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.
Matthew got Jesus in further trouble by having a sort of going-away party at his house. 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.
No other particular incidents about Matthew are found in the New Testament.
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 worshiped, 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.
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).
Patron Saint of:
Daily Prayer - 2015-09-21
God is with me, but more,
Lord, you created me to live in freedom.
In God's loving presence I unwind the past day,
The Word of God
Feast of Saint Matthew, Apostle and evangelist
Reading 1 Eph 4:1-7, 11-13
Brothers and sisters:
Responsorial Psalm PS 19:2-3, 4-5
R. (5) Their message goes out through all the earth.
Alleluia - See Te Deum
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel Mt 9:9-13
As Jesus passed by,
Some thoughts on today's scripture
What feelings are rising in me as I pray and reflect on God's Word?
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,
Saint Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist (Feast)
Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners? (Matthew 9:11)
Jesus had a knack for doing exactly the opposite of what everyone expected. If he wasn't healing on the Sabbath or preaching a message at odds with established wisdom, he was mingling with exactly the wrong sort of person or forgiving public sinners. This was because, unlike most of his detractors, he looked beyond the outward appearance of a person or situation and saw deeper truths and hidden beauty. In other words, he looked at life with heavenly eyes.
So what did Jesus see that caused him to pick Matthew out of a crowd and invite him to become a disciple? Certainly part of the reason was to make it clear that God has a place for even the most hated of people. He wanted to show that even those people we might be inclined to reject have sparks of goodness in them that, when cared for, can begin to burn with God's love.
But what did Jesus see specifically in Matthew that led him to call him? How would this self-centered tax collector help him bring about the kingdom of heaven? What specific gifts did he bring?
Maybe Jesus saw that Matthew had a stubborn persistence and persuasiveness. It can't have been easy to squeeze money out of people on a regular basis—and his own people at that! Maybe it was his education; some people believe that the Gospel that bears Matthew's name is the most finely crafted and best written of them all. Perhaps Matthew simply had an ability to face people without embarrassment or self-consciousness—a trait equally useful for both tax collectors and evangelists!
You might already have an idea of the talents you have that can be used for God. But perhaps your most obvious gifts aren't the only ones that God wants to use. Could it be that he wants to use you in a new way? Perhaps he can even use a trait that you've always considered a negative one. So don't limit the possible ways that God can use you in building his kingdom. What does he want to accomplish through you? How will he use you next? Ask him!
"Lord, I praise you for your great plan. I open myself to your guidance. Show me how I can serve you today."
Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-13
Come to Call
The first Holy Scripture said "...live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love...". Christians are called to this life. Some do answer to this calling. It is indeed possible. For the most part, perhaps we are gentle, or is it beating around the bush? For the most part we are patient, or are we holding, counting things against them until one day it is unforgiveable? For the most part we do bear with one another through love, or is it a fake smile and talk them behind their back? For the most part, then, we do not even have a sense of what humlity is. Ask most young kids nowadays what humility is and they think about being humiliated. Ask most adults about humility and they will have a twisted opinion of what it means to be humble. And I say twisted because we twist it to try to match the way we live.
The Psalms pray on "Not a word nor a discourse whose voice is not heard;" and watch this "Their message goes out throughout all the earth". Let's say your every good or bad action has a ripple effect, which the further it goes out, the more construction or destruction it causes. Let's say that at the eye of the hurricane or tornado their is a false sense of peace. So it is with those who live with an unrefrained tongue. Let us then realize the things we do and say in secret are shouted atop mountains in the hereafter. We can not hide. This morning a co-worker said "I promise I'll be there to the bible study". All I had said was "good morning" not even thinking about him not going to bible study any more. I said "that is your conscious, our soul's health". After Mass yesterday, I was driving home, and a song wanted to be written. It was about a beautiful white horse we had a year or two ago. He was gentle for the most part, strong, blue eyes, a real keeper. He had a peculiar quirk. He had his little times when excitement would get in his way. Whether when it came time for roping a calf, or when he'd get excited about chasing cattle. I remember one time, he was loose in the horse corral, he was excited when another horse came around, either mad or showing off, it was bucking and jumping and running when suddenly, one rearing up he landed on a sharp edge of a covering for a feed trough. It slit him open, I rushed to get it on a horse trailer to rush to the vet's office. The meat was hanging off his front chest, blood dripping, you could see it trembling from the inside. Luckily, the doctor was able to stitch him up and several weeks later he was doing well again...but, with a large scar across his front chest. What does all this matter? It's the story of us, made to be white, pure, vigorous, excited about doing God's work. But we have our quirks. And if uncontrolled, those quirks can hurt others, and in the end, oneself. White stands for purity. We shouldn't have to be cut to the heart to be converted, but sometimes, that's what it takes for us to settle down.
Jesus speaks today "...go and learn the meaning of the words 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice'". This cut me to my heart. It was such a cut, that I did not really feel like writing to you today ( but I knew I had to). Because in my life, I feel like as if I have spoken words that have probably hurt other people. And I'm talking about acting like a Pharisee. Because in the Gospel today, the Pharisees were asking "why does he eat with those tax collectors and all those sinners?". It wasn't a vulgar thought about Jesus directly, but indirectly. It wasn't an insult to Jesus but to those who Jesus was reaching out to. It was a vulgar way to approach what would amount to...a spiritual enemy. We have our doubts about people and we don't really want to look them square in the eye, much less sit and get to know them...like Jesus. We have our doubts and then let our tongues loose on them "I'm pretty sure they're up to no good". Yet we go with this attitude to receive Jesus. I can feel spiritually, when I am about to barf on someone when they are not around...when I am about to say something that I probably wouldn't want to say in front of them...or SHOULD say in front of them. Where is that gentleness? Where is that patience? Where is that bearing with one another with love? Where is that...humility? Jesus had all the above traits and it was evident as he was caught dining with sinners. And He still does today. In the Holy Eucharist. He does today when we make friends to bring friends to Christ. If Jesus does it, then, who am I not to do it? I often hear callers to a Catholic Radio show and they ask "I don't know if I should go to my child's house, or wedding, because they are living in sin". Usually the answer from the host will be "even Jesus ate with sinners". At what point does one condone (allow) sinful behavior, and at what point is one showing the way to living holiness? Jesus shows the way. He says to the sinners "follow me". He helps the sinners to the way. He feeds the sinners. He goes where typically so called "good followers" won't go. It is work, and it is work many are afraid to do...living a life of grace that works. I don't know about you, but I'm getting tired of living like a Pharisee. I have to deal with liars and cheaters, but how do I deal with them? With Jesus. So long as we follow Jesus, we will be Ok. So long as I lead others to Jesus we will be ok. Jesus desires mercy more than sacrifice. I want to sacrifice myself to show mercy. Jesus shows mercy by dying on the cross. This is giving. His body was pierced, not on a quirk, like the rest of us, but for a purpose. And that purpose is Love. Suddenly, showing mercy is showing love. Giving mercy, is giving love. We are called to build each other up, not tear each other down. Live out your calling.
Jesus is calling out to you today "Follow Me..."
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