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
During the period of Jesus’ life, “tax collectors and sinners” formed those “others” who were shunned by proper people, considered unclean and generally despised.
Immigration is one of our most contentious contemporary social and political issues. Even in the USA–“a nation of immigrants”–there seems to be such a surprising increase in anti-immigrant sentiment. Yet our national history from the beginning is that of general distrust and dislike for immigrants, let alone those who are poor and needy, those who by circumstance do not possess acceptable identity documents.
These realities illustrate an underlying and deeper theme: that we, humanity in general, tend to distinguish and separate ourselves from others. Yet in reality all of these categories for “other” are human constructs.
God calls on us to break down these barriers, these human constructs. In this passage, Jesus expresses this: I desire mercy, not sacrifice. That is, God calls on us to share God’s compassion and love with all people, rather than hoard it for ourselves.
On this day when we celebrate Independence Day in the USA, let us ponder and reflect on this wonderful gift of freedom, which in most cases began with an immigrant welcomed to our shores. Can we, can I, find ways to share this gift of freedom with more people—doing so with mercy, compassion, and love? After all, at some point in history, this same gift of freedom was generously and mercifully offered to each of our immigrant ancestors.
—Fr. Glen Chun, S.J. serves in campus ministry at Loyola University Chicago and is also minister of the Loyola Jesuit Community.
O God our Creator, from your provident hand we have received our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. You have called us as your people and given us the right and the duty to worship you, the only true God, and your Son, Jesus Christ. Through the power and working of your Holy Spirit, you call us to live out our faith in the midst of the world, bringing the light and the saving truth of the Gospel to every corner of society.
We ask you to bless us in our vigilance for the gift of religious liberty. Give us the strength of mind and heart to readily defend our freedoms when they are threatened; give us courage in making our voices heard on behalf of the rights of your Church and the freedom of conscience of all people of faith.
Grant, we pray, O heavenly Father, a clear and united voice to all your sons and daughters gathered in your Church in this decisive hour in the history of our nation, so that, with every trial withstood and every danger overcome—for the sake of our children, our grandchildren, and all who come after us—this great land will always be “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
—Catholic Bishops, Prayer for Liberty