Because Jesus said that he came to call sinners, he has provided every single one of us with a path to forgiveness and redemption.
There have been a few times in my life where I felt unworthy of Christ’s mercy due to bad choices that resulted in broken relationships and in one or two cases led to public scorn and humiliation. As I have gotten to know Jesus as my Lord and Savior, I now know better.
Regardless of what we may lose in this life as the result of making a bad choice, no matter what sins we may commit, Jesus Christ will never distance himself from us. As Christians this is our reality. No matter what, Jesus says to us, “I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
With the feast of St. Matthew coming up on Saturday, September 21, this is the perfect time to reflect on how those who are furthest from holiness – like Matthew the tax collector – can become a model of the acceptance of God’s mercy. The way in which Jesus called Matthew to “follow me,” is a timeless moment that is applicable to each of us.
The Calling of Matthew, then known as Levi, the son of Alphaeus
In Jesus’ time, there was perhaps no one more despicable than a tax collector, Levi’s chosen profession. The Jews classed them with harlots, heathens, and the worst of sinners.
So, imagine Matthew’s surprise when Jesus gazed upon him and said, “Follow me” (cf. Matthew 9:9-13). The words and gaze of Jesus must have washed over Matthew with such warmth that he was overcome by the love, peace, and mercy of Christ.
In this instant, Matthew realized, Christ is calling me! He knows all about me! And still, he loves me! And, so it was that Matthew, without hesitation, “rose and followed him” (cf. Matthew 9:9).
It is this type of transformative grace that Jesus wants all of us to experience. We must respond with conviction and say, “Lord Jesus, be the Lord of my life.”
Jesus does not exclude anyone from his friendship. When the Pharisees and scribes complained about Jesus dining with Matthew, and other tax collectors & sinners (all deemed unclean by the Jews), Jesus exclaimed, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I came not to call the righteous, but sinners (Mark 2:17).
The Parable of the Lost Sheep, Luke 15: 1-7
Luke, chapter 15 captures another instance where the Pharisees question why Jesus permits tax collectors and sinners to gather around him. To this, Jesus relates his parable about leaving the 99 sheep to go after the lost one until he finds it. Our Lord concludes by saying, “…there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance” (cf. Luke 15:7).
In Jesus’ time, when you sat together at table with someone, they were regarded as a brother or sister. Present at the Last Supper was Matthew, considered by the world to be among the worst of sinners, and several fishermen (Peter, Andrew, James, and John), a job that was common and unimportant.
No matter how lowly or unworthy others thought these men to be, the fact that they were sinners or did ordinary work did not exclude them from Christ’s call. In the same way that Matthew humbled himself, we too must be willing to admit that we are one of the sinners that Jesus came to call, and in so doing adopt a new, upright life in communion with Jesus.
Robert V. Rodriguez is Public Relations & Outreach Assistant for Pilgrim Center of Hope. He combines a passion for the Catholic faith together with years of professional experience as a TV news journalist, video producer, and PR/marketing specialist. Robert also serves as Chairman for our annual “Master, I Want to See” Catholic Men’s Conference.
Answering Christ’s call, Pilgrim Center of Hope guides people to encounter Him so as to live in hope, as pilgrims in daily life. See what’s happening & let us journey with you! Visit PilgrimCenterOfHope.org.