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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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Andrew Dung-Lac and Companions: Andrew Dung-Lac was one of 117 people martyred in Vietnam between 1820 and 1862. Members of this group were beatified on four different occasions between 1900 and 1951. All were canonized by St. John Paul II. 
<p>Christianity came to Vietnam (then three separate kingdoms) through the Portuguese. Jesuits opened the first permanent mission at Da Nang in 1615. They ministered to Japanese Catholics who had been driven from Japan. </p><p>The king of one of the kingdoms banned all foreign missionaries and tried to make all Vietnamese deny their faith by trampling on a crucifix. Like the priest-holes in Ireland during English persecution, many hiding places were offered in homes of the faithful. </p><p>Severe persecutions were again launched three times in the 19th century. During the six decades after 1820, between 100,000 and 300,000 Catholics were killed or subjected to great hardship. Foreign missionaries martyred in the first wave included priests of the Paris Mission Society, and Spanish Dominican priests and tertiaries. </p><p>Persecution broke out again in 1847 when the emperor suspected foreign missionaries and Vietnamese Christians of sympathizing with a rebellion led by of one of his sons. </p><p>The last of the martyrs were 17 laypersons, one of them a 9-year-old, executed in 1862. That year a treaty with France guaranteed religious freedom to Catholics, but it did not stop all persecution. </p><p>By 1954 there were over a million and a half Catholics—about seven percent of the population—in the north. Buddhists represented about 60 percent. Persistent persecution forced some 670,000 Catholics to abandon lands, homes and possessions and flee to the south. In 1964, there were still 833,000 Catholics in the north, but many were in prison. In the south, Catholics were enjoying the first decade of religious freedom in centuries, their numbers swelled by refugees. </p><p>During the Vietnamese war, Catholics again suffered in the north, and again moved to the south in great numbers. Now the whole country is under Communist rule.</p> American Catholic Blog To replace our sins with virtues may seem like a daunting task, but fortunately we can follow the example of the saints who have 
successfully defeated these sins in their lifetimes. They provide us with a way forward so that we, too, can live holy, virtuous lives.

 
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