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Desiring Mercy, Not Sacrifice
Friday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time
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.”
Opening Prayer: Lord, you nourish me with your words in Scripture, and with your body when I answer your invitation to come to your banquet table. Never stop calling me to follow you, and give me the grace to walk in your ways, with the help of your Holy Spirit.
- Seeing a Man: When the penetrating gaze of Jesus fell upon Matthew, the Lord saw a man. Instead of perceiving Matthew as the object of derision for the role he played in society, Jesus saw the man first and foremost as a reflection of himself, created in his image and likeness. Man’s first sin in the garden had surely tarnished this reflection, but neither that original sin, nor any subsequent sin committed by this particular man, diminished the incredible dignity that Matthew enjoyed as a child of God. Matthew had used his free will, granted by our loving God and Father, to side with the Roman authorities against the Jews, the chosen people into which he was born. But Our Lord also gave him, and gives us, a chance to turn his back on his former life and follow Christ, perfecting that will. “By free will one shapes one’s own life. Human freedom is a force for growth and maturity in truth and goodness; it attains its perfection when directed toward God, our beatitude” (CCC 1731).
- Seeing a Problem: Jesus’ invitation to Matthew, a seemingly simple “Follow me,” was anything but simple. Adding the despised tax collector to his band of followers would have immediately sowed discord among the rest of the disciples. Many of them would surely see a problem with this new addition. We can imagine what they might have been thinking, or even declaring aloud: “Lord, not him!” Today, we may be preparing for our weekend and hoping to get together with family or friends. How will we respond if we find a stranger in our company? What if this stranger has a reputation? One one hand, Jesus does tell us to be “shrewd as serpents,” but he also implores us to be “harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16). Furthermore, although we must always speak the truth in charity regarding behaviors we witness, Scripture frequently urges us not to judge others, leaving judgment to Our Lord (Matthew 7:1, Luke 6:37, and Romans 2:1-2).
- The Master’s Plan: Jesus knew exactly what he was doing when he called Matthew. His reasons soon became quite clear, at the “breaking of bread” that evening. The religious authorities, convinced of their superiority, took the opportunity to test Our Lord. Placing themselves above the sinners present at the dinner, they endeavored to have Jesus admit that the worth of the individual, and thus the degree to which the individual is worthy of attention, is somehow related to his or her behavior. They failed to acknowledge that they had misunderstood the God of Israel, the object of their intense study. They should, instead, have been studying this man right in front of them to witness how he was fulfilling the law. Jesus, always the teacher, reminded them, and reminds us, how we can draw near to God: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”
Conversing with Christ: Jesus, thank you for calling men of all kinds to follow you, especially those to whom I can relate. You show me with your example that you not only desire mercy, but you freely extend mercy to sinners who return to you. Let me never think that any sin is worth distancing myself from you; on the contrary, grant me the grace to seek you often in your sacrament of Reconciliation.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will pray the Divine Mercy chaplet, offering each decade for somebody whom I find myself judging.
For Further Reflection: Watch this video describing Caravaggio’s masterpiece, “The Calling of Matthew.”
Andrew Rawicki and his wife JoAnna live in Irving, Texas, near eight of their ten grandchildren. A convert from Judaism, Andrew entered the Church in 1991, and has been a member of the Regnum Christi spiritual family since 2001. He has served as the Regnum Christi Local Director for Dallas since July 2020.