A Sinner’s Call

Matthew 9:9-13
Am 8:4-6,9-12 / Ps 119

“Follow me,” He told him, and Matthew got up and followed Him.
(Matthew 9:9)

Let there be no hesitation
When we hear His call, “Follow Me”,
Just like Matthew’s invitation,
Our Lord just wants to set us free.

As Jesus went on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” He told him, and Matthew got up and followed Him. While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” came and ate with Him and His disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked His disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?” On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:9-13)

Reflection

To the casual observer in Jesus’ time, it would seem doubtful that the tax collector Matthew would be quality material for the core group of disciples that the Messiah was forming. As a contractor working for the Romans, publicans like him were regarded as traitors, and doubly hated for enriching themselves by skimming the revenues they collected from the people. But Jesus knew what was in Matthew’s heart, how he longed to be redeemed from his enslavement to sin. And being God, Jesus also saw the potential of this future evangelist in the vital mission of propagating the Gospel. At the same time, our Lord knew that His association with Matthew and his friends would be part of the Father’s plan in His life’s mission. When Matthew gave a feast in honor of his new Master and invited his associates (publicans like himself) to meet the Lord, the Pharisees who witnessed this affair were convinced that Jesus was anything but a man of God. They asked His disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?” The Pharisees were “purists”, who took pride in their being “separated” from all forms of defilement or impurities. The sight of Jesus sharing a meal with the hated tax collectors must have horrified them, and the fact that the crowds were hanging on His every word was enough justification for them to get rid of Him.

“I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Jesus was referring to the Pharisees as the “righteous”. His call would have fallen on deaf ears anyway, because in the minds of these so-called religious leaders they had no need of repentance. In their strict observance of traditional Judaic laws and ceremonies, they believed their salvation was already assured. But Jesus reminded them of God’s words in Scriptures: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” This was a rebuke to their religious ceremonies that were performed devoid of any compassion for the sick and the needy in their community.

How do we bring the Good News of the Gospel to others? Are we content to share the Word of God only with our peers, or with those who belong to our social set? How about ordinary people in the marketplace – our clients, employees, bill collectors, or even government bureaucrats that we perceive to be “on the take”? Who knows if any of them may just be waiting for someone to invite them to a prayer meeting or a Christian fellowship breakfast? You could be God’s instrument in calling someone to follow Jesus Christ. Remember, no one is so wretched or sinful that he or she can no longer be receptive to the call of the Savior. We cannot be the judge of who is worthy or not. In God’s plan of salvation, the greatest sinner can turn out to be one of His greatest saints. God desires our mercy and compassion, especially towards those we consider as sinners. Invite them to His table today.

Heavenly Father, take away whatever prejudice we may have against those who do not share our values and ideals, and even our faith. Help us to be more understanding and merciful to those who are handicapped by sin, and to be patient in leading them to Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom we also pray for the salvation of souls. Amen.

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