Catholic Prayers for the New Evangelization

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Sunday, June 08, 2008

Homily Tenth Sunday of the Year A 2008

In these beautiful Spring days, we celebrate ordinations and graduations…
moments which are inevitably bittersweet.

The theme of friendship always surfaces this time of year…
as our young people make autograph books
and hug…and say goodbye…and shed a few tears.

Our Saint Michael School 8th Grade Yearbook includes the following reflection:
“A friend is a hand that is always holding yours.
No matter how close or far apart you may be.
A friend is someone who is always there and will always care.
A friend is a feeling of forever in the heart.”

We treasure our relationships with one another
and see in them the hand of God
who has made human relationship
an image of His divine communion of persons.

We cannot help but know that our loving Father has been hard at work
as we ponder the chance encounters…followed by years of growth…
that have matured into relationships we now could not live without.

Today we see in Holy Scripture the story of a simple encounter
which blossoms into a life-transforming relationship.

Saint Matthew is sitting at His tax collector’s post.
Jesus approaches and greets Matthew with two simple words: “Follow me.”
Matthew describes in his own Gospel that he arose
without hesitation
without a dozen questions about where and for what reason he was following
without frantically stressing out over what his new life would mean
and he simply followed the Lord.

Soon after meeting Jesus and accepting the call to be His disciple…
Matthew hosts Jesus in his home amid a gathering of unpopular people.
The Pharisees show their disgust that Jesus is dining with tax collectors and sinners
and in so doing they reveal that their hearts are closed to Jesus’ presence
and they do not understand His mission.

Jesus has come to enter into the lives of weak, sinful men and women
and to transform them into people of holiness and truth.

Filled with pride and delight in the visit of Jesus to his home
Matthew invited his colleagues in the tax collecting business to dinner.
These were men of poor reputation, who sided with the Roman aristocracy
and cheated the people out of the money they worked so hard to earn.
The food they are eating was bought with fraudulent funds.

Jesus could have refused to come into the midst of sinners such as these
and to leave them in the wretched state in which He found them.
But instead…because of His great compassion…Jesus dines with them
and makes of this meal with sinners an opportunity for conversion.
As Saint John Chrysostom and Saint Peter Chrysologus wrote…
“Not only while he was engaging in a formal discussion or healing
or refuting His enemies, but even at breakfast
he used to restore persons who were in bad condition.”
“Certainly the dishes Matthew set before Him at that time
had come from unrighteousness and covetousness.
But Christ did not ask to be excused from participating in them,
Because the gain to be derived from it was going to be great.”

“Jesus…will call [sinners] back through feasting, collegiality,
and human affection, enjoying Himself with their pleasant conversation
while they recline at table.”

Jesus enters into an unpopular and unpleasant situation
and seizes it as an opportunity to bring about the conversion of souls.

He uses a meal, the pleasantries of human interaction and conversation
as a moment to forge a relationship between Himself and these other men
a relationship within which he could show them
His way of love and truth.

In order to become their teacher, He first becomes their friend.

People in leadership are often encouraged to “meet people where they are”
before trying to lead them anywhere.

Of course, cleverly hidden behind this phrase is usually a fear of leadership.
“Meeting people where they are” in today’s world means
catering to people’s preconceived ideas
and tiptoeing through the maze of political correctness so as not to offend.
Such an approach serves only to leave people where they were found.

If we observe the actions of Jesus, he certainly meets people where they are
by dining with them despite the stigma is creates for him
and by using the ordinary circumstances of a casual dinner
to begin a relationship that would blossom into a conversion of hearts.

Yet, we know that Jesus does not leave people where He found them.
In dozens of Gospel stories there is conversion, healing, and transformation.

Matthew began his relationship with Jesus as a tax collector
and ended it as a priest…and a missionary of the Gospel.

In the midst of the meal, Jesus offers a teaching that challenges those who hear it.

What remarkable love the Lord has for us…
that He desires to enter into relationship with us
and through that relationship to transform us into holy people.

By our prayer and devotion to the person of Jesus,
may we open our hearts more and more each day to His loving presence.
May we allow Jesus to become first our friend whose hand is always holding ours
and in the midst of friendship and prayerful communion
may He also become our teacher in the ways of truth and love.

1 comment:

Denise said...

Ok, Fr. Matthew, where's your Mass schedule these days?

Mrs. L