It really wouldn’t and doesn’t take too much for any of us to be the Pharisees in today’s Gospel, even if there seems to be an innate Christian instinct within us to be repulsed by the behaviour of the Pharisees in this or any Gospel encounter. If any of us were ever to think that the Pharisees are to be isolated out and we are not like them; if any of us were to think we are going to be the true and devoted followers of our Lord and Saviour, we will have missed a very key and important dimension of the oral and written tradition of our faith; we will miss why we have Sacred Scripture in the first place.
We can be judgmental, negative and pessimistic about the world we live in and the people we live with, the Church we minister within. We remember today St. Matthew, whom many felt was by far so unworthy of becoming a disciple then Apostle of our Lord Jesus Christ that they were repulsed by Jesus’ invitation to Him. In fact, their repulsion caused them to question Jesus Himself. It was as if in their own paradigm of thinking, Jesus calling notorious sinners made Jesus lower in their eyes.
Isn’t it possible for us to do the same?
Isn’t it possible for us to question our bishops and teachers when they present us with something that goes against our own paradigms of thinking about the Church? About how Catholics and Christians should live, and when we begin to see the wounds, the blemishes, the shortcomings of our brothers and sisters.
As a Vocation Director, I look for broken men (and I know them well being one myself). Broken men who can accept their brokenness and yet at the same time see that they are a gift from God to the world and to others; they make the best priests: and if that’s you, give me a call.
We heard yesterday and we will hear again this week of the disciples focussing their thoughts on who among them is the greatest. We must see ourselves as a gift but not with blinders on; we must see each other as the amazing gift and blessing to the world and to each other as God sees us all. I mention this too because to feel the weight of our sinfulness is not to focus on it. If we focus on our sinfulness, we will never be doing God’s work. Priests are men of the Eucharist, but should also be men of Confession, knowing and seeking God’s mercy.
We are not worthy of this call to be a Priest of God, but none of us are, not me, no priest, no Cardinal or even the Pope – none of us are. We are sinners, get over it, with God’s grace and some effort on your part (but much more God’s grace) we will get better; and God chose to build a Church and through His Son bring each of us the opportunity for salvation through sinners, often very notorious sinners!
If that’s hard to believe, look at St. Paul, and remember His words: in dialogue with Jesus in 1st Corinthians: Jesus says “my grace is sufficient, it’s enough for you: power is made perfect in weakness”. St. Paul tells us that he has come to “boast of his own weakness, because he comes to see strength in it”. The more we have been forgiven for, the more we are aware of how much we have needed God for that, how much we have to be thankful for.
How much is God and how little is us! We must simply know we can’t live without Jesus Christ and my brothers in Christ, as we prepare for this Year of Mercy; let us consider what has been given to each one of us, so that we can extend that mercy and forgiveness to others; may we all remember that though we are sinners – we are loved sinners, loved back from any weakness or darkness into the light of Christ. May God bless you.