In Galilee in Jesus’ time, the ruling elites (Herod Antipas and his cohorts) controlled fishing by the Sea of Tiberias. They sold fishing rights to the “brokers” (telonai, commonly translated as “publicans” or “tax collectors”) who, in turn, contracted with the fishermen. The fishermen received capitalization from the brokers and were often indebted to them. The fishermen would form “cooperatives” so that they could bid for fishing contracts or leases.
Today’s Gospel notes that Matthew sits at a customs post, probably in Capernaum which was an important fishing locale. It is possible that Matthew was a contractor of royal fishing rights. He would also be seen as dishonest. Hence, the Pharisees brand him as a sinner.
When challenged over his call of Matthew and his association with tax collectors and sinners, Jesus replies that it is the sick people who need a physician. It is not disease that is in view here, but “illness,” that is, the loss of meaning and place in the community. Jesus “heals” Matthew and the ostracized like him by restoring them to the community of God which he establishes.
According to Pope Francis, the calling of Matthew reminds us that when Christ makes us his disciples, he does not look to our past but to the future. We need but respond to his call with a humble and sincere heart.
Gospel • Matthew 9:9-13
As Jesus passed by, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post. He said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. While he was at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat with Jesus and his disciples. The Pharisees saw this and said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” He heard this and said, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, I desire mercy, not sacrifice. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”
Source: “365 Days with the Lord 2022,” St. Pauls, 7708 St. Paul Rd., SAV, Makati City (Phils.); Tel.: 632-895-9701; Fax 632-895-7328; E-mail: [email protected]; Website: http://www.stpauls.ph.
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