Homily by Fr Michael Brehl, CSsR on the Feast of St. Matthew

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Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ our Redeemer,

Today in the context of this second week of our Canonical Phase as General Chapter, we celebrate an extraordinary feast: St. Matthew, Apostle. The Gospel tells the story of his vocation: “Follow me”, and Matthew got up and followed Jesus.

The call of Matthew was a great shock to the other disciples. They were honest labourers, good religious men, and women. But Matthew, he was a collaborator with the oppressors, a public sinner, a tax collector!

But this call is only the beginning. Amazed that he has been called by Jesus, Matthew opens his home, he gathers other tax collectors and sinners to sit at the table and eat with Jesus, and with the other disciples. What a shock this must have been not only for the Pharisees, but also for James and John, for Simon Peter and Andrew, and for all the others. But Matthew knew his new mission: if Jesus can call and welcome me to follow him, he will also welcome all the others who are so often ‘left out’. God desires mercy, not holy sacrifices. God calls all people – sinners and saints, healthy and sick, old and young, men and women… At God’s banquet there is room for all!

As Jesus walks along, he sees each of us this morning. Just like Matthew, he also calls each of us today: “Follow me!” That’s the meaning of this beautiful painting of Caravaggio. Notice that, in this painting, Matthew is dressed in the contemporary clothing of the 16th century – not like a tax collector in first-century Galilee! Matthew seems to respond to Jesus with a question – we see it in his eyes: “Who? Me? Are you serious???” Yes, Jesus is serious.

This morning, Jesus speaks to you, to me, and he calls us to follow him too. Today. Professed Redemptorists and Lay Partners, Priests, and Brothers, Women, and Men, Sisters and Wives… Young and Old… The moment is now! Jesus keeps on walking in our wounded world. Will we walk with him?

What does it mean to walk with him today? Matthew instinctively knew what we heard this morning in the first reading: Support one another with love, be one body, share one Spirit. Though we have different ministries, we all share one purpose – to build up the one Body of Christ.

As we walk with Jesus this week, he invites us to reflect on our Redemptorist identity, our mission, and today, our community. His call is urgent. Don’t delay, don’t let him pass by, and continue walking alone … With Jesus, we form one missionary body in one missionary Spirit. Together, let us build up the one Body of Christ in this wounded world of ours.

Mary, Mother of Mercy, help us to understand your Son’s call: “I desire mercy, not sacrifices. I have come to call sinners”. Poor sinners that we are, we ask you to accompany us on our journey as missionary disciples, today and always. Amen!

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