The Holy Apostle and Evangelist Matthew was also named Levi; he was one of the Twelve Apostles and was brother of the Apostle James Alphaeus. He was a publican, or tax-collector for Rome, in a time when the Jews were under the rule of the Roman Empire. He lived in the Galilean city of Capernaum. When Matthew heard the voice of Jesus Christ: “Come, follow Me”, he left everything and followed the Savior. Christ and His disciples did not refuse Matthew’s invitation and they visited his house, where they shared the table with the publican’s friends and acquaintances. Like the host, they were also publicans and known sinners. This event disturbed the pharisees and scribes a great deal.
Publicans who collected taxes from their countrymen did this with great profit for themselves. Usually greedy and cruel people, the Jews considered them pernicious betrayers of their country and religion. The word “publican” for the Jews had the connotation of “public sinner” and “idol-worshipper.” To even speak with a tax-collector was considered a sin, and to associate with one was defilement. But the Jewish teachers were not able to comprehend that the Lord had “come to call not the righteous, but sinners to repentance”.
Matthew, acknowledging his sinfulness, repaid fourfold anyone he had cheated, and he distributed his remaining possessions to the poor, and he followed after Christ with the other apostles. St Matthew was attentive to the instructions of the Divine Teacher, he beheld His innumerable miracles, he went together with the Twelve Apostles preaching to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel”. He was a witness to the suffering, death, and Resurrection of the Savior, and of His glorious Ascension into Heaven.
Having received the grace of the Holy Spirit, which descended upon the Apostles on the day of Pentecost, St Matthew preached in Palestine for several years. At the request of the Jewish converts at Jerusalem, the holy Apostle Matthew wrote his Gospel describing the earthly life of the Savior, before leaving to preach the Gospel in faraway lands
With zeal, you followed Christ the Master, who in His goodness, appeared on earth to mankind. Summoning you from the custom house, He revealed you as a chosen apostle: the proclaimer of the the Gospel to the whole world! Therefore, divinely eloquent Matthew, we honor your precious memory! Entreat the merciful God that He may grant our souls remission of transgressions.