In Need of Love and Mercy

Homily for Friday of the 13th Week in Ordinary Time

In today’s Gospel, we hear the call of St. Matthew. Matthew was an educated man and a tax-collector for the Roman government and so would have likely been well-versed in Aramaic, Hebrew, Latin, and Greek. As the second Person of the Trinity, there is no doubt that Jesus knew that Matthew was going to play a significant role in the spreading of the Gospel message throughout the ancient world and beyond. Jesus knew there was going to be a need for His words to be recorded at some point along the way. Who better to do that than a man with the credentials of Matthew? So Jesus invited the tax collector to follow Him.

But I think there was another reason why Jesus called Matthew to be one of His disciples. Jesus knew that Matthew was one who needed to encounter God’s love and mercy the most. As a tax collector and a member of the Jewish faith, albeit not a very devout Jew, Matthew was ostracized from the Jewish community and likely shunned by members of his own family. The Jews viewed tax collectors as traitors, which meant Matthew likely would have also been banned from worshipping in the temple. In other words, Matthew was an outcast. He was someone who was sick and in need of a physician. He needed to experience the love of God.

As we have seen time and again in the Gospels, Jesus didn’t care much about what people thought about those who were on the receiving end of His ministry. Even though dining with Matthew in his home would have been scandalous to the Jews, Jesus didn’t let the restrictions of Jewish religious guidelines dictate how He showed the Father’s love to someone in desperate need of it. That’s the meaning of His statement: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” He was calling out the Jews for how they were allowing the Law to interfere with bringing God’s love to others. And that’s the same reminder Jesus offers us today.

For us, it may not be religious guidelines that are getting in the way of bringing God’s love to others, but it may be the perception of friends and family. “What will people think if I do this for someone else?” Or it may be our preconceived notions about certain groups of people that prevent us from being able to show God’s love. Whatever the case might be, Jesus is inviting us today to put aside those things and stop allowing outside influences to interfere with how we bring Him to those who most need it.

As we receive Jesus in the Eucharist today, let’s ask for the grace to be able to recognize who needs to experience the Lord’s love and mercy most and to be able to identify what prevents us from showing that love and mercy to others. May we ask Him to give us the courage to put those things aside and to love as He loved, and to see others as He sees them.

Published by Fr. Tom Pringle

Priest of the Diocese of Orlando. Parochial Vicar at Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church, Indialantic.

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