“We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God.” - Pope Benedict XVI
(Gospel Text: 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?"
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."
When Jesus went to Matthew's for dinner, the people with whom He ate with were not reformed sinners looking for holiness. They were still known as sinners committed to a sinful lifestyle (Mt 9:10). These people were sinners who wanted to meet Matthew's new Friend, Jesus. Thus, Jesus' reputation probably took a nose-dive with the faithful.
Churchgoers can give lip-service to conversion, but a lot of people would resent suddenly having a bunch of sinners in the next pew. Would the church potluck lose its regulars if a group of alcoholics and prostitutes began coming on a regular basis? Would those regulars turn against you if you were the person inviting “those people” to new life in Christ?
As disciples of Jesus, we place a higher priority on reconciliation than on our own reputation. Conversion comes first. If gaining conversions creates conversations that harm us, then so be it.
If you take some time to reflect upon the history of Christianity, it has never been popular to follow Christ. To be His disciple means becoming a fool in the eyes of the world (1 Cor 4:10). We are afraid and hesitate to follow the Lord because we are not secure in His love. If we truly knew deep down that God loves each one of us personally and intimately, like no one else ever could or will, we wouldn't worry about playing the fool.
Jesus Himself said in the scripture: "Woe to you when all speak well of you" (Lk 6:26). Therefore, it can be a good thing for us when people speak against us for following Christ.
Don’t be afraid!