Saturday, September 21, 2013

Saintly Saturday: Saint Matthew the Apostle

No one knows for sure what made Jesus take St. Matthew, also known as Levi, under his wing.  After all, Matthew was a tax collector - the worst kind of sinner in the eyes of most Jews since they were not merely cooperators with the Roman Empire but actively worked to enforce their tax laws.  In fact, anything they charged over and above what the Roman law dictated they were allowed to keep so they were known for their dishonest dealings. So hated were these men that other Jews were forbidden from eating or drinking with them, from praying with them, and they were not even allowed into the temple to worship by the leaders of the Jewish people.

However, when Jesus came by the tax collecting table that day and told Matthew to come and follow him, Matthew didn't hesitate for a second.  He put down everything and left that lifestyle completely behind in order to follow Christ.  He didn't even ask, as James and John had, where Christ was going.  Apparently, Matthew was tired of that lifestyle and all it took was Christ's invitation for him to leave it behind.  Matthew later invited Jesus to a dinner party with his other tax collecting friends, and it was during this dinner party that Jesus reminded everyone that he came not to heal the healthy but to cure the sick - and that meant those who were spiritually sick, too.

It was Matthew who would go on to write the first Gospel of the new Testament, recording for all to read everything that he had learned about the Messiah including his genealogy as proof of his Messianic heritage.  It was Matthew also who would bring the Good News to Egypt and later to Ethiopia. There are some accounts of his martyrdom during his time in Egypt after having converted the brother of the king to Christianity, but there are also accounts of his having lived to old age.

St. Matthew is the patron saint of accountants, bankers, book keepers, tax collectors, customs officers, security guards, stock brokers and Salerno, Italy.  St. Matthew's feast day in the Roman Catholic Church is September 21st. We remember St. Matthew, not for the sins of his past, but for the faithfulness with which he served Christ after his conversion.  May we all follow Christ just as boldly when we hear him say to us, "Come, follow me."

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