“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.” ~ Matthew 9:9
Today’s Gospel (Matthew 9:9-13) tells the brief but essential story of Matthew the Apostle’s conversion, the man whose Feast Day we celebrate on September 21st. In a seemingly innocuous moment at the customs post, Matthew in actuality transitions from spiritual death to spiritual life, a life of discipleship that was until then rooted in intimidation and extortion.
Jesus simply says to him, “Follow me” and without question, pause, or hesitation, Matthew gets up and does just that. As Bishop Barron points out in his Daily Gospel Reflection, the symbolism here truly is marvelous. Getting up - “anastasis,“ the same word used to designate the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Conversion (turning around) is also elevation, rising up.
When one makes the conscious decision to follow Christ, he or she is coming into the true fullness and richness of faith and hope. Fleeting secular pleasures and material possessions no longer satisfy. Life is suddenly lived in and through God.
In our 1st Reading today (Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-13), Paul teaches that grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. “He gave some as Apostles, others as prophets, others as evangelists, others as pastors and teachers,” he explains, going on to point out how God the Father seeks “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.”
Mother Teresa of Calcutta, known of course for her works of charity and compassion in the streets of India, tending to the severely marginalized, the poorest of the poor, would encourage those who sought her counsel to “find your own Calcutta,” whatever it may be per the measure of Christ’s gifts. The mystical body of Christ requires the time, talent, and treasure of each and every one of it’s members in order to thrive and flourish per our Lord’s divine plan.
In the case of the Apostle Matthew, he did not attain the full stature of Christ within him overnight. But through the gift of God’s mercy, he “got up” to follow Jesus according to the full measure of Christ’s gift within him, no doubt struggling along the way. After all, the transition from wealthy tax collector to disciple was a dramatic one indeed. Yet through the power of the Holy Spirit, he became the evangelist that we venerate and honor today.
Jesus saw Matthew as he sees all of us; not just for who we are, but for who we can become through his grace and the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
He said to him “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. The rest, as they say, is history. May it be that way for each and every one of us.
“Heavenly Father, we thank you for everything that you have done for us, above all sending your son to die on the cross for our sins and the sins of those we love. Create within us a fervent and ardent desire to follow you all the days of our lives. May the Lord God direct our hearts into the love and perseverance of Jesus. Strengthen us so that we may come after him, denying ourselves and taking up our crosses, loving him in this world so that we may be with him in the next.” ~ Amen
For more on Saint Matthew and his road to Apostolic Discipleship I invite you to revisit the following Refection: