Collect of the Day:
O God, all good things come from you. We ask you to grant us these gifts:
that inspired by you, our thoughts may be righteous;
that guided by you, our actions may match our thoughts.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God for ever and ever.
|The First reading||Hosea 6:3 – 6|
|‘On the third day he will raise us
and we shall live in his presence.
Let us set ourselves to know the Lord;
that he will come is as certain as the dawn
his judgement will rise like the light,
he will come to us as showers come,
like spring rains watering the earth.’
What am I to do with you, Ephraim?
|The Second reading||Romans 4:18 – 25|
|Though it seemed Abraham’s hope could not be fulfilled, he hoped and he believed, and through doing so he did become the father of many nations exactly as he had been promised: Your descendants will be as many as the stars. Even the thought that his body was past fatherhood – he was about a hundred years old – and Sarah too old to become a mother, did not shake his belief. Since God had promised it, Abraham refused either to deny it or even to doubt it, but drew strength from faith and gave glory to God, convinced that God had power to do what he had promised. This is the faith that was ‘considered as justifying him.’ Scripture however does not refer only to him but to us as well when it says that his faith was thus ‘considered’; our faith too will be ‘considered’ if we believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, Jesus who was put to death for our sins and raised to life to justify us.|
|The Gospel||Matthew 9:9 – 13|
|As Jesus was walking on from there he saw a man named Matthew sitting by the customs house, and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up and followed him.
While he was at dinner in the house it happened that a number of tax collectors and sinners came to sit at the table with Jesus and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does your master eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ When he heard this he replied, ‘It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick. Go and learn the meaning of the words: What I want is mercy, not sacrifice. And indeed I did not come to call the virtuous, but sinners.’
In Palestine of Jesus’ time people were divided into to classes, there were the rigidly orthodox who kept the Law in minute detail and regulation, and the second class who were referred to as the people of the land. It was forbidden for the orthodox to go on a journey with them, to have any business with them, to give or receive anything to or from them or to socialise with them in any form or matter. By being a companion to people like this Jesus was breaking every social convention for a pious person of His day.
Jesus’ defense of His actions was perfectly simple; He merely said that He went where the need for Him was the greatest. When Jesus said, “And indeed I did not come to call the virtuous, but sinners,” we must understand what He meant by this. He was certainly not saying that there were some people that are so righteous that they have no need of anything that He had to offer them, still less was He saying that He was not interested in people who were truly good and righteous.
Rather the point that Jesus was trying to get across was;” I did not come to invite people who are so self satisfied that they are convinced they do not need any help; I came to invite people who are very conscious of their sin and are desperately aware of their need for a Saviour.” He was saying; “It is only those who know how much they need me who can accept my invitation.”
The form of religion as practiced by Jesus’ critics is by no means a thing of the past. They were more concerned with ritual purity and personal holiness, than lending a helping hand to another who might be dealing with an issue of sin. They were afraid of the other, anybody who does not act as they act. They acted as if anybody they considered sinful was contagious and must be avoided at all costs. More concerned with criticism than encouragement, they practiced a form of piety that issued condemnation rather than sympathy or forgiveness. They would rather leave a person in the gutter than give them a helping hand to raise up from it. They were like doctors who were extremely concerned about the disease and pointing to those whom they think suffer from it, but not in the least concerned to help with the cure.
My friends this does still exist in our own time. With those who practice religion that consists in outward orthodoxy rather than in practical help. Jesus loved that saying from Hosea 6:6, our first reading today: “what I want is love, not sacrifice;” for He quoted it more than once eg Matthew 12:17. A person may diligently go through all the motions of orthodoxy, but if their hand is never stretched out to help others in need, they are not really Christian people.