Bible reading: Matthew 9:9-13
9 As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. ‘Follow me,’ he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. 10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ 12 On hearing this, Jesus said, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but those who are ill. 13 But go and learn what this means: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”[a] For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’
The words Augustine directs at God brim with references to persons, events, and passages from the Bible. The Bible demonstrates how different is the thinking of God and humans, how dissimilar are the ways in which God and we attribute value. How can one, for example, explain with human logic why there is more joy in heaven from one repentant sinner than from many just persons who need not need to repent?
"O God what is it in the human heart that makes us rejoice more intensely over the salvation of a soul which is despaired of but then freed from grave danger, than we would if there had always been good prospects for it and its peril slighter? You too, merciful Father, yes, even you are more joyful over one repentant sinner than over ninety-nine righteous people who need no repentance. And we likewise listen with overflowing gladness when we hear how the shepherd carries back on exultant shoulders the sheep that had strayed, and how the coin is returned to your treasury as neighbours share the joy of the woman who found it."
Augustine too understood Matthews’s joy of meeting the Lord and his desire to make a great feast for him. Like Matthew, he understood that to "leave everything" meant more than simply surrendering one’s wealth, it means abandoning one’s former habits, harmful routines, and mistreatment of others.
Will we be blessed by encountering the Lord? Or, rather, will we stand with the allegedly just Pharisees and say: "We are the chosen few, the believers, we truly need no change"?
“Father God, help us to Jesus passing by us in our daily lives, so that with his help we may pick ourselves up from where we fell and follow him”
Note: The traditional 40 days of Lent do not include Sundays. So our next reading will be on Monday morning.