Matthew, the tax collector

Jews would usually turn away when they passed the customs place where Matthew, the tax-collector, was sitting. But

“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.”

To celebrate their new friendship, Matthew invited Jesus to a banquet at his house with his friends – other tax collectors like himself – and Jesus came with some of his disciples. They were criticized immediately for breaking one of Capernaum’s social codes. “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

Jesus’ answer was quick: “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.”

Hardly anything is known of Matthew’s part in Jesus’ later ministry, yet surely the tradition must be correct that says he recorded much of what Jesus said and did. A tax-collector would be good at keeping books; did Matthew keep memories? Are there some things that happened that were especially related to him?

The gospels say that wherever Jesus went he was welcomed by tax collectors. When he entered Jericho, Zachaeus, the chief tax collector of the city, climbed a tree to see him pass, since the crowds were so great. Did Matthew point out to Jesus the man in the tree, a tax collector like himself, and then bring them all to Zachaeus’ house, where Jesus left his blessing of salvation? And did tax collectors in other towns come to Jesus because they recognized one of their own among his companions?

Probably so. Jesus always looked kindly on outsiders like Matthew who were targets of so much suspicion and resentment. True, they belonged to a compromised profession tainted by greed, dishonesty and bribery. Their dealings were not always according to the fine line of right or wrong.

But still, they were children of God and, like lost sheep, Jesus would not let them be lost.

It’s interesting to note that Pope Francis told a group of bishops recently that he got his vocation to be a priest on the Feast of St. Matthew 60 years ago, when he went to confession and heard God’s call, a call of mercy.

3 Comments

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3 responses to “Matthew, the tax collector

  1. Gail Smyder

    Love your thoughts Fr. They are so down to earth. He calls us and keeps calling if we are faithful or still working on our call to be holy. Don’t you just love the down to earth new Holy Father Pope Francis. Lots of prayer for him today. Be much blessed as you bless all the people of God that you meet and serve.
    Gail

  2. jim

    Cardinal George of Chicago was criticized by some for celebrating an
    anniversary Mass for Gay and lesbian Catholics, they even had police protection for him on that day. But he said these are my sheep, my people and I minister to all in this diocese. He was the only cardinal who visited every parish in the Chicago Archdiocese, well over 320 parishes and groups.
    He even had a Mass at the Cathedral for diocesan hermits, and lay associations….He, like Christ, associated with those people on the margins
    and he was always gracious to all…. Jesus always looked kindly on outsiders and so should each of us, including the inlaws and outlaws in our own
    families

  3. Police protection to insure pastoral ministry! A sad commentary on democracy. Both Presidential candidates wear protective bullet-proof vests when they appear in public; in addition to the Secret Service members who surround them, plus the plexiglass panels at the podiums. Jesus went out into a public where his enemies attacked with words until the end when he was arrested. Why can’t we honor our differences by acting in non-violent ways? Pray for peace on this Day of Prayer for Peace designated as such by the UN.

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