A Homily for Friday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Friday, July 5, 2024
Prince of Peace Catholic Church – 8:00 Mass
Amos 8:4-6, 9-12; 2:23-24; Psalm 119:2, 10, 20, 30, 40, 131; Matthew 9:9-13

Audio Recording

 

Friends, our Gospel for today is the simple but magnificent story of the conversion of Matthew.

Tax collectors were considered by the Jewish people to be sinners. Working for Herod Antipas, tax collectors in Galilee were viewed as traitors to God’s people. They also were known for demanding more money than they were supposed to collect. Jesus’ calling Matthew the tax collector to be a disciple would have been surprising; again, it signals that Christ has come to be light to all the world, not just to the upright.

As scandalous as Jesus calling Matthew to follow him, is that he then went to his house to share a meal with a bunch of his friends: tax collectors and sinners. In ancient Judaism, table fellowship expressed covenant solidarity. Shared food and drink symbolized a shared life. By sharing a meal with many tax collectors and sinners, Jesus identifies himself with these covenant outsiders and welcomes them into his kingdom.

This was certainly not lost on the Pharisees. It deeply annoyed them, and they ask Jesus’ disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” In their eyes, Jesus was inviting all the wrong people into his movement. They were thinking, “What kind of teacher would do such a thing?”

Jesus then puts his mission into simple words. He explains that He is like a physician who must tend to the sick, not to the healthy. Jesus’ answer makes it clear that He loves sinners, and he doesn’t require perfection before he approaches them. Isn’t that wonderful! How blessed all of us sinners are that we don’t have to be perfect in order to be his friend, to be his follower!

Finally, Jesus reminds the Pharisees of a scripture passage from the prophet Hosea, which says “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” What does this mean? It’s a reminder to them of the Israelites of Hosea’s time who were trying to cover up their grave sins with external acts of piety, acts such as sacrifice. Unless we get the wrong idea, sacrifice is a beautiful thing as long as it is done for the right reason. Hebrew sacrifice was supposed to express covenant love and faithfulness, rather than some obligatory act performed without a true love of God.

I think we all have to be careful that we don’t fall into the trap of performing religious practices this way, out of obligation rather than out of love for God. It’s very easy for us to fall into a pharisaical mindset that we are somehow better than those sinners who have yet to encounter Christ, because we’re here at Mass and they are not. Rather than thinking this way, we must think like Christ, who associated with sinners. We must invite others to come and join us, loving them even in their sinfulness, showing them a better way.

Only by bringing the presence of Christ, seen most clearly in our love for everyone – sinners, outcasts, and the poor – can we ever hope to accomplish our baptismal calling to share God’s love with others and bring them home into the Church.

Always remember that Jesus did not come to call the righteous, but sinners. Remember that He loves sinners, and He doesn’t require perfection before he approaches us. Fellow sinners, this is good news for all of us.

Thanks be to God!