Matthew’s Make-over

Matthew 9: 9-13
Gn 23: 1-4,19,24:1-8,62-67 / Ps 106

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

Let there be no hesitation
When we hear the call to follow Him;
Just like Matthew’s invitation,
Through our life, others God will redeem.

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

Today’s Gospel is about the call of Matthew (or Levi), the tax collector who was as unlikely to be an apostle as Judas Iscariot. In those days, tax collectors were as welcome as lepers in the Jewish society. As agents of the hated Roman conquerors, they were regarded as traitors as well as thieves for skimming a good part of the taxes they collected from the people. Jesus only made Himself more vulnerable to the criticisms and judgment of the religious authorities, especially the Pharisees when He called Matthew to follow Him.

Matthew knew he was a sinner, unworthy of the call. He also knew the cost of leaving 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. 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 lesson in today’s Gospel passage seems to be a warning against 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 teachings, 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. All too often, it is the Holy Spirit that urges us to invite a prospective member to our fold. After all, each one of us was called to this new life in Jesus. We might have been hesitant at first, but when we put our full trust in our Lord like St. Matthew did, He gave us a new direction in life, and now we strive to reach goals that will be 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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