January 15

FOCUS:    Each of us is the sinner Jesus came to redeem.


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In today’s Gospel, Jesus gives a glimpse of the true purpose of His coming as the Messiah.  Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?  He has come to call those seeking help and healing, not the self-righteous who care about their own rules and welfare.


Jesus compares himself to a physician to provide a real world context.  He has already performed miracles that go beyond the capabilities of a physical healer.  But Jesus has come to cure our spiritual needs.  He seeks to heal the spiritually sick, those who can’t escape their life of sin.  Jesus is a Messiah of love and mercy.  However, this is not the Messiah the Pharisees, and most Jews are seeking.   To the Pharisees, the Messiah will be the perfect ruler who has mastered the strict requirements of the Law of Moses. 


But the catalyst for this encounter is Levi, who we know as Matthew.  Like he did with the fishermen Simon, Andrew, James and John, Jesus meets Matthew as he “passes by” and invites Matthew to become a disciple.  Matthew is the bridge between the sinners and the self-righteous.  Matthew is an outcast by his good fortune.  He has escaped the harsh treatment of the Romans by collecting taxes from his Jewish brethren.  Like the Pharisees, he can prosper despite the Roman occupation.  But like the sinners, he is also an outcast among the Jews, likely because of the unfair treatment of Jews enabled by his position.


Why did Matthew leave his post and follow Jesus, even hosting a meal for him and his followers?  What was missing in his life?  What did he see in Jesus and the life Jesus offered?  If Jesus was the Messiah, then Matthew saw hope for a better life.  Matthew saw a future filled with love and mercy, for both himself and for others.


Most of us are like Matthew.  We are seeking hope, love and mercy.  We realize that these things are missing from the life offered by the world around us.  Like Matthew, Jesus is calling us to a different life.  Jesus offered his life on the cross, so we could live the life of hope, love, and mercy both here on earth and forever in heaven.  How will we respond to what Jesus offers?


Today’s Question for Prayer and Reflection:

What areas of my life are like the sinners, the self-righteous Pharisees, or Matthew?