Monday, September 21, 2009

St. Matthew, Apostle and Tax Collector

Today is the feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and Tax Collector.

In a particular way, he can be a patron of many men discerning a call to the priesthood in the current age.

Well, to look at the passage of his calling, as he reports it so it's veracity can be easily assumed, we see Jesus' wonderful statement: 'I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.'

So many men today who feel a call to the priesthood have a terrible sense of unworth: 'I am not worthy of this call!' You know what? He's right, he isn't worthy of this call!

With the ease and proliferation of, umm... let's call it the 'evils' of the internet and the perverse nature of our culture, there are few young men who are unaffected by the distortions that our culture presents. Where this really challenges the young man is when he faces the question of celibacy, it is so far afield from experience, that he cannot even grasp what it might mean, much less embrace it freely in his life.

We turn back to Matthew. While we do not know many details of his life either prior to or even after his call by Christ, we can presume a few things:

1) Working as a tax collector meant to be in cahoots with the Romans. As such, he would have genearlly been shunned by the societal elite in the Jewish world view of 1st Century Palestine. We see this in the Pharisees' response to Jesus eating at his house: 'This man is a sinner!'

2) He was still an observant Jew: reading his account of the Gospel, one is struck by the Jewishness of the writings. Putting this together with the last, we can presume that his Jewish observances were 'from the outside,' in that because he was publically known as a sinner, he would likely have not been welcome to preach in synagogue or take a prominent role in the Temple.

3) He recognized his own need for salvation. Seeing the immediacy of his response to Jesus, his disposition of heart is certainly in the right place. He is stuck in a job that he may not like and he wants to be more religious but is prevented. All of a sudden, Jesus walks past, whom he may have heard of, and calls him to follow. "And he got up and followed him." The response is not delayed, it is not conditional on finding someone to take his place at the customs post, it is immediate.

If you are feeling a call to the priesthood, see in the example of St. Matthew one who recognizes his weaknesses and offers himself to the Lord to be a living witness of His.

No priest is perfect, no one called to priesthood or religious life is perfect, stop trying to be. Instead, let Jesus perfect you in your call to 'Follow me!'


Wayne said...

Good stuff here; only, it's the feast of St. Matthew and not of St. Michael. :)

Father Schnippel said...

oy, fixed now

jamie said...

thanks Fr. Kyle. These words (re: no one is perfect) ring true for any/all of us called to step outside of our comfort zone to follow God's will. Reminds me of the phrase "He doesn't call the equipped, rather equips the called."

Ed Winkle said...

I knew what you meant.

You must be on overload like our society!