Sinners, outcasts

By: Barbara Roedel

Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, June 8

Hosea 6:3-6; Psalm 50:1,8,12-13,14-15;
Romans 4:18-25; Matthew 9:9-13

Today’s Gospel tells the story of Jesus inviting Matthew, a tax collector, to follow him. This invitation is discussed over a meal with Jesus and his disciples, Matthew and other tax collectors, and sinners.

When the Pharisees observed this gathering, they questioned why Jesus, a teacher, would knowingly break Jewish law by associating with sinners and tax collectors. After all, no respectable Jew would have associated with such people! Table fellowship for Jews was very important. To be invited to the table meant that you were accepted as one of them so outsiders were not included.

Jesus’ response must have surprised the Pharisees. He explained that his ministry is specifically for the sinners and the outcasts of society, and that God desires us to be merciful and compassionate to others, especially those who are excluded, marginalized, and despised.

Just another ordinary day becomes an opportunity for Jesus to teach the Pharisees and us an important life lesson. We are all sinners and we are all invited to be in relationship with Jesus, to be his disciple. God does not reject or alienate us because we are sinners but just the opposite. God continuously calls us, loves us, offers forgiveness and mercy to us. It is God’s desire that we in turn reach out to one another with that same love, mercy, and compassion. We are called to imitate Jesus despite our sinfulness.

Being a disciple of Jesus is not merely a matter of keeping rules or associating with those whose lives appear to exemplify holiness or faithfulness. Jesus challenges us to be open to others through the grace we have received.

Have you ever engaged in a conversation with someone knowing that the person may have opposing views and lifestyles that may be offensive or controversial? We are called to be involved with people who are not our family, friends, or our church community, but people who do not belong to a church, people who may not speak our language or have the same customs, people who are uneducated or homeless or drug addicts, people who live on the fringes of society.

As you take your seat at the table, who are you going to invite to join you?

The mission director at Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Peoria, Barbara Roedel holds a master’s degree in theology from Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. She is a member of St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Peoria Heights.

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