Jesus and John

This coming Sunday is the 2nd Sunday of Advent in Lectionary Cycle A. As is the tradition of the Church, this Sunday and next prominently feature John the Baptist. The gospel reading is the scene in which John first appears in Matthew’s gospel with his singular message: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Mt 3:2). It is the gospel in which Matthew says of John, “A voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.’” (v.3) The former passage sounds as though more Lenten in tone with the latter passage quite suited to Advent. Continue reading

The Season of Advent and Sacred Scriptures

At the start of Advent 2022 the Church begins a new liturgical year. This entails a shift from the Gospel of Luke being the primary source of our Sunday gospels (in Cycle C) to our primary source being the Gospel of Matthew (Cycle A; the Gospel of Mark for Cycle B). You can find the upcoming Sunday readings of Advent, as follows:

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Stay Awake

This coming Sunday is the first Sunday in Advent. In yesterday’s posts we considered the pastoral concerns of the gospel; concerns that sometimes get lost amid all the attention to an “apocalyptic” fervor around the reading. In today’s post we’ll look at Matthew’s emphasis that the disciples will not know the day – no one knows – but that does not remove the need to stay awake – a key theme of Advent. Continue reading

Matthew’s Pastoral Concerns

This coming Sunday is the first Sunday in Advent. In the posts from yesterday we reviewed the context of the gospel as used in Advent and in the larger context of a unified gospel. In today’s post we pick up the idea that Matthew’s primary concern is pastoral so that the community continues in its discipleship even if the end is delayed.

John Meier (Matthew,291) notes that a good part of Ch. 24 in Matthew is spent in attempting to calm off-based eschatological (end-time) fervor and calculation.  Something that even in our day has become a cottage industry as folks pore over Daniel and Revelation attempting to “crack the code” about the end-time when/where. The three rapid-fire parables in our gospel reading attempt to establish a proper eschatological fervor (watchfulness). The three parables (the generation of Noah, the two pairs of workers, and the thief in the night) announce the major theme of the second part of the discourse: vigilance and preparedness for the coming [parousia] of the Son of Man.

Our verses are also part of a larger pastoral theme in which believers are instructed about the manner in which we are to live as we vigilantly wait. Warren Carter (Matthew and the Margins: A Sociopolitical and Religious Reading, 486) writes about this fifth discourse:

Käsemann has argued that the basic question of apocalyptic material is, “To whom does the sovereignty of the world belong?” Chapters 24-25 are an unequivocal assertion of God’s ownership, God’s right to determine cosmic destiny. Judgment falls on those who do not acknowledge god’s sovereignty. Rome’s empire, or any empire, is not ultimate. Eternal Rome is not the future. cf. 4 Ezra 11:37-46). It is mortal (24:28) and subject to God’s empire.

This critique of Rome gains some force because of the material’s proximity to the struggle of 66-70 [AD]. Rome’s victory and destruction of Jerusalem suggest invincible power. But chapters 24-25 contextualize this power in God’s purposes, thereby revealing it to be limited and under judgment (see 22:7). Moreover, as U. Mauser has argued, the frequent references to false prophets and messiahs (24:5, 11, 23-26) show that the chapter rejects the way of violence adopted by those who took up arms as the means of trying to throw off Roman oppression. While the goal of liberation was commendable, the means was not. Armed revolution is a false way, just as passive compliance was rejected previously in the gospel (see 5:38-42; 17:24-27). Ultimately god will bring the promised salvation through Jesus’ return and the establishment of God’s empire (so 1:21). In the meantime, the Matthean community is to live its alternative, countercultural existence of active, subversive, nonviolent resistance in the sure hope of God’s coming triumph.

This section of Matthew begins with foretelling the destruction of the temple, (which had happened by Matthew’s time) and a two-part question from the disciples: “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (24:3). Answers to the question: “What signs?” are given in 24:4-35. Answers to the question: “When?” are given in 24:36-25:46.


Image credit: Canva, St. Francis, CC-BY-NC 

Two Advents

This coming Sunday is the first Sunday in Advent and the first Sunday of the new liturgical year, Cycle A, in which the Gospel of Matthew is the anchor text for the next 12 months. The readings are not very “Chrismassy” nor are they intended to be. Advent is a different season. Advent has a two-fold character: as a season to prepare our hearts for Christmas when Christ’s first coming is remembered with joy and as a season when that remembrance directs the mind and heart to await Christ’s second coming at the end of time. Advent is thus a period of devout and joyful expectation with an element of repentance as part of the preparation. Continue reading

Amen

This coming Sunday is the celebration of the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. In yesterday’s post we considered those executed alongside him – the two thieves. Today we conclude our study and consider “Amen, I say to you.” This is the sixth time Luke has used this phrase and the only one addressed to one person.  It is also the last of the emphatic “today” pronouncements. Like the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame in Jesus’ parable of the great banquet (14:21), the thief would feast with Jesus that day in paradise. Like Lazarus who died at the rich man’s fate (16:19-31), the thief would experience the blessing of God’s mercy. Continue reading