Matthew 9:9-13, Feast of St Matthew the Apostle
Did you ever notice this detail—that soon after Jesus calls tax collector Matthew from where he sat at work, Jesus eats at his house. Whenever I reread Matthew’s vocation story, I miss this detail because I race towards Matthew being the tax collector that he was, and therefore a public sinner many hated, and Jesus suddenly calling him from his custom’s post, and Matthew promptly pushing himself away from the table, and now he’s an apostle. That in itself is precious about Matthew—his prompt and diligent response to the call. But coming back to my point, there’s that detail: Jesus calling a public sinner and saying, “Follow me;” yet, the two ending up not at Jesus’ house, or at the synagogue, or at the temple, but at the sinner’s house…and for a meal! So if today we honor Matthew as the prompt & diligent apostle, maybe we can give equal honor to our Lord’s characteristic modus operandi when dealing with sinners like Matthew: he says, “Follow me,” but he ends up following us home.
I don’t know what to make of Matthew’s home. Was it agleam with the largesse finagled from kickbacks? Or was it dark, dingy, & unadorned because no self-respecting Jew would’ve wanted to have anything to do with a publican, not even to sell him anything? Then again, it didn’t matter, did it? Not to Jesus, anyway. This was Matthew’s home—the place where he dusted off all his pretensions before entering his door. This was Matthew’s family who knew him as himself, and loved him, or maybe feared him, but maybe not judged him. With Jesus following Matthew home, the Lord found something worth saving in the man; and that was the most important thing, regardless of whatever state Matthew’s home was in, whether it was the home he was inside of, or the home he had inside of him.
And that’s always been Jesus’ modus operandi back then and to this day, isn’t it? His “way of proceeding,” as we Jesuits call it. When the Lord walks over to us and says, “Follow me, halika ka na, friend,” the first thing that usually means is, “Come and let me take you back where you feel most at home. That’s where we’ll begin. Let me come with you to where you are most yourself. That’s where we’ll start. Allow me to see how and what you are as you are, because that’s who I’m most interested in. Tell me your story, the road that you’ve taken, where you’ve been. Because from hereon, if you don’t mind, I’ll walk it with you.”
Now when you have an experience like that of Matthew, and I’m sure you have—when you have an experience of that deep reverence and respect from the Lord accorded to you—how could we refuse? How could we remain seated at our “custom’s post,” counting how much people pay for our self-declared worth? How could we not suddenly realize the depth of our depravity when we’re regarded with a contrary depth of loving and calling and friendship?
On this feast of St. Matthew, we ask for his intercession, that God grant us the grace to be prompt and diligent to his call. But even more importantly, that we may always reckon the deep reverence and respect the Lord has for us—so that we could not but, freely & gratefully, say yes.