Give People a Chance

09-27-2020From Fr. Antony's DeskFr. John Barbella

I write these words on September 21st, the Feast of Saint Matthew. We all know that St. Matthew was a tax collector when Jesus called him to be an Apostle. But it’s hard for us to understand just how hated Matthew was because of his profession.

People in Jesus’ time didn’t despise tax collectors simply because they collected taxes. They knew back then as we do today, that taxes are part of life.

Reasonable people, then as now, tolerated reasonable taxation to pay for things like roads and government.

What made Matthew and the other tax collectors in Israel so hated was that the government for which they collected taxes was a foreign one. The Roman Empire had occupied and oppressed Israel for many years. Thus the money Matthew collected from his own people paid foreign soldiers who kept them in line.

Add to this the fact that the Romans were pagans with little respect for the Faith of the Jews. Indeed, Roman governors like Pontius Pilate, controlled the selection of the Jewish High Priests and often went so far as to put pagan symbols on the Temple itself. Worst of all, they cruelly crushed anyone who protested and often crucifying them as an example to others. And Matthew, by his work, paid them to do it!!

In calling Matthew to be an Apostle, Jesus was doing at least two things. First, he was giving Matthew a chance to repent and change. Matthew took full advantage of that chance and became a great Apostle and Saint, reminding us that we too should take advantage of the chances Jesus gives us to repent and become saints.

Second, Jesus’ call of Matthew teaches us not to write others off too quickly. Like Jesus, we should be willing to forgive and give others a chance, regardless of what they’ve done.

We live in a world where hurt is a reality. People in their weakness and imperfection often make bad choices, often very selfish choices, which create no small amount of suffering and hardship for us and others. Matthew, before Jesus, seems to have been precisely that kind of person.

But rather than indulge the anger and hatred that most people showed Matthew and his colleagues, Jesus lovingly gave him a chance. With that in mind, think about the people who need a chance from you. The people who need some understanding and forgiveness, rather than scorn or hatred.

As the General Election approaches, I will place some pamphlets in the Church about Faithful Citizenship. Inserts will also appear in the bulletin. You can also go to the website of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and go to “Faithful Citizenship.” These documents will give you a lot of things to keep in mind when prayerfully choosing a candidate.

Remember that there will be a Life Chain on South Main Street next Sunday. More information is elsewhere in this bulletin.

Remember also the Blessing of Animals next Sunday at 12:30 in the parking lot.

Finally remember to pray a Hail Mary for me each day and know that I always pray for you.

Have a great week.

Fr. John