Our Lord had a knack for doing exactly the opposite of what people expected. If he wasn’t healing on the Sabbath or preaching a message at odds with established wisdom, he was mingling with exactly the wrong sort of person or forgiving public sinners. This was because he looked beyond the outward appearance of a person or situation and saw deeper truths and hidden beauty.
So what did Our Lord see in Matthew that caused him to pick him out of the crowd and invite him to become a disciple? Surely part of the reason was to make it clear that God has a place for even the most hated of people. He wanted to show that even those people we might be inclined to reject have sparks of goodness in them that, when cared for, can begin to burn with God’s love.
But would this self-centred tax collector help bring about the kingdom of heaven? What specific gifts did he bring?
Perhaps Matthew had a stubborn persistence and persuasiveness. After all, it couldn’t have been easy to squeeze money out of people on a regular basis—and his own people at that. Maybe it was his education; some people believe that the Gospel that bears Matthew’s name is the most finely crafted and best written of them all. Perhaps Matthew simply had an ability to face people without embarrassment or self-consciousness—a trait equally useful for both tax collectors and evangelists.
We may already have an idea of the talents we can use to extend God’s kingdom. But perhaps our most obvious gifts aren’t the only ones that God wants us to use. Could it be that he wants to use us in a new way? Perhaps he can even use a trait that we’ve always considered to be a negative one. Today’s feast teaches us that we should never limit the ways that God can use us to extend his kingdom. What does God want to accomplish through us? How will he use us next?