Feast of Saint Matthew, apostle and evangelist
(Ephesians 4:1-7.11-13; Matthew 9:9-13)
Sojourners, the premier Christian social justice magazine, recently featured a woman pastor whose body was covered with tattoos. According to the article the pastor is doing remarkable work shepherding a Lutheran community that includes gays and lesbians. Seeing her picture, however, strikes many as odd. It must have been as peculiar for Jews to see a tax collector following Jesus in the gospel today.
In Palestine at the time of Christ tax collectors are seen as collaborators with the imperial government. Moreover, they are generally considered as using their authority to swindle people. This judgment is not made of Matthew, but certainly the Pharisees criticize Matthew’s house guests as sinful. Jesus, on the other hand, is not repulsed by the company but attracted to it. He came precisely to tell sinners of God’s unique love for them.
We need to refrain from judging others by their appearance. Rather let us not be afraid to dialogue with everyone. Like Jesus we want to intimate God’s love by our friendliness. We also might relate how we find the hand of the Lord making us into who we are.