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.”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations
Today’s gospel is challenging. The call of Matthew’s story is just too easy! And why does Jesus spend so much time with tax collectors and sinners?
Saint Ignatius encourages us to read the scriptures—especially the tough ones–with open imaginations. Through an Ignatian lens I can imagine that Matthew, himself a tax collector, either has some prior knowledge of Jesus or is so moved by the call from the Source of Love that all he can do is get up and follow. Maybe it’s both.
I can also imagine “tax collectors and sinners” feeling so grateful for Jesus’ table fellowship that they open themselves to being nourished by the Bread of Life.
At the heart of the Jesuit mission is to “save souls.” I’m not always sure what this means, but today’s gospel offers strong examples. Through Jesus’ outreach, Matthew the tax collector becomes a collector of Jesus’ sayings. And social outcasts find a place at the table and a “still more excellent way” (1 Cor 12:31).
How can we reach out to others—especially those in great need—to love, to serve, to heal? How can we make the world a better place?
—Jeremy Langford, Director of Communications for the Chicago-Detroit Province Jesuits and author of Seeds of Faith: Practices to Grow a Healthy Spiritual Life ©2007 Paraclete Press, Brewster, MA.
Lord, while we may be able to conceal our wounded-ness even to those closet to us, you know exactly where we struggle. We pray for your healing so we can be freed of anything that holds us at a distance to those we love. We pray for your healing so we can share in the joy and peace you so much want for us. And, Lord, heighten our sensitivity and show us the best way to be present to others wounded in body or spirit.
—The Jesuit Prayer Team