SEPTEMBER 21. Ord Time B. Wk 25 Tue. 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, “
The central teaching in today’s Gospel, the Feast of St Matthew, is Christ’s love for all people. Matthew was chosen to be an Apostle, despite the fact he was a tax collector, a trade that was frowned upon by the community as they were people who were renown for keeping money for themselves.
What we are seeing here is Jesus going to the home of a tax collector to dine with his disciples, again something that would not have been well received by the wider community; - but I think the lesson Jesus wanted to give in both choosing Matthew and eating at his house was that Jesus did not “reject” any people; -no matter their circumstances!
This is reinforced by the fact not only was Jesus eating at the home of a tax collector, but in addition there were many sinners also attending the meal; - and the Pharisees saw this as a good opportunity to condemn Jesus for mixing with the wrong kind of people, and they saw this as indicating he should not be doing so; - given he professed to be a man of God.
So, the Pharisees asked the disciples; - “Why does your master eat with tax collectors and sinners”; - a question that Jesus would have been very happy to answer because this was the very reason he was living among them; - and his answer was very precise; -
“‘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!”
This is an answer all Christians can be very grateful to hear; - because of the fact that we are all sinners; - and none of us will be able to claim eternal life as a result of being sinless. This means we are all going to be dependent on God’s mercy when we find ourselves at our last judgement.
The Pharisee’s view, on the other hand, was they were the rulers and the teachers of the law, and so they claimed a certain superiority over those they looked down on as sinners. This was a view the Son of God rejected as he was aware that the Pharisees were just as sinful as those who they were condemning.
Another feature of this reading is how, in inviting Matthew to become an apostle, despite his being a tax collector, Jesus was also issuing him an invitation to amend his life and his values. We can be sure, in becoming a follower of Jesus, Matthew would have to change many of his ways as a tax collector!
The message Jesus is giving to the community in today’s Gospel is that he rejects nobody, no matter their history or background; - “I did not come to call the virtuous, but sinners!”
Gospel Acclamation cf.Te Deum
You are God: we praise you. You are the Lord: we acclaim you;
the white-robed army of martyrs praise you.
First reading Ephesians 4:1-7,11-13 ·
We are all to come to unity, fully mature in the knowledge of the Son of God
I, the prisoner in the Lord, implore you to lead a life worthy of your vocation. Bear with one another charitably, in complete selflessness, gentleness and patience. Do all you can to preserve the unity of the Spirit by the peace that binds you together. There is one Body, one Spirit, just as you were all called into one and the same hope when you were called. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God who is Father of all, over all, through all and within all.
Each one of us, however, has been given his own share of grace, given as Christ allotted it. To some, his gift was that they should be apostles; to some, prophets; to some, evangelists; to some, pastors and teachers; so that the saints together make a unity in the work of service, building up the body of Christ. In this way we are all to come to unity in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God, until we become the perfect Man, fully mature with the fullness of Christ himself.