St. Matthew, the tax-collector, is seated at this tables. A young wandering preacher is passing by and calls him, “Follow me.”
Surprisingly he gets up and follows.
Whatever could have moved him to do this? He abandoned what was a profitable career, even though he was despised and rejected by his follow Israelites?
Was it the sense that he needed to be in community, to be in union with God and others? Did his status as a collaborator with the Romans lead him to feel isolated, even as he had the power of the Roman Empire behind him?
We will never know, but I do think a lot might have to do with a sense of isolation. It is interesting that Matthew’s Gospel which is, at least inspired by the apostle, speaks very clearly about the Reign, the Kingdom, of Heaven.
But what he does next, I think, makes the case even more strongly.
What does he do? He invites Jesus to dinner with the outcasts, the sinners and the tax collectors.
The despised of the earth sit down at table with Jesus. What a scandal!
Matthew followed the Lord but it seems that he opened his table not only to Jesus, but also to others who were like him.
He was offering them the Good News, the Gospel, of a God “who desires mercy, not sacrifice,” who calls not the self-righteous, but the sinners.
Matthew was not content to just follow Jesus. He wanted others to follow and to share at the table with the Lord.
Sinner though he was, he called other sinners to experience the loving mercy of God.
So too we, sinners, called to follow the merciful Savior, are called to open the doors of mercy and sit down with those at the margin of society, showing them by our example the Good News.
That might be one of the most effective means of evangelization that we can offer, following the example of Matthew – sinner, disciple, evangelizer.