September 21, 2015

September 21, 2015, Feast of Saint Matthew

At the time that Jesus summoned him, Matthew was a publican, or tax collector for the Romans. His profession was despised by the Jews because it reminded them of their subjection. Pharisees viewed publicans as sinners. St. Matthew is known principally as an Evangelist. According to popular piety, he was the first to put down in writing our Lord's teaching and the account of His life. His Gospel was written in Aramaic, the language that our Lord Himself spoke.

St. Matthew: From Publican to Apostle & Evangelist 

No one was more shunned by the Jews than publicans. They were Jews who worked for the Roman Empire by robbing fellow Jews (through over taxation); making large personal profits as a result. Publicans were not allowed to trade, eat, or even pray with other Jews.

One day, while seated at his table of accounts, Jesus looked at Matthew and said two words: "Follow me." This was all that was needed to make Matthew rise, leaving his pieces of silver to follow Christ. His original name, "Levi," in Hebrew signifies "Adhesion" while his new name in Christ, Matthew, means "Gift of God." The only other outstanding mention of Matthew in the Gospels is the dinner party for Christ and His companions to which he invited his fellow tax-collectors. The Jews were surprised to see Jesus eat with a publican, but Jesus explained that he had come "not to call the just, but sinners."

Little else is known about Matthew. Tradition dictates, he preached in Egypt and Ethiopia and further places East. Some legends say he lived until his nineties, dying a peaceful death, others say he died a martyr.

Matthew is the patron saint of: Accountants; bankers; bookkeepers; customs officers; security guards; stock brokers; tax collectors; Salerno, Italy.

In the traditional symbolization of the evangelists, based on Ezech. 1:5-10 and Rev. 4:6-7, the image of the winged man is accorded to Matthew because his Gospel begins with the human genealogy of Christ.

The human /angel  symbol of Matthew,
 Painting of a detail from the Book of Kells

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