The Gospel of Matthew is sometimes called the Rule of Discipline, or the Manual of Displine. Matthew’s Gospel is designed to help the Matthew Community locate the charism of Jesus. Matthew wants to move his Community from a rule or manual to their heart! The heart in Jewish thought is the inmost being of a person. It is where failure and faults begin, where virtue and holiness begins.
Matthew’s Community has a litany of wrongs that need to be defeated and replaced with virtues. They are these: Murder, Adultery, False Oaths, Revenge, and Hate. These failings have their roots in smaller infractions like : Anger, Lust, Swearing, and Spite. Sin for Matthew is an act of alienation from the Community, and even one’s self.
Jesus knew the seriousness of these infractions. They jeopardize the stability of the family, the Community, from one another. They jeopardize all relationships. These infractions contrary to our Baptismal promises. Matthew tells his Community there is a “New Law” in our hearts. For Matthew the heart is one’s inmost begin. These infractions root themselves in our hearts and can “break our hearts.” For Matthew this is “the heart of the matter!” Because it is where sin begins. This is where alienation from God, Community and self begins!
Someone has said that we “live half by faith and half by axioms.” These are a few that help us on our journey of faith.” Sometimes when we are upset it is this axiom that gets us through the day: “Salvitur ambulando” “All is saved by a walk.” When things get too heated “take a walk” or “walk it off”. We just keep our mouth shut. Other times we just “swallow”. In other words “Jesus autem tacebat or Jesus however was silent.” This is the shortest sentence in the Gospel. Briefly, Matthew was speaking to aspirations that made up his Rule or Manual. These come from his experience and the members of his Community. He had axioms, faith. We can create our own Manual or Rule with these acts of faith, our axioms.
Fr. Ken O’Malley, C.P., is the local superior at Holy Name Passionist Community in Houston, Texas.