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Matthew 9:9-13

The Word of God

As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, "Follow me." And he got up and followed him. And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?" But when he heard this, he said, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners."

Matthew 9:9-13
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    • I pray in gratitude for the evangelist Matthew, through whose gospel we know so much about Jesus and his message: the Beatitudes, the Our Father, his preaching of the Kingdom of Heaven, and so much else in the longest gospel of the four.
    • Most people looked at Matthew as a sinner to be shunned. Yet Jesus saw in him much more. I look in wonder as Jesus calls him to be one of his closest companions and one of the small group who left us their written portrait of their master. He realised what a grace his calling was, and he wanted to celebrate with his friends. Perhaps we celebrate our calling so little because we are not convinced of having been called without deserving it.
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    • 'And he got up and followed him'. I imagine the person of Jesus, which Matthew found so attractive, and ask to get to know him better, so that I can love him more and follow him more closely.
    • 'I have come to call not the righteous but sinners'. I let the power of this statement sink in, asking myself where I would place myself. Perhaps I discover within myself the same resistance felt by those who witnessed the calling of Matthew and Jesus sitting at table with sinners. I ask to be able to know how to prefer mercy than sacrifice.
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    • Jesus must have been an extraordinary leader, to be able to call Matthew to leave his work, his world of contacts and relationships and follow him: 'He got up and followed him'. It was a choice that brought joy, a joy that Matthew wanted to share with his colleagues. How open I am to follow what God calls me to? Is it a joy or a sacrifice for me? Do I share this with my companions?
    • “I desire mercy not sacrifice”. Here are two visions of religion put into stark contrast: is religion primarily observation of rules and laws, or a loving and merciful relationship to God and to others? This discussion was as lively in Jesus' time as it is nowadays, as Pope Francis challenges us to put mercy at the centre of our Christian life and draw the practical consequences. I ask for the grace to grasp the meaning of all this, to make the right choices.
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    • Despite being concerned with his balances and rates, Matthew was ready to hear a deeper message. How might I preserve a readiness to hear the promptings of Jesus when I am in the midst of my daily occupation?
    • We are challenged when we see that Jesus was tolerant of sinners so we sometimes relax and imagine that he was tolerant of sin. I allow my time of prayer to draw me into understanding Jesus more fully.
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    • ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ I ask myself, ‘Do I hold resentment towards people living on the margins of society, or instead towards anybody who seems to be doing better in life than myself?’ I am mindful of how resentments can block the sunlight from my soul. My destructive feelings of anger and hurt affect not only my happiness but also the peace and contentment of those around me.
    • Jesus calls me to a better place. He calls me to be merciful to those living on the margins of society, to show them compassion and love. Anger is a luxury I cannot afford. Lord, help me to let go of my resentments and instead to choose the light of God’s wonderful mercy and grace.
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    • Tax collectors were despised in Jesus’ time much as drug-dealers or ruthless landlords are today. With this in mind, let yourself be amazed at what happens here. Matthew knows well how much the Jews hate him: in turn he hates the Jews. Now watch Jesus coming along with his ragged band of disciples. Jesus stops before the tax booth, and Matthew braces himself for trouble. Jesus catches Matthew’s eye: his glance is respectful, even admiring: perhaps he shows a welcoming smile. Then he says: ‘Follow me!’ And Matthew does.
    • If he were telling you the story today he might say: ‘I felt I was being turned inside out. The lights went on. I had been doing a horrible job, and now this man was offering me a life. I knew I was free to stay sitting there, yet I couldn’t refuse him, and now I know what joy really is!’
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    • Matthew the tax collector served a system that encouraged greed and exploited the poor. The Jews regarded tax collectors as wicked people who violated God’s law. Yet when Matthew gets up to follow Jesus he pledges solemnly to be kind and just in his dealings. There is hope for us all! We can be converted as he was.
    • The top priority in Jesus’ heart is mercy. This reflects the nature of God. He calls each one of us to belong to a new way of living characterized by mercy, justice, gentleness, and purity of heart. What is my top priority?
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    • Jesus makes a point of reaching out to the moral and social outcasts of society. He regards them as his friends. Matthew, as a tax collector for the Roman army of occupation, would have been hated by everybody. What a boost to his self-esteem that Jesus sees good in him and wants him to become part of this exciting new movement! No matter how I may see myself, Jesus sees me too as a friend.
    • Matthew throws a big party and invites all those rejected by the religious establishment to celebrate with him. Jesus enjoyed sharing meals: nobody was to be excluded from ‘table fellowship’ with him. He never says: ‘I won’t sit down with that person!’ Here we have a model of the Eucharist - communion with Christ and communion with one another, with no one on the unwanted list.
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    • Jesus was walking along, Matthew was at his place of work: a normal, everyday setting for God's grace to find an opening. Sitting at your computer is another such setting. The Lord can speak there.
    • Many tax collectors and sinners came to sit and eat with Jesus. It is characteristic of holy people that others feel easy in their company. Jesus accepted people as they were, where they were. Am I as easy and accepting?

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