A community of opposites

Daily Reading for September 22 • Saint Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist

Matthew was exactly the kind of person that Zealots regarded as the scum of the earth. It is easy to imagine that Simon [the Zealot, also one of the twelve disciples] would have gladly killed Matthew with his little curved knife before Jesus came into his life. Similarly, Matthew would have looked on Simon as a hopeless idealist who did not understand the limitations of his situation. Matthew might have expressed himself to Simon in this way: “Look, in order to get along, you have to go along. We can do only so much, and I am just going to make a better place for myself in the world as it is. Forget about any impractical ideas of trying to change the world.” The two apostles were as different as they could possibly be, both temperamentally and ideologically. They would have had an enormous conflict of personalities and beliefs before they met Jesus. . . .

The miracle in this situation was that Jesus had reached out so far in opposite directions with those gracious hands, grasping the hand of Simon the Zealot on one side and the hand of Matthew the tax collector on the other. It is even more astonishing that Jesus wanted two such radically different people to be his close companions, and it illustrates how all encompassing his love was. Something in Jesus drew both of these dissimilar human beings to him. I believe that Jesus offered these opposites a glimpse of the kind of unconditional acceptance and wholeness that gave them a completely new understanding of what it means to be fully human. It was the gift of Jesus to make it possible for people as different as Simon and Matthew to get to know each other, thereby helping one another toward more wholeness and balance. . . . Only the spirit of mutual understanding can lead to lasting solutions or wholeness, and only such broadening acceptance can make it possible for us to grow into the fullness of what it means to be made in the image of God.

From “Simon and Matthew: Unlikely Companions,” in The First to Follow: The Apostles of Jesus by John R. Claypool, edited by Ann Wilkinson Claypool. Copyright © 2008. Used by permission of Morehouse Publishing, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. www.morehousepublishing.com

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