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St Matthew, Apostle

It is probable that St Matthew's original name was Levi and that he took or was given the name Matthew, meaning "gift of Yahveh", when he became a follower of Our Lord. He was a publican, that is, a tax-collector for the Romans, a profession held in great contempt by the Jews. Publicans were generally grasping and extortionate. So much did the Jews detest them they would not marry into a family that had a publican among its members, nor would they associate with publicans at religious worship or in commerce.

St Matthew, then, was decidedly a social outcast among his fellow Jews and indeed even among Gentiles. Christ, however, had a total disregard for human respect. In the second year of His public ministry He came across Matthew, the despised publican, in his toll office, possibly located on the Damascus Road where it passed the lake at Capharnaum. In his own account of his call, St Matthew narrates simply that Jesus said: "Follow me. And he arose and followed him." (9.9-10) Thus Matthew, the social outcast, became a member of the highly privileged group that became the spiritual leaders of Christ's Church.

St Matthew, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote his Gospel in the Aramaic language, probably at the request of Jewish converts who spoke this language. It is said that after making many converts to the Faith in Judaea he went to preach the Gospel to the nations of the East. But nothing of this is know for certain. The Church honours him as a martyr, though the circumstances, time or place of his death are not known.

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