The Word of God

Matthew


black & white photo of young man pensively looking into camera

“Love transforms one into what one loves.” St. Catherine of Siena

The human heart has to be ranked high on the list of the greatest mysteries of the world. Just think about that for a while. Do you know of anything else so mysterious, wonderful, painful, imaginative, creative, warm and cold, mean and loving, and sometimes all in the same day? 

According to most online internet-for-wanna-be medical experts like me, the heart beats about 100,000 times every day, pumping close to 1,900 gallons of blood to every cell in the body. This adds up to about 36.5 million beats a year, nearly 700,000 gallons of blood yearly, and 2.5 billion beats in an average lifetime. Some heart surgeons liken  every contraction to the effort it would take for us to hold a tennis ball in our palm and give it a good hard squeeze. Yet as incredibly marvelous as our heart is, it is only one of many examples in this universe of ours that is designed to tell us something about our Creator. This is the idea behind the story of a man named Matthew.

Matthew was a bright, clever, and witty young man who caught the eyes of his elementary school teachers early on. Most of the time, he was extremely helpful, courteous, and kind, but like with all of us, there was a not-so-bright side. Don’t get me wrong, please. We are not talking about some latent criminal in the making, at least not at first. You see, he loved comic books, all kinds, all of the genres. When he had the chance to accompany his mom to the grocery store, when grocery stores still had rows and rows of magazines and comic books for sale, Matthew would wait there until she was finished shopping. She always knew exactly where to find him, patiently and safely waiting to carry some of the bags of food and other items back to the car. Once in a while, he was rewarded with a comic book of his choice, normally plastering a huge smile on Matthew’s face.  

Somewhere along the way, Matthew developed a troubling habit of stealing his comic treasures from the grocery store. There was not always time and money to purchase a couple of them after their regular visit to supply their home with necessities and perhaps because it seemed easier than just asking and being told “no,” Matthew began to steal his favorite commodity. One or two at first, then several, placing them under his shirt so that he wouldn’t be noticed or that his sweat wouldn’t ruin the bright-colored ink off the pages. 

The first time he was caught, his father decided that he would not overreact as his own father had done with him on some, not the same kinds of infractions, but similar in scope regarding the deceit that it took to cover up the disobedience. His wife had found two comic books hidden under the pillow case, not with other “legally” purchased items. His father very calmly collected them and then drove his pre-teenage son back to the grocery where he had him return the heist, ask forgiveness, then pay for them out of his allowance. Upon returning home, he would engage in a stern and thoughtful lecture about stealing. 

Perhaps prematurely, Matthew’s dad had secretly patted himself on the back for having successfully averted a major crisis. Thinking that he may even call his own dad to brag a little, he began to set his sights on helping his son prepare for the wiles of high school, not too far away in the distance. This, however, was about the time that it happened again. Believing in his own mind and self-critically posturing himself as the one who definitely will NOT be receiving the “Father of the Year” award, this time he was angry. He yelled a bit, only to find that the louder he got, the more stoned-faced Matthew appeared to be. He was motivated by a sense of failure mixed with disappointment and laced with worry, he knew something had to be done and no idle threat would do. “Matthew,” he continued, “No son of mine is going to grow up and be a thief. It’s a comic today but it’ll be a car tomorrow. If this happens again, I warn you, I will have to spank you.”  

[Now here is when we need to break away a little from the telling of this story to enter a small but worthwhile disclaimer. We are not advocating corporal punishment nor are we criticizing it. Every parent must come to their own decision about their child’s discipline.] 

That having been said, things crept back to normal but there was clearly something different. Father and son were not talking as much anymore. Simple acts of affection and playful nudges were no longer accepted by the growing Matthew. He was either too old for his parents’ doting or he was still mad about the threat and did not know how to process all of this while testosterone, and the emptiness about fitting in and looking cool, beset his psyche. 

Perhaps a family vacation miles away in the midst of nature would be perfect for all of them. There was a state park about three hours from their home, far from the maddening crowds and looming changes. No TV or other distractions, just family time would be great. There would be no huge grocery store, just a little trading post for sodas and bait, and those camping sort-of necessities. But Matthew was at that age where he had one foot in childhood and one perious toe in his perceived notion of being a man. Things were changing fast and it was overwhelming. But he did not put up a fight, nor did he act excited. He was successful at curbing his enthusiasm and remained quiet during the entire travel to the vacation spot and even when they arrived. And as quickly as they had spent this time together, it was over, and life, such that it was, returned to normal. 

The week before school was about to start, the silence in the house began to grow heavy. Eye contact between parents and son increased with alarming regularity. While Matthew was polite and civil enough, especially around dinner, there was something quite not right and soon the mystery would be revealed. It was a pleasant enough day outside as one discovery led to another event reaching a watershed moment. Dad was at work and Matthew was at a friend’s house while Mom was cleaning the house and getting ready for dinner. That’s when she found them. Three brand new comic books, two of which were still in plastic covers hidden very cleverly between the towels over his dresser. Her heart sank for she knew this was going to ignite a firestorm that had been building up all these months. And she was right. 

She had called her husband at work and had already summoned Matthew back home where he was waiting in his room for his dad’s return. He was clearly upset while Matthew tried to keep calm and unfocused. When his father asked him where these particular comic books were from, Matthew did not hide anything. In a characteristically adolescent tone of voice, he quickly admitted that he stole them. He somehow thought that he would be somewhat in the clear since he stole these comic books while they were away on vacation and all but tried to lessen the consequences since they couldn’t drive all the way back to return them as he had previously been forced to do at the local grocery store. 

This pivotal encounter between father and son had begun with this: “Matthew, I told you what was going to happen if this should ever happen again, that I would have to spank you.” “But why, Dad? We can’t return them so they’re mine,” came the feebly concocted response. “I’ll do better than that, Matthew.” And with that, his dad took the comic books with his son outside where he quickly fired up the bar-b-que pit and with one fell swoop, tossed theme into the flames where they seemed to burst into a fireball, no doubt because of the richly entrenched colorful ink that characteristically displays the comic genre. After the last piece of charred ash ended its freefall into the wind, his dad continued: “Matthew, go to your room and wait for me.” 

For both father and son, the waiting couldn’t have seemed any less than a prolonged eternity. Matthew knew he was in the wrong and tried desperately to come to grips with this fascination of stealing something he could have easily just asked for. His father, however, was far beyond agonizing. His threat of a spanking was probably too impetuous but he, too, had painted himself into a corner. If he did not follow through with this, he would lose his son, he thought. If he was too brutal, again, he thought he would alienate his spitting image for years to come. What would it be, then? With as much resolution and love that he could muster, he walked in. The two met eye to eye with the weight of remarkable honesty mixed with fear and anxiety clearly filling the room, transforming it from a young boy’s refuge to the starting point of real manhood. Three stiff wallops would be sufficient, he thought, and within seconds, it was done. The silence was deafening, and the air in that modest bedroom seemed to have been drawn out like some huge vacuum in space. The reactions were somewhat predictable but not altogether simple. Matthew’s upper lip began to quiver which signaled to his dad that he should leave and allow his son to maintain a bit of dignity intact. But when he left, he barely sauntered into the hallway and, upon seeing his perplexed and worried wife, slid downward against the wall onto the floor weeping miserably. “I can’t believe I just did that! I’m a beast! I can’t believe I hit him!” Now she had two children to deal with. 

We must now fast forward this particular slice of life we have just described to a couple of handful of years when Matthew is now a tall, strapping young man driving his mom around town for various sundry errands. They stop at a busy red light near the center of town when she notices a familiar place of family lore. “Look, Matthew,” as she points to the old grocery store, “the scene of the crime.”  Her attempt at humor was not too successful and was accompanied by the changing of the light to green and a very pensive young driver poised to say something deep and meaningful. 

“You know, Mom, after that last time I got in trouble, I never stole another comic book again. In fact, do you know that I never stole anything ever?” 

“Wow!,” she responded, “that must have been quite a spanking!” 

“No, Mom, that’s not it, “ he said, pausing and taking in a deep breath. “I never stole ever again because I made my daddy cry.” 

So what can we learn from the complexity of this hardworking muscle, the heart? The message may be similar to the sound of waves caressing the shore and stars quietly shining in the night sky. Deep within its chambers and pockets of incredible power and wisdom, we find billions of reasons to trust the One who created us believing that love changes everything.  

Human hearts weigh less than one pound, have about 60,000 miles worth of blood vessels, and about 2,000 of them are transplanted every year. But most importantly, they are the centers of our personality, the engines of our life’s dreams, and are completely restless until they rest in God (St. Augustine). 

And when they love at their fullest potential, the world stands still.

Share your thoughts (18 thoughts)

18 thoughts on “Matthew”

  • Patty L. says:

    What a beautiful story! As a mother of 3 girls, I too, question myself daily on everything I do. Thank you for this. I hear your voice every time I read one of your beautifully written words.

    • Caro says:

      Welcome, Patty, to these pages, and please accept our thanks for adding to the wonderful discussions that are found here by many of our readers. It is the cross of many a loving parent to doubt and wonder if we have lived our lives in vain, but I doubt that you and so many others who are in any long-term family relationships are anywhere near the failure threshold. Trust in Jesus and doing our very best secures success in the eyes of God. Thank you, Jesus! The key to everything is patience. You get the chicken by hatching it, not by smashing it.

  • Annie B says:

    Yet another lump in my throat and a tear jerker. As a parent of 3 sons, I felt as if was there in this reflection, watching their father discipline his sons in a manner that I didn’t always think would fit the crime. But yet, my boys all say it was his discipline that shaped them into the fabulous adults they are. I can’t say I will ever understand the relationship between a father and a son, but the Love between them is always evident. How could a “muscle” determine how much happiness or despair we experience in a lifetime is crazy if you think about it!

    • Caro says:

      This is perhaps the most poignant and remarkable reaction to the real-life drama that daily unfolds in the hearts of all who are formed by that God-given and mysterious gift of family. Thank you very much for sharing the awesome experience of raising your boys with us today. I thank God that I too can 100% agree with your assessment that they are indeed “fabulous adults.” Well done! So much of parental love is performed with varying degrees of uncertainty and self-doubt, but when approached with the love of God that has been gently placed within our hearts, the final results tend to simply amaze. Rest assured that great things await you and your husband as you approach the years when you reflect on what you have done with your lives. “When did we see you hungry and feed you?” will be the expected question in Heaven. You can then safely respond, “I helped form three wonderful people after your own heart.”

  • Tony Montez says:

    This was a very touching story. It seems the most meaningful moments of childhood become interwoven into our life story. Moments that form our identity. When we recall our warmest moments of childhood, it’s never expensive gifts or elaborate vacations. It’s mom standing over the stove cooking dinner and the aromas of spices throughout the house, or the image of dad shaving in the bathroom. Quiet love. Those images are like snapshots in our minds, whereas the family trip to six flags is mostly unremarkable and forgotten. Matthew witnessed how much he affected his father. He retreated to his room where he experienced profound, quite love, conversion.

    • Caro says:

      Thank you once again, Dr. Montez, for shedding light on an already enlightening and thought=provoking example of love in the day to day clocking of life’s minutes. I particularly liked your turn of the phrase, “quiet love.” It appears that so much of the fabric of our lives is woven together by the acts of deep kindness and long-reaching decisions that involve discipline and the subtle creation of memories. So much of the richness of life is formed in silence such as the creation of the universe and the nine-month steady development of the human person before physical birth. May we all experience small but highly significant moments of conversion along the way to the gates of Salvation.

  • Kris says:

    Thank you for another thought provoking story. The heart, in its biological function and as spiritual and emotional symbol, is amazing.
    “What is man that you should be mindful of him….You have made him little less than the angels.” Psalm 8:5-6.
    May God help us to never forget the dignity of every human wherever that person might be. It takes many efforts to be perfected in this journey we call life. Everything is important in forming a human being and prepare one to be a person according to the mind of God.
    The true gage of one’s success is “heart” capable to love and show compassion.

    Matthew is you and I continuously learning how not to “steal” what others or we have, but to give generously from the abundance of who we are. Eternal struggle between “to have” and “to be”

    • Caro says:

      Yes, indeed! Your comments about the worth of every soul are spot on! Dignity is one of the most important things to the human spirit. It means being valued and respected for what we are, what we believe in, and how we live our lives. Treating other people with dignity means treating them the way we’d like to be treated ourselves. How often is this forgotten by those who have been charged with safeguarding our well being? Every human has the right to lead a dignified life and fulfill his or her potential. Young, old, rich, poor – all over the world we all share the right to be treated with dignity. We treat others with dignity each time we lend a helping hand, stick up for a friend, or recognize the qualities and talents that make each of us special. And you are also insightful to remind us that Matthew is in fact in each one of us. The difference is what we do with the circumstances we find ourselves. Let us pray that we ill be as courageous and wise as that young man and his father. We are well on our way.

  • Denise Guerra says:

    Thank you for another wonderful story about the love between family members. Fathers and sons and mothers and daughters have their love tested from the moment of birth. Parents and children alike wonder, “Am I doing enough to show my love for my family?” It is pivotal moments such as these that answer that question in the most unique ways. Thank you again and I look forward to the next story.

    • Caro says:

      Hello Denise, and thank you for your responses this fine day! Many of our readers have also commented about the enormous lessons that are to be learned in the family setting and all the wonderfully hope-filled memories that are made precisely in the struggle of egos and wills. Love never fails. Thanks be to God!

  • Gabriel Gonzalez says:

    Finally reading this article before bed and what a wonderful story. Just to understand the love between the son and father was moving. To have so much impact in the sons life by changing moment, turned his whole life around. Very glad to have read this before bed and now to have a clear mind. I will sleep well this evening. Thank You For another wonderful reading.

    • Caro says:

      God bless you, Gabe, and thank you for your thoughts about “Matthew.” God is definitely love and where we allow love to rule and guide our thoughts and actions, we truly are living in the Kingdom. I am so glad that this made for a night of great sleep and a restful new day. We are all so blessed!

  • Ron says:

    This story reminds me of my own life story – in childhood and adulthood, having experienced both the punishment for stealing as a child and the fulfillment of having to dole out punishment as a father, although the infraction committed by my children was not stealing. In both roles I encountered regret and sadness. Learning a lesson and teaching a lesson can take an emotional toll. In both instances it’s crucial that we seek God’s guidance and take the opportunity to learn and grow. Thanks again for a very touching and well-written story.

    • Caro says:

      Thank you very much, Ron, for responding to our latest attempt to bring light top the Gospel and meaning to our lives. We are are all living in such a world that, if we allow it, can actually suffocate and strangle the grace that God continues to bestow upon us which is why we completely understand your assessment of “learning a lesson and teaching a lesson can take an emotional toll.” Life is full of these vast payments for a free soul and courage is absolutely necessary if we are ever to understand life and make a difference. I like what C. S. Lewis once wrote (although the imagery might be lost on some of our younger readers.): “Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.” God bless you, Ron, and let’s keep moving forward.

  • Sylvia Garcia says:

    What a beautiful story of a father’s merciful and loving hand in the discipline of his son. Another “Epiphany on the back patio” moment to reflect on God’s steadfast and merciful love for us.
    How different would the world be tomorrow if today we followed Our Father’s commandment- “Love one another as I have loved you.” With God, the capacity of the heart to love and to forgive is limitless.

    • Caro says:

      You are so right, Sylvia, about the capacity of the human heart to love and to forgive. We have seen hatred destroy souls and love recreate lives from a burning ember. Nothing is impossible with God especially when we cooperate with His awesome, amazing grace. A prolific writer of short stories, Henry van Dyke perhaps said it best: Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love, time is eternity.Thank you, Sylvia, for gracing these pages with your thoughts. See you next time!

  • Julie Trevino says:

    I read this beautiful story in the silence of my home. When i finished reading, I just sat and thought about what I had just read. Nothing coming to mind except a verse from the bible…So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
    Amen to a beautiful story that left me speech less!

    • Caro says:

      I remember when I first came across the genesis and source of this latest installment that we have offered for our readers. Love is simply amazing which is why we must continue to work at perfecting our hope and desire to serve one another and yes, practice forgiveness at every juncture. I have always wondered where Matthew is these days and what kind of man he has become. Since I doubt that we probably will ever have an adequate update on that front, we have only to consider what we are doing with our own lives within the spheres of influence we find ourselves. Jesus is the only one who has the clearest path to this type of freedom from selfishness and hate. I am glad that you were able to benefit from this and remain grateful for your insights. Elenor Roosevelt perhaps summed it all perfectly for us when she wrote: It takes courage to love, but pain through love is the purifying fire which those who love generously know. We all know people who are so much afraid of pain that they shut themselves up like clams in a shell and, giving out nothing, receive nothing and therefore shrink until life is a mere living death. God bless you always, Julie. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with all of us.

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