1 July, Friday – The Church is for Sinners & the Sick

Friday of Week 13 in Ordinary Time

Amo 8:4-6, 9-12

Mt 9:9-13

“…I did not come to call the virtuous, but sinners.”

The well and the sick in the gospel are figurative expressions for the righteous and sinners. In today’s gospel context, the Pharisees were included among the former, not on account of their righteousness but because they fancied it and deemed themselves without spot or taint. Jesus came to call all — sinners and saints alike. However, he could not direct his call to the self-righteous; as they did not relinquish their pretensions and were unreceptive to the healing offered. Jesus, being the master physician, wasn’t just a miracle healer of physical infirmities, as seen in yesterday’s readings on the healing of the paralytic. He understood the nature of all diseases of the soul and sought to grant wholeness in mind, body and spirit. The call of Matthew was precisely a display of mercy to a neglected soul. Recalling a recent episode of Season 1 of The Chosen, which our parish ministry watched and reflected upon, the character was wonderfully portrayed as a differently-abled tax collector who was ostracised and despised by the community – and even estranged from his parents. Yet, Jesus still sought him out as one of his apostles. Together with Peter, Andrew and James, one could say that it is indeed a gathering of misfits and they could hardly convince anyone to follow Christ with their credentials, let alone build a community of followers – the Church. In spite of that, Christianity still thrived over thousands of years from a humble gathering of the sick and sinners.

Pope Francis had aptly described the church as a field hospital on many occasions, referencing it as a place for the sick and sinners, a congregation for all who recognized their own iniquities and who needed healing. The concept of the church being a hospital was aptly described in today’s gospel. Jesus came to save sinners and lead them to repentance and healing. It should be a place where those who are physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually wounded can come and be treated. Yet, often we forget that the church is made up of sinners and wounded souls – we come to church expecting everyone to be holy and perfect already. There were so many occasions where I’d judged someone negatively following an unpleasant experience; be it from a priest who snubbed me in the confessional, failings of prominent ministry leaders or impolite hospitality ministers. The occasional sexual abuse or funds misappropriation case further puts a dent in our faith journey as a community. It is in times like these where my confidence in the institution of the church plummets drastically. Thankfully, these moments never last long enough for me to drift away from church. This also brings to mind one of my favourite poems from Carol Wimmer, written in 1988, titled “When I say I am a Christian”:

When I say “I am a Christian”,

I’m not shouting that “I am clean living.”

I’m whispering “I was lost but now I’m found and forgiven.”

When I say “I am a Christian”,

I don’t speak of this with pride;

I’m confessing that I stumble & need Christ to be my guide.

When I say “I am a Christian”,

I’m not trying to be strong,

I’m professing that I’m weak & need his strength to carry on.

When I say “I am a Christian”,

I’m not bragging of success,

I’m admitting that I’ve failed & need God to clean up my mess.

When I say “I am a Christian”,

I’m not claiming to be perfect,

My flaws are far too visible but God believes I’m worth it.

When I say “I am a Christian”,

I still feel the sting of pain,

I have my fair share of headaches so I call upon His name.

When I say “I am a Christian”,

I’m not holier than thou,

I’m just a simple sinner who received God’s grace somehow!

©1988 Carol Wimmer

At times when I ponder about all the misgivings and unfortunate events happening in church, I’ll take a look at myself and realise that I do fit in so well with my fellow Christians, as we all acknowledge our shortcomings and dependence on God.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Dylan Tan)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, please free us from the bondage of our sins, anger, guilt, resentment and pain that prevent us from coming to you. Heal our hearts even as you heal our bodies, that we may live in praise and glory of your Name. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Loving Father, thank you for your faithfulness throughout the generations. By faith, let us see your mighty hand in creation and in the lives of your people throughout history. Help us to emerge from our sins and move forward in life with your guidance.

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