Sunday, September 21, 2014

St. Matthew's Memories, on the Couch

Were that all my patients, as I wrap up my career,  like unto St. Matthew.

Firstly, the blessed Evangelist had a remarkably strong interest in revealing the content of dreams (Mt 1:20; 2:12; 2:13; 2:19; 27:19).  Dreams ... the royal road to the unconscious, Dr. Freud claimed.   My patients could have saved me a lot of metaphorical dead-ends and ditches, in theory, if they had only been as lucid in their sleep as the precocious Joseph, son of Jacob.

Secondly, Matthew also offers no stubborn ego-resistance to uncovering his sordidly mischievous past and failings, but states things quite openly for all to gasp at (to wit, he's a tax collector ... i.e., a disloyal cheat and an extortioner, most likely ... and a sinner).  A genuine repentant, he does cling to Christ's rejoinder to those eager to sneer at both states:  "Those who are healthy do not need a doctor, but those who are sick.  Go and learn what this means:  'I want mercy and not sacrifice.' For I did not come to call righteous people, but sinners."

The other synoptic accounts have the doc-talk down, but decide to omit the Son's recitative reminder of  the Father's will, from of old.

Thirdly, Matthew obviously appreciates the utility of story-telling, a supreme art of the Great Physician.  The evidence:  there are no less than seven "Kingdom parables" in Mt 13 alone; all revealing to those with ears to hear, as to the mysteries of Christ and His Church, at work.

[Parenthetically, there have been a few good story-tellers among secular psychiatrists.  Leston Havens ("A Safe Place") and Adam Phillips ("On Kissing, Tickling and Being Bored") immediately come to mind, for instance.  I remember years ago hearing Dr. Havens voice the fervent hope that the functional MRI would become the paradigm-shattering stethoscope for the shrinkdom; but to approximate Dr. Freud, another good story-teller: sometimes an fMRI is only an fMRI -- for the present, anyway.  My patients' have appreciated this lame physician's attempts at story-telling, now and then, but these were mostly the insomniacs who discovered something ("Eurekazzzzzz...") more effective than Ambien.]

It is St. Matthew, alone, who provides some essential details on the demise of  a very troubled Judas Iscariot.  St. Peter to be sure, in Acts 1:18, graphically recalls that Judas fell "headfirst ... and burst in the middle, and all his intestines poured out."  But the circumstance which prompted that grisly tumble is left unsaid.  It is divinely assigned to the former tax-collector, to somberly disclose what is missing:

Once Judas had perceived the death-sentence of the Man who had hours before called him 'Friend,' "[Judas] felt sorry and brought the 30 pieces of silver back to the high priests and elders.  He said, 'I have sinned by betraying innocent blood' (Mt 27:3,4a). "

The experts of the Law responded coldly and curtly to the betrayer's remorse:  "What do we care?  That's your problem (v.4b; emphasis, mine)."

Matthew tersely shares that in his dark despair and ridden with guilt, Judas threw the money into the Temple, "and went away (v. 5)" ... away,  so far away from Golgotha where the Rabbi was hanging and demonstrably willing to forgive even the worst of reprobates.  And there, far away and cast adrift, "[Judas] hanged himself (v.5),"  hoisted on his very own cursed tree and a twisted "it is finished" wish.

The ecclesial experts could have done something for Judas, one presumes ... and they in fact did.  Concerned that it was "not right to put [the coinage] into the Temple treasury" ... because it was "blood-money" ... they decided to sacrifice the booty to the purchase of a potter's field, to bury the body of a "stranger." 

It's all there, recorded in the Gospel of St. Matthew.

And this makes sense.  Only a man who had personally heard what the Father's will was towards the estranged sinner, and was impacted by such in a dramatic confrontation between God and the self-righteous, at his banquet, would fully appreciate the irony of the clerical experts' scandalous behavior.

The high priests and the elders, you see, couldn't scrape up a scrap of mercy, when the time came; but they could easily come up with a sacrifice, in order to obey an invented scruple.

For they hadn't gone and learned, from Judas' Rabbi.

Neither, tragically enough, had Judas.

But thank God, for those desperately in need of news about Mercy personified, a once-upon-a-time tax collector did.

Nota bene:  All textual quotations from "God's Word to the Nations," Biblion Press (Cleveland OH), 1988   

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