September 21, 2018
(St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist)
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.” Mt_9:9-13
When someone hurts us, whether directly or indirectly, we have a tendency to lose trust in that person, or company, or leader. It may be a relative. It may be our car repair shop. It may be our president, or priest, or even our pope.
And when we lose trust in someone we counted on, it leaves us with a gaping hole that needs to be refilled. “Now, where will I get my car fixed? And IF I find another shop, will I ever be able to trust them with not giving me poor workmanship or charging me for something that was never done?” “Where will I send my kids to school for a good Catholic education, if I can’t even trust the priests?” “How can I depend on anything the Church says when it’s very leaders are suspected of dishonesty?”
These are some really probing questions? Questions that REQUIRE answers, if we are ever to find peace in this life. Because we can’t – just keep giving up on everyone and everything that disappoints us. Sure, we can sue the repair shop. Sure, we can have petitions signed to impeach the president and the pope. But does that really do anyone any good?
And behind it all, maybe the real question should be, “How trustworthy am I?”
In God’s eyes, Am I the perfect young man who follows all the rules and yet, am not willing to give up one ounce of my wealth, of my comfort, to help Jesus carry His cross? It always seems a lot easier to find the faults in others – especially when one of those faults may have hurt us, than it is to find our own faults and fix them.
Today Jesus invites a lowly and hated tax collector named Matthew, to follow Him. He was lowly because maybe it was the only job he could find. Maybe he had a family to feed and fishing the Sea of Galilee just couldn’t cut it. And the reason he was hated was because most tax collectors were known for cheating people, for their own personal gain. Besides the fact that they were unfairly collecting money from their own flesh and blood, Jewish relatives. Money that went directly to their Roman enemies – probably to buy more crosses and nails for those who couldn’t pay their taxes.
So, not only were the tax collectors untrustworthy, but they were outright, uncontrollably hurting the people.
And after all that, there was Jesus, inviting these scoundrels to dinner. The Pharisees were livid!
But when the compass was turned around, who was it, who had less love? Who were the unforgiving ones? Who were the uncompassionate ones?
And who was it that really changed from the whole episode; Who changed to become not only a faithful follower, but to become one of the primary evangelists for Jesus, to change millions of souls by his writings, for thousands of years to come?
It was, of course, St. Matthew – that dreadful one!
You see, we can give up hope on people because of one little error on their part. We can give up hope because of some little flaw in their character, that they didn’t even realize they had. We might call them un-fixable! But, maybe instead, we can compromise our own ‘personal perfection,’ and give them the benefit of the doubt – so that they too, like Matthew, might find their healing in Jesus.
Maybe that’s precisely what happened to us, beloved, by some unsuspecting soul whom we hurt; and we never even realized it. Maybe it was us who were saved by the undeserved compassion of someone else.
Jesus said, “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
You see, beloved, we truly are Christ’s hospital for one another, whether we’re in that bed or sitting beside it. And right about now, would be a really good time to administer a little bit of mercy and a whole lot of prayer, for our world, for our country, for our Church, and for one another.
Thank you St. Matthew for saying “Yes.”
And thank you Jesus for asking him . . .
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