Intentions of the Holy Father for April

Ecology and Justice. That governments may foster the protection of creation and the just distribution of natural resources.
Hope for the Sick. That the Risen Lord may fill with hope the hearts of those who are being tested by pain and sickness.

Reading in Chapel

At the advice (not in person, but in a lecture) of N. T. Wright, an Anglican bishop and pretty darn good biblical scholar, I have decided to try to use the same biblical text for study as for prayer. I sense that doing otherwise would be the beginning of a split between my brain and my heart, my reason and faith. That's not good. Since I have to use the Nestle-Aland 27th Edition of the Greek New Testament for study, and I want to improve my Greek anyway, that is what I am bringing with me into chapel. For the New Testament, at least for now, it is Greek for me. I am not suicidal, so for the Old Testament I am sticking with English, since my Hebrew is still very rudimentary.

Anyway, I am working through the gospels, slowly but surely, and am at Matthew 9:9.

(OK, so the bit above was pure bragging. Bear with me; I hope to be less childishly self-centered before I die.)

Next I noted that the Greek text closes with an interesting, albeit common, construction. Literally the last sentence reads, "And getting up, he followed him." Honestly, the best translation is "And he got up and followed him," or something like that. The writers liked to say things like, "And blanking..., he did such and such." The first verb, in the -ing form, we would usually take to be a sort of background action, but in the Greek text and can't always be that way. Getting up isn't the background action for following him, but the first step to following him. The Greek construction has a certain sense, at least partially, of equating the two verbs, or using the two verbs to describe the same action. Getting up IS, you might say, following Jesus.

The preceding story was of the healing of the paralytic whose friends brought him to Jesus. Jesus tells him to get up, too, but a different verb is used. It just means, "get up." When Matthew "gets up," though, the verb is the same used to describe Jesus "getting up" after three days in the tomb. I know, exegetically, I am on thin ice, but please indulge me to skate for a bit. The use of the same word for Jesus' resurrection at least calls it to mind when we read of Matthew's "getting up," even if Matthew is clearly not being resurrected. There is still a sense of a new life.

Think about it. St. Matthew had been sitting there. Just sitting there, collecting taxes, being hated by his countrymen for a traitor, and probably bored with life, trying to figure out what he was doing with himself. At least on a deep level he must have been very dissatisfied, very ready for something new. And then Jesus, this famous peasant preacher that a lot of people are saying is "the One," comes by and says, "Come, follow me." And he does. St. Matthew just got up and went, leaving behind everything - including all the money and receipts that the Romans were expecting. Imagine the surprise of whoever was onlooking. But the dissatisfaction with his current life, the deep wondering, "Is there anything better than this?" laying in Matthew's soul is what made it all make sense. So in that terse sentence, Matthew gets up and goes for a new sort of life - following Jesus.

I am not sure what the whole thing means, but I envy St. Matthew his abruptness, his suddenness.

St. Matthew, pray that we, like you, may abandon everything, turn our life around on a dime, to follow Jesus when we see him come by. Amen.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hmmm. Interesting stuff. Thanks for sharing.