8 June 2008 10th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mark 9, 9-13 The Call of Matthew
Verse 10 of the Gospel today distinguishes tax collectors from sinners with the conjunction and. Tax collectors were collaborators with the Roman government, thus they were considered disloyal and were suspected of treason by the Jews. And since they were not paid considerably by the Roman authorities, they made their margin of profit by extorting Jews over than what was legally due. So they were exploitative. A sinner, on the other hand, was more a technical term for those whose trade was despised. Despised trades were susceptible to ritual uncleanness such as those in contact with blood (eg. butchers). But both tax collectors and sinners were all social outcasts.
Jesus remarked that those who are well do not need a physician. What does it mean? Physicians must expose himself to the danger of contagious diseases (or legal impurities) to heal them, (or to make them ritually clean). And therefore, one has to be with the social outcasts in order to bring them back to the community.
Many Catholics --- or Christians --- do not want to be associated with the social outcasts. Just honestly, truthfully: there is shame when we have family or friends who are criminals, prostitutes, or even those with some disabilities. Today, it will include those who have a past. We even try to conceal them from others as much as we can; their existence becomes part of our dark secrets. When we do shameful acts, our family and friends would say that we have blemished our family’s name. In fact, we gossip about people who have any relationship or association with them. We have in fact extricated them from normal life. We tend to push them out of the many social groups around us. They just doesn’t fit in. Therefore, anyone who would desire to heal them --- who must associate with them --- will find some difficulty from society. For Jesus, He didn’t mind what other people will say about him; His compassion is greater than protecting His name.
On the other hand, we do have the tendency to willfully move away from our community. We believe that we are superior to others, and thus no one is good enough for us. Or we just do not want to be around many people, we become a recluse; we withdraw from other people; we become depressed or suicidal. We have a low self-esteem or a weak self-concept that we believe we are not worthy of another’s attention. We want other people to adjust to us; not the other way around. By doing so, we have segregated ourselves from others. In addition, our culture have encouraged us to be individualistic and independent. We often say this: “What about MY feelings?” If we have these tendencies, no matter how hard our families and friends reach out to us, we will not be brought back to healthy communal living.
In other words, aside from our Christian desire to reach out to others, we should also reflect on our ways that make it difficult for others to reach out to us. When Jesus reached out to Matthew, he, in turn, reached out to Jesus by following Him.