Feast of Saint Matthew
Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-13
When I was a boy, I lived for awhile in a residence housing a maiden aunt, not much older than myself. Saturday evenings were important to her, for that was when she was more likely to get a phone call asking her out on a date. That phone call meant the world to her. Unfortunately, we were on the old-fashioned party line system with our phone, sharing the line with several neighbors, one of whom was a bookie named, appropriately, Fink (Martin). Fink tended to dominate the system, allowing very few calls to squeak through "his business enterprise" to other parties on the line, such as ourselves. On one particular Saturday evening, while my aunt was sitting close by the phone, a call managed to break through to our number and she leaped up to answer it before Fink butted in. Unfortunately, her foot was asleep, and she broke her ankle. The call remained unanswered, ruining her Saturday night.
Calls are important in many other settings too, such as our bible readings for the day illustrate. When we reflect on Paul’s message to the church in Ephesus, we note his reference to "the call" the church received to, in citing "the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all…" (3-6). This was an important call, even more so than the above call. It was to everyone on the party line, ourselves included.
And when we listen to today’s gospel account of Matthew’s following of Jesus, we again note the prominence that "call" played in Matthew’s discipleship of Jesus. "He said to him, "Follow me." And he got up and followed him." (9) What is more, Matthew, enjoying a position at the customs post, played the part of caller himself, inviting not only Jesus but "many tax collectors and sinners" to table in his house (10), giving Jesus, overhearing some criticism of this guest list, the opportunity to amplify on the significance of call in gathering this group: "I did not come to call the righteous but sinners." (13)
The call is an important element in the lives of us all. "Don’t call me, I’ll call you" is the leitmotif of the party line we enjoy with God. Like my aunt, or Matthew, or even Fink, the call dominates the flow of events in our lives. We don’t initiate the call. We sit back and wait for it. God takes the initiative. We sit nearby, awaiting it. It will determine not only our Saturday nights, or the odds at the track, but it will spell out the dimensions of our lives, as Matthew found out. We are in the position of one waiting for an opportunity to emerge. It can make our day, as Clint Eastwood famously remarked.
While it is true that God appreciates entrepreneurs (does He not help those who help themselves?), He does so only on behalf of those who recognize incoming calls/opportunities, and leap up to answer them. Like Matthew, who was quick to get up from his customs post when Jesus said to him: "Follow me".
Fr. Sebastian MacDonald, C.P. is a member of the Passionist formation community at Catholic Theological Union, Chicago.