Holidays/Feast Days

Understanding St. Matthew and his Gospel

by Steve Ray on September 21, 2016

Since it is the Feast Day of St. Matthew, let’s learn a lot about him.

Matthew: Understanding the Tax Collector and his Gospel

By Steve Ray

jesus-calls-matthew-2If looks could kill, he’d be dead. The Jews glared at Levi as he counted his coins. Tax collectors in Israel had great wealth and were considered renegades and traitors. Levi, a Galilean Jew who was also called Matthew, would soon be despised for more than confiscating money from his own people. He would be an outcast for following Jesus.

One day Matthew, son of Alphaeus (Mk 2:14), was sitting at his booth collecting taxes for Rome and a young rabbi named Jesus walked by and “saw a tax collector, named Levi, sitting at the tax office; and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he left everything, and rose and followed him” (Lk 5:27-29; cp. Mt 9:9). After leaving his tax booth, Matthew prepared a great feast for Jesus in his home and invited a great company of tax collectors and others to sit at table with Jesus.

When you open the New Testament, the first book you find is the Gospel of St. Matthew. How do we know Matthew wrote the first Gospel? We know because of Catholic tradition. Whereas the rest of the New Testament books were written in Greek, Matthew’s Gospel was originally written in the language of the Jews and only later translated into Greek. Papias (c. ad 60-130), a living witness to the teachings of the apostles wrote, “So then Matthew wrote the oracles [of the Lord] in the Hebrew language” (Eusebius, History of the Church, 3, 29).

St. Irenaeus (c. 130-200) wrote “Matthew also issued a written Gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect, while Peter and Paul were preaching at Rome” (Against Heresies 3, 1, 1). Matthew preached the Gospel orally long before committing the Saying of the Lord to writing sometime between AD 40—70. No date is certain and debate has raged with some wishing a later date. Tradition informs that Matthew preached to the Jews in Palestine for over a decade and later went to foreign nations including Ethiopia, Macedonia, Syria, Persia, Parthia and Medea.

Guido_Reni_-_St_Matthew_and_the_Angel_-_WGA19308Matthew was a Jew writing to Jews. By some calculations, he quotes directly or alludes to the Old Testament a whopping sixty-five times! Readers today must “think” and read like his original audience—Palestinian Jews—to get the full impact of his message. Mark preaches Jesus to the Romans as a servant with no genealogy; Luke portrays Jesus as humanity to the Greeks with a genealogy going back to Adam; John tells the world Jesus is divine and as God he has no genealogy.

Matthew, however, adeptly presents Jesus to his people as Messiah and King with royal pedigree through the kings to David and back to Abraham the patriarch of Israel. The phrases Kingdom of God or heaven are used almost forty times. Using the interpretive techniques of the contemporary teachers of the Law, Matthew skillfully handles the Tanakh arguing that Jesus is the Coming One promised by Moses and the Prophets.

Jesus was a master storyteller, teaching the kingdom of heaven through parables. Matthew weaves these grandly simple stories and miracles into his Gospel to pull back the curtain on the supernatural revealing Jesus’ true identity. Jesus walks through the pages adorned in the purple and gold of royalty. Chapters 1-4 narrate King Jesus’ ancestry, virgin birth, commission, and the inception of his public ministry. Chapter 5 opens with Jesus as the New Moses. With imagery alluding to Mount Sinai, we read, “he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them” (Mt 6:1-2).

Over fourteen hundred years earlier God had spoken through Moses: “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brethren; and I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him” (Deut 18:18). As Jesus took his seat on “the mountain”, the Sermon on the Mount (chapters 5-7) established him as the Prophet who would fulfill and re-define the Law of Moses (Mt 17-22), revealing the interior nature of the Kingdom of God as opposed to the exterior legalism of the Pharisees.

To read the rest of my article on St. Matthew, click here.


Nice article from LifeTeen:

About twelve years ago a teen named Billy asked me this question, “Why do you Catholics believe that Mary ascended into heaven, when it’s not even in the Bible?”

He said “you Catholics” because he went to a local Bible Church but had been coming to a Life Teen Summer Bible Study with some of his Catholic friends.

“Well, first . . . ” I replied, “Mary did not ascend into heaven; the Blessed Virgin Mary was assumed into heaven. Jesus ascended by His own power. Mary was taken up into heaven by God.” That little difference is a big difference, so I wanted to be sure he understood it.

Billy then replied, “Okay, fine . . . but it’s still not in the Bible. The Church made it up.”

This is where the conversation got really interesting.


Maybe Mary didn’t die. Maybe she’s living in Brazil . . . next door to Elvis. Some people point to the fact that only Elijah and Enoch are mentioned as being carried off to heaven in Scripture, and since Mary is not, then “it must not be true.”

Have you ever noticed that although the Acts of the Apostles is an incredibly detailed accurate account of Sts. Peter and Paul, we do not read of their deaths on the pages of Scripture? Everything we know of their deaths comes from early oral tradition. In fact, the Bible doesn’t say what happened to most of the disciples. The Bible is silent in this area. Many Evangelicals accept the witness of Church history that Saint Peter was crucified upside-down in Rome, that Paul was beheaded, etc. — even though Scripture does not record these events.

We know, from oral tradition, that Mary was taken into the care of St. John (the writer of the fourth gospel and the Book of Revelation) and went to live with him in Ephesus (where he was a Bishop). We know that she was sought out for her counsel and wisdom and that she was exalted and honored throughout the community. Early Church Tradition upholds these facts as true, as do historic and non-canonical writings.

What is different, though, is that we know where the bones of Sts. Peter and Paul and other disciples like Mary Magdalene are because the early Christians took care of them. There is no record of where the bones of Mary are. It seems a little odd that if there had been a body no one would have given her a proper burial or that her tomb would not have become a landmark, does it not?


Well, if the woman who God specifically chose to bring His Son into the world and raise Him is not in heaven . . . none of us have a shot.

Seriously, though, is there Scriptural backing for this teaching about the Assumption? Absolutely!

While it does not explicitly state, “Mary assumed into heaven” in the Bible, stop and take a look at the verses from Revelation, written by John, of visions that were seen:

“Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant could be seen in the temple. There were flashes of lightning, rumblings, and peals of thunder, an earthquake, and a violent hailstorm. A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth. She gave birth to a son, a male child, destined to rule all the nations with an iron rod… Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have salvation and power come, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Anointed . . .” – Revelation 11:19, 12:1-6, 10

This revelation is referring to Mary in heaven. Mary is often referred to as the new “Ark of the Covenant.”

Indiana Jones went searching for the Ark of the Old Covenant which contained the Ten Commandments (Law), a pot of manna (heavenly bread) and the staff of Aaron (symbol of Priesthood). You can read about the Ark – but not Indiana Jones – in Hebrews 9:4. The Ark was kept free from all defect and corruption, made from the finest most pure materials to God’s exact specifications.

As the Ark of the New Covenant, Mary carried Christ who is the Law, the Bread of Life, and the Royal High Priest. Her Immaculate Conception and her state as ever-Virgin kept her free from defect and sin, preserving her throughout her life, until her death where she was immediately assumed to preserve her from any bodily corruption on earth. Notice, too, in this passage from Revelation that we see the Ark (which is missing on earth) in heaven immediately preceding our vision of this woman crowned in stars and holding a baby.

Don’t forget – to whom did God give this vision (Revelation)? He imparted it to St. John, the one who was entrusted with caring for Our Mother, Mary (John 19:25-27) for the remainder of her days on earth prior to her assumption.

In 1950, Pope Pius XII defined the doctrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary for the universal Church. The teaching was not new – only now formally clarified. He affirmed that at the end of her time on earth, Mary experienced immediately the resurrection of the body that is promised to all faithful followers of Jesus.

Basically, since Mary was preserved from original sin by the unique gift of Christ’s grace, she was able to experience the immediate perfect union with her Son in heaven, never knowing, tasting or suffering from bodily corruption or decay (due to death) in any way.

Remember, as Christians we believe in the Resurrection of the Body. As the Papal encyclical Lumen Gentium (68) asserts, Mary’s assumption and heavenly presence preceded and foreshadows our own future glory (1 Corinthians 15). You might want to check out how the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains it, too (CCC 966).

One of the things that sets us apart as Catholics from other Christian denominations is that we have a rich understanding of Mary and a tradition of giving her the honor she deserves. She can teach us a lot through her example of virtue and her special role within the Church. Pray with Mary and she will lead you into a far deeper relationship with Her Son than you could ever achieve by your own direction.

I’m reminded of that conversation with the teen every year around this Feast Day, only I no longer call that teen, Billy, my friend . . . now I also call him, Father Bill. He went looking for Mary and found her . . . in the Catholic Church.

Hail Mary!


I will be on Catholic Answers Live Monday at 6:00 PM Eastern. We will discuss the Miracles of Jesus with an emphasis on the Multiplication of Loaves and Fish. When confronted with this at Mass a while ago I wrote a letter to the priest which became an article in Catholic Answers Magazine. Article HERE. 

jesus-feed-5000-300x225In John 6:1-14 it says Jesus fed 5,000 men plus women and children. When Jesus fed the 10,000+ people, he didn’t really do a miracle, right?

He just taught everyone to care and share, right? You’ve probably heard that homily, right?

The people had all brought picnic baskets which they kept hidden up under their robes.

Jesus convinced them all to pull out their picnic baskets to share with everyone else. The REAL miracle was not multiplying loaves and fish, but in teaching selfish people to share.

Isn’t that sweet? And after they shared their food Jesus taught them all to sing “Kum Ba Ya” and they joined in the liturgical dance. A good time was had by all! Or so say some trendy homilists!

Click here for more info or to buy, only $5

***Click on the image to learn more about Steve’s talk DEFENDING THE EUCHARIST: YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT ***

Well I had ENOUGH of that nonsense. I sat at Mass on Corpus Christi Sunday and heard the priest insult the intelligence of everyone in the church. He also insulted the Word of God and the tradition of the Church. He twisted the Gospel reading like a rubber nose.

I almost stood up to protest but my good wife said, “Steve, no! Go home and write!” So I did.

About 12 pages later I had written a very thorough response to the trendy priest and to all others who preach this nonsense. I sent a copy to the priest, to his bishop and to Catholic Answers. It was then published in the January 2008 issue of THIS ROCK Magazine.

CrossingTheTiberSm.jpgI hope this thorough rebuttal of nonsense will be copied and given to very homilist who insults us with such pablum. Hopefully we can put this insulting claptrap to bed once and for all.

For the whole article in THIS ROCK click here. My book CROSSING THE TIBER deals extensively with the Eucharist in the Old and New Testaments and the first five centuries of Christianity. You can learn more here.


Mary and the Other Body of Christ; How Many People were in the Upper Room and Why?

May 12, 2016

The room was pretty full. It was warm but a gentle breeze was blowing—that would change. There was fear in the room. The Roman army was a thing to be feared, they had just crucified Jesus and it was a dangerous thing to associates of an executed criminal. They were also anxious about the promise. […]

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How Long Was Jesus in the Tomb? Another Contradiction?

March 26, 2016

“For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matt. 12:38-40) Skeptics claim to have discovered an error in the New Testament —claiming Jesus was not in the tomb […]

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When Was Jesus Crucified? How Long on the Cross? Do the Gospels Contradict Each Other?

March 25, 2016

Do the Gospels Conflict? How Long was Jesus on the Cross? The question intrigued me sufficiently enough that I spent the best part of a day working on it. On the surface there seems to be a contradiction in the Gospels, mentioning different times for the crucifixion.  Maybe the Apostles forgot to check their watches! Mark says […]

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Feast of Chair of St. Peter: “Chair of Moses, Chair of Peter” Steve’s Article, YouTube Video and Resources

February 22, 2016

                                St. Cyprian of Carthage (beheaded 257 AD) one hundred and fifty years before the New Testament writings were collected into one book called “The Bible”: “The Lord says to Peter: ‘I say to you,’ He says, ‘that you are […]

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Want a Lenten Challenge that Won’t Kill You? Join Fr. Mitch Pacwa!

February 11, 2016

The LentenMercyChallenge was developed by to help others grow closer to Christ during this Year of Mercy through Prayer and Fasting. Take a look below and see if you want to take up the challenge! Fr. Mitch Pacwa gives a 1.5 minute explanation and challenge. For more info, visit

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The Skull is Talking to Me; Lent is Upon Us!

February 10, 2016

THE SKULL TALKS TO ME EVERY MORNING! It says, “As you are now, I once was; as I am now, you soon shall be — remember your mortality!” No better way to approach Ash Wednesday and 40 days of Lent. Artists have painted St. Jerome with a skull on his desk. Popes were known to keep […]

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“Was St. Paul a Catholic?” – Questions I Answered on Catholic Answers Live

January 26, 2016

Questions I Answered on Catholic Answers Live of Friday, January 23, 2016. Click here to listen on-line; for podcast or more listening options click here. 1.  Opened with a discussion of St. Paul life before conversion, his life and radical ministry and the facts and issues surrounding his martyrdom. 2.  In 1 Corinthians St. Paul […]

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Epiphany? So What?

January 6, 2016

 What is Epiphany anyway? And why should I care? The Feast of the Epiphany – the Magi, the Baptism of Jesus and the Miracle of Cana all combined – is really quite fascinating. It was actually a celebration in the Church long before Christmas was celebrated and eventually overshadowed Epiphany. John Paul II gave 52 […]

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Womb 2 Tomb; Bethlehem 2 Jerusalem; Biking on Christmas thru the Holy Land

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I am back in Israel now! Greetings from the Land! I posted this blog a year ago — but I am posting it again so you can see Bethlehem from a unique perspective, from my bike. I think you will enjoy this fun and educational adventure riding through Bethlehem and Jerusalem today. We are in […]

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Questions about Christmas I Answered Wednesday on Catholic Answers Live

December 24, 2015

Fun, fun, fun! I love doing the Catholic Answers Live call-in show. Wednesday the topic was Bethlehem and the Nativity. We started out with my description of what it was like for Mary and Joseph to arrive in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago.  You can listen on-line HERE; for other listening options like podcast, click HERE. […]

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“Year of Mercy” Logo Explained

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I have to admit I was first repelled by the “modern-looking” logo for the Year of Mercy. But now that I read this and took the time to understand, I am quite intrigued. This comes from the Gaylord Michigan diocesan website. Their bishop Raica is a friend and a stalwart man of God and a […]

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Welcoming New People at Mass this Christmas – They May Be an Answer to Someone’s Prayers

December 15, 2015

We get busy on during the Christmas Season. We don’t have a lot of respect for people who go to church only on Christmas and Easter. We may be irritated that seats are taken and the church is noisy.  But, you are praying for your family and friends to come back to church and MAYBE […]

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Did the Wise Men Meet the Shepherds?

December 8, 2015

With upon us, I thought I would post my article this Christmas season with bits of interesting information and details about Christmas, the Gospels and Epiphany. Join us in Bethlehem for Christmas this year from December 26-January 4 or any of six times in 2015. Visit Did the Wise Men Meet the Shepherds?  A […]

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