Today we celebrate the feast of St. Matthew, the apostle. He’s an interesting character because as a tax collector for the Roman authorities, he was hated by the Jews. He was among the low of the low of society, and yet he became the evangelist to the Jewish people and among the most memorable names in the bible. I also think Matthew was a remarkable man for his prompt, faithful response to Jesus’ call.
We first meet him when “… Jesus passed by, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post. He said to him, ‘Follow me.'” Matthew “got up and followed him.” (Mt 9:9-10)
Matthew’s immediate response challenges us all. He just got up & followed Jesus. No hesitation, he just went.
Jesus invites us to do the same. “Come follow me,” He calls. What is our response? Do we respond as quickly as Matthew? Probably sometimes yes and sometimes no.
What keeps us from promptly following Jesus? I believe there are 3 main things: fear, doubt, and sloth.
Fear: Fear is a lack of trust rooted in a lack of love. It might be that we don’t really believe that God loves enough to provide for our needs. It might be that we don’t love ourselves enough to believe that God wants the best for us. It might be that we really don’t believe that God does have our best interests at heart. The first letter of John tells us that “perfect love casts out all fear.”(1Jn 4:18) We grow in trust by trusting. We grow in love for God by loving in an abandoned way – the way a little child completely relies on his or her mom or dad – big hand in little hand walking side by side.
Doubt: Doubt varies slightly from fear. It is rooted more in disbelief. If you’re like me, a tape goes off in your head “You don’t really mean You want me to work with that person?” “You really don’t mean for us to have another baby now?” “I don’t know how to do this. I’ll fail.” “I can’t speak before that large crowd.” What God calls us to is often way outside our comfort zone. But remember, when God calls, He provides (1Thess 5:24). He does not always call the equipped, but He does equip those He calls.
Sloth: This is a tough one because it’s a real balancing act which requires careful and honest discernment. We’re all busy. We have our primary obligations to our vocation. We can neglect the Jesus at home while we’re out serving the Jesus in the world. We can, however, do just the opposite in the name of balance – neglect how God calls us to serve His people in the world, but using our primary obligations as a shield which keeps us from stretching ourselves in order to build up the kingdom. We need to carefully heed Jesus’ words in Matthew’s gospel, “His master said to him in reply, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I did not plant and gather where I did not scatter? Should you not then have put my money in the bank so that I could have got it back with interest on my return? Now then! Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten.” (Mt 25:26-28)
What’s the remedy? It starts first with prayer and the sacraments – praying daily to grow in the virtues where we are weak; frequenting the source of grace, the Eucharist; and seeking confession and spiritual direction. A constant companion to these ways should be the Word of God.
Memorize scripture and hide it in your heart. Scripture is a defense against the stinkin’ thinkin’ that can pervade our minds and inhibit our prompt response to the Lord. Wherever it is that you’re struggling, the bible has the answer for you. When the Word of God is planted in your heart, you can pick out like a flower to brighten the moment, to strengthen you, and to guide you.
- Not my will but Thine be done. (Lk 22:42)
- Fear is useless. What is needed is trust. (Mk 5:36)
- Nothing is impossible with God. (Lk 1:37)
- Trust in the LORD forever! For the LORD is an eternal Rock. (Is 26:4)
- The fear of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in the LORD is safe. (Pv 29:25)
- God indeed is my savior; I am confident and unafraid. My strength and my courage is the LORD, and he has been my savior. (Is 12:2)
- But I will call this to mind, as my reason to have hope: The favors of the LORD are not exhausted, his mercies are not spent; they are renewed each morning, so great is his faithfulness. (Lam 3:23)
- Lord I believe. Help my unbelief. (Mk 9:24)
- Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths. (Pv 3:5-6)
- Take delight in the Lord and He will grant you your heart’s desire. (Ps 37:4)
- Those who love me I also love, and those who seek me find me. (Pv 8:17)
- Your love is before my eyes; I walk guided by your faithfulness. (Ps 26:3)
- Cast all your cares upon him; for he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7)
- Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:6-7)
- Love never fails. (1 Cor 13:8)
I encourage you to use scripture as a weapon and a shield against the enemy who wants to keep us from follow Jesus more deeply and fully. Whatever it is that hinders your Matthew reply to the Lord, plant the Word of God in your heart to fight it. You will be amazed by what leaning on the word of God day in and day out can do in your daily life. “Indeed the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart,” (Heb 4:12) God’s word does not return void, but returns to God having achieved the end for which is was sent. (Is 55:11)
So today, choose a scripture to memorize and hide in your heart. Take it out often as you go through your day and the days ahead.
St. Matthew, the apostle, pray for us! Anne
I found a website that has a topical index to the bible. Thought you might find it helpful.