22 February 2008

St. Matthew Bible Study - Lesson 18

Getting caught up, here's Lesson 18.

Becoming like children
The chapter starts out with some of the disciples asking Jesus who is the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven. They are showing their jealousy of the favoritism that Jesus is showing Peter. Jesus presents a child to them and says, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven.” Father Echert mentioned that “humble” means to “go to the ground.” His example of children in this case shows how we are to be completely dependent on our Father, to trust Him and listen to Him in showing us what is best for our lives and to remain innocent and pure. The greatest in the kingdom of Heaven is based on the possession of charity. Jesus is showing God to be a Father, and we are His children. God is not a master or slave owner. From our notes it says that “in order to enter the kingdom of heaven, it isn’t necessary to become like a subject but rather one must turn and become like a child.” And, “As a personal becomes more and spiritually mature, they also become more and more childlike.”

“…but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for hi to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” The millstone here isn’t just a small millstone typically used by women in the home, but an ass millstone that was so heavy that it could only be moved with great effort. To be tossed into the sea and never return was the equivalent of hell. To cause someone who was less knowledgeable (childlike) to sin would bring about this stiff penalty. This sin is called scandal. From the catechism (CCC 2284-2285):

2284 Scandal is an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil. The person who gives scandal becomes his neighbor's tempter. He damages virtue and integrity; he may even draw his brother into spiritual death. Scandal is a grave offense if by deed or omission another is deliberately led into a grave offense.
2285 Scandal takes on a particular gravity by reason of the authority of those who cause it or the weakness of those who are scandalized. It prompted our Lord to utter this curse: "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea." Scandal is grave when given by those who by nature or office are obliged to teach and educate others. Jesus reproaches the scribes and Pharisees on this account: he likens them to wolves in sheep's clothing.

“And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut if off and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life maimed or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire.” Father said that sin is an act of the will – it is neither your hands nor feet that are evil. In fact, all of God’s creation is good; your body is a temple and should be cared for, not maimed. The act of cutting of your hand is not intended but is a Hebrew way of expressing things. The truth is not to mutilate that which is good but to fix your will.

Father mentioned that Gehenna was an actual place outside of Jerusalem where garbage was burned. From Wiki:
In English, Jews commonly use the term "hell" in place of "gehenna." The name derived from the burning garbage dump near Jerusalem (the Hinnom gulch), metaphorically identified with the entrance to the underworld of punishment in the afterlife.


“See that you do not despise one of these little ones; for I tell you that in heaven their angels always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven.” Here is a passage that shows that we all have at least one Guardian Angel.

Jesus then switches from talking about children to talking about sheep. From the class notes: “Jesus is addressing not just the Church in a broad and generic way, but the apostles and their successors the bishops. This is where Jesus starts instructing the future leaders of the Church, so it’s here that he begins to use the imagery of shepherds and sheep.”

Fraternal correction
Again from the notes, “Jesus specifies that a lost sheep should be appraoched not as an animal, but as a brother. Notice that Jesus returns to the family analogy to spell out the steps by which a Christian is solemnly bound to correct his brother. Fraternal correction is to be done with respect and discretion, and to do this a person approaches his brother in private. A person whose initial correction is heeded should rejoice because he’s won his brother. If the brother won’t listen in private, then a person is to take one or two others along. The covenantal family situation is changing, and the Church is becoming a courtroom. Although a covenant establishes family ties, the familial relationship is founded on the concept of justice. Two or three witnesses are required under the Old Covenant Law of Moses (Deut 19:15) and that’s the number of witnesses required under the New Covenant. If the brother still refuses to listen, a person is required to bring the matter before the Church. Note the assumption of authority that Jesus grants the Church: ‘If he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.’ The phrase “even to the church” says it all. Jesus plainly regards refusal to listen to the Church as unthinkable for a disciple and clear ground for excommunication from the community. Jesus underscores the Church’s authority with the words: ‘Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.’”

Wicked servant
Father said this parable is about sinning against an infinitely good God, so our sin takes on almost infinite proportions. If God can forgive us such a great sin, we are certainly expected to show the same mercy and to forgive our brothers’ sins. In this parable, the servant can never pay the debt, so is essentially in hell.

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