It was bad luck not to say "tax collectors" whenever you said "prostitutes" in the culture of Jesus' time. Like peas and carrots.
As Jesus passed by, he saw a man named Matthew
sitting at the customs post. He said to him, “Follow me.”
And he got up and followed him.
While he was at table in his house,
many tax collectors and sinners
came and sat with Jesus and his disciples.
The Pharisees saw this and said to his disciples,
“Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
He heard this and said, “Those who are well
do not need a physician, but the sick do.
Go and learn the meaning of the words,
I desire mercy, not sacrifice.
I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”
Do you think tax collectors were the lawyers of that day? Admired but envied, resented, mocked, stereotyped. Surely there were honest and merciful ones, but they were lost in a sea of criticism.
There's a certain dramatic courtroom flourish in Matthew's actions: he just upped and walked away from his customs post. Picture it: no explanations, no final tallying, presumably mid-customer, jaws dropping as he walked away, silently, following Jesus. And then a big dinner with all his flashy friends....
The Donald would do it this way; Gotti would have done it this way. Their motives and impetus would be different, but from the outside, it would look the same. When I try and picture Gospel scenes in meditation, maybe I'll give Matthew a big glossy combover and a Versace suit in the "before" scenes.
St. Matthew, pray for all those who have unpopular jobs!