On Thursday of this week The Church keeps the Feast of St Matthew the apostle and evangelist. Matthew was a tax collector. This was an occupation despised by his fellow Jews, being seen as a betrayal to the occupying Roman force. But Jesus showed that judging by outward appearances was not what he was about. Jesus ate with Matthew and his fellow tax collectors, thereby scandalising those around him. Matthew followed the call of Jesus and became an apostle. He understood that Jesus was summoning him away from earthly possessions for the incorruptible treasures of heaven. From very early times he has also been regarded as author of the Gospel of Matthew, from which our Sunday gospel readings have been taken for most of this year. Symbols of the four evangelists are often displayed in churches, Matthew being the one represented by a human face. Christian tradition tells us that, like most of his fellow apostles, Matthew was martyred but accounts differ as to the mode and place of his martyrdom.
I wonder whether when you are reading the gospel stories you try and imagine what Jerusalem and Galilee were like. It is obviously not possible to recreate the scenes of two thousand years ago, but it is possible to visit them today. Travelling on pilgrimage to the Holy Land is a marvellous experience, giving one an opportunity to read the gospels and pray with others in places which have been visited by so many pilgrims over the centuries. It is also humbling to meet the ‘living stones’, the local Palestinian and Israeli Christians who are the ongoing, living church in that region. Father Kevin Morris, vicar of St Michael’s, Bedford Park, is taking a group on pilgrimage to the Holy Land in November next year and he has invited me to join them with a group from St Nick’s. Do consider joining us, and ask me for more information if you are interested.
With every blessing