Liturgical Colour : Green
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are all called to reflect on the need for all of us to have a changed attitude in life, in our actions and in how we live our lives as Christians, that we may truly follow the Lord in the way that we are expected to, in being good Christians and good disciples of the Lord. Each and every one of us are called to abandon our pride, ego and haughtiness, and instead entrust ourselves to God with humility and obedience, and with faith and commitment that we ought to show Him.
In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Amos, regarding the words of the Lord warning the people of Israel once again, just as we have heard over the past few days, of the coming day of judgment and retribution over them. The prophet Amos was sent by God to the people of the northern kingdom of Israel, so that through him those people who had shown their disobedience and wickedness against God may repent and turn away from their sinful ways. Unfortunately, those same people whom God had given many chances, like that of their ancestors continued to rebel against God and even persecuted the prophets like Amos.
Hence, it was by their own stubborn attitudes and actions that they were to be condemned, those who refused to believe in God and chose to walk in the path of sin and darkness. God has always ever been patient in reaching out to those whom He loved, and yet, it was those same people who often rejected Him and refused to believe in Him. The Lord has been ever so generous in His love and mercy, but unless we as His people refused to be stubborn any longer and turn at last towards Him with contrite and sorrowful hearts and minds, filled with regret for our sins and the desire to embrace God and His love, then there will be no way forward for us.
In our Gospel passage today, we heard from the Gospel of the encounter and confrontation between the Lord and the members of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who were questioning and criticising Him regarding how He chose to approach the tax collectors and those who were belonging to their group, coming to the house of Levi, one of the tax collectors and mingling among them, and not only that but even having dinner in that same house. This was an act that according to the Pharisees’ interpretation of the Law of God, would have made one unclean and unworthy.
That was because the tax collectors were seen as belonging among the worst of the Jewish community at that time. For their work in collecting taxes on behalf of the Romans and others, they were despised and hated by many among the people, and those like the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law also considered them as traitors to their own people and country. Back then, the Jewish people were a proud people who had then recently been independent under their own rule, until they were brought under the reign and dominion of the Romans, who imposed taxes on the Jewish people as they did to other people throughout the Empire as a sign of their reign and rule.
Hence, the tax collectors were deeply reviled and hated, and considered as the scum of the society. That was why the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law could not possibly have believed why the Lord Jesus would want to have any business with those tax collectors, less still coming into their midst and having meal with them. This was exactly where they forgot that God’s love for each and every one of us, who are sinners, is truly boundless. He could have destroyed us for our many sins and evils, but as He did in the past by sending prophets, messengers and more, one after another to help His people to return to Him, hence, He still continues to do so, again and again, with those tax collectors and others considered by many to be unclean and unworthy.
As He Himself said that He came to seek those who were in need of help, those who were without guidance and were lost, like how a shepherd went off his way to look for his lost sheep. He considers every single one of us as His beloved ones, whom He truly loves equally. The Lord wants us to know that through Him alone there is hope and salvation, and how He desires for us to find that healing and reconciliation in Him. But if we continue to be stubborn and continue to persistently close our hearts and minds to Him, then unfortunately there may be no way forward for us.
We have to be willing to allow the Lord to come and enter into our hearts and minds so that He may heal us like what the tax collectors did. They welcomed the Lord and were willing to listen to Him, unlike what the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law in shutting their ears, hearts and minds against Him. Certainly many among the tax collectors became believers, and one of them left everything behind to become a follower of the Lord, and who then became one of His great Apostles and as one of the Four Evangelists, known as St. Matthew the Apostle. It shows us how God can transform great sinners into great saints, but that requires commitment from the sinner’s side, to change their lives and follow the Lord faithfully.
Let us all therefore discard from ourselves all traces of pride, ego, haughtiness and selfishness, of all the thoughts we have in debasing and being judgmental to others simply because we think that we are better than they are. Each and every one of us are called to be more like Christ, in our humility and willingness to obey the will of God. Let us all seek the Lord with renewed faith and passion, to walk in His Presence with ever greater commitment from now on. May God be with us always, and may He empower us all to live faithfully ever in His path, now and always. Amen.