JULY 2. Ord Time B. Wk 13. Fri. Mt. 9. 9-13
As Jesus was walking on, he saw a man named Matthew sitting by the customs house, and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up and followed him.
While he was at dinner in the house it happened that a number of tax collectors and sinners came to sit at the table with Jesus and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does your master eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ When he heard this he replied, ‘It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick. Go and learn the meaning of the words: What I want is mercy, not sacrifice. And indeed, I did not come to call the virtuous, but sinners.’
Today’s reading contains a simple but important message from Christ that we easily forget or “overlook,” and that is; - He did not come to call good people; - but rather those who were sinners!
Matthew was a tax collector, and from what we are told of them these people were far from virtuous; - caring for themselves out of the taxes they collected; - and given the overall message from Christ today, it would seem he would not have argued with the description of himself as a “sinner!”
And at the meal in Matthew’s house that followed his calling, the Pharisees had no hesitation in proclaiming that the other people Jesus chose to eat with were also publicly known to be sinners.
Christ himself addressed this issue when he heard the murmurs of his critics, and his response was very clear, and logical; - “It is not the health who need the doctor, but the sick! Go and learn the meaning of the words, ‘what I want is mercy, not sacrifice’; and indeed, I did not come to call the virtuous, but sinners!”
And should we not be thankful for this teaching from Christ; - as who of us would be willing to appear before him and profess, “I am not a sinner?”
And the Gospels contain multiple examples of Christ calling, or having close relationships with people we know who had publicly sinned, in addition to Matthew; -with the best examples being other founding members of the Church such as Peter and Paul!
Then there is Mary Magdalene, the thief on the Cross, the sinful woman, the paralytic and many others; - and in todays Gospel Christ explains why this is so, in that he has come to show Mercy; - quoting the Prophet Hosea (6.6) “What I want is Mercy!”
When we reflect on the purpose of all these teachings and examples, we find it is because Christ wants to “spread the teaching” that no sinner should feel he cannot approach him and be his friend; - as he loves us, and, as a result, desires to show Mercy to us!
And was this not the purpose of Calvary; - and Christ’s Passion and Death; - to enable sinners to receive Mercy; - and to open the gates of heaven which had been locked to us all?
And what flowed from Calvary is the Sacrament of Confession; - where this Love and Mercy is made available to all; - until the end of time; - whenever we wish to avail ourselves of it!
Gospel Acclamation Mt11:28
Come to me, all you that labour and are burdened,
and I will give you rest, says the Lord.