Day 264: Preaching without practice

Matthew 22:1-14 The Parable of the Wedding Feast is a wonderful illustration of the blissful joy experienced by someone fully united to Christ. The image of a wedding feast conjures up thoughts of joy and festivity. Christ, the Son, is the Bridegroom betrothed to his Church. The Kingdom of Heaven is sometimes described as the marriage supper of the Lamb (cf. Rev 19:9). The parable relates how all are now invited to the wedding feast because the original guests, the people of Israel, declined to come. The wedding guest who was not properly attired represents those who perhaps have not given a total “yes” to a vocation to holiness and, therefore, are not prepared to participate in the wedding feast. (CCC 546)

Ch 22:15-22 Christ again was asked a question by those intending to entrap him but was able to turn it around on his critics. The faithful are bound to submit to civil authority, who exercise their authority in secular matters for the common good. However, should the demands of civil authority run contrary to the moral law, human dignity, or a properly formed conscience, the faithful also have an obligation to refuse obedience to any law that makes them complicit in sin. (CCC 2242, 2419-2423)

Ch 22:23-33 The Sadducees did not believe that the dead would rise again, so they tried to ensnare Christ with a contrived question. He rebuked their position, indicating instead that in Heaven our relationship with God and with the reset of the blessed will transcend human relationships such as marriage. (CCC 575, 581)

Ch 22:34-40 When the Pharisees asked Christ which was the Greatest Commandment (there were many precepts of the Mosaic Law), he did not name any of the Ten Commandments but the Great Commandments of Love, which presuppose fidelity to the Ten Commandments. Once again, he stressed the importance of external acts, reflecting observance of the Law is accompanied and animated by the proper disposition of the heart-love of God and love of neighbor. The Commandments find their true meaning in light of the two Great Commandments of Love. (CCC 1824, 2055, 2083)

Ch 22:41-46 With the Pharisees, Jesus was rather guarded in references to himself as the Lord or Messiah, which is in contrast to the more explicit manner in which he discussed his identity with his Apostles. Here, he presented them with a riddle taken directly from Scripture: If the Messiah is the son of David, then how can David call him Lord? The Pharisees were rendered speechless because the solution suggests that the Messiah is both the son of David and the divine Son of God-and therefore is evidence for the doctrine of the two natures, both divine and human, in the one divine Person of Christ, who is true God and true man. (CCC 422-423, 439, 447)

Ch 23:1-36 Christ’s remarks to the scribes and Pharisees relate to a legalistic approach to the Law to the detriment of humility. He used the word hypocrites to describe those who were caught up in the external fulfillment of the Law without seeing the deeper, more important spirit behind the Law. 

Ch 23:2 Moses’ seat: This refers to the teaching authority of the scribes and Pharisees. (CCC 85)

Ch 23:5 Phylacteries: In Aramaic tefillin, these are small boxes containing verses of Scripture written on scrolls that are worn on the forehead and left arm during prayer (cf. Dt 6:4). 

Fringes: This refers to the tassels Jews were to have on the corners of their garments (cf. Nm 15:38-39; Dt 22:12). These were used to make God’s Commandments ever present among the Jewish people. (CCC 2057-2061)

Ch 23:9 Call no man your father: Christ was telling his disciples not to seek honorific titles, nor to put other human authorities above God the Father. Terms like “rabbi” and “father” were often given to esteemed teachers as signs of respect. God is the perfect Father and the omniscient teacher to whom none other bears comparison. The verse does not forbid addressing natural or foster fathers, or for that matter ordained priests, by the title “father.” In fact, the Apostles referred to themselves as spiritual fathers and Christians in the communities they founded as their children (cf. 1 Cor 4:14-15, 1 Pt 5:13, Gal 4:19). (CCC 2367)

Ch 23:12 Whoever exalts exalted: The call to humble oneself is akin to the earlier exhortation of Christ to become “like children” in order to enter Heaven (Mt 18:3-4). (CCC 526)

Ch 23:13 Other ancient authorities add, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows’ houses and for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore you will receive the greater condemnation,” as Verse 14

Ch 23:18-22 The altar is an image of the presence of Christ, so to swear by the altar is to swear by Christ-a sin against the Commandments. Similar disrespect for saints, holy objects, and sacramentals is also sinful. The superstitious use of prayers, novenas, and holy objects becomes a form of idolatry if the person seeks to achieve a desired result by a mere action without the proper interior disposition. (CCC 586, 1383, 2111)

Ch 23:24 Both gnats and camels were unclean animals, which Jews were forbidden to eat. (CCC 582)

Ch 23:37-39 Even as he grieved in remembering the prophets who were martyred in Jerusalem, Christ still ardently desired to draw all of God’s people to himself and laments his own rejection.

You will not see me again: When Jesus comes again, he will be recognized by all as Messiah. (CCC 558, 674)

Ch 24:1-3 Christ predicted the destruction of the Temple, which would occur nearly four decades later during the Roman suppression of a Jewish rebellion (AD 70). He went on to describe vividly the tribulation to come. (CCC 585)

Ch 24:3-14 The disciples’ question asked both when the destruction of the Temple would take place and when Christ would come again. The Temple was so central to Jewish existence and their identity as the People of God that to imagine its destruction would seem like the end of the world. Christ carefully separated the destruction of the Temple from his Second Coming, with persecution accompanying the Temple’s destruction. The Church will endure hardship, trials, and betrayals that will cause many to renounce their faith before Christ returns.

He who endures to the end will be saved: Fidelity in the face of oppression, even torture and martyrdom, is necessary for the faithful to attain salvation.

As a testimony: Faith is a personal act with communal dimensions that demands a relationship with others. One who believes in Christ is called to share the faith with others. (CCC 161, 166, 672, 675)

Ch 24:15-18 The persecution will be severe. There will be false prophets and many will claim to be the Messiah.

Desolating sacrilege: Several times, the Temple had been seized by pagan conquerors who plundered its sacred objects and installed pagan idols for worship. This would happen again in the first century when the Romans would desecrate and then utterly destroy the Temple. 

For as the lightning...far as the west: Christ will not return in a hidden manner but in a dramatic and obvious way for all to see. (CCC 676-677)

Ch 24:29-35 All the tribes of the earth will mourn: Seeing Christ in his glory, all nations will realize how unworthy they are of his mercy. 

This generation will not pass away: Christ may have been referring to his Resurrection, which anticipates his glorious Second Coming. (CCC 333, 678)

Ch 24:36-51 Although we cannot know the date and time of Christ’s Second Coming, it could take place in any instant. Therefore, we must be vigilant and ready to meet him at any time.

But the Father only: Christ, of course, knows what the Father knows but it was not part of his plan of salvation to reveal this information. (CCC 673)

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

Prayer by Fr. Mike: “Father in Heaven we give you praise and glory. Thank you so much. You are helping us. You are walking with us. Lord God, how blessed are we that you walk with us? That you are leading us? That you are accompanying us with your Grace and with your Word and with your Truth and with your Love that you continue to just, little by little, reveal your heart more and more to us. Help us to accept you as you are revealing yourself, because that is not always easy. Help us to accept you as you reveal yourself. Not OUR version of you. But YOU, YOURSELF. Help us to know you and to love you just as we are known by you and loved by you. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.”