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Exclusively published to the Touchstone website each week, these Daily Reflections are brief commentaries on the lectionary readings contained in the St. James Daily Devotional Guide. The reflections are penned by Patrick Henry Reardon, editor of the Daily Devotional Guide and a senior editor of Touchstone. Father Reardon provides here a very brief directional clue for one of the texts each day. Long-time readers of the Daily Devotional Guide will find these reflections an additional help to their reading of Holy Scripture which they can print and keep with their Guide.

The Daily Reflections will be updated weekly.

Please report any problems with Daily Reflections here.


Saturday, March 18

Matthew 18:10-14: This parable of the lost sheep, found both here and in Luke 15:3-7, carries a very different emphasis in each setting.

In Luke's setting the parable comes first in a series of thee parables about lost-and-found and serves to illustrate God's compassion toward sinners and answers the challenge thrown at Jesus in Luke 15:2, ˝This man receives sinners.ţ Accordingly, in Luke the parable of the lost sheep is followed by two other parables illustrating the identical theme of the divine compassion, the account of the woman and her lost coin and the story of the father and his lost son. In Matthew the parable tells us directly about Jesus and the mercy of God.

Since Jesus' compassionate regard for and merciful behavior toward sinners is the root of what theologians call soteriology (˝the study of salvationţ), the major point and burden of this story of the lost-and-found sheep in Matthew is Christological and soteriological. That is to say, it is directed toward the questions, ˝Who is Jesus?ţ and ˝What does He do?ţ

In Matthew, on the other hand, the parable of the lost sheep is placed in an ecclesiological setting. It pertains to Matthew's fourth great discourse, which is concerned with the Church. Bear in mind that in this chapter we have two of the three times that the word ˝Churchţ appears in the Gospels.
The link verse in this story is verse 10, a negative command that ties the parable back to the section on scandal (verses 6-9). The ˝little oneţ in this context--henos ton micron--can be a child, but it can also include any ˝little person,ţ whom we are tempted to overlook, to neglect, perhaps even to despise.

Here is Matthew's difference from Luke's version of the parable. In Luke this is story of Jesus' regard and behavior with respect to the sinner, whereas here in Matthew it is concerned with the attitude and behavior of Christians.

Let us further observe that this ecclesiological and moral accent in Matthew's version is muted or even lost in the manuscript tradition by a copyist's insertion of verse 11, which is missing in the older, more reliable manuscripts of Matthew. Some later copyist evidently borrowed it from Luke's story of Jesus and the publican Zacchaeus. The insertion of this verse significantly alters the flavor and nuance of the text, changing it into a Christological story rather than an ecclesiological and moral exhortation. The text, then, should be read without verse 11.

Thus read, then, the parable is not about Jesus seeking the sheep that was lost. It is an illustration of the command not to despise one of these little ones. It is an exhortation to the Church to let no one ˝fall between the cracks.' It is an order to seek and find that which was lost.

Each of these little ones, who (we observe) are no longer just children, has a guardian angel that contemplates the face of God. This is one of the ˝proof textsţ for the Church's belief in the guardian angels (cf. Acts 12:15.

The Church must exercise, then, a certain stewardship over the sheep, a theme that follows the prophetic criticism (cf. Ezekiel 34:6,15-16 for instance) of the shepherds of Israel, who neglected to go out and bring back the sheep that were lost.

These sheep have not only ˝strayedţ; they have been ˝led astrayţ or ˝deceivedţ (planao), an expression that Matthew sees as a sign of the last times (cf. 24:5). They have separated themselves from the flock, because they have followed a ˝deceiverţ (24:11). In Matthew's context, then, to stray means to be led astray for a false teacher (24:24). In these texts it is evident that the danger of straying is great, because the false teachers are described as numerous.

We are not, says our parable, to despise those who have been led astray. They still have their guardian angels, and the Father still loves them. Hence, the people of God are never to despise those that wander and become lost, to treat such persons as negligible and beyond the solicitude of the Church

Nonetheless, Matthew phrases the admonition in such a way as to suggest that the stray sheep may not be found (verse 13). Such searches for the wandering are not invariably successful.

Still, the loss of such a sheep is never God's will (verse 14). No sheep is predestined to be lost. The Bible knows nothing about predestination to hell; indeed, the very concept is contrary to the mind of the God who wills all men to be saved.

The ˝wanderingţ in Matthew, in short has to do with becoming separated from the flock, the Church. There are no insignificant sheep in this flock. There are no ˝nobodiesţ in the Church, no unimportant souls for whom Christ died.

In Matthew, then, this is a parable about life in the Church. Reconciliation in Matthew always means reconciliation with the Church. There is no such thing as reconciliation with God apart from the Church. Reconciliation always means restoration to the flock, and the Church is to go after the ˝stray.ţ

This parable will be followed by instructions on how to do this-how to bring back the erring brother.

Sunday, March 19

Matthew 18:15-20: This section continues the theme of life in the Church, specifically how to bring back the stray sheep. That is to say, these verses illustrate how Christians are to fulfill the mandate implied in verse 14 - God's will that no one of the little ones should perish. The burden of these verses is not that we should expose sinners, but that we endeavor to save them. The message, then, is identical to the parable of the lost sheep.

Once again we perceive Matthew's conviction that the Church is a house of redemption and reconciliation. To be redeemed, for Matthew, and to be reconciled, means to be at peace with the Church.

This message, once again, is obscured by copyist's insertion of the words ˝against youţ (eis se in verse 15, an insertion that makes the offense appear to be a private matter between two Christians. This insertion, unknown to Origen in the third century and missing in the two oldest codices of the Sacred Text, seems to have been made under the influence of Peter's question in verse 21, ˝How often shall my brother sin against me

This insertion alters the sense of the passage rather dramatically. If the reading ˝against youţ were original, the sense of the text would indicate a private offense involving only me and my brother. Without that insertion, however, the text refers to any sin that I see my brother committing, any sin that I hear he is committing. In all such cases, he remains my brother, for whom I am responsible, and his sin is my business. I have an obligation in charity to consult with my brother on thee matter.

The case proposed here concerns sins that are not general knowledge, sins not commonly known. If a sin is blatant, open, and public, there is no need for this graduated approach indicated in the Sacred Text. Public sins, by their nature, come directly to the attention of the whole Church (cf. 1 Corinthians 5:1-5; Philippians 4:2). The reprimand of public sins may be just as public as the sin itself.

This is not the case here in Matthew, where clearly the sin that the brother has committed is not public knowledge. In such a case, what is the believer's charitable obligation toward the erring brother? He is commanded to ˝reproveţ (elegxson).

This would probably not be just any kind of sin. The context suggests, rather, the sort of sin that might affect the life of the congregation itself. That is to say, a serious sin, of the sort that, were it known, might prove harmful and scandalous to the Church. This kind of sin cannot be overlooked.

If in this case the sinning brother accepts the reproof-if he hears the one that corrects him-then the sin goes no further. It is not to be shared with others. The people of God have no ˝right to know.ţ If a sin can be dealt with privately, it is supposed to be dealt with privately, and it would be sinful to share such information with others.

There are two words especially to be noted in this passage:

The first word is ˝brother.ţ This means that the Church is a family (cf. 12:46-50). The reproof, consequently, takes place in an atmosphere of love and concern, not enmity nor hostility. It is necessarily a kindly reproof, motivated by concerned charity.

The second word is ˝reprove,ţ which indicates that the Church is a house of common discipline, not a convention of lone rangers. In the Church it is imperative that no person turn himself into a mere individual. Therefore, where there is an obligation to reprove, there is a corresponding obligation to listen to reproof. Both are acts of charity.

Both are also difficult. Hardly anyone relishes receiving a reproof. Likewise, we are disposed to avoid giving reproof, because these things are awkward and uncomfortable. It is only charity that compels us to give and receive reproof.

If this reproof fails, and only if it fails, we go to the second stage, in which one or two others are brought into the conversation (verse 16; cf. Deuteronomy 19:15). Once again, the accent is on charitable solicitude for the erring brother. From rabbinical literature we also know that the progressive procedure of fraternal correction elaborated here in Matthew was common in the synagogues of that day. We also find a specific application of it in 1 Timothy 5:19.

Finally, if forced to it, the situation arrives at the third stage, in which the sin is brought to the attention of the Church. In this case the sinner is facing no longer a quiet, pastoral reprimand, but the discipline of an institution authorized to speak for God and address consciences. The sanction imposed for not listening to the Church is excommunication (cf. 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15; 2 John 10). Earlier in Matthew (16:19), Peter had received this authority, as representing the Church.

In the verses that follow this instruction (verses 19-20), the literary context, determined by the instruction itself (verses 15-18) is still largely ˝juridical,ţ in the sense of having to do with the judgment of the Church. However, two new elements are introduced: common petitionary prayer and the presence of Christ.

The mention of petitionary prayer seems to indicate the context in which the disciplinary decisions of the Church are to be reached.

With respect to the presence of Christ in the midst of His people, this theme is found at both the beginning (1:23) and the end (28:20) of Matthew. It is reminiscent of a saying in the Mishnah ('Aboth 3.2): ˝If the words of the Torah pass between two sitting together, the Cloud of the Presence [the Shekinah] abides between them.ţ

Monday, March 20

Matthew 18:21-35: The foregoing theme of forgiveness by the Church now introduces the subject of personal forgiveness by members within the Church. This latter aspect is introduced by Peter's use of the word ˝brother.ţ The question still has to do with family relationships in the Holy Spirit. The Church, then, is still the context.

This passage also has to do with real offenses, such theft, cheating, or lying. Peter does not ask, ˝How many times must I permit my brother to annoy me or get on my nerves.ţ Some more serious offense is envisioned in this mandate to forgive.

The response of Jesus can be translated as either ˝seventy-sevenţ or seventy times seven.ţ The point of the mandate is not the precise number, whether 77 or 490. It means, rather, that there must be no limits to our forgiveness. Forgiveness cannot be allowed to become a quantitative commodity in limited supply.

After all, how does God forgive? He does not limit His mercy to our first seven offenses. He forgives us at our repentance, no matter how often we fall. We too, then, are called to forgive in the same measure. Such abundance of mercy will become the burden of the parable that follows (verses 23-35).

Jesus' response to Peter alludes to Genesis 4:24-˝ If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold,/ Then Lamech seventy-sevenfold.ţ This line from Lamech is a sort of culmination of the growing violence that followed man's fall in the Garden. That fall led immediately to the murder of Abel (4:8), which led immediately to the prospect of vengeance (4:14) and then greater vengeance (4:15), leading in Lamech's case to the equivalent of total warfare. Jesus' response to Peter indicates that the Gospel must go in the opposite direction, placing no limits on forgiveness.

The parable that follows, which is proper to Matthew, does not exactly illustrate the mandate to forgive without limits. It indicates, rather, that we are to forgive in the measure that our heavenly Father forgives us. Thus, the parable advances the Lord's argument with a new consideration-the massive disproportion between the debt that one man may owe to another and the incomparable debt that every man owes to God. This ridiculous disproportion is the basis of the parable's irony.

The debt that the servant owes to the master is calculated at ten thousand talents, a figure that would amount to billions of dollars in today's money. Consequently, the payment of the debt was beyond the servant's ability to repay; the debtor would be in debtors' prison forever. This is an image of eternal loss.

The proposed selling of the wife and children is a metaphor. This could not happen in Jewish Law in Jesus' time. Even if it could, the sale price would not pay the debt. Hence, the servant's resolve to pay the whole debt (verse 26) was futile on its face.

In this parable, then, we discern two aspects of God. The first is His mercy, His compassion for man's distress. God forgives the repentant. The debt is absolved because of the master's compassion (splangchnistheis--verse 27).

The second aspect is God's anger (orgistheis--verse 34), prompted by man's refusal to copy the divine compassion. The servant is condemned for not imitating his master's mercy. Instead he declines to forgive the piddling liability of a fellow servant.

In this parable Matthew returns to the message already contained in the Lord's Prayer and the Sermon on the Mount (6:14-15).

It is important likewise to observe the intervention of the ˝fellow servants,ţ an act that continues this chapter's theme of the Church. We remark that the master reacts to the situation at the behest of the Church, the two or three fellow servants who are gathered in his name. Indeed, the irony of the story is disclosed by the intervention of the Church. The master in the parable listens to the case made by the Church. What was retained on earth was retained in heaven.

The wicked servant's condemnation to torture (basanisais--verse 34) is eternal, because his debt is beyond payment. No one can pay it. This is an image of eternal damnation (cf. 25:41,46).

In short, it should be easy for a Christian to forgive seventy times seven times, knowing that God has forgiven him so much more.

Tuesday, March 21

Matthew 19:1-12: At this point Matthew rejoins the narrative sequence in Mark, which he will follow for the rest of the book. However, as this section begins with Jesus' move from Galilee, in the north, to Judea, in the south, Matthew and Luke begin to follow separate sequences, Luke inserting many stories that have no parallel in the other gospels (cf. Luke 9:51-18:14).

Matthew introduces his own narrative by mentioning the end (etelesen--verse 1) of Jesus' previous discourse-namely, the preceding chapter on life in the Church. Each of Jesus' five large discourses in ended in the same way (cf. 7:28; 11:1; 13:53; 26:1).

Jesus, moving south, goes somewhat eastward across the Jordan, avoiding a trip through Samaria. He is followed by ˝largeţ crowds (contrast with Mark 10:1), ˝to followţ being the normal word for discipleship.

In Mark's parallel account (10:1), it is said that Jesus taught these crowds, whereas Matthew says that He ˝healedţ them (etherapeusen--verse 2). The significance of this change is to be found in the light it sheds on the teaching that immediately follows. The following section deals with matters that we may call ˝domestic,ţ in the sense of having to do with the home (domus in Latin). This subject will include sex, children, and money, and on these matters Jesus will ˝healţ the people of common but fallacious opinions. These subjects-sex, child-raising, and finances-are the ones on which the views of the world are likely to be sick and in want of healing.

Each of these three subjects is introduced by certain individuals that approach Jesus: the Pharisees, the mothers bringing their children, the wealthy inquirer. It would seem that Matthew has arranged this material in a sequence that was usual in the catechetical practice of the
Christian Church. In fact, these three subjects are likewise treated together likewise by St. Paul (cf. Ephesians 5:22-6:9; Colossians 3:18-25). The similarity of order between Matthew and Paul suggests these dominical sayings have been organized according to a standard and recognizable format.

There immediately follows, then, a teaching about sex, which includes marriage, divorce, and celibacy (verses 3-12), for which there is a partial parallel section in Mark 10:2-12.

The treatment of marriage and divorce comes in response to the question that the Pharisees put to Jesus, which question Matthew (alone) says was meant to ˝tryţ Him (peirazontes--verse 3). The context of the teaching, that is to say, was one of controversy. It is well known that the various rabbinical schools were distinguished from one another by what restrictions they place on divorce, some stricter, some not so strict. Jesus as being invited to enter that controversy.

Instead, He went straight to the creation account in Genesis, using it to forbid all divorce (cf. also 5:32). Jesus mentions no exceptions. Even the expression ˝not including fornicationţ (me epi porneia), which is often taken as a reason for divorce, is no exception to the rule. It simply means, ˝I am not talking about fornication.ţ That is to say, the prohibition against divorce applies only to a true marriage, not cases where a man and woman are living together in sin.

What is most striking about Jesus' prohibition is that our Lord thereby abrogates the application of Deuteronomy 24:1, which did provide for divorce. Jesus would have none of it. Divorce for the purpose of remarriage with someone else is adultery.

It is unfortunate that many readers find in this text only another species of legalism with respect to marriage. In fact, this biblical passage has as much to say on the subject of Christology as of marriage. However, when this page is consulted, some question about marriage is usually the reason for the consultation, so the important Christological weight of the text is simply overlooked. Inspected more carefully, however, the Christological significance of the passage would hardly be weightier. Jesus, boldly abrogating a concession given in the Mosaic Law, laid claim to immense authority-truly, ˝all authority"--pasa exsousia, as He will say at the end of Matthew (28:18). This authority is nothing less than divine, and it is in recognition of this total authority that we find so many people in Matthew's stories falling prostrate before Jesus.

It is curious to observe, nonetheless, that it was not His enemies that objected to this prohibition given by Jesus. It was the disciples themselves who wondered, if divorce was not permitted, whether remaining celibate might not be a more attractive option (verse 10). (We wonder why the prospect of a happy marriage did not cross their minds!)

Perhaps to their surprise, Jesus agreed with them, not because of the indissolubility of marriage, but as a superior expression of the Kingdom of Heaven (verse 12). Nonetheless, Jesus declared, celibacy is a gift from God, a grace not accorded to all men (verse 11).

Most Christians recognize that in this passage the reference to self-castration is a metaphor of irony, akin to the amputation of a hand or the gouging out of an eye mentioned in the previous chapter.

This section on celibacy is proper to Matthew, but its content is consonant with the general New Testament thesis of the superiority of consecrated celibacy over marriage (cf. Luke 14:20; 18:29; 1 Corinthians 7:25-35).

Wednesday, March 22

Matthew 19:13-22: From a discussion about marriage Jesus passes to the subject of children, in which He repeats the injunction indicated in 18:1-4.

The subject arises when children are brought to Jesus to receive His blessing (verse 13), a scene found in all the Synoptics (Mark 10:13-16; Luke 18:15-17). All of them likewise include the objection of the disciples against what they evidently regarded as an unwarranted intrusion on the Lord's time and attention.

It has been suggested that the early (pre-Scriptural) Church preserved the memory of this scene because it answered a practical pastoral question abut infant baptism. Read in this way, Jesus is affirming the practice of infant baptism: ˝Let the little children come to Me.ţ Indeed, the verb that Matthew uses here, koluein, ˝forbid them not,ţ is identical with the expression used with respect to the baptisms of the Ethiopian eunuch and the friends of Cornelius (Acts 8:36; 10:37; 11:17).

I do not think this interpretation of the passage to be likely, because there is simply no evidence in the New Testament that infant baptism was a problem. On the contrary, as the Christian replacement for circumcision, we should presume that baptism was available to infants, just as circumcision was. In each case it was admission to the covenant. It would be strange indeed, if Jewish children could belong to the Mosaic covenant, while Christian children could not partake of the Christian covenant. Moreover, the baptism of entire households in the New Testament (Acts 11:14; 16:15,31-33) indicates that it was normal to baptize infants in Christian families. Although the pastoral practice of the Christian Church varied in this matter, the ˝validityţ of infant baptisms was not challenged for well over a thousand years. Consequently, to see a reference to a ˝controversyţ about infant baptism in these lines of Matthew seems to me an unlikely interpretation.

The third subject, money, is introduced by a man that comes to our Lord, seeking counsel on how to attain eternal life (verse 16). This scene is paralleled in Mark 10:17-22 and Luke 18:18-23.

If we are to look for another link between this section and the preceding theme of children, perhaps we find it in the fact that the question is asked by a ˝young personţ (neaniskos). Indeed, this feature is unique to Matthew. Both Mark and Luke suggest, in fact, that the man may not be young, because he claims to have kept all the commandments ˝from my youth,ţ an expression that Matthew's account does not contain.

In authentic Deuteronomic style the man is told to ˝keep the commandmentsţ (less explicit in Mark and Luke) if he wishes to enter into life (verse 17; Deuteronomy 4:10; 30:6). This hypothetical clause is proper to Matthew, as is the next hypothesis, ˝if you would be perfectţ (verse 21).

From this hypothesis regarding perfection, the Church in due course came to distinguish the monastic vocation from the vocation of other Christians. This was a reasonable inference drawn from the Sacred Text. Just as not everyone is called to consecrated celibacy (verses 11-12), not everyone is called to consecrated poverty, and these two things have always been recognized as pertaining to the monastic dedication.

The literary and theological relationship between these two passages in Matthew was noted back in the 4th century by St. John Chrysostom, On Repentance 6.3.12-13. While neither celibacy nor poverty is commanded to all Christians, their double consecration indicates a special calling extended to some Christians whose charismatic way of life will stand as a prophetic witness to the Church and to the world.

As a point of history, therefore, it is no exaggeration to say that this chapter of Matthew is one of the biblical texts most responsible for the institution of Christian monasticism. It was on hearing this text read in his parish church in Egypt back in the 3rd century that young Anthony, determined not to follow in the footsteps of the rich man, sold all his possessions and went into the desert to spend the rest of his life in celibacy, poverty, and prayer.

As for the man who declined the Lord's invitation to be ˝perfect,ţ he left himself vulnerable, nonetheless, to a great deal of sadness (verse 22). His failure to accept the Lord's challenge now leads to a series of teachings on the dangers of wealth (verses 23-29).

Thursday, March 23

Matthew 19:23-30: Let alone not attaining perfection, says Jesus, it is only with great difficulty that a rich man can even enter the Kingdom of Heaven (verse 23). Thus begins this section of Matthew, paralleled in Mark 10:23-31 and Luke 18:24-30.

Over the centuries of Old Testament history we can discern a deep transformation in Israel's thinking about wealth. The ancient Wisdom tradition had associated the accumulation of wealth with the virtuous life, as we see in Proverbs. That earlier literature, while not unaware of the spiritual dangers associated with wealth, had spend little space expounding on those dangers. It was Israel's prophetic voice, rather, beginning with Elijah's denunciation of Ahab in the 9th century, that began to elaborate the theme of the dangers posed by too much preoccupation with wealth. This was a major theme, of course, in the great social prophets of the 8th century. Gradually it found its way more explicitly in the Wisdom literature as well, Sirach 31:3-5 being one of its more eloquent expressions. Jesus' approach to the subject in the present text is of a piece with what we find in Sirach.

Matthew omits the initial wonderment of the disciples mentioned by Mark (1):24), but he does include the Lord's elaboration of the theme in the hyperbole of the camel and the eye of the needle.

As an image of ˝great difficulty,ţ this seems an unlikely hyperbole. It strikes the reader, rather, as a simple metaphor for impossibility. Indeed, there is a clear parallel to it in rabbinical literature, which speaks of the impossibility of passing an elephant through the eye of a needle (Babylonian Talmud, Berakoth 55b). Does Jesus mean, then, ˝ţvery difficultţ or ˝utterly inconceivableţ?

Since there appear to be no circumstances in which it is humanly possible for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, various fanciful interpretations have been advanced to explain away the toughness of the text. One of these, manifestly invented by someone who had no idea what he was talking about, refers to a small gate in the wall of Jerusalem. There is not the faintest evidence of such a gate.

On the other hand, since the Lord's hyperbole contains a bit of metaphor-mixing, others have tried their hand at ˝correctingţ Him. After all, why would anyone try to pass a camel, to say nothing of an elephant, through the eye of a needle? What purpose would it serve? You can't sew with an elephant. It was apparently to address this difficulty that a tenth century copyist devised a very slight textual change in Luke's version of the parable. He altered kamelos (camel) to kamilos (rope). A rope, after all, has some affinity to a thread, whereas camel obviously does not.

This reading of ˝ropeţ for ˝camel,ţ first found in a manuscript penned in A.D. 949 and copied into a few other manuscripts, is rather clever, even ingenious, but it is also too late to be taken seriously. One should be very cautious about biblical interpretations, much less biblical readings, that don't appear in the first thousand years of Christian history!

What, then, about the impossibility implied in the Lord's saying? The subsequent verse, in fact, confirms it. Yes, says Jesus, the salvation of the rich man is humanly impossible. This does not mean, however, that there is an impossibility on God's side. God can pass a camel through the eye of the needle (verse 26). Let the rich man take care, however. Let him reflect that he is asking God for a miracle.

This metaphor of the camel and the needle, therefore, is something of a parallel with the moving of mountains. Both parables have to do with the power of faith in the God. Salvation is ever a gift of God, not a human achievement.

Peter's response to this teaching (verse 27) may seem somewhat to exaggerate the size of his own abnegation. Just how successful was the fishing business that he gave up. After all, every time he catches a fish in the New Testament, the event is regarded as a miracle. ˝Giving up everythingţ in Peter's case may not appear, at first, to involve all that much.

Looks are deceptive, however. Peter's commitment to our Lord would eventually lead him to witness the martyrdom of his wife (cf. Clement of Alexandria, Stromateis 7.11.63) and then be crucified upside down on Vatican Hill (cf. Tertullian, Scorpiace 15.3).

Moreover, the Lord Himself honored what Peter had to say, and He promised to reward Peter's self-sacrifice (verse28). He extends this promise to all the Twelve.

This is an important text in the ecclesiology of Matthew. The Apostles here, the institutional Twelve, become the new patriarchs, as it were, of the People of God. Their foundational role in the Church was so important that the Church took care to preserve even the exact number after the defection of Judas Iscariot (Acts 1:15-26).

The Lord's promise of recompense is then extended to all those who, in imitation of the Twelve, would devote their lives to the closer following of Christ and the ministry of the Gospel along the road of self-abnegation (verse 29). These too will attain eternal life, the quest about which the rich man recently inquired (verse 16).

More than Mark, Matthew emphasizes the rewards of the world to come, omitting Mark's inclusion of the rewards promised during the present age (cf. Mark 10:30).

The final verse in this chapter (verse 30), which is easily detachable from the present context, is apparently placed here because it prolongs the theme of reversal found in the previous verse-as the poor become rich, so the last become first, and the first last. This theme of reversal, in fact, appears to account for Matthew's insertion of the next parable at this point. In that parable, as we shall see, the theme of reversal appears again (20:8).

Inadequate space obliges us to join Friday's Daily Reflection with the coming week.



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