Liturgical Colour : Red
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the Feast of one of great Apostles of Our Lord, one of the Twelve and also one of the four writers of the Holy Gospels, also known as the Evangelists. He was once a tax collector whose task was likely to gather taxes on behalf of the local rulers and the Roman overlords of the then region of Judea, Galilee and the other territories where the Jewish people lived in. He was known as Levi, and heeded the Lord’s call when He came over His place, left everything behind and followed Him, becoming known as Matthew from that moment onwards.
He was one of the several Apostles who have had a change of name upon their calling by the Lord, adopting a new identity upon his conversion, just like St. Peter and St. Paul, who were previously known as Simon and Saul respectively. The Lord called on Levi to follow Him, and he listened, and not only that but he even gathered his fellow tax collectors, who also wanted to know the Lord and speak with Him, and had a dinner in his place, before he was to follow Him fully. While not written or recorded in the Gospel account, it is probable that even there might have been even more among the tax collectors who later on chose to follow the Lord.
Back then, tax collectors were often prejudiced against, hated and reviled by the general society, and especially so by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, who saw them in the same light as the prostitutes and those others deemed as great sinners, like those who were possessed by demons and those suffering from debilitating diseases, seen as being cursed and punished by God for their sins. For the tax collectors were often seen as traitors to the country and the people for their collaboration with the Romans who were hated by most of the people.
To that extent, the tax collectors were often ridiculed and dismissed as sinners and unworthy by the Pharisees, who did not even hesitate to mention it bluntly before the Lord’s disciples, when they asked them why their Lord and Master would spend the time in the company and have a meal with sinners. Yet, they all failed to realise one thing, which is that they themselves, were sinners as well. By looking down on the sins of others, they had become blind to their own shortcomings and faults.
And by embracing the Lord and answering His call, Levi who chose the Lord over the glory and wealth, the power and the satisfaction of the world has shown us that, even great sinners can be sanctified and turned into great saints, and that there is no one truly beyond redemption and salvation in God, unless the person himself or herself had rejected the Lord’s most generous offer of mercy and forgiveness. As long as one is willing to listen to the Lord and to repent from their sins, the path to Heaven and everlasting life will be open to them.
St. Matthew for example was credited with his efforts among the Jewish people themselves in Judea and Galilee, and his Gospel in particular was noted for its use of contexts and explanations familiar to the Jews, which served to explain the truth of God to his audience, which were mainly the Jewish people in the region. St. Matthew also went to other places and countries to spread the word of God, before eventually was martyred just like most of the other Apostles in the midst of his missionary works.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, what we heard today from the examples shown by St. Matthew, the story of his conversion and later on his contributions and efforts, his works as an Apostle and Evangelist, served as an important reminder to each and every one of us, God’s beloved children and disciples whom He Himself had called and gathered from the world to be His own. We have to ask ourselves this question, whether we have genuinely loved the Lord and had faith in Him, or whether our faith is still being superficial in nature.
We are also called to turn away from the path of sin, and to embrace God’s ever generous offering of mercy and forgiveness. God has always sought sinners and all those who need His help, as He Himself made it clear in our Gospel passage today. Like Levi, who welcomed the Lord and answered His call, we too should follow in his footsteps, and allow the Lord to transform us from the sinners we are, to be great disciples and even perhaps to be future saints, just as Levi the tax collector has been transformed in his life into St. Matthew, a great Apostle and Evangelist.
Let us all therefore discern carefully how we can be ever more dedicated as Christians, in doing the will of God and in committing ourselves to His cause. Let us all seek the Lord and His love, His compassion and kindness, and strive to do our best to glorify Him by our lives and actions. Let us also never be prejudiced anymore against any of our fellow brothers and sisters, and rather than being jealous against the achievements of others or in being proud over own achievements and efforts, while looking down on others, instead let us reflect on how fortunate we have been that God has chosen to forgive us our many sins, and how He has called on us all to be His followers and disciples.
Let us all realise that in each and every one of us there is that potential for greatness and holiness, as we are all called to holiness and to be like the saints. Even great saints were once also great sinners. What matters is that all of them have experienced a change in their hearts and embraced the Lord’s mercy and compassion, turning over a new leaf in their lives, becoming great role models and sources of inspiration themselves for the others who witnessed their works and lives. St. Matthew is one of these great inspiration and role model which we can also aspire to achieve.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore renew our faith in the Lord, and put our trust in Him, devoting our time, effort and attention to Him, and seeking Him with a contrite heart, with a new spirit of faith and obedience, and doing whatever we can to glorify the Lord by our lives. May all of us be true and dedicated disciples of the Lord from now on, doing whatever we can to lead more and more souls towards salvation and eternal life in God. May God bless us all and our efforts and endeavours, now and always. Amen.