The pure human emotion of Jesus in this Gospel attests to the love he had for Lazarus, but this human affection is nothing compared with the future promise to which the actions of Jesus towards Lazarus will lead. It is ironic that in raising Lazarus to life, Jesus is ensuring his own death at the hands of the religious authorities!
There are two main points of today’s gospel: the blind man’s journey towards faith and belief, and the contrast between the attitudes of the blind man and his interrogators. Like the Samaritan woman at the well in last week’s gospel, the blind man gradually moves from lack of faith to faith.
Focus of the Readings… This gospel is best read in conjunction with the first reading from Exodus, in which the people of Israel, liberated from slavery in Egypt, are left thirsting in the desert. God provides them with water to sustain their journey through the wilderness to the Promised Land.
Focus on the readings. In the later part of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus warns his disciples that he must journey to Jerusalem to suffer and die and to rise again. He begins his journey towards his fate, but that journey is interrupted by this wondrous moment where he is revealed as the glorious Messiah, the beloved Son of God.
This gospel text follows immediately from the baptism of Jesus. The final words of that text come from the voice from heaven: ‘This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased.’ It is interesting that his tempter, the devil, uses the words ‘If you are the Son of God…’ to introduce two of his temptations. In this way, the devil is disputing the claim from heaven and trying to force Jesus to prove his sonship.
This week’s gospel continues the theme of going beyond what is required by law, but here Jesus takes the teaching much further. More than honouring the spirit of the law over the letter of the law, Jesus advocates what must have sounded like the ravings of a mad man to his hearers: don’t just allow a person to strike you once; offer him the other cheek as well.
The central theme of this week’s Gospel reading from Matthew is built upon over the next several weeks. In this text, Matthew is reassuring his Jewish audience that Jesus has not come to replace the Law of Judaism but to bring it to fullness and completion. In this gospel, Jesus reassures his hearers that ‘not one dot, one little stroke, shall disappear from the Law.’ Instead, Jesus extends the Law of Israel and interprets it in a new way.
Both the First and Gospel readings focus on “living for others”. Jesus uses two metaphors to describe his disciples: salt and light. In this portion of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus does not instruct his disciples to become salt of the earth or light for the world. He tells them that they already are so, because of their relationship with him.
Focus of the Readings – The focus is God’s presence in the temple, the one to be adored. In the first reading, the prophet Malachi tells us that God will send a messenger to prepare for the one to come. The Lord of the covenant is coming to the temple and will call all people to change their lives. Our Christian tradition has seen in this prophecy the persons of John the Baptist and Jesus.
This first weekend of the New Year, we should be focusing on the joy of families, friends and holidays. Instead for so many, the beginning of 2020 has already been marked with loss, destruction, separation and deep sadness; and it would seem there is more to come.