by Joel V. Ocampo
This September 21, the Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of Saint Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist. In the Gospel for the day’s Liturgy (Mt. 9:9-13), we hear the story of the call of St. Matthew. We were told that “As Jesus passed on from Capernaum, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post. He said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up and followed him.” After this, Matthew prepared a feast where he and the other tax collectors ate with Jesus (Mt. 9:10-11).
Like Nathanael who is also known as St. Bartholomew, St. Matthew’s name means gift of God. The English name “Matthew” came from “Ματθαῖος” (Matthaios), which was a Greek form of the Hebrew name “מַתִּתְיָהוּ” (Mattityahu) meaning “gift of Yahweh.” If we read the twenty-eight chapters of the Gospel written by St. Matthew, we can learn three things that we can also do so that we can also become “gift of Yahweh.”
St. Matthew, an Apostle and an Evangelist
PROCLAIM THAT GOD IS WITH US
The first chapter of the Gospel immediately says, “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means “God is with us” (Matthew 1:23). Then, in the last chapter of the Gospel, Jesus declared, “Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). Throughout the Gospel, St. Matthew records various stories that show that God is truly with us.
God did not abandon St. Joseph and the Blessed Virgin Mary in times of trials and difficulties (Mt. 1:18-25; 2:13-23);
God did not abandon the Lord Jesus in times of temptation (Mt. 4:1-11);
God did not abandon “the people who sit in darkness” (Mt. 4:16) because they “have seen a great light” when Jesus began His ministry;
God did not abandon His people, through Jesus who proclaimed the gospel of the kingdom, and cured every disease and illness among the people (Mt. 4:23);
God does not abandon His servants, even in times of persecutions (Mt. 10:26-33);
God does not abandon His people, rather, He feeds them (Mt. 14:13-21); and
God does not abandon His people, rather, He inspire ordinary people to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, shelter the homeless, visit the sick and prisoners, bury the dead, and give alms to the poor (Mt. 25:34-40).
Like Matthew, we also become “gift of Yahweh” when we make others feel that God is with us and will never abandon us.
BELIEVE AND PROCLAIM THAT GOD IS MERCIFUL AND FORGIVING
We know that St. Matthew was a tax collector before Jesus called him. For the Jews in the time of the Lord, tax collectors are considered traitors and sinners. That is why eating and associating with them will also make one a “traitor.” This is the reason why the Pharisees, when they saw Jesus eating and drinking with many tax collectors and sinners, said to His disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus heard this and said, “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” (Mt. 9:11-13).
St. Matthew of San Mateo, Rizal
If we read the preceding story before the call of Matthew, we can also see a similar theme: The Lord forgave and healed the paralytic man (Mt. 9:1-8). In the same way, St. Matthew recorded many stories about the mercy and forgiveness of God. Among these are the following:
The Gentle Mastery of Christ (Mt. 11:28-30), where we read Jesus saying “learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart” (Mt. 11:29);
The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant (Mt. 18:21-35), where Jesus said, “You should have had mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you” (Mt. 18:33 GNT); and
The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard (Mt. 20:1-16) where we read God’s justice and mercy that He generously gives to all who hear His call.
Like Matthew, we also become “gift of Yahweh” when we believe and proclaim that God is merciful and forgiving; that He is not a God who easily condemns and punishes us for our sins.
USE OUR KNOWLEDGE TO SERVE THE LORD
St. Matthew’s skill in accounting became beneficial in his life as an Apostle and Evangelist. He wrote the Gospel in an organized manner. If we read the Gospel written by St. Matthew, we will see that it contains “Five Books,” patterned after the Pentateuch of the Old Testament:
Book I: The Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5:1 – 7:29);
Book II: The Mission Discourse (Mt. 10:1-42);
Book III: The Parable Discourse (Mt. 13:3-52);
Book IV: The Discipleship Discourse (Mt. 18:1-35); and
Book V: The End of the World Discourse (Mt. 24:1 – 25:46).
In addition, He used his knowledge on the Jewish Scriptures to encourage the people that Jesus is really the promised Messiah. At least sixty passages from the Old Testament were quoted by St. Matthew when he wrote the Gospel.
Furthermore, St. Matthew also mentioned about the Magi from the East who came to give homage to the newborn king (Mt. 2:1-1-12). These wise men used their knowledge to discover God in their midst.
Like Matthew, we also become “gift of Yahweh” when we use our knowledge to serve the Lord. When we use this God-given knowledge to help others, to lift them up, to encourage the downcast, and not use it to manipulate, take advantage, and exploit other people.
ST. MATTHEW AND POPE FRANCIS
Interestingly, in the year 1953, on the Feast of Saint Matthew, the 17-year-old Jorge Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, experienced, in a very special and intimate way, the loving presence of God in his life. He went to confession and felt his heart touched by the mercy of God. It changed his life, and at that moment, he also felt God’s call to the priesthood and religious life as a Jesuit.
PRAYER TO ST. MATTHEW
O Glorious St. Matthew, in your Gospel you portray Jesus as the longed-for Messiah who fulfilled the Prophets of the Old Covenant and as the new Lawgiver who founded a Church of the New Covenant. Obtain for us the grace to see Jesus living in his Church and to follow his teachings in our lives on earth so that we may live forever with him in heaven. Amen.
St. Mathew, Apostle and Evangelist, pray for us!
Portrait of St. Matthew at the dome
of St. Bartholomew Parish, Malabon City
Photo by Pocholo Valido