One part of novitiate life that is an obvious feature once you arrive, yet might not appear so prominent from outside, is daily Mass. And for those who weren’t daily attendees before joining the novitiate (myself included), one thing you perhaps don’t fully appreciate are the daily readings and the way they weave into each other, and through prayer and reflection weave into what’s going on inside you and around you. Here’s a short reflection on the Feast of St Matthew touching on today’s readings and how they’ve resonated with themes of the early weeks at the novitiate, for me and for others. It was part of a reflection given to the community this morning.
1) Ephesians 4:1-7,11-1 2) Matthew 9:9-13
In the early days of the Novitiate, it struck me from the daily Mass readings that Ezekiel and Matthew were both regularly sounding the call for us to give up all we have and to follow Christ, and in the process try to make sure we avoid becoming like Pharisees. And in a similar way in the last couple of weeks the echo that at least I’ve heard in Paul and Luke, and seamlessly slotting in today, Paul and Matthew, has been of them continuously reminding us of themes of unity in diversity, about being of one body with many talents. And also that in embracing that diversity Christ was found most regularly with those seen to be sinners, and calling those who were sinners. That rather than coming for the already virtuous he was searching for the one lost sheep and the Magdalenes of the world.
It sounds to me a bit like the accident and emergency department on a Saturday night. Perhaps if Pope Francis is calling us to be the field hospital of the church, he means us to be more like the sick patients than the healthy doctors. Or at least to recognise that we’re the sick patients, and so too in great diversity.
But to get to Christ’s table of course we must still respond to a call, and keep responding. And reading today’s gospel left me wondering whether there could be a better calling than that of Matthew’s. “And Jesus said to him ‘Follow me’ and he got up and followed him.” That seems easy enough. No wonder he’s a Saint…
What a challenge to all our lengthy discernment. Because hearing that made clear to me how often I read and hear these words and comprehend them at some basic level but don’t take them into my very being. How for a whole host of reasons I am as yet unwilling to heed the call fully. How to put it bluntly I’m either deaf, stupid, or maybe both. Or maybe just still a sinner.
So for those of us who aren’t called as swiftly as Matthew, it could still be a long road ahead, a long road to becoming the ‘perfect Man’ as Paul longs for us in today’s first reading. But there is a path, and as it said in the Proverbs reading yesterday “to act virtuously and with justice is more pleasing to the Lord than sacrifice”, and today “What I want is mercy, not sacrifice”. The challenge highlighted to us the other day of interior conversion to virtuous living, to be able to act in the way of the Lord reflexively, before we’re fully ready to strike out in the world. Seems to me that’s a strong call that we need to pray for the grace to take deeply to heart and mind so that we might live Paul’s challenge of “a life worthy of our vocations”.
Unity in diversity; accepting that our own sinfulness and that of others can lead us to grace; listening to the call to follow Christ and become virtuous. Some thoughts for our day.
I’ll end with the prayer which comes just before Jesus’ quote of “What I want is mercy, not sacrifice”, from Hosea. “Let us acknowledge the Lord; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.” Amen