Eph 4:1-7, 11-13; Ps 19:2-3, 4-5; Mt 9:9-13
Saint Matthew and all the apostolic witnesses spread the message of the Lord Jesus through all the earth. Even though all of nature declares the glory of God and the firmament proclaims his handiwork, the witness of the Gospel is so much greater. Even though day pours out the word to day and night to night imparts knowledge, the witness of the Gospel is so much more eloquent. The greatness of God’s mercy is born in the flesh and blood of the Son of Man whose word and voice are still heard throughout all the earth, even to the ends of the world. In the letter to the Ephesians we hear Saint Paul’s voice summoning us to the full stature of Christ, to become mature in the Spirit of the Lord Jesus. In the Gospel of Saint Matthew, we hear the voice of him who calls the tax collector, and who calls us to himself, “follow me.” Our call to mercy and intimacy with Christ, Our God, changes everything, and enables us to change the world. So that everyone will join at the table of the Lord, the place where sinners become saints, and all share the one feast of the Kingdom of Heaven.
Saint Paul is not afraid to identify himself as a prisoner, because he is in jail for the Lord Jesus. He is incarcerated because he is guilty of living in a manner worth of the call he received with all humility. When we are gentle, patient, and loving enough we, too, may be ready to bear a radical witness. Some have predicated that just being a follower of Christ will be enough to get us thrown into prison here in the United States. Building up the Body of Christ in this world is against the law in some countries. Indeed, in some nations today it is a capital crime to baptize an adult. In such places there are no human rights; certainly it is not a human right to live according to your conscience and convert to Christ when the Lord calls you to repent and believe the good news. Saint Paul, Saint Matthew, and all the apostolic witnesses lived in such a hostile environment. Indeed, little has changed except our urgency. Indeed, we are even closer to the Kingdom breaking into history than we were when first the Apostles wrote and preached the good news. Each feast of an apostle or an evangelist stirs up that faith, hope, and love that make our witness radical and open to any sacrifice necessary for the sake of the Gospel.
This encounter of the Lord Jesus and Saint Matthew is a paradigm for the entire Gospel of Saint Matthew. Again and again, the Lord Jesus summons sinners. Again and again, the boundless mercy of God is a scandal to the Pharisees. They could not get their heads around this new teacher, Jesus, who seemed to enjoy the table fellowship of tax collectors and sinners. How could this so called holy man enjoy being with those who seemed to disregard the law and its importance in the lives of the holy and faithful people? Indeed, it was into such crowds that Jesus entered to encounter genuine openness because he came for those who were sick in body or soul. He came into their midst with more than judgment and condemnation; he came with severe mercy and healing power. This Divine Teacher is also the Divine Physician who has good news and eternal health for those who know they are sick with vice and admit they are sinners. It is just such mercy that the LORD demands in response to His mercy. The Lord Jesus is more interested in repentant sinners showing mercy to other sinners than he is in all their proper and righteous sacrifices. The Lord Jesus did not come to call the righteous but sinners. The righteous are already caught up in the mystery of God and His Kingdom; the sinners have yet to hear and respond to the truly good news of God’s mercy and love. It is to just this evangelical mission that we are summoned by the Gospel of Saint Matthew. We, too, are called to witness to the great mercy of God in Christ so that all sinners may become righteous through Him with Him and in Him.