June 8: Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A Revised
Readings: Hosea 6:3-6; Romans 4:18 -25; Matthew 9:9-13
Tax collectors, sinners, and the most unexpected are the focus of Jesus’ mission. That seems to capture the central point of the readings of this Sunday. In a certain city, there was a priest who would have qualified as a Cowboy or a Paniolo by his looks. He wore long hair, cowboy boots, a leather jacket and blue jeans. His ministry obliged him to sleep during the day and to work at night on the city streets ministering to night girls, street boys and street girls. Obviously when he started his ministry he was the talk of the town among the clergy and laity when next he organized a jazz band for ex-street boys and girls. Some wondered what Father was doing with those night girls. Instead of seeing God’s compassion and mercy in his work, there was a tendency to suspect, to judge and to condemn him. By the time Father Arnold Grol died, he had managed to give hope to so many young street boys and girls by setting up basic education and career schools that led them to self-employment. He managed to lead many of them into the Church that seemed to care so much for them. Jesus condemns any tendency to stigmatise such persons who engage in tasks that do not seem to fit into our way of thinking. The mission of Jesus and ours too is for all without exception, since all are in a state of sin. Therefore there should be no “righteous” and holier than thou attitude before God, clergy and laity alike. The first reading from Hosea draws a sharp contrast between empty religious observance, and a life marked by compassion and knowledge of the Lord. The prophet Hosea exhorts us to “strive to know the Lord”, not through empty sacrifices and holocausts, but through a true conversion of heart. That is what the Lord seeks from us.
In the Gospel, Matthew is a despised tax collector. As he goes about his normal daily work, Jesus stops by and tells him, “Follow me.” The power of those words and the gaze of Jesus strike deep in Matthew who has no hesitation. Matthew gets up, leaves his lucrative profession and follows Jesus. Then he makes a banquet for Jesus and all his friends to show that he has begun a new life. The First Reading seems to capture poetically what happened to Matthew. Before the call he did not know the Lord. The Lord came to him “like spring rains that waters the earth.” The Gospel passage is placed within the context of a meal, where people of the same status listed in the law as sinners gather at table with Jesus. For Jesus table fellowship is an anticipation of the heavenly banquet of the forgiven ones. By contrast, the Pharisees judge and condemn Jesus for being present at the banquet. “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” In response Jesus challenges the Pharisees, and us of today, to go and find the meaning of the words in Hosea, “ I desire mercy, not sacrifice”. Jesus goes on to add that he “did not come to call the righteous but sinners”. The message is twofold: 1) Our mission like that of Jesus is one of mercy and compassion; 2) we are challenged to always be inclusive in our ministry of compassion and healing to those alienated and despised in community.
©2008 John M. Mbinda
©2008 John M. Mbinda