Saint for the day: Matthew, Apostle & Evangelist (c. 1st Century)
Ephesians 4:7, 11 – 13 – Psalm 19 – Matthew 9:9-13
“Gifts given for the building up of the Body of Christ;” – “I desire mercy not sacrifice.”
The two above quotes are familiar enough to us that we might just “ho-hum” them and move on. But if we take a moment to “parse them” we might get the deeper, fuller meaning. Try it, but read slowly.
All our gifts and abilities are given to us, not that we might appear better than someone else but for the express purpose of “building up the Body of Christ – the Church. There were many people who followed Jesus and sought to imitate the “works” He did, not in order to heal and build up but, rather to appear to be like Jesus with the same power he exercised. We must always seek “the giver” and not the gifts.
Then we look at the quote from today’s Gospel, “it is mercy that I seek and not sacrifice” and we might just try to find out what that’s all about. But let us not forget the fullness of what Jesus actually says: “go and learn the meaning of, ‘it is mercy that I seek and not sacrifice,” So we are forced to take apart that quote and find the deeper meaning that Jesus wants us to have.
It’s almost like saying, “don’t just follow the ‘laws’ without some interior change of heart. These words of Jesus were certainly timeless in the sense that the Church that I grew up in had lost this meaning. We, like the S & Ps of Jesus’ time, were fixated on ‘the letter of the law’ at the expense of the spirit. We see something of that even today with the way people circulate those “chain letters” on the internet with the promise, “Send this to everyone on your mailing list and see what ‘miracle’ God will do in your life.”
The S & Ps at the time of Jesus were fastidious in keeping all 613 “laws” and never broke the Sabbath Law yet they had no mercy. They fasted fastidiously but turned their backs on the sick who were in need of a doctor to heal them.
Matthew put his life on the line by leaving his lucrative ‘trade’ to follow Jesus. As we celebrate this feast can we see what we have to leave behind in order to follow Jesus who has shown us mercy and bring that mercy to the people around us. What “treasure” do we have to leave behind in order to find that “pearl of great price?” “Where your thoughts go in your idle moments: there is your treasure.” Let us see what the Lord is asking of us today and see if we can “leave all and follow him?” Amen