St Matthew’s Day
And as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him. And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, ‘Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?’ But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, ‘They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.’
Matthew seems to have been a publican, one of the hated class of tax-farmers collaborating with the Roman occupation regime, yet another of the acts of social inversion in the story of Jesus. The New Testament names him as one of the Twelve and a witness of the Ascension. Legend has him preaching to various nations, Israel, Persia and Ethiopia and tales abound of his martyrdom. He is the patron saint of accountants, bankers, bookkeepers, security guards, and stockbrokers.
The Gospel which bears his name was attributed to him for a long time but that attribution has been challenged in more recent days and is now doubted by most scholars.
In the illustration above Caravaggio depicts the moment that Jesus summons the unwitting tax collector to be one of his disciples, setting the scene in Renaissance Italy.