Matthew 9:-9-13 I desire Mercy
I desire mercy. This is God speaking! What does God love? Mercy! What does he desire? Mercy! Oh, my goodness! Is this the “message that continues to go out through all the earth?” (Ps 19:5) If we are who we claim to be, then the answer must be a resounding and confident “yes.” The world needs us, even if they don’t realize it. We bring good things to life!
God’s mercy is not some superficial blubbering nonsensical self-affirming affirmation lesson building session or some self-esteem hugging ritual. No! Rather, it is a life-changing radical call from God to depart from our old ways and come follow Him. To begin again! To live! To love! To redeem!
How often do the Saints speak of divine mercy? All the time! How often do the apparitions or messages from Mary refer to her beloved Son’s mercy? Always! Why? “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.” He did not come into the world to call the righteous but sinners. For this reason alone, the Lord attracted so much attention: positive and negative. For this very reason, he was very much loved and very much hated. He continues to be a sign of contradiction. “Hate the sin, love the sinner!”
Let me say it now: A sinful man will never be a happy man. Never! When we were children we would think that sins were playful things, adult things, things that were restricted only to adults and their laws. But as we got older, we began to sense a loss of freedom, a sense of hopelessness as our sins took root and began to grow faster, more powerful and more aggressive than I could ever bear. Sin has no limits as it begins to kill its prey, as a parasite begins to starve its host. Who can I turn to? Who can help me?
The crowds began to swell in number when Christ would appear in a village or town. The people knew they had a friend, someone who loved them. For the first time in their lives, they received something that no one had ever given to them: understanding, compassion, mercy and love. They actually felt as if they belonged to the human race! They felt human once again because they were loved once again. The tax collectors and sinners were experiencing a change in heart because the heart of God had touched their hearts. Does God really love me? The answer is a resounding, “yes” and even in my mess because he can see through the messiness of sin and darkness.
Here is the mystery. Why does God even bother? Why not just pass me by, insult me, judge me now and get it over with? Why doesn’t He just be God? The only answer I have to this is…because He loves, and love is crazy! It knows no limits, just like sin, but its effects are everlasting. “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good. His mercy endures forever!”
Could the Lord not have passed up Matthew? He could have. But love is crazy and in some ways, Christ was crazy. He assembled a team of men that were good, bad and ugly. Only a Father could love such a band of brothers. And yet, here we are two thousand years later, heeding the call and calling out the sinners who, in turn, heed the call and call out the sinners. The Lord called sinners and turned them into saints who call sinners to become saints. Who would have imagined us, one day, standing among the Saints?...but only our God.
In Caravaggio's image of Matthew being called by Christ, we see light shining behind the Lord and penetrating the darkness. He points to Matthew who in turn points to himself in disbelief and asking, You mean me? You want me? You love me? Don't you know who I am? The rest is history - salvation history.