Gospel reading of the day:
Luke 10:1-12, 17-20
Jesus appointed seventy-two other disciples whom he sent ahead of him in pairs to every town and place he intended to visit. He said to them, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest. Go on your way; behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves. Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals; and greet no one along the way. Into whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this household.’ If a peaceful person lives there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you. Stay in the same house and eat and drink what is offered to you, for the laborer deserves his payment. Do not move about from one house to another. Whatever town you enter and they welcome you, eat what is set before you, cure the sick in it and say to them, ‘The Kingdom of God is at hand for you.’ Whatever town you enter and they do not receive you, go out into the streets and say, ‘The dust of your town that clings to our feet, even that we shake off against you.’ Yet know this: the Kingdom of God is at hand. I tell you, it will be more tolerable for Sodom on that day than for that town.”
The seventy-two returned rejoicing, and said, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us because of your name.” Jesus said, “I have observed Satan fall like lightning from the sky. Behold, I have given you the power to ‘tread upon serpents’ and scorpions and upon the full force of the enemy and nothing will harm you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: When Jesus commissions the 72 disciples to go and prepare the towns where he was to visit, he offered a description of Christian mission. Jesus said that the harvest is plenty but the laborers are few; we tend to think this comment refers to the need for priests and ministers, and that is true to an extent, but Jesus is extending to all of us a call to reap the harvest he has sown. The call to prepare the way for Jesus’ coming is universal. Jesus says our vocations to minister will not always be easy. We are to travel light on this path and be flexible in accepting the hospitality that is offered to us. Our mission is to carry peace with us and to heal the sick, and when others reject what we bring them, we are to leave them to their own devices with the hope that they one day will recollect our counsel that the kingdom of God is at hand. Our task is to take the advice Jesus has offered about Christian mission and look for its application to our own circumstances and await the promise of joy that will ensue just as surely as the 72 came back rejoicing.
Saint of the day: Jerome was a Roman Christian who lived in the fourth century. His father taught him his religion well, but sent him to a famous pagan school. There Jerome grew to love pagan writings and lost some of his love for God. Yet, in the company of a group of holy Christians, with whom he became great friends, his heart was turned completely to God.
Later, this brilliant young man decided to live alone in a wild desert. He was afraid that his love for pagan writings would lead him away from the love of God. He went into the desert to search for God. He also studied Hebrew with a monk as his teacher. He became such a great scholar of Hebrew that he could later translate the Bible into Latin and make it accessible to many more people in the vernacular language.
St. Jerome spent long years of his life in a little cave at Bethlehem, where Jesus had been born. There he prayed, studied the Bible, and taught many people how to serve God. He wrote a great many letters and even books to defend the faith from heretics.
St. Jerome suffered from a bad temper, and his sharp tongue made him many enemies. Yet he was a very holy man who spent his life trying to serve Jesus in the best way he could. Despite his cranky temperament, he grew holy and the church has proclaimed him a great saint. He died in 419 or 420.
Spiritual reading: Good, better, best. Never let it rest. ‘Til your good is better and your better is best. (St. Jerome)
Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Here is a true child of Israel. There is no duplicity in him.” Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.” Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this.” And he said to him, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: On this feast of Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, we have from the Church the reading from John’s gospel where Jesus mysteriously tells Nathaniel that he saw him under the fig tree and Nathaniel responds with a confession of faith that Jesus is the Son of God and the King of Israel. Jesus then tells him that he will see greater things and obliquely refers to Jacob’s dream where he saw the angels climbing up and down a ladder between God and humanity. In the image that Jesus presents to Nathaniel, the Lord is clearly the bridge that connects God and God’s people. May we cross that bridge today.
Saint of the day: We call the angels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael “saints” because they are holy. But they are different from the rest of the saints because they were not human. They protect human beings, and we know something about each of them from the Bible.
Michael’s name means “who is like God?” Three books of the Bible speak of St. Michael: Daniel, Revelation, and the Letter of Jude. In the book of Revelation or the Apocalypse, chapter 12:7-9, we read of a great war that went on in heaven. Michael and his angels battled with Satan. Michael became the champion of loyalty to God. We ask Michael to make us strong in our love of the Good News.
Gabriel’s name means “the power of God.” He, too, is mentioned in the book of Daniel. He has become familiar to us because Gabriel is an important person in Luke’s Gospel. This archangel announced to Mary that she was to be the mother of our savior. Gabriel announced to Zechariah that he and St. Elizabeth would have a son and call him John. Gabriel is the announcer, the communicator of the Good News. We ask Gabriel to help us to proclaim the Good News.
Raphael’s name means “God has healed.” We read the story of Raphael’s role in Tobit. He brought protection and healing to the blind Tobit. At the very end of the journey, when all was completed, Raphael revealed his true identity. He called himself one of the seven who stands before God’s throne. We ask Raphael to protect us in our travels, even for short journeys, like going to the store or school.
When the days for Jesus to be taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem, and he sent messengers ahead of him. On the way they entered a Samaritan village to prepare for his reception there, but they would not welcome him because the destination of his journey was Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?” Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they journeyed to another village.
Reflection on the gospel reading: This passage marks the end in Luke’s gospel of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee and his turn toward the final period of his mission to humanity. While the other gospel writers suggest that Jesus goes up to Jerusalem several times to celebrate the holy days of his people, repeatedly making the trip apparently over the course of a number of years, Luke seems to suggest that Jesus goes to Jerusalem but once. With this literary license, the evangelist makes the point that Jerusalem and everything that happens there, including the Lord’s passion, death, resurrection, and ascension, is the meaning and object of Jesus’ entire ministry.
Saint of the day: Lorenzo Ruiz was born in Manila in about 1600 of a Chinese father and a Filipino mother, both Christians. Thus he learned Chinese and Tagalog from them and Spanish from the Dominicans whom he served as altar boy and sacristan. He became a professional calligrapher, transcribing documents in beautiful penmanship. He was a full member of the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary under Dominican auspices. He married and had two sons and a daughter.
His life took an abrupt turn when he was accused of murder. Nothing further is known except the statement of two Dominicans that “he was sought by the authorities on account of a homicide to which he was present or which was attributed to him.”
At that time three Dominican priests, Antonio Gonzalez, Guillermo Courtet and Miguel de Aozaraza, were about to sail to Japan in spite of a violent persecution there. With them was a Japanese priest, Vicente Shiwozuka de la Cruz, and a layman named Lazaro, a leper. Lorenzo, having taken asylum with them, was allowed to accompany them. But only when they were at sea did he learn that they were going to Japan.
They landed at Okinawa. Lorenzo could have gone on to Formosa, but, he reported, “I decided to stay with the Fathers, because the Spaniards would hang me there.” In Japan they were soon found out, arrested and taken to Nagasaki. The site of wholesale bloodshed when the atomic bomb was dropped had known tragedy before. The 50,000 Catholics who once lived there were dispersed or killed by persecution.
They were subjected to an unspeakable kind of torture: After huge quantities of water were forced down their throats, they were made to lie down. Long boards were placed on their stomachs and guards then stepped on the ends of the boards, forcing the water to spurt violently from mouth, nose and ears.
The superior, Antonio, died after some days. Both the Japanese priest and Lazaro broke under torture, which included the insertion of bamboo needles under their fingernails. But both were brought back to courage by their companions.
In Lorenzo’s moment of crisis, he asked the interpreter, “I would like to know if, by apostatizing, they will spare my life.” The interpreter was noncommittal, but Lorenzo, in the ensuing hours, felt his faith grow strong. He became bold, even audacious, with his interrogators.
The five were put to death by being hanged upside down in pits. Boards fitted with semicircular holes were fitted around their waists and stones put on top to increase the pressure. They were tightly bound, to slow circulation and prevent a speedy death. They were allowed to hang for three days. By that time Lorenzo and Lazaro were dead. The three Dominican priests, still alive, were beheaded.
Spiritual reading: Peace begins with a smile. (Mother Teresa)
An argument arose among the disciples about which of them was the greatest. Jesus realized the intention of their hearts and took a child and placed it by his side and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. For the one who is least among all of you is the one who is the greatest.”
Then John said in reply, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow in our company.” Jesus said to him, “Do not prevent him, for whoever is not against you is for you.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: We read Luke’s account of Jesus’ prediction of his passion and death on Saturday; this passage follows immediately afterward. Luke does something striking and unambiguous in his rendering of this event. In Mark’s account of this event, that evangelist interjects a discussion about Elijah and John, but Luke goes right to this argument among the apostles about who is the greatest. Luke is pointing out, by the way he constructs this plot, that while the apostles were totally at a loss about what to say about Jesus’ suffering and death, they were ready and eager to talk about who is the greatest. Luke emphasizes this point when he has Jesus take the child to make the point that Jesus has not chosen the apostle because they were something special: God could choose anyone to do the job he has given to the apostles, even a powerless child. The greatness of the apostles does not derive from who they are but from the mission they have been given.
And so it is with us. We may suffer the temptation to think we are something special. But whatever gifts we have, they are not ours but the Lord’s. Our focus should not be on what we have but what we do.
Saint of the day: Born at Pouy, Gascony, France, in 1580 into a peasant family, Vincent de Paul died at Paris, September 27, 1660. He made his humanities studies at Dax with the Cordeliers, and his theological studies, interrupted by a short stay at Saragossa, were made at Toulouse where he graduated in theology. Ordained in 1600, he remained at Toulouse or in its vicinity acting as tutor while continuing his own studies
The deathbed confession of a dying servant opened Vincent’s eyes to the crying spiritual needs of the peasantry of France. This seems to have been a crucial moment in the life of the man from a small farm in Gascony, France, who had become a priest with little more ambition than to have a comfortable life.
It was the Countess de Gondi (whose servant he had helped) who persuaded her husband to endow and support a group of able and zealous missionaries who would work among the poor, the vassals and tenants and the country people in general. Vincent was too humble to accept leadership at first, but after working for some time in Paris among imprisoned galley-slaves, he returned to be the leader of what is now known as the Congregation of the Mission, or the Vincentians. These priests, with vows of poverty, chastity, obedience and stability, were to devote themselves entirely to the people in smaller towns and villages.
Later Vincent established confraternities of charity for the spiritual and physical relief of the poor and sick of each parish. From these, with the help of St. Louise de Marillac, came the Daughters of Charity, “whose convent is the sickroom, whose chapel is the parish church, whose cloister is the streets of the city.” He organized the rich women of Paris to collect funds for his missionary projects, founded several hospitals, collected relief funds for the victims of war and ransomed over 1,200 galley slaves from North Africa. He was zealous in conducting retreats for clergy at a time when there was great laxity, abuse and ignorance among them. He was a pioneer in clerical training and was instrumental in establishing seminaries.
Most remarkably, Vincent was by temperament a very irascible person—even his friends admitted it. He said that except for the grace of God he would have been “hard and repulsive, rough and cross.” But he became a tender and affectionate man, very sensitive to the needs of others.
Jesus said to the Pharisees: “There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day. And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table.
Dogs even used to come and lick his sores. When the poor man died, he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried, and from the netherworld, where he was in torment, he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he cried out, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering torment in these flames.’ Abraham replied, ‘My child, remember that you received what was good during your lifetime while Lazarus likewise received what was bad; but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented. Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go from our side to yours or from your side to ours.’ He said, ‘Then I beg you, father, send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they too come to this place of torment.’ But Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.’ He said, ‘Oh no, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ Then Abraham said, ‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.'”
Reflection on the gospel: Jesus tells a parable about a rich man and a poor man named Lazarus. The rich man lives a life of comfort, and he ignores the sufferings of Lazarus. We know this because Jesus tells us that Lazarus would have eaten the scraps from the rich man’s table, a condition the passage makes clear was contrary to fact: Lazarus would have eaten the scraps, but he did not. When the poor man dies, he goes to Abraham’s bosom. But when the rich man dies, he goes to a place of suffering.
The rest of the passage is particularly telling about the attitudes that afflict the rich man. Even in death, even in a place of consequences for his lack of concern, the rich man treats Lazarus like he is servant. He cries out, “Father Abraham, have pity on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering torment in these flames.” The rich man does not deign to speak to Lazarus but instead addresses his plea to Abraham, and even as he sees that Lazarus now enjoys the better part and the higher position, the rich man treats the poor one like he is a servant.
The gospel makes unambiguously clear that the poor have a privileged position in the eyes of God. We fail to show them mercy at our own peril. We treat them like our inferiors and show them no respect only with the most terrible consequences for ourselves. Our salvation, our claim to God’s mercy, directly ties to our concern for the poor. If I lack for compassion, I need to pray that God will give me a sense of compassion, for without it, I am lost.
Spiritual reading: Only in heaven will we see how much we owe to the poor for helping us to love God better because of them. (Mother Teresa)
While they were all amazed at his every deed, Jesus said to his disciples, “Pay attention to what I am telling you. The Son of Man is to be handed over to men.” But they did not understand this saying; its meaning was hidden from them so that they should not understand it, and they were afraid to ask him about this saying.
Reflection on the gospel reading: Jesus has revealed his identity to his disciples, but he has told them that he is something quite different than they imagined. Being the anointed one, the messiah, the king, is not a story of earthly prestige; it is a narrative about self-sacrifice and even pain. While the disciples dreamed of a future that held worldly honors, Jesus tells them his fate was one of betrayal and suffering. It is hard even for us, who know so well this story, to understand that suffering is an intrinsic component of the mission that Jesus lived and preached, but it is our call to embrace the suffering that life hands us. Certainly, we need not go and look for it; it will come and find us. But when it comes, we should not resist it. Everything is gift from the hands of God.
Saint of the day: Born on April 4, 1894 to the Sicilian nobility, Giuseppe Benedetto Dusmet was the son of Marquis Luigi Dusmet. Educated at the abbey of San Martino delle Scales from when he was five-years-old, he became a Benedictine monk who made his formal vows on August 13, 1840 at the abbey of Monte Cassino. He taught philosophy and theology in Benedictine houses. A priest Giuseppe was prior of the monastery of San Severino, Naples from 1850 and became prior of the monastery of San Flavio, Caltanissetta, Sicily in 1852. From 1858, he was abbot of the monastery of San Nicolo l’Arena, Catania, Sicily. The monastery was later confiscated by the state soon after the founding of the kingdom of Italy. In 1867, he came archbishop of Catania, Sicily and a cardinal in 1889.
Spiritual reading: In the attitude of silence the soul finds the path in a clearer light, and what is elusive and deceptive resolves itself into crystal clearness. Our life is a long and arduous quest after Truth. (Mahatma Ghandi)
Once when Jesus was praying in solitude, and the disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” They said in reply, “John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, ‘One of the ancient prophets has arisen.’” Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter said in reply, “The Christ of God.” He rebuked them and directed them not to tell this to anyone.
He said, “The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: In today’s gospel, Jesus and his disciples are praying in solitude. In the midst of the prayer, the question of Jesus’ identity, mission, and fate arise. God has an idea for each of our lives and draws us to this idea through the various events of our lives. God calls us into communion with Godself to plug into a relationship which works out the nature of our calling through prayerful recognition of how God works in our lives. This passage from Luke reminds us that it is in prayer that we sort through the various facts and emotions of that divine idea for our lives and learn what it is that God created us to be and to do.
Saint of the day: Born on March 1, 1653 at San Severino, Pacificus was the son of Antonio Divini and Mariangela Bruni, both of whom died when Pacificus was about three-years-old. They left him to be raised by an uncle. Pacificus joined the Franciscans in December 1670 and was ordained in 1678. A professor of philosophy, he taught novices and served as a parish missionary. His health failed and he spent his final 29 years lame, deaf, and blind, leading a contemplative life. Pacificus is said to have received ecstasies and been a miracle worker.
Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was happening, and he was greatly perplexed because some were saying, “John has been raised from the dead”; others were saying, “Elijah has appeared”; still others, “One of the ancient prophets has arisen.” But Herod said, “John I beheaded. Who then is this about whom I hear such things?” And he kept trying to see him.
Reflection on the gospel reading: I long have loved much a song from the 1970s musical, “Godspell,” a song called, “Day by Day.” The lyrics of that song ask that day-by-day, we may see Jesus more clearly, love him more dearly, follow him more nearly. In the passage that we read from Luke today, Herod too wants to see Jesus, but he wants to see him in a way quite different from the song from “Godspell.”
The Herod about whom we read today was the son of Herod the Great. Herod the Great, of course, in Matthew’s gospel is the king whom the magi visited and who, for fear of his throne, put to death all the boys of Bethlehem under the age of two. Herod the Great in his will provided that his kingdom be divided among his four sons, so Herod the Tetrarch who appears in today’s passage is a ruler of a fourth part of the kingdom of his father. “Tetrarch” actually means, “ruler of a fourth part.”
In today’s narrative, Herod has been hearing quite a bit about Jesus and the wonders that Jesus works. Herod is a superstitious man, and like his father before him, he fears Jesus. But Herod also is curious about him and wants to see him, perhaps so Jesus can perform some “magic” for him.
One moral to this gospel passage is that there are different ways to see Jesus. There is the wrong path, that is, the way that Herod wants: to perceive the Lord with neither faith nor hope and think about him much the way we might be amused by the tricks of a trained animal. And there is the way that the song “Day by Day” contemplates: to look into life and each part of the world to see, love, and follow the Lord.
Saint of the day: Padre Pio was born on May 25, 1887 to a southern Italian farm family as Francesco Forgione as the son of Grazio, a shepherd. At age 15, he entered the novitiate of the Capuchin Friars in Morcone, and joined the order at age 19. He suffered several health problems, and at one point, his family thought he had tuberculosis. He was ordained a priest at age 22 on 10 August 1910.
While praying before a cross, he received the stigmata on September 20, 1918, the first priest ever to be so blessed. As word spread, especially after American soldiers brought home stories of Padre Pio following World War II, the priest himself became a point of pilgrimage for both the pious and the curious. He would hear confessions by the hour, reportedly able to read the consciences of those who held back. He was said to be able to bilocate, levitate, and heal by touch. Founded the House for the Relief of Suffering in 1956, a hospital that serves 60,000 a year. In the 1920s, he started a series of prayer groups that continue today with over 400,000 members worldwide. He died on September 23, 1968 of natural causes.
His canonization miracle involved the cure of Matteo Pio Colella, age 7, the son of a doctor who works in the House for Relief of Suffering, the hospital in San Giovanni Rotondo founded by Padre Pio. On the night of June 20, 2000, Matteo was admitted to the intensive care unit of the hospital with meningitis. By morning, doctors had lost hope for him as nine of the boy´s internal organs had ceased to give signs of life. That night, during a prayer vigil attended by Matteo´s mother and some Capuchin friars of Padre Pio´s monastery, the child’s condition improved suddenly. When he awoke from the coma, Matteo said that he had seen an elderly man with a white beard and a long, brown habit, who said to him: “Don´t worry; you will soon be cured.”
Spiritual reading: He did not say, ‘You will not be tempted, you will not be troubled, you will not be uncomfortable;” rather, he said, ‘You will not be overcome.’” (Revelations of Divine Love by Dame Juliana of Norwich)
Jesus summoned the Twelve and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them to proclaim the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick. He said to them, “Take nothing for the journey, neither walking stick, nor sack, nor food, nor money, and let no one take a second tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there and leave from there. And as for those who do not welcome you, when you leave that town, shake the dust from your feet in testimony against them.” Then they set out and went from village to village proclaiming the good news and curing diseases everywhere.
Reflection on the gospel reading: In this passage, Jesus sends out the Twelve to extend the work that he himself has been doing. The Twelve have walked, watched, and heard the Master for an extended period of time: in effect, they have been in training. Now, while the Lord is still with them, he sends the Twelve out on a sort of supervised training. Jesus sends them out to calm troubled souls, heal sick people, and announce the good news. He asks them to work in perfect freedom, unaffected by material concerns and grateful for any kind of generosity that comes their way. The work of the Church begins here in this passage, for what the Lord charged the Twelve to do, he charges us to do: in whatever circumstances we find ourselves, to tell of the good news, heal people who hurt, not be picky, and accept the good that come to us with gratitude.
Saint of the day: Augustinian bishop Thomas of Villanueva was born in 1488 at Fuentellana, Castile, Spain, as the son of a miller. He studied at the University of Alcala, earned a licentiate in theology, and became a professor there at the age of twenty-six. He declined the chair of philosophy at the university of Salamanca and instead entered the Augustinian Canons in Salamanca in 1516.
Ordained in 1520, he served as prior of several houses in Salamanca, Burgos, and Valladolid, as provincial of Andalusia and Castile, and then court chaplain to Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. During his time as provincial of Castile, he dispatched the first Augustinian missionaries to the New World. They subsequently helped evangelize the area of modern Mexico. He was offered but declined the see of Granada but accepted appointment as archbishop of Valencia in 1544. As the see had been vacant for nearly a century, Thomas devoted much effort to restoring the spiritual and material life of the archdiocese. He was also deeply committed to the needs of the poor. He held the post of grand almoner of the poor, founded colleges for the children of new converts and the poor, organized priests for service among the Moors, and was renowned for his personal saintliness and austerities. While he did not attend the sessions of the Council of Trent, he was an ardent promoter of the Tridentine reforms throughout Spain. He died in 1555.
Spiritual reading: Facing outward, human existence is spiritual insofar as it intentionally engages reality as a maximally inclusive whole and makes the cosmos an intentional object of thought and feeling. Facing inward, life has a spiritual dimension to the extent that it is experienced as the project of one’s most vital and enduring self, and it is structured by experiences of sudden transformation and subsequent slow development. (Spirituality, Diversion and Decadence: The Contemporary Predicament by Peter H. Van Ness)
Gospel reading of the day:
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.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: Tax collectors in the time and place that Jesus lived were Jews who worked for the Romans. Perceived as people who violated the Law of Moses, tax collectors were social outcasts. The passage that we read today describes Jesus’ call of a tax collector, Matthew, to follow him. The text demonstrates that Jesus did not allow the biases of people who surrounded him to influence his decisions about who would accompany him. Matthew leaves everything in an instant to follow the Lord, and in a meal that celebrates his welcome among the Lord’s disciples, the Pharisees and scribes accuse Jesus of keeping poor company. The Lord, however, says that he has come to heal the sick and implicitly accuses the Pharisees of scribes of legalisms and a lack of mercy. Here, then, as over and over again throughout the scriptures, the Lord counsels us to let go of rigid adherence to law in order that we might lavishly love one another.
Saint of the day: The apostle Matthew was a Jew who worked for the occupying Roman forces, collecting taxes from other Jews. Though the Romans probably did not allow extremes of extortion, their main concern was their own purses. They were not scrupulous about what the “tax-farmers” got for themselves. Hence the latter, known as “publicans,” were generally hated as traitors by their fellow Jews. The Pharisees lumped them with “sinners.” So it was shocking to them to hear Jesus call such a man to be one of his intimate followers.
Matthew got Jesus in further trouble by having a sort of going-away party at his house. The Gospel tells us that “many” tax collectors and “those known as sinners” came to the dinner. The Pharisees were still more badly shocked. What business did the supposedly great teacher have associating with such immoral people? Jesus’ answer was, “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” (Matthew 9:12b-13). Jesus is not setting aside ritual and worship; he is saying that loving others is even more important.
The traditional view is that the Gospel of Matthew was composed by Matthew, though modern Biblical scholars widely dismiss the possibility that the apostle Matthew wrote the gospel. Scholars have made several suggestions as to the identity of the author: a converted rabbi or scribe, a Hellenised Jew, a Gentile convert who was deeply knowledgeable about the Jewish faith, or a member of a “school” of scribes within a Jewish-Christian community. Most scholars hold that the author was a Jewish-Christian, rather than a Gentile.
Spiritual reading: Every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a head of a household, who brings out of his treasure things new and old. (Matthew 13:52)