The Feast of St. Matthew is on Thursday, September 21 in the Roman Catholic Church and on November 16 in the Orthodox Church. Matthew, the Evangelist who wrote the Gospel that appears first in the Christian scriptures, was born in Galilee, the son of Alpheus (Mk 2:14). His original name was Levi until it was changed by Jesus. He is first mentioned in the Gospels in lists of the disciples, except in the Gospel of Matthew, which tells the story of his conversion (Mat 9:9).
Matthew was different from the other Apostles. Many people felt that he was unworthy to be a chosen as a follower of Jesus because he worked for the Romans as a tax collector.
Once Matthew begins to follow Jesus, he holds a dinner for other tax collectors and sinners (Mat 9:10). The Pharisees complained about Jesus eating with sinners. But Jesus responded, “For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners” (Mat 9:13).
Matthew wrote his Gospel for Jewish people who had become followers of Christ. He wanted his Jewish-Christian communities to know that Jesus is the Messiah that God had promised to send to save all people. He does this by presenting the genealogy of Jesus and describing the Incarnation of Jesus by focusing on Joseph and his dreams rather than on Mary and her conversations with the angel Gabriel and her cousin Elizabeth. His Gospel makes clear that Jesus was truly God and truly human and that Jesus is the fulfillment of everything said by the prophets in the Jewish scriptures.
Matthew is the only Evangelist who shares the eight beatitudes with his readers. His Gospel faithfully details how Jesus described who will be blessed by God in the Kingdom and the attitudes and actions that are lived out by those who follow the new law by loving God and neighbor.
After Jesus’ Ascension, Matthew preached the gospel in early Christian communities he established in Ethiopia and other parts of the African continent. Tradition tells us that he died a martyr.
The symbol for Matthew’s Gospel is a man with wings. Matthew is the patron saint for accountants, bankers, bookkeepers and tax collectors as well as being the patron of our parish.
I believe that our own story parallels the story of St. Matthew. Despite our faults and failures, we are called by Jesus to be evangelizers. As a visible expression of God’s love to the people in our neighborhood, with our limited but valued resources, through our dedication to the Church and to one another, we are living the beatitudes.
To celebrate the Feast of St. Matthew on September 23rd and 24th, the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick will take place during the 4 pm and 10 am Masses. Afterwards, refreshments will be served. An icon of St. Matthew written by Kati Richie, and gifted to us will be available for all to see. Happy Feast Day!
Fr. Bob Kelly