This new year offers us an opportunity for a renewed commitment to our faith. It can begin with a greater commitment to having faith in God, a God we can trust and rely on completely, in all situations, regardless of whether we fully believe he can help us.
He can. And he does.
Imagine if in this year ahead you had that kind of faith. Imagine that if you faced a difficult situation, one you wondered how anything good could come from it, and instead of fretting and worrying, you turned to prayer?
Through the help of the Scriptures, we can navigate the difficulties we face, which guide and support us, strengthening us when otherwise we might falter.
For various reasons, Catholics have not always understood the Scriptures as well as other Christian denominations. This could be the year to change that. This could be a year that you become a Catholic Christian who understands the message God intends to impart to us through his sacred word: the Scriptures.
If we begin with St. Matthew’s Gospel, which will be with us throughout this liturgical season, we find that it was written by a Jewish man who converted to Christianity because he believed Jesus was the Messiah. Matthew’s Gospel was written in about the year 85 A.D., 15 years after it was believed St. Mark wrote his Gospel. As he wrote his Gospel, St. Matthew had access to St. Mark’s Gospel, his own source material about Jesus, as well as a sayings collection known as “Quelle,” referred to as “Q,” which means “source.” It is believed that St. Matthew and St. Luke used “Q” in constructing their Gospels, even though they were writing for very different audiences.
St. Matthew wrote for Jews who became Christians after Jesus’ death and resurrection. St. Luke, who was the only non-Jew of the Evangelists, wrote for a Gentile audience. St. Matthew used nearly 150 Scripture passages from what we call the Old Testament in his Gospel, writing to demonstrate for his readers the link between the Torah, or the first five books of the Old Testament, the prophets and stories of Jesus to understand God’s faithfulness to them as his chosen people.
While the New Testament was not fully written when St. Matthew wrote his Gospel, St. Paul’s epistles were circulating in Palestine and across the then-known world, as were stories of Jesus’ miracles, his teachings and his resurrection from the dead. As the people of Palestine and surrounding areas heard stories of Jesus, they were often overcome by the experience of Jesus’ Spirit and converted to Christianity through these encounters.
We are not unlike the early followers after Jesus’ time on this earth: We often struggle to make sense of our lives in a time of turbulent change, we seek answers to the deeper questions of life and we search for something to help us know we are moving in the right direction.
In the year ahead, take time to think about whether you are ready to commit your life to living fully in the light of the Holy Spirit. As you navigate the difficulties you face each day, ask yourself if you want to experience the guidance and peace the Holy Spirit provides. Decide if this will be the year you live your life consistent with your baptismal call to respond positively to the Spirit’s invitation to turn your life and your will over to the will of God, living out the promise made on your behalf as an infant, which you now make for yourself as an adult.
This might be the year you take part in a parish Bible study, investigating the stories you have read and heard all your life and committing to become the adult Christian you think could be possible. This might be the year you and your spouse take part in a Worldwide Marriage Encounter retreat, recommitting your promise to one another as you step into the sacramental demands asked of you. Or you may decide to take part in the weekend retreat you’ve always talked about but have never made time for in your busy schedule.
Whatever it might be for you, as you attend Masses throughout this liturgical season, pay special attention to how St. Matthew’s Gospel speaks to you. Think about how the Holy Spirit is asking you to become the committed Christian you have always dreamed of becoming.
Soucheray is a licensed marriage and family therapist and a member of Guardian Angels in Oakdale. She holds a master’s degree in theology from The St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity in St. Paul and a doctorate in educational leadership from St. Mary’s University of Minnesota.