‘“Jesus saw a man called Matthew at the tax office and he said to him, Follow me”. He looked at him not with the eyes of the body but rather with the eyes of interior pity. He saw a tax collector, and since he looked at him in pity and choosing him as a disciple, he said, “Follow me”. “Follow” meant “imitate” - not by the movement of his feet, but rather by a change of life. For whoever says he is following Christ ought himself to walk as Christ walked.
“He rose and followed him”. It is not to be wondered at that the tax collector should leave the earthly gains he was looking after at the first command of the Lord and that, abandoning riches, he should join the company of him who, he saw, had no wealth. For the Lord, who outwardly called him with words, through a hidden instinct secretly taught him to follow him: by the gift of divine grace the Lord enlightened his mind to understand that he who on earth called him away from temporal interests, could in heaven give incorruptible treasures.
“And as he sat at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came out and sat down with Jesus and his disciples”. The conversion of one tax collector provided an example of penance and forgiveness to many tax collectors and sinners. In a wonderful and true sign of the future, he who was to become the apostle and teacher of the gentiles brought with him to salvation a multitude of sinners in the first moments of his own conversion. He began even in the earliest period of his belief his duties as a preacher, which he was to fulfil as he made progress in virtue. Furthermore, if we would penetrate to the inner significance of what took place, not only did he prepare a banquet for the Lord in his home on earth but, what was much more welcome to the Lord, he made a feast in the house of his soul by faith and love, as is testified by him who said: “Behold I stand at the door and knock: if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into him and eat with him, and he with me”.
We open the door at the sound of his voice to receive him, when we freely assent to his promptings, whether secret or open, and when we do what we know we should do. He enters, then, to eat with us and we with him, since he lives in the hearts of his elect by the gift of his love. He rejoices their hearts by the light of his presence in as much as they make more and more progress in their longing for heaven, and it is as though he himself delighted in the banquet of virtues which they spread for him’.
St Bede the Venerable, c.673-735
O Almighty God, who by thy blessed Son didst call Saint Matthew from the receipt of custom to be an Apostle and Evangelist: grant us grace to forsake all covetous desires and inordinate love of riches; and to follow the same thy Son Jesus Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
Fr Lee Kenyon