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From Sinner to Saint
Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle, and Evangelist
As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post. He said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. While he was at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat with Jesus and his disciples. The Pharisees saw this and said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” He heard this and said, “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.”
Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, I look to you with trust. I know that you can do all things. I believe in you, hope in you, and love you. Increase my trust, especially in the unceasing dispensation of your merciful love.
- He Got Up: Why did Jesus call Matthew to be one of his closest disciples? Matthew, the tax collector, was despised by his peers, indentured to the Romans, and probably very lonely—a man lacking charisma, personal charm, or influence among the Jews. What could he have possibly contributed to Our Lord’s ministry? The Scriptures hint at one quality Our Lord values very much in an apostle. When he was called, Matthew promptly got up and followed Jesus. He was docile and open-hearted—important prerequisites for conversion of heart. “On each occasion I say: ‘Lord, thy will be done! It’s not what this or that one wants, but what you want me to do.’ This is my fortress, this is my firm rock, this is my sure support” (St. John Chrysostom).
- The Balm of Mercy: Jesus said to St. Faustina, “The flames of mercy are burning me, I want to pour them out upon the human souls.” St. Matthew, the tax collector who had become a traitor to his people for the sake of personal gain, needed this mercy. Not only was Matthew despised by the Jews, but scripture tells us he associated with other tax collectors and ne’er do wells. How easy it would be to walk right past someone like Matthew. But Jesus shows us that conversions can happen in the most unlikely souls. When he encountered Jesus, Matthew was changed forever. He repented and became one of the church’s greatest saints and evangelizers. That’s the power of the Lord’s mercy! May we be so full of Christ that others encounter him when they meet us. In that way, we will be extensions of God’s mercy.
- The Poison of Self-Appointed Righteousness: The Pharisees fell into the trap of thinking that they were better than others because they fulfilled the law and the commandments. Their arrogance blinded them to the truth that all people are beloved sons and daughters of God. Instead, the Pharisees looked down upon those they were called to lead. How many sinners might have sought mercy, but were too quickly judged and disregarded because of some immoral or inappropriate behavior? Does that happen in our day? How willing are we to reach out to the neediest in society with material help, catechesis, and loving kindness?
Conversing with Christ: Lord, I am inspired when I see how you loved Matthew unconditionally, how you showered your mercy on him, and how you enabled him to become a saint. Teach me to be docile to the Holy Spirit, trusting in your mercy. Help me to avoid the temptation to self-righteousness. Show me where you want me to spread the good news.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will reach out to someone who is not part of my ordinary circle of like-minded friends with an act of kindness, a word of encouragement, or a simple smile.
For Further Reflection: Alice von Hildebrand provides deeper insight into the concept of natural versus supernatural love: https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=6565.
Written by Renee Pomarico.