The Call of Matthew

Matthew 9:9-13
Eph 4:1- 7,11-13 / Psa 19

I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.
(Matthew 9:13)

From a collector of taxes
To a great writer of verses,
Jesus called Matthew and set him free;
May you hear His call, “Come follow Me.”

As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man called Matthew sitting at his customs post. He said to him, “Follow me.” And Matthew got up and followed Him. As they sat at dinner in Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and joined Jesus and His disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus heard this, and said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick do. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.” (Matthew 9: 9-13)

Reflection

Matthew was one of those hated by fellow Jews as traitors working for the occupying forces of Rome, and envied for the big commissions they skimmed from the taxes they collected from the people. So one can only imagine the difficulties that Matthew had to undergo when he decided to join the fellowship of Jesus and His apostles. How could he go out and proclaim the Good News to the Jews when everybody knew him as a collaborator of the Romans? Who would believe him that he was no longer after their money, but only after their conversion?

Matthew knew he was a sinner and a traitor, unworthy of the call. He also knew what was at stake when he stood up and left his customs post to begin a new life with Jesus. There was no turning back if this new venture did not work out. Giving up his lucrative business was a great leap of faith. And that was what made the difference: he believed in Jesus, that the Lord could straighten out his life. His life changed dramatically when Jesus told him, “Come follow Me.” He made the commitment, and won a far greater reward. We know that he was chosen for a specific mission: so that we may have the Gospel of Matthew today, the first to be written, and the most comprehensive account about the life of our Redeemer.

The Pharisees, on the other hand, did not know that they were the ones on the wrong side of the track when they asked, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” Self-righteous and judgmental, it was so easy for them to condemn Jesus, Who was doing what He came to do in the first place: to bring sinners back to the grace of God. They may well be the ones Jesus was referring to when He said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick do. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’” While Matthew was rising to a new life, they were sinking deeper into sin.

One of the lessons in today’s Gospel passage seems to be a warning against pre-judging prospects in the work of evangelization, a mission to which we are all called by the Lord. As we have often heard in our teachings, it is not the ability or capability that qualifies one to serve, but his/her availability. Matthew’s conversion demonstrated that his call was divinely inspired when he accepted the invitation and followed Jesus. In fact this Gospel of Matthew, which has helped spread the kingdom of God and led millions of souls to Jesus clearly attests to the wisdom of that choice. It is the Holy Spirit that urges us to invite a prospective member into our fold. All are called to a new life in Jesus. At first we might be hesitant and doubtful, but if we put our full trust in our Lord God like St. Matthew did, then He will give us a new direction in life, and reach goals more rewarding than what we can ever imagine.

We thank You, Father God, for the example of St. Matthew, our model of faith, courage and fortitude. By responding to Jesus’ call to follow Him, he has greatly contributed to Your kingdom here on earth with the writing of his Gospel. By Your Spirit and grace, may we follow his example in spreading the Good News of salvation. Amen.

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