Saint Matthew and the Call to Greatness
A Jewish tax collector was often hated and rejected by his fellow countryman at the time of Jesus. Why? For starters, they worked for the Romans, for those that occupied the land and oppressed the people of Israel. A tax collector was not only a visual reminder of money owed but that God’s chosen people were under the rule of others. He was viewed as a traitor to his people. The tax collector’s signs of income, such as his home and clothing, were also painful for his neighbors. There was a set tax amount to be collected. Anything collected beyond this amount was his income. Saint Matthew the Evangelist was such a hated and rejected tax collector (also called “Levi”).
Saint Matthew (Levi) was one of the twelve apostles (Matt 10:3). Jesus visited his place of work and called him to be a disciple, “Follow me” (Matt 9:9). Prompted by the Holy Spirit, Saint Matthew dropped everything to follow Jesus. He left his regular income, comfort, and routines. Jesus called him to something greater. Prior to Jesus, Saint Matthew lived apart from communion, apart from friendship with God and neighbor. Jesus calls this tax collector to communion. This is expressed by the fact that after his conversion began, he shares a meal with Jesus and others. He did not simply share a meal; Saint Matthew hosted it! Nothing would ever be the same again.
Why would Saint Matthew risk it all to answer this call? Deep down he knows that something is missing and all the money and possessions in the world will never satisfy the inner longing for something more, something this world cannot provide. Saint Augustine famously expressed this with, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” This is also found within Sacred Scripture. “As a deer longs for flowing streams, so longs my soul for thee, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (Psalm 42:1-2). “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt 11:28).
How is Jesus calling you today? We know what Jesus is calling you to; Jesus calls you to communion with himself and others. What is he calling you to leave? For St. Matthew it meant a change in his income, routine, and comfort. Benedict XVI taught, “The world offers you comfort, but you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.” Are you ready for greatness? Are you ready for a change? Most of us are not. We like our comfortable routines. Change scares us. If we are honest with ourselves, greatness scares us. If you are willing to take the risk, to look up from your work like Saint Matthew did, you will find Jesus there waiting for you to follow him to greatness and communion.
Saint Matthew, pray for us.