MATTHEW WAS TRANSFORMED BY JESUS
(A biblical reflection on the FEAST OF SAINT MATTHEW, APOSTLE & EVANGELIST, Monday, 21 September 2015)
Gospel Reading: Matthew 9:9-13
First Reading: Ephesians 4:1-7,11-13; Psalms: Psalm 19:2-5
As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax office; and He said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed Him.
And as he sat at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Jesus and His disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when He heard it, He said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:9-13 RSV)
Let’s imagine Matthew sitting at his customs post along the road that passed Capernaum, totally absorbed in his work. In the opinion of the Jewish farmers and fishermen who had to pay him a toll to carry their products down the road to market. Matthew probably seemed like a traitor: He was raising taxes for the regime that held them in subjection. In addition, tax collectors enriched themselves by charging higher fees than they were required to turn over to the Roman Government. Thus, Matthew was probably regarded as a thief (corruptor) as well. Tax collectors were barred from the synagogue, just like robbers and murderers.
Jesus had just healed a man of paralysis and, as He left Capernaum, He had to walk by Matthew’s toll office. Probably to Matthew’s astonishment – certainly to the astonishment of Jesus’ followers – Jesus went up to Matthew and invited him to become one of His followers! We can only imagine what went through Matthew’s heart and mind. No doubt Matthew had heard about Jesus before this encounter. Perhaps, like Zacchaeus, his fellow tax collector (Luke 19:1-4), Matthew had stood on the periphery of the crowd and listened to Jesus. Had his heart been touched by what he heard? Had Matthew asked himself, “Who is this man, Jesus?” Did he feel some vague desire to break free of the sin of his outcast way of life?
We cannot read Matthew’s thoughts, but we know that this worldly man did not delay a minute in responding to Jesus’ invitation. As soon as Jesus said, “Follow Me,” Matthew got up and followed Him (Matthew 9:9). By day’s end, Matthew invited Jesus to join him and his fellow tax collectors at a dinner in his home.
Jesus saw Matthew as He sees all of us – not just for what we are, but for what we can become with His help. Jesus loved Matthew and had a specific task waiting for him in the Kingdom. Jesus turned this hated, hardened tax collector into an apostle of love. No personal transformation is impossible with God!
Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for calling me to leave behind my selfish ways and follow You. Give me the grace to respond to You today without hesitation. Change me as much as You changed Matthew! Amen.
Jakarta, 21 September 2015
A Christian Pilgrim