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September 21, 2020

“As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up and followed him.” Matthew 9:9

Today is the Feast of Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist. Matthew (called Levi in the Gospels of Mark and Luke) was a tax collector. Tax collectors, as you probably know, were doubly hated. First, because they were agents of the oppressive, occupying empire. Second, because they also lined their own pockets by extorting people for money beyond what was owed to Rome.  Jesus took one look at him and decided that he was exactly the sort of person that he, Jesus, needed on his team.

Jesus calls Matthew to follow, and the first thing they do is sit down to eat. The Pharisees grumble, wondering why Jesus would spend time with sinners, particularly with tax collectors. Jesus responds, “I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.” The joke, of course, is that none are righteous. But at least a guy like Matthew can recognize his own sinfulness; he can’t cover it up with pharisaical pretension.

A few things upon which to meditate today:

Jesus hangs out with people we hate, the worst of the worst. Perhaps we should, too. Maybe they’re not as bad as all that. And even if they are?

Jesus doesn’t leave sinners in their sin. Matthew doesn’t go back to collecting taxes. He follows Jesus, becoming one of the great evangelists and suffering martyrdom for his faith; tradition holds that he was killed with celebrating Mass at the altar.

Matthew’s life is testimony to the power of Jesus to transform us. He calls us to follow, and this means leaving our sin behind. This includes the sin of judgementalism; we dare not judge others when Jesus might not be done with them yet.

Be well, friends. You are loved.

Lord of the Church, you have called your people throughout the generations to follow you and share the gospel. May we, like Matthew, leave sin behind in exchange for the righteousness that comes only from you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Image: The Calling of Saint Matthew (1599–1600), Contarelli Chapel, San Luigi dei Francesi, Rome, Caravaggio (public domain).

From → COVID-19

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