquake: an angel of the them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my Lord descending from heaven, came to brothers to set out for Galilee; there the stone, rolled it from the entrance of they will see me.” 17:2 the tomb, and sat on it. 3 His appear- 11 While the women were on their Acts 1:10 ance was like lightning and his garment way, the guards returned to the city and white as snow. 4 The guards trembled in some of them reported to the chief fear and became like dead men when priests all that had happened. 12 The they saw the angel. chief priests met with the Jewish au- 5 The angel said to the women, “Do thorities and decided to give the sol- not be afraid, for I know that you are diers a good sum of money, 13 with this looking for Jesus who was crucified. instruction, “Say that his disciples 6 He is not here, for he is risen as he came by night while you were asleep, said. Come, see the place where they and stole the body of Jesus. 14 If Pilate 26:32 laid him; 7 then go at once and tell his comes to know of this, we will satisfy Mk 14:28 disciples that he is risen from the dead him and keep you out of trouble.” Jn 21 and is going ahead of you to Galilee. 15 The soldiers accepted the money and You will see him there. This is my mes- did as they were told. This story has sage for you.” circulated among the Jews until this 8 They left the tomb at once in holy day. fear, yet with great joy, and they ran to tell the news to the disciples. Jesus 'sends the apostles 9 Suddenly, Jesus met them on the • 16 As for the Eleven disciples, they way and said, “Peace.” The women ap- went to Galilee, to the mountain where proached him, embraced his feet and Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they This first paragraph is still in apocalyptic style, rienced. In Galilee, Jesus will manifest himself with its resplendent angel and another earth- differently, making them understand that he is quake. The Gospel refuses to describe a trium- already glorified, that his existence is earthly no phal departure of Jesus, as his readers would more. have preferred. The risen Jesus is only seen by A woman, Mary Magdalene, conveys the mes- those who believe: the women who look for him sage, in order to indicate that, in the Church, not will see him, the soldiers and rulers who do not everything will come from the authorities. God seek him will not understand. communicates with whomever he wishes, giving The evangelist mentions the names of Mary of prophetic messages to simple people and to Magdala and the other Mary, the mother of women. James and of Joseph (Mt 27:55), two of the The resurrection of Christ is the pivotal point “brothers of Jesus” (Mt 13:55), his closest cous- of the Gospel; yet Matthew reports it briefly. ins. (She is a relative of Mary, the mother of Why? Because when Matthew wrote his Gospel, Jesus, Jn 19:25). the Resurrection was considered too great an Suddenly, Jesus met them on the way (v. 9). event to put into writing: rather, it should be It is obvious that Matthew is combining two proclaimed and witnessed to by the Spirit at different events; one, the discovery of the empty work in the Christian communities. tomb, and the other, which happened later on, Are we in a different situation? The Church the apparition of Jesus to Mary Magdalene alone that talks of the Risen Christ should never be a as related in John 20:11-18. powerful Church but a Risen Church. If the Set out for Galilee (v. 10). Why did Jesus say Church finds itself in a situation where there is no this date if he was going to appear later that same apparent hope of salvation, yet it is revived by day in Jerusalem? (Lk 24:13-42). It is not clear. the power of God; if in each generation the Probably the evangelists combined several appa- Church seems doomed to die because of its ritions to simplify their narration. Anyway, time ancient structures, its worldly ways or the perse- was needed for the apostles to believe in the cution it undergoes, yet it is nevertheless given Resurrection and understand something about new energies and new apostles by the Lord, then it. After the two apparitions in Jerusalem, in the Church is a witness that the Lord has risen which Jesus tried to convince them that he was and has given her the power to rise. not a phantom or a spirit, they would have to return to their provinces and environments, far away from the city that had caused them such • 16. EVANGELIZATION – THE TRINITY trauma, in order to ponder what they had expe- Jesus sent his apostles to evangelize the world. MATTHEW 28 72 saw Jesus, they bowed before him, al- tions. Baptize them in the Name of the though some doubted. Father and of the Son and of the Holy 18 11:27 Then Jesus approached them and Spirit, 20 and teach them to fulfill all Ex Jn 3:12 3:35 said, “I have been given all authority that I have commanded you. I am Jos 17:2 1:5 Acts in heaven and on earth. 19 Go, there- with you always until the end of this Jn 1:8 Eph fore, and make disciples from all na- world.” 14:23 13:39 1:20 24:3 The last apparition is related in a very simple See Acts 19:5 regarding baptism in the Name way: no sudden appearance, no fear – no physi- of the Lord Jesus. cal demonstration of the reality of Jesus. What is Teach them to fulfill all that I have com- important are the words of Jesus Master. manded you (v. 20). These instructions of Jesus Although some doubted (v. 17). With this, have first place in Matthew’s Gospel; they are in Matthew sums up the last apparitions of Jesus. the five discourses and we are to do the will of the Not all the disciples of Jesus (the Eleven and the Father just as Jesus has revealed it. rest) believed so quickly in the resurrection of I am with you always. Here we find again the Jesus. certitude which the name Emmanuel already Make disciples from all nations (v.19). Jesus, expressed in 1:23: Jesus is God-with-us until the following the example of Jewish teachers of his end of time. The first generation Christians time, gathered around him a group of disciples thought that Christ would not delay in returning who lived with him. The teacher knew his dis- but at the time the Gospel was written, they ciples and the disciples knew the teacher by already understood that history would continue; sharing everyday life. The same holds true today: the nation of Israel rejected the salvation offered evangelization implies interpersonal sharing. to her and only a minority believed. Jesus was To evangelize means to help someone ponder now committing himself to his apostles and to his his former experiences until he can recognize in Church and now began to build the Church of his the person of Christ, in his death and resurrec- apostles. tion, the truth that lights up his own life. The Catholic Church is different from Protes- Those who believe will be baptized in the one tant or Evangelical churches, because it was Name of the Father and of the Son and of the founded by the apostles of Jesus. Only she feels Holy Spirit, the Three Persons Christ taught us obliged to remain united around the successors about. Of course, he named them separately of the apostles, the bishops; this unity and because the Father is not the Son and the Son is continuity are at times hard to maintain, espe- not the Holy Spirit; in spite of that, the Three are cially in situations where it would seem easier to the same God. Upon entering the Church, the form a new reformed community alongside her. baptized will enter into communion with the Obedience to the will of the Father is the means Father, with the Son and with the Holy Spirit. by which he purifies and strengthens our faith. The Church is, before anything else, commun- Jesus is and remains “Lord” regarding the des- ion. tiny of “his” Church.