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Saint Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist – September 21st
Readings: Eph 4:1-7; Mt 9:9-13.
Reading 1 (Eph 4:1-7):
Brothers and sisters:
I, a prisoner for the Lord,
urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received,
with all humility and gentleness, with patience,
bearing with one another through love,
striving to preserve the unity of the Spirit
through the bond of peace:
one Body and one Spirit,
as you were also called to the one hope of your call;
one Lord, one faith, one baptism;
one God and Father of all,
who is over all and through all and in all.
But grace was given to each of us
according to the measure of Christ’s gift.
And he gave some as Apostles, others as prophets,
others as evangelists, others as pastors and teachers,
to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry,
for building up the Body of Christ,
until we all attain to the unity of faith
and knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood,
to the extent of the full stature of Christ.
Gospel (Mt 9:9-13):
As Jesus passed by,
he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post.
He said to him, “Follow me.”
And he got up and followed him.
While he was at table in his house,
many tax collectors and sinners came
and sat with Jesus and his disciples.
The Pharisees saw this and said to his disciples,
“Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
He heard this and said,
“Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do.
Go and learn the meaning of the words,
I desire mercy, not sacrifice.
I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”
Fr. Anthony Dinh Minh Tien, O.P.
I. THEME: Let us live and help all people to become God’s children.
Many people, though they themselves are not good, always find an opportunity to criticize and to condemn others. They want to confine others in their sinful past, and don’t want to give others an opportunity to change their life; for example, those who support the death penalty. In opposition, God always find a way to forgive. He gives men plenty of chances to change their life; for examples, the conversions of Paul, Peter, Matthew, Mary Magdalene, Augustine; and almost all people. The simple reason why God did that because all people are his children.
Today readings give us hope to change our life. In the first reading, St. Paul advises the Ephesians that they should live according to their vocation which they are called and equipped. They must protect the unity between them and build up the Sacred Body of Christ, according to the gifts which the Holy Spirit has given to them. In the Gospel, Jesus does not only condemn and confine Matthew in his sins; but also gives him an opportunity to change his life and to become his disciple. When he was questioned by the Pharisees why he ate and drank with tax collectors and sinners, Jesus clearly declares his purpose why he descended from heaven: “I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”
1/ Reading I: Live in a manner worthy of the call you have received.
1.1/ The Christian vocation: St. Paul wrote to the Ephesians from prison: “I urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love.” He mentions four important virtues which the Christians must have to live together:
(1) Humility (Tapeinophrosúnê): This virtue is needed for one knows himself in his relationship with God and others. Without this virtue, one is easily arrogant, despites others, and easily condemns others.
(2) Meekness (Práutês): This virtue is needed to control one’s anger. A Christian does not fight with others in order to be victorious or to gain profit; but to find suitable ways to lead people to God.
(3) Patience (Makrothumía): This virtue is needed to be loyal to one’s goals in life. The patient one does not give up in trials or demands immediate results; but he perseveres in trials and prays until he sees desired results.
(4) Charity (Agápê): This is a special virtue which only exists in the Christian life. This virtue is given to men by God. With this virtue, a Christian can do what a non-Christian cannot do, such as: love and do good for one’s enemy; pray for the one who persecuted, forgive others unlimitedly.
St. Paul also advices the Ephesians to preserve the unity amongst them: “striving to preserve the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” He gives many reasons why the Christians must preserve the unity of the Church: They have only one Church which is Christ’s Body; one Holy Spirit who is the Giver of all gifts; one hope is to live eternally. They have only one Lord and one faith in Christ and one baptism. Lastly, they have only one God who is the Father of all, who is above all, through all, and in all people.
1.2/ Grace are given to each of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift: Every Christian is a member in the same Body which is Christ. They received different gifts from the same Spirit to build up Christ’s body. The Christian vocation is common to all Christians; however, every Christian has one’s own vocation to fulfill, such as: apostle, preacher, guardian or teacher.
By these different vocations, God’s people are prepared to serve, that is, to build up Christ’s body, until we “all attain to the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the extent of the full stature of Christ.”
2/ Gospel: “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do.”
2.1/ Jesus called Matthew: The call of Matthew is very short. When Jesus passed by the tax station, he saw Matthew sitting there, he called, and Matthew stood up to follow him.
(1) The reason why Jesus called Matthew: Before calling Matthew, Jesus knew his profession is a tax collector, a job that brings home much money. The Jews classifies tax collectors as public sinners because they are the Roman instrument to exploit Jewish people by collecting illegal taxes. Tax collectors are prohibited to enter the Temple. Jesus knew the danger of public opinion when he called Matthew to be his disciple; however, he does not want to confine him in his sins, but he wants to give Matthew an opportunity to change and to renew his life. Moreover, Jesus already knew he will use Matthew to do his will, that is, to collect all necessary information to write the Gospel for future generations.
(2) Matthew’s reaction: He immediately stands up and follows Jesus. Matthew is probably very surprised, not only because Jesus does not look down on him as other Jews, but also calls him to become an apostle. Matthew’s reaction is also very courage. He decided to give up a job that brings much gain to follow the one who has nothing to give material gain for him.
2.2/ Jesus argues with the Pharisees: Jesus did not only call Matthew, but he also accepted to have dinner at his house. Many of his friends were invited to dine with Jesus and his disciples.
(1) The reaction of the Pharisees: When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples,
“Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” They had a reason to question because the Vietnamese parents used to advice their children: “Near to ink will be dark; near to lamp will be light.” If one become a friend with sinners, soon or later he will become one of them.
(2) Jesus’ answer: He said to them: “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, I desire mercy, not sacrifice. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.” There are two main things Jesus wants to emphasize:
+ His mission is to heal sinners: He comes, not to call the righteous, but the sinner. Jesus has power to converse hard sinners.
+ All people are sinners, and they need Jesus to redeem their sins, not only Matthew and his friends. The Pharisees did not examine carefully their conscience, that is why they don’t think they need Jesus’ help.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– We must try to live according to the Christian and our own vocation. As Christ’s disciple, we have a duty to preserve the unity of the Church.
– We must have compassion and forgiveness to all. Do not confine others in their sinful prison; but always give them opportunity to repent and to look to their future.