Conduits of grace

– Friday of the 13th Week in Ordinary Time –

“I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.” (Matthew 9:13)

In today’s gospel reading, Jesus is eating with tax collectors and sinners. Seeing the stir this causes among the Pharisees, Jesus tells them that he has come, not to call not the righteous, but sinners.

It is interesting to note what happens when Jesus sits down to eat with Matthew, a loathed tax-collector: “many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Jesus and his disciples.” Notice how it is through Matthew that Jesus is able to personally encounter Matthew’s circle of friends. Something similar occurs in the Gospel of John, where Jesus implicitly shares a cup of water with a woman of questionable character and through her draws a large segment of her city’s population to himself (see John 4:39). In both cases, Jesus looks past the bad reputations of his interlocutors, befriends them, and taps into their potential as missionary disciples.

This is a lesson that Christians urgently need to (re-)learn. If we are to imitate Christ in calling (in Greek kaleó – to summon, invite) wounded people to newness of life, we must be willing to see more than their ‘problematic’ life situations. We cannot be like the Pharisees who sit in judgment and stand aloof from them, for as Jesus says, unless our righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, we will never enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:20).

Jesus is looking to encounter those who are despised and rejected, both for their own sake, and because they have a crucial role to play in the building up of God’s kingdom. However, he wants sinners like us to play a role in making him known! Therefore, let us befriend our modern-day Matthews and Samaritan women by reaching out to those on the peripheries, one person at a time.

by Mark Makowiecki

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