Friday, March 03, 2017

Saturday after Ash Wednesday

(Optional Memorial for Saint Casimir)

“The Calling of St Matthew” by Hendrick Terbrugghen,1621
Readings and Commentary:[3]
Reading I: Isaiah 58:9b-14
Commentary on Is 58:9b-14
This selection from Isaiah in the post-exilic period is part of the second in a series of poems. The Prophet continues exhorting the people to understand that God desires a spirit of compassion and generosity. He tells the people that if they follow this course they will be greatly rewarded and will receive rich blessings from God.
In verses 10-14 Isaiah explains what it means to keep the Sabbath day holy. Again, following this command brings the faithful rich rewards from God.
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 86:1-2, 3-4, 5-6
R. (11ab) Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth.
Commentary on Ps 86:1-2, 3-4, 5-6
Psalm 86 is an individual lament. It asks for mercy from God. The psalmist sings of an afflicted life, and asks God to give his servant relief. The song indicates the faithfulness of the singer, even in times of distress.
Gospel: Luke 5:27-32
Commentary on Lk 5:27-32
The story of the call of St. Matthew in Luke’s Gospel immediately follows Jesus’ confrontation with the Pharisees that culminated with the cure of the paralytic lowered through the roof. “A man named Matthew: Mark names this tax collector Levi (Mark 2:14). No such name appears in the four lists of the twelve who were the closest companions of Jesus (Matthew 10:2-4; Mark 3:16-19; Luke 6:14-16; Acts1:13 [eleven, because of the defection of Judas Iscariot]), whereas all four list a Matthew, designated in Matthew 10:3 as 'the tax collector.'"
“The evangelist may have changed the 'Levi" of his source to Matthew so that this man, whose call is given special notice, like that of the first four disciples (Matthew4:18-22), might be included among the twelve. Another reason for the change may be that the disciple Matthew was the source of traditions peculiar to the church for which the evangelist was writing.”[4] It is much more focused on the reaction of the Pharisees than the same story in Matthew (Matthew9:9).  The message, however, is clear.  Jesus came so that we (who are all sinners) might understand that God’s love is for sinners as well.
CCC: Lk 5:30 588; Lk 5:32 588
As we struggle to understand what our faith calls us to do and to be in the world, one of the most difficult areas to put into practice is our attitude of compassion.  You might think to challenge that statement saying, “I am always compassionate.”  But, in Jesus, the depth of compassion goes much deeper than what most of us can accomplish consistently.
God tried to convey the need for those who follow him to show compassion and consolation to those less fortunate from the beginning of his revelatory work with humankind.  The Book of the Prophet Isaiah demonstrates this. In the first reading the prophet extols the Hebrews to “…remove from your midst oppression, false accusation and malicious speech; If you bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted.”  He calls on the people to show compassion to the poor and the downtrodden.  If they do this consistently they become a light in the darkness; a people God will abundantly reward as only he can.
Jesus takes that notion to a higher level with his example in the Gospel of St. Luke.  Following his call of a controversial disciple, St. Matthew, he chooses to dine, not in the pious halls of the Pharisees, but with tax collectors.  When those zealous Pharisees complain that he has sullied himself by doing so, he tries once more to explain the meaning of compassion, of loving one’s neighbor.  We can see how much this must disturb them. Later they will engage in the plot to have the one who is compassion incarnate put to death.
The lessons taught by Isaiah and Jesus are very clear for us.  We are to extend the loving hand of compassion and generosity to those who are less fortunate.  The Lenten discipline of almsgiving is clearly expressed today.  We may not be able to take in the homeless or the afflicted, but we must not ignore them, avert our eyes so we do not see them, or rationalize that we cannot help.  We are reminded that when we perform acts of mercy and charity in God’s name, the Lord is glorified and “He will renew your strength, and you shall be like a watered garden.

[1] The picture is “The Calling of St Matthew” by Hendrick Terbrugghen,1621
[4] See NAB footnote on Matthew 9:9

No comments: