Thursday, September 30, 2010

Ponderings According to Sarah, on the Gospel According to Matthew

... and I felt the urge when I typed the title to reply, "Glory to you, O Lord."

(When the Gospels are read in Mass, there is some reverence and fanfare surrounding it.  We sing the Alleluia, and the deacon holds the book high.  He carries it to the podium, finds the place, and says, "A reading from the Holy Gospel according to" Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. Then the congregation replies, "Glory to you, O Lord." And we use our thumbs to make a sign of the cross at the forehead, the mouth, and the chest.)

I'm reading the Gospel of Matthew right now.  My plan was to read the Catechism, then reread the New Testament, then read a book I bought about Orthodox Christianity, and then one about Church history.
I'm hoping that reading the New Testament now that I'm Catholic (in mind, if not yet confirmed) will either convince me of my wrongness in choosing to be Catholic, or give me a wonderful new perspective on the Scriptures I've always known.

So now that I've misplaced my copy of "The Catechism of the Catholic Church", I pulled out my Bible today on the bus and started in Matthew.

One of the first things I noticed was the thoroughly Jewish setting of the first couple of chapters.  The book begins with a genealogy, which was a vital piece of information about a person in Jewish culture.  I remember reading in my Church history resource that the early Church was quite Jewish in character.  Most of the earliest Christians (before they were called Christians) were Jews. 
I've read that at first, the faith was thought of as an extension of Judaism, and that the conversion of Gentiles led to some controversy about whether they had to become Jews to become Christians. Apparently, this led to the writing of several of the Epistles.
So I guess the extensive Jewish history isn't surprising.

It also struck me how humbly Jesus' first mention in the Bible appears:
vs 1: "A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham..."
vs. 16: "and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ."

Then in chapter 2, I was amazed by the use of the word "worship" to refer to Jesus many times, even this early in his life. I looked up the word in a Greek interlinear.
It really does mean "worship", and is possibly an example of the Gospel writers' belief that Jesus was God. This word was used even when Jesus was a baby, before many people knew who he was. 
(The study of whether Jesus believed he was the Son of God is interesting; I can write a bit about that if you guys are interested.)

I looked up from the page as the bus turned a corner, and was struck by how commonplace, everyday it all seems to me: bus seats, backpacks, gas stations, blinkers, people in t-shirts, people texting on the bus, going home to my roommates and our dog, drinking some tea and surfing the internet before settling down to homework. Then I realized that Jesus had his own world that seemed commonplace and everyday to him, and that his world was continuous with the one I would someday inhabit.

Then I got into chapter 3, where Jesus is baptized.  I realized with a start that perhaps Jesus' baptism and the subsequent presence of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove could prefigure our own baptism and confirmation.

Confirmation is the laying on of hands and being anointed with oil to receive the Holy Spirit that is referred to in the New Testament.  When I read about it in the Catechism and figured out what confirmation really meant, I felt tears well in my eyes, thinking that I would get to experience "the laying on of hands" that I'd read about so many times.
It's one of those Catholic things I always dismissed and never realized was in the Bible.

As I walked to my house from the bus, I got to musing about Jesus' baptism.  It all seems so real to me now, like it happened yesterday, in my kitchen or out on my driveway.  
My question is this: was Jesus baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit?  If not, what did John say when he baptized Jesus?  Did he say anything?

I read an article about Jewish baptism, and according to it, "in the name of" seems to refer to a required witness, or to those who were present when it happened. This is well-supported by Scripture, as in 1 Corinthians 1:14-15:
"I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say you were baptized into my name."

And then it hit me. We are baptized in the name of THE FATHER and of THE SON and of THE HOLY SPIRIT.

 What a rich inheritance of faith we have!  How beautiful and nuanced it is!  What a tremendous, glorious blessing that I should be chosen to have this!

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