Scripture: 1st Reading: Eph4,1-7,11-13; Resp. Psalm: Ps19,2-5; Gospel: Mt9,9-13
The call to discipleship is one of the greatest gifts of God to any person. This is because the initiative to call belongs to God. He is the One who calls and chooses. Because discipleship is a gift, there are corresponding responsibilities that are incumbent on the one who has been so privileged.
One of those is that a disciple must walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which he has been called. The word of God today spells out some of the inner attributes that such a disciple must cultivate: lowliness, meekness, patience, forbearance, eagerness to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, recognition of the fact that the bond that ties believers together by virtue of their baptism is greater than the one of birth.
There must also be a recognition of the fact that "grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ's gift." In other words, our Lord in His infinite wisdom allots roles and tasks to individuals to perform for the good of His body, the Church: some prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. None of these roles can be considered as insignificant since all are to contribute in their measure towards the perfection and growth of the body of Christ.
From the band of disciples, some again were given the privilege of being Apostles and leaders to provide guidance for the flock in the name of the Master. They were to equip the Saints, work for the ministry, build up the body of Christ so that all believers could "attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ."
One of those chosen for this onerous task was St. Matthew. Matthew was a tax collector, one who belonged to a group that was much vilified in Israel because of their occupational collaboration with the Roman conquerors and occupiers of Israel. The call of Matthew was dramatic. The gospel presents the picture of one who was totally overawed by the divine presence of our Lord. Matthew himself, who wrote about his call, narrated in the gospel that bears his name that our Lord passed on, saw him and said to him, "follow me", and he rose and followed him!
Matthew's narration of his call is to impress on us the immediacy of his call and the response he gave to it: he left everything, the life he had known, the occupation that brought him livelihood and wealth, the friends and company he had kept up till that time, his wive and children, to follow Jesus. We can see here that this was a fully conscious, mature and adult response to our Lord. He left everything to follow Jesus.
Our Lord in response to such a generous gift of self and life, went to dine in Matthew's house and told the Pharisees who were scandalized at His association and hobnobbing with sinners that "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."
We can learn from the life of this great Apostle who never looked back from that day till the end of his life. He gives us example on what fidelity to one's call implies. He provides us inspiration about steadfastness to the ideal. In his life, he challenges us to a total dedication of ourselves to the mission of Christ. He teaches us to understand that there are things we must leave behind in order to become true disciples of Christ. He instructs us that love for the Master signifies a total gift of ourselves to Him. May he intercede for us.
Let us pray: "O God, who with untold mercy were pleased to choose as an Apostle Saint Matthew, the tax collector, grant that, sustained by his example and intercession, we may merit to hold firmly in following you." Amen. May the Living Word of God find a true dwelling place within our hearts and souls today and always.