September 21, 2020
by Gladyce Janky
Creighton University's Heider College of Business and the School of Law
click here for photo and information about the writer

Feast of Saint Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist
Lectionary: 643

Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-13
Psalm 19:2-3, 4-5
Matthew 9:9-13

Praying Ordinary Time

Weekly Guide for Daily Prayer

What If I Have Trouble Getting Better?

Rising early, Matthew climbs the stairs to the roof of his home.  While saying his morning prayers, he notices the all-too-familiar feelings of emptiness and the effort required to ignore the harsh words whispered behind his back (traitor, sold out his people for money, he will pay for his sins.)  He tries to push away the emptiness by reminding himself he is financially secure while many of his neighbors struggle to earn a meager wage.  His thoughts drift to the rumors of the new teacher, the one that heals illness by forgiving sins.  Matthew wonders if his sins can be forgiven, or would Jesus reject him.

Imagine Matthew’s surprise when Jesus walks up to the customs booth, smiles at him, and says, Follow me.  Perhaps he spends the rest of his day in a daze, grappling with confusion as he tries to make sense out of what he hears and sees. The surprises keep coming as Jesus arrives at his home for dinner. What a spectacle it is to see the lonely house filled with guests, tax collectors, and sinners, all “social rejects” laughing and talking while sharing a meal with Jesus, as Matthew quietly takes in the scene.  How might Matthew feel as he hears Jesus tell the Pharisees those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do?  Does Matthew end his day contemplating why Jesus desires mercy, not sacrifice?  Will he remember these words while standing with the other disciples as Pontius Pilate sentences Jesus to death? 

This gospel reading raises more questions for me than answers.  How am I responding to Jesus’ call to Follow me?  Do I acknowledge my need for a physician, or do I reject the thought that healing my soul is a life-long journey best treated by daily doses of time with God?  Do I show mercy to Jesus by showing mercy to those labeled as today’s “social rejects?” 

The central message of Matthew’s gospel is the coming of God’s Kingdom and the need to shift to a new heart and a new way of leading a devout life.  How can this be done when throughout human history, there is so much divisiveness?  Do the words of encouragement from St. Paul to his fledgling Christian communities offer insights that might apply to our time? 

In his letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul encourages us to live beyond what separates us, With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love striving to preserve the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace (Eph. 4:2-3).  In Paul’s letter, the phrase bond of peace seems especially important.  A bond joins securely, forms a close attachment that is not easily separated or broken.  In the context of Ephesians, it seems to be the bonding agent that pulls together Paul’s other characteristics of the Christian life.  It is strong enough to hold in solidarity the diversity and complexity of human relations that comprise Church – humanity.  What better glue than a warm, soft blanket of God’s peace gently and securely enfolding and bonding us together as we seek to grant mercy to others.

Today, can we embrace our need for the Physician that heals our souls? 

Today, as we acknowledge God’s mercy for us, can we offer mercy to other hurting souls? 

I desire mercy, not sacrifice (MT 9:13)

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