With the coming the New Year, a number of blogs gave recommended readings for the upcoming year. I'd like to do the same, and recommend two books to read carefully over the course of the coming year.
1. First, since for those of us following the Catholic lectionary, it is Year A, it's a great opportunity to reread closely and carefully the Gospel of Matthew. Over a hundred years ago, the French author and rationalist Ernest Renan once referred to the Gospel of Matthew as "the most important book ever written."
On a more personal note, Matthew is my favorite Gospel, for a whole host of reasons. For one thing, it is just so Jewish. If you like the exploring the Jewish roots of Christianity, Matthew is definitely the first place to go. Moreover, if happen to be a teacher, then you'll know that Matthew's Gospel is also a remarkably catechetical. I know this from experience, since in the classroom, I constantly fall back on Matthew for addressing major theological, moral, and spiritual issues.
I also know this from our family dinner times, during which I've been reading the Gospel of Matthew to my family each night after supper--with the requisite Q & A session after the reading is done! This is a great time to teach your kids the Bible, while they're knocking out their last vegetables. You'd be amazed at how children between the ages of 3 and 9 can zoom in on key exegetical questions if you just read to them and ask... 'Any questions?'...
2. Second, I also recommend that in tandem with Matthew's Gospel, you simply must get a copy of Curtis Mitch and Edward Sri's new commentary on The Gospel of Matthew, hot off the presses from the Baker Academic Press Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture. Just before it was published, I wrote the following blurb for the book, and I meant it:
"In this exciting new commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, Curtis Mitch and Edward Sri do an outstanding job of fulfilling the biblical vision of Vatican II. For years I have wished for an up-to-date Catholic commentary on Matthew that would unite history and theology, Scripture and tradition, Old and New Testaments, Jewish roots and Christian faith. Now we have one! This extremely readable commentary should be on the shelf of any priest, deacon, seminarian, or layperson who wants to bring out 'treasures new and old' from the pages of the First Gospel.'
Those are my two cents for New Year's reading recommendations. Read both books together, and I promise you won't be disappointed.