Today we celebrate the feast of St. Matthew, the apostle and evangelist. His Gospel, placed first of the four in our versions of the New Testament, is a masterpiece of the gospel writer’s intent of showing the continuity of the life of Jesus with its roots in the Jewish Bible. There is a wonderful “newness” in the life, ministry, and death/resurrection of Jesus but that freshness is based squarely in the faith of the Chosen People of God. The Gospel According to Matthew masterfully makes that connection between the Old and the New Covenant.
The gospel today remembers the call of Matthew as one of the twelve disciples that Jesus invited to walk with him and to be part of the astounding message of hope, healing and wholeness that characterized Jesus’ words and actions. I am always amazed at Matthew’s response to Jesus’ call. There is absolutely NO hesitation on the part of the tax collector when he hears the call, “As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. ’Follow me,’ he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.” The immediacy of the response is remarkable. I am sure that the tax collector knew Jesus by reputation, but his reaction is wonderfully abrupt!
Matthew was a “tax collector” a code word for a public sinner. The tax collector was hated both by his foreign employers and by the Jewish people. They were hated by the Jews because they regularly cheated them in their tax collecting machinations and they represented the dreaded outside oppression of foreign domination. Yet Jesus called Matthew from his toll booth and with no hesitation he affirmed the call and followed Jesus. What an excellent beginning.
In some sense Matthew’s name and the word for disciple are related and thus he represents the whole group of disciples. His call is a kind of healing. This part of the Gospel according to Matthew is all about Jesus’ ministry of healing; his call and the discussion that follows it with the Pharisees is a kind of interlude between a series of special healings that Jesus did for people in need.
Matthew’s “healing” is an interior event. Jesus’ invitation to him (the call) along with his immediate response shows forth the awesome power of the presence of Jesus to those who responded positively as disciples. In this healing Matthew goes from public sinner to disciple/apostle with no apparent delay.
The down-deep healing of Matthew reminds me of the magnificence of God’s love through Jesus. Can I respond to the call with as instant and positive response that the apostle Matthew exhibited? His journey from sinner to disciple can be a mirror of my own response to Jesus. The grace of recognizing my own sinfulness and opening myself up to the rescuing presence of Jesus in my life truly is a miracle wrought by a merciful and gracious God.
What a source of joy and of gratitude is here as it was for Matthew, the tax-collector-become-disciple. And so the “newness” perdures as Jesus continues to call and invite each of us: as Matthew found his roots in the Jewish Bible, we find our roots in Matthew’s response as well as the other disciples who said and continued to say “yes” to Jesus and to God.
Collaborative Ministry Office Guestbook