Painting of: Albert Birkle, Bearing THe cross, 1924
Amos 8:4-6, 9-12
Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do.
I desire mercy, not sacrifice.
The sin is depicted by the prophet Amos as the ones who trample upon the needy and destroy the poor of the land. It means that sin is equalized with evil doings that cause suffering for others. To do evil to our fellow and also to the other creature is to do evil to God himself. Then sin can be articulated as an offense to God and to separate one’s life from communion with God, the fellow, and nature. This separation will have another meaning of sin and its consequences which was elucidated poetically by the prophet Amos. The sin is to reject the light of God and choose to live in the darkness. To choose to live in the darkness is like the sun setting at midday and covering the earth with darkness in broad daylight. The external appearance of sinful life can be happy but inside there is turmoil that stops the feast of God’s children because the sin has terminated and has erased the joyful music of the feast of God’s children. The result is the feast turns into mourning and song into lamentations. The beauty of men fades away because sin pulls up the goodness so that makes it like a head bald. Sin has tattered the great clothes of God’s children so that the remaining one is only a cover for the loins with sackcloth. The sin grows blossomly and dominates one’s life which makes them like mourning for an only son because sin has made them famine for the word of God but it cannot be found and cannot be heard. Then, the sin sinks them in loneliness, sin kicks the word of God, no peace, and is trapped in the cycle of sin that delivers the day to a bitter end.
Indeed, even doing evil, sinful men do not feel that they are sinful. Sin has reigned in all aspects of life: in the heart and in mind, in action, in speaking, in consideration. The word of God which must have a place in whole life has been dethroned and has been denigrated. That is why they said: When will the new moon be over, that we may sell our grain and the sabbath, that we may display the wheat? We will diminish the containers for measuring, add to the weights, and fix our scales for cheating! We will buy the lowly man for silver, and the poor man for a pair of sandals; even the refuse of the wheat we will sell”.
These sayings reflect the dead of conscience which made them unknown again about the holy life: the life that is willed by God and the life lighted by the word of God. The death of conscience is started from the hardness of the heart. Such a kind of heart will produce pride and arrogance that will cling to the sinful condition. In sinful conditions, one cannot hear the word of God and be always famine and thirsty for it, he is wandering from sea to sea and roving from the north to the east but cannot find it. It is sad news for every sinful man.
But, today is good news. Jesus Christ -Son of God- proclaims God’s mercy for every sinful man. It started when he called Matthew who was a tax collector of the Roman empire. As a tax collector of the Roman empire of course he did injustice to the others, also he took profit that was not appropriate for himself. Matthew responded to Christ’s call by following him. Thus, the following Matthew to Jesus represents a repentant man with a humble heart who gains a new life through Christ’s forgiveness. In the first reading, we see the hardness of heart that did not feel and know again about the sin but from the gospel we see the humble heart of Matthew responding to Jesus’s call. Matthew refers to every sinful man. Therefore, Christ calls to every sinful man to conversion every time through His words, nature, suffering, prayer, advice of friends, and church. Christ’s call to conversion continues to resound in the lives of Christians.
But what is a conversion? A conversion is linked with the heart. It must be rooted in the heart. Thus, the essence of it is a conversion of the heart, it is not conversion based on external experience such as “sackcloth and ashes,” fasting, and mortification which are outward works. Yes, they can be the form of conversion but they must have fundament in the conversion of the heart. The outward works are not the main goal of true conversion. Conversion of the heart bears interior conversion which is a true and steady one. Interior conversion produces radical reorientation of the whole life to God’s love, a return to God with all heart and mind, an end of sin, a turning away from evil, with repugnance toward the evil actions which have been committed. Therefore, one cannot be said that he repents if his heart is not directed to God and only to Him. It is also an effort to center and focus one’s life on the word of God and to fulfill and color one’s new life with goodness and truth. It also entails the desire and resolution to change one’s life, with hope in God’s mercy and trust in the help of his grace. Conversion touches the past and the future and is nourished by hope in God’s mercy. Interior conversion urges expression in visible signs, gestures, and works of conversion of the heart.
But how can the Christians have such repentance; how can the follower of Christ respond to Jesus’s call to conversion like Matthew?
The first thing is that the conversion is not only a human effort but is actually a work of the grace of God who makes our hearts return to him: “Restore us to thyself, O LORD, that we may be restored!” God gives us the strength to begin anew. It is in discovering the greatness of God’s love that our heart is shaken by the horror and weight of sin and begins to fear offending God by sin and being separated from him. The human heart is converted by looking upon him whom our sins have pierced. Fixing our eyes on Christ’s blood delivers us to understand how precious it is to his Father, for, poured out for our salvation it has brought to the whole world the grace of repentance. This triggers the movement of repentance heart, drawn by the grace; an answer to the merciful love of God who has loved us first. Spirit who brings sin to light is also the Consoler who gives the human heart grace for repentance and conversion. The repentance heart renews one’s life with God’s mercy because conversion to Christ, the new birth of Baptism, the gift of the Holy Spirit, and the Body and Blood of Christ received as food have made us “holy and without blemish. Interior repentance spurs to weep and to lament one’s sin. That is why, St. Ambrose says of the two conversions that, in the Church, “there are water and tears: the water of Baptism and the tears of repentance.
The second thing is to be humble. The following Matthew to Jesus means Matthew answers Jesus’ call to conversion with a humble heart. Without the heart disposition of humility, the man does not feel that he is a sinful man. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. Interior repentance can be done if one confesses that he is a sinful man with humility. Then we can follow Jesus and answer His call like Matthew. The humble heart has the ability to confess sin. Said St. Augustine:
“Whoever confesses his sins . . . is already working with God. God indicts your sins; if you also indict them, you are joined with God. Man and sinner are, so to speak, two realities: when you hear “man” – this is what God has made; when you hear “sinner” – this is what man himself has made. Destroy what you have made, so that God may save what he has made… When you begin to abhor what you have made, it is then that your good works are beginning, since you are accusing yourself of your evil works. The beginning of good works is the confession of evil works. You do the truth and come to the light”.
The calling of Jesus to Mathew is the calling to God’s forgiveness and His mercy. His mercy and His forgiveness are instituted in the sacrament of forgiveness. Therefore, the calling of Jesus to Matthew is also the calling to the sacrament of forgiveness. All the followers of Jesus are called to come to the Sacrament of forgiveness. Sacrament of forgiveness means to let Jesus come into one’s life to receive His Forgiveness; to let God pour His grace with mercy to save one’s life from the wages of sin, to obtain pardon from God’s mercy for the offense committed against him; to let one follow Jesus with new life by keeping the word of God in heart and by doing it. Jesus knows our strengths and our defect and is always ready to care for us, to heal the wounds of our errors with the abundance of his grace (Pope Francis)
By receiving God’s forgiveness in the sacrament of forgiveness, Jesus comes to us like a physician to heal the wounds left by our sins (St. Augustine). By coming to the sacrament of forgiveness, it helps us to form our conscience, fight against evil tendencies, and progress in the life of the Spirit. By celebrating more frequently through this sacrament the gift of the Father’s mercy, we are spurred to be merciful as he is merciful. Then we are reconciled with God and our fellow and with all creation. Through the sacrament of forgiveness, we are freed from the yoke of sin. We become new men because in converting to Christ through penance and faith, the sinner passes from death to life. In the light of His forgiveness, we repair the harm we made to our fellow by doing justice like returning stolen goods, restoring the reputation of someone slandered, and paying compensation for injuries. In the name of nature, we stop to kill animals, we cease damaging the environment; otherwise, we promote and actualize care for nature, being vegan, we save the life with the act of humanity, we become the instrument of charity and being defenders of marginal people.
All of this penance which has been sourced from the sacrament of forgiveness makes us have a clean and free heart. Then, the clean and free heart is like fertile soil for the seed of the word of God which grows in our life. It is no doubt that our life is led by the word of God.
Through the sacrament of forgiveness, we have found again the word of God that is Jesus -the living word of God-. We always hear His word by His forgiveness and repentance. There is no more famine of the word of God because Jesus is the living word of God; He is the living bread that satisfies our famine of the word of God; He is the living water that satisfies our thirst for the word of God. We do not wander again from the sea to sea and rove from the north to the east because we find it in our heart, in the repent heart. What a joy is, what a heart is, what a repentance is. In the banquet of life, we join with Jesus in an intimate friendship and we celebrate this joy like Matthew who was at the same table with Jesus.
Life is an answer to Jesus’s invitation of repentance, so respond to him and follow him, dance under those stars of forgiveness by coming to the sacrament of forgiveness, do the love fearlessly because of the power of His forgiveness, and promise to ourselves that we never ever hide His mercy to the world, to anything because He is merciful to all of us through the sacrament of forgiveness.
Repent and hear the word of God
 Catechism of the Catholic Church., no. 1430
 Ibid., no. 1431
 Ibid., no. 1430
 Ibid., no. 1432
 Ibid., no. 1433
 Ibid., no. 1426
 Ibid., no. 1458
 Ibid., no. 1458
 Ibid., no. 1470
 Ibid., no. 1435
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