Grace to you!
The past can be terrible. It can also bring a lovely nostalgia. Hate is mostly about some past events. The memory of pleasantness is fleshed out by the past also. Handle the past well; you will feel a sense of accomplishment. Blow it, you will feel somewhat helpless.
When Matthew, an apostle known in the Bible as the tax collector, encountered Jesus Christ, he had choices to make. He knew his past. Many people judged him by that past. His past was about unpatriotic, and many times, fraudulent business decisions as a tax collector. His past, in the eyes of many of his contemporaries, was that of a traitor. His past was society’s outcast.
Consider being in a community and having to deal with open rejection. You desire the friendship and companionship of others, but they feel your past is irreconcilable. Imagine being a victim, a brand of a past that became a public stigma. Rarely do you sleep without thinking about that past. Hardly is a day gone by without you worried about what people say or the rumors going around.
Matthew could fit that picture. Mathew, now known as the evangelist, was a perfect match for your situation. Let me tell you what he did.
He saw the light. The light would cast his past in the remotest zone of the behind, making it impossible for it to resurge in his face and blur his vision for tomorrow. The light was Christ. Before Christ, Matthew knew what was most important and he jumped unto the proposal, “Come follow me” (See Matthew 9:9).
The past must be left behind; but not all, because some of our past is our history, our culture and our identity. You wouldn’t be glorifying God if you destroyed your identity because you disliked your nature.
By way of analogy, bleaching your skin, surgical face lifting, disowning your heritage, isn’t the answer to your insecurities or troubling past. In every person’s past, there are seeds of blessing. Those seeds must be cultivated and used for God’s glory. It’s you being fully alive and joyful.
St. Matthew did just that. He left the past of fraud, the past of unpatriotism and lies. Such is the kind of past we have to leave behind: the past of sin and hate; the past of insecurities and despair; the past of wrong choices that try to define us, causing us think less of the power of God and the grace of restoration. The past of despairing narratives must be left behind.
There are some past that must never be forgotten or left behind. For Mathew, he carried over the past of his Jewish heritage, language and culture, so much so, that the gospel attributed to him (Matthew’s Gospel) could be rightly called the voice of a Jew speaking to Jews. The Language and the stories are beautifully Jewish.
Since he has been redeemed in Christ, his Jewish past couldn’t be a barrier to his future. Matthew saw how the door of salvation is open to even non-Jews and the grace of evangelization would continue to the end of the world. Hence, he concluded his gospel by saying: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations… and behold, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Mt. 28:19-20).
The past would become a blessing when it would introduce us to the opening of opportunities. Then our stories wouldn’t be anymore of wounded and defeated soldiers, but of wounded and victorious veterans, inspiring others to fight towards victory.
You know what? The victory has already been won in Christ. In the Church, we become beneficiaries and choristers on the choir stand of victory. You and your past are included.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist, September 21]
Author and Goal
Father Maurice Emelu PhD., provides a daily blog of reflections based on the Scriptural readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. The goal is to teach, inspire, encourage, and foster healing through the grace of God's word. They are written in a language that is appropriate for a general audience. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration, and developing your thoughts. They may also be useful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.