Mt. 9:9-13 As Jesus passed by, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post. He said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. While he was at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat with Jesus and his disciples. The Pharisees saw this and said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” He 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.”
It is remarkable that the apostle and gospel writer, St. Matthew, would mention his profession & humble call to follow our Lord. The synoptic gospel writers St. Mark & St. Luke also mention the call of Levi or Matthew in their accounts. St. Luke adds a further detail noting that a banquet in St. Mathew’s home was given:
Lk 5:29 Then Levi gave a great banquet for him in his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were at table with them.
As St. Bede mentions regarding the banquet that St. Matthew held, “he not only gave a banquet for the Lord at his earthly residence, but far more pleasing was the banquet set in his own heart which he provided through faith and love” (Bede, the Venerable, Hom. 21: CCL 122, 149-151, excerpt from Office of Readings of the Divine Office).
In many respects, the taking & giving of earthly wealth and the occupation of a tax collector were not professions of prestige. St. Matthew knew from the invitation to follow Jesus that he had to act. How do we act and respond to God’s call in our life? Is there some earthly fear holding us back? The lure and temptation to allow mammon to become our “god” by accumulating power and wealth is a real temptation to those of us who are sinners & sick among us in need of healing. As our Lord reminds us in another account, when responding to the Pharisees in paying the census tax we should “repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God” (Mt. 22:21). The gospel also reminds us of the insurmountable and eternal truth of God where heaven and earth may pass away, but the words of Jesus shall never pass as a reminder to all of us (Mt. 24:35). Matthew heeded the words of Jesus to come & follow him.
While we may stray from the path and allow temptation & other worldly concerns to separate us from God’s invitation to follow Him, let our hearts be ready for the banquet for the Lord to enter where our faith & love are present.
St. Matthew, pray for us.