St. Matthew the Evangelist,
Sculpted by Camillo Rusconi (1658-1728),
Carved Carrara marble,
Sculpted circa 1715
© Basilica of St. John Lateran, Rome

St. Matthew the Evangelist,
Sculpted by Camillo Rusconi (1658-1728),
Carved Carrara marble,
Sculpted circa 1715
© Basilica of St. John Lateran, Rome

Gospel of 21 September 2020

Feast of Saint Matthew: Apostle & Evangelist

Matthew 9:9-13

As Jesus was walking on, he saw a man named Matthew sitting by the customs house, and he said to him, 'Follow me.' And he got up and followed him.

While he was at dinner 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: What I want is mercy, not sacrifice. And indeed I did not come to call the virtuous, but sinners.'

Reflection on the Sculpture

Today we celebrate the feast of Saint Matthew, apostle and evangelist. Before meeting Jesus, Matthew was a tax collector. Tax collectors were notorious for being dishonest, greedy individuals, seen as working for the Roman oppressors. Tax collectors would often exploit taxpayers by exacting more than was required by the state and pocketing the difference for themselves. So their reputation was very negative to say the least. And yet it is such a man that Jesus calls to be one of His disciples. Jesus can redeem anyone. But Matthew had to give his response to Jesus' calling. When Jesus first saw Matthew and said 'Follow me', Matthew's response was one of immediate obedience and enthusiasm. He directly abandoned his job and became one of Jesus' Apostles.

The sculpture we are looking at today is at St John Lateran in Rome and is magnificent in its high Baroque style. Camillo Rusconi sculpted the four apostles, monumental in size, and completed the commission in 1718. The colossal sculpture of Saint Matthew shows him holding his Gospel, whilst standing on a sack of coins, referring to his previous life. Saint Matthew's expression is one of concentration and sole focus on the book he is holding.

On today's feast day of Saint Matthew and in our Gospel reading, we know Jesus can call anyone to do anything: he called a tax collector to follow him and go on to write one of the Gospels. Matthew on hearing the call, just got up and followed Christ… a generous response… one without delay or hesitation…

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