Part Three: The Preaching of the Kingdom
Christ’s early teachings focus on the Kingdom of Heaven (Mt 3-7), then Jesus shows the might of God in His extraordinary, tangible works, which reveal his messianic identity. Mt 8-9 speaks of healing the sick and calling certain disciples; then, in Mt 10, Jesus prepares the Twelve Apostles for their first mission in Israel. This step prepares them to take over the task of evangelization from the Lord and to spread the Word to the world after His resurrection (Mt 28:19).
The Gospel gradually reveals the messianic identity of Jesus, beginning from his early childhood; through the preaching of John the Baptist and the Sermon on the Mount. As we discover this identity, we are in awe at the surprises we encounter. Matthew gives his Christian readers of Jewish origins an image of Christ which contrasts with their expectations. Jesus is the Messiah who shows His power through words and miracles, yet “has nowhere to lay his head” (Mt 8:20). He is the Messiah who calls others, through his authority, to follow him, yet he is also merciful with sinners: “Go and learn the meaning of the words: What I want is mercy, not sacrifice. And indeed I did not come to call the virtuous, but sinners” (Mt 9:13). He is the Messiah who send his disciples to the lost sheep of Israel, but puts them on their guard against which they may be subjected in the synagogues – “Beware of men: they will hand you over to sanhedrins and scourge you in their synagogues” (Mt 10:17). Jesus also reveals to his disciples, during his earthly life, how important proclaiming the Kingdom is for them; for merely listening to his teaching and the commandments of the Kingdom is not enough (Mt 5-7). They must busy themselves in the proclamation and profession of their faith, even at the cost of separating from their families “Anyone who prefers father or mother to me is not worthy of me. Anyone who prefers son or daughter to me is not worthy of me” (Mt 10:37). He also told them: “Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and those who welcome me welcome the one who sent me” (Mt 10: 40).
The following three chapters (Mt 8-10) speak of the proclamation of the Kingdom of Heaven and are of great importance. The chapters are divided into two distinct parts: a narrative section (Mt 8-9) and a sermon (Mt 10). The narrative serves to prepare the way to the Discourse, for as Jesus heals the sick (Mt 8-9), the Apostles proclaim the good news (Mt 10) of the salvific might of God to those in distress and weighed down by the troubles and sicknesses of this life.
Let’s read the three chapters at leisure at home, as we are limited in time here, but let’s also pick some topics which are of particular interest to catechumens. We will look at the topic of faith through the faith of the Centurion, how he displayed faith that Jesus described as second to none, even in Israel: “When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him: ‘I tell you solemnly, nowhere in Israel have I found faith like this.’” (Mt 8:10). The early Church comprised gentiles and other repentant sinners, like Matthew the tax collector, who was called by Jesus to follow him (Mt 9:9). Finally, as we discuss the missionary sermon of Jesus (Mt. 10), we will tackle the sacrament of Confirmation, which is the sacrament of Evangelization and Martyrdom. These selected passages of the Gospel, and of theological teachings, will be of great help to those seeking baptism along their journey of faith; further reading at leisure at home is highly recommended. Let us pray always for Jesus to guide the candidate’s steps along the path of the proclamation of the Kingdom, making for us a true new disciple of Christ.