Matthew seeks out and deals with the tensions of life, struggling to find a balance, as best he can.  The problem with such a struggle is that it upsets people, as the Gospel illustrates, “the Pharisees … tested him.”  The reading from Exodus is about being unsettled because one does not belong where one happens to be.  The need for the Faithful is to remember the heart from whence there is aid for keeping the covenant.  The motto for the Newman Movement  in campus ministry is the Cardinal’s own motto, Cor ad cor loquitur, Heart speaks to heart.


Exodus 22:20-26


verse 20        “You shall not molest or oppress an alien, for you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt.


The Virginia Peninsula is a mixture between “been-here’s” and “come-here’s.”  The Latin[1] for aliens is advenae, literally, come-here.  Advent derives from advenae.


The notion of being a stranger carries with it the notion of needing a covering or cloak.


verse 25        If you take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, you shall return it to him before sunset; for this cloak of his is the only covering he has for his body.


Cloak is used twice in verse 25.  The Latin uses different words each time, pallium and indumentum.  Pallium is a long Greek mantle.[2]  The pallium is also a liturgical vestment, a white woolen band with pendants in front and back worn over the chasuble by a pope or archbishop as a symbol of full Episcopal authority.  The pallium may also be a draped rectangular cloth worn as a cloak by men of ancient Greece and Rome.[3]  Indumentum is a garment.[4] Indumentum derives from induo, to put on, to clothe.[5]


Implying that the pallium is an inappropriate liturgical vestment asks for trouble from that clergy either wearing or aspiring to wear such and ornament.  In this way, pointing out the difference in these words brings out the tensions of life, the tension between the rich person wearing a rich garment and a poor person, simply wearing a garment.  Jesus never wore a pallium.  Neither did Moses.  Moses is a figure of Jesus, a mediator between the Faithful and the Father.


Many, if not most of the Faithful, are unsettled from where they were born.  Most of the Faithful are in the position of having their cloaks taken, rather than taking anyone else’s cloak.


Psalm 18:2-3, 3-4, 47, 51


verse 2-3            I love you, O Lord, my strength, O Lord, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer.


Jerome has firmamentum for rock.  Rock is more readily translated with saxum, rupes, or scopulus.[6]  Firmamentum has the sense of a means of support, a prop.[7]


verse 3               My God, my rock of refuge            


There is no word for rock in the Latin.  The Latin has, my helper, I will hope in him (my translation).  This touches my personal problem misconstruing my hope for someone else’s commitment.  There has been too much confirmation of the legitimacy of my hope in God for me to be concerned about God’s commitment to his covenant with me.  That does not deny my need to be concerned about human commitment to covenants, such as spending the forthcoming tax increase on the roads for which that increase is covenanted.


Stuhlmueller makes several interesting points.[8]


“The same desperate need for God’s intervention finds a grateful voice in Psalm 18:


             “He reached down from on high, he took me;

                          he drew me out of mighty waters.

             He delivered me from my strong enemy,

                          and from those who hated me;

                          for they were too mighty for me (Psalm 18:16-17).


“Because God alone saves, the sinner must wait upon God.  God, not the sinner, decides when mercy overtakes the wicked person to stir a change of heart and sorrow for sin.  God also decides how long it is necessary for the sinner to wait.  In such waiting a person becomes better disposed to accept, appreciate, and act upon the gracious invitation of divine grace.[9]



“In the Psalter, prayers of thanksgiving are the least numerous of all the prayers.  They are found in Mesopotamia and Egypt and in ancient Israel (cf. Exodus 15; Judges 5).  They are usually in the domain of individual piety, so far as grammar is concerned (“I”) (cf. Psalms 18 and 30).  The structure of these psalms combines hymns and supplication.  God is being thanked for delivering one from sorrow and danger.  The introduction may resemble the first part of a hymn; it is addressed either to God, the object of gratitude, or to the community that witnesses the ceremony of thanksgiving or even joins in it.  The body of the psalm is developed in narrative style: dangers, attacks, persecution, confession of faults, expressions of weakness or innocence.  The psalmist recounts God’s saving intervention.  Finally, the psalm looks toward the future with confidence.  Often enough a formula of liturgical blessing can occur here.


“Psalms of thanksgiving accompanied the liturgical todah or thanksgiving sacrifice.  At this time part of the sacrificial animal was burned in adoration, symbolizing one’s total dedication to God, and the remaining part of the food contributed to the sacred meal, to be consumed by the offerer and entire family (Lev 7:12; 22:29-30).  These psalms are frequently enough associated with vows made during a time of misfortune (Pss 66:13; 116:17-19).”[10]


1 Thessalonians 1:5c-10


verse 7         … in Macedonia and in Achaia


Thessalonica is a city north of Salamis on the Greek peninsula.  Macedonia is a broader area north of Thessalonica; Achaia is a broader area to the south.[11]


verse 10        and to await his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus, who delivers us from the coming wrath.


Faith in a personal resurrection as part of the covenant is what Paul praises in the Thessalonians.


A scholar embellishes,


“The statement in 2 Cor 4:14a is  commonly regarded as a traditional formula, or as a fragment of one.  Such formulas occur also in Rom 8:11, in 1 Cor 6:14, and in 1 Thess 4:14a.  In all of them some implications of Jesus’ death and resurrection are asserted.  To be sure, in 2 Cor 4:14a the death of Jesus is not explicitly mentioned, since Paul has just mentioned the *** (*** is an ellipsis for Greek words, throughout) of Jesus in vv. 10-11.


“In 2 Cor 4:14b the apostle clearly speaks of his real death and resurrection, going beyond the sufferings that he mentioned in vv. 7-12.  He points out the contrast between himself and the community: he will be dead, while they will be alive.  Hence, he applies only to himself the traditional formula about Jesus’ death and resurrection: God will raise us (***) up with Jesus.  The point he makes here is that the Corinthians will not be better off:  God will raise him with Jesus (***) and bring him with them (***) into his presence.


Paul understands the resurrection of Christ and his own resurrection as God’s work.  God raised Jesus from the dead (cf. Rom 4:24, 25; 8:11; 10:9; 1 Cor 6:14; 15:15; 2 Cor 1:9; Gal 1:1; 1 Thess 1:10) and God will raise him “with Jesus (*** here being instrumental)—a reference to the resurrection wrought by God in the end time through Jesus, with the implication of the coming of Jesus in the end time.  This recourse to the resurrection in the end time is not meant to correct a false understanding, as in 1 Corinthians 15.  Nor is it meant to explain how the dead will share in the Lord’s coming, as in 1 Thess 4:13-18.  Nor is the resurrection here a metaphor for the inner life, for in 2 Cor 4:10, 112, 16 the apostle asserts that he and the community are already experiencing such life (v. 12).  The future *** clearly points to the future event which Paul expects to take place at the Lord’s parousia.  This ***, which refers only to the apostle’s resurrection, suggests that he may die before the Lord’s coming.  The ultimate goal here, however, as in 1 Thess 4:14, is not the resurrection but the entry into God’s presence.”[12]


Entry into God’s presence happens by keeping the covenant through the tensions of life.


John 14:23


[no comment here]

Matthew 22:34-40


verse 34        When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a scholar of the law, tested him by asking…


Origin (185-253 A.D.) has an interesting comment,


Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, showing us that the brightness of truth will impose silence on the voice of falsehood.  As a just man will be silent when silence is called for, and will speak and not be silent when it is time to speak, so is it ever the way of all teachers of error to be silent concerning the truth, but not to cease from talking.[13]


The issue is politics versus truth.


verse 37        He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. …


A scholar comments,


“The reference to the pure in heart (5:8) is a general description of virtuous people that should not be defined with too much precision.  Homiletical treatments of people with `clean thoughts,’ even Kierkegaard’s famous dictum regarding those who `will one thing,’ limit the range of application for this expression.  The concept of purity has its background in OT codes that define what is, and is not, pleasing to God.  But the heart (***) cannot be linked definitively with any one sphere of human activity such as cognition (12:34; 15:18) and outward behavior (15:19), as well as the realm of inner reflection (9:4; 24:48).  What is associated with the heart is not intrinsically good or evil: people lust in their hearts (5:27-28) and love with their hearts (22:37).  Here, and elsewhere in the Bible, *** seems simply to present “the true self,” what one really is, apart from pretense.  Thus, to “understand with the heart” (13:15) means to understand truly, to `forgive from the heart’ (18:35) means to forgive truly, and so on.


“We may surmise, then, that the pure in heart are those who are truly pure, opposed to those who are only apparently so.  Just as people may worship God with their lips when their hearts are far from God (15:8), so also may they appear *** to others when they are actually full of ***, `uncleanness’ (23:28).  Thus, many commentators believe the real accent in Matthew’s sixth beatitude is on integrity.  This appears also to be the sense in Psalm 24:4, where the pure in heart are contrasted with those given to falsehood or deceit (cp. Gen 20:5-6).”[14]


Purity of heart is part of the tensions of life revolving about the covenant with the true as an aspect God.  Another scholar picks up on the tensions of life,


“In the Gospel of Matthew a … strategy of dissonance reduction provides a way for the evangelist to affirm two … basic convictions brought into conflict by the course of events, namely, (1) an ecclesiology in which the Torah is the material center of the people of God and recognized interpreters of Torah are the formal center, and (2) a Christology in which Jesus is believed to be the fulfillment of the law and the prophets.  By emphasizing the links that bound Jesus and his followers with the Torah community of the past, and by attempting to sever the Pharisees and their followers from the line of tradition to the present, Matthew strove to construct for his community a habitable world, one that would hang not by a hair but by the sturdier cords of God’s promise and fulfillment.”[15]


The resurrection is not the continuation of the community, but individual and personal.  This is the commitment in which Christians hope.  The unsettling aspect of the covenant, at least for me, is trying to represent and stand for the truth when such representation and stance is not politically correct and wrought with at least emotional danger and pain.

[1] Nova Vulgata: Bibliorum Sacrorum Editio: Sacrosancti Oecumenici Concilii Vaticani II ratione habita Iussu Pauli PP, VI Recognita Auctoritate Joannis Pauli PP, II Promulgata Editio Typica Altera (00120 Citta Del Vaticano: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1979, 1986, 1998) ISBN 88-2209-2163-4.


[2] Cassell’s Latin Dictionary: Latin-English and English-Latin revised by J. R. V. Marchant, M.A. and Joseph F. Charles, B.A. (New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1952) 390.


[3] Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate ® Dictionary: Tenth Edition (Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, Incorporated, 1993) 837.


[4] F. P. Leverett, ed., Enlarged and Improved Edition.  A New and Copious Lexicon of the Latin Language: compiled chiefly from the Magnum Totius Latinitatis Lexicon of Facciolati and Forcellini, and the German World of Scheller and Luenemann: A New Edition, embracing the Classical Distinctions of Words, and the Etymological Index of Freund’s Lexicon (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Company, 1850) 425.


[5] Cassell’s Latin Dictionary: Latin-English and English-Latin revised by J. R. V. Marchant, M.A. and Joseph F. Charles, B.A. (New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1952) 851.


[6]  Cassell’s Latin Dictionary: Latin-English and English-Latin revised by J. R. V. Marchant, M.A. and Joseph F. Charles, B.A. (New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1952) 851.


[7] Cassell’s Latin Dictionary: Latin-English and English-Latin revised by J. R. V. Marchant, M.A. and Joseph F. Charles, B.A. (New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1952) 225.


[8] I have a problem indenting the text as I would like.  The message “The indent size is too large.” only confuses me.


[9] Carroll Stuhlmueller, C.P., The Spirituality of the Psalms (Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 2002) ISBN 0-8146-2599, 167.


[10] Carroll Stuhlmueller, C.P., The Spirituality of the Psalms (Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 2002) ISBN 0-8146-2599, pages 189-190.


[11] Standard Bible Atlas, 2nd edition (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing, 1997).


[12] Joseph Plevnik, S.J., “The Destination of the Apostle and of the Faithful: Second Corinthians 4:13b-14 and First Thessalonians 4:14,” the Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Vol. 62, No. 1 (January 2000), pages 90-91.


[13] Origin (Tr. 23 in Matthew), as found in “Exposition from the Catena Aurea: Matthew xxii, 34-46,” The Sunday Sermons of the Great Fathers: A Manual of Preaching, Spiritual Reading and Meditation: Volume Four: From the Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost to the Twenty-fourth and Last Sunday after Pentecost, tr. and ed. M. F. Toal, D.D. (P.O. Box 612, Swedesboro, NJ 08085: Preservation Press, 1996) 154.


[14] Mark Allan Powell, “Matthew’s Beatitudes Reversals and Rewards of the Kingdom,” the Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Vol. 58, No. 3 (July 1996) 472.


[15] Terence L. Donaldson, “The Law That Hangs (Matthew 22:40): Rabbinic Formulation and Matthean Social World," the Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Vol. 57, No. 4 (October 1995) 709.