God’s Mercy and Our Vocation, 1st Saturday (II), January 13, 2017

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Saturday of the First Week in Ordinary Time, Year II
Memorial of St. Hilary of Poitiers
January 13, 2018
1 Sam 9:1-4.17-19.10:1, Ps 21, Mk 2:13-17


To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below: 


The following points were intended in the homily: 

  • As we finish the first week of Ordinary Time, dedicated to journeying with God-with-us and pondering how through his preaching, teaching, exorcising and miracle working he seeks to make us partakers in his divinity through assuming our humanity, we come to the second day of a real synthesis. Yesterday we had the healing of the paralytic’s sins and today we have the healing of the tax collector’s Matthew’s. And we discover in those encounters our own summons by the Lord on the day of baptism and beyond. Pope Francis, after he received his vocation on the feat of St. Matthew in 1953, when he was 16, pondered greater St. Bede’s commentary from which he later took his papal motto, miserando atque eligendo. St. Matthew, Pope Francis, and all of us are called by the Lord in the very act of his forgiving us. We are called precisely because we are sinners, since he came to call not the righteous but sinners. We are called precisely because we’re sick, but the Divine Physician left the healthy confines of heaven to heal us. These lessons are shown with great relief in today’s famous scene.
  • Seeing Levi (Matthew) at his tax collectors post — where, like other tax collectors, he would rip off his own people for profit, giving the Romans what they assessed and using the military to force out of his fellow Jews whatever more he could get so that he could keep it for himself — Jesus called this notorious public sinner to follow him, to leave his money behind, to leave his sins behind, and follow him down a path not of grasping but of giving. Matthew was so moved by being given this second chance, this salvation, that he called together all of us his friends, who likewise had a reputation, probably well-earned, of being notorious sinners, so that they, likewise, could meet Jesus and encounter the Lamb of God who had come to liberate them from their sins.
  • It was too much for some of the scribes and Pharisees, however. They complained to Jesus’ new disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” Their attitude was to separate themselves as far as possible from sinners, to let the sinners sleep in their iniquitous beds and die in their sins, failing to recognize, of course, that they, too, were sinners, and if Jesus abided by that principle they would themselves be cut off from salvation. Jesus, however, hearing what they were saying, said one of the most important lines in the entire Gospel: “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”
  • Yesterday, we heard the powerful Gospel of the healing of the paralyzed man, first his sins, then to show that Jesus had the power to heal sins, his paralysis. All of us, likewise, have been paralyzed in our lives by temptations, by sinful choices or even habits. We are all in need of Jesus’ healing. To the extent that we have received a Christian calling, a Christian vocation — and we all have — we must remember that we have received it insofar as we are sinners. Jesus came to call sinners. The entire mission of the Church is, like Matthew, to host a banquet for sinners so that other sinners, just like us, can encounter Jesus and the liberating power of his merciful love.
  • Jesus having forgiven and called us in the same act sends us forth to become his agents of reconciliation for others by bringing others to Jesus. Just as much as Saul was appointed by God and anointed by Samuel so that Lord has appointed and anointed us, as little Christs, so that we might carry our mission as Saul wants commissioned to do his. We may be afraid of what others might say. But in the Responsorial Psalm we see that God will strengthen us, that in the Lord’s strength, we find our joy. And God’s greatest joy is forgiving. He will strengthen us to live a holy and converted life and help us to bring others to experience that same joy.
  • St. Hilary of Poitiers was somehow who brought God’s mercy in many ways to the Christians and non-Christians in France in the fourth century. He was born into a very well-off pagan family. Eventually through study and following an ethical conscience, he saw that polytheism was untenable, that there could only be one God. He began to study the alternatives. Eventually he found the Bible and was fascinated by God’s self-description to Moses at the burning bush (“I am who am”) as well as the sage advice God gave throughout his interaction with his people. When he got to the New Testament, he was won over by Jesus and asked for baptism as a married adult and father of a daughter. After his baptism, he continued his study and prayer to get to know God better. Four years after his baptism, incredibly, he was asked by the people of Poitiers to become their bishop, even though he would need to be continent with his wife, even though he would need to leave what he was doing, even though he would need to receive the sacramental triple crown of the three grades of the Sacrament of Holy Orders. He tried to refuse the office, not considering himself up to the task, but those who had chosen him only grew in admiration of his humility. So he assumed the office. It was a time when the Church was in chaos because of the Arian heresy, which was very popular in France. He took to study, writing, preaching and prayer to combat the heresy, and he did it so effectively that he was banished by the emperor Constantius from France for three years to Phrygia. In Phrygia, however, he didn’t wallow. Instead he prayed and wrote, and those treatises in defense of God’s divinity are still essential for us today. In just 18 years as a bishop, in just 22 years as a Christian, he incredibly became a doctor of the Church. His life was a commentary on how one, having received the Lord’s mercy, is moved from within with a desire to share it, and he shared not only in Christ’s great care and love for the poor, sick and needy, but also for those in ignorance and error. He taught — and through his hallowed writings, teaches still.
  • After he himself experienced Jesus’ mercy, Matthew called his friends, fellow sinners, to experience the same healing love in a banquet with Jesus. Today Matthew joins us at this daily banquet for sinners in the refectory of the hospital that is the Church. We begin this Mass remembering who we are, confessing ourselves to be people who have “greatly sinned” through our own “most grievous fault,” crying out “Lord, have mercy,” proclaiming that we’re not worthy to receive him under our roof, but begging him to say the word, to forgive us, and make us capable. And we make that prayer not for ourselves individually but for all of us, turning to the Lamb of God and asking him to have mercy on “us” together. Today we ask him to help each of us become the Matthews of our day, inviting all those we know— the fellow sinners in our families, among our friends, in our neighborhoods — to come to experience the same healing in this great hospital we ourselves have received. Jesus came to call sinners. And our mission is as reconciled sinners to go and proclaim the Gospel of the Lord, the Good News that salvation from sins is possible, so that one day we may all be reunited in that banquet of eternal life among saved sinners in the heavenly Jerusalem.

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1 1 SM 9:1-4, 17-19; 10:1

There was a stalwart man from Benjamin named Kish,
who was the son of Abiel, son of Zeror,
son of Becorath, son of Aphiah, a Benjaminite.
He had a son named Saul, who was a handsome young man.
There was no other child of Israel more handsome than Saul;
he stood head and shoulders above the people.
Now the asses of Saul’s father, Kish, had wandered off.
Kish said to his son Saul, “Take one of the servants with you
and go out and hunt for the asses.”
Accordingly they went through the hill country of Ephraim,
and through the land of Shalishah.
Not finding them there,
they continued through the land of Shaalim without success.
They also went through the land of Benjamin,
but they failed to find the animals.
When Samuel caught sight of Saul, the LORD assured him,
“This is the man of whom I told you; he is to govern my people.”
Saul met Samuel in the gateway and said,
“Please tell me where the seer lives.”
Samuel answered Saul: “I am the seer.
Go up ahead of me to the high place and eat with me today.
In the morning, before dismissing you,
I will tell you whatever you wish.”
Then, from a flask he had with him, Samuel poured oil on Saul’s head;
he also kissed him, saying:
“The LORD anoints you commander over his heritage.
You are to govern the LORD’s people Israel,
and to save them from the grasp of their enemies roundabout.“This will be the sign for you
that the LORD has anointed you commander over his heritage.”

Responsorial Psalm PS 21:2-3, 4-5, 6-7

R. (2a) Lord, in your strength the king is glad.
O LORD, in your strength the king is glad;
in your victory how greatly he rejoices!
You have granted him his heart’s desire;
you refused not the wish of his lips.
R. Lord, in your strength the king is glad.
For you welcomed him with goodly blessings,
you placed on his head a crown of pure gold.
He asked life of you: you gave him
length of days forever and ever.
R. Lord, in your strength the king is glad.
Great is his glory in your victory;
majesty and splendor you conferred upon him.
For you made him a blessing forever;
you gladdened him with the joy of your face.
R. Lord, in your strength the king is glad.

Alleluia LK 4:18

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The Lord sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor
and to proclaim liberty to captives.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MK 2:13-17

Jesus went out along the sea.
All the crowd came to him and he taught them.
As he passed by, he saw Levi, son of Alphaeus,
sitting at the customs post.
Jesus said to him, “Follow me.”
And he got up and followed Jesus.
While he was at table in his house,
many tax collectors and sinners sat with Jesus and his disciples;
for there were many who followed him.
Some scribes who were Pharisees saw that Jesus was eating with sinners
and tax collectors and said to his disciples,
“Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
Jesus heard this and said to them,
“Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do.
I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”