Missionary Saints – St. Matthew

It is said that every work of fiction is really a retelling of the bible. One of the great Hollywood tales of redemption is Rocky. Why? When we meet Rocky he’s lost. He’s the muscle for a loan shark. He’s far from a “good” man. In many ways, he’s Saint Matthew. He’s essentially the modern-day version of a tax collector. Except Saint Matthew was worse. He was the muscle and the shark. Matthew would have been a pariah to the “good” people of that time. Getting rich off the oppression of his own people, didn’t win him friends.

What sets both men on the path to redemption, one fiction and one very real, is faith and companionship. It took the people around Rocky to believe in him, they pledged to take care of him, and to stick by him along the journey. Rocky was called. We end up cheering Rocky, forgiving his past, and admiring his heart.

Saints, like Matthew, inspire us too. Matthew was called by Jesus. And unlike the fiction of Rocky, Christ’s promise is very real. His pledge is unfailing, He never leaves us, and changes pariahs to saints. So cheer Rocky with all your heart, but believe in the story of Matthew as you listen for Christ’s call.
To learn more about Saint Matthew, tax collector to saint, read Helene Paharik’s reflection below.

Each of us is a missionary saint in the making for we are sent forth by Christ to go make disciples and each of us is deigned to share in the Divine nature (2Pt 1:4). Certainly, we need the grace of the Holy Spirit. We also are assisted by the example and intercession of the missionary saints who precede us.

Saint Matthew was a tax-collector at the busy border city of Capernaum on the ancient superhighway, the Via Maris. Jesus saw him at his post and said to him: “Follow me.” Leaving everything, Matthew followed Jesus (Mt. 9:9). Matthew is listed as one of the twelve disciples (Mt. 10:3) and it is his Gospel that the early Church used most frequently used in their liturgies. Saint Matthew creates a frame for his Gospel that really helps us to understand the whole text. This frame is: “Jesus is with us.” In the beginning of the Gospel, quoting the Prophet Isaiah, Matthew calls Jesus “Emmanuel”, which means God is with us (Mt. 1:23). The very last words of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew are “…and know that I am with you always until the end of the world” (Mt. 28:20). Jesus says this right after the “Great Commission” when He tells His followers then and now to “Go, and make disciples of all nations”(Mt 28: 19). Perhaps it was Matthew’s profound awareness of the Divine Presence that enabled him to go forth and minister to the early Jewish Christian community. By framing his Gospel with the reality of God is with us in Christ, Matthew is encouraging us in our missionary task. When we go forth, to share the love of God, Jesus is with us. When we go forth to teach the truth of God, Jesus is with us. When we go forth in humble service to anyone in need, Jesus is with. This knowledge that Jesus abides with us until the end of the world is such a blessed assurance in the uncertainty and challenges of our missionary adventures. This week savor these words of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew: “Go forth…. and know that I am with you until the end of the world.”