Saint Thomas of Canterbury, Bolton

Stay with us, Lord, on our journey

Cycle A

Tenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

with a sinner.jpg

 

Matt 9. 9-13

"What I want is mercy, not sacrifice"

The table companionship of Jesus was absolutely startling. In his culture, to share food and drink with a person was a sign of familiarity and acceptance, a life-sharing expression of solidarity. Not surprising, then, that the Pharisees were scandalised to see him feasting with tax collectors, prostitutes and sinners generally, the moral dropouts of society. How could any respectable person behave in such a manner? At the very least, surely a Rabbi like Jesus was compromising himself and damaging his credibility by dining with such disreputable characters.

Thankfully, Jesus is the image, not of cold human respectability, but of passionate divine mercy. Jesus incarnates, personifies, the boundless mercy of God. So, yes, he readily includes these moral and social outcasts in his company, just as he tirelessly acknowledges the needs of the poor and the oppressed. He forgives sinners, just as he caringly heals the sick in mind and body. He shows compassion, consolation, pity and patience to people because they need him just as the sick need a doctor. In all of this, Jesus puts flesh on the meaning of mercy. In him God becomes visible as the Father who is rich in mercy and compassion.

And today Jesus reminds us that that is exactly what God wants to see in our lives also. He tells us to “learn the meaning of the words: what I want is mercy, not sacrifice”. Here is a warning against an empty, legalistic and ritualistic approach to religion. It is an invitation, first, to know within ourselves the wonder and the joy of God's tender love and mercy. And it is a call to us to be in turn ambassadors of divine acceptance. Jesus invites us forgiven sinners to share his mission to outcasts and sinners; to work for equality of all before God, and for the dignity of marginalised persons; to allow his own example to be our inspiration.