Feast of Saint Matthew, Apostle and evangelist

To be a true follower of Jesus, one must be humble; He calls not the great, but the lowly. We saw in Sunday’s Gospel that the apostles are not men without ambition; Jesus had but to mention His impending death and already they were jockeying for position. How quickly they seemed to forget their lowly origins!

Today we read of the story of Matthew, a tax collector: in those days, the scum of the earth. Yet Jesus does not see Him in this light; rather, He sees a man who has nowhere to go but up. He calls Matthew away from his post, from his prison of sin and shame and goes to dine with him, scandalizing the Pharisees. They question Jesus’ followers about their teacher’s wisdom in eating with people of such ill repute, not realizing that Jesus could hear everything they said. How does Jesus respond, in so many words?

“If I did not eat with sinners, I would have no one to dine with.”

Too often we judge the holiness of others and condemn those we believe unworthy of participation in the Church, of leadership in parishes, dioceses, etc., or we call people out for their hypocrisy. We forget all too readily that, as Pope Francis has reminded us, the Church is a hospital for sinners and each of us has a room with our name on the door. Peter the Denier, Simon the Zealot, Matthew the Tax Collector, Judas the Thief, John the Kid…a list of the apostles sounds almost like a round of introductions mafiosi in a gangster movie. Yet these are the men Jesus chose, specifically, by name. Over time all but Judas would become some of the greatest men that ever lived, impacting the world in ways that are still relevant two-thousand years after their deaths.

If this is true of the apostles how true is it, then, of us? You are baptized and called to follow Him just as the apostles were. It is not because you are worthy of the call, that you are particularly qualified or that your guardian angel pulled your name out of a hat in heaven. Jesus calls you to follow Him for one purpose alone: because He loves you. He loves all sinners, even if we so often fail to love Him in return. Who else in this world could He love if He did not love sinners? So never lose hope, brothers and sisters, in the love of Jesus. The apostles are the first and greatest witnesses of God’s love for sinners and if Jesus could call any of them—even a traitorous Roman-sympathizing tax collector like St. Matthew—then He can call any of us, even me, even you, if we are humble enough to accept that He loves us more than even the worst of our sins.

September 21st, 2015