(Mt 9: 9-13)
As Jesus passed by,
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.”
Jesus’ choice of Matthew as one of his disciples is quite encouraging for all of us. We are all sinners like Matthew. There comes a time when every one of us, no matter how good we are, sin against God. But sinfulness is never an obstacle for those who heed the call to take part in Jesus’ mission of evangelization. However, it is important that we leave behind everything that is incompatible or whatever that impedes us from committing ourselves to this mission. This is what Matthew did when he, upon heating Jesus’ invitation, “Follow me!” immediately got up and followed Him, leaving behind his family and his customs post which symbolized his sinful lifestyle.
The meal, in the Jewish perspective, was an important occasion and a sign of fellowship. Hence the fact that Jesus openly shared meals with tax collectors and sinners was considered scandalous behavior. Jesus’ presence and fellowship with sinners was not a sign of approval of their sinful lifestyle but a manifestation of his non-condemnatory attitude. It was his way of saying that He does not give up on sinners. He believes that they can turn their life around especially after having experienced the mercy and compassion of God.
Daily Gospel 2017