21 September, Friday – United in Faith & Love

21 September – Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist

Matthew was the son of Alphaeus, and he lived at Capernaum on Lake Genesareth. He was a Roman tax collector, a position equated with collaboration with the enemy by those from whom he collected taxes. Jesus’ contemporaries were surprised to see the Christ with a traitor, but Jesus explained that he had come “not to call the just, but sinners”.

Matthew’s Gospel is given pride of place in the canon of the New Testament, and was written to convince Jewish readers that their anticipated Messiah had come in the person of Jesus. He preached among the Jews for 15 years; his audiences may have included the Jewish enclave in Ethiopia, and places in the East.

– Patron Saints Index

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Ephesians 4:1-7,11-13

I, the prisoner in the Lord, implore you to lead a life worthy of your vocation. Bear with one another charitably, in complete selflessness, gentleness and patience. Do all you can to preserve the unity of the Spirit by the peace that binds you together. There is one Body, one Spirit, just as you were all called into one and the same hope when you were called. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God who is Father of all, over all, through all and within all.

Each one of us, however, has been given his own share of grace, given as Christ allotted it. To some, his gift was that they should be apostles; to some, prophets; to some, evangelists; to some, pastors and teachers; so that the saints together make a unity in the work of service, building up the body of Christ. In this way we are all to come to unity in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God, until we become the perfect Man, fully mature with the fullness of Christ himself.

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Matthew 9:9-13

As Jesus was walking on he saw a man named Matthew sitting by the customs house, and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up and followed him.

While he was at dinner in the house it happened that a number of tax collectors and sinners came to sit at the table with Jesus and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does your master eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ When he heard this he replied, ‘It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick. Go and learn the meaning of the words: What I want is mercy, not sacrifice. And indeed I did not come to call the virtuous, but sinners.’

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“Mercy is what pleases me, not sacrifice. And indeed I came to call not the upright, but sinners.”

It’s always beautiful reading about how we are all called to this oneness, this one family in Christ. So much inclusivity that is welcoming, so much love. Working in church as a Youth Coordinator, I can understand the difficulty and struggle just to have the same vision and mission, to move in the same direction or even to agree on a small issue.

We are so diverse — different backgrounds, upbringing, values, perspectives and experiences in life shape the way we think, feel and behave towards a particular issue. Who is right or wrong can’t be said for sure sometimes, but one thing is that we fail to work together. We see in parishes that sometimes, there are many ministries but many of those have overlaps with each other, they are more or less the same, just with different leadership.

There is nothing wrong with division but even in our division, we should all look to the goal of unity, as a church, as God’s people. We all have different gifts and talents, it’s not about who’s better than who, but how can we use our gifts and talents, to help make this world and our community a better place. Not fighting for resources but a sharing of resources, not to judge if the leader is worthy but to support and help to bring out the best in the leader.

“There is one Body, one Spirit, just as one hope is the goal of your calling by God. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of all, over all, through all and within all.”

The biggest struggle, which I’m also struggling with, is to be in unity with those characters and personalities that you disagree with. It’s just so painful. How can these people think or behave in this way? Where is their common sense, respect and love for others?

We see in the Gospel how Jesus eats with sinners and tax collectors. It really takes much love to do so. That is the oneness we are called to. To bring Christ to all, to see Christ in all. A God who gives Himself freely, a God who doesn’t judge but loves, a God who doesn’t expect but gives and waits. If we say and claim that this is our faith, then this is exactly the God we worship, a God that desires for all of us to be one, through Him, with Him and in Him. May we learn to put aside our differences but focus on this one uniqueness that we all have, that is, in spite of who we are and everything that we have done, we are all loved equally by Him, part of His family, part of this church, this faith, His kingdom.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for courage to persevere even when things are incomprehensible, when we do not understand. Help us not to judge but to love. Help us all to be one, just as you are one with the Father and with all of us.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for leading by your example. Thank you for showing us your love for all mankind. That it is not success or perfection that you seek, but you seek us, who we are, as we are. Thank you Jesus. We love you.

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