The Calling of Saint Matthew
Oil on canvas, 322 x 340 cm
Contarelli Chapel, San Luigi dei Francesi, Rome
Ordinary Time: September 21st
Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist
Old Calendar: St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist ; Other Titles: Levi
At the time that Jesus summoned him to follow Him, Matthew was a publican, that is, a tax-collector for the Romans. His profession was hateful to the Jews because it reminded them of their subjection; the publican, also, was regarded by the pharisees as the typical sinner. St. Matthew is known to us principally as an Evangelist. He was the first to put down in writing our Lord’s teaching and the account of His life. His Gospel was written in Aramaic, the language that our Lord Himself spoke.
No one was more shunned by the Jews than a publican, who was a Jew working for the Roman enemy by robbing his own people and making a large personal profit. Publicans were not allowed to trade, eat, or even pray with others Jews.
One day, while seated at his table of books and money, Jesus looked at Matthew and said two words: “Follow me.” This was all that was needed to make Matthew rise, leaving his pieces of silver to follow Christ. His original name, “Levi,” in Hebrew signifies “Adhesion” while his new name in Christ, Matthew, means “Gift of God.” The only other outstanding mention of Matthew in the Gospels is the dinner party for Christ and His companions to which he invited his fellow tax-collectors. The Jews were surprised to see Jesus with a publican, but Jesus explained that he had come “not to call the just, but sinners.”
St. Matthew is known to us principally as an Evangelist, with his Gospel being the first in the New Testament. His Gospel was written in Aramaic, the language that our Lord Himself spoke and was written to convince the Jews that their anticipated Messiah had come in the person of Jesus.
Not much else is known about Matthew. According to tradition, he preached in Egypt and Ethiopia and further places East. Some legends say he lived until his nineties, dying a peaceful death, others say he died a martyr’s death.
In the traditional symbolization of the evangelists, based on Ezech. 1:5-10 and Rev. 4:6-7, the image of the winged man is accorded to Matthew because his Gospel begins with the human genealogy of Christ.
Patron: Accountants; bankers; bookkeepers; customs officers; security guards; stock brokers; tax collectors; Salerno, Italy.
Symbols: Angel holding a pen or inkwell; bag of coins; loose coins; halberd; inkwell; king; lance; man holding money; man holding money box and/or glasses; money bag; money box; purse; spear; sword; winged man; young man; book; man sitting at a desk.
Things to Do:
- Do something for the needy: money for missions, donations of clothing or toys, canned goods drive, etc.
- Take time to read St. Matthew’s Gospel, keeping in mind that St. Matthew depicts the humanity of Christ and emphasizes His physical sufferings. He makes frequent reference to the fulfillment of prophecies because he wrote to Jews and to Jewish Christians.
- Discuss St. Matthew’s call from Christ “Follow me” with your children and how we are all called to belong to the family of God.
- Pray for people who work for financial institutions.
- Make Silver Dollar Pancakes, you can use this recipe on Catholic Cuisine’s website or one of the suggestions we offer under recipes.
Meditation: Matthew 9:9-13
Saint Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist (Feast)
He got up and followed him. (Matthew 9:9)
When we read today’s Gospel passage, we might assume that after Matthew left his customs post to follow Jesus, he instantly became a saint. Of course, Matthew was one of the Twelve and spent three years with Jesus, so he did have a special advantage. But his transformation didn’t happen overnight; it was a process that unfolded over time.
In a way, we are all “Matthews.” Each of us is a recipient of the Lord’s great mercy. And having received that mercy, we’ve all made the decision to get up and follow Jesus (Matthew 9:9). We are also like Matthew in another way: we have the same potential to let God’s mercy change us so that we become saints.
Think about Matthew’s path to sainthood. He must have struggled, at least initially, to leave his comfortable life to become a disciple. Some of Jesus’ teachings must have challenged him, to say the least—especially his words about money, simplicity, and obedience to God. We do know that, along with the other disciples, Matthew abandoned Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. But Matthew came back to his senses, and over time (and through the power of the Holy Spirit), he let God mold him into the saint and evangelist we honor today.
Following Jesus will sometimes call you out of your comfort zone, as it did Matthew. You will encounter difficulties and challenges to your faith that make you feel as if you are going backward instead of forward. But that doesn’t mean you can’t become a saint! The Holy Spirit is faithful. If you stick with him, he will form you day after day. So keep spending time with the Lord in prayer and listening to his voice. Keep examining your conscience at the end of each day and asking God to forgive you for the ways you have fallen short. Imitate Matthew, and never give up!
It’s not easy, but it is possible to become a saint. You’ve already said yes to Jesus’ call to follow him. Now trust that he will complete the work he has already begun in you.
“St. Matthew, pray for me as I walk the path toward sainthood.”
Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-13