God desires love, not holocausts and sacrifices.
The upright will see the saving power of God.
Abraham showed his faith in God's promise and became “the father of many nations” and a model for Christians.
Jesus calls Matthew, the tax collector.
Background on the Gospel Reading
In today's Gospel, Jesus calls a tax collector named Matthew to be his disciple. Jesus' invitation to Matthew, “Follow me,” is similar to Jesus' invitation to the first disciples: Peter, Andrew, James, and John. Like the first disciples, Matthew rises immediately and follows Jesus. In Matthew's Gospel, discipleship calls one to a new life, a new vocation. The fishermen leave their nets; the tax collector leaves his customs post.
After Matthew decides to follow Jesus as a disciple, he joins Jesus at a table with other tax collectors and sinners. The Pharisees observe this group of people and criticize Jesus for his choice of dinner companions. The Pharisees were known for their scrupulous observance of Jewish law, which stipulated that Jews who shared table fellowship with people who were ritually unclean would themselves be made unclean. Tax collectors were considered ritually unclean because their job required them to handle pagan coins. The Pharisees required that the unclean first become ritually pure before sharing table fellowship. Jesus, however, disobeys these strict purity rules by communing with tax collectors and sinners through the sharing of food.
The Pharisees question Jesus' followers, but it is Jesus who responds. In his response, Jesus first explains his actions by making an analogy—the healthy do not need a physician. Jesus' fellowship with the ritually unclean creates the messianic community and makes it present. Jesus then quotes the words of the Prophet Hosea by saying that he desires mercy rather than sacrifice.
This seemingly simple message that God loves us first, not because of what we do but simply because we are God's children, can be a difficult one for us to internalize. We seem to want to make things more difficult by trying to prove our worth to God. Yet Jesus calls us even while we are sinners and welcomes us into the community of disciples.