ST. MATTHEW, APOSTLE AND EVANGELIST & APPLE GOAT CHEESE TARTLETS
St. Matthew the Apostle and Evangelist (Levi the son of Alphaeus) was most likely born in Capernaum by the Sea of Galilee around the same time as Jesus. He transformed from money loving tax collector to Apostle immediately upon being called by Jesus. It’s generally believed that he wrote a collection of Jesus’s sayings that were later written into the Gospel of (according to) Matthew. Tradition has him being martyred in either Greece or Ethiopia on an unknown date. His feast day is celebrated on September 21 in the Roman Catholic, Anglican (including Episcopal) and Lutheran Churches. Eastern Christian Churches honor him on October 22 and November 16.
The Gospels of Luke and Mark refer to Matthew as “Levi,” possibly meaning he was a member of the tribe of Levi or more likely that Jesus changed his name to “Matthew” after calling him, like He did with Simon/Peter and Saul/Paul.
Here’s how his calling is written in Matthew:
As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.
While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice. For I have not come to call the righteous, but the sinners.’” — Matthew 9:9-13
St. Matthew should be the patron saint of transformation because he changed so suddenly and completely from tax collector to Apostle.
Biblical-era tax collectors had a terrible reputation. In those days, Rome conquered and occupied other countries and cultures. They provided some services, like roads and aqueducts, but they ruled strictly and demanded payment in the form of taxes. Tax collectors were usually members of the community being occupied and they were expected to collect extra taxes for their own wages. Their fellow countrymen deeply despised them because they were siding with the enemy, and everyone knew that they collected far more than they turned over to the Romans.
So, here’s Matthew, by the shore of the Lake of Gennesaret, sitting at a table in a tax booth collecting taxes, customs for trade items, and tolls from people arriving by boat.
Jesus, having just left Capernaum, walked by all the people in line to pay, saw Matthew, and said, “Follow me.”
Now, we don’t know what Matthew was thinking as he counted the money. We don’t know how he felt about his own life or what he already knew of Jesus of Nazareth.
Perhaps he felt terrible about himself and his line of work and didn’t watch Jesus approach because he didn’t want the well-know rabbi to notice him or worse yet, pass judgement on him with the familiar look of disgust he received from so many others. Or perhaps he was as fat and happy as some biblical scholars suggest and was focused on choosing the coins for his own purse.
Either way, we can surmise that the first thing he did was look up.
When Jesus spoke to him, first he looked up. Then, he stood up and followed Him with absolutely no regard for what he was leaving behind on that table.
In fact, Matthew was so completely transformed by Jesus’s call that he immediately invited his friends to a banquet so that they could meet Jesus for themselves. He became an Apostle just that quickly.
I wish I could say that it happened just that quickly for me. I mean, in retrospect, Jesus’s call to me in autumn of 2010 was pretty dang clear, but the psychological abuse that controlled my perceptions wouldn’t let me consciously hear Him. So, my unconscious took over, and I began fainting and suffering from vertigo.
This went on intermittently for well over a year during which I was diagnosed with a variety of causes. Faceplanting onto the hardwood kitchen floor in December 2011 during which I knocked my teeth all the way through my lower lip, requiring 8 stitches on the inside of my mouth and 9 stitches on the outside, led me to a cardiologist who prescribed an increase in my daily salt intake, the treatment that finally worked.
But the diagnosis that made the most sense to my inner self, was overwork and stress. I began to cut myself some slack. While remaining a dedicated stay-at-home mom, I began to say no to volunteer and social commitments that didn’t appeal to me. I began to allow myself to focus on my writing which I wasn’t comfortable making time for because there was always something more “important” I was supposed to be doing. Writing brought me too much joy which I didn’t feel I deserved. But, I persevered through those feelings of guilt because somehow I knew they didn’t make sense.
I prayed for guidance on my writing and was given the idea for this blog which I started in April 2012. I studied the saints and their recipes for saintly living and my spirituality increased. New social media contacts broadened my spiritual horizons, and I started to see that the rector at my church wasn’t the only kind of Episcopalian out there. He wasn’t the only kind of Episcopalian I could be.
And then, I started to see that he was a patriarchal, condescending, male chauvinistic horse’s ass with an alcohol problem. I started to see that he never backed me up in my volunteer roles when fellow parishioners would overreact when I held them accountable. I started to see that Jesus was telling me to walk away and find a new church.
But, I didn’t do it because my psychologically abused mental state and codependency wouldn’t let me. The next year was dramatically worse, but I still wouldn’t leave until the program year played itself out, for the sake of my teenagers and their involvement in church youth activities.
I transferred our membership to another church in May, Mary’s Month. And then I experienced two more years of trying to figure out why I was so upset at the way other people treated me. Why I felt like I deserved their treatment on the one hand but knowing deep down in my core that that belief was bull shit.
I searched and struggled for answers, all the while continuing my saintly research. Miracles, which I attributed to my connection to Our Lady and the Saints of Fatima began overwhelming me on a daily basis. And then, boom. On May 10, 2017, Jesus showed Himself to me in a way that left no room for denial.
It was His way of saying, “It’s going to be a bumpy ride.” Within a month, I had unexpectedly sought divorce after 26 years of marriage, surprising even myself. Ensuing next was a hell ride of banishment, attempted control, rage, and financial abuse during which I learned that I had been married to a narcissist who was psychologically abusing me. It was two full years before the legal divorce process was complete and I was properly diagnosed and treated for Complex – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
I didn’t suffer through those years alone. At various intervals, Jesus said to me, “I’m right here. I got ya. You can do this. You are doing it. You did it!” He delivered these messages to me via angelic signs and connections with random people and loyal friends.
You know, I understand that not everyone was emotionally and physically abused as a child, and I understand that not everyone is in a relationship with a narcissistic abusive personality. I get it, I really do. But, it is people in these types of relationships that God wants me to call for Him. And so, it is to you I say: Clarity, rationality, and reality await you right outside your perceptions. Seek silence and listen. You will hear Him calling out to you. Look up from your unnecessarily heavy workload. Walk out to Him in the Sonshine. He will show you the way home to your true self, step by bumpy step.
Be courageous. If little ol’ me could do it, you can do it, too. Trust your inner strength. Reach your hand out into the void. Perhaps it will be an angel who reaches back like maybe it was for the one who wrote the Gospel of Matthew:
Matthew’s Gospel contains the most direct teachings of Jesus. I love the Sermon on the Mount because we learn how to follow Him. Here’s the instructions (or recipe) that speaks the most to Matthew himself as he journeyed from tax collector, through Jesus’s miraculous ministry, to first draft gospel writer:
You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.
In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. – Matthew 5:14-16
Tradition holds that Matthew died a martyr and perhaps the events of his death looked something like this:
Matthew celebrated his calling by hosting a banquet and inviting all his friends to meet Jesus. He invited his friends to meet Jesus for a meal. He invited his friends to meet Jesus at the Communion Table. You see where I’m going with this, yes? Be like Matthew.
Invite those who are looking to your church. It’s easier than you think. But, more importantly, celebrate your relationship with Jesus Christ by inviting people into relationship with you as you shine your inner light of Jesus out to all those around you in a love-your-neighbor-as-yourself kind of way.
We thank thee, heavenly Father, for the witness of thine apostle and evangelist Matthew to the Gospel of thy Son our Savior; and we pray that, after his example, we may with ready wills and hearts obey the calling of our Lord to follow him; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. — Collect, Book of Common Prayer
Let’s celebrate St. Matthew the Apostle and Evangelist as he once celebrated with his new and old friends by baking something fancy with ingredients* like those that would have been available in first century Galilee:
APPLE GOAT CHEESE TARTLETS
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) cold butter
1 large cold egg
1 teaspoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
Grease two 12-cup tartlet or muffin pans.
Mix flour, sugar, and salt in large bowl. Cut in cold butter with pastry knife or by crisscrossing two butter knives.
Beat egg slightly with fork in small bowl. Add lemon juice and vanilla. Mix. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients.
Mix with clean hands until combined into a dough ball. (Depending on the amount of liquid in the egg, you might have to add a teaspoon or two of cold water to absorb all the dry ingredients.)
Divide dough ball in half. Roll each out to about 1/8 in thickness.
Cut out disks with 2 1/2 inch diameter tartlet, biscuit, or cookie cutter. Set dough disks into tartlet or muffin pan. Poke each with fork to avoid air bubbles. (You will end up with extra dough. Maybe let your kids come up with something creative to bake with it. Maybe turnovers or cookies with lots of icing.)
6 oz plain fresh (Chevre) goat cheese, room temperature
1 tablespoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
Mix goat cheese, lemon juice, and salt in small bowl with fork. Spoon equal amounts into the 24 tartlet or muffin cups.
1/2 cup honey
5 small organic apples (Small apples are key as those large ones have too much juice for baking. I used Gala for this recipe.)
1 tablespoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Peel, seed, and dice apples. Mix in bowl with lemon juice (to prevent browning). Add honey and cinnamon. Mix.
Scoop small handfuls of apple dices, squeeze to let liquid drip back into bowl, and spread atop each tartlet.
Bake at 375 degrees F for about 30 minutes, until pastry is golden. Remove from oven. Cool on wire rack for about 7 minutes. Pop tartlets from pan with a butter knife and place on plate. Serve warm.
Standard muffin pan
*Notes on biblical ingredients:
For closer authenticity, spread the toppings on homemade apostles (pita) bread instead of mixing up the sugar dough. Although lemons and spices were quite rare, rich members of the Roman Empire could obtain them. Goat cheese and honey were food staples for the general population. Apples were just beginning to propagate across the Roman Empire in the first century, and “every good tree bears good fruit” (M 7:17). “Heads of grain” (M 12:1) were plentiful, and “salt of the earth” (M 5:13) was also readily available.
Bonus Material: The play “Godspell” is based on the Gospel of Matthew. Here’s a sneak peek: Light of the World.
Second Bonus Material: I love the entire Sermon on the Mount, especially the introduction know as the Beatitudes. I highly recommend the reading of Matthew chapters 5-7.
Here are my other favorite sayings of Jesus from the Gospel of Matthew:
If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. — M 10:13-14
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest in your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. — M 11:28-30
Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,” and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you. – M 17:20