Friday, September 20, 2013

Feast of Saint Matthew the Apostle

St. Matthew knew what it was like to feel excluded. Although he was Jewish, he was shunned by other Jews, because his work as a tax collector made him a collaborator with the hated Romans. Socially, he was an outsider, and outcast. His fellow countrymen wanted nothing to do with him.

We can only imagine that this exclusion filled him with loneliness and pain. Maybe that’s why, when Jesus said to him, "Follow me," Matthew jumped at the chance. He wanted desperately to be welcomed and included. Which is precisely what Jesus does.

When Jesus dined at Matthew’s house later that day, Jesus was happy to sit and eat with more excluded people- other tax collectors and people identified only as "sinners." Jesus welcomed them as well- something he does throughout the gospels, including the one that bears St. Matthew’s name.

Jesus invites everyone to be his disciple and enter his kingdom- regardless of race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, age, education, income or appearance. Jesus welcomes all people without exception, because all of us are sinners in need of redemption, and all of us are equally loved by God the Father.

Jesus challenges us today to be as welcoming and inclusive as he is. This may involve examining some of our actions and attitudes. For instance, do we harbor racist thoughts or tendencies? Do we look down on people we think are beneath us economically or socially? Do we envy or resent those we think are above us economically or socially? Do we see members of the opposite sex as equals? Do we scorn the young or marginalize the elderly? Are we intellectual snobs or athletes who mock non-jocks? Are we indifferent to the needs of persons with disabilities? Are we the pious who scorn the unbelieving or unrighteous? Do we ignore or avoid those who are different from us in some way?

If we answer "Yes" to any of these questions, it’s time for an attitude adjustment, so we can each do our part to bring about the vision St. Paul spoke of in our first reading: that we be one family, celebrating one faith, united in one Lord.

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