We arrive in Salerno to visit the bones of St. Matthew, apostle of Jesus and (supposed) author of the Gospel of Matthew. Scholars are very doubtful that Matthew wrote this gospel.
Based on her reading, Karen says that the Christmas story, as told in the Gospels, was added hundreds of years later and that there was no census requiring Mary and Joseph to travel to Bethlehem. “It doesn’t make any sense to force people to go somewhere for a census,” she says. “There’s no historical record of a census.”
I agree that a Roman census would have resulted in documents that could be studied by modern historians. I tell her that the story is what counts.
“Stories have power,” I tell her.
We view the main altar at the Basilica of St. Matthew.
We visit a side altar where I meditate. A young woman does her rosary and prays.
We walk down the stairs to the crypt. A young man is down below, close to the relics. He is kneeling, reading the Bible and praying. I am concerned about disturbing him. I look at the paintings on the ceiling — a woman washes the feet of Jesus — A crippled man asks for healing — these are stories from the Gospels.
Jesus walks on the water during a storm. He invites Peter to join him and supports Peter when he falters (Matthew 14:22-33). Miracle stories connect the mundane world with the spiritual world. For me, the pathway to discovery of this connection is meditation.
I descend the stairs to visit the relics of St. Matthew. What is the power within this story? I consider joining the guy reading his Bible beside the relics. A thought comes to me…the power is in the Gospel of Matthew.
I decide to randomly select a verse from the Gospel of Matthew and include it in this blog.
Later, I consult my iPad. My iPad picks: “But seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all this will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).
One portrays the apostles, gathered on the day of Pentacost (Acts 2): “they were all gathered in one place. Suddenly there came a sound from heaven of a rushing, mighty wind and there appeared to them cloven tongues, like as of fire that separated and came to rest on them and they were filled with the Holy Spirit.”
We view a medieval statue of Jesus and the Virgin Mary. Norms change over time.
We view a medieval crucifix, close to an exhibit with an empty case. A sign describes a reliquary cross carried by Robert Guiscand (1015-1085) which contained teeth of St. James the Less, St. Matthew, and a fragment of the Holy Cross. The validity of these relics was not important. Guiscand carried the cross into battle and it may have contributed to his capture of Salerno in 1076. There was power in the cross — it helped Guiscand do what he needed to do. Listen, my daughters, sons, sisters, brothers, and lovers! Stories have power!
What stories are you telling yourself? Are these stories helping you do what you need to do? Deep inside are the stories you need.
Lao tsu writes (chapter 44):
“Fame or integrity, which is more important?
Money or happiness, which is more valuable?
Success or failure, which is more destructive?
If you look to others for fulfillment,
you will never truly be fulfilled.
If your happiness depends on money
you will never be happy with yourself.
Be content with what you have.
Rejoice in the way things are.
When you realize there is nothing lacking,
the whole world belongs to you.”
I look at St. Matthew’s tomb. Can this story lead you to follow your inner path?