1st Sunday of Lent

March 5, 2017
Matthew 4:1-11

BACKGROUND:

For the past several weeks the gospel readings have dealt with Jesus teaching the disciples what it means to be his followers. As we begin Lent, the Gospel text takes a dramatic shift. The first Sunday of Lent always presents an account of Jesus being directly temped by the devil. The second Sunday of Lent is an account of the Transfiguration. This year the Transfiguration text comes from Matthew 17:1-9. The next three gospel texts will be taken from John’s Gospel: John 4:5-42, the Samaritan woman at the well; John 9:1-41, curing of the man born blind; and John 11:1-45, raising Lazarus. The last Sunday of Lent is Passion Sunday. That gospel will be from Matthew 26:12-27:66.

As Matthew presents the sequence of events of Jesus’ temptation, it follows on Jesus’ baptism (Matthew 3:13-17). Matthew describes Jesus coming out of the water and “God descending like a dove [and] coming upon him. And a voice comes from the heavens, saying ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased’.” (Matt 3:16-17) Matthew then describes Jesus being led by the spirit into the desert to be tempted. The description of Jesus’ temptation is the gospel text for this Sunday.

Matthew’s community assumed the presence of evil in ways that most modern readers might dismiss as naive or even fanatical. They believed that there was an abundance of evil spirits whose main pastime was interacting with humans, sometimes with a surprising blessing, but often with ill intentions. In order to ward off the ill effects of these spirits, people relied on objects and ritual actions and prayers that were believed to have protective powers. This spirit world also enjoyed its own way of communication and being connected, so that whatever happened was in part known by other spirits.  That fact that God had spoken, of Jesus, that this one was his beloved Son with whom he was well pleased would naturally draw a response from others in the spirit world. Other spirits would want to know if Jesus was indeed worthy of such praise, and tempt him in such ways that he might lose his favored status.

With this being their understanding, it is no surprise for the people for whom Matthew is writing, that, following the baptism, Jesus is tempted by the devil. What is surprising is that Jesus does not rely on any of the things that they would have used to protect them from the powers of the spirit world. Even after he has fasted for forty days, and is hungry and vulnerable on many levels, Jesus faces His tempter unaided.

Matthew is also making use of the community’s familiarity with the events of the Exodus from Egypt. All the responses of Jesus to the temptations are quotations from the description of Israel’s wandering in the desert as recorded in Book of Deuteronomy (8:3, 6:16 and 6:13). Jesus’ temptation and the exodus both take place in the desert, the place normally associated with the evil spirits. They would also recognize that Israel spent 40 years in the desert, and Jesus has been fasting in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights. Matthew is building a connection between the experience of their ancestors in faith and the experience of Jesus.

Matthew also rearranges Luke’s account of the temptations so that the last temptation places Jesus on a very high mountain. Mountains were places of revelation, and the story of Moses’ encounter with God on the mountain was familiar to everyone as Matthew describes Jesus’ last encounter. (Next week, Matthew’s gospel will again place Jesus on a high mountain with three of the disciples for the transfiguration. Matthew’s community knew well the tradition that the mountain was the place where God revealed the relationship God desired to have with them as the chosen people.)

 

Reflection Questions:

  1. What is your experience of evil in your own life and in the world around you?
  2. What do you rely on to protect you from the power of evil?
  3. How do you experience occasions of temptation? Have you ever been tempted to do something that you felt was not only sinful but also evil?
  4. What does the kind of temptation that Jesus faced suggest to you?
  5. Jesus is tempted to use his status as beloved Son of God for his own purposes, to ease his hunger, experience God’s protection, and to be treated as one above others. In his rejection of the temptations, he refused to use his status as highly favored Son of God, and instead he demonstrates his choice to be one of us, even in being tempted. What does that say to you?
  6. Why is it that the Spirit led Jesus into the desert to be tempted?
  7. As you reflect on this text, what sense of yourself and your relationship with God come to the fore within you? What would you like to say to God from that awareness?

 

 

The reflection and questions are written by Fr. Paul Gallagher, OFM.
They are edited by Sister Anne Marie Lom, OSF and Joe Thiel.

8th Sunday in Ordinary Time

February 26, 2017
Matthew 6:24-34

Background:

At the time when Jesus lived, it was not uncommon for families to have servants. When the patriarch of the family died, he might leave one servant to two different sons. That servant had to divide his time and allegiance between both sons. This was not an easy task and would make Jesus’ teaching very interesting for the people of the day. When Jesus talks about loving one master and hating the other, he is not speaking of the affectionate kind of love which comes to mind when most westerners hear the word. Jesus would have used the term “love” as an expression of attachment or loyalty.

In the second part of the gospel Jesus also used examples that would relate to both the men and the women who would have heard him teaching. The Aramaic word for birds is masculine, and the work that Jesus refers to with birds in his teaching, sowing, reaping, and gathering would have been the tasks of the men in his day. The word for lilies of the field is feminine, and the tasks Jesus associates with the lilies, spinning and making clothes were the tasks of women of the day. Without embarrassing anyone, Jesus makes his point and he exhorts them to trust in God to care for them, both the men and the women. The vast majority of the people were peasants who lived from day to day. They experienced on a daily basis a God who provided for them, and they also saw many whose basic needs were not provided for. They would have heard Jesus’ words of reassurance and his call to trust in the goodness of God from a much different life experience than many of us do.

Reflection Questions:

  1. Where in your life are you trying to live two different sets of values or expectations?
  2. What are the different groups that expect your loyalty?
  3. Have there been times when you had a strong sense of God’s care for you?
  4. Have you ever chosen to walk with another who was in a stressful period of their life? Why did you make that decision? What happened to you because of that decision?
  5. Have there also been times when you felt a great sense of worry or dread? What helped you to move on past those feelings?
  6. What are the things you that you worry about? What are the things you do not let yourself worry about?
  7. When was the last time you put a problem or situation into God’s hands? What happened?
  8. How do you think the homeless, immigrants, and chronically under-employed hear Jesus’ statement of reassurance?
  9. As you hear this gospel today, what stirs inside of you? How might God be acting in that response? What would you like to say to God as you become aware of your response to this gospel?

The reflection and questions are written by Fr. Paul Gallagher, OFM.
They are edited by Sister Anne Marie Lom, OSF and Joe Thiel

Ham and Roll and Bake Sale

St. Matthias Home and School Association

invites all parishioners to come to
Steiger Hall
after all Masses
the weekend of
February 25th and 26th 
for our Winter Ham and Roll Sale.  
Plenty of baked goods and hot ham and rolls will be available for sale.
Why not bake some of your favorite treats and donate a portion to the bake sale? 

All baked goods can be dropped off in Steiger Hall before any Mass.

All proceeds from the sale will benefit St. Matthias Parish School.

Thank you for your support!

Parish Profile- -A Closer Look:

Mike Angeli PictureSt. Matthias Parish Administrator Mike Angeli

There are not many parishioners of St. Matthias who haven’t been greeted by Mike while arriving at St. Matthias for weekend Mass. Mike has been Parish Administrator and a friendly face at St. Matthias for about five years.     In his role as Parish Administrator, Mike is responsible for the physical campus of St. Matthias, including the buildings & grounds, as well as communications and stewardship.  Mike also is responsible for technology at St. Matthias, and for overseeing the finances of the Parish. In addition to all of that, Mike serves a unique role as coordinator of RCIA and Confirmation classes for adults.  The RCIA coordinator role is unique for a Parish Administrator, but one for which that Mike is well suited due to his Masters Degree in Pastoral Ministry.

Mike and his wife Katherine have been lifelong members of St. Matthias Parish, ever since they moved into the Parish neighborhood in 1981.  Mike and Kathy raised their two children, Liz and John, within the St. Matthias community, and both of their children attended St. Matthias school.  Mike says he has always loved St. Matthias for the people, the celebrations, and the sense of community.

St. Matthias is Mike’s second career– he was a candy broker and founder of and partner in a broker company for 30 years.  When he and his partner sold their company, Mike went back to school at Cardinal Stritch University to pursue a Master’s Degree in Pastoral Ministry.  Mike took six credits at a time for three years until he finished his Master’s degree, and after that Mike took the job as Parish Administrator at St. Matthias.  Mike is a familiar presence at Mass, and along with his other Parish responsibilities, he tries to attend at least two Masses per weekend and enjoys greeting people face-to-face.  Mike keeps himself busy in his spare time, and among other things enjoys reading, specifically spiritual books (Mike says he often has 3 or 4 books going at a time).  Mike is very social, and when asked who he’d most like to have dinner with (living or dead), he selected Jesus, George Washington, and Pope John XXIII.

Mike has another life change coming up–he will be retiring from his position with St. Matthias on February 15, 2017.  Mike and his wife expect to remain members of St. Matthias, and Mike hopes to spend time relaxing, helping his daughter with her new house, and traveling.  One travel destination on his “must do” list is a trip to Maui, Hawaii, where he and his wife have vacationed in the past.  Mike also envisions himself working part-time at some point, perhaps at a non-profit organization, and says that he will wait for God to open up a door and lead him down the right path.

As the RCIA contact for St. Matthias, Mike said that he has been in contact with people “shopping” for a parish, and after seeing many parishes, many of them choose St. Matthias due to the special feeling of community here.  One challenge for the future, according to Mike, is for St. Matthias to continue to maintain that community spirit, and to recruit new members, especially young people.  He feels we can do this by “keeping our eyes on the prize” and being intentional disciples for Jesus, by welcoming others and treating others well, and not getting distracted by too many rules or regulations.

St. Matthias is losing a great employee, but not losing a friend. Congratulations on your retirement, Mike!  Thank you, and God Bless!

Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

February 19, 2017
Matthew 5:38-48

Background:

Today’s gospel follows on the text from last week’s Gospel. It is part of the much larger instruction that Jesus gave to his disciples known as the Sermon on the Mount, which began with the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3). The structure of Jesus’ teaching is the same as last week.  He starts with a statement that is familiar from the tradition, and then he elaborates on his understanding of how that teaching should be lived by his disciples.

This group of teachings began with Jesus’ statement: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.” (Matthew 5:17) It appears that Jesus is responding to those who questioned his faithfulness to their traditions. His response here, and last week, is that he is not contradicting the tradition that has been handed down, but rather his teaching is a deepening of the attitude that lies beneath that tradition.

The familiar injunction “an eye for eye” that Jesus quotes in verse 38 was not meant as a sanction on revenge, but instead to limit what people who felt wronged or humiliated would do to retaliate.  Jesus’ teaching surpasses just limiting acts of violence. He tells his disciples to replace a spirit of resentment with a spirit of generosity. To appreciate how radical Jesus’ teaching is, it would be helpful to understand the culture of Jesus’ time.

The Jews of the day lived under Roman rule. To go to court with a countryman was an embarrassment because they were submitting to the authority of their occupiers. Jesus makes his point even more dramatic by using a person’s coat and tunic for the matter to be disputed. A person’s coat was not only an essential piece of clothing, but it also served as a blanket or sleeping bag at night. If a person offered a coat when they had nothing else to offer as collateral in a promise, that coat had to be returned before nightfall so that the person had something to keep him warm at night. When Jesus suggests that if someone has the audacity to ask for a person’s tunic, they should give him their coat as well, he implies they would be left standing before them naked, without protection and under the weight of cultural norms that said that you did not behave toward another in this manner. 

The other example Jesus uses in his teaching against retaliation is that of a soldier, who could demand that a citizen carry his armor for a mile. The typical soldier was a fellow Israelite who had sold his services to Rome as a mercenary. He could ask a civilian of the day to carry his heavy pack of armor for one mile, but no more. To carry the armor of a fellow Jew who was now serving Rome was humiliating. Everyone knew that—the mercenary, the person forced into service, and all those who witnessed it. But to then volunteer to carry the pack of armor a second mile throws the system of power and shame out of balance. The soldier loses his ability to bully another, and receives a freely given act of service by a fellow countryman who is treating him with respect and not as a hated mercenary.

On the surface, Jesus may seem to be advocating that his disciples accept passively their fate, even if they find themselves the victim of an injustice by a person or a system. Such a reading of this text proves to be a bit naïve.

Reflection Questions:

  1. Do you have memories of being publicly offended? What kind of feelings arise within you as you think of those incidents?
  2. How seriously do you think Jesus expected his disciples to take these teachings? Is there a difference between seriously and literally?
  3. Why would Jesus instruct his disciples to act in ways that very few if any could succeed in living?
  4. How seriously do you take these teachings? How does that get expressed in the choices you make?
  5. What effect does hardship and suffering have on you? Has hardship and suffering ever led to a transformation within you?
  6. As you hear Jesus’ instruction to his disciples, what feelings arise within you?
  7. If you could pull Jesus aside, what would you like to say to him about his teaching here in this gospel?

The reflection and questions are written by Fr. Paul Gallagher, OFM.
They are edited by Sister Anne Marie Lom, OSF and Joe Thiel.

Get in shape for Lent!

The Total Church Body Workout is coming to St. Matthias!

Directed by Parish member Mary Beth Topf, The Total Church Body Workout is a collection of witty, imaginative, thought-provoking scenes that are relevant to how we are asked to live as Christians today.

The show features St. Matthias Parish members: Mary Beth Krystowiak, Lia Krystowiak, Mary Koller, Pat Gerber, Wendy Rickard, Bill Laffey, and Patti Pomerenke.

The Total Church Body Workout will take place in St. Matthias Church and —-it’s free! (goodwill offerings are appreciated).    Wouldn’t it be worth spending an hour of your day just for you, taking in the message of The Total Church Body Workout?

 

 

 

 

Showtimes:
Friday February 24, 2017 at 7:30 pm
Saturday February 25, 2017 at 7:30 pm
Sunday February 26, 2017 at  1:30 pm

Location:
St. Matthias Catholic Church
9306 W. Beloit Road
Milwaukee, WI

Written by Tom S. Long
Produced by special arrangement with Samuel French, Inc.