The man wrote a book. One of a set of four, written by four different men. St. Matthew knew one of the other three very well, to be sure. But he may never have even met the other two.
Together, but apparently without explicitly co-ordinating anything among themselves, the four evangelists produced four little books filled with unique divine fire. These four books occupy so elevated a place in the history of books that the only possible image for them is: Terrifying angelic animals (and a man) gazing out in all directions from the throne of God itself. Of the “four living creatures” of Ezekiel’s and St. John’s visions, the man represents St. Matthew.
But the most important image is this: The image that reading these four books forms in our minds. We read these four books over and over again, and we read all the other Scripture books connected with these four. And, as we read, God gives us the image of Himself. God Himself, made man. Jesus. In our minds.
What if these four brothers of ours–St. Matthew and the other evangelists—what if they had never bothered to undertake the painstaking task of writing? What if they had, instead, chosen a more-pedestrian pursuit, one less fraught with agonies of self-doubt and fear of misunderstandings?
Where would the human race be? In what desperate darkness would we linger, if the image of Jesus of Nazareth simply had never been communicated to us? If the four Holy Gospels, which paint the definitive portrait of the everlasting Adam—what if these books did not exist? Then we would have to come to church and listen to someone read out from the works of James Patterson or the Dalai Lama.
And what about all the other forebears of ours who lovingly preserved these books for us, so that we can read them now? Against all odds, considering the way time eventually ravages everything. We revere these forebears of ours as a group under the name “holy Mother Church.”
So: Thank you, St. Matthew and the other evangelists, for writing. And thank you, holy Mother Church, for loving their words enough to give them to us as an inheritance. A four-fold literary treasure beyond all price.