The Year Ahead by Canon Jim Foley
The Year Ahead by Canon Jim Foley
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A YEAR WITH SAINT MATTHEW
(Year A: 2014 / 2017 / 2020 / 2023 / 2026)
Reflections on the Gospel of Saint Matthew
The Year Ahead
During this year (2014) the church turns to Saint Matthew for inspiration on the thirty-four Ordinary Sundays of the year, namely on those Sundays which do not fall during the seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent or Easter. These Sundays have proper readings in keeping with the spirit of the season. Each year, however, the Lectionary looks to Saint John for the Second Ordinary Sunday to establish, from the outset, the true identity of Jesus as the Son of God.
The Ordinary Sundays of this year unfold the public ministry of Jesus beginning with the Epiphany and Baptism of Jesus and ending with the Solemnity of Christ the King. The Introduction to the Lectionary speaks of a wish to capture during this period ‘the mystery of Christ in all its fullness’.
Although the ministry of Jesus is essentially the same in all four Gospels, each evangelist brings his own special insights to the narrative. For the moment our attention is focused on Saint Matthew’s overview in the hope that this will give us a better sense of direction and allow us to appreciate each event along the way in its proper context.
These distinctive characteristics of course are an essential part of the spiritual enrichment to be derived from the four Gospels. If the Christian churches have always valued the special contribution of the Fathers of the church and later generations of theologians, they have even more reason to embrace the insights of the evangelists who were inspired to record these events in the first place.
In the case of Matthew this takes the form of five alternating narrative and doctrinal passages. The doctrinal passages (referred to as Sermons in our outline) are the most distinctive characteristic of Matthew’s presentation.
Each Sermon explores a different aspect of the Kingdom of God and, to that extent, each is part of an inspired catechism of Christian doctrine.
The Sermon on the Mount 5-7 The doctrine of the Kingdom
The Mission Sermon 10 The spread of the Kingdom
The Parable Sermon 13 The reception of the Kingdom
The Community Sermon 18 The inner life of the Kingdom
The Final Sermon 24-25 The consummation of the Kingdom
Although the five Sermons stand out like a mountain range in the Gospel of Saint Matthew, the remaining narrative passages, which tend to act as introductions to the sermons, also display very distinctive features. These will be noted in future Reflections in this series. In subsequent years, Matthew’s portrait of Our Lord and his ministry will give way to those of Mark and Luke. Little wonder that Paul VI, who promulgated this programme of readings, was able to make such an ambitious claim for them: ‘In this way the Word of God will prove to be the inexhaustible source of the Church’s spiritual life, the inspiration behind her preaching and the very soul of her theology’.
At the end of the Year of Matthew we may well ask ourselves to what extent our own community of faith measures up to the kingdom of God as the evangelist understood it. In the following years Mark and Luke will lead the Church into other experiences of the Kingdom of God on earth.
Lectionary for the 34 Ordinary Sundays of Year A: Saint Matthew
1 Epiphany/Baptism of Jesus 3.13-17
2 The testimony of the Baptist Jn 1.29-34
3 The call of the first disciples 4.12-23
4 The Sermon on the Mount I 5.1-12
5 The Sermon on the Mount II 5.13-16
6 The Sermon on the Mount III 5.17-37
7 The Sermon on the Mount IV 5.38-48
8 The Sermon on the Mount V 6.24-34
9 The Sermon on the Mount VI 7.21-27
10 The call of Levy 9.9-13
11 The Mission Sermon I 9.36-10.8
12 The Mission Sermon II 10.26-33
13 The Mission Sermon III 10.37-42
14 Revelation to the simple 11.25-30
15 The Parable Sermon I 13.1-23
16 The Parable Sermon II 13.24-43
17 The Parable Sermon III 13.44-52
18 The feeding of five thousand 14.13-21
19 Jesus and Peter walk on the waters 14.22-33
20 The Canaanite woman 15.21-28
2I Peter’s confession and primacy 16.13-20
22 A Passion and Resurrection Prophecy 16.21-27
23 The Community Sermon I 18.15-20
24 The Community Sermon II 18.21-35
25 Parable of the labourers 20.1-16
26 Parable of the two sons 21.28-32
27 Parable of the wicked husbandmen 21.33-43
28 Parable of the Marriage Feast 22.1-14
29 On paying tribute to Caesar 22.15-21
30 The great commandment 22.34-40
3I Hypocrisy and ambition 23.1-12
32 The Final Sermon I 25.1-13
33 The Final Sermon II 25.14-30
34 The Solemnity of Christ the King 25.31-46
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