Friday, July 9, 2010

Matthew: Gospel Challenged!!!

In today's first reading, we are reminded by the prophet that our lives are at time truly challenged especially when we find ourselves trying to live the gospel preaching of Jesus and the other biblical writers.  I could not but think of Matthew ... surely one of the most unsuspecting "types" to be chosen by Jesus to be one of his close followers.

Imagine, if you will, how Matthew must have felt when Jesus came up to his table and said, "Matthew, I want you to follow me."  Stupefied, shocked, puzzled:  just three of many adjectives that probably described this tax collector's mind and heart.  Nevertheless, there was something in him that heard the call.  No doubt packing up one's "office things" was not difficult.  However, can you even begin to think how difficult it was to say to his fellow "crooks" that he was giving up his being a tax accountant to follow this young, itinerant preacher?  It must have been a genuine challenge:  teasing and ridicules from his "partners in crime," as they were perceived by the community.

Then,  recall also, Matthew was so excited about following this man Jesus that he must have told his wife or "housekeeper" to prepare a dinner.  He wanted to invite Jesus to meet his "friends."  You can only begin to surmise the quality of those guest because some of the Jewish leaders criticized Jesus for eating with such a collection of sinners!  But Matthew's decision did not bother him.  He knew there would be challenges to his associations.  Vetting was alive and well even two centuries ago!  Matthew did not step back from the associations he had made, his friends, because he was not following the "preacher man."

We must remember this:  Jesus came to be a healer, to be a soul doctor.  He was determined to use some of the people who needed healing to help him heal others.  We can look to Matthew, whose gospel is so frequently read at Masses, as what it means that Jesus can choose the most unlikely candidate to be one of his disciples ... even today, in our world, in our times.  Perhaps what he might have been teaching us is this:  yes, following me will not be easy but I will always be there to help you because you will be bring others to me and the Father.