Last Sunday we commenced reading from the post Pentecost Matthew cycle of readings. We will read gospel extracts from the first Sunday after Pentecost (last Sunday) until the seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost with a few exceptions (as on major feastdays).

Last week we opened Matthew at around the middle section. Today we turn to an earlier section near the beginning. We omit the Infancy Narratives – they are saved up for the Christmas Season. It is good to make a couple of points about this gospel here. Matthew is the longest gospel with its 28 chapters and 1,000 verses. It is also noteworthy that Matthew is the only gospel to mention explicitly ‘the Church.’ Matthew tells us the meaning of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. We have the portrait of a Jesus whose birth is divine, whose ministry is acclaimed by God and whose death and resurrection are the result of God’s will. Simultaneously, Jesus is also human. In today’s account Matthew is concerned with discipleship. He call two pairs of brothers – Simon, Peter and Andrew and James, the Son of Zebedee and John – to follow him.

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The personality of Jesus exudes great magnetism and even a sense of humour demonstrated by his comment ‘fishing for human beings.’

Ask a Christian today what is meant by faith. For many it simply means belonging to the Church, reciting the Creed, abiding by Catholic morality and fulfilling the rules. In early Christian communities people would have answered that being Christian means following Jesus. Christians are people who build their lives around walking in Jesus’ footsteps. Nowadays we need to remind ourselves what following Jesus means. It means being inspired by him to continue in our own time, responsibly the passionate work that he and the people around him began – taking on the great attitudes that gave meaning to their life and living them today in our own context. Following Jesus means believing what he believed, giving importance to what he considered important, defending the cause he defended, seeing people as he saw them, loving people as he loved them, trusting the Father as he did.

In this a challenge is addressed to us. Who are we following in our lives? What messages do we hear, who are our leaders, what causes do we defend? Can we go on doing these things and still be Christians? Pope Francis has addressed the issue of how we must engage in the mission of becoming a Church of the disciples of Jesus as follows:

Let us go forth then, let us go forth to offer everyone the life of Jesus Christ. Here I repeat for the entire Church what I have often said to the priests and laity of Buenos Aires: I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security. I do not want a Church concerned with being at the centre and which ends up by being caught up in a web of obsessions and procedures. (E.G. #49)

Fr Brian Kelty