Friends, today’s Gospel celebrates the call of Matthew. Jesus tells the tax collector, “Follow me.”
The call of Jesus addresses the mind, but it moves through the mind into the body, and through the body into the whole of one’s life, into the most practical decisions. “Follow me” has the sense of “apprentice to me” or “walk as I walk; think as I think; choose as I choose; see as I see.” Discipleship entails an entire reworking of the self according to the pattern and manner of Jesus.
Upon hearing the address of the Lord, Matthew “got up and followed him.” The Greek word behind “got up” is anastas, the same word used to describe the Resurrection (anastasis) of Jesus from the dead. Following Jesus is indeed a kind of resurrection from the dead, since it involves the transition from a lower form of life to a higher. Those who have undergone a profound conversion tend to speak of their former life as a kind of illusion, something not entirely real. The father of the prodigal son can say that he “was dead and has come to life again.” So conversion is an anastasis, a rising from death.