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SERVE THE LORD WITH GLADNESS | Infidelity to God has consequences, but our hope remains in Jesus

Jesus calls sinners, but we still have to work on cleansing ourselves of sin

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

This week we hear from the prophet Amos, and also hear about the call of Matthew. Both contain a tale of two mistakes for our consideration.

The prophet Amos was sent to the northern tribes of Israel in the mid-700s BC. It was a time of economic prosperity, but his message was not congratulatory. Instead, he was sent to point out that Israel’s infidelity to the covenant, and the injustices that the powerful were committing against the powerless (he gave a long and detailed list!) would lead to dire consequences. Those consequences were fulfilled just a few years later, when the Assyrian empire came and destroyed the northern tribes.

At the end of the week, however, we hear Amos’ final message: that after the time of consequences, God would send a time of restoration. What Amos foretold was a kind of national dying and rising that would ultimately be fulfilled in Jesus.

Amos’ prophetic message was a tale of two mistakes that ancient Israel made in thinking about their relationship with God. The first was the idea that because of God’s goodness, the people’s infidelities and injustices didn’t matter. Wrong, said Amos! Infidelity and injustice have consequences. The second mistake was the idea that because there were dire consequences, there was no hope. Wrong again!

The key is to realize that both mistakes were partial truths. God is always faithful — but there are still consequences to infidelity and injustice. And, even in the midst of terrible consequences, there’s still the hope of restoration. It was important for Israel, and it’s important for us, to reflect on both of those mistakes.

The call of Matthew — recounted in Matthew 9 — also present us with a tale of two mistakes.

Remember that Matthew was a tax collector. That meant he was a collaborator with the foreign and occupying power of Rome and he benefited financially from his collaboration. Jesus calls this man to be an apostle!

And there’s the diagnosis of the first mistake: the idea that you have to get cleaned up from all the sins in your life before Jesus will call you to follow Him. Jesus didn’t wait until Matthew was cleaned up. He called him right in the midst of his sin. And then, as if to reinforce the point, Jesus went from the one to the many: immediately after calling Matthew, He dined with a great number of tax collectors and sinners at Matthew’s house!

But here’s the second mistake: the idea that because Jesus calls sinners, we don’t have to work on cleansing ourselves of sin. Jesus calls us in the midst of sin precisely in order to call us out of sin. We’re not disciples just because He calls us. Jesus called Zacchaeus; Zacchaeus responded with repentance. Jesus called the rich young man; the rich young man walked away. Jesus called the Samaritan woman at the well; she followed Him. Jesus called Pilate and the Pharisees; they walked away.

The Gospels are full of stories of Jesus calling people right in the midst of their sinful lives. But the Gospels also warn us that some people followed the call and changed their lives, while others rejected the call and remained in their sins.

Pope Francis once challenged us not to offer the world less than what Jesus offers. When we tell the world that Jesus doesn’t call sinners, we offer less than what Jesus offers. When we tell the world that sinners don’t need to repent, we offer less than what Jesus offers. Let’s avoid both mistakes, and offer the world all that Jesus offers.

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SERVE THE LORD WITH GLADNESS Infidelity to God has consequences but our hope remains in Jesus 7698

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