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Mt 9:9-13 and an Invitation

Monday, June 9th, 2008

Sunday’s Gospel reading was form Matthew 9:9-13. It is about Matthew’s call to follow Jesus. Following the call Jesus has a meal with tax collectors as sinners, much to the disapproval of the Pharisees.

Our pastor preached a message of inclusion. He said that Jesus came specifically for sinners; he came to heal. Jesus did not ask for any membership cards in order to share a meal.

But then he started preaching a message I did not expect. He spoke of Jesus’ inclusion at table with sinners and tax collectors. He then turned and pointed to the altar and said that this Eucharistic table is also an open one. He said that it is inclusive, not exclusive. Jesus invites everyone to his table.

I felt a certain conviction to approach the altar. Not only because I believe it is something that I ought to do; but now also because I perceived the homily as a direct invitation. And so I received.

I still felt a bit awkward; that it was “sneaky.” It certainly was not guilt, but rather a social stigma. I was torn. To follow my conscience and participate because I believe Christ commanded this of all of his followers, and now the priest suggesting an open table. At the same time I know the institutional structures of the Roman Catholic Church forbid Eucharistic sharing.

The priest is aware that I am a Protestant Christian, and I was in the line next to his at the Eucharist. Following mass I did not feel any animosity from him. He asked how I was doing in school, and our anniversary plans. He didn’t draw me aside and tell me I was wrong. One cannot preach an inclusive sermon, without willing to accept the consequences that radical inclusion entails.

The message was not quite as explicit as I would have liked, but the message was clear. Still, I wonder why I feel the need to “get permission” to receive from anyone other than Christ?