Day 260: Carrying the cross

Matthew 8:1-4 Lepers were obliged under the Old Law to isolate themselves from society due to the contagious nature of the disease (cf. Lv 13:45-46). Jesus, by touching the leper, shows not only his mercy and humility but also his preferential love for the sick and suffering. The miracles worked by Christ manifest in his divine power and the divine authority of his teachings. (CCC 515, 2616)

Ch 8:2 Lord: The Greek kyrios was used both to refer to God and to show respect. (CCC 448)

Ch 8:4 Show yourself to the priest: Christ’s instructions show his profound respect for the Mosaic Law. (CCC 556)

Ch 8:8-9 The centurion-a Roman military commander in charge of one hundred soldiers-understood that a Jew could not enter the home of a Gentile without becoming ritually impure. Therefore, he did not invite Jesus to come into his home to heal his servant. He had faith, however, that Christ’s authority over sickness and death was as certain as his own authority over the soldiers under his command. His words, “Lord, I am not worthy…” are repeated in the Mass before receiving Christ in Holy Communion. (CCC 1836)

Ch 8:10-13 Jesus was impressed with the faith expressed by the centurion, which exceeded the depth of faith he had seen even among the Jews.

Many will come from east and west: This is an early indication that all are called to the Kingdom of Heaven and that Gentiles can be saved if they accept the Gospel. (CCC 543, 2610)

Ch 8:14-15 In response to the gift of healing she had received from Christ, Simon Peter’s mother-in-law immediately began to serve him; this is the appropriate response for all of us who have received Christ’s free gift of mercy. (CCC 1505, 2224)

Ch 8:16-17 Christ’s compassion led him to take upon himself the suffering of the sick and disabled. These healings were signs of the presence of the Kingdom of God and manifested Christ’s victory over sin and death. They also relate to Isaiah 53, which foretells a Suffering Servant who would be “wounded for our transgressions” and “bruised for our iniquities.” (CCC 517, 1505)

Ch 8:18-22 Discipleship means following Christ unconditionally with all of the sacrifice it may entail. Hence, Christ’s response to the one who wanted to bury his father (more precisely, to wait until his father died before he would follow Jesus) is not meant to be dismissive of the proper duty and respect owed to our parents; further, it emphasizes that promptly responding wholeheartedly to follow Christ must take priority over all other concerns. Some are called to imitate more closely the life of Christ through the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience. (CCC 2444)

Ch 8:23-27 This is a powerful image of the Church, symbolized by the boat (the Church is the “barque of Peter”). Although waves and storms threaten to sink the boat, the presence of Christ in the Church assures that nothing can prevail against it. (CCC 845, 2610)

Ch 8:28-34 This chapter of Matthew’s Gospel increasingly reveals the extent of Christ’s power. He has authority over sickness and disease, laws of nature, and even evil spirits. The Gadarenes, by asking Christ to leave, showed fear in the face of such overwhelming power over the Devil and nature itself. (CCC 1503)

Ch 9:1-8 The scribes accused Christ of blasphemy for taking upon himself the power to forgive sins. Only God can forgive sins, so Christ, who is both God and man, had this authority as God. As proof of his divine authority, he then healed the paralytic. Later, he conferred this authority to the Apostles, who in turn, passed it on to their successors. (CCC 1485-1486)

Ch 9:9 Follow me: God calls whom he wills without distinction of persons. Matthew would have been associated with public sinners since he collected taxes on behalf of the Romans.

Rose up and followed him: Matthew left everything and immediately followed Christ as his disciple. God has a unique plan for each individual to achieve holiness and to do the work of evangelization. When we discern our vocation in prayer, we too must follow Christ wholeheartedly and without delay. (CCC 858-860)

Ch 9:10-13 Some were scandalized because Christ associated himself with sinners, but he equated mercy toward sinners with the mercy of God. This caused further scandal because that statement was viewed as an assertion of his own divinity. (CCC 589, 2100)

Ch 9:13 These words of Christ are reflected in one of the options of the Penitential Rite of Mass: “You came to call sinners.” (CCC 1438)

Ch 9:14-17 The practice of fasting often loses its true purpose. Christ commends fasting when it was accompanied by the right internal dispositions. Scripture teaches the value of fasting as a pathway to sanctity and atonement for sin, and there are times to fast and times to celebrate. The Church recognizes this in her Lenten regulations of fasting and in her required fast before receiving the Eucharist. (CCC 1387)

Ch 9:18-26 Two miracles of healing in this section place emphasis upon the vital role of faith. Both Jairus and the woman with the hemorrhage showed unequivocal faith in the healing power of Christ and, therefore, recognition of his divine power. The Lord acts in response to demonstrations of faith. (CCC 2610)

Ch 9:27-34 Son of David: This title has strong Messianic connotations. This outcry from the two blind men forms the basis for the traditional Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner!” These words may be prayed as an Act of Contrition in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. 

Their eyes were opened: We can read into this statement to indicate both the physical restoration of the blind men’s sight and the ability to see the light of Christ that allows them to follow him.

See that no one knows it: Curiously, Christ charged the cured men not to tell anyone about their healing by the Messiah, the so-called “Messianic secret.” This is likely because he is not the earthly, political messiah so many were expecting; he primarily came to liberate his people from sin and the Devil. To reveal himself at that time would have hastened his rejection before his mission on earth had been completed. (CCC 439, 2616, 2700)

Ch 9:38 The Kingdom of God is to be announced first to the Jewish people, being the Chosen People of God, although people of all nations are invited (cf. Mt 8:10-12). 

The harvest..laborers into his harvest: We should pray fervently for priestly and religious vocations as well as for all people to center their lives on Christ. (CCC 543, 2611)

Ch 10:2 The Twelve, who had formerly been called disciples (followers), were now given the title of Apostles (those who are sent). In fact, this is the only time apostle is found in Matthew. Peter was given dignity of place in the listing of the Twelve. Christ would later make Peter the perpetual source and foundation of unity for bishops and priests as well as for all the faithful; he would serve as the Vicar of Christ to guide the Church on earth as her head. The number of Apostles corresponds to the twelve patriarchs of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, thus indicating the Church of Christ would found is the New Israel. (CCC 551, 880)

Ch 10:5-15 The mission of the Apostles was directed to the Jews first and later to the Gentiles.

You received without paying...deserves his food: The disciples were charged to be attentive to the poor and to “give without pay,” although those who were able should contribute toward the basic needs of those who minister to them. Christ urged his followers to lead a life of detachment from material goods and perfect trust in God, who would provide for their needs. (CCC 2, 543, 2121-2122, 2443)

Ch 10: 8 The power to heal the sick comes from Christ himself. It is carried out through the Sacraments, the health-care apostolate, and intercessory prayer. (CCC 1506, 1509)

Ch 10:12-13 Let your peace come upon it: The language suggests a blessing of the house. Blessings are among the many sacramentals, sacred signs that confer spiritual effects through the prayers of the Church. (CCC 1668-1670)

Ch 10:19-20 Christ promised the assistance of the Holy Spirit, who would empower the disciples to be his witnesses during times of trial. (CCC 166, 728, 764)

Ch 10:22 God desires the salvation of all people. For this reason, each person should have great hope that with the grace of God we will obtain the reward and eternal joy of Heaven. (CCC 161, 1821)

Ch 10:25 In sharing his mission, Christ’s Apostles and disciples would also share in his suffering and rejection.

Beelzebul: A name that means “exalted lord, or lord of the world,” probably from the title of a pagan deity. It was corrupted into “Beelzebub,” meaning the “lord of flies,” which was a name for the Devil in the New Testament. 

Ch 10:28 Soul: The spiritual component of the human person. The body and soul together form a unity that defines us as human persons, for it is the spiritual soul that animates the body.

Hell: Elsewhere called Gehenna or “the unquenchable fire,” this is the place or state of eternal damnation for those who reject the love of God. See commentary on Matthew 5:22. (CCC 363-365, 1034, 1056-1057) 

Ch 10:29 As in Matthew 6:31-33, Christ urged a childlike trust that God the Father would always provide for our needs. (CCC 305)

Ch 10:32-33 The faithful, when called upon to do so, must witness their faith in Christ without fear if they wish to be true disciples. (CCC 13-14, 1816, 2145)

Ch 10:37 To answer Christ’s call to discipleship, everything must defer to this vocation. Even affection for our family, important as it is, must defer to that calling. As children mature, their perception of their personal call from Christ grows stronger, and they must carefully discern its direction. Parents and other family members may offer guidance but ultimately must accept prayerfully and even encourage their adult children’s discernment of vocations. (CCC 2232)

Ch 10:38 To be a disciple of Christ means to share in his Cross (cf. Mt 10:25). In martyrdom, a disciple becomes fully identified with Christ; in fact, the Greek martur means “witness.” While most Christians are not called to die for the Faith, all must be prepared to bear witness to and suffer for Christ. (CCC 1225, 1506)

Ch 10:40 The ministry of the Apostles, in both their preaching and sacramental ministry, was an extension of Christ’s own ministry. Ordained ministers of the Church exercise their service by teaching, divine worship, and pastoral governance. (CCC 858, 888, 893-894)

(*The Didache Bible RSV-CE Ignatius Edition, 2006)

Prayer by Fr. Mike: “Father in Heaven we give you praise. Thank you, God. Thank you so much for your Word. And thank you for revealing your Will. Thank you for revealing Jesus Christ to us through the Gospels and through the Gospel of Matthew. Thank you for calling Matthew to be one of your disciples, to be one of your Apostles. And we thank you for inspiring him and moving him to write these words that we are reading this very day. Thank you for the fact that what you did, and what you did in his life 2,000 years ago impacts our lives today in this moment. We give you praise and we thank you. Please, Lord, never be far from us. Help us to never wander away from you, but help us to always choose you and to choose your Will, to pick up our cross daily, and to follow after you with our whole heart. Help us to love you with everything we are and everything we have. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.”