Feast of St. Matthew

Thoughts on the Lessons for Sunday, Sept. 23, 2012.

First Reading: Proverbs 3:1-6
Keep God’s commandments and use them to guide your life, and you will be amply rewarded with a good life and good reputation. It’s a message echoed in the psalm and second reading. (This is from what is known as “wisdom literature” and is popularly attributed to King Solomon.)

Psalm 119:33-40
The Psalmist’s message is similar and simple: Learn God’s laws and commandments and follow them faithfully. God’s way turns us away from what is worthless and gives life.

St. Matthew

Woodcut image of St. Matthew from the Golden Legend, c.1489.

Second Reading: 2 Timothy 3:14-17

Second Timothy, one of the short “pastoral epistles” written in Paul’s name, offers guidance to a growing church, echoing the Psalmist’s call for unity in tradition guided by Scripture. But here’s a twist: In Timothy’s time, the New Testament was not yet assembled into a book, and the four Gospels were only then being written down. “Scripture” meant the Old Testament, with its strong Torah command to love God, love our neighbor, and care for the poor and the alien. This is good advice in any age.

Gospel: Matthew 9:9-19
Matthew was a tax collector, a job that would have made him roundly despised in ancient Israel: The tax collector preyed on his neighbors on behalf of the hated Roman empire. Yet Jesus called him, and Matthew followed … and then they sat down to dinner in Matthew’s house. Having mercy and calling sinners is Jesus’s way, not self-righteously looking down on those we consider beneath us.

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