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St Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist
(entered heaven in the first century)
Christ didn’t limit his mission to pious folks that were easy to convert, so you shouldn’t either. Instead of just battling against those on campus who oppose the Church’s teaching, why not also try to win them to the Lord through winning their friendship? If they are such effective movers and shakers, they will be welcome additions to the cause of the Kingdom. As the saying goes, great sinners make great saints. Take today’s saint, for example.
Matthew became one of the twelve pillars of the Church and one of the four men entrusted with writing the most important story ever written by human hands (the Gospels), but he started out as a despised public sinner. He was a tax collector by trade. Tax collectors were pawns of the Romans. When the Roman Empire subjugated a new territory, it would enlist native citizens to pay the occupying governor a set amount in taxes. As a motivation to insure payment, the Roman officials would turn a blind eye to those tax collectors who gathered more than was actually required, pocketing the excess. Consequently, these men were considered traitors, collaborators with the occupying forces. Many Jews would forbid their children from marrying into families that had a tax collector in them. Often they were banned from community worship and ostracized from normal civil affairs. They were considered enemies.
But Christ sees Matthew there in his office, looks him in the eye, and says, “Come, follow me.” And Matthew gets up, leaves behind his career and wealth, and joins the little band of Apostles. (Just imagine the reaction of the other disciples as a tax collector entered their ranks.) Jesus is practicing what he preaches (and what St Matthew recorded in his Gospel, and probably treasured deep in his heart): “But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same?” (Matthew 5:44-47)
If Jesus preached it, and if Jesus practiced it, and if we call ourselves his followers, well then we better practice it too. So don’t drive the wedge deeper and deeper between you and your “enemies” on campus. Let them do that. For your part, defend the truth, but never tire of reaching out the hand of love to every tax collector you run across.