St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist
The Calling of St. Matthew, by Caravaggio, 1599-1600
As we celebrate the Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist, it is good to remember how he reports his calling in Chapter 9, verse 9 -
As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.
The account is nothing other than a first hand testimony of the power of the Word of God coming forth from the mouth of the Son of God. Matthew was dead in sin and then “he rose and followed” Jesus. There was no detailed apologetic from Jesus as to why Matthew should be a disciple, nor was there any questioning from Matthew as to whether or not he should follow. It was simply the Word of God spoken to him, and that Word made Matthew alive to follow Jesus. It is the Word that makes every Christian alive; the Spirit filled word, heard by Matthew and written down by him: “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Praise be to God for calling Matthew to write the Word of Salvation, the very Name of Salvation!
St. John Chrysostom said of Matthew, “there is nothing more despicable than the tax collector” and yet it is this one that Jesus calls to follow Him and to be the First Evangelist. The painting by Caravaggio gets it so well. Jesus is pointing to Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth, and Matthew points to himself with a look of complete shock, “Me?” Yes, you Matthew. Matthew followed all the way and we are the receipients of that following: of the Holy Gospel he wrote and the salvation of God that comes through it.