Godzdogz

Godzdogz

The blog of the Dominican student brothers at Blackfriars, Oxford.

Built on the four pillars of our Dominican life – preaching, prayer, study, and community – Godzdogz offers many resources for exploring the Catholic Faith today.
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Encouraged and Challenged by the Gospel

Saturday, June 07, 2008
10th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Readings: Hosea 6:3-6; Psalm 49; Romans 4:18-25; Matthew 9:9-13

I suspect that the Gospel reading for this Sunday leaves most people, and I include myself, with rather conflicting impressions. For these five short verses both encourage and challenge us, reassure us, yet confront us. Matthew, who in the Gospels of Mark (2:14) and Luke (5:27) is called Levi, is a collector of taxes and, therefore, a member of an unloved class of people. He would have been considered a traitor by his fellow Jews, someone who collaborated with the Roman authorities and loaded his own pocket at the expense of his countrymen. Yet this is precisely the person Jesus chooses to call as a disciple. In the Gospel we see Jesus dining at the house of Matthew, together with a whole group of tax collectors and sinners. Jesus is quite unashamed to be seen with these people, and does not fear that he might be contaminated by their uncleanness. He is in fact expressing quite openly a preference to be with those whom the majority think it right and proper to despise.

This is an uncomfortable situation for the Pharisees and for many people it is still unsettling. It is so easy to look at the Church at any period of its history and to be scandalised by the number of sinners in its midst. Yet Jesus replies that ‘it is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick’ (Matthew 9:12). Jesus is not condoning sin but is seeking out sinners to heal them. And he shows that this can only be achieved with understanding and compassion. ‘What I want is mercy, not sacrifice’, he tells the Pharisees. He is here quoting from the prophet Hosea (6:6), for Jesus is no maverick, arbitrarily inventing the rules as he goes along. What he has to say about mercy and forgiveness is confirmed by the tradition of the Jewish Scriptures. Therefore, the Pharisees have no excuse.

For Jesus true worship and piety must show themselves in compassionate mercy. In other words, love of God and love of neighbour are two sides of the same coin. This love of neighbour expresses itself in a special way in our attentiveness to the weak and fallen, meeting them wherever they are, befriending them, and eating with them. This is the only way to show the healing love of Christ. This was the whole purpose and mission of Jesus, the reason he was sent by the Father. We should find encouragement in the fact that our God is a God of mercy and compassion. At the same time we ought to feel challenged as Christians to display the same compassion as Christ towards those who are often vilified and written-off but who, perhaps, yearn to be shown the merciful face of the Father.

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