1st Reading: Hos. 6: 3-6.

The prophet Hosea tells the people that liturgical prayer is not enough. God desires mercy more than sacrifice.

2nd Reading: Rom. 4: 18-25.

The Apostle recalls how faith in God’s promise yielded fruit for Abraham who begot a child in his old age contrary to all physical laws. This is because God is able to fulfill his promises.

Gospel: Matt. 9: 9-13.

Jesus calls Matthew to be one of his disciples. He eats with tax collectors and sinners. He has come to call sinners not the self-righteous.

A Story:

Many years ago in Germany, during the time of Adolf Hitler, in one of the concentration camps, one prisoner was always reading his Bible. One of the prison guards started making a mockery of him. Why are you reading a book that was written a thousand years ago? Show me what you are reading? The prison guard taunted. The man happened to have been reading the book of Genesis. The guard looked and read, Adam where are you? Look at what you are reading. That is why I stopped going to the Church several years ago. The prisoner responded. You do not seem to understand the text at all. The passage is very current in fact. It is addressed to you today. You are the Adam and God is asking you, where are you, Mr. Muller. Adam – Mr. Muller, where are you?

Today God is telling each one of us. I desire obedience and true devotion more than sacrifice. Sacrifice here stands for prayers, cult, rituals, external devotions and outward observances. These are good, but fidelity to God’s laws, kindness to our neighbor, forgiveness and love must complement our cultic devotions.

Again the readings stress and underline the importance of faith. The prophet Hosea condemned the people not because their prayer of confidence in God’s goodness and forgiveness is bad but because of their wrong motive. The people transferred their confidence from their compassionate God to their own personal holiness.

In the epistle to the Romans, Paul recalls how Abraham whose body was as good as dead never doubted God. Abraham and Sarah were fully persuaded that God could do whatever he promised. They were confident that God would achieve what was far beyond their ability. God responded to their faith.

St. Paul tells each one of us today that no hope implanted in us by God, will remain unfulfilled. Remember, the Church teaches us that faith is assurance of things hoped for and conviction of things yet unseen (cf. Heb 11:1ff).

Jesus connected faith with salvation when he said, repent and believe the gospel Mk. 1:15. Also, when Jesus was in a boat with his disciples, he rebuked them for their lack of faith (cf. Mk. 4:40). He healed the leper and the Centurion’s servant as he praised their faith: leper Matt. 8:3; centurion Matt. 8:13; the blind man Mk. 10:52; the woman sick for 12yrs Matt. 9:22ff. Jesus told Martha, did I not tell you that if you have faith you will see the glory of God (cf. Jn. 11:  40).

Again, note that Jesus’ call of Matthew and his sitting at table with tax collectors and sinners is his practical way of teaching us by example, forgiveness and reconciliation.

On the other hand, Matthew accepted that he was a sinner. He expressed his trust and confidence in Jesus’ compassion. He had faith in Jesus and he was forgiven.

We are all sinners. Did we not publicly acknowledge it at the beginning of the Mass? But we have to individually internalize that acceptance of our sinfulness if we hope to obtain God’s mercy and forgiveness.

I have come to call sinners. What I want is mercy and not sacrifice. What I want is obedience and true devotion more than rituals and general devotions.

NB: Faith is on-going; true devotion is on-going. Those who are being confirmed today are urged to show on-going conversion, on-going true devotion, on-going life of faith.

The Lord be with you!