PREFERRING MERCY, NOT EMPTY SACRIFICE
No unworthiness closes the door to Jesus' welcome. No sin or weakness silences Jesus' words of grace.
In today's Gospel, we hear that tax collectors are a despised group of people among the Jews. They, too, are Jews, but they act on behalf of the occupying Roman government. As such, they are considered to be traitors. They receive no pay from the Romans. They make their living by overcharging their fellow countrymen; whatever was over and above the required tax they are permitted to keep for themselves. For this reason, they are considered thieves. As traitors and thieves, they are treated with hatred and contempt, but not by Jesus.
Jesus states His concern clearly when He says that "Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do" (Mt 9:12). Jesus associates Himself with those who are known sinners, offering them the medicine of repentance. At the same time, He turns the tables on the Pharisees by saying, "Go and learn the meaning of the words, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice'" (Mt 9:13b). The Pharisees consider themselves to be observers of the Law but their hearts are not filled with mercy and compassion toward their fellow people.
At one time or another in our lives, we all long for healing and have a hunger that needs to be fed. In faith, we believe that no unworthiness closes the door to Jesus' welcome. No sin or weakness silences Jesus' words of grace. When Jesus welcomes us to His table, we come not because we have managed to get our lives in order and have set things right. We come in total trust and deep faith that He, through His life, death, and resurrection has come and set things right.
Jesus calls each of us to repentance and has bathed us with the medicinal waters of baptism and strengthens us with nourishment from the Eucharist. He only desires our love in return. The love we have received is to be shared. In the Responsorial Psalm we acclaim, "Visit me with Your saving help" (Ps 106:4b). Jesus came to set things right in us!