For the World
For the World

For the World

Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time. Fr Dermot Morrin meditates upon St Matthew’s personal experience of Jesus.

‘You are the salt of the earth.’ ‘You are the light of the world.’ Of the four evangelists only Matthew records these two sayings. Jesus doesn’t call Matthew the tax collector to follow him until later on. The most personal and pivotal event of his life is recorded in a single verse in chapter 9. He says more about the feast which followed and Jesus calling sinners to follow him. But if Matthew the evangelist and Matthew the tax collector are one and the same man, perhaps this tax collector was among crowds who followed Jesus up the mountain to hear him teach.

The tax collector would have a view of his compatriots which was different. Although the shameful way he made his living distanced him from others, it may also have given him another perspective. The man who wrote this gospel would have seen their plight. They came to him, no doubt, in poverty and humiliation, in anger and frustration at the Roman occupation, with deep resentment of the Roman taxes and a hatred of the likes of him because he made his living at their expense. The writer in Matthew would have understood with what ease they could conjure up an awaited king from their bitterness of heart and their powerlessness; how easily they could fashion for him a sword sharpened on the hard rock of their despair. They would have clothed their king in purple and cloth of gold; the one God would send to deliver them and usher in a new freedom of which they could only dream.

But when Matthew saw Jesus, didn’t he see just someone rather ordinary? Were not his hands those of a working man, hardened and callused from the lathe and the saw, not trained to hold a sword and the like? But Matthew knew the infinite depth of this man’s compassion and love; how he would forgive not seven but seventy times seven. He heard this man explain the deepest of truths about God and about us to the ordinary folk. He spoke of the things that people saw, tasted and touched every day, such as the smell of newly baked bread in the morning, a neighbour borrowing a loaf from another, salt and light, the beauty of flowers growing wild in a field, a youthful head, thick with hairs too numerous to count, a flock of birds in flight, the sun rising, storms, wind and rain. He talked of things they knew about, like the sowing of seeds, the way some seed always fell by the wayside and birds eat them up, how wine was made from grapes, how a field of standing corn turned to gold in the sun, the joy of the harvest, the solidity of rocks and the shifting of sands, and the importance of a solid foundation on which you could build your house. He showed them the things of God and his kingdom using the bits and pieces of ordinary life.

They, and Matthew too, sensed his unique authority through the impression he made on everyone. They noted that his accent was not the learned tongue of a scribe, but the ‘thick tongued mumble’ of a countryman from the north. He spoke and Matthew, not only heard, but listened and remembered. And when he came to write all this down, perhaps he could still hear that country man’s voice ringing in his ears; whispering in what he now knew was the voice of the Spirit: you are salt, you are light.

Readings: Isaiah 58:7-10 | 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 | Matthew 5:13-16

Image: detail from ‘Let’s Drink to the Salt of the Earth’ by F Delventhal (CC BY 2.0)

fr. Dermot Morrin is Superior in the house of St Albert the Great in Edinburgh.

Comments (3)

  • Emma D'Aeth

    Thank you Fr Dermot for a beautiful homily, your words have lifted my soul. Thank you.

  • Catherine

    What a beautiful and insightful picture of Jesus also of Matthew. I find it very hard to picture Jesus. The gospels give little detail so this is very helpful. Thank you.

  • Ameh Emmanuel

    Quite inspiring. Thanks alot Fr. Dermot.


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