Just two words for Matthew -Friday, 13th Week in ordinary time – Matthew 9:9-13
We tend to judge; Jesus chose to love. If you were a first century Jew and you were taking a stroll like Jesus did in Capernaum, you would have recoiled on seeing the tax booth. No self-respecting person would ever consciously walk up to a tax collector and engage him in a conversation, much less ask him to be part of his clan.
St Matthew, the author of this Gospel tells us of his own conversion story. He does this somewhere between the sixth and seventh miracle narratives that he has been penning down in chapter eight and nine of this Gospel. For someone who has been so methodical in arranging the Gospel in five neatly explained discourse, this text of his conversion story seems like an interruption of sorts. What on earth possessed his to do so we will never know.
What we do know is how simply this conversion story panned out. For most of us, the call of our Lord, especially to the religious life, must take place in some dramatic form. For your vocation story to ring true it should have the appearance of the ‘cloak and dagger format,’ shrouded in awe and wonder. “Did Jesus appear to you like in some apparition?” would be the usual question. The more sensational the calling the more authentic would be your yes to the priest hood or religious life. But as the British would say, “such poppycock!” God rarely calls you on a telephone; he could but its most unlikely. It’s not like the network in heaven is bad, it’s the best; it’s just that this service provider choses not use this facility.
Our Lord saw Matthew and simply said “Follow me.” Jesus had just two words for Matthew and that was all that was need. There was no vocation pitch, no vocation camp, no tour of the seminary, no meeting with the bishop…just two words; “Follow me.”
We live in a world where social media invites us to ‘follow’ others. We speak of following this superstar, that religious leader, this political party and that food channel. Today the Lord invites us to follow him. He can’ be just limited to an Instagram page for he is so much bigger; he has a whole book and by the way it’s called the Bible. He does not post images but left us an everlasting image of his love for us; Him crucified on the cross. He has no reel that is stitched together with the perfect cation and well curated song to accompany it; He is REAL.
The Gospel of today also draws our attention to the second group of ‘religious people’ who had a problem with Jesus. Ironically, Jesus has no problem with the world but the world seems to have a problem with him. In the Gospel of Matthew, the growing opposition to Jesus’ ministry is seen in chapter nine. First the scribes, then in today’s text it is the Pharisees and finally it will be the disciples of John the Baptist.
What is it that is upsetting the Pharisees? According to them, Jesus is sitting at the wrong table. They would have loved to have the Lord, the superstar that he was, working miracles and drawing people in the thousands, to sit with them, at their table. But he chose to sit at the table of those who could only be called the scum of the earth. Why would any self-respecting Rabbi make such a terrible choice?
Jesus never came to win a popular vote. Popular votes do not get you crucified but rather keep you in good standing with all those whose voices you agree with even when they go against the grain of your faith or belief. You don’t have to look far, look how we vie for the popular vote within the Catholic Church. If only the Catholicity we profess was practiced the way the Lord intended it, we would have stopped every program in the Church that is already saving the saved! Ironically, the ones who hinder the work the Lord commanded us to do are those who are saved. They still determine how the Church is run, who runs it and who is ministered to in God’s name. Get off your high horse, listen to our Lord for once and not to your ego that is boosted by Satan.
Jesus did not come to make the fifty in the Church who attend daily mass happy. He congratulates you and loves you but his church was to be a Church meant to go to peripheries; to the least, to the last and to the lost. He said, “those who are well (hopefully that should be us) have no need of a physician” (that is Jesus). Think of it, how stupid you would look, sitting in a doctor’s waiting room, only to be ushered in and then for you to tell the doctor, ‘nothing is wrong with me, I just came for no reason!’ Jesus is emphatic, “ it is the sick” not those causing others to be sick of the Church, that he came for.
I know that this article sounds hateful and hurtful. I could have picked my words and soften the blow but then, didn’t our Lord do the same? …. remember he called the religious establishment a “brood of vipers.” Now how would that that go down with a Sunday congregation. Your bet is as good as mine
Written with malice to none.
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