September 21: St. Matthew, Apostle, Evangelist


As Jesus was walking along, He saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him.

And as He sat at dinner in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came and were sitting with Him and His disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when He heard this, He said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”

St. Matthew 9.9-13


Matthew appears in the gospels as a tax collector for the Roman government in the city of Capernaum. He was probably born in Galilee of a Jewish family, although the Jews of the day despised the tax collectors (or “publicans”) and generally excluded them from the activities of the Jewish community.

Matthew (whose name means “gift from God”) may originally been known as Levi, and given his new name after joining Jesus’ followers.

Little is known of St. Matthew’s life beyond the story of his calling, recounted in the scripture reading above, when at the word of Jesus he left his desk and devoted himself to the work of discipleship. Tradition suggests that he was the oldest of the apostles, and there are stories of his preaching in Ethiopia and Persia and dying a martyr’s death.

St. Matthew’s Day has always been observed on September 21 in the Western Church (November 16 in the Eastern). It was on St. Matthew’s Day in 1522 that Martin Luther’s German translation of the New Testament was published, and there is a woodcut of the time showing Luther as the Evangelist Matthew working on the Bible.

— From Festivals and Commemorations by Philip H. Pfatteicher


Almighty God, your Son our Savior called a despised collector of taxes to become one of His apostles. Help us, like Matthew, to respond to the transforming call of Your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. AMEN

— Pastor Stickley