The Feast Day of St. Matthew
“He got up and followed him.” This bit of the story of Matthew the tax collector who left his booth to become one of Jesus’ disciples rings like a gong in my soul today. He got up. He heard Jesus’ invitation, and it brought him to his feet. I imagine him blinking, a little bewildered to find himself standing. Would he have grabbed his quill and his ledger, and, of course, the bag of collected taxes before trailing the Master through the crowd? What would he have done with those things later, when he knew he wasn’t going back?
He followed him. Unlike the fishermen, Peter, James and John, Matthew would likely not have had his profession to fall back on when things went bad and Jesus was killed. It was an inherently corrupt occupation, and besides, the Romans would never have trusted him again.
We know so little about most of Jesus’ disciples. We hear the story of all of them together: afraid in a boat, angry at John and James, worrying that they didn’t bring bread, going out in twos to heal and proclaim the word. And there are some legends about their lives after the Resurrection. It’s a pittance, really.
What we have instead are our own stories. “He got up and followed him.” This is the central line in the tales of most of the people who have been my teachers and guides. In their lives, once or many times, they got up. In support of refugees, of the undocumented, of the homeless – to speak truth to power, to consecrate bread and wine, to comfort the sick, the anguished, the dying – they stood. They took upon themselves the hard tasks of love, in the service of Christ. They followed him.
What more do I need than that? These shining examples of compassion and truth-telling in the cold murk, the terror, the inhumanity of the world as it is these days are candle flames of hope. They bring me face to face with my own decisions and actions. When have I stood up? Am I standing up now?
Please, may I follow Jesus. Let me live into my deepest, Christ-centered nature. May I be a person of love.
Laurie Gudim is a religious iconographer and writer who lives with her partner of 30 years and her sister in Fort Collins, Colorado. Some of her icons can be seen at http://everydaymysteries.com/, and check out her novel, a progressive Christian story, at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B074G137V8/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1