Friday, July 1, 2016

“Have the courage to drop the stones we carry to throw at others, and think a bit on our own sins!”

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.”

The gospel passage today is taken from Matthew’s Gospel.  In Capernaum, the fishing village Jesus made his “headquarters” in Galilee, he sees Matthew, the local tax or toll collector, at his station and immediately calls him—“Follow me.”  Without hesitation, Matthew leaves his tax booth behind and becomes a disciple of Jesus—a man who was despised by his fellow citizens because tax collectors were notorious for cheating and extracting more than they should from poor farmers and fishermen.  Even more provocatively, Jesus seals his friendship with Matthew by dining in his house, along with a group of unsavory “tax collectors and sinners.”  This association of Jesus with those who were often despised in the society of his day earns the disapproval of the religious authorities.  The Pharisees ask Jesus’ disciples: “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”   Why, indeed!  Jesus responds by saying that it is precisely those in need for whom he has come.  To drive the message home, Jesus cites the words of the prophet Hosea: “It is mercy I desire not sacrifice.”

The gospel passage reminds us, it is not simply a matter of not exploiting the poor or of using our resources to help those in need.  The example of Jesus tells us we are not to despise the poor or observe them at a distance, but to be with them—respecting them, accompanying them, even learning from them.  This is the message of “accompaniment” that Pope Francis has both preached and lived.

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