To live is to change and to be perfect is to have changed often. In these words of Cardinal Henry Newman, the life story of the Apostle Matthew the Tax Collector is summarized.

Matthew, whose father was Alphaeus (Mark 2:14), was named Levi before his call by Jesus. But he’s also known as Matthew which is a shortening of the name Mattathias, which means “gift of Yahweh,” or simply “the gift of God.” Matthew was a tax Collector. Under the Roman Empire’s system, tax collectors pay all the taxes in advance, then collect from the citizens and travellers to reimburse themselves. Tax collectors were notoriously corrupt because they extorted far and above what was owed, to ensure their personal profit. And because their decisions were enforced by Roman soldiers, no one dared object. They were quite dishonest driven by greed. Matthew couldn’t have been an exception. However, Matthew was dedicated and devoted to his work.

In Scripture, we first meet Matthew in Capernaum, in his tax booth on the main highway. He was collecting duties on imported goods brought by farmers, merchants, and caravans. On the same day Jesus invited Matthew to follow him, Matthew threw a great farewell feast in his home in Capernaum, inviting his friends so they could meet Jesus too. From that time on, instead of collecting tax money, Matthew collected souls for the kingdom of God.

Despite his sinful past, Matthew was uniquely qualified to be a disciple. He was an accurate record keeper and keen observer of people. He captured the smallest details. Those traits served him well when he wrote the Gospel of Matthew some 20 years later.By surface appearances, it was scandalous and offensive for Jesus to pick a tax collector as one of his closest followers since they were widely hated by the Jews.

When the world looked at Matthew the tax collector, they saw a public sinner but when Christ looked at Matthew, he saw a restless heart, longing for God. And at the words: “follow me”, Matthew got up, left all and followed Jesus. Matthew displayed one of the most radically changed lives in the Bible in response to an invitation from Jesus. He did not hesitate; he did not look back. He left behind a life of wealth and security for poverty and uncertainty. He abandoned the pleasures of this world for the promise of eternal life. The remainder of Matthew’s life is uncertain. When we look at people, what do we see?
A devil, a prostitute, a dinner, a witch, a bad man, a fool, a hopeless person. What do we see?

No one is ever too lost to be save by God’s amazing grace. Like Matthew, we too can begin anew but we must let go of all that enslaves us and follow Jesus with all our heart. We must make ourselves available at our duty posts and be serious with our work. We must acquire all the skills we need in life.

PRAYER: Help us, Lord, to see others with your eyes. Amen!



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