Perhaps not surprisingly, in my ordained life, I’ve been asked several times: “Doesn’t it seem weird when you are reading the gospel in church to say, ‘…from the gospel according to Matthew’?” Or, “don’t you want to sometimes say, ‘…from the gospel according to…ME!’?” HA!
Today in the life of the church we celebrate St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist. The gospel passage is, not surprisingly, from Matthew (Matthew 9:9-13). In it, Matthew describes his own call from Jesus:
“As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up and followed him. And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ But when he heard this, he said, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, I desire mercy, not sacrifice. For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.'”
How often do we think of ourselves as “righteous?” How often do we rejoice over being right? I know that I enjoy being right, and at times go to some length to prove it in an argument, discussion, or even just a friendly conversation. While being right and being righteous are two different things, they are related.
Being right is to be correct, just or proper. Being righteous by definition means being free from guilt or sin, being morally right or justifiable. So, in short, Jesus has come to call us all.
As Christians, and through the blessing of God’s grace and the death of Jesus on the cross, we are free from the bonds of sin and death. We are saved by the salvific power of Christ crucified. However, that doesn’t stop us from sinning, now does it? It seems again and again we are “sick,” and in, “need of a physician.” I think that the trick is realizing and accepting that we are indeed sick with sin and in dire need of the saving power that Christ brings to all who turn to him.
Thanks be to God that when we are sick, when we sin, when, as the Confession states, “we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone,” (BCP p. 360) that we are treated and healed by Jesus. Let us this day and in the week to come pay close attention to when we feel we are righteous, and when we feel we are in need of the healing mercy that Christ gives to us. Let us give glory and thanks to God that we are called by Jesus and made whole again by His mercy.