Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Feast Day: St. Matthew, the Evangelist

The Calling of St. Matthew by Terbrugghen

Among those around the throne 
were four living creatures. 
[Rev. 4:6b-7]
The man was identified 
with Matthew because 
his gospel begins 
with the human origins 
of Jesus.
St. Anthony Messenger

Matthew was a Jew who worked for the occupying Roman forces, collecting taxes from other Jews. The Romans were not scrupulous about what the "tax farmers" got for themselves. Hence the latter, known as "publicans," were generally hated as traitors by their fellow Jews. The Pharisees lumped them with "sinners" (see Matthew 9:11-13). So it was shocking to them to hear Jesus call such a man to be one of his intimate followers.

One day, as Our Lord was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw, sitting at the receipt of custom, Matthew the publican. Jesus said to his, “Follow Me”, and leaving all, Matthew arose and followed Him.

Matthew got Jesus in further trouble by having a sort of going-away party at his house inviting Jesus and His disciples, with a number of these publicans, who henceforth began eagerly to listen to Him. The Gospel tells us that "many" tax collectors and "those known as sinners" came to the dinner. The Pharisees were still more badly shocked. What business did the supposedly great teacher have associating with such immoral people? Jesus' answer was, "Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' I did not come to call the righteous but sinners" (Matthew 9:12b-13). Jesus is not setting aside ritual and worship; he is saying that loving others is even more important.
After the Ascension, St. Matthew remained some years in Judea, and there he wrote his Gospel, to teach his countrymen that Jesus was their true Lord and King, foretold by the prophets, St. Matthew afterward preached the Faith far and wide, and is said to have finished his course in Parthea. It is uncertain whether he died a natural death or received the crown of martyrdom.

No other particular incidents about Matthew are found in the New Testament.


From such an unlikely situation, Jesus chose one of the foundations of the Church, a man others, judging from his job, thought was not holy enough for the position. But he was honest enough to admit that he was one of the sinners Jesus came to call. He was open enough to recognize truth when he saw him. "And he got up and followed him" (Matthew 9:9b).

St. Matthew's Gospel was written to fill a sorely-felt want for his fellow countrymen, both believers and unbelievers. For the former, it served as a token of his regard and as an encouragement in the trial to come, especially the danger of falling back to Judaism; for the latter, it was designed to convince them that the Messiah had come in the person of Jesus, our Lord, in Whom all the promises of the Messianic Kingdom embracing all people had been fulfilled in a spiritual rather than in a carnal way: "My Kingdom is not of this world." His Gospel, then, answered the question put by the disciples of St. John the Baptist, "Are You He Who is to come, or shall we look for another?"


We imagine Matthew, after the terrible events surrounding the death of Jesus, going to the mountain to which the risen Lord had summoned them. "When they saw him, they worshipped, but they doubted. Then Jesus approached and said to them [we think of him looking at each one in turn, Matthew listening and excited with the rest], 'All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age'" (Matthew 28:17-20).

Matthew would never forget that day. He proclaimed the Good News by his life and by his word. Our faith rests upon his witness and that of his fellow apostles.

St. Matthew and the Angel by Guido Reni


Obey all inspirations of Our Lord as promptly as St. Matthew, who, at a single word, “laid down” says St. Bridget, “the heavy burden of the world to put on the light and sweet yoke of Christ.”

Prayers To Saint Matthew:

Through the prayers of Saint Matthew, may the Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on us. Amen!

Dear Levi, now known as Matthew, you were first a publican, a tax collector, and then a gatherer of souls for Christ after immediately following His call. Later you wrote wonderful accounts of your Jewish brethren of what Jesus, descendant of David, said and did as Teacher and Savior. Make all accountants imitate your example in giving careful and honest accounts. Amen.
St. Matthew

God, You chose St. Matthew the Publican to become an Apostle. By following his example and benefiting by his prayers, may we always follow and abide by Your will. Amen.

God of mercy, You chose a tax collector, St. Matthew, to share the dignity of the apostles. By his example and prayers, help us to follow Christ and remain faithful in Your service. We ask this through Our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

Patron Saint of:

Tax collectors

No comments:

Post a Comment