We know that our God is a god of mercy, of love, and of forgiveness. But when the raw details of our murky pasts rear up in our memory, that trust in His mercy is put to the test. When the pain that our sinfulness has caused in ourselves and others resurfaces, it can cause us to wonder: is there any hope for me? Are my sins too shameful for God?
God’s given us St. Matthew to help answer that question. St. Matthew was a tax collector, a group loathed at that time for their despicable practices, mostly collecting more than what was due and pocketing the difference. According to The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Jesus, the Jewish people had an extraordinarily heavy tax burden, having to fork over almost half of their earnings in tax: 32% to the Roman government, 12% to various Jewish taxes, and about 5% to the tax collectors like Matthew. Those who couldn’t make the payments were either forced off their property, sold into slavery, or simply killed (p.198). It’s not hard to imagine the type of ruin in families that St. Matthew had a hand in.
And yet Christ called him. Christ wanted him and right at that moment when He called him. Matthew’s history was no obstacle to Christ’s love for him or too sticky for Christ to pull him out of.
In this upcoming Year of Mercy, St. Matthew is a symbol of hope for all of us who wish that our pasts were different, for us who feel like we might be too sinful for Jesus to pluck out of the mud. St. Matthew’s greed caused untold suffering, and yet Jesus raised him up to be an apostle, entrusting him with a sacred mission.
Let’s heed Jesus’ call to follow Him away from our pasts, and help Him in His mission to serve others so that they might see in us His love and promise of eternal life. Let’s join St. Matthew is being living signs of God’s infinite mercy.
God of mercy, you chose a tax collector, St. Matthew, to share the dignity of the apostles. By his example and prayers help us to follow Christ and remain faithful in your service. We ask this through Our Lord Jesus Christ, your son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.
Copyright 2015 Meg Matenaer.
Art: “The Calling of St. Matthew” by Caravaggio via Wikimedia Commons.