Friday, September 21, 2012
Today is the feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist.
St. Matthew was born at Capernaum. He was working as a tax collector when Jesus called him to be one of the twelve apostles. He wrote his gospel in Hebrew. His gospel, with its familiar references to the messianic prophecies, throws light on the continuity between the covenants. Moreover, his vocation is one of the most popular episodes in the life of Jesus, because of the personality of the one called the tax collector and the revelation of redeeming love that concludes and crowns the story. Matthew's position as tax collector equated with collaboration with the enemy by those from whom he collected taxes. Jesus' contemporaries were surprised to see Christ with a traitor, but Jesus explained that he had come "not to call the just, but sinners."
"Mark and Luke call Matthew by his Jewish name Levi and Mark says that he was "the son of Alphaeus" (Mark 2:14). He may have been the brother of James, who is also called the "the son of Alphaeus" (Mark 3:18). The name Matthew means "gift of Yaweh" and it is possible that he was given this name when he followed Jesus.
Because of his profession, Jews of strict observance would have nothing to do with him, for he fell under a religious ban. He was despised by the Pharisees who hated all publicans (tax collectors for the Romans). Therefore, his response to the call of Jesus to follow him is all the more remarkable, as he stood up at once, "leaving everything behind" (Luke 5: 28).
Matthew's Gospel is given pride of place in the canon of the New Testament, and was written to convince Jewish readers that their anticipated Messiah had come in the person of Jesus. He preached among the Jews for 15 years; his audiences may have included the Jewish enclave in Ethiopia, and places in the East.
In art, St. Matthew is represented by an angel holding a pen or an inkwell.
Saint Matthew is the patron of: accountants, bankers, bookkeepers, customs officers, financial officers, guards, money managers, Salerno, Italy, security forces, security guards, stockbrokers, tax collectors, the diocese of Trier, Germany.
Prayer to St. Matthew
Dear Levi, now known as Matthew, you were first a publican, a tax collector, and then a gatherer of souls for Christ after immediately following His call. Later you wrote wonderful accounts of your Jewish brethren of what Jesus, descendant of David, said and did as Teacher and Savior. Make all accountants imitate your example in giving careful and honest accounts. Amen.