Celebrating St. Matthew

Today the Catholic Church celebrates the feast of St. Matthew, one of the twelve apostles and one of the four Gospel writers. Matthew is also typically understood to be the tax collector called to follow Jesus in Chapter 9 of Matthew’s Gospel, although at least some scholars argue that it is unlikely that the former tax collector and the Gospel writer were the same person. (The argument is that Matthew’s Gospel relies so heavily on the earlier Gospel of Mark and that someone who was an actual follower of Jesus would not have had any need to rely on an account written by another person.)

Matthew’s Gospel is an interesting one because he both underscores Jesus’ Jewish roots (among other things, opening his Gospel with the geneology that links Jesus to Abraham, David and the kings of Judah) and goes beyond them, stressing the universal scope of the mission of Jesus and his disiples. (“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations.” Matthew 28:19)

One commentator I read called Matthew’s Gospel the Gospel of Christ’s humanity, suggesting that its “focus is on the humanness of Christ Jesus as a person one can approach, can ‘stand on a level with.'” I would phrase it slightly differerently. For me, when I think of Matthew’s Gospel, what comes to mind are the episodes that instruct us how to lead fully human lives – that teach what it means to live a life modeled on the life of Christ.

In honor of St. Matthew’s feast, today would be a good day to take some time reflecting on Chapter 25 of his Gospel, which offers two rich parables on how we should live (the parable of the ten virgins and the parable of the talents) as well as the Judgement passage, which tells us plainly that what we do for each other, we do for Christ. A equally good alternative would be the Sermon on the Mount in Chapter 5, as the Beatitudes and the related teachings of that sermon offer much to reflect on.