Thursday, September 21, 2017

Feast of Saint Matthew, apostle and evangelist

(Ephesians 4:1-7.11-13; Matthew 9:9-13)

Sometime near the year 90 of the Lord a man we know as Matthew wrote his gospel.  He took the Gospel according to Mark, a book of sayings that was being circulated among first century Christians, and his own sources to form a testimony to Jesus Christ.  It would enlighten his community somewhere in Syria regarding its mission.

The end of the first century was a time of profound change in the Christian world.  The Jews had reorganized after the destruction of the Temple twenty years earlier.  They could no longer tolerate Christians in their midst.  Christians as a result were more apostolic than ever.  They were founding their communities now more than ever in Gentile and not in Jewish areas.  By ending with Jesus’s sending his disciples to all the nations of the world, Matthew’s gospel reflects this change of concentration. 

Today’s passage indicates how a shift of emphasis was part of Jesus’ historical mission.  The tax collector Matthew was not the author of the gospel although it is possible that he provided some of its source material.  In any case he is an outsider because he is considered an extortionist and collaborator with the Roman oppressors of the Jewish people.  Nevertheless, Jesus calls him to become his disciple to the complete chagrin of the narrow-minded Pharisees.  He too must repent of any sins he has committed, but he should not be labelled as unfit just because he collected taxes.  Jesus calls us as well.  We must turn from our sinful ways, especially those which despise immigrants and other socially shunned groups.