A Reflection from Anita Compton
Today we celebrate the feast of St Matthew, one of the 12 Apostles
Tradition identifies Matthew as the despised tax collector called by Jesus which we find in Chapter 10:3.
The account in the Gospel is brief and Matthew’s response to Jesus’ call is swift.
He is immediate, wholehearted. No reflection, struggle, weighing up the alternatives or motive scrutiny. No hesitation as he leaves all behind to follow Jesus. Not everyone responds like Matthew. Some have to be pursued a few times before the penny drops that Jesus is calling them.
Always, Jesus takes the initiative, as he does with Matthew. Imagine him in a busy street, sitting in a dreaded place, the tax collectors’ booth.
Even now paying taxes at the end of the year is rarely popular. Then, they were despised for collecting taxes for the enemy Roman Empire, and suspected of overcharging people, to line their own pockets.
The ambivalent atmosphere painted is tense and tangible. The Pharisees question Jesus about his teaching and methods. Jesus’s association with outcasts as well as the unlikely people Jesus calls to be disciples, cause controversy. His table fellowship is scandalous and offends’ ritual purity’.
The disciples and those who are called, belong to a greater community, (ecclesia) church, open to anyone who receives and is touched by the merciful gaze of God, who desires ‘mercy not sacrifice.’
Mercy is the mystery of the Father’s love for all human beings, shining in the eyes, face and actions of Jesus, The Son. It is the Mercy that heals on the Sabbath. His mercy meets us where we are, despite our failings, lifting us up. We are invited to his table, where a place is set for us. He is the doctor to our troubled souls, to call out when we’re sick.
Hans Urs Von Balthazar describes the Son who embodies the mercy of the Father as,
“…the meeting place where all roads from heaven come together at the one ‘gate’ through which everyone who wishes to go to the Father must pass.”
As we receive and participate in the mercy shown to connect us to God, we must do the same. Being called to follow Jesus means collaborating, with and extending the mercy we have received to others.
That is easier said than done. I do not know about you, but when I look into my heart, I do not like what I see or feel. When I resent others, hold on to hurt that has been done, blame people, or circumstances, judge by my standards, I am blocked. There is gravel in my ‘heart-scape’ that disrupts God’s mercy, limiting my generosity to others.
There are no limits to Gods Mercy. It forgives our sins, sees beyond external circumstances, accepts us for who we are and what we can become. `it chases after people who have drifted away and pursues others despite rejections. It finds us when we have lost our way. It crosses the barriers of exclusion, never writing anyone off because they are not one of us.
In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul encourages us to ‘live a life worthy of the calling you received and to be humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. (Eph 4:1-2)
God’s Mercy draws us. It gives us confidence to keep coming with our straying feet and struggling hearts to Jesus who restores us again and again.
The people God brings into our lives are there for a reason. Our faith and experience of God’s Mercy can bring healing and wholeness to us and others.
Hs mercy helps us to give comfort to the broken hearted, listen to the dispirited, pray for those too weak to pray. There are times when we need a friend with faith in God’s mercy, to pray when we are too weak. We can assist the struggling, support single mothers, extend hospitality to refugees. We can offer time to help a neighbour, visit the sick, dispel fear, refuse to condemn or share a cheery welcome smile.
And like Jesus before us, who called Matthew, what we do in mercy, through Mercy, may be a turning point that changes other lives. God’s Mercy has delivered us from sin and death, to reside with God forever. Part of our response to our experience of His mercy in our lives is to share this good news whenever, and wherever we can.