Saturday, September 21, 2013

A sinner called

     In a recent interview, Pope Francis may have startled a few people with his comments.  He spoke of the need for the Church to be more open to the sinner while not neglecting to condemn the sin.  Unless we remember our humble origins and recognize our personal sinfulness, we become harsh and condemning.  If we remember, then we are prone to understanding and mercy and the willingness to forgive.  He spoke of himself as being a sinner, and of needing God's mercy as well as the love and the understanding and prayers of the People of God.

     Today the Church celebrates the Feast of Saint Matthew.  As a tax collector he was seen as a sinner in the eyes of his people, even over and above his personal sin.  Despite this Jesus called him, invited him to "Follow me."  And Matthew got up and followed him.  Jesus used Matthew's talents and abilities, his openness and trust to spread the Good News.  Having received mercy, he proclaimed that mercy to others.  He called his brothers and sisters into a unity with Christ and with each other that was life giving.  He did so with humility and gentleness and patience as Saint Paul urged the people of Ephesus to do.  Paul urged that community to "bear with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace: one Body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all."  This can be accomplished Paul reminds us, because "grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ's gift."

     In light of what I written about these last few days, it is keenly important to remember that it is the Lord who calls us (even sinners like Matthew or Pope Francis or me), it is the Lord who places us in the roles of ministry and service that we possess, and  it is the Lord who graces us, who gives us the measure of giftedness that we need to fulfill his call.  And the true challenge to each of us is to trust in the Holy Spirit as we work together for that unity of heart and mind that is found in Christ Jesus.

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