21 September, 2019. St Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist

1st Reading: Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-13

The Church is one body, under the leadership of the apostles

I Paul, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift.
The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.

Resp. Psalm: Ps 19

R.: Their message goes out through all the earth

The heavens declare the glory of God;
and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.
Day pours out the word to day,
and night to night imparts knowledge. (R./)
Not a word nor a discourse
whose voice is not heard;
Through all the earth their voice resounds,
and to the ends of the world, their message. (R./)

Gospel: Matthew 9:9-13

The call of the tax-collector, to be an apostle of Jesus

As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his followers. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard this, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”


Tax-collector and Gospel-writer

The name Matthew comes from the Hebrew Mattija, shortened to Mattai in post-Biblical Hebrew. In Greek it is sometimes spelled Maththaios and sometimes Matthaios, but there is no agreement as to which spelling is the original. He is mentioned five times in the New Testament; first in Matthew 9:9, when called by Jesus to follow Him, and then four times in the list of the apostles, where he is mentioned in the seventh (Luke 6:15, and Mark 3:18), or the eighth place (Matthew 10:3, and Acts 1:13). The man designated as “sitting in the custom house” (Mt 9:9) and named Matthew, is the same as Levi, whom Mark and Luke [Mk 2:14; Lk 5:27] describe as “sitting at the custom-desk.” The account in the three Synoptics is basicaly the same, giving the call of Matthew-Levi in the same terms: “Follow me”. It appears that Levi was the original name of the man who was subsequently named Matthew. Instances of a person having two names are frequent among the Jews. It is true that the same person usually bears a Hebrew name such as “Shaoul” and a Greek name, Paulos. But we have also examples of individuals with two Hebrew names as, for instance, Joseph-Caiaphas, Simon-Cephas, etc. It is possible that his name Mattija (“gift of Jahweh”) was given to him by Jesus when calling him as an apostle, and by it he was thenceforth known among his Christian brethren. But he brought with him from his earlier profession a gift for clear and orderly presentation of the story of Jesus
There is a marvellous Caravaggio triptych, or matching set of three drawings, of St Matthew, in the church of St Louis of France in Rome. The first shows the call of Matthew, who was sitting with his tax-collector friends and looks amazed when Jesus invites him to follow him. The second shows a much older Matthew equipped with pen and parchment, looking up to heaven for inspiration as he writes his Gospel. The final picture, on the right, shows the martyrdom of St Matthew, with light streaming down from heaven as though to say, “Come, you blessed of my Father…”
Matthew, the son of Alpheus (Mark 2:14) was a Galilean, although Eusebius says he was a Syrian. As tax-gatherer at Capharnaum, he collected custom duties for Herod Antipas, and, although a Jew, was despised by the Pharisees, who hated those Roman taxes. When summoned by Jesus, he arose and followed him and then held a feast in his house, where tax-gatherers and sinners sat at table with Christ and his followers. This drew forth a protest from the Pharisees whom Jesus sharply rebuked: “I came not to call the just, but sinners.” No further mention is made of Matthew, except in the list of the apostles. As a disciple and an apostle he thenceforth followed Christ, accompanying Him up to the time of His Passion and, in Galilee, was one of the witnesses of His Resurrection. He was also amongst the apostles who were present at the Ascension, and afterwards withdrew to an upper chamber, in Jerusalem, praying in union with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and with his brethren (Acts 1:10 and 1:14).
Of Matthew’s subsequent career we have only insecure or legendary data. St Irenæus tells us that Matthew preached among the Hebrews, Clement of Alexandria says he did this for fifteen years, and Eusebius maintains that, before going into other countries, Matthew gave them his Gospel in the mother tongue. Ancient writers do not agree on which countries were evangelized by Matthew, but almost all mention a land to the south of the Caspian Sea and some Persia and the kingdom of the Parthians, Macedonia, and Syria.
Several writings were attributed to Matthew that are now considered apocryphal. In the Evangelia apocrypha (Leipzig, 1876), Tischendorf reproduced a Latin document entitled: “De Ortu beatae Mariae et infantia Salvatoris,” supposedly written in Hebrew by Matthew the Evangelist, and translated into Latin by Jerome, the priest. It is an abridged adaptation of the “Protoevangelium” of St James, which was a Greek apocryphal of the second century. This pseudo-Matthew dates from the middle or the end of the sixth century.
The Latin Church celebrates the feast of St Matthew on 21 September, 2013. and the Greek Church on 16 November. He is represented under the symbol of a winged man, carrying in his hand a pen as an emblem of his authorship of the Gospel.

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