The most difficult times can produce the greatest spiritual blessings. God truly knows just what we need at every moment!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Feast of Saint Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist

Wis 2:12, 17-20; Eph 4:1-7, 11-13: Mt 9:9-13

St. Matthew, one of the twelve Apostles, is the author of the first Gospel. This has been the constant tradition of the Church and is confirmed by the Gospel itself. He was the son of Alpheus and was called to be an Apostle while sitting in the tax collectors place at Capernaum. Before his conversion he was a publican, i.e., a tax collector by profession. He is to be identified with the "Levi" of Mark and Luke.

His apostolic activity was at first restricted to the communities of Palestine. Nothing definite is known about his later life. There is a tradition that points to Ethiopia as his field of labour; other traditions mention of Parthia and Persia. It is uncertain whether he died a natural death or received the crown of martyrdom.

He preached among the Jews for 15 years; his audiences may have included the Jewish enclave in Ethiopia, and places in the East.

St. Matthew's Gospel was written to fill a sorely-felt want for his fellow countrymen, both believers and unbelievers. For the former, it served as a token of his regard and as an encouragement in the trial to come, especially the danger of falling back to Judaism; for the latter, it was designed to convince them that the Messiah had come in the person of Jesus, our Lord, in Whom all the promises of the Messianic Kingdom embracing all people had been fulfilled in a spiritual rather than in a carnal way: "My Kingdom is not of this world." His Gospel, then, answered the question put by the disciples of St. John the Baptist, "Are You He Who is to come, or shall we look for another?"

Writing for his countrymen of Palestine, St. Matthew composed his Gospel in his native Aramaic, the "Hebrew tongue" mentioned in the Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles. Soon afterward, about the time of the persecution of Herod Agrippa I in 42 AD, he took his departure for other lands. Another tradition places the composition of his Gospel either between the time of this departure and the Council of Jerusalem, i.e., between 42 AD and 50 AD or even later. Definitely, however, the Gospel, depicting the Holy City with its altar and temple as still existing, and without any reference to the fulfillment of our Lord's prophecy, shows that it was written before the destruction of the city by the Romans in 70 AD, and this internal evidence confirms the early traditions.

We imagine Matthew, after the terrible events surrounding the death of Jesus, going to the mountain to which the risen Lord had summoned them. "When they saw him, they worshipped, but they doubted. Then Jesus approached and said to them [we think of him looking at each one in turn, Matthew listening and excited with the rest], 'All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age'" (Matthew 28:17-20).

Matthew would never forget that day. He proclaimed the Good News by his life and by his word. Our faith rests upon his witness and that of his fellow apostles.

He is the patron saint of our parish, our religious community, our church. What is the meaning of the words "Patron Saint"?

Patron saints are chosen as special protectors or guardians over areas of life. These areas can include occupations, illnesses, churches, countries, causes -- anything that is important to us. The earliest records show that people and churches were named after apostles and martyrs as early as the fourth century.

saint to whose protection and intercession a person, a society, a church, or a place is dedicated. The choice is often made on the basis of some real or presumed relationship with the persons or places involved.

We as Catholics are expected to have also our personal, individual Patron Saints. Like Mary, Joseph, James, John are obviously Patrons in the lives of those who were baptized with these names. But what is a patron saint of a girl who was baptized Kaleya ?

Recently, the popes have named patron saints but patrons can be chosen by other individuals or groups as well. A patron saint can help us when we follow the example of that saint's life and when we ask for that saint's intercessory prayers to God.

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