Jesus had a unique way of choosing his disciples. There were no interviews, no ‘vetting” to be sure of the character of the person being considered. Jesus just approached a person, said “Follow me!” and it was up to the person called to get up from whatever s/he was doing and go. Most, it seems, were fishermen – honest workers with simple lives. One wonders about Matthew, the tax collector. Was he maybe chosen as a test for the rest of the band of followers or for the larger population that knew him as “a sinner,” because of his profession, a challenge of magnanimity, perhaps?
Clearly, Jesus had a point in mind when he encountered Matthew. When people grumbled and looked askance at Matthew in the company of Jesus, they were likely surprised at the reason Jesus gave for his choice. “Those who are well do not need a physician,” he said, “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.”
This should be a comfort to all of us who are not yet perfect. Jesus was clearly able to see the inner light in Matthew rather than only what was considered necessary for his work. The proof that he was ready to step up to a deeper calling can be seen in his willingness and ability to leave the life he was living to respond to the light he saw in Jesus that was reflected somehow in his own person. A good lesson for us when we want to judge someone whose inner light is not clearly visible to us in our day-to-day life.