Sarah lived one hundred twenty-seven years; this was the length of Sarah's life. And Sarah died at Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan; and Abraham went in to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her. Abraham rose up from beside his dead, and said to the Hittites, "I am a stranger and an alien residing among you; give me property among you for a burying place, so that I may bury my dead out of my sight." After this, Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Machpelah facing Mamre (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan.
Now Abraham was old, well advanced in years; and the Lord had blessed Abraham in all things. Abraham said to his servant, the oldest of his house, who had charge of all that he had, "Put your hand under my thigh and I will make you swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and earth, that you will not get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I live, but will go to my country and to my kindred and get a wife for my son Isaac." The servant said to him, "Perhaps the woman may not be willing to follow me to this land; must I then take your son back to the land from which you came?" Abraham said to him, "See to it that you do not take my son back there. The Lord, the God of heaven, who took me from my father's house and from the land of my birth, and who spoke to me and swore to me, 'To your offspring I will give this land,' he will send his angel before you, and you shall take a wife for my son from there. But if the woman is not willing to fllow you, then you will be free from this oath of mine; only you must not take my son back there."
Now Isaac had come from Beer-lahai-roi, and was settled in the Negeb. Isaac went out in the evening to walk in the field; and looking up, he saw camels coming. And Rebekah looked up, and when she saw Isaac, she slipped quickly from the camel, and said to the servant, "Who is the man over there, walking in the field to meet us?" The servant said, "It is my master." So she took her veil and covered herself. And the servant told Isaac all the things that he had done. Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah's tent. He took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother's death.
O give thanks to the Lord for he is good;
for his great love is without end.
Who can tell the Lord's mighty deeds?
Who can recount all his praise? (R./)
They are happy who do what is right,
who at all times do what is just.
O Lord, remember me
out of the love you have for your people. (R./)
Come to me, Lord, with your help
that I may see the joy of your chosen ones
and may rejoice in the gladness of your nation
and share the glory of your people. (R./)
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."
In The God of Surprises Gerald Hughes notes how God can surprise us in so many ways. Isaiah said so explicitly, "God’s ways are not our ways." Jesus also shows us that God’s ways are full of surprises. How often the people were amazed at what he said and did. He didn’t follow convention, or act like the other religious leaders of Judaism. His unorthodox approach appears in today’s gospel. Jesus calls an unlikely character, a tax collector, to be his friend and goes on to share a meal with tax collectors and sinners. Matthew and his friends were despised as sinners, collaborators with the Romans, lax in their morals, non observers of God’s law. Such people were to be avoided for fear of contamination.
Jesus did not follow this path of exclusion and avoidance. He was not afraid of being contaminated by others. On the contrary, he wanted to change others and draw them to a better lifestyle. He went on to say, "what I want is mercy not sacrifice." This is a key principle for Christian morality. Our Lord wants his own merciful spirit to find expression in the lives of his followers. We too are called to transform others by our openness and compassion. We are all to be agents of the Lord’s transforming love and mercy.
The name Matthew is from the Hebrew Mattija. He is mentioned five times in the New Testament. In Matthew 9:9, he is called to follow Jesus; and later he is four times named in the list of the apostles, (Luke 6:15; Mark 3:18; Matthew 10:3, and Acts 1:13). The man in today’s Gospel story is the same as Levi, whom Mark and Luke describe as "sitting at the custom-desk" (Mk 2:14; Lk 5:27). The account in the three Synoptics is basicaly the same, where Jesus invites the tax-collector: "Follow me". Levi was probably the original name of the man who subsequently called himself Matthew. It is even possible that Mattija, "gift of Jahweh," was an added name given to the tax-gatherer when Jesus called him to discipleship, and by it he was thenceforth known among his Christian brethren.
As tax-gatherer at Capharnaum, Matthew collected custom duties for Herod Antipas, and was despised as a traitor by the Pharisees, who hated the Roman occupation of their land. When summoned by Jesus, Matthew followed him immediately, and then held a party in his house, where other tax-gatherers sat at table with Christ and his disciples. When the Pharisees protested at the company Jesus was keeping, he rebuked them sharply: "I came not to call the just, but sinners." Nothing further is said of Matthew, except that he was listed among the apostles. He followed Jesus up to the time of His Passion and later, in Galilee, was one of the witnesses of His Resurrection. Matthew was present with the others at the Ascension, and afterwards in the upper room in Jerusalem, along with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and with his brethren (Acts 1:10 and 1:14).
Of Matthew’s subsequent career we have only insecure or legendary data. St Irenæus tells us that Matthew preached among the Hebrews, Clement of Alexandria says he did this for fifteen years, and Eusebius maintains that, before going into other countries, Matthew gave the Hebrews his Gospel in the mother tongue. Ancient writers do not agree on which countries were evangelized by Matthew, but some mention a region to the south of the Caspian Sea, perhaps Persia or modern-day Iran.