.- Pope Benedict XVI traveled from his summer residence at Castelgandolfo, back to the Vatican to conduct his weekly General Audience with the faithful gathered in the Paul VI auditorium today. The Holy Father reflected with the crowd, on the mercy of God as evidenced by the life of St. Mathew the Apostle.
Christ, the Pope said, excludes no one from his call to friendship, and the story of the Apostle Matthew reminds Christians of this truth very clearly.
The Holy Father laid out the great disdain with which tax-collectors, such as Matthew, were seen in the Jerusalem of Jesus’s time. Tax-collectors, he said, “were considered public sinners.”
While the job itself was looked down upon, Matthew was also seen as “collaborating with a greedy and much hated foreign power.” The Pope pointed out that the disdain for tax collectors is found throughout the Gospels, with the profession often mentioned in the same breath as prostitutes and other sinners.
“We can hear an echo of the scandal caused by the Lord’s decision to associate with such men in his declaration that he came "not to call the just but sinners" (Mt 2:17), the Pope said. However, “the Good News of the Gospel consists precisely in this: the offering of the grace of God to sinners!”
“The Gospels,” he said, “propose a truth and a paradox: he who is apparently farther from sanctity can become a model of acceptance of the mercy of God and offers a vision to see into the marvelous effect on his own existence.”
Additionally, the Pope continued, “Matthew’s ready response to the Lord’s call also shows that following Christ means leaving behind, sometimes at great cost, everything that is incompatible with true discipleship and embarking upon a new life.”
“When he received the call of Jesus Matthew responded instantly, ‘And he got up and followed him,’” (Mt 9,9) the Pope noted. Matthew’s response is the fulfillment of the words Jesus spoke to ‘the rich young man’: “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to (the) poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." (Mt 19,21). “And that is just what Mathew did,” Benedict said, “he got up and followed him! In this ‘getting up' it is right to read to the separation from one situation of sin and at the same time the knowing adhesion to a new existence, righteousness, in the company of Jesus.”
“Through his example and the words of his Gospel, St. Matthew constantly invites us to respond with joy to the ‘good news’ of God’s saving mercy,” the Pope said.
Prior to returning to Castelgandolfo the pontiff greeted the crowding their various languages and bestowed upon them his Apostolic Blessing.