• Sarah Raad


“…and He said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he rose and followed Him…” (Matthew 9:9).

The Calling of Saint Matthew (Luca Giordano)

I have been meditating on the passage of the Gospel of Saint Matthew that describes the way that Saint Matthew was called by Christ to become His disciple, and the way that Saint Matthew rose and followed (Matthew 9:9-13).

“As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax office; and He said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he rose and followed Him… And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ But when He heard it, He said, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.’” (Matthew 9:9-13).

I imagine that scene in my mind. I can see Saint Matthew sitting in his tax-booth collecting taxes from the Jewish people – his own people! Those people would have hated him. They would have considered him the worst of all traitors because tax collectors – in those days – not only collected the taxes as stipulated by the Roman Empire, but they also collected an illegal commission for themselves, which made them as rich as their fellow-Jews became poor.

What made things worse was that the taxpayers had no way of verifying how much they were supposed to pay to Rome and how much the tax-collector was stealing for their own use, and so, they were forced to contribute exorbitant amounts of income to the tax-collectors. At times, the taxes, and the stolen commissions, collected were so high that the tax-payers had barely any funds left to support themselves and their families…

Many many many years ago now, I studied quite extensively in the area of taxation law and I worked – for a time – in tax law. I LOVED it! Tax law is a simply wonderful area of the law to work in because, at the high end of the work, it is fixated with lateral thinking as a mechanism to problem-solve so that taxpayers can structure their investments commercially while maintaining a minimal tax burden.

When one studies taxation law academically, the focus is on ensuring that laws are equitable, efficient and enforceable. This means that the taxation system must be fair, work with minimal inconvenience to the taxpayer, and work with minimal inconvenience to the tax-collector. The ancient Roman taxation system was NOT fair because not only were the underlying taxes too high to allow the taxpayer to continue to support themselves comfortably through their own work, but the taxpayer was often forced to pay those illegal tariffs to tax-collectors, which exacerbated their tax-burdens.

In this way, the tax collectors literally became RICH by feeding upon the misfortunes of their fellow Jews. Saint Matthew did…

When he examined his conscious, Saint Matthew would have had to admit that he lied, stole and coveted his neighbours’ things through his work as a tax-collector. And I know this, because he himself in his account of the Gospel tells us that he was a “tax-collector” and describes Christ calling him “sick” and a “sinner”.

I have been reflecting on this admission and of the action of Christ in this story for some time now. You see, it is not the sin that Christ focused on in Matthew – though Matthew, like all of us, had sinned – it was the yearning for something more that Christ saw…

Christ looked at Matthew and focused – not on what he had done wrong or was doing wrong in that present time – He focused on what Matthew COULD do! And as I reflect this calling of Matthew, it causes me to wonder at the GOODNESS of God, who also called Judas Iscariot knowing what he WOULD do, but focusing on giving him the chance to prove that he COULD be different, if only he would accept the Grace to try…

And Saint Matthew upon hearing Christ’s call – by his own admission – JUMPED UP. He did not pack away, write a letter or resignation, sell his house, put his affairs in order, sack his servants… Saint Matthew got up right away. He did not delay a moment. He JUMPED UP and LEAVING everything – the money and the clothes and the shoes and the nice house and the servants and the work and the employment and the comfortable life he had arranged for himself – Saint Matthew left EVERTHING and FOLLOWED Him…

What extraordinary faith there is in that!

I was thinking of that faith the other morning, when I was lounging around in bed for the first ten or fifteen minutes of my day – enjoying the comforts of that and delaying my inevitable rising and approaching of my day.

And I know how I can – in one way – FOLLOW Saint Matthew, who FOLLOWED my Beloved…

Saint Matthew intercede for me. Let me start my day in Christ – JUMPING UP to FOLLOW Him as you JUMPED up.

For though the journey was difficult, and the Cross was heavy – the rewards of eternal life were infinite, and I would do much – even jump out of bed on time – to merit such rewards too…

For with prayer, I stand on Holy Ground where everything is clear. Here. At the Foot of the Cross.

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