Friday, July 6, 2018
Today, in Mercy, our Gospel reading introduces Matthew, a Jewish tax collector. The setting is a dusty Galilean square, crowds bustling by after midday marketing. These are Matthew’s neighbors, and he knows them by name. He calls any tax delinquent passer-by to his customs post, bent on collecting the levies due to the Roman occupiers.
Matthew is not a popular guy. He may have gotten his government job through the influence of his father Alpheus, a man a little better off than his acquaintances. His fellow Jews may have resented Matthew’s education, economic status, and certainly his apparent complicity with a tyrannical government.
Matthew was probably treated like Sarah Huckabee Sanders at the Red Hen Restaurant. Maybe that’s why Jesus noticed him that day.
But buried deep in Matthew was an unlit wick of messianic hope that only Jesus could discern. With the small spark of two words, “Follow me”, Jesus lit that hidden wick. And all the ensuing ages have been blessed by Matthew’s telling of the divine story!
When Jesus dined with Matthew’s other tax collector friends, the “righteous” Pharisees, entwined in their own sinful complicities, criticized Jesus for his choice of friends. Jesus makes his position clear: I did not come to call the righteous but sinners. His words imply that “the righteous” are irredeemable.
Jesus reminds us that God desires Mercy not sacrifice. Our holy words, laws, and rituals are empty if our actions impede God’s merciful love for all Creation.
We might want to sit at Matthew’s table ourselves today, and ask him to teach us more about that tender-hearted, transformative Mercy.
Music: Tender Hearted – Jeanne Cotter