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Faith Daily | 21 September 2022

PRAYER of the DAY - APBA p583

Loving Father,

whose Son Jesus Christ has taught us

that what we do for the least of our brothers and sisters

we do also for him:

give us the will to be the servant of others

as he was the servant of all,

who gave up his life and died for us,

and yet lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever.

Amen.


GOSPEL for the Day: Matthew 9: 9-13 ST MATTHEW’S DAY


9 As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up and followed him.


10 And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax-collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples. 11When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax-collectors and sinners?’ 12But when he heard this, he said, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13Go and learn what this means, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.’

GOSPEL REFLECTION: Mary Rose

The calling of Matthew, the tax collector, seems to be another example of the rather strange choices Jesus made when choosing his disciples. Tax collectors in Jesus’ day were despised by nearly all the Jewish people. Firstly they were considered traitors to Israel whose people were living under Roman occupation. However the tax collectors not only accepted this state of affairs but were extorting money from their fellow citizens for the oppressive Roman government making them collaborators with the enemy and also assistants to godless, unclean Gentiles! As one commentator observed “they had betrayed their people, rejected their heritage, despised their temple, and renounced their God.”


However it is evident even in the old testament that not all those whom God calls are willing followers like Isaiah or Samuel – “Here I am send me.” We note that Jonah did not like the task he was given and ran away. Even Moses, chosen to lead his people out of Egypt to the Promised Land, argued with God at his choice yet he became a hero of the Israelites. God can see past our faults and human weaknesses. Matthew became a true disciple and is responsible for one of the four Gospels, giving us a legalistic view of Jesus’ ministry.


As astounding as it seems that Jesus would choose someone regarded as a traitor, a sinner and a thief to be his disciple, I have to wonder why such a person would simply abandon his booth and the wealth he would have accumulated to follow Jesus?


Jesus at first follows Matthew who has invited him to dine with him. Jesus would have known that the only guests would be fellow tax collectors. The Pharisees regarded tax collector and sinner as synonymous, hence they ask his disciples why he would join them. Jesus then identifies them as the sick who need a physician. He is the physician come to heal the sick, as those who are well don’t need a doctor. Perhaps a quiet dig at the Pharisees who have set themselves up as being model followers of Gods laws – “I thank God that I am not as others” in the parable of the Pharisee and the publican or tax collector (Luke 18.9-14).


In Matthew’s gospel there are a few references to Jesus and tax collectors and sinners. His opponents scorn his association with such sinners (ch11.19) yet Jesus makes much of them. When telling his disciples to love their enemies, he says that even the tax collectors, love those who love them (ch 5.46). In chapter 21.31-32 when confronted by hostile temple leaders, Jesus replies that even tax collectors and prostitutes (the most reviled in society) enter heaven before these enemies (the Pharisees) who preach the will of God but do not practise it in their lives.


FINAL PRAYER Collect for St Matthew’s Day

O Almighty God,

whose blessed Son called Matthew the tax-collector

to be an apostle and evangelist:

give us grace to forsake the selfish pursuit of gain

and the possessive love of riches

that we may follow in the way of your Son Jesus Christ,

who is alive and reigns with you,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever.

Amen.

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