Today is the Feast of St. Matthew. He was once Levi, the Tax Collector who Jesus saw collecting his taxes at the customs house. Zefferelli brilliantly portrayed the dynamic between Peter and Matthew in his film Jesus of Nazareth. Peter held Matthew in contempt for taking his hard-earned money and giving it to the Roman coffers. Things haven't changed that much between then and now because taxes have still to be paid in order for the machinery of the state to keep moving. And certainly people feel it in their pockets more and more when the exchequer seems to ask people to pay more.
All of us dislike when the official envelope comes through the mail box asking for taxes to be paid or when we see it deducted from the pay cheque. Here in Ireland there is a dislike for the 'clamper vans' and parking attendants who fine cars for being illegally parked or parked over the allotted time. I once parked in south county Dublin near the sea-side to go in to buy an ice cream. I pulled the car up onto the pathway and off the road so as not to cause an obstruction. There were about 15 or 20 cars all parked in the same way. I came back to the car and there was a parking fine on the windscreen. The parking fine attendants were making their way along the row of cars fining all of us. Now, I was parked illegally, I hold my hands up, no arguments there. But that ice cream cost me €80.00. In fairness these people are only doing their jobs and they have to pay taxes too.
With the contempt for the tax collector in the gospels, the one who got his more than his fair share of criticism had to have been Zacchaeus. He was described dishonest in his dealings and even more he was 'low sized' so that he had to climb the sycamore tree to get a glimpse of Jesus as he passed by. Yet, Jesus comes into his life and calls him to a better way. We can see the results of an encounter with Jesus. Matthew too is called to be a disciple and goes on to write a beautiful gospel.
Today, we are called by Jesus as powerfully as he called Matthew. Even though Matthew was seen as a sinner and a tax collector he went on to bring the good news of Jesus to the world. To all who might ask the question 'Why would Jesus bother with the likes of me?' Look at the gospels read the accounts of Matthew or Zacchaeus. There are people who hardly ever pick up the bible or the gospels and read the words of life within, but we are called to be the bible others will read. We are called to reflect Jesus Christ by our example.