September 21, 2021

Feast of Saint Matthew, Apostle

[Jesus said,] Go and learn the meaning of the words, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”

This exchange followed Jesus’ inviting Matthew to follow him and subsequently enjoying a meal at his home with many other tax collectors. The Pharisees, of course, objected to his “eating with tax collectors and sinners.” Mercy, however, is a frequently used concept in the New Testament. We find it some 24 times in the gospels, 27 times in the Pauline writings, and over 250 times in the Old Testament. So, it is hardly a foreign concept in the teaching of Jesus.

In contrast, the Pharisees were more law-oriented. They felt that it was strict observance of the various rules and regulations in the Bible that God wanted. The emphasis Jesus placed on mercy threatened the very basis of their reform movement. Observance of the law was what God wanted, they felt. We can think that they were misguided, but the same phenomenon exists in the church today. The emphasis Pope Francis places on mercy is strongly opposed by all too many. The whole flap over whether President Biden should be allowed to receive communion is but one example of this.

It is incredible how we can examine our consciences on how well we have observed the commandments, but seldom on how merciful we are, and whether we extend the same mercy to others that God does to us. The Eucharist is a stark reminder of the extent Jesus went to show us his mercy. As Saint Paul reminds us, God’s love for us is shown that while we were sinners, he was willing to die for us. None of us are worthy of God’s loving mercy; it is extended to us not because we deserve it but because we need it.

Let Us Pray:

Have mercy on me, O Lord, according to your unfailing love. And help me to extend that same mercy to others.


Eucharistic Reflection – Center for Eucharistic Evangelizing (eucharisticevangelizing.com)
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About Paul J. Bernier, SSS

Blessed Sacrament Father Paul J. Bernier served for many years as the editor of Emmanuel. He is a popular writer, preacher, and director of retreats. Among his many published works is Ministry in the Church: A Historical and Pastoral Approach, Second Edition, published by Orbis Books in 2015. His most recent book is A Eucharistic Spirituality: Inspired by Saint Peter Julian Eymard – Apostle of the Eucharist, which he co-authored with Jim Brown.