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Constancy, Change and Discipleship View Comments
By Mary Ann Spina

Change is a constant in life. A month ago, we began a new liturgical year in which we will hear the
Gospel of Matthew most Sundays. In November of this year, we will be adjusting to the Roman Missal’s new Mass prayers and responses. The Gospel of Matthew and the Missal changes raise the same question: “How do we change and, at the same time, remain faithful to the core of our beliefs?”

Another key question for Matthew is, “How are Jesus’ followers connected to the people with whom God made a covenant at Mt. Sinai?” Matthew writes for a changed community still familiar with the images, words and key concepts of Judaism. He structures his Gospel on the first five books of the Bible. Known in Judaism as the Torah, they were written by Moses, according to Jewish tradition.

Matthew seeks to demonstrate that all the promises of salvation made by God in the Hebrew Scriptures have been fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ.

No wonder, then, that one of the key passages in understanding how this Gospel views change can be found in Jesus’ words, “Every scribe who has been trained for the Kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who can bring from his storeroom both the new and the old” (13:52, New Revised Standard Version). All citations are from this source.

But who are the learned scribes? Not the Pharisees, but Jesus’ disciples, such as Matthew himself. Discipleship is a major theme of this Gospel. Although the author’s name is unknown, by tradition he is called “Matthew,” from the Greek word mathetes, meaning “disciple.”

Tradition claims that he was a tax collector, a social outcast in his day. In Matthew’s vision of Jesus’ disciples, outcasts, social “nobodies” and even gentiles are welcome. Matthew’s Jesus provokes a response from people: True disciples accept him in faith, others reject him. This theme continues from  Jesus’ day to our own.


Mary Ann Spina is pastoral associate at Holy Cross Church in Deerfield, Illinois, and an instructor for the Chicago Scripture School. She holds master’s degrees in divinity and in Scripture from Catholic Theological Union. She has traveled extensively in the Middle East and elsewhere.

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John of Monte Corvino: At a time when the Church was heavily embroiled in nationalistic rivalries within Europe, it was also reaching across Asia to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ to the Mongols. John of Monte Corvino went to China about the same time Marco Polo was returning. 
<p>John was a soldier, judge and doctor before he became a friar. Prior to going to Tabriz, Persia (present-day Iran), in 1278, he was well known for his preaching and teaching. In 1291 he left Tabriz as a legate of Pope Nicholas IV to the court of Kublai Khan. An Italian merchant, a Dominican friar and John traveled to western India where the Dominican died. When John and the Italian merchant arrived in China in 1294, Kublai Khan had recently died. </p><p>Nestorian Christians, successors to the dissidents of the fifth-century Council of Ephesus’ teaching on Jesus Christ, had been in China since the seventh century. John converted some of them and also some of the Chinese, including Prince George from Tenduk, northwest of Beijing. Prince George named his son after this holy friar. </p><p>John established his headquarters in Khanbalik (now Beijing), where he built two churches; his was the first resident Catholic mission in the country. By 1304 he had translated the Psalms and the New Testament into the Tatar language. </p><p>Responding to two letters from John, Pope Clement V named John Archbishop of Khanbalik in 1307 and consecrated seven friars as bishops of neighboring dioceses. One of the seven never left Europe. Three others died along the way to China; the remaining three bishops and the friars who accompanied them arrived there in 1308. </p><p>When John died in 1328, he was mourned by Christians and non-Christians. His tomb quickly became a place of pilgrimage. In 1368, Christianity was banished from China when the Mongols were expelled and the Ming dynasty began. John’s cause has been introduced in Rome.</p> American Catholic Blog We look ahead to the coming of the Son of Man, standing erect and with heads held high. We live in hope, not in fear. Our experience of God is no longer limited by human weakness or even human sinfulness. God has always been one step ahead of us, with a plan that exceeds our greatest desires.

The Gospel of John the Gospel of Relationship

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