St. Matthew the Apostle

Feast day, Sept. 21

Matthew was the son of Alphaeus born at Capernaum, a settlement on the shore of the Sea of Galilee , about a year after the birth of Jesus. One day Jesus was walking and saw a tax collector named Matthew sitting at a tax collection post, and said to him, "Follow me." And Matthew stood up and followed Him, and became one of His twelve apostles. (See M 9:9-13 = P 2:13-17 = L 5:27-32)

Tax collectors in those days were social outcasts. Devout Jews avoided them because they were usually dishonest. The job carried no salary, and they were expected to make their profits by cheating the people from whom they collected taxes. Patriotic and nationalistic Jews hated them because they were agents of the Roman government, the conquerors, and hated them with a double hatred if (like Matthew) they were Jews, because they had gone over to the enemy, had betrayed their own people for money. Thus, throughout the Gospels, we find tax collectors (publicans) mentioned as a standard type of sinful and despised outcast. Matthew brought many of his former associates to meet Jesus, and social outcasts in general were shown that the love of Jesus extended even to them.

After his calling, when Saint Matthew gave a feast in Christ's honor, the guests were drawn from among his friends—including fellow tax collectors and sinners (Matthew 9:10-13). The Pharisees objected to Christ eating with such people, to which Christ responded, "I have not come to call the just, but sinners," summing up the Christian message of salvation.

The name "Matthew" means "gift of the LORD." Mark and Luke, in the story of his calling, name him "Levi." Perhaps this was his original name, and he received a new name from Jesus when he became a disciple. It has also been suggested that he was simply a member of the tribe of Levi. 

What is the definition and the meaning of the Patron Saints and why were these people chosen to become patrons of causes, professions and countries? The term 'Patron' is used in Christian religions, including the Roman Catholic religion, to describe holy and virtuous men and women who are considered to be a defender of a specific group of people or of a country. There is a patron for virtually every cause, country, profession or special interest. St. Matthew is the patron of: accountants, bankers, bookkeepers, customs officers, money managers, stock brokers, tax collectors

After Christ's Death, Resurrection, and Ascension, Saint Matthew is said to have preached the Gospel to the Hebrews for as many as 15 years, during which time he wrote the Gospel in Aramaic, before heading east to continue his efforts at evangelization. By tradition, he, like all of the apostles with the exception of Saint John the Evangelist, was martyred, but accounts of his martyrdom varied widely. All place it somewhere in the East, but, as the Catholic Encyclopedia notes, "it is not known whether he was burned, stoned, or beheaded."

Because of the mystery surrounding Saint Matthew's martyrdom, his feast day is not consistent in the Western and Eastern Churches. In the West, his feast is celebrated on September 21; in the East, on November 16. The origin of Feast Days: most saints have specially designated feast days and are associated with a specific day of the year and these are referred to as the saint's feast day. The feast days first arose from the very early Christian custom of the annual commemoration of martyrs on the dates of their deaths at the same time celebrating their birth into heaven.

The Gospel of Matthew was written to prove that Jesus Christ is the promised Messiah, the King of all the earth, and to make plain the Kingdom of God. It is the joining link between Old and New Testament, focusing on the fulfillment of prophecy. Matthew was not written to chronicle the events of Jesus' life, but rather to present the undeniable evidence that Jesus Christ is the promised Savior, the Messiah, the King of kings and Lord of lords. It begins by accounting the genealogy of Jesus, then his birth, baptism and public ministry. The miracles recorded in Matthew reveal Jesus' authority and true identity. Key characters in the gospel of Matthew: Jesus, Mary and Joseph, John the Baptist, the 12 disciples, the Jewish religious leaders, Caiaphas, Pilate, Mary Magdalene.

It is helpful to be able to recognize Saint Matthew in paintings, stained glass windows, illuminated manuscripts, architecture and other forms of Christian art. The artistic representations reflect the life or death of saints, or an aspect of life with which the person is most closely associated. Saint Matthew is represented in Christian Art with a purse or money-bag. Occasionally we find him seated at a desk, with money spread out before him. As the Evangelist, he appears with book, pen, and inkhorn, and generally an angel standing by dictating the Gospel to him. Traditional iconography often shows Saint Matthew with a money sack and account books, to signify his old life as a tax collector, and an angel above or behind him, to signify his new life as a messenger of Christ.

We thank thee, heavenly Father, for the witness of your apostle and evangelist Matthew to the Gospel of your Son our Savior; and we pray that, after his example, we may with ready wills and hearts obey the calling of our Lord to follow him; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

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