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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.

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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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Mary Magdalene de' Pazzi: Mystical ecstasy is the elevation of the spirit to God in such a way that the person is aware of this union with God while both internal and external senses are detached from the sensible world. Mary Magdalene de' Pazzi was so generously given this special gift of God that she is called the "ecstatic saint." 
<p>She was born into a noble family in Florence in 1566. The normal course would have been for Catherine de' Pazzi to have married wealth and enjoyed comfort, but she chose to follow her own path. At nine she learned to meditate from the family confessor. She made her first Communion at the then-early age of 10 and made a vow of virginity one month later. When 16, she entered the Carmelite convent in Florence because she could receive Communion daily there. </p><p>Catherine had taken the name Mary Magdalene and had been a novice for a year when she became critically ill. Death seemed near so her superiors let her make her profession of vows from a cot in the chapel in a private ceremony. Immediately after, she fell into an ecstasy that lasted about two hours. This was repeated after Communion on the following 40 mornings. These ecstasies were rich experiences of union with God and contained marvelous insights into divine truths. </p><p>As a safeguard against deception and to preserve the revelations, her confessor asked Mary Magdalene to dictate her experiences to sister secretaries. Over the next six years, five large volumes were filled. The first three books record ecstasies from May of 1584 through Pentecost week the following year. This week was a preparation for a severe five-year trial. The fourth book records that trial and the fifth is a collection of letters concerning reform and renewal. Another book, <i>Admonitions</i>, is a collection of her sayings arising from her experiences in the formation of women religious. </p><p>The extraordinary was ordinary for this saint. She read the thoughts of others and predicted future events. During her lifetime, she appeared to several persons in distant places and cured a number of sick people. </p><p>It would be easy to dwell on the ecstasies and pretend that Mary Magdalene only had spiritual highs. This is far from true. It seems that God permitted her this special closeness to prepare her for the five years of desolation that followed when she experienced spiritual dryness. She was plunged into a state of darkness in which she saw nothing but what was horrible in herself and all around her. She had violent temptations and endured great physical suffering. She died in 1607 at 41, and was canonized in 1669.</p> American Catholic Blog Let us never tire, therefore, of seeking the Lord—of letting ourselves be sought by him—of tending over our relationship with him in silence and prayerful listening. Let us keep our gaze fixed on him, the center of time and history; let us make room for his presence within us.

Spiritual Resilience

 
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