As Jesus passed on from there, 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.” (Matthew 9: 9-13)
When the Pharisees challenged Jesus’ unorthodox behavior in eating with public sinners, Jesus’ defense was quite simple. A doctor doesn’t need to visit healthy people – instead he goes to those who are sick. Jesus likewise sought out those in the greatest need. A true physician seeks healing of the whole person – body, mind, and spirit. Jesus came as the divine physician and good shepherd to care for his people and to restore them to wholeness of life.
The problem lies in our spiritual blindness. You see as we grow older, we take sides. God does not. We consider people who agree with us to be intelligent and worthy of respect and those who disagree with us to be ignorant and to be ignored. But God does not ignore anyone. God loves everyone as a son or daughter. We believe that when someone does something wrong, they should be punished.
But God is not looking for punishment. God is looking for an opportunity to show mercy. So, we can find ourselves at a standoff with God, because God is opposed to every expression of partisan thinking. God is against every example of glorified nationalism. God rejects every call for violent retribution. These are ways of thinking into which you and I can be tempted to fall.
Even if we do fall into partisan and vengeful thinking, God does not reject us. God does not walk away us. Even if we are unable to forgive, even if we are unwilling to consider another point of view, even if we are overcome with anger against our enemy, God does not give up on us. God keeps patiently calling for us to change.
He meets us where we’re at – just as he met Matthew where he was at – but he doesn’t want us to STAY where we’re at. He wants us, today, to leave whatever keeps us from him behind, completely behind. He wants to fill us with his mercy. He wants to call us sinners – you and me – to conversion. The question for us today is whether we’ll respond like Matthew.
But God gives us time to reach that understanding. And until we attain God’s perspective, God continues to walk by our side, loving us as daughters and sons.
Prayer of The Day
“Lord Jesus, our Savior, let us now come to you: Our hearts are cold; Lord, warm them with your selfless love. Our hearts are sinful; cleanse them with your precious blood. Our hearts are weak; strengthen them with your joyous Spirit. Our hearts are empty; fill them with your divine presence. Lord Jesus, our hearts are yours; possess them always and only for yourself.” (Prayer of Augustine, 354-430)
If we wish to follow the example of St. Matthew, we need to put into action the call to conversion. To play with the analogy that Jesus gives us in the Gospel, we not only have to recognize that we need a doctor, but we must go to the doctor and do what he tells us is necessary for our cure. Sin is a progressive form of metastatic cancer that will kill us – and we never know quite how soon. Jesus is the oncologist who can and wants to cure us, but he won’t treat us against our consent. To be saved we first have to go to him, and then we need to follow his treatment regimen.