FR. BEN’S HOMILY FOR THE FEAST OF ST. MATTHEW
THEME: DIALOGUING WITH TAX COLLECTORS AND SINNERS!
BY: Benedict Agbo (Rev Fr)
HOMILY FOR WEDNESDAY SEPTEMBER 21 2022
*Eph 4: 1 – 13, Matt 9: 9 – 13.
*’Many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with him’.* Doing what, if I may ask? In what joint? Over some bottles of beer and ‘nkwobi’ perhaps. What manner of man is this our Jesus? I keep wondering about his temperament? *How could he stay comfortably in the company of both saints and sinners?* I guess he had a heart of tolerance, Matt 11: 30 and a very broad-minded ideology. Perhaps, some sense of humor and story telling abilities and a little predilection for one or two bottles of alcoholic wine. Otherwise, these ‘bad boys’ – these tax collectors and sinners (armed robbers, Jewish terrorists, zealots, chain smokers, rapists and womanizers) would never have conglomerated around him.
I am sure he preached to them but not directly and offensively. *His majesty and spiritual aura was so effervescent that he didn’t need much words to articulate his moral stance and impact a change in their lives.* He must have been such a magnetic personality; he must have known all of them by their ‘guy names’. He called Matthew. The Bible recorded that he saw Matthew first. Matthew did not see him. His friendship with Matthew must have acted as a catalyst for the rest of their band wagon. *Jesus was such a strategic evangelist that he knew what he wanted and how to go for it.* When people criticized, he told them that ‘wisdom is justified by her deeds’….’Those who are well have no need of a physician but those who are sick… Go and learn what this means… I desire mercy and not sacrifice’.
What a paradigm shift from primitive religiousity! Can we borrow a leaf from Jesus’ disposition towards sinners? The body language of our present Pope, Francis, speaks volumes about this. The year 2016 was a year of mercy when the Church looked out for the ‘Matthews’ and tried calling them by their pet names and inviting them to the Eucharistic banquet. I don’t know how this was done in our various parishes but I think we should go more than just map out prayers or open a ‘door of mercy’. The real bad guys are yet to hear about that door talk more of entering it. Our ‘missio ad gentes’ (evangelization towards sinners) is still very poor. *Our ‘tax collectors’ are all over the place – police men exploiting the poor okada men, NEPA boys inflating the electric bills, local government ‘agboros’ harassing motorists here and there. And nobody seems to be calling their attention one on one for ‘metanoia’.* Even in the Church, we have plenty of tax collectors – collecting the ordination levies and clearance fees from their zonal members and rendering to the Parish priests false accounts. They all need to hear the gospel of Christ. I just think we can do better!
Yes! Tax collectors and sinners sitting down with Jesus has so many implications: *First is that there must be dialogue; they must converse, chat and share ideas together. Secondly, they must eat and drink together.* Communion with Jesus always produces some form of conversion. So does inter religious dialogue and communication do. But Cardinal Arinze said something that we need to put at the back of our minds always in this kind of dialogue and communion. He said that *’A person who is not strong in his/ her own faith should not engage in dialogue’.* Yes Jesus engaged in dialogue with Sinners and Religious opponents because he was strong in his own faith. The big question is: Are we strong enough in our own faith and morals to be able to safely engage in dialogue and communion with our own Tax Collectors and Sinners? May God bless you today!
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