As Jesus passed by,
he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post.
He said to him, “Follow me.”
And he got up and followed him. (Mt 9:9)
Jesus got in a little hot water for his selection of St. Matthew.
Matthew was, after all, a “traitor” of sorts. He was a Jew who worked for, of all people, the Romans. Matthew was a tax collector. His job was to collect from his fellow countrymen and turn over the taxes to the Romans.
Tax collectors were a nefarious group. Rome did not care how much — over and above — they may have collected and kept to themselves. As long as the tax collectors turned in the amount expected, Rome could care less. Many a tax collector took advantage of that laissez-faire attitude and charged outrageous sums, pocketing much of the money for themselves at their expense of their neighbors.
So, the crowds would not have been pleased that Jesus called a tax collector to follow Him.
To make matter worse, Matthew invited Jesus to dine with him and his friends.
Since Matthew would have been on the outs with his fellow Jews, it stood to reason that most of his friends would end up being outcasts as well.
Matthew had Jesus dine not only with himself but with a lot of other tax collectors.
The crowds were horrified the Jesus would mix would such people.
Jesus’ response? “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, I desire mercy, not sacrifice. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”
It’s a good thing, too, since we are all sinners.
FAITH ACTION: Are there people whom we consider outcasts? Do we treat them with disdain? It might be time to let go of the anger or disgust that we target against others. They are in need not of disdain but of acceptance and love.