Matthew's life seemed already wasted; Jesus comes by and calls him without putting any preconditions.
Today’s readings can be found here. Read Fr. Epicoco’s brief reflections on the daily Mass readings, Monday through Saturday, here. For Sunday Mass reading commentary from Fr. Rytel-Andrianik, see here.
Matthew tells us his own vocational story in this passage from the Gospel we read today on his feast day. Matthew is a “receiver of mercy,” to use an expression dear to Pope Francis – that is, he encountered Christ on the periphery of a life that seemed by then to be compromised by a loss of reputation and perhaps of desire. Jesus comes by and calls him without putting any preconditions.
The speed with which he responds to this call is striking, as if to suggest to us that when we encounter something true, we should never shy away from it.
Matthew experiences one of those things that always unnerves the Pharisee in us: receiving an unmerited gift. Jesus’ love is given freely; we do not get it on any merit. This is what Jesus tries to say at the end of the story:
“Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, I desire mercy, not sacrifice. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”
God does not expect from us who-knows-what feats or sacrifices. He would like one very simple thing from us: mercy – that is, a heart that works properly.
Matthew fulfilled this by becoming an evangelist. His writing was the way in which he brought the Master’s heart, the same heart that had saved his life, to the centuries that followed. There’s no one way to use a heart that works properly; it would be nice if each of us could discover our own.
Father Luigi Maria Epicoco is a priest of the Aquila Diocese and teaches Philosophy at the Pontifical Lateran University and at the ISSR ‘Fides et ratio,’ Aquila. He dedicates himself to preaching, especially for the formation of laity and religious, giving conferences, retreats and days of recollection. He has authored numerous books and articles. Since 2021, he has served as the Ecclesiastical Assistant in the Vatican Dicastery for Communication and columnist for the Vatican’s daily newspaper L’Osservatore Romano.