Feast of Saint Matthew – Option 1 – September 21st
Today we celebrate the feast of Saint Matthew, the Apostle and evangelist, and today’s Gospel gives us an excellent opportunity to reflect on our own vocations, as Catholics in general but especially as religious, and this in three aspects: first, the time at which Christ calls, second, our sinfulness, and third, the cost of discipleship.
Regarding the first, Saint John Chrysostom asks why Jesus didn’t call Matthew when He called Peter, John, and all the rest. He answers by saying that Christ called His Apostles, as He calls each of us, when they were ready. He knew when Matthew’s heart would be open, and that’s the moment He called. For each of us, that call might have come sooner or later in life, but in the end, what matters is God’s loving providence, in which nothing is early, nothing is late, but everything is exactly on time. Our call came when and how God knew we would answer, and so it matters not whether that was earlier or later than others. It’s a gift no matter how or when it came.
Regarding the second, we should recall that in Jesus’ day, tax collectors often charged much more than they should have, and were agents of the Romans, the conquerors and oppressors of the Jewish people. Matthew was hated by his fellow Jews and regarded as a sinner, and yet Christ, in spite of this, and indeed knowing all the while who Matthew is and how far he has fallen, nonetheless Christ calls him to a new life as an apostle. Matthew captures this beautifully when he writes, “And he got up”: in Greek, the word is ἀνίστημι (an-is’-tay-mee), which also means “to rise from the dead.” In our lives, too, God calls us from the midst of a sinful world, and in spite of our many sins, to rise up from those sins and failings to follow Him with our whole hearts. We are sinners called from among sinners, to minister to and intercede for sinners. The Gospels remind us of this as they only record the callings of some of the Apostles, namely, Peter, Andrew, James, John, and Matthew. Saint John says this is to show us humility, because “these were in the most alien and lowly stations, for nothing can be more disreputable than the office of [tax collector], nothing more abject than that of fisherman.” We have the greatness of our call, and our dignity as God’s chosen ones, on one hand, but our sinfulness and lack of holiness on the other. The first keeps us faithful and hopeful, the second keeps us humble.
Thirdly, it’s worth recalling what Matthew gave up, and what he found. He gave up a life of security, of wealth, and of material plenty, in order to gain a life of sacrifice, material poverty, suffering, but also spiritual joy, consolations, and ultimately eternal life. We, too, as faced with that decision: have we really surrendered everything to Christ, or are there still things that we cling to? Are we willing to leave our custom posts, whatever that might be in our lives, and follow Christ with an undivided heart?
Matthew’s vocation, just like our own, is the call to follow Christ completely. Today, then, as we celebrate the memory of Saint Matthew, let us pray, through the intercession of Mary, Queen of the Apostles, for the grace to follow Christ our Lord all the days of our lives, and to be thankful for the gifts of His love.