Today is the feast of St. Matthew. St. Bede the Venerable wrote a beautiful piece on the calling of St. Matthew, which we read this morning in the Office of Readings. Here it is, in part. (My translation into English.)
“Jesus saw a man, called Matthew, seated at the tax collector’s bench, and he said to him, “Follow me!” (Mt. 9:9). He saw him not so much with the eyes of the body, as much as with the eye of interior goodness. He saw a publican and, since he saw him with love, he chose him, and he said to him, “Follow me!” He said, “Follow me!”, that is, imitate me. Follow me, he said, not so much by walking with the feet, as much as by lifestyle. In fact, “Whosoever claims to live in Christ must live his life as Jesus lived his.” (1 John 2:6).
“In fact the same Lord that externally called him with a word, also instructed him internally by an invisible prompting to follow him. He infused into his mind a light of spiritual grace with which he was able to comprehend how Jesus was uprooting him from temporal things of this earth and was able to give him the incorruptible things of heaven.” — St. Bede, Homily 21, CCL 122, 149.
I am always amazed at how the ancient Church Fathers wrote about the Scriptures. Back at the Gregorian University in the 70s, I really didn’t like Patrology (study of the writings of the Church Fathers), but with age and a deeper study of theology in recent decades, I have come to appreciate it much more.
Here St. Bede talks about not only the external call of St. Matthew, but the internal, invisible calling that he theologizes occurred. In that way, he makes Matthew’s experience of conversion one all of us can relate to in some fashion.
True conversion is always a radical change, even if the conversion process is gradual, which for most of us it is. Yet, there are many of us who have experienced what can only be called a minor miracle, a moment in which our lives were wrenched away from a former life and impelled almost toward that which is good, true and holy…. God. As St. Bede says, God at times “infuses” a spiritual grace within us which we find we must follow.