Tuesday, September 21, 2021
Feast of Saint Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist
“Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” He heard this and said, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, I desire mercy, not sacrifice. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.” Matthew 9:11–13
Just prior to this passage quoted above, Jesus saw Matthew, a tax collector, sitting at his custom post collecting taxes. Jesus walked up to him and said two simple words: “Follow me.” What did Matthew do? He got up and followed Jesus and invited Him to his home for a meal. When the Pharisees saw this, they acted with judgment and cruelty. They said, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” Their reaction and Jesus’ subsequent response to them says much about the goodness of our Lord.
When Jesus said that He “did not come to call the righteous but sinners,” He was not speaking of the truly righteous. For example, the most righteous person alive at that time, other than Jesus, was His dear mother. And we can be certain that not only did Jesus call her but that she always responded with her whole heart. However, Jesus was speaking of those who were “self-righteous.” A self-righteous person is one who thinks highly of themself, ignoring the truth of God but choosing, instead, to elevate their own image in their own eyes and in the eyes of others. Simply put, to be self-righteous is to believe a lie and, in fact, to believe the worst of lies. It’s the worst of lies because this sin has the effect of causing a person to remain obstinate and stuck in their sin. The self-righteous person does not see any need for repentance or change in their life. Therefore, they are not open to the Word of God and to allowing that Word to transform them.
Saint Matthew, whom we honor today, was different. He was a sinner indeed. Most likely he was greedy and overly attached to his money. Tax collectors were not highly regarded at that time because they were Jews who worked for the Romans and were, therefore, seen as traitors to their own people. Additionally, they were seen as thieves, because they often extorted more than they should receive so that they could pocket some of the money. For this reason, many Jews also feared the tax collectors because they knew the tax collectors had Rome’s support in this illicit activity.
What’s amazing is that Jesus approached Matthew, the sinner and tax collector, and confidently called him to be a follower. Most likely, Jesus could see into his heart. He knew Matthew was not happy with his life and was searching for more. Therefore, as soon as Jesus called him to follow Him, it is clear that something took place within Matthew’s soul. The fact that he got up and followed our Lord shows that the spiritual draw to Jesus was far more powerful than his desire for earthly wealth.
This same truth applies to each and every one of us. No matter what we find ourselves drawn to and no matter how we seek satisfaction in life, the supernatural truth is that there is only one thing that will satisfy. We could have all the money in the world, all earthly power and prestige, and still, in the depths of our souls, we will not find peace until we turn to Jesus and follow Him. Some people learn this truth early in life, some later in life, and some never discover it at all.
Reflect, today, upon how satisfied you are with your life. Is there something missing? If so, look at your goals and priorities in life. What do you spend most of your time thinking about, talking about and daydreaming about? If it is not our Lord Who occupies your mind, heart and every desire, then you can expect that you will experience discontentment in life. In that case, look to the witness of Saint Matthew. He is a saint today because he responded to Jesus’ invitation to abandon his life of sin and greed so as to follow Him in poverty. But in that worldly poverty and abandonment of earthly things, Saint Matthew became abundantly rich and will remain so forever in Heaven.
Lord of all satisfaction, You call all Your people to follow You. Please open my mind and heart to that call so that I can not only hear You but also respond with all my heart. Please help me to detach from the things of this world that keep me from You, so that I can follow You wherever You lead. Jesus, I trust in You.
Scripture Meditations for Ordinary Time
Saint of the Day – Saint Matthew the Evangelist, Apostle, Evangelist
Featured image above: The Calling of Saint Matthew By Giovanni Paolo Panini, via Wikimedia Commons