September 21, 2008 - St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist

Today's Reading: Matthew 9:9-13

Daily Lectionary: Nehemiah 5:1-16, 6:1-9,15-16; 1 Timothy 4:1-16

As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him “Follow me. And he rose and followed him. (Matthew 9:9)

When Matthew went to the office that morning, I don’t think he was expecting a career change, much less a life change. He was a tax collector, an opportunist, a traitor to his people, a lackey for the Roman government, lining his pockets with the cash of his countrymen. The last thing Matthew expected to be at the close of the day was a disciple of Jesus.

Jesus picks the unexpected and unlikely for His service. The religious world would pick anyone but the likes of Matthew. The religious world would want someone with a winning smile, a nice haircut, an engaging personality, a strong handshake. A “people person.” But a tax collector? No way! What kind of “fisher of men” would a pick-pocketing tax collector be?

Well, Matthew was the kind who Jesus was looking for. Jesus came to call sinners, not the religiously righteous (as if there were such a thing!). He came to call Matthew to a new life and new adventures, to be His apostle and one of the evangelists who would record for posterity the words and works of Jesus. Think about that. When we read from the Gospel according to St. Matthew, we are reading the work of a former tax collector.

“He rose and followed Him.” That’s what happens when the word of Jesus has its way. The words “follow me” accomplish what they say, in Matthew and also in you. You, an undeserving sinner, are called to be a disciple of Jesus in the baptismal water where Jesus said to you, “Follow me.” You, unlikely candidate though you may be, are chosen by Christ to follow Him. You didn’t “decide to follow Jesus;” you were given to follow Him. And in following, you join the company of St. Matthew, the tax collector turned disciple, apostle, and evangelist by the word of Jesus.

O Son of God, our blessed Savior Jesus Christ, You called Matthew the tax collector to be an apostle and evangelist. Through his faithful and inspired witness, grant that we also may follow You, leaving behind all covetous desires and love of riches; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.