Fr Donald Senior presented on Gospel of Matthew. Photos at the bottom.

Introduction – October 2019.

It is with a particular joy I attended the annual Deacon retreat this year.

Background: In our local parish cleric meeting we had already decided to do a series on the Gospel of Matthew for adult formation during ordinary time this January, 2020. It was a happy coincidence that the retreat master Fr Donald Senior presented on same! This content and perspective adds much needed context for which I am grateful.

This is a preservation and invocative work product. The actual written Gospel of Matthew bible study will come afterwards and I’ll post as I always do on another page. They overlap but not occlude. Further I am injecting my own thoughts throughout as place-keeper for further work and research.
I hope you find nuggets you can use also.

Batch One.

Highlighted Jewish Concepts Present in Matthew

After the year 70 CE, the world tipped in new directions. The Jerusalem Temple had been destroyed. The Diaspora was in full swing. Meeting places destroyed or had to re-built. Judaism had to redefine and reconstruct the center of Jewish life: communal life, cult of worship and expression and perspective of orthodoxy.  We are in a point in time and not reflecting on current practices. Side note: Christianity will go through similar redefinitions at the same time and in latter ages.

A time of establishing continuity in the midst of discontinuity.

Judaism Rebirth

  • Synagogue – while already preexistent as social and business gathering centers morph into a newer version. The Synagogue becomes a place of teaching and newly defined rituals.
  • Temple – The Temple cult is no longer available.
  • Pilgrimage / Pilgrimages – Are no longer possible. The home becomes the place of pilgrimage. The pilgrim feasts are now designed to be celebrated in the home. Note also Matthew does not focus on the Jewish feasts except Passover and Unleavened Bread:
    • Feast of Weeks, Pentecost (no reference).
    • Feast of Passover (Matt 26:17ff).
    • Feast of Unleavened Bread (Matt 26:17ff).
    • Feast of Tabernacles, Feast of Booths and Sukkot (Matt 17:1ff) – Transfiguration mention.
  • Role changes – Feasts are now practiced in the home. Women play a larger role in worship. This is partly speculative and lacking collaborated data. Interesting idea and worth research.
Feasts Husband Wife



Teaching Preparation
Cleansing vessels
Levitical priestly duties including leading some household prayers

Principles of Judaism and a Foundation of Matthew’s Christianity

  • Moral Life
  • God’s Holiness
  • Responsibilities
  • Accepting the Stranger

Principles of Jewish Piety and a Foundation of Matthew’s Christianity

  • Almsgiving
  • Prayer
  • Fasting

For a Catholic this should give you goose bumps. Each year at Lent, as a matter of concentrated: Almsgiving, Prayer and Fasting. Side note: expand in study guide.

Batch Two.

General Comments on reading a Gospel

The four Gospels are four portraits of the Life of Jesus.

It is unreasonable and an unnecessary task to provide artificial harmonization of these Gospels.

Avoid obsessing (losing sight of the importance and message) about a few key areas:

  • Order of events except for the broadest of items (Birth, Life, Death, Resurrection)
  • Dialog of events – specific phraseology accentuating particular ideas the witness took from Jesus’ actual dialog. The differences are clues not needing harmonization.
  • Example: Among the Last Words of Jesus.
    • Mark – Loud scream and exhale.
    • Mathew – Cried Out and handed over.
  • Recording of events – inclusion and exclusion are hints to the message too.
  • Jesus quotes are usually not quotes but summaries of what he said, i.e., Sermon on the Mount and Sermon on the Plains.

Recognize the importance of what was presented:

  • Each Gospel captures Jesus in a unique set of variances of insight and tonality.
  • Try to identify the ‘Signature’ features of the Gospel you are evaluating.
  • Be conscience of the cultural and historical setting.
  • Be conscious of the intended audience of the Gospel.
  • Compare and contrast the Gospels to help draw out the message.

The beginning of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee is recounted in four distinct ways:

Generalized Comment of Mission Start
Matthew Mark Luke John
Matt 4:12ff

Galilee drawing ppl – all points compass.

Starts with Teaching.

Begins in Synagogue.

Mark 1:14ff

Galilee then narrows to Capernaum.

Starts with Teaching.

Begins in Synagogue.

Luke 4:14ff

Galilee then narrows to Nazareth.

Starts with Teaching.

Begins in Synagogue.

John 2:1ff

Galilee, narrows to Cana wedding .

Starts with Signs.

Water/Wine and Cleansing Temple.

Batch Three.

General Comments on reading the Gospel of Matthew

The signature features of the Gospel of Matthew:

  • Is considered a pastoral work. Matthew looks into the face of Jesus.
  • Is considered the Mission Gospel starts with and ending with Great Commission – All Nations.
  • Focus expands from Israel to the Nations. God is the God of the nations.
  • God’s horizon embraces everyone. Moving from the particular to the universal.
  • Helped the early Church evolve, that is, realize Identity and outreach.
  • Most widely quoted and used in sermons by the Early Fathers.
  • Recapitulates OT Themes.
  • Attempts to communicate and retain the heart of the Jewish experience (x-ref Matt 3:52 Scribe/Disciple).
  • Uses the language of Storeroom and Treasure, aka, the heart of a person or nation. Little ones are not children they are the vulnerable.
  • The only gospel that uses the term Church 3 times (ecclesia) – Ch 16 and 18.
  • Uses a Teaching/Healing looping style.
  • Heavy use of Parables.
  • How the Church should behave until the End of Times (Matt 28:16ff).
  • The nature of a Community gathered in Jesus’ name.
  • The type of community, that is, the interior life of the Church.
  • Gentiles must adopt the Jewish Ethical perspective.
  • There is no Plan B. Plan A was to have the Gentiles join and extend the mission vocation of the Israel.

Modern Stories with a Matthew tonality:

  • Pope John XXIII used a phrase in reference to calling the historic Second Vatican Council: ressourcement – Return to the Sources – means sacred Scripture and the person of Jesus Christ.
  • Then Bishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio was quoted as saying in the papal conclave to replace Pope Benedict XVI: When people read the story of Jesus knocking at the door most think he is trying to enter somewhere. I think he is knocking to get out! He wants to be freed from the confines of the Church and out to the existential periphery ‘in the world’. Open the horizon.
  • Pope Francis in Joy of the Gospel insists on the renewal of encounter with Jesus.

Application for each of us is the Telos or end goals:

  • Christian life begins with an encounter with Jesus.
  • Developing the otherness of self-giving.
  • In Matthew Jesus teaches what (1) Humans are and (2) What they are meant to be (Ch 5 – 7).
  • The heart of our humanity is love, service and compassion.
  • Find your mission in the world.
  • Becoming complete and whole.
  • To Be Perfect means to be complete in your heat but not necessarily perfect in execution. X-ref Matt 21:28ff.

Quotes or Ideas Shared (for more development):

  • The Church does not happen to have a mission, rather, the Mission happens to have a Church.
  • A human being thrives on self-giving.
  • Treasure is the deepest and most important thoughts of the heart.
  • We reach out to Jesus and Jesus reaches out to us.
  • Jesus crosses the boundaries and touches them (us).
  • The burden of the Church is developing a deeper and ever more radical expression of the existential mission.
  • Quotes (mine) – Death redeems Life (Gen 2:7).
  • Quotes (mine) – Life frames meaning of death.
  • We chose the memories we live with.

Chastisement of Israel

  • Jesus speaks in contrasts not in opposites.
  • He is interested in the harmonization of interior purpose and our actions.
  • Jesus fulfills the law – Torah is God’s revelation.
  • Fidelity of the people to God.
  • Lust, honesty in speech (oaths)
  • Breaking the chain of violence.
  • Real perfection.
  • Do not make holiness more difficult for the vulnerable.
  • Lacking forgiveness and inclusion (see Gen 4:24 s-ref Matt 18:22).
  • Don’t Do List:
    • Don’t wound
    • Don’t exclude
    • Do not limit forgiveness.
  • Story of Jonah was a well known Jewish chastisement for being egocentric.

Matthew opens with…

  • Infancy narrative
  • The four women: Tamar, Rehab, Ruth and Bathsheba.
  • The identity of Jesus as
    • Savior, Messiah, S/o David (Royal) and S/o Abraham (Father of Nations).
    • S/o God (on the cross).
    • Emmanuel
    • God Saves
  • Parallels NT and OT beginning with Joseph and Exodus.
  • Jesus cites the lament of ethnic cleansing early in his ministry.
  • True New Commandment – Love Your Enemies.
  • Sermon Mount.

Other themes:

  • The Ten Healing Stories Chapters 8 and 9.
  • Liberation from burdens
  • Shame and the Symbols of death
  • Fishers of Men – Jeremiah and Habakkuk.
  • Greatest
  • Lost Sheep
  • Forgiveness
  • Children (paidion)
  • Little Ones (Micro)
  • Those expelled from community are to be treated as those to be invited to conversion.
  • Possession is an extension of the self with a purpose. Are you imprisoned by your possessions.

Jesus Passion and Resurrection are the heart of the mission.

  • Dance and dirge
  • Hosea – I desire mercy.
  • Giving life as a ransom – diakonia.
  • Conspiracy
  • Anointing head (contrast other gospel)
  • Betrayal
  • Gethsemane – Jesus fears.
  • Eli, Eli – mocking Jesus and Elijah.
  • Laments and Wisdom references.
  • Thy will be done (repeated on cross 3 times modeled after Our Father).
  • Handed over spirit. Giving back breath.
  • Effects of Crucifixion
  • Vindication
  • Crucifixion is a repudiation of person, life, goal and movement of the one being crucified.

Ecclesiastes ch 12.

Moving to fearlessness, Peter Keys and Binding. Peter walks on water.

Jesus limits leadership titles and community of equals (7 woes).

Strive fror a culture of encounter and a civilization of love. Reject indifference and exclusion.

Until the end of time.

Photo Collection

Some pictures at Our Lady of Florida retreat center. Thought provoking. Pushing out into the Existential Periphery in the Mission of the Church.