Homilies Saints

Reluctant Followers | Homily for Feast of Saint Matthew

Our Gospel today is beautiful — and yet so frustratingly simple.

Jesus says to Matthew the Tax-Collector, “Follow me.” And Matthew gets right up… and follows the Lord immediately.

End of story. No other details are provided. For all we know, there was no struggle in Matthew’s heart. No anxious hesitation or battle of the will. He simply gets up… and follows. So simple! So quick!

It’s probably an understatement, but this has not been my experience in following the Lord. I am too often a reluctant disciple. So I don’t know about you, but when I hear the story of the calling of St. Matthew, he seems to have it really easy. He is so receptive to God’s call! So prompt to respond to His Voice! He abandoned his post without looking back!

I want to be more simple like Saint Matthew!

Perhaps you can relate? Is your relationship with God often a daily struggle? Maybe sometimes you lose sight of the goal of your faith — and you forget what it was like when Jesus first spoke to your heart with those same incredible words Matthew heard: “Follow me!” 

You may even begin to wonder at times — “Am I really cut out for this? Why is it so hard to follow You with my whole heart, Jesus?” 

Wouldn’t it be great to just be more like St. Matthew?

Thankfully, St. Paul’s words from our first reading today are a source of great encouragement and comfort for us. 

He writes to the Ephesians saying:

“Brothers and sisters, I urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace”

These words seem almost to balance the radical promptness of Saint Matthew’s response. Paul exhorts us to “live in a manner worthy of the call” we received. It is the same exact call Matthew received from Jesus — “Follow me!” It is a proposal that demands a yes or a no. 

But remember… be patient! Bear with one another through love! Be humble. Be gentle.

In other words: The radical call of Jesus to follow Him without reservation is for each and every one of us. There are no halfway-saints. You cannot both follow and not-follow Jesus at the same time!

And yet — and this is so crucial to remember — we also need to be patient — patient with ourselves and with our neighbor. Holiness is not magic. In fact, it usually takes an entire lifetime to grow into, with lots of failure and forgiveness along the way. By God’s tender, patient grace, we find the courage to turn back to Him again and again — until finally, as St. Paul himself puts it, “we all attain the full stature of Christ.”

This is such a great proof of the Lord’s mercy and love toward us: That even when we are broken, imperfect, and sometimes even reluctant followers, His call stands firmly unshaken: “Follow me.”

By Anthony Ferguson

Anthony Ferguson is a transitional deacon preparing for the priesthood of Jesus Christ for the Catholic Diocese of Richmond. He is currently assigned at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Petersburg, VA

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