21st Sep, 2003

Feast of St Matthew




The calling of St Matthew, not in isolation, not in a vacuum, but in the context of Christ’s healing ministry: Christ interrupts his travels around Galilee and sees this man in the midst of his daily work. Saint Matthew was a tax collector, and despised by his Jewish contemporaries: employed by the occupying pagan Romans, he was indeed considered a sinner, a betrayer of his people’s culture religion and honour. But Christ goes out of his way to call him and desire his company: Put at its most simple and straight forward this is what Christian discipleship is: that each of us are called to respond, not because of some righteousness, holiness, beauty or hidden respectability – but we are called because Christ wants to be with us – he desires us, Christ longs for us. And he calls us precisely where we are – Christ calls you rich and poor, high and low, great and small. That is the miracle of discipleship, as any of the candidates for confirmation at this morning’s High Mass will tell you – they may not have sorted out all their doubts, they may have even more questions now than they did when they started the confirmation classes five months ago, but what they have done is responded to the call.

St. Matthew’s response to that call – or another that Christ issued the call, the invitation in the first placed shocked, scandalized and angered the puritan observers – those religious people who watched all of this from a distance, the ones who stood aside and carped and criticized, the ones who would do anything except get involved themselves. If we admit it there is a bit of that puritan in most of us – most of us see those Salvation Army workers in Downtown Los Angeles on the night ministry soup run and most of us think if we’re good, serious hearted people, “Thank God for the Salvation Army.” Why is it that we get uppity, crotchety and critical?

In my second Parish, Skewen, they used to say, “Those people that go to Church, that call themselves Christians, are so hypocritical – they’re mean and nasty.” I always said – “Well, you think that’s bad, imagine just how much worse they would be if they DIDN’T go to Church!”

That is one of the gifts that this place has – ironically, when you think of how High Church and complicated our services can be! – we are an accepting community, each of us struggling with questions and doubts, and half commitments – but we have heard Christ’s voice and are prepared to respond.

If discipleship and following Christ are about relationship with Christ and with one another, then that gives each of us hope and courage.

Some mornings I wake up and I think, “Lord, what sense am I going to make of today – Lord, what am I going to do with this anger, this resentment, that there are so many horrific, evil things happening in the world? Should I even bother saying my prayers?” And then I come to the Eight O’Clock Mass, and you make it worthwhile. If I ask these questions then you have asked them all before, more articulately, and you persevere and that gives ME courage and hope.

May God who has given courage and hope and grace to begin the work of discipleship in each of you and in those who are to be confirmed this day bring it to completion, in the name of the Father, † and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.



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