9As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector's booth. "Follow me," he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.
10While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew's house, many tax collectors and "sinners" came and ate with him and his disciples. 11When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and 'sinners'?"
12On hearing this, Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." (Matthew 9: 9-13)
“Jesus saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax office, and he said to him: Follow me.” Jesus saw Matthew, not merely in the usual sense, but more significantly with his merciful understanding of men.” He saw the tax collector and, because he saw him through the eyes of mercy and chose him, he said to him: “Follow me.” This following meant imitating the pattern of his life - not just walking after him. Saint John tells us: “Whoever says he abides in Christ ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” “And he rose and followed him.” There is no reason for surprise that the tax collector abandoned earthly wealth as soon as the Lord commanded him. Nor should one be amazed that neglecting his wealth, he joined a band of men whose leader had, on Matthew’s assessment, no riches at all. Our Lord summoned Matthew by speaking to him in words. By an invisible, interior impulse flooding his mind with the light of grace, he instructed him to walk in his footsteps. In this way Matthew could understand that Christ, who was summoning him away from earthly possessions, had incorruptible treasures of heaven in his gift.”
"For Matthew, after preaching to Hebrews, when about to go also to others, committed to writing in his native tongue the Gospel that bears his name; and so by his writing supplied, for those whom he was leaving, the loss of his presence." Following the death of Jesus, Matthew is credited with writing the first Gospel of Our Lord—and his Gospel is given pride of place in the canon of the New Testament. Composed in Aramaic (the “Hebrew tongue”), theologians assert that the Gospel of Matthew was written to convince Jewish readers that their anticipated Messiah had come in the person of Jesus. He likely preached among the Jews for 15 years in Palestine, and possibly inaccurate Church legend informs that his audiences may have included the Jewish enclave in Ethiopia, and places in the East.
The Apostle St. Matthew evangelized Ethiopia, where he disclosed as agents of the Devil the various magicians who misled the King and the people. He resurrected the son of the King, and the admiring people wanted to adore him as a god. But St. Matthew did not permit it and used the gold and silver they brought in his homage to build a great church. He resided there under the protection of the sovereign for 33 years. The king’s daughter, St. Ephigenia [Feast day also September 21], consecrated herself to God and founded a convent where she was the superior of more than 200 virgins.
The King died, and his successor, Hirtacus, wanted to marry St. Ephigenia since he considered her the only woman worthy of him. The new King asked St. Matthew to convince the Princess to marry and promised him half of his kingdom if he should succeed. The Apostle told him to come to church on Sunday, and that there he would find a response to his request. The King hastened to comply, thinking that the Apostle would persuade Ephigenia to marry him. With the virgins and whole populace present, St. Matthew preached at great length on the excellence of the sacrament of marriage.
Hirtacus was pleased believing that the sermon would make Ephigenia consent to marriage with him. However, at a certain moment, St. Matthew said:
"Since marriage is good as long as the union is kept inviolate, all of you here present know that if a servant dared to usurp the king’s spouse, he would deserve not only the king’s anger, but death as a penalty."
Then he turned to the king and addressed him:
“So it is with you, O King! You know that Ephigenia has become the spouse of the Eternal King and is consecrated with the sacred veil. How can you take the spouse of One who is more powerful than you and make her your wife?”
Filled with rage and hatred, the King left the church. When the Mass was concluded, he sent a swordsman with the order to kill St. Matthew. Finding St. Matthew standing before the altar with his hands raised to Heaven in prayer, he stabbed the Apostle in the back, killing him and making him a martyr.
Learning of this, the indignant people ran to the royal palace to take revenge for that crime, but the priests restrained them and advised them to follow the funeral of the Saint instead. Hirtacus then had a huge fire ignited around the convent of St. Ephigenia to kill her and the virgins. But St. Matthew appeared to them and turned the fire away from the convent and towards the royal palace, which was completely consumed along with all in it. Only the King and his son managed to escape.
The Prince immediately ran to the tomb of St. Matthew confessing his father’s crimes and asking forgiveness. The King was stricken with a loathsome leprosy and took his life with his own sword. The people chose as king the brother of Ephigenia. He reigned for 70 years spreading the cult of Christ and building churches throughout Ethiopia.
O Glorious Saint Matthew, in your Gospel you portray Jesus as the longed-for Messiah who fulfilled the Prophets of the Old Covenant and as the new Lawgiver who founded a Church of the New Covenant. Obtain for us the grace to see Jesus living in his Church and to follow his teachings in our lives on earth so that we may live forever with him in heaven. Amen.