Sinners Are Called
September 21, 2022 (readings)
- Feast of Saint Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist
- Janet McLaughlin
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, thank you for calling me to this moment of prayer with you. You know my weaknesses, my faults, my sins, and you still call me into friendship with you. At this moment, help me say yes to whatever it is that you ask of me. Jesus, I believe in and trust in you. I offer this time out of love. Help me love you more.
Follow Me: Jesus called Matthew amid his daily work—just as he called Simon and Andrew while they were fishing (Matthew 4:18) and James and John while they were mending their nets (Matthew 4:21). Today, Jesus calls us to follow him amid our duties in our state in life. He asks us to leave behind anything that keeps us from living a life centered on him. For some people, this may mean changing careers. For others, it may mean prioritizing one’s time so that the family receives more attention. Others may find that Jesus’ call to follow him means changing what they watch on TV, what movies they go to, or what they read. It may also be a call to follow Jesus into a life of simplicity, changing what one buys or what portion of income is given to support God’s work. May we generously respond to whatever Our Lord asks us to leave behind as we follow him more closely.
Sitting with Sinners: Most Gospel stories show Jesus meeting people somewhere other than a synagogue or the Temple. He went out to meet people where they lived and worked. In this Gospel passage, he went to the home of a sinner to meet other sinners. Pope Francis insists again and again that we go to the periphery of society to encounter and accompany those who are marginalized. In his encyclical Fratelli Tutti (On Fraternity and Social Friendship) the Holy Father writes, “Each of us can learn something from others. No one is useless and no one is expendable. This also means finding ways to include those on the peripheries of life. For they have another way of looking at things; they see aspects of reality that are invisible to the centers of power where weighty decisions are made” (n. 215). How open are we to others who see things differently from our point of view?
I Came to Call Sinners: St. John wrote, “If we say, ‘We are without sin,’ we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us’” (1 John 1:8). In other words, we are all sinners, and “we must admit our faults” in order to receive God’s mercy (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1847). As the Catechism further explains, “There are no limits to the mercy of God, but anyone who deliberately refuses to accept his mercy by repenting, rejects the forgiveness of his sins and the salvation offered by the Holy Spirit” (CCC 1864). How great that mercy is when one recognizes the need for repentance and turns to God. One story illustrating this is that of Dr. Bernard Nathanson, a man who accused himself of being involved in over 75,000 abortions. Just before becoming Catholic, he said, “I will be free from sin. For the first time in my life, I will feel the shelter and warmth of faith” (1996 interview in Crisis Magazine on EWTN website). May we see where we need the Lord’s mercy, especially in any areas of our life where we have rationalized or justified choices that are incongruent with the Gospel.
Conversing with Christ: Lord, there is no sin so great that it cannot be overcome by your mercy. Help me see those who seem far from you with your merciful eyes, and remember that you are calling them, even if they don’t hear your voice at this time. Lord, I ask that you give me the grace to stay close to you so that I can share you with all those I encounter in my daily life.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will pray one decade of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy slowly and thoughtfully for those I struggle to love.
For Further Reflection: Read more about Dr. Nathanson’s conversion story or reflect on this excerpt from Dives in Misericordia, “The Divine Mercy”:
Mercy in itself, as a perfection of the infinite God, is also infinite. Also infinite therefore and inexhaustible is the Father's readiness to receive the prodigal children who return to his home. Infinite are the readiness and power of forgiveness which flow continually from the marvelous value of the sacrifice of the Son. No human sin can prevail over this power or even limit it. On the part of man only a lack of good will can limit it, a lack of readiness to be converted and to repent, in other words persistence in obstinacy, opposing grace and truth, especially in the face of the witness of the cross and Resurrection of Christ. Therefore, the Church professes and proclaims conversion. Conversion to God always consists in discovering his mercy, that is, in discovering that love which is patient and kind as only the Creator and Father can be; the love to which the "God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" is faithful to the uttermost consequences in the history of his covenant with man; even to the cross and to the death and Resurrection of the Son. Conversion to God is always the fruit of the" rediscovery of this Father, who is rich in mercy (n. 13).
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