September 20, 2020
The Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost
We learn today that God is not interested in playing counting games. Jesus says that the reign of God is like that of a landowner who pays his workers the same wage no matter what time of day they began to work. When God changes His mind about punishing Nineveh for their evil ways, Jonah is angry. Yet God is gracious and merciful, abounding in steadfast love. Any claim to partiality, any impulse to keep score, is undercut by the grace of God freely given to all in word and sacrament. As Martin Luther wrote, in the presence of God’s mercy we are all beggars.
PRAYER OF THE DAY
Almighty and eternal God, You show never-ending love to us Your servants. Because we cannot rely on our own abilities, grant us Your merciful judgment, and train us to embody the generosity of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Festivals and Commemorations this week
The faithful are remembered on the day of their death, the day they are born anew in heaven. The "c" indicates an approximate date.
September 21 St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist
Matthew appears in the Gospels as a tax collector for the Roman government in the city of Capernaum. He was probably born in Galilee of a Jewish family, although the Jews of the day despised tax collectors as traitors and collaborators with the Roman oppressors and generally excluded them from the activities of the Jewish community. Pious Pharisees refused to marry into a family who had a tax collector as a member. Yet in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus notes that it was the tax collector rather than the prideful Pharisee who prayed an acceptable prayer, “Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner”, and went home justified.
In the Gospels of Mark and Luke, Levi, not Matthew, is called to discipleship, but Matthew always appears in the lists of the twelve disciples. In Mark and Luke, Matthew and Levi do not seem to be regarded as the same person; Origen and others distinguished between them as well. However, it is sometimes suggested the Levi was his original name and that Matthew, which in Hebrew means “gift from God”, was given to him after he joined the followers of Jesus. Mark calls him the son of Alphaeus, a man otherwise unknown and apparently not the Alphaeus who was the father of James the Less.
Since the second century the authorship of the first Gospel has been attributed to Saint Matthew. The name Levi does not appear in this Gospel, and in the list of the twelve disciples the name Matthew, who is identified as “the tax collector” (“publican” in older translations), comes after that of Thomas, which it precedes in the other New Testament lists.
Little is known of Saint Matthew’s life beyond the story of his call, when at the word of Jesus he left his desk and devoted himself to following Jesus. Tradition suggests that he was the oldest of the twelve disciples (and of the later Twelve Apostles). The fourth-century bishop and historian Eusebius writes that after the Ascension Matthew preached for fifteen years in Judaea and then went to foreign nations. Socrates Scholasticus writes that he labored in Ethiopia. Ambrose of Milan sends him to Persia and Isidore of Seville to the Macedonians, while others hold that he preached among the Medes and the Persians. Heracleon writes that Matthew died a natural death, but later tradition makes him a martyr, dramatizing his death by fire or the sword.
September 25 Sergius of Radonezh, Abbot of Holy Trinity, Moscow, 1392
The people of Russia honor Sergius as the most beloved of all their saints and a model of Russian spiritual life at its best. At the age of twenty he began to live as a hermit, and others joined him. From their monastery in the forest, Sergius led the renewal of Russian monastic life. His monastery, the Monastery of the Holy Trinity, was a center for pilgrimage where people came to worship and receive spiritual support. Sergius was also a peacemaker whose influence stopped four civil wars between Russian princes. Sergius left no writings, but his disciples founded seventy-five monasteries and spread his teachings.