Feast of Saint Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist
Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-13; Matthew 9:9-13
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?”
Jesus could not please everyone. As he befriended “tax collectors and sinners,” the Pharisees and religious authorities distanced themselves from him. The Nazarene’s trespasses over the boundaries between “clean” and “unclean” raised eyebrows and provoked criticism and censure. The wonder-working son of a carpenter seemed to disregard ritual purity and the hallowed traditions of Judaism.
Jesus was like a spiritual giant stepping into a little world of petty customs and prejudices. The arrows aimed at him, and the ropes used to tie him down, resembled the flimsy weapons used by the Lilliputians in Jonathan Swift’s novel to pin Gulliver to the ground. A futile endeavor! Divinized humanity will rise from the grave.
Jesus’ heart was vast as the heavens, emanating the healing rays of the Blessed Trinity in every direction. Mercy snapped the strings of the Lilliputians like dried out rubber bands.
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.”
Jesus quoted the prophet Hosea from the revered canon of the Pharisees, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice” (Hosea 6:6) to show that he was a true son of Israel, not a rebel. Jesus revealed the Father’s heart by refusing to cocoon himself from the “contaminated” world of undesirables; no person fell outside of the Father’s love.
Sharing a meal signified great intimacy in Hebrew culture. Jesus’ ultimate aim to transform and transfigure persons threw open the doors to the heavenly banquet hall. Is there a distinction between “the righteous” and “sinners,” “the well” and “the sick”? Didn’t the Divine Physician assume humanity as one, universal Adam beyond parsing and partitions?
“Go and learn,” Jesus charged the pious and religious, to see yourself in your neighbor, and your neighbor in yourself. Segregation has no place in the Body of Christ and the communion of saints in the Trinity.
Brothers and sisters: I, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace: one Body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.