September 21: Matthew the Evangelist

“The Calling of Matthew,” Vittore Carpaccio, 1465-1526

(The BCP Readings for this Feast Day can be found here)

Eyewitness accounts:

The miracle of Jesus entering human history is recorded for us in the four Gospels authored by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Each of these men, inspired by the Holy Spirit, wrote an eyewitness (or eyewitness-based) account of the life, ministry, death and resurrection of our Lord. Each of these accounts was written from a different perspective and originally intended for a different audience. But together their testimonies have been handed down through the centuries… to us.

From thieving traitor to evangelist and martyr

Matthew, also called Levi, had been a tax collector. It can be challenging for us to understand just how that role was regarded in that place and time because there is no good modern-day equivalent. Tax collectors were generally seen as thieving traitors. They collected money from their own people to hand over to an oppressive regime, and often extracted more than necessary to keep for themselves in the process.

But meeting Jesus changed Matthew. Can you imagine such a man – affluent, ruthless, immoral – leaving profit and position behind to follow an uncertain path? But this is just what Matthew did. And though accounts vary as to the place of his martyrdom (Ethiopia or Persia), Matthew not only followed, but he followed to the very end.

It’s all about Jesus

Why? Matthew’s Gospel gives us a glimpse. His Gospel is uniquely focused on showing that Jesus was the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. He wanted his readers to know that Jesus was the Messiah and the King. Jesus was one who had the right to command the allegiance of those who wished to draw near to God.

This Jesus was the one who challenged his hearers to choose whether they would make God or money their master. He was the one who asked his disciples to head out on a missionary journey with no extra money. In fact, the New Testament has a great deal to tell believers about the relationship they ought to have to money. In the end, it comes down to where we place our trust. And it comes down to what is of greatest value to us. If we trust and value money and all that it can buy us, the day will come when we will have a hard time obeying God. If we trust and value our Lord, then the day will come when we will have to bid farewell to the comfort and seeming security of a worldly life.

A prayer

If we really think about the words of today’s collect, they should give us pause. They should not be easy for us to pray. Supposing God is really listening? (He is). Supposing he actually answers such a prayer? (He will).  Are we ready to choose God for our master? Are we truly willing to forsake-and-follow?

O almighty God,
who by thy blessed Son didst call Matthew
from the receipt of custom
to be an Apostle and Evangelist:
Grant us grace
to forsake all covetous desires
and inordinate love of riches,
and to follow the same thy Son Jesus Christ;
who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit,
one God, world without end. Amen.

“Money, Possessions, and Eternity”
by Randy Alcorn

September 21: Matthew the Evangelist
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