The Feast of St. Matthew September 21, 2008 Epistle Reading - II Corinthians 4:1-6 Gospel Reading - Matthew 9:9-13 “But if our Gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost” Introduction: Fitting words from St. Paul to the Corinthians and to us as we celebrate the Feast of St. Matthew today...St. Matthew to whom the writing of the first of the synoptic Gospels is attributed...St. Matthew who told his own story in today‟s Gospel reading. The Gospel: Matthew was not a popular individual in his day. As a publican, or tax collector, he bid for his job by agreeing to pay Herod Antipas, the Roman ruler of Galilee, a certain amount in advance. Any money he collected over what he paid Herod, went into his own pocket. Matthew‟s office was located on the border to enable him to collect tolls on goods being brought into his district of Galilee. Publicans were universally despised by the Jews because they worked for their oppressors and made a profit by adding charges to the established levies. They were labeled as „unclean‟ by the Pharisees. Thus, their associates were other publicans and outcasts from the mainstream Jewish society. We can assume that Matthew had heard of Jesus and subscribed to His words because, as the Gospel pointed out, when our lord said “„follow me,‟ he arose and followed him.”[Matthew 9:9]. We can also assume that the meal which took place at Matthew‟s home was to celebrate his new discipleship. Who else would he invite but his circle of friends who were fellow publicans and other societal castoffs? When the Pharisees questioned Jesus about his choice of eating companions, He told them that he had “not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” [Matthew 9:13] Matthew’s Life: We know that Matthew joined the other Apostles; however, his life after that first Feast of Pentecost is somewhat unclear. Historians seem to agree that he left the region around Palestine around 42 AD and did missionary work in Ethiopia and, possibly, Persia. He is said to have written his Gospel between 60 and 68 AD, and was martyred, most probably by burning, sometime after that. He is the Patron Saint of tax-collectors, money- changers (those who loan money in today‟s world), alcoholics and hospitals. Matthew and Paul: Matthew‟s Gospel was written for Jews who had already converted to Christianity, as well as for Jews who had not yet converted. It was Matthew‟s, as well as Paul‟s, intent to lift the veil from the hearts of the unbelievers and bring them to salvation through Jesus Christ. Yet, both Matthew and Paul knew well what Paul wrote in today‟s Epistle reading that “if our Gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost. In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” [II Corinthians 4:3-4]. Today, just as it was in the time of Matthew and Paul, “the god of this world”...the god of materialism...the god of greed...is alive and well. It‟s the god that has led people to make a conscious choice against the God of Salvation to reject faith because the way of faith is not how they choose to live...People who through the small decisions they make, thrust God into the background and obscure spiritual values. The god of this world solicits the adoration of money, power and position and denies the God who promises eternal life to those who forsake the god of this world. Example: The economy is on everyone‟s mind these days. Economists can give you any variety of explanations about why things got so bad in such a relatively short period of time. Some will tell us about too many or too few regulations governing the banking and investment industry. Others will talk about the world economy and the creation of a „perfect storm‟ which led to the collapse of what we thought was un-collapsible. Many agree that sub-prime mortgage lending underlies the current financial crisis, but few go further than that to uncover greed as the true foundation...Greed for the money to be made by placing people in loans where payments escalated faster than their income and the property wasn‟t worth the amount of the loan payoff...Greed of banks who foreclosed on houses, rather than trying to work with the homeowners on renegotiating reasonable mortgage payments, thereby leaving lenders with large inventories of properties that can‟t be sold profitably. Granted, this is a very simplistic explanation of today‟s economic problems, yet an explanation which demonstrates the truth of Paul‟s words about those who worship the god of this world and relegate the God of salvation to a mere thought or an empty word. The greed of today‟s money lenders parallels the greed of publicans, who unlike Matthew, continued to over tax and tariff their people to line their own pockets...People who made the conscious choice to turn from faith in the promises and words many heard from the mouth of Jesus Himself...promises of eternal life in exchange for living a life in tune with the Summary of the Law of loving God and loving others to live a life in service of themselves and the god of this world. Conclusion: Today, we remember St. Matthew: apostle, evangelist, martyr, and writer of the Gospel...a Gospel which recounts the life of Our Lord and bridges the old and the new covenants which God made with His people...A Gospel which was there for the Jewish converts and those contemplating conversion and is there for us to read and re-read to gain additional insight into our relationship with God. Paul wrote “But if our Gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost.” May we through our prayers and interactions with others bring the Gospel that is hid to the lost and convert those who continue to worship the god of this world to the glory of the light of our God of faith and salvation.
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