Mary remains an ever-present figure as we journey through the Gospels with the women who meet Jesus. These stories are the tales of very different women, yet the common thread is the one most powerfully illustrated by his own Mother: intimacy with Jesus calls out the very best of who we can be.
—from the book Who Does He Say You Are? Women Transformed by Christ in the Gospels
✞ "For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy." — St. Therese of Lisieux
✞ MEDITATION OF THE DAY "Prayer is greatly aided by fasting and watching and every kind of bodily chastisement. In this regard each of you must do what you can. Thus, the weaker will not hold back the stronger, and the stronger will not press the weaker. You owe your conscience to God. But to no one else do you owe anything more except that you love one another." — St. Augustine, p. 143 AN EXCERPT FROM Augustine Day by Day
✞ VERSE OF THE DAY One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, "Which commandment is the first of all?" Jesus answered, "The first is, 'Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.' The second is this, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these." Mark 12:28-31
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Saint of the Day for September 21
(c. 1st Century)
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.
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 Matthew 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).
Feast of Saint Matthew, Apostle and evangelist Lectionary: 643
Reading 1 EPH 4:1-7, 11-13
Brothers and sisters: I, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace: one Body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
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, until we all attain to the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the extent of the full stature of Christ.
Responsorial Psalm PS 19:2-3, 4-5
R. (5) Their message goes out through all the earth. The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. Day pours out the word to day, and night to night imparts knowledge. R. Their message goes out through all the earth. Not a word nor a discourse whose voice is not heard; Through all the earth their voice resounds, and to the ends of the world, their message. R. Their message goes out through all the earth. Alleluia — See Te Deum
R. Alleluia, alleluia. We praise you, O God, we acclaim you as Lord; the glorious company of Apostles praise you. R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel MT 9:9-13
As Jesus passed by, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post. He said to him, "Follow me." And he got up and followed him. While he was at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat with Jesus and his disciples. The Pharisees saw this and said to his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?" He heard this and said, "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."
Meditation: Matthew 9:9-13
Saint Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist (Feast)
As Jesus passed by, he saw a man named Matthew. (Matthew 9:9)
Matthew probably had a lot of things going through his mind when he saw Jesus pass by. Let's imagine that internal conversation:
"Oh no, he's looking right at me. I've heard so much about this Jesus. People say he can heal any ailment and has even cast out demons. He doesn't pull any punches but tells it like it is. He doesn't seem to be cowed by anyone, neither religious leaders nor Roman occupation troops. In fact, I heard he even healed a centurion's servant.
"But I feel stuck in the middle. I must turn over enough taxes to the Romans so that they won't give my job to someone else, but I have to collect enough to provide for myself, don't I? And if I'm not aggressive enough, other tax collectors are going to ruin my livelihood.
"Nobody likes to pay taxes. It's the Romans' fault, but I'm the one with my hand out, so my countrymen resent me. The religious leaders think I'm dirty because I work for the Romans and handle their money. It's hard for me to have any self-respect.
"I'll admit I'm curious about Jesus, but I'm also very busy. And yet, I can't seem to look down and go on with my calculations. His eyes! It's like he's looking right into all the turmoil in my mind and heart, as if he knows I'm weary and fed up with it all, yet too weak to strike out in a different direction.
"When Jesus looks at me like that, all my pretenses drop away. I feel so hollow inside. This can't be all there is to life! There must be something worth giving my whole life to.
"He's about to say something: 'Follow me.' He's talking to me! His voice isn't loud, but suddenly those two words are echoing in my heart. This is the answer I've been looking for. I'm going to leave my books and my takings behind and go with him.
"There must be others who feel the same way I've been feeling. I want to invite some of the other tax collectors to dinner at my house. We're not rivals anymore. I just want them to meet this man who can see right into my heart!"
Perhaps you are sitting at your "customs post" today. Lift your head and let Jesus look into your heart. He knows your weariness and confusion. He is offering you a role in building a kingdom that lasts forever.
"St. Matthew, pray for us."
Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-13 Psalm 19:2-5
"I..., urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received" we heard the Word today.
We prayed today "Their message goes out through all the earth. Not a word nor a discourse whose voice is not heard". In one of Sister Anne Emmerich's visions, of the annunciation, she said she saw the Archangel Gabriel speaking and could see like letters coming out of his mouth which she could read, and the Blessed Mother was being given light. All the while an evil serpent was looming and being kicked by angels, as if saying "back off". Now, today, as I read the Holy Scriptures, a thought hit me "it so happens that every single word that the Lord said had eternal ramifications".
Lord, you have words of everlasting life. Everything He said was fulfilled and is being fulfilled. Today, that WORD is reaching your eyes, and ears, and I hope...your heart.
In the Holy Gospel Jesus says two everlasting words never to be forgotten "Follow Me". The outcast follows. The outcast is changed forever simply by changing life's direction....Jesus. St. Matthew was shocked someone cared, someone in the Church cared. Shocked by Love. This is what we have the power to do. To rock the world with the rock Jesus left, a church built on a rock that He chose...our first Pope. Ours is a religion of great love because it is founded on what Jesus did, and said. I read a spanish reflection this morning that said peculiar words "It is said that the idea that does not try to become word, is a bad idea. And the word that does not try to become action is a bad word. The words of Jesus are good words. My words, how are they? And my words become actions... what actions?" Two words shall now fall upon you, from our Lord, Follow Me.
You shall not ask: Where are we going. What shall I do. Where are you going. What will I eat. Where are you taking me. What about my family. Where do we go. What about this life in the world. Where are you leading me.
These are questions that shall be left behind when it comes to faith. If love is blind, so is faith. You do not need to see the ground to believe you can walk. Our Lord sat with the outcasts. The despised. Those not trusted. Those that the Jews had claimed "unforgivable". And you? Who do you see as unforgivable? Some say in spanish "may God forgive you, because I can't". It is a horrible saying because you are saying "I do not desire mercy". Because we say "forgive us Lord, as we forgive others".
You see, God doesn't need any of us, but all of us need God. Therefore, God's love is tremendous. And our need is tremendous. We need Him more than air or light. We need His everlasting Word, because it is everlasting LIFE!