Graceful Choice

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.”
(Matthew 9:9-13)

Scripture Study

9:9 A man named Matthew: Mark names this tax collector Levi (Mk 2:14). No such name appears in the four lists of the twelve who were the closest companions of Jesus (Mt 10:2–4; Mk 3:16–19; Lk 6:14–16; Acts 1:13 [eleven, because of the defection of Judas Iscariot]), whereas all four list a Matthew, designated in Mt 10:3 as “the tax collector.” The evangelist may have changed the “Levi” of his source to Matthew so that this man, whose call is given special notice, like that of the first four disciples (Mt 4:18–22), might be included among the twelve. Another reason for the change may be that the disciple Matthew was the source of traditions peculiar to the church for which the evangelist was writing.

9:10 His house: it is not clear whether his refers to Jesus or Matthew. Tax collectors: Jews who were engaged in the collection of indirect taxes such as tolls and customs. Table association with such persons would cause ritual impurity.

9:11 Teacher: for Matthew, this designation of Jesus is true, for he has Jesus using it of himself (Mt 10:24, 25; 23:8; 26:18), yet when it is used of him by others they are either his opponents (Mt 9:11; 12:38; 17:24; 22:16, 24, 36) or, as here and in Mt 19:16, well-disposed persons who cannot see more deeply. Thus it reveals an inadequate recognition of who Jesus is.

9:12 Do not need a physician: this maxim of Jesus with its implied irony was uttered to silence his adversaries who objected that he ate with tax collectors and sinners (Mk 2:16). Because the scribes and Pharisees were self-righteous, they were not capable of responding to Jesus’ call to repentance and faith in the gospel.

9:13 Go and learn … not sacrifice: Matthew adds the prophetic statement of Hos 6:6 to the Marcan account. If mercy is superior to the temple sacrifices, how much more to the laws of ritual impurity.

Scripture Reflection

Friends, today we celebrate the feast of St. Matthew and our Gospel tells of his conversion. Matthew’s laconic account details what the transition from spiritual death to spiritual life is like. First, we notice the look of Jesus. If there is one theme clearly stated in the New Testament is that of the primacy of grace.

Why? We don’t know. We just know that we will not lift ourselves to spiritual wholeness. A gaze has to come upon us from the outside. Not so much finding God as allowing oneself to be found.

Jesus says to him “Follow me.” There is nothing simpler or more basic in the Christian life than this. This is what we disciples do: we follow, we walk after him, we apprentice to him. “He got up and followed him.” The symbolism here is marvelous. Getting up, rising up, anastasis, the same word used to designate the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Conversion (turning around) is also elevation, rising up.

To come to Christ is to come to a higher, richer, broader form of life. Now life is not simply the pleasures and goods of the body; now life is lived in and through God.

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

 

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