Matthew 9: 9-13
9 Passing by, Jesus saw a man named Matthew sitting at a customs office. He said to him, "Follow me as a disciple". Jumping up, he began to follow him as a disciple. 10 Now when Jesus was at table in the house of Matthew, a large number of tax collectors and people considered to be far from God came and sat at the same table as he and his disciples. 11 Seeing what was going on, the group of Pharisees said to the disciples of Jesus, "Why is your master eating with the tax collectors and the people who are far from God?" 12 Having heard all this, Jesus said, "It is not the healthy people who need the doctor, but the sick people. 13 Go back to study the meaning of this passage from the Bible: 'It is compassion that I want, not these sacrifices related to religious worship'. Because my mission is not addressed to people who walk on the right path, but rather to people who are far from God."
In the market or elsewhere, relationships can be formed.
Gospel commentary - Homily
Major General Percy Hobart is an English military officer who was expelled from the army at the dawn of the 2nd World War. Why? He promoted ideas that were considered heretical at the time. For example, using an agile and mobile armed group, rather than driving into trenches, using the parachuting of supplies rather than their transport by horse-drawn wagons. It took a Winston Churchill, after consulting his file, to perceive him not as a heretic, but a visionary and a leader, and to give him a strategic position in the war that was looming. Is this not happening with Jesus in the gospel of today? He calls to follow him in his project someone considered a traitor and a man far from God, because of his work as a customs officer.
Why do you think Jesus chose Matthew? Of course, nothing is known about the facts and the personal history of Matthew. But it is remarkable that the Gospel do not allude to his great faith or to the fact that he would have been faithful for a while to listen to his word. No edifying story about it. The only clues we have are the rest of the story: a community of tax collectors and people far from God will gather around Jesus over a meal. Without Matthew, the customs officer, Jesus could not have been present to all these people.
In our sometimes empty churches, we allude from time to time to the distant ones, thinking of all these people who have moved away from Sunday worship. However, if the distant ones were not what we think, if it was rather the opposite: it is not people who are far from the Church, it is the Church which is distant from people. Take the Pharisees of the gospel who do not understand that Jesus mingles with people far from God, these Pharisees whose name means "separated", "apart from others". The problem of the Pharisees comes from their idea of purity and their vision of God which tends to exclude and excommunicate, while Jesus speaks of a Father who wants to find his children where they are, wants to re-establish ties, wants to embrace them in his arms, a bit like Emmett Johns (Pops), this Irish priest, with the street kids in Montreal.
Who can be where people are, if not the Christians themselves who go to work every morning, or have to stay in hospital or in an elderly house, play, travel or visit family? So I find it unfortunate to see the shortcoming perspective of these annual vocations weeks, as if only priests or religious were called, while all Christians are called to be present in this world.
Called to do what? Do not respond with loud words such as: "Proclaim the Word of God". Look at what Jesus does with Matthew's friends: he eats with them, he shares their intimacy. In a word, he establishes a relationship with them. Once the relationship is established, anything can happen. Did the tax collectors feel understood by Jesus, loved by Jesus? Was Jesus able to share his vision of life, his vision of God? We don't know and it's not important to know. Because the paths of relationship belong to the mystery of the Spirit.
"Passing by, Jesus saw" says the text of the gospel. "Passing by" is the sequence of events in my daily life. At work as at home, at the market as at the clinic, at school as in the garage, at the bar as at any committee, there are always relationships that can form "in passing", if at least we walk in the steps of Jesus, not of the Pharisees. At that time, there are a little less "distant", and what Jesus started with Matthew and the tax collectors, continues. Because our heart, which has learned to beat to the rhythm of Jesus', is the language we now use to speak.
When Christians gather on Sunday around the Eucharistic table and they are full of the joys and sorrows of the people with whom they have come into contact, and when their prayer evokes multiple faces, then there is no more people apart or distant. Christians followed Jesus to where he is.
-André Gilbert, Gatineau, March 2005