21 September, 2013 (Saturday). St Matthew, Apostle
Eph 4:1-7,11-13. Of the many gifts of God to the Church, the apostles are of the foremost importance for the spread of the faith.
Mt 9:9-13. The call of the tax-collector, to be an apostle.
First Reading: Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-13
I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift.
The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.
Gospel: Matthew 9:9-13
As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard this, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”
Tax-collector and Author
The name Matthew is derived from the Hebrew Mattija, shortened to Mattai in post-Biblical Hebrew. In Greek it is sometimes spelled Maththaios and sometimes Matthaios, but there is no agreement as to which of the two spellings is the original. He is mentioned five times in the New Testament; first in Matthew 9:9, when called by Jesus to follow Him, and then four times in the list of the Apostles, where he is mentioned in the seventh (Luke 6:15, and Mark 3:18), and again in the eighth place (Matthew 10:3, and Acts 1:13). The man designated in Matthew 9:9, as “sitting in the custom house”, and “named Matthew” is the same as Levi, recorded in Mark 2:14, and Luke 5:27, as “sitting at the receipt of custom”. The account in the three Synoptics is identical, the vocation of Matthew-Levi being alluded to in the same terms. Hence Levi was the original name of the man who was subsequently called Matthew; the phrase “Who was called Matthew” (Mt 9:9,) would indicate this.
Instances of one man having two names are frequent among the Jews. It is true that the same person usually bears a Hebrew name such as “Shaoul” and a Greek name, Paulos. However, we have also examples of individuals with two Hebrew names as, for instance, Joseph-Caiaphas, Simon-Cephas, etc. It is probable that Mattija, “gift of Iaveh”, was the name conferred upon the tax-gatherer by Jesus Christ when He called him to the Apostolate, and by it he was thenceforth known among his Christian brethren, Levi being his original name.
Matthew, the son of Alpheus (Mark 2:14) was a Galilean, although Eusebius informs us that he was a Syrian. As tax-gatherer at Capharnaum, he collected custom duties for Herod Antipas, and, although a Jew, was despised by the Pharisees, who hated all publicans. When summoned by Jesus, Mt arose and followed Him and tendered Him a feast in his house, where tax-gatherers and sinners sat at table with Christ and His disciples. This drew forth a protest from the Pharisees whom Jesus rebuked in these consoling words: “I came not to call the just, but sinners”.
No further allusion is made to Matthew in the Gospels, except in the list of the Apostles. As a disciple and an Apostle he thenceforth followed Christ, accompanying Him up to the time of His Passion and, in Galilee, was one of the witnesses of His Resurrection. He was also amongst the Apostles who were present at the Ascension, and afterwards withdrew to an upper chamber, in Jerusalem, praying in union with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and with his brethren (Acts 1:10 and 1:14).
Of Matthew’s subsequent career we have only insecure or legendary data. St Irenæus tells us that Matthew preached the Gospel among the Hebrews, St Clement of Alexandria claims that he did this for fifteen years, and Eusebius maintains that, before going into other countries, he gave them his Gospel in the mother tongue. Ancient writers do not agree on which countries were evangelized by Matthew, but almost all mention a land to the south of the Caspian Sea and some Persia and the kingdom of the Parthians, Macedonia, and Syria.
Various writings that are now considered apocryphal, have been attributed to St Matthew. In the “Evangelia apocrypha” (Leipzig, 1876), Tischendorf reproduced a Latin document entitled: “De Ortu beatæ Mariæ et infantia Salvatoris”, supposedly written in Hebrew by St Matthew the Evangelist, and translated into Latin by Jerome, the priest. It is an abridged adaptation of the “Protoevangelium” of St James, which was a Greek apocryphal of the second century. This pseudo-Matthew dates from the middle or the end of the sixth century.
The Latin Church celebrates the feast of St Matthew on 21 September, 2013. and the Greek Church on 16 November. He is represented under the symbol of a winged man, carrying in his hand a pen as an emblem of his authorship of the Gospel.