Liturgical Colour : Red
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today the Universal Church and all the faithful people of God rejoice together in the great Feast of one of the Twelve Apostles of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and who is also one of the Four Evangelists. St. Matthew the Apostle and Evangelist was the author of the Gospel of St. Matthew, which is chronologically usually the first Gospel listed in the New Testament, as the first of the four Holy Gospels. He was once known as Levi, a tax collector in Judea, who was called by God and who responded to that call with faith, leaving behind his past life and work as tax collector in order to follow the Lord and serve Him wholeheartedly.
In our first reading today, we heard of how St. Paul spoke to the Church and the faithful in Ephesus regarding the many gifts and graces of God given to them, that each one of them have been called by God and granted with various gifts, abilities and opportunities to be His disciples and followers, to be His witnesses and the ones to deliver His truth and love to the people of all the nations. The Lord has reached our to us all and sent us forth with His message, His words and wisdom, and told us all to deliver them through our lives and faithful witness by our actions and deeds, our role model and examples each day in life.
Each one of us are called to be faithful disciples of the Lord like that of St. Matthew the Apostle but at the same time we are also reminded that we have been given unique opportunities and we should not be worried about our backgrounds and origins, for the Lord called His disciples from all walks of life and various origins. Many of the greatest ones among His saints, like St. Matthew himself were once sinners who were unworthy and unlikely to be saved, at least in the eyes of the world, but yet proved them all wrong because they had a change of life and direction, and dedicated themselves to the Lord, embracing Him wholeheartedly and making Him the centre and focus of their lives.
St. Matthew the Apostle and Evangelist for example was a tax collector, and back then, a tax collector was often seen with great suspicion and disdain, and sometimes even with great hostility as they were often considered the scum of the society, and they were often treated as outcasts due to the nature of their work. They were seen as traitors to the nation and the Jewish society, as they were collecting taxes on behalf of either the Romans who were overlords of the lands of Judah, Samaria and Galilee, or on behalf of the Herodian kings, whom some of the people considered as foreigners as well.
Regardless of the circumstances, the tax collectors had often been reviled simply because they did what others hated, collecting taxes and no one really liked to be taxed for their wealth, property or income, be it those who were rich or those who were poor. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law often categorised them together with those like the prostitutes, criminals, the sick and the diseased, the possessed and all others whom they often deemed and labelled as being unworthy of God and His grace. Hence, they were often hated and despised by many, ostracised and treated like outcasts.
But the Lord proved them all wrong and showed us all how even great sinners can become great saints and servants of God. That is because what matters is how each one of those sinners reject the sins and wickedness they had committed, and endeavour to free themselves from the bondage and attachment to sin. And it requires our conscious efforts and dedication, to turn away from the path of sin and evil, and embrace God’s mercy and forgiveness, as well as allowing God to lead us down the right path as St. Matthew the Apostle and Evangelist himself had shown us by his life and dedication.
St. Matthew embraced a new life after abandoning his past life as Levi, following the Lord and making that change of name as a sign of his dedication to God and to his newfound faith. He wrote his Gospel targetted on the Jewish community and spent a lot of time and effort in his writings in order to reveal the truth of God to the Jewish community. He also ministered to the faithful and others in Judea and other parts of the region according to Apostolic and Church traditions, and he went through many hardships in proclaiming the Good News of God. He was martyred in the end, and faced death with faith in God.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, the faith, dedication and commitment which St. Matthew the Apostle and Evangelist had shown us serve to remind us that each and every one of us, though sinners, but we are all capable of great deeds in God. What we need to do is to embrace God’s love and mercy, and answer His call as St. Matthew and many other saints turned sinners had done. We must realise that the Church is not reserved only solely for the righteous, but is in fact a hospital for sinners. Through the Church and all of our efforts, many sinners may hopefully find their way towards God.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, may the good faith and examples showed by St. Matthew the Apostle and Evangelist and so many other holy men and women of God be the sources of inspiration for all of us that we may always be ever faithful and committed, and be righteous and full of virtue in our every words, actions and deeds from now on. May we all no longer live in sin, but strive to be truly good in our lives, and be worthy of God and His grace. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.