June 5, 2005
Matthew 9:9-13, 18-26
• 9 As Jesus moved on from there, he saw a man named Matthew at his seat in the custom-house, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And Matthew got up and followed him. 10 Now it happened, while Jesus was at table in Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and other sinners joined Jesus and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this they said to his disciples, “Why is it that your master eats with those sinners and tax collectors?”
12 When Jesus heard this he said, “Healthy people do not need a doctor, but sick people do. 13 Go and find out what this means: What I want is mercy, not sacrifice. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”
14 Then the disciples of John came to him with the question, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast on many occasions, but not your disciples?”
15 Jesus answered them, “How can you expect wedding guests to mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? Time will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, then they will fast.
16 No one patches an old coat with a piece of unshrunken cloth, for the patch will shrink and tear an even bigger hole in the coat. 17 Besides you don’t put new wine in old wineskins. If you do, the wineskins will burst and the wine be spilt. No, you put new wine in fresh skins; then both are preserved.”
A woman healed, a child raised to life
(Mk 5:21; Lk 8:40)
• 18 While Jesus was speaking to them, an official of the synagogue came up to him, bowed before him and said, “My daughter has just died, but come and place your hands on her, and she will live.” 19 Jesus stood up and followed him with his disciples.
20 Then a woman who had suffered from a severe bleeding for twelve years came up from behind and touched the edge of his cloak. 21 For she thought, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.” 22 Jesus turned, saw her and said, “Courage, my daughter, your faith has saved you.” And from that moment the woman was cured.
23 When Jesus arrived at the official’s house and saw the flute players and the excited crowd, he said, 24 “Get out of here! The girl is not dead. She is only sleeping!” And they laughed at him. 25 But once the crowd had been turned out, Jesus went in and took the girl by the hand, and she stood up. 26 The news of this spread through the whole area.
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• 9. See commentary on Mark 2:13.
• Mark 2:13. To enter the family of God, we must change some of our values. This conversion is not as conspicuous as participation in devotional practices but is much more valuable. First, we must liberate ourselves from prejudices by which we classify people. Let us stop dividing people into good or bad; those we can greet and those we cannot; those we can love and help and those we cannot. Let us learn that God does not hate the rich or the uneducated, those on the left or those on the right, for God’s merciful plan sees to the salvation of all.
The Gospel speaks about the publicans or the tax collectors (v. 15), who served the foreign powers. Jesus’ nation was under the domination of the Roman Empire, and the tax collectors were Jews who worked for foreigners.
Patriots considered them traitors. The people knew they filled their pockets; even beggars refused to receive from the publicans. Yet Jesus did not condemn them but chose one of them, Levi, as one of his apostles, of whom the majority were committed patriots.
The teachers of the Law were like catechists or religion teachers. They were well versed in religion and admired Jesus’ teachings, but they did not consider as brothers and sisters the publicans and other sinners (that is to say people who did not fulfill the religious precepts).
Levi is probably the apostle Matthew (Mt 9:9). In this case, like Simon, named Peter by Jesus, Levi would have been given the name of Matthew; in Hebrew Mattai means gift of God.
• 18. See commentary on Mark 5:21.
She touched the edge of his cloak (v. 20). As a good Jew, Jesus had fringes on his cloak (Num 15:38; Mt 23:5).
• Mark 5:21. This woman was considered by the Jews as unclean because of her illness (Lev 15:19). She would also make “unclean” anyone who touched her. Because of this, she was prohibited by the Law from mingling with others but dared enter into the crowd, and touch Jesus’ cloak.
Faith drove her to break the Law of “purification,” and to risk scandal. This woman did not know who Jesus was, but had faith that God would cure her through him.
The religiosity of this woman is akin to what we call today “popular Catholicism.” As seen in this woman, popular Catholicism is ill-instructed, yet shows a strong religious sense and trust in God. It is superficial and naive, expecting great results from touching images and religious things Christ’s garment in this case. Like Jesus, we should respect the religious expressions of popular Catholicism while at the same time trying, like him, to help people discover deeper dimensions of their faith.
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Comments from Wesley
1. We are all Mattai's, gifts from GOD. We all have difficulty knowing how to live that out. Jesus' call to "follow me" gives a clue about the arc of our life. No, it is not to become Jesusites, this would be idolatry. Yes, it is to join a journey to GOD -- a God defined by mercy (as our Jewish friends before us knew and as our Islamic friends continue to affirm).
Mercy is a difficult application. It defies categorization but can be most clearly seen against a background of what it is not -- sacrifice. Practicing mercy is to participate in becoming whole as God is whole (plural).
An example of this is a modification in Jesus' use of an old saying -- "Wealthy people do not need a tax collector, but poor people do." How might you again modify this saying in light of how you spend your time?
2. The Pharisees were right to see Jesus as turning their ("the") world on its ear. The need for new wine, much less new wineskins, is always difficult for those in power to recognize. Literalists and the religious right will allow personal new life, but not institutional new life.
What new wine do you sense brewing and what new wineskin are you preparing to hold it?
3. Courage is the appropriate response to questions about the iffiness of the future.
The father affirms, "but come and she will live" but this is still an "if you will come" question. The woman is clearer in her "if" question. To both, though, the response of "courage" is the appropriate one. May you have the courage to face your "iffiness".
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