Liturgical Colour : Red
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the feast of one of the Twelve Apostles, that is of St. Matthew the Evangelist, one of the four writers of the Holy Gospels. St. Matthew was once the tax collector, known also as Levi, whom the Lord called out of his previous life as money collector for the Roman overlords, to be the collector of souls, to take part in the salvation of mankind.
Brethren, today the Lord wants us to know that firstly, He loves us all without condition, with all of His heart. Then, He also cares for all of us His children, whom He loves best over all of His other creations, particularly the lost sheep, the ones who had been lost to darkness. That was why He mentioned the need for these lost ones for His love, and He made Himself available for them, calling them up from the depth of darkness into the light.
The Lord Himself called His Apostles and disciples from the rank of sinners, those who were sinful in various ways, from various backgrounds, and all of them, in one way or another, repented from their sinful past, and open themselves to God’s love, and eventually become great tools of salvation through which Christ our Lord made manifest His saving power. And St. Matthew, once sinner and tax collector, became the writer of the Holy Gospels, the bearer of the Good News of salvation.
However, being the followers of Christ were not an easy thing, just as it is not easy in our world today. There will always be opposition and even persecution against us, just as the world had hated Christ, they too will hate us, His followers and disciples. Many sneered at us, as they had done so for the Apostles and disciples of Christ through the generations. They mocked us for the sins we have, although they themselves were sinners and did not repent.
Jesus was mocked by the Pharisees and the scribes very often, for eating and gathering together with sinners, tax collectors, and prostitutes, whom they considered to be the lowest tier in the society, and whom they considered damned and cursed to hell. That was why, they distanced themselves from these sinners, trying to keep their own purity, disassociating themselves from all these ‘impurities’.
Yet, in doing so, they had instead incurred the wrath of the Lord. Not only that they praised themselves for their own achievements and deeds, but also that they had put down in contempt, the people of God whom they were supposed to lead. They had not reached out to them, and instead distanced themselves from the most needy of God’s people and condemned them for their sinfulness while they themselves were equally sinful as well, if not even more sinful.
The Lord brought His disciples from the depth of their sinfulness, lifting them up, and bringing them, including St. Matthew, from their fate in hell, to the new heavenly glory, with Him in heaven. Yet, the process is not a simple one, brethren, as the path was truly difficult, filled with the traps and devices of the evil one, attempting to bring them from God. All but Judas Iscariot survived those tests victorious, rebuking the devil and his temptations.
They were sorely tempted, and fear crept into their hearts when the Lord was arrested at the Garden of Gethsemane, after His Last Supper with them. They were scattered and broken, as if sheep without a shepherd. Even St. Peter, the leader of all the apostles and disciples of Christ, fell, and denied Christ three times, out of fear for his own life and safety.
But, brethren, this is where they were different from Judas the traitor, as they persevered while Judas gave in fully to Satan’s advances, and in the end, chose to take the quick way out by suicide, instead of seeking for the Lord’s mercy and reaffirmed his faith and love for Him, as the other Apostles had done.
The Lord had prepared His apostles through trials and difficulties, as St. Paul had mentioned, and they passed, not because they were righteous, but because they had risen up from their sinful ways towards righteousness, towards their love and dedication, for the Lord their Master and our God, and towards all of God’s children, whom they spilled their blood and shed their life for, following the very example Christ had set Himself.
They feared no human authority nor persecutions, for the Lord was always with them throughout their mission journey, to bring all God’s people and gather them to Himself, that they may be saved. St. Matthew was a part of this, and through the Gospel he wrote, inspired by the Holy Spirit, he saved many souls from damnation.
He was himself once a sinner, a tax collector shunned by many of his own people, branded as traitors, since they were seen as the collaborators of the Romans, and yet, he became a great fisher of men, bringing many towards the Lord their God. What then, about the Pharisees? What is their fate? It is possible to deduce that indeed, their lack of true faith and love for God, had doomed them to hell for eternity, for they care nothing about their brethren or God, and all they ever cared about was themselves.
Therefore, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today, as we commemorate this great feast of St. Matthew the Apostle and the Evangelist, let us follow in his footsteps, in his readiness to leave all that he had once had, and abandon his old, sinful life, to start anew in Christ, that the Lord who loves all, will put His Spirit within us, empowering us to be like the Apostles of old. May the Lord continue to bless us and embrace us with His love, for ever and ever. Amen.