Wednesday, 21 September 2011

St Matthew's Day

File:The Evangelist Matthew Inspired by an Angel.jpg

 (St Matthew and the Angel by Rembrandt, the Louvre, Paris)

As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, "Follow me." And he got up and followed him. As he sat at dinner in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?" But when he heard this, 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, not sacrifice.' For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners."
Matthew 9. 9-13
 
If you've ever felt as if you were on the outside of the world looking in, then Matthew is the Apostle for you.  He wasn't just on the margins of his world  - he was utterly ostracised and probably faced death threats for being a collaborator with the Romans.  He was also probably terribly well heeled.  Tax collecting in those days was farmed out by the government to the private sector and was notorious for corruption.  In all probability, Levi the Tax collector was not a very nice man who would have had a bodyguard of goons and would have used violence to get money.  A legalised gangster.  Who would also have been well educated in both Aramaic and Greek. Saint Matthew is the Patron Saint of accountants, bankers, bookkeepers, stock brokers and tax collectors.  All of whom, post Lehman Bros and Fred the Shred at the RBS, are about as popular currently as he was then.  but Jesus scandalised both the unco' guid and the revolutionaries of his day by treating him as a worthwhile human being and called him into the Kingdom as an apostle and evangelist.  Thank God.  Because he can do the same with such disreputable wrecks as us if we let him.

O Almighty God,
whose blessed Son called Matthew the tax-collector
to be an apostle and evangelist:
give us grace to forsake the selfish pursuit of gain
   and the possessive love of riches
that we may follow in the way of your Son Jesus Christ,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

PS As good as Rembrandt is, I've added 3 images of St Matthew by Caravaggio to this post: a) because I love his paintings and b) I've seen the three of them in the backstreet Church of  S Luigi dei Francesi in Rome and they are truly stunning in the flesh (sic).  And this church is where Martin Luther stayed when he came to Rome for his trial -  so it's well worth popping into!


File:The Inspiration of Saint Matthew by Caravaggio.jpg

File:Michelangelo Caravaggio 047.jpg

File:Michelangelo Caravaggio 040.jpg

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