This paper seeks to expound on salient features of the Gospel according to St. Matthew and the Catholic Church. The first part contains a discussion about the Gospel according to St. Matthew with a summary of its contents, a few comparisons with the Gospel according to St. Mark, as well as a brief account about the author Matthew. A brief overview of the Catholic Church is presented on the second part, the foundation of Catholic beliefs, the seven sacraments of the Church, the Eucharist and the two important parts of the Roman Catholic Mass, prayers and devotions to Mary and the Saints. The objective of this paper is to provide knowledge and understanding about the Catholic faith.
The Gospel According to St. Matthew
This is the first book in the New Testament of the Holy Bible. The author of this book is Matthew, an apostle of our Lord, Jesus Christ. He wrote the Gospel of Christ according to his own plans and aims, and from his own point of view, as did also the other evangelists Mark, Luke and John. The book was probably written between the years 60 and 65 A.D. As to the relation of the Gospels to each other, each writer of the synoptics (the first three Gospels by Matthew, Mark and Luke) wrote independently of the other two. In 1911, the Pontifical Biblical Commission asserted that Matthew was the first Gospel written, that it was written by the evangelist Matthew, and that it was written in Aramaic (Catholic Encyclopedia, 2009).
The Gospel according to Matthew tells of the Good News that Jesus is the promised Savior, the One through whom God fulfilled the promises He made to His people in the Old Testament. This Good News is not only for the Jewish people among whom Jesus was born and lived, but for the whole world. This Gospel presents Jesus as the great Teacher who has the authority to interpret the Law of God and who teaches about the Kingdom of God.
The WebBible Encyclopedia stated that the flow of thoughts and the forms of expression employed by Matthew show that this Gospel was written for Jewish Christians of Palestine. His great object is to prove that Jesus of Nazareth was the promised Messiah, and that in Him the ancient prophecies had their fulfillment. The Gospel is full of allusions to passages of the Old Testament wherein Christ has been predicted. The whole book shows that “Jesus is He of whom Moses in the law and the prophets wrote”. This Gospel contains no fewer than 65 references to the Old Testament, 43 of which are direct verbal citations, thus greatly outnumbering those found in the other Gospels. The main feature of this Gospel may be expressed in Jesus’ words
“Think not that I came to destroy the law or the prophets. I came not to destroy, but to fulfill.” (Matthew 5:17, American Standard Version).
Outline of contents
Genealogy and birth of Jesus Christ (1:1 – 2:23). Matthew (like Luke) provides a genealogy and an infancy narrative of Jesus. Although the two accounts differ, both agree on Jesus being both Son of David, and Son of God, and on His birth by a virgin. After giving a genealogy from Abraham to Jesus, Matthew gives the number of generations from Abraham to David, from David to the deportation to Babylon, and from the deportation to Jesus as fourteen years each. Matthew traces the genealogy of Jesus through Joseph, not Mary. Mary becomes pregnant “of the Holy Spirit”, and so Joseph decides to break his relationship with her quietly. He, however, has a dream with the promise of the birth of Jesus. The Gospel proceeds with the visit of the Magi who acknowledge the infant Jesus as king. This is followed by Herod’s massacre of the innocents and the flight into Egypt, and an eventual journey to Nazareth.
The ministry of John the Baptist (3:1 – 12). John prepares the way for Jesus and baptizes people in the Jordan. Matthew depicts John emphasizing his inferiority to Jesus.
The baptism and temptation of Jesus (3:13 – 4:1). John baptizes Jesus, and the Holy Spirit descends upon Him. The descent of the Holy Spirit tells that Jesus has become God’s anointed (Messiah or Christ). Jesus prays and meditates in the wilderness for forty days, and then is tempted by the Devil. Jesus refutes the Devil with quotations from Jewish Law.
Jesus’ public ministry in Galilee (4:12 – 18:35). The Sermon on the Mount is concerned with the character, duties, privileges and destiny of the citizens of the Kingdom of heaven.
Matthew’s beatitudes differ from those found in Luke. The paradoxical blessings in Luke to the poor and hungry are in Matthew blessings to the poor in spirit and those who hunger for justice. In addition, Matthew has more blessings than Luke. Jesus teaches the Lord’s prayer as a simple alternative to ostentatious prayer. Matthew names the twelve disciples. Jesus sends them to preach to the Jews, perform miracles, and prophesy the imminent coming of the Kingdom. Jesus commands them to travel lightly, without even a staff or sandals. He tells them they will face persecution. Jesus tells the parable of the sower. Matthew portrays Jesus as using parables in order to prevent the unworthy from receiving his message. The parables of the weeds among the wheat, the hidden treasure, the pearl and the net are unique to Matthew. The parables of the mustard seed and of the pearl “of very special value” emphasize the secret nature and incomprehensible worth of the Kingdom. The special commission given to Peter is found only in Matthew. “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter [Greek, Petros], and upon this rock [Greek, petra] I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matt. 16:18, King James Version). Matthew is also the only Gospel to mention the church (ekklesia). Jesus cites its authority and calls on his disciples to practice forgiveness (Matt. 18: 15-17).
From Galilee to Jerusalem (19:1 – 20:34). Jesus teaches about divorce. He blesses little children. He talks to the rich young man. The parable about the workers in the vineyard is unique to Matthew where Jesus concludes that “those who are last will be first, and those who are first will be last”. Jesus talks a third time about His death. He addresses the request of the mother of James and John. He heals two blind men.
The last week in and near Jerusalem ( 21:1 – 27:66). Jesus heaps the “seven woes” on the scribes and Pharisees. Matthew expands Marks’ account of the Parousia, or Second Coming.
Matthew mentions such things as false Messiahs, earthquakes, and persecution of His disciples, but states that these are not signs of the end times. After the tribulation, the sun, moon, and stars will fail. The parables of the foolish virgins and of the talents emphasize constant readiness and Jesus’ unexpected return. In a prophetic vision, Jesus judges the world. The godly (“sheep”) are those who helped those in need, while the wicked (“goats”) are those who did not. Jesus triumphantly enters Jerusalem and drives the money changers from the temple. He identifies Judas as his traitor. Jesus prays to be spared the coming agony, and a mob takes him by force to the Sanhedrin. To the trial, Matthew adds the detail that Pilate’s wife, tormented by a dream, tells him to have nothing to do with “that righteous man”, and Pilate washes his hands. To Mark’s account of Jesus’ death, Matthew adds the occurrence of an earthquake, and saints arising from their tombs and appearing to many people in Jerusalem (Matthew 27:51-53).
The resurrection and appearances of the Lord (28:1-20). Matthew provides the story of the Jewish leaders conspiring to undermine belief in the resurrection. Jesus appears to the eleven in Galilee and commissions them to preach to the world: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name (singular) of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”…
Matthew, the author
The meaning of Matthew is ‘gift of God’. He was the son of Alphaeus, and was a publican or tax collector at Capernaum. On one occasion, Jesus, coming up from the side of the lake, passed the custom-house where Matthew was seated and said to him, “Follow me.” Matthew arose, followed Him, and became His disciple (Matt. 9:9).
Formerly, the name by which he was known was Levi (Mark 2:14; Luke 5:27). He changed it to Matthew, probably in grateful memory of his call. The same day on which Jesus
called him, he made a “great feast” (Luke 5:29) to which he invited Jesus and his disciples, and a large number of tax collectors and other people. He was afterwards selected as one of the twelve (Luke 6:15). His name does not occur again in the Gospel history except in the lists of the apostles. The last mention of him is in Acts 1:13. The time and manner of his death are unknown.
The Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world’s largest Christian church. Statistics from the end of 2007 showed that the number of Catholics remains stable at 1.147 billion people across the globe. For the past two years, Catholics have made up 17.3 percent of the world’s population (Glatz, 2009).
The Catholic Church’s highest earthly authority in matters of faith, morality and governance is the Pope, currently Pope Benedict XVI, who holds supreme authority in concert with the College of Bishops, of which he is the head. The Catholic community is made up of an ordained ministry and the laity. Members of either group may belong to organized religious communities. Through apostolic succession, the Church believes itself to be the continuation of the Christian community founded by Jesus in his consecration of Saint Peter. With a history spanning more than two thousand years, the Catholic Church is one of the world’s oldest institutions.
Catholic beliefs are based on the deposit of Faith (containing both the Holy Bible and Sacred Tradition) handed down from the time of the Apostles, which are interpreted by the
Church’s teaching authority, the Magisterium. These beliefs are summarized in the Apostles’ Creed and formally detailed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC). The Apostles’ Creed states, thus:
I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth
I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord,
He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit,
And was born of the Virgin Mary,
He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried
He descended to the dead, on the third day He rose
He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
From thence, He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the
forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and in life everlasting. AMEN.
(CCC 199 – 1065)
The seven sacraments of the Church
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), Jesus instituted seven sacraments of the new law and entrusted them to the Church. The sacraments of Christian initiation are Baptism which is the beginning of new life; Confirmation which is its strengthening; and the Eucharist which nourishes the disciple with Christ’s Body and Blood for his transformation in Christ (CCC 1275). The sacraments of healing are Reconciliation or Penance which confers the forgiveness of sins committed after Baptism (CCC 1486); and Anointing of the Sick formerly Extreme Unction or the “last rites” which confers a special grace on the Christian experiencing the difficulties inherent in the condition of grave illness or old age
(CCC 1527). The sacraments at the service of communion are Holy Orders which is the sacrament through which the mission entrusted by Christ to His apostles continues to be exercised in the Church until the end of time: thus it is the sacrament of apostolic ministry (CCC 1536) and Matrimony which signifies the union of Christ and the Church as it gives spouses the grace to love each other with the love with which Christ has loved His Church (CCC 1661). Sacraments are important visible rituals which Catholics see as signs of God’s presence and effective channels of God’s grace to all those who receive them with the proper disposition. The sacraments touch all the stages and all the important moments of Christian life from birth.
The Eucharist, one of the seven Church Sacraments and the key part of every Catholic Mass, is the center of Catholic worship. The Eucharist is celebrated at each Mass and is the center of Catholic worship. The Church teaches that the Old Testament promise of God’s salvation for all peoples was fulfilled when Jesus established a New Covenant with humanity through the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper, a covenant then consummated by His sacrifice on the cross, which in contrast to some Protestant belief is made truly present in the celebration of the Eucharist. It is Catholic dogma that the bread and wine brought to the altar at each Mass are changed through the power of the Holy Spirit into the true Body and the true Blood of Christ termed “transubstantiation” (CCC 1376) and that, by consuming these, believers are spiritually nourished, deepen their union with Jesus, are cleansed of venial sins, are helped to overcome and avoid sin, unite with the poor and promote Christian unity (CCC 1391 – 1398). The Church teaches that Christ is present in the Eucharist. There are strict rules about its celebration and reception. The ingredients of the bread and wine used in the Mass are specified and Catholics must abstain from eating for one hour before receiving Communion. Those who
are conscious of being in a state of mortal sin are forbidden from this sacrament unless they have received absolution through the sacrament of Reconciliation or Penance (Communion – dispositions to receive).
Mass in the Roman Catholic Church
Mass consists of two parts: the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
Liturgy of the Word. On Sundays and solemnities, three Scripture readings are given. On other days there are only two. If there are three readings, the first is from the Old Testament or the Acts of the Apostles during Eastertide. The first reading is followed by a Responsorial Psalm, a complete Psalm or a sizeable portion of one. The second reading is from the New Testament, typically from one of the Pauline epistles. If a deacon participates, he reads the Gospel and can also give the homily. A priest, bishop, or even the Pope should not proclaim the Gospel if a deacon is present. The final reading and high point of the Liturgy of the Word is the proclamation of the Gospel. This is preceded by the singing or recitation of the Gospel Acclamation, typically an Alleluia with a verse of Scripture, which may be omitted if not sung. Alleluia is replaced during Lent by a different acclamation of praise. All stand while the Gospel is chanted or read by a deacon or, if none is available, by a priest. To conclude the Gospel reading, the priest or deacon proclaims: “This is the Gospel of the Lord” and the people respond, “Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.” The priest or deacon then kisses the book. A bishop, priest or deacon may then give a homily, a sermon that draws upon some aspect of the readings or the liturgy of the day. The homily is obligatory on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation, and is highly encouraged for other days. The Liturgy of the Word concludes with the General Intercessions or “Prayers of the Faithful”. The priest speaks a general introduction, then a deacon
or lay person addresses the congregation, presenting some intentions for prayer, to which the congregation responds with a short response such as: “Lord, hear our prayer”. The priest may conclude with a supplication (General Instruction of the Roman Missal [GIRM], 2003).
Liturgy of the Eucharist. The linen corporal is spread over the center of the altar, and the Liturgy of the Eucharist begins with the ceremonial placing on it of bread and wine. These may be brought to the altar in a procession, especially if Mass is celebrated with a large congregation. The bread (wheaten and unleavened) is placed on a paten, and the wine (from grapes), mixed with a little water, is put in a chalice. As the priest places each on the corporal, he says a silent prayer over each individually, which, if this rite is unaccompanied by singing, he is permitted to say aloud, in which case the congregation responds to each prayer with: “Blessed be God forever.” Then the priest washes his hands, “a rite that is an expression of his desire for interior purification.” The congregation, which has been seated during this preparatory rite, rises, and the priest gives an exhortation to pray: “Pray, brethren, that our sacrifice may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father.” The congregation responds: “May the Lord accept the sacrifice at Your hands, for the praise and glory of His name, for our good, and the good of all His Church.” The priest then pronounces the variable prayer over the gifts that have been set aside. The Eucharistic Prayer, “the center and summit of the entire celebration”, then begins with a dialogue between priest and people. This dialogue opens with the normal liturgical greeting, but in view of the special solemnity of the rite now beginning, the priest then exhorts the people: “Lift up your hearts.” The people respond with: “We lift them up to the Lord.” The priest then introduces the great theme of the Eucharist, a word originating in the Greek word for giving thanks: “Let us give thanks to the Lord, our God,” he says. The congregation joins in this sentiment, saying: “It is right to give Him thanks and praise.” The priest then continues with one of many Eucharistic
Prayer prefaces, which lead to the Sanctus acclamation: “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of power and might, Heaven and Earth are full of your glory, Hosanna in the Highest, Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, Hosanna in the Highest.” The central part is the Institution Narrative and Consecration, recalling the words and actions of Jesus at His Last Supper, which He told His disciples to do in remembrance of Him. It concludes with a doxology, with the priest lifting up the paten with the host and the deacon (if there is one) the chalice, and the singing or recitation of the Amen by the people. All together recite or sing the “Lord’s Prayer”. Next comes the rite of peace. While the “Lamb of God” litany is sung or recited, the priest breaks the host and places a piece in the main chalice; this is known as the rite of fraction and commingling. The priest then receives Communion and, with the help, if necessary, of extraordinary ministers, distributes Communion to the people, who, as a rule, approach in procession. When receiving Holy Communion, the communicant bows his or her head before the Sacrament as a gesture of reverence, and may receive the consecrated host either on the tongue or in the hand, at the discretion of each communicant. The sacred vessels are purified by the priest, the deacon, or an instituted acolyte after Communion or after Mass. Then the priest concludes the Liturgy of the Eucharist with the Prayer after Communion, for which the people are invited to stand for the final blessing (GIRM, 2003).
In addition to the Mass, the Catholic Church considers prayer to be one of the most important elements of Christian life. The Church considers personal prayer a Christian duty, one of the spiritual works of mercy and one of the principal ways its members nourish a relationship with God. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) identifies three types of prayer: vocal prayer (sung or spoken), meditation, and contemplative prayer. Regarding vocal prayer, CCC (2700) states, “Whether or not our prayer is heard depends not on the number of words, but on the fervor of our souls.” Meditation is prayer in which the “mind seeks to understand the why and how of Christian life, in order to adhere and respond to what the Lord is asking.” (CCC 2705). Contemplative prayer is being with God, taking time frequently to be alone with Him. (CCC 2709). Three of the most common devotional prayers of the Catholic Church are The Lord’s Prayer, the Rosary and Stations of the Cross. These prayers are most often vocal, yet always meditative and contemplative.
Prayers to, devotions to, and veneration of the Virgin Mary and the saints are a common part of Catholic life but are distinct from the worship of God. Explaining the intercession of saints, CCC (956) states that the saints “… do not cease to intercede with the Father for us … so by their fraternal concern is our weakness greatly helped. The Catholic Church holds Mary, as ever Virgin and Mother of God, in a special regard.
Catechism of the Catholic Church (1994). Manila. Word & Life Publications
Catholic Encyclopedia (2009). Synoptics. Retrieved July 21, 2009 from http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14389b.htm
Communion – Dispositions to Receive. Retrieved July 23, 2009 from http://www.ewtn.com/expert/answers/communion_dispositions.htm
General Instruction of the Roman Missal (2003). Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference, Inc.,. Retrieved July 23, 2009 from http://www.usccb.org/liturgy/current/revmissalisromanien.shtml.
Glatz, C. (2009). Catholic news service. Retrieved July 22, 2009 from http://www.americancatholic.org/news/newsreport.aspx?id=759
WebBible Encyclopedia (n.d.) Gospel according to Matthew. Retrieved July 21, 2009 from http://www.christiananswers.net/dictionary/matthewgospelaccording.html