Feast of Saint Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist, September 21
We Are Each Members of the Body of Christ, and We Are Each Called, in Our Own Way and with the Gifts We Have Been Given, to Build Up God’s Church Here on Earth.
“But grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift…And he gave some as apostles, others as prophets, others as evangelists, others as pastors and teachers, to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” – words which we find in Saint Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians in today’s First Reading.
Each of us is called by God, from the moment of our Baptism, to live our Christian mission as a disciple of Jesus Christ with the gifts which we have been blessed, all for the purpose of “…building up the body of Christ.”
Whether our gift is cleric or layperson, plumber or teacher, professional or housewife, we have each been given the grace of being more than just a listener, of being more than just a bystander in the Christian faith which we embrace.
No matter what occupation we may hold in life, God calls each of us from exactly where we are to become more than we are for the sake of His Kingdom here on Earth.
And on this Feast of Saint Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist, which the universal Church celebrates today, we see this calling lived out in the life of Matthew in today’s Gospel. As we reflect upon his life during the time of Christ, his living and working as a tax collector must have been a thankless job. His position was considered a betrayal of his own people and a cooperation with the enemy – the Roman authorities.
Years ago, I remember meeting the husband of an old colleague of mine. He worked for the Internal Revenue Service, and he always seemed tense when I talked to him. His was a position which held very little respect from people, for neighbors would look upon him with disdain – not that he was a dislikable or disagreeable person, but rather he held a job which many found objectionable or distasteful.
And I am sure that, some two thousand years ago, many people probably looked upon Matthew in much the same way, if not worse. In Jesus’ day, Matthew’s profession was probably the most corrupted and the most despised by everyone, because tax collectors made themselves wealthy by over-charging and threatening people, if they did not hand over their money to them.
Yet, in spite of this, Jesus chose him to be His follower and friend, not because Matthew was religious or learned, popular or saintly. And the Gospel says that Jesus “saw” him “sitting at the customs post.” And He called him from right where he was, in the midst of his collecting taxes, to become more than he was.
What was it that Jesus “saw” in this person, whose occupation was held in contempt and despised, a position in Jewish society which placed him in the same company as sinners and prostitutes?
Yet, despite the cultural enmity and anger which the Jews had for tax-collectors, our Lord said to him, “Follow me”, Jesus saw something in him which others could not see – a seeing which means not only sight, but also a deeper understanding of the true person. And Matthew, “…got up and followed him”, not hesitating to leave behind all his worldly possessions for the sake of following Jesus.
And the Gospel tells us that while Matthew was at dinner with our Lord, “…many tax collectors and sinners came and sat with Jesus and his disciples.” As a consequence, this action drew the disdain and contempt of the Pharisees, to whom our Lord responded, “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.”
Jesus, in essence, is showing that, aside from giving glory to God through ritual and worship, it is even more important to love and serve others, especially those who are the disadvantaged, the marginalized and those counted unworthy in the eyes of others.
And those two words, “Follow me”, changed Matthew from a self-serving profiteer to a God-serving Apostle who would, one day as an Evangelist, bring the treasures of God’s Kingdom to the poor and needy!
When we look at the men whom our Lord chose to become His Twelve Apostles, a tax collector and fishermen – they were mostly hard-working men who spent their lives taking care of either themselves or their families, men whom no one would normally look twice at when it comes to becoming prophetic witnesses of God’s word.
Yet, apart from Judas Iscariot, our Lord saw something special in the hearts of these Chosen men which no one else saw. In time, with the strengthening given to them from the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, they became examples of what it truly meant to be disciples for Jesus Christ – building up the Body of Christ in the words they spoke and the lives they lived.
Matthew was, as Saint Paul tells us in our First Reading, the recipient of grace not only as an Apostle, but also as an Evangelist. And through his tireless efforts in proclaiming the Good News through the written words of the Gospel message, the life of Saint Matthew echoes the words of today’s psalmist, “Through all the earth [his] voice resounds, and to the ends of the world, [his] message.”
We are not unlike Matthew, in the sense that we ARE all sinners! And just as Matthew was called by Jesus and healed by our Lord’s Infinite Love, we too are called and healed by His unfathomable Love for each and every one of us. Matthew, in spite of his sinfulness, got up and freely chose to follow Jesus’ call.
By the faith which we profess and embrace as our own, we, too, have heard our Lord’s invitation to “Follow me” – and, prayerfully, we have responded to His call with love and devotion.
As an Apostle, Matthew gave his life out of selfless love for His Savior in the spreading of the Good News. As disciples, may you and I devote our lives out of selfless love in living the Good News of Jesus Christ, through the faithful witness we give daily to our life of faith here and now on this side of the eternal.
For we are each members of the Body of Christ, and we are each called, in our own way and with the gifts which we have been given, to build up God’s Church here on Earth! †
Please Comment, Like and Share, and Suggest to your Facebook friends – to spread the message of God’s Merciful Love.
Por favor Comente, Le Gusta y Comparta, y Sugiera a tus amigos en Facebook – en difundir el mensaje del Misericordioso Amor de Dios.
Scripture for the Day
- “But grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift…And he gave some as apostles, others as prophets, others as evangelists, others as pastors and teachers, to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:7, 11-12)
- “[Jesus] said to [Matthew], “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him.” (Matthew 9:9bc)
- “A report goes forth through all the earth, [his] messages, to the ends of the world.” (Psalm 19:5a)
- “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain…” (John 15:16a)
- “Every one who acknowledges me before others, I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father.” (Matthew 10:32)
- “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may announce the praises’ of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9)
- “So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us.” (2 Corinthians 5:20a)
- “For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)
- “Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves.” (James 1:22)
- “Go and learn the meaning of the words, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.” (Matthew 9:13; cf. Hosea 6:6)
- “I have become all things to all, to save at least some. All this I do for the sake of the gospel, so that I too may have a share in its blessings.” (1 Corinthians 9:22b-23)
Prayer for the Day
“Dear Jesus,Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta
help me to spread Thy fragrance everywhere I go.
“Flood my soul with Thy Spirit and Love.
Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly
that all my life may only be a radiance of Thine.
“Shine through me and be so in me
that every soul I come in contact with
may feel Thy Presence in my soul.
“Let them look up and see no longer me but only Jesus.
Stay with me and then I shall begin to shine as You shine,
so to shine as to be a light to others.”