21 September, Saturday – Only God Can Judge Me

Sep 21 – 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.

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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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I desire mercy, not sacrifice. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.

Matthew the tax collector, was a sinner in the righteous eyes, yet was chosen and called to be Jesus’ disciple, one of the twelve apostles, and continued to become one of the great evangelists. Today’s Gospel reminds us, “Who are we to judge anyone?” And especially if we call ourselves Christians, should we not show mercy to everyone, just as Jesus did?

Some of the gripes of people who have fallen away from the faith, are that we Christians or Catholics are hypocrites. We claim to be righteous, to be holy and do good, yet often we are quick to judge a fellow brother or sister, just because they do not conform to certain outwardly appearances or practices. Do we take the time to understand someone else’s circumstances, and even if they may truly be at fault, do we exercise compassion?

I serve in a ministry where I have the privilege to hear people’s stories; their willingness to be vulnerable and share deeply always touches me. And often I am shocked by what they have gone through, the phrase ‘do not judge a book by its cover’ always rings true. People are very capable of hiding under a mask, but when there’s trust and mercy, they will dare to be uncovered.

Last month, I shared a personal testimony on my return to the church in front of a bunch of total strangers. With the help of trusted friends, I rewrote my story many times, cautious of the unknown audience I was going to be delivering it to. When the day finally came, I was filled with nervousness and anxiety, but I believed that it was a safe space, and that the people present, strangers as they may be, could possibly identify with me and parts of my story. I got emotional and choked at one point, but I also think that just proved my humanness.

The whole experience was very humbling, and at the same time, edifying. As part of my testimony, I shared that despite all my sins and mistakes, God was still always there. And like Matthew the tax collector, God still chose me. I understand first-hand, what’s it like to be judged without mercy, but I know that it is God who sees me, and I am good enough for Him. I also pray that I can strive to be like Jesus, and be the conduit for grace and love to flow.

(Today’s Oxygen by Kristel Wang)

Prayer: Dear Jesus, help us to be compassionate and merciful to everyone, especially to those whom we find difficult. Help us not to be judgmental, but to be kind and graceful, just as you are.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Heavenly Father, for always being there, for choosing us, and for always loving us, despite our shortcomings. Amen.

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