Matthew, the Evangelist who wrote the Gospel that appears first in the New Testament, was different from the other Apostles. He was not a popular man. Many people felt that he was unworthy to be a chosen as a follower of Jesus. Matthew worked for the Romans as a tax collector. The Romans ruled Palestine and the Jewish people in the time of Jesus. They forced the Jewish people to pay taxes to them. Many of the tax collectors cheated the people by charging more taxes than required and keeping the extra money for themselves. The Jews considered the tax collectors traitors.
In Chapter 9 of his Gospel, Matthew tells a story about how Jesus called him to follow him and how the Jewish people felt about tax collectors. You can read it in Matthew 9:9-13. In this story, the Pharisees, a group of Jews who strictly followed all the laws of their religion, call tax collectors “sinners. “ Jesus knew in his heart that Matthew was not a sinner or a cheat.
Matthew wrote his Gospel for Jewish people who had become followers of Christ. He wanted his audience to know that Jesus was the Messiah that God had promised to send to save all people. Matthew’s Gospel makes clear that Jesus is the fulfillment of everything said by the prophets in the Old Testament.
Matthew is also the only Evangelist who shares the eight Beatitudes with his readers. His Gospel faithfully reports how Jesus described who will be truly blessed by God in the Kingdom and the attitudes and actions that are required for those who follow the new Law Jesus came to bring.
After Jesus’ Ascension, Matthew preached the Gospel, as Jesus asked his disciples to do. It is believed that he established Christian communities in Ethiopia and other sections of the continent of Africa. Tradition tells us that he died as a martyr.
The symbol for Matthew’s Gospel is a man with wings. Matthew wrote about Jesus’ Incarnation and his Gospel makes clear that Jesus was true God and true man. Matthew is the patron saint of bankers, because he dealt with money as a tax collector. But anyone who reads Matthew’s Gospel knows that money was not important to him. What was important was believing in and living as a follower of Christ. Matthew helps us to remember that it is our faith in Jesus that makes us truly rich!
In addition to being the patron saint of our parish, St. Matthew is the patron saint for accountants, bankers, bookkeepers and tax collectors.