Today’s Gospel Reading: Matthew 9:9-13 – THE FEAST OF SAINT MATTHEW: 21 September 2018
Tax collectors were a despised group. They were Jewish locals wo were allowed to keep a percentage of the taxes they collected for the Romans. They were akin to collection agencies today. Jews saw them as quislings and oppressors of their own people. Jesus looked through this popular image to the person behind it. Matthew was quick to answer the call. Perhaps he saw Someone who did not treat him with the contempt to which he had become accustomed. Then Matthew held a reception and invited all his fellow outcasts. Among these “outsiders” Jesus was an insider. He was expanding the boundaries of the Kingdom.
The Gospel of Matthew is the most Jewish of the Gospels. It quotes Scripture as fulfilled some forty times. Its anti-Pharisee tone reflected the Jewish Christian community of which Matthew was a member. It is also a Gospel of what it means to be a Church. The Church of Christ is not an abstraction. It is a flesh and blood group of people. It needs apostles to keep it together, prophets to prod it forward, evangelists to make known to outsiders, pastors to guide it, teachers to deepen its understanding of its faith. Most of all, it is primarily local.
Any parish has the capacity for enormous local impact if it chooses to tackle a specific problem. The local parish is also important because our personal faith grew out of some local faith community. For better or worse, our faith reflects in subtle ways the parish in which we were raised.
This is a theme of Matthew: faith is a shared experience. Our faith or lack of it affects others. We are able to transmit spiritual energy to one another.
Jakarta, 21 September 2018
A Christian Pilgrim