St. Matthew -- September 21
No one was more shunned by the Jews than a publican, who was a Jew working for the Roman enemy by robbing his own people and making a large personal profit. Publicans were not allowed to trade, eat, or even pray with others Jews.
One day, while seated at his table of books and money, Jesus looked at Matthew and said two words: "Follow me." This was all that was needed to make Matthew rise, leaving his pieces of silver to follow Christ. His original name, "Levi," in Hebrew signifies "Adhesion" while his new name in Christ, Matthew, means "Gift of God." The only other outstanding mention of Matthew in the Gospels is the dinner party for Christ and His companions to which he invited his fellow tax-collectors. The Jews were surprised to see Jesus with a publican, but Jesus explained that he had come "not to call the just, but sinners."
St. Matthew, one of the twelve Apostles, is the author of the first Gospel. This has been the constant tradition of the Church and is confirmed by the Gospel itself.
His apostolic activity was at first restricted to the communities of Palestine. Nothing definite is known about his later life. There is a tradition that points to Ethiopia as his field of labor; other traditions mention of Parthia and Persia. It is uncertain whether he died a natural death or received the crown of martyrdom.
St. Matthew's Gospel was written to fill a sorely-felt want for his fellow countrymen, both believers and unbelievers. For the former, it served as a token of his regard and as an encouragement in the trial to come, especially the danger of falling back to Judaism; for the latter, it was designed to convince them that the Messiah had come in the person of Jesus, our Lord, in Whom all the promises of the Messianic Kingdom embracing all people had been fulfilled in a spiritual rather than in a carnal way: "My Kingdom is not of this world." His Gospel, then, answered the question put by the disciples of St. John the Baptist, "Are You He Who is to come, or shall we look for another?"
Writing for his countrymen of Palestine, St. Matthew composed his Gospel in his native Aramaic, the "Hebrew tongue" mentioned in the Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles. Soon afterward, about the time of the persecution of Herod Agrippa I in 42 AD, he took his departure for other lands. Another tradition places the composition of his Gospel either between the time of this departure and the Council of Jerusalem, i.e., between 42 AD and 50 AD or even later. Definitely, however, the Gospel, depicting the Holy City with its altar and temple as still existing, and without any reference to the fulfillment of our Lord's prophecy, shows that it was written before the destruction of the city by the Romans in 70 AD, and this internal evidence confirms the early traditions.
Patron: Accountants; bankers; bookkeepers; customs officers; security guards; stock brokers; tax collectors; Salerno, Italy.
We thank thee, heavenly Father, for the witness of thine apostle and evangelist Matthew to the Gospel of thy Son our Savior; and we pray that, after his example, we may with ready wills and hearts obey the calling of our Lord to follow him; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God,now and for ever.