Friday, 21 September 2007

Saint Matthew the Evangelist

The Name

The proper name and title of Matthew the Evangelist is debated.

The gospel accounts discuss a man named Matthew only five times, and the first occurrence of his name is found in Matthew 9:9. It is possible that James, son of Alphaeus, had been distinguished from James, son of Zebedee by the former's other name "Levi" and that James, son of Alphaeus was called to the Apostolate along with Matthew.

Believers of this interpretation point to the fact that both Mark and Luke call him simply "Matthew" in their lists of the Apostles as does Matthew himself. However, the Catholic Encyclopedia asserts that Matthew once could have been called "Levi", according to Mark 2:14 and Luke 5:27. The Encyclopedia also states that "The fact of one man having two names is of frequent occurrence among the Jews."

Other gospel passages that refer to Matthew or Levi are Mark 2:1-22 and Luke 5:27-39.

Very little about Matthew's life is certain. The Gospel of Matthew introduces him as a publican, or tax-collector, probably near Capernaum.
Some contend that Matthew's father, Alphaeus, may be the same Alphaeus who was father to the apostle, James (also called James the Lesser), and that the two were brothers. However, the Gospels never describe Matthew as John's brother, even in passages where John and James or Peter and Andrew are described as brothers.
According to Luke's Gospel, on the same day Jesus called him, he made a "great feast" (Luke 5:29) to which he invited Jesus and his disciples.

The last notice of him in the New Testament is in Acts 1:13. He is one of the few disciples mentioned by name in the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas, suggesting he was of more importance in the early Church than surviving evidence indicates. It is said [citation needed] that he preached the gospel for a long time after the Ascension and carried it all the way to Ethiopia, where he was killed.
The time and manner of Matthew's death are also unclear. According to Edward Ullendorff, the seventh book of a work he calls the "Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles" contains an account of the baptism of King Aeglippus of Ethiopia by Matthew, after having travelled to its capital, Naddayer. However, Matthew is said to have been killed by Aeglippus' brother, Hyrtacus, when he took the throne. Hyrtacus is said to have killed Matthew because the evangelist refused to sanction his marriage to Epiphigenia, Aeglippus' daughter.

Other traditions say that Matthew was martyred in Hierapolis of Parthia. According to Epiphanius, Bishop of Cyprus, Matthew was martyred in Hierapolis, and Saint Matthias, who replaced Judas Iscariot among the twelve Apostles, is actually the one who died in Ethiopia. Recently, there have been some controversial investigations into a fourteenth-century document assigning Matthew's burial site to a place called "Issyk-Kul."

Matthews relics are claimed to have been carried to Campania, in the Diocese of Capaccio. Retrieved by Lombards, they were moved to Salerno, where they are currently kept in the Cathedral's crypt.

"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.

from a homily by Saint Bede the Venerable

" We thank thee, Heavenly Father, for the witness of your apostle and evangelist Matthew to the Gospel of your Son our Saviour; and we pray that, after his example, we may with ready hearts, minds and wills 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, forever and ever. Amen"

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