|The Calling of St. Matthew by Vittore Carpaccio, 1502|
Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist, Sept. 21, 2019
Steps to Lectio Divina
Start by using these steps to reflect on the Scripture verse. Then read my meditation slowly.
Lectio: Having asked for the grace to hear God's word, read the passage twice.
Meditatio: During the second reading, pause whenever so moved and reflect on a word, a sentence, or an image that strikes you.
Oratio: Speak directly to God, and open your reflection to Him.
Contemplatio: Listen contemplatively for any response God might choose to make. Remember that God responds to us at times with loving silence.
From the Gospel for Sept. 21, 2019, Feast of St. Matthew (Matthew 9:9-13)
As Jesus passed by, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post.
He said to him, “Follow me.”
And he got up and followed him.
While he was at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat with Jesus and his disciples.
The Pharisees saw this and said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
He heard this and said, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do.
Go and learn the meaning of the words, I desire mercy, not sacrifice.
I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”
The calling of Matthew itself is so quick in this Gospel reading that it takes all of one verse. And while the promptness and decisiveness of Matthew’s response are impressive, the bulk of the reading happens directly after he leaves the tax-collecting booth. After this departure, we see Jesus dining at Matthew’s house with “many tax collectors and sinners.”
In the Hebrew mind, to share a meal with someone meant that they shared in the same covenant. To share food, to share drink, signified sharing in each other’s life. In the past, Matthew’s friends would have customarily shared at his table, but now Matthew had made it clear — by renouncing the tax-collector booth — that he had resolutely entered a master-disciple relationship with Jesus. So, it is understandable that when Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners, the Pharisees might have had reason to be concerned. What were they to make of all this?
What they didn’t realize is what Jesus was doing was inviting these tax collectors into a covenantal, mercy-filled relationship with Him. Just as Jesus had invited Matthew to follow Him, He was now inviting these sinners to share in His life, through the example of their friend Matthew. But more than that, through this meal, Jesus was declaring that God’s Kingdom would be larger than just the presumed “faithful” or “righteous” within Israel. He was not condoning the lifestyles of these “many sinners.” He was not endorsing their choices. But He was declaring their dignity as created by and desired by God.
In this sense, Jesus gives all those gathered a foretaste of the mission of the Church, which is to be a light to the nations (Matthew 5:14). In doing so, Jesus speaks deeply of the wide-reaching call of the Gospel itself, as well as what discipleship requires of us. It asks of us everything: leaving behind the things we treasure more than God, subduing our pride, and obeying the truth.
I cannot help but soberly notice that while all the persons in this scene were presented with the person and mission of Jesus, only one chose to follow rather than to stay comfortable. It was only Matthew who chose to follow Jesus.
Callie Nowlin, MTS, is the Director of Religious Education for Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Abbott and Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in Penelope.
Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.
The calling of Matthew itself is so quick in this Gospel reading that it takes all of one verse.