St Matthew, apostle and martyr: Feast: September 21

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Home > Media > News > St Matthew, apostle and martyr: Feast: September 21
St Matthew, apostle and martyr: Feast: September 21

One of the twelve apostles of Jesus, St Matthew – also known as Levi – is best known as the author of one of the four Gospels.

His own account of being called to follow Jesus is extremely brief.

“As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax office; and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he rose and followed him.” (Matt 9:9)

As a tax collector St Matthew had enormous opportunity to gain wealth through exploiting his fellow Jews. Tax collectors were collaborators with the Roman oppressors, and able to keep any money they collected over and above that required by the Romans. As such, they were considered public sinners by the Jewish people.

St Matthew invited Jesus into his home for a feast to which a large number of tax collectors and other notorious sinners – presumably Matthew’s friends – had been invited.

His enthusiasm burst forth in wanting others to meet Jesus too.

When Jesus was asked by the Pharisees why he ate and drank with sinners, he replied:
“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 4:31-32)

When St Matthew rose from his chair at the customs house – perhaps from the pile of money he’d gathered that day – he left his old ways of acting, thinking, and extorting behind, and started to build a new life based on a friendship with Jesus, the Son of God.

He went on to spend the rest of Jesus’ public ministry travelling with him. When Jesus chose twelve of his disciples to be apostles, St Matthew was one of them.

He was present at the Last Supper, but – out of fear – abandoned Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane and wasn’t present at the crucifixion.

As an apostle, after Jesus’ death and resurrection, he spent the rest of his life preaching about Jesus’ power to save from sin and death, and to bring us back into relationship with God the Father.

The last words he records in his Gospel are Jesus’ great commission to “go and make disciples of all nations”.

Tradition suggests he travelled to Ethiopia in his ministry. He died as a martyr, and is the patron saint of bankers.