An exploration of St Matthew

Gathered in My Name: Praying with St Matthew by Albert McNally (Shanaway Press, €14.00 / £12.00)

Fr McNally continues in this book an exploration of the Gospels which he began with volumes on St Luke and St Mark. Here he turns to what he describes as the "most churchy" of the Gospels. The book was underway at the time of the resignation of Pope Benedict and has now been completed in the first months of a new pontificate. The new Pope, the author suggests, is "a Matthew man", who realises that an understanding of the teachings of Jesus must go hand in hand with an experience of his love and compassion, mediated through the caritas of others.

Fr McNally is now a retired priest with a background in both teaching and in Scripture study, who considers that "It is time in Ireland for us to offer stronger food to the Catholic people who want reform of the Church, but who won’t deepen their own understanding".

In his preface McNally writes that though Matthew has always been the Church’s favourite Gospel because of its comprehensiveness and its emphasis on the person of Christ, yet "both leaders of and the general body of the faithful have been ìquite content to ignore section of it that are not really convenient!"

Christ, he observes, desires "mercy, not sacrifice"; and that ìan over emphasis on small matters has led to a neglect of law, justice and mercy". (Matthew 9.13 and 23.23)

These hints at his purpose are carried through in his 25 chapters. He provides for a discussion of the text and its implications, before drawing his intended prayer groups onto not just reflection, but response to the meaning. It is not enough merely to study. People must act, but must act out of fuller understanding of what it is the Gospel says, and not what we are so often told it says.