Feastday: September 21
At the time that Jesus summoned him to follow Him, Matthew was a
publican, that is, a tax-collector for the Romans. His profession was
hateful to the Jews because it reminded them of their subjection; the
publican, also, was regarded by the pharisees as the typical sinner. St.
Matthew is known to us principally as an Evangelist. He was the first to
put down in writing our Lord's teaching and the account of His life. His
Gospel was written in Aramaic, the language that our Lord Himself
No one was more shunned by the Jews than a publican, who was a Jew
working for the Roman enemy by robbing his own people and making a large
personal profit. Publicans were not allowed to trade, eat, or even pray
with others Jews.
One day, while seated at his table of books and money, Jesus looked
at Matthew and said two words: "Follow me." This was all that
was needed to make Matthew rise, leaving his pieces of silver to follow
Christ. His original name, "Levi," in Hebrew signifies
"Adhesion" while his new name in Christ, Matthew, means
"Gift of God." The only other outstanding mention of Matthew in
the Gospels is the dinner party for Christ and His companions to which he
invited his fellow tax-collectors. The Jews were surprised to see Jesus
with a publican, but Jesus explained that he had come "not to call
the just, but sinners."
St. Matthew is known to us principally as an Evangelist, with his Gospel
being the first in the New Testament. His Gospel was written in Aramaic,
the language that our Lord Himself spoke and was written to convince the
Jews that their anticipated Messiah had come in the person of
Not much else is known about Matthew. According to tradition, he preached
in Egypt and Ethiopia and further places East. Some legends say he lived
until his nineties, dying a peaceful death, others say he died a martyr's
In the traditional symbolization of the evangelists, based on Ezech.
1:5-10 and Rev. 4:6-7, the image of the winged man is accorded to Matthew
because his Gospel begins with the human genealogy of Christ.