AD SENSE

St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist, Monday, Sept 21

 Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-13 / Matthew 9:9-13

There is one Lord over all: Preserve your unity.  

John Howard Griffin dyed his skin black, shaved his head, and posed as a black man in the South in the pre-civil-rights days. One day he asked for a Catholic church. He was told that the nearest "colored Catholic church" was on Drysades Street. 

"There's no such thing as a colored Catholic church," Griffin replied. His informant said, "You don't really believe that, do you? This is the South. You're going to find that a lot of white Catholics look on you as a nigger first and a Catholic second, no matter what the Archbishop says." John H. Griffin, "Racist Sins of Christians"  

From a despised tax-collector, appraised no higher than a public sinner or a pagan, Matthew becomes an apostle. He is living proof that Jesus came to call sinners. And among the apostles he is one of the two who witnessed to Christ not only with their life and work but also their writing. He is with us today to strengthen our faith. He shows how Jesus is the fulfilment of the scriptures and how our communities today, like his long ago, have to put the Good News of Jesus into practice. 

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Do we look upon all Christians as being equal members of the Body of Christ? "I pray that they may all be one. Father! . . . May they be one, so that the world will believe that you sent me." John 17:21 

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A pastor once ran into a “lost sheep” of his parish. This man had stopped going to church a long time ago. The pastor gently invited him to return to church. The man said with no little self-righteousness: “Father, I don’t go because the church is full of crooks and hypocrites.” And the pastor responded: “If so, please do come. We can always make room for one more.”
The Church belongs to saints and sinners alike. Perhaps more sinners than saints, for the Church exists for their sake: “Healthy people do not need a doctor, but sick people do.” We go to Church not to proclaim our righteousness to the world, but to humbly declare our sinfulness and need for God, and to receive His mercy and healing. By calling Matthew to belong to his band of apostles, Jesus makes it very clear that from the greatest to the least in the Church, everyone is sinful and all stand in need of God’s mercy. 

Matthew is an evangelist, a prophet, and a disciple among the Twelve. We all share the same hope and the same call and so must make every effort to preserve unity among us. We must all strive to build up one another in the knowledge of God's Son and to share the favor that has been given to us. Matthew's Gospel: emphasizes many of these exhortations because his community was being torn apart by persecution by the Romans and the Jews and they are struggling as Jewish and Gentile Christians to be one heart and mind in Christ. Matthew was a tax collector. He stops taking from others to give to the state and the temple treasury. He begins giving of the mercy and healing/health of mind/soul/spirit that Jesus so graciously offered to him. What are we called to leave behind so that we can begin giving to each other?

Have we ever wondered what were the thoughts that crossed the mind of St. Matthew as he got up from the customs house to follow Jesus? Was it apprehension or uncertainty because he was walking away from a stable and profitable job, although it is not a respectable one? Or was it a sense of insecurity and anxiety that from that moment on, things are not going to be the same anymore in that nothing can be taken for granted anymore? But over and above all these thoughts was the great up-lifting feeling that someone had given him respect, dignity and self-worth.

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The context: Today’s Gospel episode of Matthew’s call as Jesus’ apostle reminds us of God’s love and mercy for sinners and challenges us to practice this same love and mercy in our relations with others.

The call and the response: Jesus went to the tax-collector’s office to invite Matthew to become his disciple. Since tax-collectors worked for a foreign power and extorted more tax money from the people than they owed, they were hated and despised as traitors by the Jewish people, and they were considered public sinners and ostracized by the Pharisees.   But Jesus could see in Matthew a person who needed Divine love and grace. That is why, while everyone hated Matthew, Jesus was ready to offer him undeserved love, mercy and forgiveness. Hence, Matthew abandoned his lucrative job, because, for him, Christ’s call to follow him was a promise of salvation, fellowship, guidance and protection. Scandalous partying with sinners. It was altogether natural for Matthew to rejoice in his new calling by celebrating with his friends. Jesus’ dining with outcasts in the house of a “traitor” scandalized the Pharisees, for whom ritual purity and table fellowship were important religious practices. Hence, they asked the disciples, “Why does your master eat with tax collectors and sinners?”  In answer to their question, Jesus stressed his ministry as healer: “Those who are well do not need a physician; the sick do.” Then Jesus challenged the Pharisees, quoting Hosea, “Go and learn the meaning of the words, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice’” (Hosea 6:6).  Finally, Jesus clarified his position, “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” [After the Ascension, Saint Matthew remained for over ten years in Judea, writing his Gospel there in about the year 44. Then he went to preach the Faith in Egypt and especially in Ethiopia, where he remained for twenty-three years. The relics of Saint Matthew were for many years in the city of Naddaver in Ethiopia, where he suffered his martyrdom, but were transferred to Salerno in the year 954]. 

Life messages: 1) Jesus calls you and me for a purpose: Jesus has called us through our Baptism, forgiven us our sins, and welcomed us as members of the Kingdom. In fact, Jesus calls us daily through the Word and through his Church, to be his disciples and to turn away from all the things that distract us and draw us away from God. 2) Just as Matthew did, we, too, are expected to proclaim Christ through our lives by reaching out to the unwanted and the marginalized in society with Christ’s love, mercy and compassion. (Fr. Tony) L/18

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In Jesus, St. Matthew saw the mercy and love of God, who came not to call the virtuous, but sinners. What St. Matthew saw in Jesus, he too wanted to emulate, he wanted to follow, he wanted to become. That is also what the 1st reading is telling us: that united in faith and knowledge of the Son of God, we strive to be the Perfect Man, the perfect person, fully mature with the fullness of Christ. Jesus showed St. Matthew who and what he can become. In turn, St. Matthew showed us in his gospel who and what we can become. As the call of Jesus crosses and echoes in our hearts, let us answer the call like St. Matthew. Because it is a call to the fullness of Christ Himself, who came to call sinners so that they can become virtuous.

Let us pray: Lord God of mercy, you show us today in your apostle and evangelist Matthew how you put the self-righteous to shame and call sinners to the task of bringing your Son's good news to the world. Forgive us our pride and reassure us that we can count on you and your love because we are weak and sinful people. Let us share in your message and life through Jesus Christ our Lord.