The Gospel according to Matthew (9:9-13)
As Jesus passed on from there, 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.”
Did your parents or other adults ever tell you, “Birds of a feather flock together”. Or “Show me who your friends are, and I’ll tell you who you are”. My mom used to tell me stuff like this. She was trying to guide and teach me a lesson. That’s what concerned parents do. So then why does this seem wrong in light of today’s gospel. Because Jesus is doing what Jesus does. He goes against the grain of what people think pleases God.
The Great physician came to those that needed his love, mercy, and attention the most. Those who were pushed away because of where they fall in the religious or social pecking order. I get why tax collectors were treated that way. They benefitted from the taxes their oppressors collected from their people. But sinners is a very broad term. Who were the “sinners”? I’m sure the usual suspects such as prostitutes, etc. But this is a very us and them mentality. Keep in mind that the “righteous” were not perfect. They, like everyone, had their own issues. But there was a very clear distinction between them and others. Jesus did not respond well to segregation or separation based on human standards or human interpretation. He came to minister to the most wounded, the most in need of his healing presence and touch.
Do we need to be reminded of the lesson Jesus offered the Pharisees? Do we desire mercy, not sacrifice? Or do we emphasize or find greater joy in what we say and how we worship instead of going to places and being with people who challenge how we live our faith. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we, like Jesus, tended to each other’s wounds and with the grace of God became the merciful servants we are called to be. There is no us and them, there is only us. I am reminded of 1Corinthians 12:12-26. In it we hear that although we may be many parts, we are one body in Christ. Mercy does not exclude; it invites all to the banquet of plenty with the one who came to heal and unite us.
Action of the day: Who do we percieve as tax collectors and sinners? Do we think of ourselves as the righteous? Allow the Holy Spirit to illuminate our minds and fill our hearts with compassion. May we be mindful of the lesson Jesus has for us today regarding mercy. We too are callled to share the healing grace of God.