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Following Jesus with Determination

Matthew Harrison

Friday, September 21, 2007

St. MatthewOn this, the feast of St. Matthew, I was reminded recently of the Holy Father's words from the General Audience about this Apostle. For those of you that do not know, Pope Benedict has been using his General Audience over the last couple of years to explore key figures in the early Church. Just this week he spoke on St. John Chrysostom, and in the past he has spoken about holy men and women like the Apostles, Mary Magdalene, and Justin Martyr. You can catch the Holy Father's Wednesday General Audience on Wednesdays at 3:30pm ET in Italian, and then on Thursday with an English translation of the Holy Father's address at 3:30pm ET in with an encore presentation at 9:00pm ET (French translation is broadcast at 10pm ET).
Here's an excerpt of what Pope Benedict had to say about St. Matthew, from August 30th of last year:
Saint Matthew: repentant sinner, apostle, evangelist
"He rose and followed him". The brevity of the sentence clearly highlights Matthew's readiness in responding to the call. For him it meant leaving everything, especially what guaranteed him a reliable source of income, even if it was often unfair and dishonourable. Evidently, Matthew understood that familiarity with Jesus did not permit him to pursue activities of which God disapproved. The application to the present day is easy to see: it is not permissible today either to be attached to things that are incompatible with the following of Jesus, as is the case with riches dishonestly achieved. Jesus once said, mincing no words: "If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me" (Mt 19: 21). This is exactly what Matthew did: he rose and followed him! In this "he rose", it is legitimate to read detachment from a sinful situation and at the same time, a conscious attachment to a new, upright life in communion with Jesus.
Lastly, let us remember that the tradition of the ancient Church agrees in attributing to Matthew the paternity of the First Gospel. This had already begun with Bishop Papias of Hierapolis in Frisia, in about the year 130. He writes: "Matthew set down the words (of the Lord) in the Hebrew tongue and everyone interpreted them as best he could" (in Eusebius of Cesarea, Hist. Eccl. III, 39, 16). Eusebius, the historian, adds this piece of information: "When Matthew, who had first preached among the Jews, decided also to reach out to other peoples, he wrote down the Gospel he preached in his mother tongue; thus, he sought to put in writing, for those whom he was leaving, what they would be losing with his departure" (ibid., III, 24, 6). The Gospel of Matthew written in Hebrew or Aramaic is no longer extant, but in the Greek Gospel that we possess we still continue to hear, in a certain way, the persuasive voice of the publican Matthew, who, having become an Apostle, continues to proclaim God's saving mercy to us. And let us listen to St Matthew's message, meditating upon it ever anew also to learn to stand up and follow Jesus with determination.
St. Matthew, pray for us!

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