Homily for the Feast of Saint Matthew the Apostle and Evangelist
Preached on September 21, 2018 at the Archabbey Church of Our Lady of Einsiedeln, St. Meinrad IN
Readings: Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-13; Psalm 19:2-3, 4-5; Matthew 9:9-13
The plot of the call of Matthew can be summed up in three pronouns: You. Me? Him?
Notice how two of those pronouns are posed as questions. This tells us three things.
First, it tells us that the call from Jesus comes as a surprise to Matthew: Me? Matthew is used to being singled out for what he does. Because he is a tax collector, the Pharisees tell him all the time that he does nothing good and his fellow Jews mockingly say that he is good for nothing. This accountant expects that the popular preacher from Nazareth, like all the others, will demand that he renders an account of his life. Instead, Jesus tells him that he is good enough to be His disciple (cf. Mt. 9:9) and that He has something really good for him to do. It is no wonder then that Matthew decides to throw a party (cf. Mt. 9:10). An operator like him knows that the mercy and the mission that Jesus is offering is a steal and that only a fool will pass on this incredible deal.
Second, this tells us that not everybody is happy about this deal. This whole business is a shocker for the Pharisees. They are convinced that Jesus has made a terrible mistake in calling the publican and his peers to penitence. Him? And his kind? Surely Jesus can do better with the company that He keeps (cf. Mt. 9:11). He cannot possibly waste His time or His ministry or His Father’s forgiveness on this crowd of crooks. These people have not only stolen everyone’s money, they have taken away everyone’s mercy, too. This does not seem fair at all.
This brings us to our third point: Jesus’ call is personal and deliberate and definitive. You. “Follow Me” (Mt. 9:9). Notice that there is no comma, semicolon, or ellipses. There is only a period at the end: You. There is no hesitation, no confusion, no question on the part of Jesus. He has singled out this sinner and He is going to make a saint out of Him, even if it kills Him, and it does.
The Pharisees are right and Matthew the tax collector knows it, too: none of this is fair. And thank God it isn’t because sinners like him, and me, and you can never pay the steep bill of our sin on our own. It takes a god—our God—to redeem that huge debt.