Can we respond to the call with as instant and positive response that the apostle Matthew exhibited?


Today we celebrate the feast of St. Matthew, the apostle and evangelist, whose Gospel, placed first of the four in our versions of the New Testament, is a masterpiece of the gospel writer’s intent of showing the continuity of the life of Jesus with its roots in the Jewish Bible.  And what we read today remembers the call of Matthew as one of the twelve disciples that Jesus invited to walk with Him and to be part of the astounding message of hope, healing and wholeness that characterized Jesus’ words and actions.  I am always amazed at Matthew’s response to Jesus’ call.  There is absolutely NO hesitation on the part of the tax collector when he hears the call, “As Jesus went on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. ’Follow Me,’ He told him, and Matthew got up and followed Him.”  The immediacy of the response is remarkable.  I am sure that the tax collector knew Jesus by reputation, but his reaction is wonderfully abrupt!

Matthew was a “tax collector” a code word for a public sinner.  The tax collector was hated both by his foreign employers and by the Jewish people.  They were hated by the Jews because they regularly cheated them in their tax collecting machinations and they represented the dreaded outside oppression of foreign domination. Because Matthew worked for the Romans, he cooperated in Rome’s oppression of the Jewish people. Therefore, when Matthew collected taxes, he also collected injustices and enemies. Yet Jesus called Matthew from his toll booth and with no hesitation he affirmed the call and followed Jesus.  What an excellent beginning. Matthew quit collecting taxes and followed Jesus. Then he collected the sayings and teachings of Jesus, the preaching of the early Church, and the accounts of Jesus’ miracles and healings. He put all this together to compose his Gospel.

Matthew’s call is a kind of healing. His “healing” is an interior event. Jesus’ invitation to him (the call) along with his immediate response shows forth the awesome power of the presence of Jesus to those who responded positively as disciples.  In this healing Matthew goes from public sinner to disciple/apostle with no apparent delay. The down-deep healing of Matthew reminds me of the magnificence of God’s love through Jesus.  Can I respond to the call with as instant and positive response that the apostle Matthew exhibited?   His journey from sinner to disciple can be a mirror of my own response to Jesus.  The grace of recognizing my own sinfulness and opening myself up to the rescuing presence of Jesus in my life truly is a miracle wrought by a merciful and gracious God.

You may be a collector yourself or any other officer. But what do you collect spiritually? Some people collect compulsions. They pick up one after another. Others collect fears. They “live in fear”. Some collect unforgiveness, resentment, and grudges. Others collect hurts. They have so many more hurts than healings. Notwithstanding our own “self-worth” which is so highly touted these days, everything that we have comes from God. Anything positive (holy or good) that we are capable of, or can ever do for whatever reason, is only possible by God’s plan for us and the action of the Holy Spirit. We may live in a “go it alone” society, but that shouldn’t keep us from realizing that to be all that we would ever want to be can only be done as a Catholic Christian united in the Body of Christ with Jesus Himself as our Head! Yes, we can be something we are not supposed to be, and may be very good at it too. But there is always the call from God through Jesus for us to do what we were made to do.

And so as Jesus continues to call and invite each of us: as Matthew found his roots in the Jewish Bible, we find our roots in Matthew’s response as well as the other disciples who said and continued to say “yes” to Jesus and to God. As Matthew did, let’s leave the spiritual garbage we’ve collected over the years and follow Jesus. Then we can start a new collection – a collection of healings, forgivenesses, freedoms, and commitments to the Lord.  We, too, should all listen for Jesus’ call! Look for Him, listen for Him, and then follow Him with all our heart, soul and strength. Only then can we realize our true self-worth!

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