Today, Sept. 21, the Church celebrates the Feast of Saint Matthew the Apostle and Evangelist.
Initially a tax collector, Matthew would have been an outsider. His work would not have been respected by the Jews of his time and others would have seen him as someone on the enemy’s side.
That’s all until Jesus walked by.
Seeing him sitting at his post Jesus said to Matthew, “Follow me.”
Immediately, he got up and followed the Lord. He became not only a follower, but a disciple and an evangelist.
In her wisdom, the Church also memoralizes Jonah the Prophet today.
Called by God to go to Nineveh and prophesy against them, Jonah hesitates and instead flees from God. While trying to flee, a storm arises on sea and Jonah is swallowed in the belly of a fish. Following three days of prayer Jonah is saved and commanded once again to prophesy against Nineveh.
This time he goes and after bringing God’s word, the people of Nineveh turn away from their crooked paths and God saves the city.
Matthew and Jonah are two different members of the Body of Christ, but both offer insight into the heart of God and his unending love for us.
Outpouring of Mercy
With both Matthew and Jonah, the Lord demonstrated his abundant mercy.
First he saved a city turning away from Him and in the account of Matthew welcomes a sinner and tax collector by eating with him.
He doesn’t see Matthew or Jonah for what they were before. He doesn’t condemn them for what they have done. He doesn’t turn a blind eye and say ‘forget them they can’t be saved’.
The Lord desires to use their weakness to do something great. He uses Jonah’s hesitation to not only save him, but save a whole city!
He sees Matthew and recognizes he is in ‘need of a physician’. He doesn’t walk by and ignore him, but rather saves him. By inviting Matthew to follow him, Jesus invites him to run away from everything that was destroying him to bring him new life. Jesus shows him mercy, so he can go and do likewise to others as an apostle.
How similar Jesus does for us and we also must do to others.
It doesn’t matter what we have done, or where we have been, Christ welcomes us with open arms! He is not interested in judging us by what we have done or may not have done, He is interested in saving us!
He desires to bring us from our darkness into His light and ultimately into His love.
Let Christ love you today so you too can love others.
Both commanding Jonah to prophesy against Nineveh and the invitation of Matthew to follow Jesus are big tasks.
Imagine what Jonah and Matthew would have been thinking as this was initially revealed to them.
Jonah, most likely scared, turned away from the Lord. He may also have been questioning why God would want him to bring this news and the resistance he might face.
Matthew similarly may have been confused as to why Christ would be calling him, a tax collector, to follow him. He may have been anxious about the unknown and what he would face with Christ.
Yet they both trusted the Lord. Facing these uncertainties, they both recognized the task Christ was calling them to and chose to follow Him.
Jesus calls us every single day to get up and ‘follow him’.
But he leaves us with the choice.
No matter whether we immediately get up and follow him or like Jonah initially hesitate we have the opportunity to be imitators of Him.
We can walk behind the Lord, or we can choose to follow closely behind Him. We can learn from and about Him, spend time with Him in prayer and become another another Christ to the world that so desperately needs it.
No to the World, Yes to Christ
Easily, Matthew and Jonah could have continued living the life they knew and the life of comfort. They could have said no to Christ – thanks be to God they did not!
Matthew literally gave up the wealth of the world. He chose to leave behind his earthly wealth for a greater wealth.
He recognized that his satisfaction and deepest longing could only be satisfied by surrendering his wealth to the Lord.
We too can give up our earthly wealth for the heavenly inheritance.
With his ‘yes’, Jonah was accepting every torment and humiliation that came with it. He was willing to crucify himself in obedience to God and His love for all people.
It’s time we give our total, undivided and unqualified ‘yes’ to the Lord. To be willing to lay it all down at His feet as He as already done for us.
He takes our small ‘yes’, sometimes even our nervous, scared, confused, but willing ‘yes’ and does something great with it.
Some days it may be a bigger ‘yes’, than others, but he takes the ‘yes’ of our undivided heart and uses his power to make himself known through us and by us to the rest of the world.
Become a ‘yes!’ person.
Today is a great day! Let us rejoice and thank God for those He has placed before us and celebrate their example.
The example of Jonah and Matthew should remind us that we too are called to be heroes today and carry out the specific mission Christ has given to us.