- P. Claudio
Saint Matthew Apostle, September 21st
Among the followers of Jesus of Nazareth there are people of very diverse character. From the Gospel accounts, as from the pages of the Old Testament, it follows that God does not have a single way of calling those he has chosen. One could say that it is grace, and not the human qualities, that make up the ideal of his call.
Among the disciples of Jesus, several were fishermen. Surely some others had also dedicated themselves to agricultural tasks. And there would be among them members of other artisan professions that go unnoticed through the stories. But what is most surprising is that among those called by Jesus we find a publican or tax collector.
This title can respond to many somewhat different professions. There were tax collectors who rented the collection to send the money from the provinces to the imperial coffers. There were other collectors who collected toll fees between one kingdom and another, between one tetrarchy and another, and were frowned upon by the townspeople.
Capernaum must have had several offices where various types of taxes were collected. One day Jesus approached one of these offices to personally call Matthew. We don't know where he was from. The gospel that bears his name briefly refers us to the scene of his vocation (Mt 9:9-13). He is called Matthew, an abbreviation for Mattenaí and Mattanya, which means "gift from God." In parallel places, the stories of Mark (Mk 2:3-17) and Luke (Lk 5:27-32) tell us about the vocation of a certain Levi, son of Alphaeus who, without a doubt, is the same person as has accepted the tradition of the Church. In the biblical account of Matthew's vocation, three moments especially attract our attention: the call, the banquet and the revelation of Jesus who came precisely to call sinners.
In the Gospel, according to Saint Matthew, the mercy of God embodied in Jesus stands out, as well as the fulfillment of the prophecies of the Old Testament in favor of the Jewish people and all nations.