Follow Me: Why Matthew Followed Jesus

Photo shows an ancient synagogue amid the ruins of Capernaum

We recently celebrated the Feast Day of St. Matthew, when the Church remembers one of the Lord’s apostles and his conversion. Matthew’s conversion occurred in Capernaum, by the Sea of Galilee, where he worked as a tax collector. (That was not a popular job; most tax collectors in those days were known to ‘cheat’ from others.)

While in Capernaum, Jesus sees “a man called Matthew sitting at the tax office, and he said to him: Follow me. And he got up and followed him.” (Matthew 9:9). I always found this passage intriguing… how someone who hears the words of Jesus to follow him, gets up, leaves everything and follows!

Saint Bede, in one of his homilies explains it very well:

Jesus saw Matthew not merely in the usual sense, but more significantly with his merciful understanding of man. […] Our Lord summoned Matthew by speaking to him in words. By an invisible, interior impulse flooding his mind with the light of grace, he instructed him to walk in his footsteps. In this way, Matthew could understand that Christ, who was summoning him away from earthly possessions, hand incorruptible treasures of heaven in his gift.

We can take those same words from Saint Bedes’s homily directed to us: Jesus sees you/me! When we experience the gaze of the Son of God, our Savior, how can we not be changed? Whether that gaze is an experience at a retreat, an encounter in prayer, by meeting someone, on pilgrimage, or even through trials and suffering; the gaze of Christ can reach our interiority and flood our minds with the light of grace.