Gen 23:1-4, 19, 24:1-8, 62-67; Matt 9:9-13
The Call of Matthew
According to a report of the Sports Illustrated magazine, a college-football coach was faced with the possibility that his star player might be declared academically ineligible, so he pleaded with the math professor not to flunk the kid. “Tell you what, coach,” said the professor, “I’ll ask him a question in your presence. If he gets it right, I’ll pass him.” The athlete was called in and the professor asked: “What’s two and two?” “Four,” replied the player. Frantically the coach cried: “Give him another chance! Give him another chance!”
The Bible has many stories of people who have given with second chances and they became great people and saints in the process. Like for example, Saint Paul, he was an executioner that turned to a great missionary. Another one is Saint Thomas who was a doubter and changed into a believer. Another example is Peter who denied Jesus but became the first head of the Church.
Today’s gospel is another story of second chance which is given to a person by the name of Matthew. Matthew comes from the Aramaic word mattai, a shorter form of the Hebrew mattanyah which means “gift of Yahweh.” All of us know who Matthew is that he is a tax collector. A tax collector is, by profession, despised by the Jewish people. In the eyes of many, Matthew was not a good man. Nobody wanted to be seen in his company except his own fellow tax collectors and sinners. The people especially the Pharisees scrupulously avoid their company, refuse to do business with them, refuse to give or receive anything from them, refuse to intermarry and avoid any form of entertainment with them including table fellowship. However, Jesus associates with them. He dares these Pharisees by being seen together with the tax collectors and sinners and even has a dinner in the house of St. Matthew with the rest of Matthew’s company of tax collectors and sinners. He gave Matthew a “second chance” by inviting him to be one of His disciples. That is why Jesus says: “I desire mercy and not sacrifice,” (v. 13).
So often we express our love for God in our words and in our prayers, but how little do we show mercy in our lives? He wants us to express our love for Him precisely through our love for our neighbor but how? Somebody said it could be the details of service at home, a smile or complimentary word said to a friend, a hidden act of charity to someone we would naturally rather avoid, and the list could goes on and on. In short, we need to continually see others through the prism of the eyes of Christ and even more importantly we need to love them with the heart of Christ.
In relation to the above words of Jesus about doing mercy, Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us: “The forgiveness of sin and restoration of communion with God entail the remission of the eternal punishment of sin, but temporal punishment of sin remains. While patiently bearing sufferings and trials of all kinds and, when the day comes, serenely facing death, the Christian must strive to accept this temporal punishment of sin as a grace. He should strive by works of mercy and charity, as well as by prayer and the various practices of penance, to put off completely the ‘old man’ and to put on the ‘new man,’” (no. 1473).