Today is the feast of St. Matthew who, before being called by Jesus, spent his time collecting taxes from the Jews for the Roman occupation forces – and probably, according to the custom, kept some of the money himself. He was an unlikely choice to become one of the closest followers of Jesus since the “publicans” as they were called were considered traitors by their fellow Jews. When the buzz began about why Jesus would associate with such immoral people, Jesus stated that those who are well do not need a physician but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ I did not come to call the righteous but sinners. (MT 9:12-13)
Pope Francis is in Cuba on his way to the United States where millions of people will see him in person or, at least, on television. His message is always one of mercy – that “fierce, bonding love of God” for us and his vision for the Church is one of mercy and embrace of the poor. In one of his first homilies as Pope, he spoke of many of the closest followers of Jesus who came to him late like Matthew or those whom we remember sometimes for their weakness, like Peter or Thomas. He said then that God always has patience; God waits, acting like Jesus with the disciples on the road to Emmaus who were slow to recognize him or like the merciful father who ran to meet his wayward son. God always waits and pours out his love and mercy on all who turn or return – early or late – to love. This is, I think, the “good news” – maybe the best news – for this day.