When our Lord Jesus called him to follow him, Mathew was a tax collector by profession for the Romans. His profession was hated by the devout Jews as it reminded them of their subjection and also the Pharisees saw his profession which was classed as publican, as work for the typical sinner.
St Mathew is one of the Lord Jesus’ twelve apostles and by christian tradition is also seen as one of the four Evangelists. He was the first to put down in writing as his Gospel the Lord’s teachings and the account of our Lord Jesus’ life. Mathew wrote his Gospel in Aramaic, which is the language which was spoken by Jesus himself.
No one was shunned more than a publican by the devout Jews because a publican was a Jew who worked for their enemy, the Romans and who robbed their own people making themselves large personal profits. Publicans were despised to the extent that they were not allowed to trade, eat or even to pray with other Jews.
One day when Mathew was seated at his table of books and money, Jesus looked at him and said unto him two words, “follow me”. For Mathew, these two words were all it took for him to immediately rise, leaving all his pieces of silver to follow our Lord Jesus Christ.
Mathew’s original name was ‘Levi’ which in Hebrew signified ‘Adhesion’ whilst his new name given to him by our Lord Jesus of Mathew means ‘Gift of God’.
The only other major mention of Mathew in the Gospels is regarding the dinner party for Jesus and his companions to which Mathew invited his fellow tax collectors.
The Jews showed surprise at seeing our Lord Jesus eating in the company of a publican, but Jesus explained to the Jews that he had come “not to call the just, but sinners.”
Not much else is known about the life of Mathew but according to tradition, he is reported to have preached in such places as Egypt, Ethiopia and other further Eastern areas.
Some say Mathew lived into his nineties before dying a natural death, but other Christian traditions say he died the death of a martyr.
The Gospel according to Matthew is one of the four canonical gospels, one of the three synoptic gospels, and is the first book of the New Testament. The narrative tells how Messiah, our Lord Jesus was rejected by Israel, and how he finally sends his disciples to preach his Gospel to the whole world. Most Scholars believe the Gospel of Matthew was composed between 80 and 90 CE, with the possibility of between 70110 CE. The Gospel of Matthew is a creative reinterpretation of Mark, stressing Jesus’ teachings as much as his acts, making subtle changes to reveal Jesus’ divine nature for example, Mark’s “young man” who appears at Jesus’ tomb becomes a radiant angel in the Gospel of Matthew. The Gospel of Matthew shows Jesus as the Son of God from his birth, the fulfillment of the Old Testament. The Gospel of Matthew was the favourite Gospel of St.Dominic de Guzman, who always would carry it wherever he went.
Let us pray to St Mathew to ask him to intercede on our behalf:
O Glorious St Mathew, in your Gospel you portray Jesus as the longed-for Messiah who fulfilled the prophets of the Old Covenant and as the new lawgiver who founded a church of the New Covenant. Obtain for us the grace to see Jesus living in his church and to follow his teachings in our lives on earth so that we may live forever with him in heaven. Amen.