“HOW DO YOU MAKE YOUR CHOICES?” (Lk 5:27-32): 09 February 2008 (Saturday after Ash Wednesday)
Today’s reading is about God’s choices, the type of people that God chooses and uses to do his work.
In the Gospel, our Lord chooses Matthew–a tax collector. Tax collectors have never been anybody’s favorite characters. Today, as before, they continue to be associated with graft and corruption. However, at the time of our Lord, they were hated by the Jews for an additional reason: Not only were they notorious for cheating the people that they taxed; but also, because the taxes they collected went to a foreign power, they were branded as traitors, as collaborators with Rome.
Matthew was one such character. He also went by the name of Levi—and we can be sure that, because of his occupation, he went by other names as well. That’s why the Pharisees were stunned when, as recounted in the gospel, Jesus actually didn’t mind partying with Matthew and his like, not to mention later going to the extent of counting the tax collector among his closest disciples. For the Jews, such an action was tantamount to political suicide.
But that’s not all. If you look at our Lord’s choice of the others in the Twelve, those disciples closest to him, the picture doesn’t get better. If we look at the names and the people in that list of twelve, what do we see? Hardly an impressive list. Most of the Twelve are uneducated fishermen from Galilee, whose accents are as thick as their heads. Among them we have a zealot, a nationalist fanatic who hates the Romans with a passion. We also have James and John, nicknamed “sons of thunder” because of their very, very short temper. Of course we also have listed there the one who will betray Jesus, a traitor to their friendship. It’s a motley crew that the Lord has chosen for himself. We can be certain that Matthew felt right at home.
In the Gospel, as well as in the Old Testament, we see imperfection painted all over the characters that God has chosen to do his work. We are tempted to say that God is not a very good recruiter; that he’s a terrible headhunter, whose screening process is a little bit off the mark, to say the least.
I think today we are given a glimpse into the mind of God, into the way God works. God could have chosen more perfect people, more gifted, brighter, perhaps at least holier. But for some strange reason, in his infinite wisdom, God chose to do things a little differently. He chose to use imperfect, broken, and wounded instruments. I think this tells us that God’s power is far greater than his instruments, that despite the weaknesses and even wickedness of his instruments, God’s great work is done—and it is done well. The choice of Matthew as a disciple and his twelve apostles: These are just portions of the greater pattern of how God uses very human characters to accomplish His divine work.
This also reveals to us that when God looks into our hearts, he sees promise where others see only hopelessness. Again and again God insists—and refuses to give up—on finding the good in each of us, on discovering the gem in every uncut stone, in uncovering even just a glimmer of light in the darkest nights of our hearts.
This glimpse into the mind of God, into the way he works, invites us to look at ourselves with God’s eyes: To trust ourselves as God trusts us, to believe in ourselves as He believes in us. That no matter how weak, how fragile, how wounded, how broken we are, God can still use us—and in fact, He desires nothing more than that we be the instruments of his great work.
But more than just providing us a glimpse of the mind of God, today’s readings also give us a glimpse of the heart of God. They reveal to us where God’s heart lies. It is true that God loves each one of us, but his heart is found closest to the lowest among us, the least among us, the last among us. God is like the child who, after a while, puts away his brand new toys and goes to bed with his old favorite broken toy, which he refuses to discard. God is like the mother who loves all her children, but whose heart never fails to rush out to her weakest child, to the most sickly, sometimes, even to her most difficult and rebellious child.
God is a God whose perfection does not keep him away from us creatures of imperfection. God is a God whose wisdom always sees the best in us, and whose love for us endures even in that moment when we stand amidst the ruins of our lives. Aren’t we really blessed to have such a God?
Here’s a Quick Question for you: “How do you make your choices? Do you make your choices differently from God?” Think about it, and if you feel up to it, share a thought, a feeling, or a question.
A Quick Thought on yesterday’s poll: As of this writing, it seems that more people say they tend to be “hard on themselves but easy on others.” Actually, that’s what authentic asceticism is. So as we enter more into Lent, this season of fasting and sacrifice, that’s a simple way to check whether we have the right spirit of asceticism.
(image: Matthew the Tax Collector)