As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
But when he heard this, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
Taken together, today’s readings (including Amos 8: 4-6, 9-12 and Psalm 119: 2, 10, 20, 30, 40, 131) reveal that God’s perspective and desires are sometimes (most times?) quite different from our own. We are ready to sell and make profit, to decide who is in and who is out. We justify ourselves by making laws that benefit us and then devotedly avow to follow the law as law, as if we do not have the option to write them differently.
Then Jesus comes along and selects the person we have excluded. And the one selected is not even a “good” one, rather one who threatens our safety and commits crime against the people. Still, Jesus welcomes, eats, laughs and loves with him, his friends and family, all of which seems to make the law abiding holy feel terribly uncomfortable.
They ask: Why does your teacher eat with them? The disciples answer: Why do you care with whom my teacher eats? Are you hungry for the word of the Lord? Why are you surprised that who God chooses is about what God wants? Is there something about God’s mercy that makes you uncomfortable? If you want to know why my teacher eats with them, you can ask my teacher.
—Carol Ackels is the director of the Ignatian Spirituality Institute and a spiritual director in the Ignatian tradition and Senior Ignatian Fellow at Montserrat Jesuit Retreat House, Lake Dallas, Texas.
Jesus, you love us,
this I know,
but too often I forget
there are no exceptions.
I grapple with the reality
that the Word became flesh
and you camped among us.
Will you give me hunger
to sit at strangers’ tables
so I too can develop friendships?
Will you teach me
to see what you see
hear what you hear,
love what you love,
in me and others?
Jesus, give me the grace
to desire the mercy
You desire to give.
Please share the Good Word with your friends!