Sunday, June 8, 2008

The Calling of St. Matthew (today's Gospel reading)

H/T to Jackie over @ CatholicMomof10. Thank you for sharing this great information!
Fr Guy Nicholls writes: Thought for the week here & below:


St. Matthew tells us in his own words about his calling by our Lord to be an Apostle. For those who know the painting of this scene by Caravaggio, which is to be found in the Church of St. Louis of France in Rome, it impossible to think of this event without seeing this picture in their mind’s eye. Matthew describes it in a very simple and unadorned way, yet one that leaves a great deal to the imagination.

Whereas Andrew, Simon Peter, James and John were fishermen, and the other Simon was a Zealot, or former insurrectionist against the Romans, we know nothing of the previous life of any of the other Apostles.
Matthew, also known as Levi, must have seemed to many at the time of his calling to have been the most unlikely to be chosen by Our Lord. He was a tax-collector—a way of life deeply hated by his fellow Jews since it involved co-operation with the occupying power for personal gain. A tax-collector was not only granted a license to gather the taxes from the local people on behalf of the Romans but was allowed to take his “cut” as a perk. So they were judged to be not only “collaborators” but also self-servers, lining their own pockets at their fellow-citizens’ expense. No wonder they were so unpopular!

Matthew records the celebration which he held to mark this enormous change in his life. He invited his friends, the other local tax-collectors and various public “sinners” whom the respectable folk shunned with distaste, even hatred. Yet Our Lord neither shunned nor hated them. He ate with them and so earned the Pharisees’ wrath and contempt. They throw this challenge in the face of Jesus’s other disciples: “Why does your master eat with tax-collectors and sinners?” What kind of rabbi is He, then? Look at the disreputable company He keeps! So it is that Jesus Himself replies to the Pharisees: “It is not the healthy who need the doctor. Go and learn the meaning of the words: ‘what I want is mercy, not sacrifice’. And indeed I did not come to call the virtuous, but sinners”.

It is the drama behind these words which Caravaggio captures in this wonderful painting. We see Jesus suddenly breaking with a sharp beam of light into this darkened room of men hunched over their pile of ‘filthy lucre’. Jesus’s outstretched finger points commandingly at Matthew who responds with amazement and an incredulous finger pointing back at himself in echo of Our Lord’s hand, as though he is saying, “Who? Me? Surely not!” The two older men are so absorbed in the money that they fail even to notice Our Lord, but the two younger men, flooded in the light passing from Jesus towards Matthew, are caught up with puzzlement at the sudden appearance of Our Lord and His companion who are dressed humbly, unlike the expensive and worldly garb of Matthew’s companions.

St. Matthew’s calling reminds us of Our Lord’s words elsewhere to His disciples: “You have not chosen me, it is I who have chosen you”. This most unlikely Apostle was to become the writer of the First Gospel and a martyr for love of Christ.

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."

St. Matthew's Symbol - An Angel

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