“Conversion is not implanting eyes, for they exist already; but giving them a right direction, which they have not” - Plato
(Gospel Text: MT 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."
Once I heard a deacon speak very eloquently on this passage and it really resonated in me. He used the example of a visit to the hospital for some illness or injury. If you walked into the emergency department and told the doctor simply ‘I am in pain’, he’s not going to be able to help you much. He would then proceed to ask you about the pain - where is it located, how long has it been going on, etc... In order to help you and fix your pain, he needs the nitty gritty details. The deacon was telling this story in reference to confession, saying that the more detail we give the priest the more directly God is going to be able to heal us properly. It may be painful to say it at the time, but in the long run we will walk out of that confessional cleansed so directly by God’s grace right in the place we need it most. We will receive the mercy of Christ in a more full way than we thought possible. The same applies to the emergency room. We may not want to tell the doctor exactly what’s going on for fear that he will press on what is sore and cause us more pain in that moment, but he will ultimately be able to treat us better if we give him as much detail as possible.
Jesus concluded today’s gospel passage by telling us what he expects of us, what he is calling us to. He desires mercy from us, not sacrifice.
Jesus Christ 2000 years ago made the ultimate sacrifice of himself, it was an offering that we might receive the mercy of God. This is the mercy directly from God available to us through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. While this is true and many people believe it to be true, both practicing and non-practicing Catholics alike, we are afraid and hesitate to ask the Lord for mercy and forgiveness in a formal confession with a priest.
Instead, be like Matthew, throw caution to the wind!
May we pray for courage to be honest and open with Christ to allow his healing touch in the exact place that we need it. And may we seek to have the understanding and peace God offers us in his perfect will for us.