Gospel: Mt 9:9-13
As Jesus moved on from there, he saw a man named Matthew, at his seat in the custom-house; and he said to him, “Follow me!“ And Matthew got up and followed him. Now it happened, while Jesus was at table in Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners joined Jesus and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why is it, that your master eats with sinners and tax collectors?“
When Jesus heard this, he said, “Healthy people do not need a doctor, but sick people do. Go, and find out what this means: What I want is mercy, not sacrifice. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.“
Jesus’ choice of Matthew as one of his disciples is quite encouraging for all of us. We are all sinners like Matthew. There comes a time when every one of us, no matter how good we are, sin against God. But sinfulness is never an obstacle for those who heed the call to take part in Jesus’ mission of evangelization. However, it is important that we leave behind everything that is incompatible or whatever that impedes us from committing ourselves to this mission. This is what Matthew did when he, upon hearing Jesus’ invitation, “Follow me!,“ immediately got up and followed Him, leaving behind his family and his customs post which symbolized his sinful lifestyle.
The meal, in the Jewish perspective, was an important occasion and a sign of fellowship. Hence the fact that Jesus openly shared meals with tax collectors and sinners was considered scandalous behavior. Jesus’ presence and fellowship with sinners was not a sign of approval of their sinful lifestyle but a manifestation of his non-condemnatory attitude. It was his way of saying that he does not give up on sinners. He believes that they can turn their life around especially after having experienced the mercy and compassion of God.