In most countries of the world, the end of June marks the end of the financial year. Each of us begins thinking about taxes, tax returns and some of us may begin to consider investments, mortgages, and pensions. With the current interest rate rises, and extremely high petrol prices, every family and individual is starting to feel the pinch. Financial concerns are important and each of us gives due consideration to our financial management.
In today’s Gospel, the writer introduces a new character to the reader. We are introduced to a Jewish man named. Matthew was hated by all the Jewish people because he worked for the Roman Empire, the occupying presence in
In most cultures, even today, the tax man is an unpopular job. For many Jewish people at the time of Christ, they believed that paying taxes was in essence the work of the devil.
Taxes were a sign that a community was unable to live in harmony, and that the community was dominated and controlled by someone more powerful. Tax was something that the pagan emperors used to force everyone in society to contribute.
In a perfect world, taxes shouldn’t be necessary. Governments shouldn’t exist. Families should look after each other. Neighbours should help neighbours when one is in trouble. And when there is a threat of war, families should unite in defending their land and property.
For the devout Jew, tax, professional armies and large government were a sign of disorder, disharmony, and unfaithfulness to God.
It is into this context that Jesus calls the Jewish taxman “Matthew” to follow him.
Matthew was a tax collector and was most likely a very good accountant. When Matthew came to follow Christ, his skills with accounting were not lost. In fact, the skill of accounting is an important part of what it means to be a follower of Christ.
Financially, we as a society are becoming more and more stretched, but also more aware. We plan ahead, not just as a country, but also as individuals. And towards the end of the financial year, we account for expenses and make our returns.
But why aren’t we so careful and premeditated in the way we use and account for the other resources we have.
Each of us has received many wonderful gifts from God. Each day we are alive is a gift from God. Financial wealth is a gift from God. One may claim that an individual is responsible for personal growth in wealth, however without the gifts of life, health and wellbeing, growth in wealth is impossible.
As we account for the ways we spend our money, we should also account for our time, for our relationships, and for the ways we use our talents. We shouldn’t need to account for relationships based on love, but even in loving relationships, we give gifts of flowers, we have celebrations and so on.
Matthew, the tax collector, would have accounted for his gifts. He would have calculated how much time he was spending on coming to know Christ. But he would have also accounted for the time he spent with his friends, his family, relaxation and personal time.
In the business world, everything a company does is designed to increase profit. Everything a follower of Christ does should help to build the
Recently I returned from the
There are more examples I could give of the amazing work of the church in
Our parish here in Cronulla also does some wonderful things. We are helping children who have recently lost their parents. We pray for them and support them in whatever ways we can. Cronulla would not be the same with the active presence of our Catholic community. But I think we can be doing more.
If each of us understood that we owned the Church and that you and I have a responsibility to give a return to God for the gifts he has given to us, and that you and I have a share in the mission of Jesus Christ, then I think the church in Bundeena/Cronulla would begin to flourish.
This week, begin an accounting of your life. What sort of quality time do you give to the Church, your family, our community, our God? Begin to look at the church and begin to get more involved. This week, think of one or two things you can do to more fully assist with bringing people to faith in our parish.
Matthew the tax-collector left his evil job, followed Jesus and very shortly after, he brought his friends and work colleagues to friendship with Jesus. Let us do the same.
Let us pray:
Loving Lord and Father, we praise and thank you for giving us life, freedom and order. Help us during this week to consciously work to build your kingdom and to let your will done in our hearts and lives. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.