I was speaking to a class of seventh graders about vocations – to marriage, priesthood and consecrated life. One by one I asked the children if they knew what they wanted to be when they got older. One little boy startled me and said “I want to make lots of money!”That is not an uncommon response. In our culture today many children are programmed to want to grow up and make lots of money. Our late Holy Father Pope John Paul II said true happiness comes when we give ourselves away – happiness comes through “self-gift”.
Our saint today is a wonderful model regarding “making money” and self-gift. St. Matthew, the apostle and evangelist, and author of our first Gospel, was a tax collector and made a lot of money. In fact he was an outcast among the Jewish people because he skimmed off money from their taxes for his own income. But then Jesus Christ came into his life and he was drawn away from his riches to a life of self-gift.
In the Office of Readings today St. Bede writes about St. Matthew’s call:
Jesus saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax office, and he said to him: Follow me. Jesus saw Matthew, not merely in the usual sense, but more significantly with his merciful understanding of men. He saw the tax collector and, because he saw him through the eyes of mercy and chose him, he said to him: Follow me. This following meant imitating the pattern of his life – not just walking after him. St. John tells us: Whoever says he abides in Christ ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. And he rose and followed him. There is no reason for surprise that the tax collector abandoned earthly wealth as soon as the Lord commanded him. Nor should one be amazed that neglecting his wealth, he joined a band of men whose leader had, on Matthew’s assessment, no riches at all. Our Lord summoned Matthew by speaking to him in words. By an invisible, interior impulse flooding his mind with the light of grace, he instructed him to walk in his footsteps. In this way Matthew could understand that Christ, who was summoning him away from earthly possessions, had incorruptible treasures of heaven in his gift.
Through an impulse of grace – through conversion – Matthew was able to detach himself from his earthly possessions. We certainly need money and possessions in order to live in our society today. But do we need to make “lots of money?” Ask Jesus for a deep impulse of grace in your life and perhaps you will find the answer.