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The Everyday Prayer

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Icon of the Holy Face
Church of Sant'Egidio, Rome

Memory of St. Matthew, apostle and evangelist.

Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

If we die with him, we shall live with him,
if with him we endure, with him we shall reign.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Matthew 9, 9-13

As Jesus was walking on from there he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office, and he said to him, 'Follow me.' And he got up and followed him.

Now while he was at table in the house it happened that a number of tax collectors and sinners came to sit at the table with Jesus and his disciples.

When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, 'Why does your master eat with tax collectors and sinners?'

When he heard this he replied, 'It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick.

Go and learn the meaning of the words: Mercy is what pleases me, not sacrifice. And indeed I came to call not the upright, but sinners.'


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

If we die with him, we shall live with him,
if with him we endure, with him we shall reign.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Today the Church remembers Matthew, an Apostle and evangelist. He was called Levi and was a tax collector, a profession that was looked down on by his fellow countrymen; in fact he collected taxes for the foreigner rulers. But something unexpected and amazing happened to him. Jesus was walking by and saw him, and, instead of passing by spitefully like everyone else, he stopped and called him: “Follow me!” That word was sufficient for Matthew: “He got up and followed him.” For Jesus no one is foreign to the call of the Gospel, whatever his or her situation, even if it is ill-reputed like Matthew’s. It is not the situation that counts, but whether one welcomes the Gospel into one’s heart. This is what Matthew the tax collector did. And from that moment his life changed. Until that moment he had only thought about accumulating for himself; the moment he heard the teacher he only followed him. This was not a sacrifice for him rather a celebration. Matthew was so happy of being welcomed to follow the teacher that he planned a dinner with Jesus and invites his friends, tax collectors and sinners. It was a strange company that nonetheless prefigures the alliance between Christians and the poor for whom Jesus lived and preached. From that moment on, Matthew did not sit by the side of the road collecting taxes; he became a disciple and gathered sinners to celebrate around Jesus. The world did not understand what was happening, but this is the innovation of the Gospel and it upsets the majority of people: everyone, no one excluded, can be touched and everyone can change his or her life, especially sinners. Jesus clarifies to those who did not want to understand: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.” In fact, it is written: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” With the Gospel that carries his name, Matthew continues to remind us if the centrality of the Gospel of God: one is sufficient to change our life as it happened to him. Let us listen to it, like Matthew did, and let us follow Jesus as well.The Gospel tells us of a manager of an estate and his more or less legitimate dealings. The passage appears strange at first glance. It seems as though Jesus is offering the disciples the example of a man who deftly and fraudulently administers other peoples’ goods. But we have to put this Gospel passage in its context if we want to understand it correctly. In chapter 16, the evangelist Luke proposes Jesus’ teachings about the use of wealth. These are somewhat connected in the previous chapter where the story of the “prodigal son” shows the problems caused by the desire to use wealth only for oneself. In short, the Gospel text indicates that the problem is not in wealth itself, but in the heart of the person who uses it, as is written in the Gospel of Matthew, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Mt 6:21). The pivotal questions are: where do we put our hearts and where do we direct our deepest concerns.
In this context, Jesus speaks of the manager who is accused before his master of having performed his duties in an illicit way. He must have been charged with something blatant, because the master decides to dismiss him immediately, giving him the time only to prepare his accounts and hand them over. But the story takes an unexpected turn. The manager is faced with two impossible alternatives: he can either beg or dig ditches, two ways out of his situation that he cannot accept. To avoid them he comes up with one last way to swindle his master. He goes around to his master’s debtors and succeeds in corrupting them and having them discount the amount of money they owe. In return they agree to take him in and support him after his dismissal. What emerges is the figure of a man with few scruples. It is amazing then to read the conclusion the evangelist gives the story: “His master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly” (v. 8).
It is obvious that the master does not approve of being robbed twice. He is, however, surprised by the manager’s ability to get out of the trouble his dishonest conduct had gotten him into. In short, Jesus does not praise trickery. Much less does he recommend that his disciples cunningly steal and use the money to make friends. Indeed, the manager is not numbered among the “children of light,” he is one of the “children of this age.” It is the man’s shrewdness in securing his salvation that is held up as an example. Jesus wants to transfer the shrewdness that most people use in daily life to the level of salvation. In other words, Jesus seems to be telling his listeners, “How does this manager obtain his salvation? How does he keep from digging ditches and begging? How is he securing his future?” And the answer, “By being generous towards debtors.” In effect, the manager’s future and his life itself depended on his generosity. And so he used it to bind himself to the debtors. And Jesus adds, “Make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into eternal homes” (v. 9).
‘Make friends for ourselves.’ But we need to be careful. Friendship cannot be bought; it is built with the generosity of a ready and willing heart. This is the crux of today’s parable: generosity towards debtors (the poor and the weak) saves our lives and our future. Be friends with the poor and you will be saved. This is the shrewdness the Gospel asks of us, its disciples, today. It is also asking this shrewdness of the rich countries of our world so that they too will understand that their salvation, including their earthly salvation, depends on a renewed attention to poor countries by not abandoning them to their problems, but, why not!, on erasing the debts that they will never be able to pay and that would push them closer and closer to the edge of the abyss.
The best commentary on this parable is given perhaps in the words of Jesus as reported by Paul in his farewell to the leaders of the community of Ephesus, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). Paul left them with these words as a summary of what was important in life. It is a simple message about the path to happiness and joy. Why are we sad? Why are our days often joyless? We have not understood that joy is not in receiving, but in giving. As used as we are to looking out for ourselves, as used as we are to amassing things for ourselves, sometimes even senselessly, we are unable to taste the beauty of generosity and free-giving, the joy of giving one’s life for others. We are not talking about heroism. Sometimes it is enough to give an hour of your time - generously and freely - to someone who is in need and alone. It is enough to give a thread of friendship, some concrete aid, a visit in the hospital, or a simple word of comfort. We remember the other words spoken by Jesus, “I was hungry and you gave me food” (Mt 25:35). This is the road to joy. The other road, the road of defending and looking out for ourselves, leads to sadness.

Memory of the Apostles