Hebrews 4:12-16 / Mark 2:13-17
We have a great high priest; He was tempted but did not sin.
In 1982 Archbishop Jozef Glemp of Warsaw wrote a letter urging Polish young people not to become discouraged or frustrated in their quest for change.
He told them he could sympathize with them because he himself was beaten by police when he was young and militant like them. The archbishop also said that his own father was punished severely for participating in a public protest against the Nazis. Just as Archbishop Glemp understood the pain and the frustration that Polish youth felt, so Jesus understands our pain and frustration. Jesus was someone who was like us in all things but sin.
Do we ever speak to Jesus about how he handled pain and frustration? "Do not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good." Romans 12:21
The word of God is alive and active, says the first reading. It is so alive and active that this word of God, spoken by Jesus, changes sinners into saints. This word can judge, but it judges with mildness: by offering new chances. Do we offer these chances to others? Or does our attitude—if not words—of condemnation keep people confined within their mediocrity and failures?
Matthew is a typical sinner, a tax collector, one who was not only exploiting his own people but a traitor to them as a collaborator with the Romans. But he responds to Jesus’ call and becomes an apostle and martyr, faithful to the end.
It is understandable if non-Catholics have certain assumptions and expectations about Catholics. Because we are the largest as well as probably the most prominent Church and also the Church that the media will use for its interests. Hence Catholics are expected to be good people and living saintly lives and doing good deeds.
But when the opposite happens, then Catholics and the Catholic Church are in for bad publicity. That was what happened when Jesus called Levi the tax collector to be one of His disciples. The assumption was that if Jesus were a teacher and a holy man, then He should be choosing good and respectable people to be His disciples. Yet what Jesus said in the gospel reminds us of who He is and what the Church is all about.
He did not come to call the virtuous but sinners. Hence the Church is also for sinners just as the hospital is for the sick. Yet the Church is also a sign of salvation. The Church must always look to Jesus the high priest who has been tempted in every way that we are, though He is without sin (1st reading).
Let us be confident then that we shall have mercy from Him and find grace when we are in need of help. And let us be that sign of salvation that the world is looking for.
Let us pray: God of mercy and compassion, you call weak people, sinful as they are, to give shape to your dreams about people and their world and to be instruments of salvation. Give us trust, not in our own strength, but in the power of your love, which can do through us and with us what we ourselves are incapable of. We thank you for calling us out of our frailty and alienation through Jesus Christ, our Lord.