Feast of St. Matthew the Evangelist

September 21, 2021
Ordinary Time

Today’s Readings: Proverbs 3:1-6 / Psalm 119:33-40 / 2 Timothy 3:14-17 / Matthew 9:9-13 / Reflection: St. Matthew answered Christ’s call

Evocation

Alleluia, alleluia.

I do not call you servants but friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.

John 15.15

The Collect

We thank you, heavenly Father, for the witness of your apostle and evangelist Matthew to the Gospel of your Son our Savior; and we pray that, after his example, we may with ready wills and hearts obey the calling of our Lord to follow him; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Matthew and the Angel , by Guido Reni, 1620-1630

Old Testament: Proverbs 3:1-6

My child, do not forget my teaching,

but let your heart keep my commandments;

for length of days and years of life

and abundant welfare they will give you.

Do not let loyalty and faithfulness forsake you;

bind them round your neck,

write them on the tablet of your heart.

So you will find favour and good repute

in the sight of God and of people.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,

and do not rely on your own insight.

In all your ways acknowledge him,

and he will make straight your paths.

Saint Matthew and the Angel (1661) by Rembrandt

The Response: Psalm 119:33-40

Legem pone

33 Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes, *

and I shall keep it to the end.

34 Give me understanding, and I shall keep your law; *

I shall keep it with all my heart.

35 Make me go in the path of your commandments, *

for that is my desire.

36 Incline my heart to your decrees *

and not to unjust gain.

37 Turn my eyes from watching what is worthless; *

give me life in your ways.

38 Fulfill your promise to your servant, *

which you make to those who fear you.

39 Turn away the reproach which I dread, *

because your judgments are good.

40 Behold, I long for your commandments; *

in your righteousness preserve my life.

Saint Matthew (1713–1715) by Camillo Rusconi, Archbasilica of St. John Lateran in Rome

The Epistle: 2 Timothy 3:14-17

As for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.

Matthew in a painted miniature from a volume of Armenian Gospels dated 1609, held by the Bodleian Library

The Gospel: Matthew 9:9-13

As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard this, 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, not sacrifice.’ For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”

Anthony van Dyck – De apostel Mattheus – L’apotre Matthieu – Fonds Generet – Koning Boudewijnstichting – Fondation Roi Baudouin

Reflection: St. Matthew answered Christ’s call

Today is the feast of Saint Matthew the Apostle and Evangelist. “Matthew was a Jew who worked for the occupying Roman forces, collecting taxes from other Jews. The Romans were not scrupulous about what the “tax farmers” got for themselves. Hence the latter, known as “publicans,” were generally hated as traitors by their fellow Jews. The Pharisees lumped them with “sinners” (see Matthew 9:11-13). So it was shocking to them to hear Jesus call such a man to be one of his intimate followers.” [1]

“Matthew got Jesus in further trouble by having a sort of going-away party at his house. The Gospel tells us that many tax collectors and “those known as sinners” came to the dinner. The Pharisees were still more badly shocked. What business did the supposedly great teacher have associating with such immoral people? Jesus’ answer was, “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 9:12b-13). Jesus is not setting aside ritual and worship; he is saying that loving others is even more important.” [2]

“From such an unlikely situation, Jesus chose one of the foundations of the Church, a man others, judging from his job, thought was not holy enough for the position. But Matthew was honest enough to admit that he was one of the sinners Jesus came to call.” [3]

“Christ said to Saint Matthew: ‘Follow me.’ And, so he did, abandoning everything to follow Christ.” Today, let us pray “that we too… all of us, may also answer the call of Christ – indelibly written onto our hearts by our baptism in Christ.” [4] 

So, on this feast day, let us reflect upon the  words of the fourteenth century theologian, Johannes Tauler:

When Jesus departed from Capernaum, He saw a man sitting in the custom house named Matthew; and He said to him: Follow Me. And he arose and followed Him’ (Saint Matthew 9:9).

The Apostle and Evangelist, so holy, which we celebrate today, has become an example for all men. As the Scripture tells us, he became one of the most distinguished friends of God, having been first a great sinner. As soon as the Lord speaks to the heart of Matthew, he immediately abandons everything to follow the Lord. What is condensed here we must do if we want to follow Christ: implement genuine and radical abandonment of everything that is not of God, which has taken possession of man’s heart. For God is a lover of hearts, and does not commune with anything that is external.

The path of the friends of God is totally dark and unknown. Appropriate are the words which speak of Job: ‘A man whose way is hidden, and God has surrounded him with darkness’ (Job 3:23). Man must bear all the reproaches heaped upon him on this rough road, in a self-denying way. Our Lord says everywhere: Follow Me, go through all things. I am He; do not go further; follow Me. If a man were to say: Lord, who are You, that I must follow You through such deep, gloomy, miserable paths? The Lord would reply, I am God and Man, and far more God.

If man is to be thus clothed with this Being, all the forms must of necessity be done away with, those that were ever received by him in all his powers of perception, knowledge, will, work, subjection, sensibility and self-seeking. When Saint Paul saw nothing, he saw God. When Elijah wrapped his face in his mantle, God came. All strong rocks are broken here; all on which the mind can rest disappear. Then, when all forms have ceased to exist, in the twinkling of an eye, the man is transformed. The Lord teaches us through Jeremiah: ‘You shall call Me Father and shall not cease to walk after Me’ (Jeremiah 3:19). This means, entering ever further in, ever nearer, so as to sink deeper in an unknown and unnamed abyss; and, above all ways, images and forms, and above all powers, to lose yourself, deny yourself and even un-form yourself.

In this lost condition, nothing is to be seen but a ground which rests upon itself, every one being, one life. It is thus, man may say, that he becomes, unknowing, unloving and senseless. This is not the result of natural qualities, but of the transformation, wrought by the Spirit of God in the created spirit, in the fathomless lost condition of the created spirit, and in his unconditional surrendering. We may say of this, that God knows, loves and gives Himself thus; for man is nothing but a life, a being and action. Those who see in this way, with undue liberty and with false light, are in the most perilous state possible in this life. The way by which we must arrive at the goal, is through the precious life and sufferings of our dear Lord; for He is the Way by which we must go, and He is the Truth which lightens all in this way. [5]

Concluding Prayer of the Church

O Almighty God,

whose blessed Son called Matthew the tax collector

to be an apostle and evangelist:

give us grace to forsake the selfish pursuit of gain and the possessive love of riches

that we may follow in the way of your Son Jesus Christ,

who is alive and reigns with you,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever.

Amen.

Citations:

[1] Franciscan Media. (2018, September 12). Saint Matthew. Retrieved September 07, 2020, from https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-matthew/

[2] Ibid. 1

[3] Ibid. 1

[4] Finklea, M. (1970, January 01). Feast of Saint Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist. Retrieved September 07, 2020, from http://acta-sanctorum.blogspot.com/2010/09/feast-of-saint-matthew-apostle-and.html

[5] Ibid. 4

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