The Call of Matthew

Matthew 9: 9-13
Eph 4:1-7, 11-13 / Psa 19: 2-5

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

Let there be no hesitation
When we hear His call, “Follow Me”,
Just like Matthew’s invitation,
Our Lord just wants to set us free.

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)


Today is the feast of St. Matthew, the apostle and evangelist. He was known as a collector of taxes for the Romans, a position most unlikely for one to be an apostle. In those days, tax collectors were as welcome as lepers, and associating with them was guaranteed to land one in the list of the socially ‘unclean’. As revenue agents of the hated Roman conquerors, tax collectors were regarded as traitors as well as thieves for skimming a good part of the taxes they collected from the people. Our Lord Jesus only made Himself more vulnerable to the criticisms and judgment of the religious authorities, particularly the Pharisees when He called Matthew to follow Him.

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. He made the commitment, and won a far greater reward.

The Pharisees, on the other hand, did not realize 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.

One of the lessons in today’s Gospel passage seems to be a warning against pre-judging prospects for the work of evangelization, a mission to which we are all called by the Lord. As we have often heard in our teaching tracks, it is not our ability or capability that qualifies us to serve, but our availability. Matthew’s call demonstrated that our Lord’s choice of him was divinely inspired when he accepted the invitation of Jesus and followed Him. 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.

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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