We don’t much like tax collectors today. But in first century Israel, they were held in even lower regard. Many of them were corrupt – lining their own pockets in a way that would make Illinois politicians look like saints. And worse – they were collecting taxes for Rome. The enemy – who not only occupied their land but defiled it by their presence, their idols and their false gods. Tax collectors were the sorts of people drug dealers wouldn’t let their kids hang out with.
Because Matthew was a tax collector he was seen as a sinner and an outcast who should be avoided; but Jesus wasn’t like that. Jesus reached out to Matthew and asked him to be one of the Apostles. Jesus isn’t looking for perfect followers, he doesn’t pay attention to what others think are important qualifications of a disciple. A doctor doesn’t turn away the sick in search for the healthy and Jesus doesn’t turn away the sinner in search for a saint. He calls us sinners to follow him because he can heal us. We are imperfect. We are in need of Jesus’ mercy. But the thing is, Jesus knows that and doesn’t care. He will give us his love and forgiveness. He will call us in his name. And the most important thing that we should take from the Gospel today is that when Jesus called Matthew to follow him, Matthew did. He didn’t pause to consider if he wanted to leave his profitable profession; he just stood up and followed Christ.
God has a plan for us. He has a calling, a vocation intended for each of us. In the first reading (Ephesians 4: 1-7, 11-13) we are told that each person is given gifts that are specific to the vocation to which we were called. Jesus gave me certain gifts and to others he gives other gifts. However, all of our vocations are linked together by belonging to one Body of Christ and to one faith and one baptism. St. Paul says that all of our unique vocations “equip us for the work of ministry for building up the Body of Christ.” We are called to work together because each of our vocations are like pieces of a puzzle and without a piece, we are not complete.
Today we are called to ask, “What is God calling me to do with my life? Am I supporting my brothers and sisters in Christ in their vocations? And if Jesus called for me to follow him, could I drop everything and go?”