We know only two things about St. Matthew whose feast we celebrate today. First, we know him as a tax collector and secondly that he responded to the call of Jesus who approached him with the command: “Follow me,” and later was credited with the Gospel that bears his name. In the time of Jesus, tax collectors were not beloved members of society. It seems that, once again, Jesus was trying to make an important point by calling Matthew to be a disciple – a call that Matthew was unlikely to accept in the unquestioning way that he did. He was making some money, after all, and his job was likely secure. But Matthew got up from his customs post and seems to have never questioned the motives of Jesus or his own response. Clearly, others questioned however! “Why does the teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” they boldly said – not thinking of any transgressions they themselves might have committed. Jesus was clear in his response to these queries. “I desire mercy, not sacrifice. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”
Something in Matthew knew what Jesus was about and prompted him to say yes to the invitation. I found verses in Psalm 19, later than the lectionary verses from today and in a different translation, whose monetary metaphor seems in accord with the desire – known or unknown – of Matthew’s heart at the moment he was called to be a disciple. See what you think.
Pure light, pure truth, pure justice, God, they’re like a cleansing wind that passes through our souls, assessing all. Your presence is more valuable to us than gold, far sweeter to the tongue than honey in the comb. For it is you and you alone who teaches us, O great instructor of the soul, and in this school of wisdom, you’re the profit, true, and wisdom, the reward. (Ancient Songs Sung Anew, p.45)
May our desire for conversion deepen daily and our recognition of that to which we are called become clearer in each encounter with the divine light stirring in our hearts.