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IHS Saint Matthew, Apostle—22 September AD 2019 Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost Ave Maria!

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If Saint Matthew’s feast had not been transferred from yesterday (to accommodate the Fall Ember Day) we would be celebrating the Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost today. We would have read more of Saint Paul’s letter to the Galatians, which we began last week. This epistle is germane to the current political in our country, and a number of misguided politicians and clergymen may quote it in an effort to justify the crime of Socialism, so let me read this Epistle before we return to Saint Matthew.[1]

Saint Paul tells us that we should “Bear ye one another's burdens; and so you shall fulfill the law of Christ.” That could be misconstrued to mean that Christ’s law requires us to share all of our possessions in common—but a few verses later Paul says: “For every one shall bear his own burden.” Everyone is required to do his best to take care of himself—elsewhere Paul tells the Thessalonians: “if any man will not work, neither let him eat… Now we charge them that are such, and beseech them by the Lord Jesus Christ, that, working with silence, they would eat their own bread.”[2]—but when someone is unable to “eat their own bread,” Christian charity requires that we “bear one another’s burdens”—the “haves” sharing with the “have‑nots”—sharing our bread and other necessities—for the love of God, and not because of the power of government.”

Saint Matthew

Matthew is identified as one of the Apostles, and as the author of the first Gospel. In his own Gospel, he refers to himself as the publican or tax collector called by Jesus to follow Him. Mark 2:14 and Luke 5:27 describe Jesus' calling of the tax collector “Levi, the son of Alphaeus.” From the context and from tradition it is believed that Matthew and Levi are one and the same person. All three of the synoptic Gospels have Matthew's name in their lists of Apostles—none list Levi. Saint Jerome holds that Mark and Luke we're being polite by not identifying the name Matthew with the publican, for tax collectors were hated by a large number of the Jewish people.[3] Publicans were agents of despotic governments. Matthew used his own proper name as an honest admission of his background. That said, it is conjectured that Levi was his proper Jewish name, which was changed to Matthew when he became an Apostle—much the same as Jesus changing Simon's name to Peter.

Matthew wrote his Gospel in Hebrew or possibly Aramaic for those Jews who adopted Christianity. In his writing he mentions Jewish customs that would have been unknown to gentile readers. The original text has been lost, but we have an early translation into Greek, which was something of a universal language during the time of the early Church. His Gospel is believed to be the first written of the four.

After the Apostles left Jerusalem, Matthew went on to preach Jesus Christ in several places, ending up in Ethiopia. The fourth and fifth lessons from Matins of his feast have him going to Ethiopia where he raised the king's daughter from the dead, thereby making converts of the King, and his whole family, to the Faith. When the King died, he was succeeded by a King Hirtacus, who wanted to marry the dead king's daughter, Iphigenia. Matthew urged her to keep the vow of chastity she made earlier, thereby drawing the wrath of Hirtacus, who had him murdered while celebrating holy Mass. The King’s daughter, Iphigenia, is also venerated as a saint, although not a martyr.

Matthew assumed the glory of martyrdom on the 21st day of September. His body was brought to Salerno, where it was afterwards buried in a Church dedicated in his name during the papacy of Gregory VII. He is recognized as the patron of Accountants; bankers; tax collectors; civil servants; (and some lists have him patron of perfumers); and patron of the city of Salerno, Italy where he is buried. The cathedral in Washington DC is dedicated in his name. Matthew is often symbolized as a winged man (or angel), the first of the "four living creatures" described in Ezechiel i:10 (and in the Apocalypse iv:7, although in different order).

Saint Matthew is proposed for our emulation of his humble honesty, and emulation of his fidelity to the moral law, even to the point of facing death at the hands of a jealous king. It is hard to think of any spiritually better death than to die for God's Law, while participating in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

On this feast of the Apostle Matthew, let us pray for a holy death—wherever or whenever it may be—a holy and a fully prepared death. That whenever we may be called to judgment—at Holy Mass or anywhere else, we will be found in the state of Sanctifying Grace!


[1] Epistle : Galatians v: 25, 26.; vi. 1-10

[2] II Thessalonians iii: 10, 12

[3] A Homily by St. Jerome, Priest at Bethlehem.Bk. i. Comment, on Matth. ix. Lesson vii at Matins of the feast

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