Over the past five weeks, a dedicated group have been exploring the Gospel of Matthew, guided by biblical scholar and friend of the Diocese, Dr Laurie Woods.
Offered as part of the Diocesan Confraternity of Christian Doctrine’s (CCD) Level 3 training for SRE Catechists, the sessions were open to anybody interested in learning more about the New Testament. Every year, Laurie explores a different Gospel, depending on the Liturgical Year.
During each session, Laurie explores different chapters of Matthew’s Gospel and provides its historical and cultural context, reminding the participants of the purpose of Matthew’s writings. Participants jot down notes, take screenshots on their phones, and answer questions based on Laurie’s teaching.
Understanding the context of Matthew’s Gospel
“Matthew’s Gospel is written for and speaks to the Jewish community, and places a strong emphasis on Jewish traditions, cultures and understandings,” Laurie told the group at the final session held at the Bishop Bede Heather Centre, Blacktown, on Friday 26 May.
“For the community, following Christ was not against the Jewish tradition, but an enhancement of it.
“Each Gospel is the writer’s interpretation of who Jesus was and His mission and what their particular communities needed to hear.”
Learning what the Gospels are meant to be saying
Julie from St Andrew the Apostle Parish, Marayong, had previously attended Laurie’s session on the Gospel of Luke and wanted to learn more.
“I studied theology when I was in college, but Laurie makes the learnings and the teachings more human,” she described.
“I’ve learnt that the messages behind the stories are more important than the stories themselves.
“I feel more enlightened, and I have more understanding of my faith.”
Glenn from Padre Pio Parish, Glenmore Park, agreed with Julie. “These past few weeks, I’ve learnt to look at Matthew differently.
“I’ve learnt not to take things fully literally and to think about what Matthew was trying to say, rather than what is being said.”
June from Our Lady, Queen of Peace Parish, Greystanes – a self-professed fan of Laurie’s presentations – described his sessions as being “earthy and refreshing”.
“Laurie is very educated, but he speaks and brings down the learnings down to our level.
“I wish more people would take up this opportunity to learn from Laurie and learn about the Gospels and what they are meant to be saying.”
Leaving behind ‘old thinking’ about the Gospels
Speaking at the conclusion of the sessions, Laurie said that the group had learnt a lot over the five weeks and appreciated the enthusiasm of the group.
“They’ve been able to leave behind, to some degree, old thinking about Scripture and become a bit more adult – to see behind the text and looking at the human Jesus a bit more.
“I’ve really enjoyed exploring Matthew 5, 6 and 7 – the Sermon on the Mount. It’s the heart and soul of Jesus’ wisdom. However, the whole Gospel is terrific.”
CCD offer a range of education opportunity for SRE catechists throughout the year, with Laurie’s exploration of the Gospel of Mark to be run in 2024.
To find out more about becoming an SRE catechist in teaching the faith to children in public schools across the Diocese of Parramatta, contact your local parish office or reach out to Maree at firstname.lastname@example.org