Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!
Saint Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist—28 September AD 2008
“I have come to call sinners.”

Saint Matthew by Guido Reni

Ordinary of the Mass
English Text of the Mass
Latin Text of the Mass

    Saint Matthew the Apostle had been called “Levi” before answering our Lord’s summons to follow Him.  From what we read in the Gospels, he was a publican, a tax collector—probably a custom’s duty collector for Herod Antipas.  Whatever his personal life may have been like, he would have been detested by most of the Jews as someone who was preying upon his own people, passing the his tax gatherings to one who was a puppet governor for the Roman occupational forces.  As one might expect, his friends were like him, “publicans and sinners.”  Saint Luke tells us that the dinner in question was hosted by Matthew, whom he refers to as “Levi.”[2]

    The Pharisees, of course, thought that they were somehow special—holy men who were far above the “publicans and sinners”—and they wanted to condemn our Lord for His association with this lower class.  Our Lord’s answer to them “I have not come to call the just, but to call sinners,” was, of course, true in itself—but I suspect that there was a tone of condescension in His voice—that He was mocking them for trying to pass themselves off as just men, when in reality, all of us are sinners, and all of us need the graces that only He can provide.

    Saint Matthew would play a key role in bringing people to receive those graces, and to stand fast in them.  We know him first of all as the evangelist who wrote the first Gospel, secondly as one who received the fullness of the priesthood at our Lord’s Last Supper, and finally as a missionary who preached the faith in the area around the Caspian Sea and modern day Iran.

    His Gospel is probably Saint Matthew’s most enduring achievement.  An early historian named Papias tells us that “Matthew composed the sayings of our Lord in the Hebrew tongue.” Saint Irenæus and the historian Eusebius say that he wrote his Gospel for the Hebrews, and in their own language, which probably means Aramaic rather than the more ancient Hebrew.  Matthew seems to have assumed that his readers would be familiar with Jewish customs without much explanation.  The language and this style of writing suggest that his Gospel was thus intended for Jewish people—to convince the unbelieving Jew that Jesus was in fact the long awaited Messias—and to confirm the believing Jews in their Christian Faith, so that they might not lapse backwards to the religion of the synagogue.

    Unfortunately, we only possess Matthew’s Gospel in Greek translation—an Hebrew or Aramaic book would have been unique amongst all the other books of the New Testament, which were written in Greek so as to be understandable throughout the literate world. A few early biblical commentators—most notably Saint Jerome—refer to an existing “Hebrew” text, which they used in their work, but which is now lost.[3]

    Matthew’s text is a little bit more complete than Saint Luke’s, and nearly twice as long as Saint Mark’s.  It includes details of our Lord’s birth and infancy, as does Luke, and both recount the Sermon on the Mount.  There are numerous descriptions of our Lord’s miracles.  He relates our Lord’s prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the world.  Matthew gives by far the best description of our Lord making Peter the head of the organized Church that would carry on the work of Jesus Christ after His Ascension.

    It may be that because it represents such an excellent summary of our Catholic Faith that it is the Gospel most attacked by Rationalist Protestants and Modernist Catholics:

    For the Modernist there are no miracles;  everything must obey the laws of the physical sciences.  Consequently, the Modernist insists that all of the miracles in Matthew could not have happened, and therefore could not have been written about by an eye-witness—they just have to be pious fables added by later believers.  The Modernist will insist that Matthew could not have written much more than a collection of Jesus’ sayings, to which the miracles were added at a later date.

    To the Modernist, the idea of a “later date” for the composition of the Gospel is of paramount importance; for Matthew as well as for Mark and Luke.  All three include our Lord’s prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem—an event which occurred in the year 70 A.D., over thirty-five years after our Lord’s Ascension into heaven.  For one who cannot believe in miracles, all of the Gospels had to have been written after the event took place, making believe that Christ had predicted it—for such a prediction would be a miracle, and “miracles cannot happen.”

    To the Modernist, the idea of God establishing a single Church on earth to dispense His moral and doctrinal teachings unequivocally, to dispense His graces through the Sacraments, and to renew the His Holy Sacrifice in time and place in the Mass, just “could not be.”  How could Catholics claim to have a superior knowledge of God than those of other religions?  “Jesus was a great man; a great humanist,” the Modernists will admit, “but surely, Jesus could no more speak for God than Moses, or Confucius, or the Buddha, or some Hindu sage.”  To think of Jesus as God, establishing God’s Church for all time is just too un‑ecumenical; too downright politically incorrect!

"Q" hypothesis chartThe Modernist will even claim that the writers of Matthew and Luke both based their writing on something earlier called the “Q” document.  “Q” does not refer to that annoying character from Star Trek, but to the German word “Quelle,” or source.  Matthew and Luke are supposed to have copied this “Q” document, which then vanished and is no longer around, somewhat like the “golden plates in Ancient Egyptian” from which Joseph Smith got the Book of Mormon.

    The Modernists are always looking to find contradictions between one Gospel account and another.  A few years back, one of the TV networks did a “Christmas Special” claiming that Matthew wrote that our Lord was born in Nazareth, while Luke said that it was Bethlehem!  Needless to say, this is untrue—they both agree on Jesus’ birth at Bethlehem.  Only last Christmas, when the Modernists in Rome put the Nativity scene in Saint Joseph’s carpentry shop (?), did it become clear what they were doing.  They were reading the end of Matthew’s chapter I, where the angel described to Joseph, while at Nazareth, the future birth of Jesus, which would take place a few months later.  But then, instead of reading the even the first verse of the next chapter, they dutifully closed the book without reading Matthew’s account of how and where the birth took place.[4]  They had found their anti-Catholic biblical snippet, and that was that.

    Perhaps the lesson to learn from all of this Modernist foolishness is just that –that it is foolishness, and ought to be completely brushed aside by anyone who wants to call himself a Catholic.  Maybe we can make an analogy between the Pharisees in today’s Gospel and the Modernists in today’s world.  Like the Pharisees, the Modernists think of themselves as being the superior men of their times—far above those of simple faith in the immemorial teachings of Christ and His Church.  Indeed, they ridicule Christ for His association with the lowly and the sinful, who lack their grand education.  But we can be assured that were He here today, our Lord would have the same condescension for the Modernists as He had then for the Pharisees who thought of themselves as special and just.

    So, in addition to the fact that we are sinners, as was the future Saint Matthew, we can rejoice in our Lord’s words, because they were meant equally for the Pharisees and for the men of our time who fool themselves into believing that they can do without the graces of Jesus Christ.

“For I have not come to call the ‘just,’ but to call sinners.”


[1]   Gospel:  Matthew ix: 9-13.

[2]   Luke v: 27-31.

[3]   Catholic Encyclopedia, s.v. “Gospel of Saint Matthew”


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