07 July. Friday, Week 13

Saint Maelruain, abbot

1st Reading: Genesis 23:1-4, 19; 24:1-8, 62-67

Sarah’s death and burial. Abraham finds a wife for Isaac

Sarah lived one hundred twenty-seven years; this was the length of Sarah’s life. And Sarah died at Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan; and Abraham went in to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her. Abraham rose up from beside his dead, and said to the Hittites, “I am a stranger and an alien residing among you; give me property among you for a burying place, so that I may bury my dead out of my sight.” After this, Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Machpelah facing Mamre (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan.

Now Abraham was old, well advanced in years; and the Lord had blessed Abraham in all things. Abraham said to his servant, the oldest of his house, who had charge of all that he had, “Put your hand under my thigh and I will make you swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and earth, that you will not get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I live, but will go to my country and to my kindred and get a wife for my son Isaac.” The servant said to him, “Perhaps the woman may not be willing to follow me to this land; must I then take your son back to the land from which you came?” Abraham said to him, “See to it that you do not take my son back there. The Lord, the God of heaven, who took me from my father’s house and from the land of my birth, and who spoke to me and swore to me, ‘To your offspring I will give this land,’ he will send his angel before you, and you shall take a wife for my son from there. But if the woman is not willing to fllow you, then you will be free from this oath of mine; only you must not take my son back there.”

Now Isaac had come from Beer-lahai-roi, and was settled in the Negeb. Isaac went out in the evening to walk in the field; and looking up, he saw camels coming. And Rebekah looked up, and when she saw Isaac, she slipped quickly from the camel, and said to the servant, “Who is the man over there, walking in the field to meet us?” The servant said, “It is my master.” So she took her veil and covered herself. And the servant told Isaac all the things that he had done. Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent. He took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.

Gospel: Matthew 9:9-13

The call of the tax-gatherer, to follow Jesus

As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard this, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”


Who was Matthew?

The name Matthew, from Hebrew Mattija, “gift of the Lord”, is shortened to Mattai in post-Biblical Hebrew and Maththaios in Greek. Matthew is mentioned five times in the New Testament; first in Mt 9:9, when called by Jesus to follow Him, and then four times in the list of the Apostles, where he is mentioned in the seventh (Luke 6:15, and Mark 3:18), and again in the eighth place (Mt 10:3, and Acts 1:13). The man designated in Mt 9:9, as “sitting in the custom house”, and “named Matthew” is the same as Levi, recorded in Mark 2:14, and Luke 5:27, as “sitting at the receipt of custom”. The account in the three Synoptics is identical, the vocation of Matthew-Levi being alluded to in the same terms. Hence Levi was the original name of the man who was subsequently called Matthew (Maththaios legomenos Mt 9:9).

The fact of one man having two names is of frequent occurrence among the Jews. It is true that the same person usually bears a Hebrew name such as “Shaoul” and a Greek name, Paulos. However, we have also examples of individuals with two Hebrew names as, for instance, Joseph-Caiaphas, Simon-Cephas, etc. It is probable that Mattija, “gift of Iaveh”, was the name conferred upon the tax-gatherer by Jesus Christ when He called him to the Apostolate, and by it he was thenceforth known among his Christian brethren, Levi being his original name.

Matthew, the son of Alpheus (Mark 2:14) was probably a Galilean, though Eusebius says he was a Syrian. As tax-gatherer at Capharnaum, he collected custom duties for ing Herod Antipas, and was despised by orthodox Jews as non-patiortic. When called by Jesus, Matthew followed Him and held a feast in his house, where tax-gatherers and sinners sat at table with Christ and His disciples. When the Pharisees protested, Jesus said: “I came not to call the just, but sinners”.

There is no other reference to Matthew in the Gospels, except to name him in the list of the apostles. He was also amongst them, present at the Ascension, and later in the upper room in Jerusalem, with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, awaiting the Lord’s promise of the Spirit (Acts 1:10 and 1:14).

Of his subsequent career we have no sure data. Irenæus says that Matthew preached among the Hebrews, and Eusebius wrote that, before going abroad, he gave the Hebrews the Gospel in the mother tongue. Ancient writers do not agree on where Matthew worked after leaving Palestine, but several mention a land to the south of the Caspian Sea and some Persia and the kingdom of the Parthians, Macedonia, and Syria. According to Clement of Alexandria, Matthew did not die a martyr, but this too is disputed. What he left behind is a wonderfully-composed account of the life and teaching of Jesus, the founder of a new and universal church, by which all people are called to salvation.

A master of surprises

In his book The God of Surprises Gerald Hughes wrote of how God can surprise us human beings in so many ways. After all, as the prophet Isaiah said, “God’s ways are not our ways.” Jesus, as the revelation of God, was also full of surprises. The gospels record people being amazed at what he said and did. He didn’t behave as the religious leaders of the time normally behaved. Something of his surprising ways is evident in today’s gospel. Jesus calls Matthew, a tax collector, to follow him and he went on to share table with Matthew and other tax collectors. Matthew and people like him would have been regarded by religious people of the time as a sinner, someone who did not keep God’s law. Such people were to be avoided for fear of contamination. Jesus did not follow this path. He was not afraid of being contaminated by others. On the contrary, he knew that his own goodness had the power to transform others for the better. When Jesus went on to say in the gospel, “what I want is mercy not sacrifice,” he was declaring that he wants his own merciful way of behaving to find expression in the lives of his followers. We too are called to transform others by our own goodness. We are all to be agents of the Lord’s transforming love and mercy

Saint Maelruain of Tallaght, abbott

Máel Ruain, (c. 722-792) was founder and abbot-bishop of the monastery of Tallaght near Dublin, Ireland. He was a leading figure of the movement known as the Céli Dé, whose monastic rules were written by Mael Ruain and Aengus, his leading disciple.

One Comment

  1. Thank you, I really appreciate these daily reflections. They help me and give me inspiration every day.

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