St. Matthew was one of the Twelve Apostles and is traditionally considered the author of the gospel that bears his name.
Pope Benedict XVI explained: “His name in Hebrew means “gift of God”. The first canonical Gospel, which goes under his name, presents him to us in the list of the Twelve, labelled very precisely: “the tax collector” (Matthew 10:3). Thus, Matthew is identified with the man sitting at the tax office whom Jesus calls to follow him: “As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax office; and he said to him, “Follow me’. And he rose and followed him” (Matthew 9:9).”
In Judaea at the time of Christ, tax collectors had a terrible reputation. They were seen as great sinners – greedy swindlers who worked for the Romans. This makes the call of St Matthew all the more significant. Asked why he mingled with sinners such as tax-collectors, Christ said: “I have come to call not the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:13) In other words, the call to follow Christ was not just for the perfect – it was for the good, the bad and the ugly.
The pope added a further thought on St Matthew’s invitation to be a disciple: “Matthew responds instantly to Jesus’ call: “he rose and followed him”. The brevity of the sentence clearly highlights Matthew’s readiness in responding to the call. For him it meant leaving everything, especially what guaranteed him a reliable source of income, even if it was often unfair and dishonourable. Evidently, Matthew understood that familiarity with Jesus did not permit him to pursue activities of which God disapproved.”
St Matthew, also known as ‘Levi’ (cf. Mark 2:14; Luke 5:27) was one of the four evangelists (gospel-writers). His gospel was particularly directed towards his fellow-Jews. As such, he repeatedly emphasised how Christ’s life fulfilled various prophecies that were included in the Old Testament (Matthew 1:22; 2:15; 13:35; 21:4; 26:54 etc).
In this Byzantine-style painting by the artist Alexander Sidorov, St Matthew is pictured holding his gospel and also a moneybag. These are symbols of his roles as an evangelist and previous career as a tax-collector. The painting is one of a series of murals that cover the sanctuary of the church of the Immaculate Conception & St Joseph in Hertford. The murals are of all twelve apostles, as well as the Evangelists. They were painted in 1996, as part of a renovation of the church. Below you can see both St Matthew and the sanctuary as a whole, complete with the other images that Sidorov painted.
See the full image:
Alexander Sidorov / St Matthew the Apostle / Mural / 1996
And the sanctuary as a whole:
Where to find this work of art
Immaculate Conception & St Joseph, Hertford
Read the relevant passage
On a similar theme
- From the Old Testament: St Matthew opens his gospel by presenting Christ as “the son of David”, the great king of Israel.
- From the New Testament: St Matthew was one of The Twelve Apostles called by Christ to share in his mission.