As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
This is Matthew’s own account of being called by Jesus. He was an outcast because he profited from evil. The religious people saw him as a sinner, to be judged and rejected. Jesus did not argue about whether or not Matthew was a sinner. But he disagreed with the people about the implications of this fact. Jesus responded not with judgment but with love. He said that it was people like Matthew that he had come to call. Jesus came for people in need. He went out of his way to find such people and to spend time with them.
Of course, the truth is that all people are in need, but not all of us accept this about ourselves. In fact, some of us work very hard to cover and compensate for our neediness. We do not accept ourselves as needy.
Many of us are accustomed to being the person who helps others. We may have always been in the giving role. So the diagnosis of cancer hits us especially hard. We are required to step out of the role of always giving and learn what it means to receive. This can be a frightening and difficult change.
We do well to remember that it is when we accept the reality of our neediness that we are open to receive God’s grace and goodness. When we are independent and competent and righteous, we shut God out. We do not see our real need of the One who made us.
This story from Matthew’s gospel tells us that Jesus accepts us as we are. He knows our real needs, even when we deny them. Jesus does not want us to try to prove ourselves to him, but rather to depend on him.
As you struggle to accept your experience with the many needs that cancer has brought into your life, may you find hope and joy in knowing that it is God’s desire to meet those many needs.
May you understand that God desires that you learn mercy by first of all being merciful to yourself.
May God’s mercy bring deep healing to your body, mind and spirit.
Questions for Discussion – Session 1
l. In what ways is it difficult for you to be on the receiving end of someone else’s care?
2. What experiences have you had with this?
3. How have these experiences effected you?
Questions for Discussion – Session 2
1. How has facing the reality of your need for help effected your relationship with God?
2. How is it helpful to you as you live with cancer and face your need for help to know that God accepts you and is concerned about your needs?
3. What needs are you aware of having today?