As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up and followed him.
And as he sat at dinner* in the house, many tax-collectors and sinners came and were sitting* with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax-collectors and sinners?’ But when he heard this, he said, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.’
Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, ‘Why do we and the Pharisees fast often,* but your disciples do not fast?’ And Jesus said to them, ‘The wedding-guests cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old cloak, for the patch pulls away from the cloak, and a worse tear is made. Neither is new wine put into old wineskins; otherwise, the skins burst, and the wine is spilled, and the skins are destroyed; but new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.’ Matthew 9:9-17
We were in Rome last February and came across this painting by Caravaggio in a dark side altar area. Such stunning beauty and common place people, caught in the light and reflection, a moment when life changed altogether. The calling of the most unlikely and outcast. Having spent a good deal of my life feeling like an outsider, unlikely and sometimes outcast. I stood by that painting for a long time, soaking in what it means to sit with Matthew and to be called away from the business of life by God. Called away to live a life of mercy. This image is still a part of my dreams.
Jesus calls Matthew and everyone has questions. An outsider, a reject is included among the disciples. And everyone wants to know hoe to behave. Somehow the inclusion of the outsider has made them all wonder how to go forward. And Jesus invites them to live a life of mercy not rules, a life of compassion and inclusion. We, like those first followers are invited to live a life of mercy, forgiveness and inclusion. We are invited to demonstrate patience and understanding for difference.
Today I ask God to help me walk every step a procession of mercy. May we remember how we were once an outsider and an unwelcome guest. May we live mercy so that others might know God's inclusion and God's welcoming love.