The Calling of Matthew

Gospel reflection for July 4: Matthew 9:9-13: The calling of Matthew, a tax collector.

The Calling of Saint Matthew, circa 1629 |
The Calling of Saint Matthew, circa 1629 |

The first people called to follow Jesus are four Jewish fishermen. (Mt 4, 18-22). Now Jesus calls a tax collector,a sinner, a man who is unclean in the eyes of the observant Pharisees. Yet, this man’s name is Matthew, which means gift of God or given by God. And just like the first four men who followed Jesus, Matthew, the tax collector, stands up, leaves the tax office, his source of revenue and without vacillating, against all common sense and worldly wisdom, follows Jesus.

What would have been like to look into the deep, piercing eyes of Jesus which looked right into my soul with insight but also with profound love? No need to pretend. Jesus would have loved me just as I am  because he embraced the broken, marginalized, sick ones who realized that they were hungry and empty and needed the love and healing power of God.

 The Pharisees were too busy remaining perfect and pure, living separated from this sort of folk; they definitely did not eat with them. However, they definitely did not need healing or even saved either because they were too busy saving themselves. Thank goodness, Christian Jews broke away from this isolation and sat at table with the unclean because they realized that they were just as in need of God’s healing love as the men who were labelled sinners.
The Calling of St. Matthew - Hendrick Terbrugghen
The Calling of St. Matthew – Hendrick Terbrugghen
The Pharisees seeing this attitude of Jesus, ask the disciples: “Why does your master eat with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus answers them.“Mercy is what pleases me, not sacrifice”. Jesus hears the question of the Pharisees to the disciples and he answers with two clarifications: the first one is taken from common sense: “It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick”. The second one is taken from the Bible: “Go and learn the meaning of the words: Mercy is what pleases me, not sacrifice”.  Jesus clarifies his mission among the people: “I have not come to call the upright but sinners”. For Jesus, mercy is more important than legal purity.  He refers to the prophetic tradition to say that mercy has greater value for God than all sacrifices .
As a practising Catholic, do I sometimes slip into the false idea the I am one of the good, pure ones and not identifying with the marginalized, those outside of the Church?
 Lord, Show me my woundedness, my sin because I want to experience your healing, saving power and only the sick are hungry enough to receive anything from you. When I am full of myself, there is no room for God.
 St. Matthew and the Angel, Guido Reni
St. Matthew and the Angel, Guido Reni


4 thoughts on “The Calling of Matthew

  1. I am a true “Matthew,” and some days even a “perfect” Pharisee. I Love that, despite my many failings, there is no condemnation only Love when I turn to Jesus.


  2. This is a wonderful article! There are two things that stand out to me. You have acknowledged that the first disciples were Jewish. For some reason we don’t think about that much or want to acknowledge it. Mostly I love the way you contrast the Pharisees, with those that realize they need God’s love and healing power. So true! And yet we can be both at times. Thank You God for Your mercy!


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