We celebrate today the feast of St. Matthew. Matthew is a tax collector. Tax collectors are not looked upon kindly by the Jewish contemporaries of Jesus for two reasons: 1. Because they are collecting taxes for the Romans who have subjugated Israel. 2. Because, just like today, tax collectors are thought to be enriching themselves illicitly. Thus, to be a tax collector is almost equivalent to be a sinner in Jewish eyes.
The perceptive and loving eyes of Jesus, however, see in Matthew much more than others perceive in him. Jesus sees him as a potential disciple, apostle, evangelist, and martyr. He calls him, and Matthew responds enthusiastically. And we know what Matthew has become!
Matthew’s life and conversion is a testimony to what Jesus says in today’s gospel reading: “I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.” Matthew is someone who has personally encountered and deeply experienced God’s mercy in Jesus.
Bishop Bacani, in his book Mercy Alone, shares his personal experience of God’s mercy. It is this experience that enables him to say in his book: “I have learned no longer to justify myself but simply to cast my sinful self into the arms of the Father whose Son stretched out his hand on the cross to embrace me, and whose Spirit has been poured forth into my heart to purify me.” “It is only by the grace of God that I am what I am, and on that unfailing grace I rely.” “I am a sinner, but a beloved, redeemed sinner, saved and made a son of God.”
The life and example of St. Matthew should be an inspiration to all of us. Remember this: Jesus always looks at us with loving eyes. He sees us for what we were in terms of our past foolishness; but he also sees what we can become in terms of our future possibilities. Do not let what people think limit you. Think rather of the inner potential that Jesus sees in you. You have your own vocation and mission in life from Jesus.
St. Matthew, pray for us that we may reach our full potential and become the best person that God intends us to be. Amen.