We can see in the coat of arms of Pope Francis his motto in Latin: Miserando atque Eligendo. In English, we can roughly translate it this way: “Lowly but chosen,” sa Filipino naman, puwedeng isalin sa ganitong paraan: “Hamak ngunit hinirang.”
In choosing this motto, Pope Francis must have wanted to tell us who he really is: a sinner—just like you and me, and just like one of the characters in the Gospel passage we just heard (Mt 9:9-13), Matthew, again, another sinner.
Just to give you a background, Matthew was a modern day makapili. He was a traitor. He earned from the taxes he collected from his countrymen.
Your teachers will agree with me that their hearts bleed whenever they see a portion from their monthly salary slashed by the BIR.
But they console themselves in the fact that at least, that’s their share in nation-building. Their income could be used in building bridges, sending a poor student to school, and feeding the poor.
But tax collectors like Matthew were hated by everyone because the taxes they collected were not used for bridges, for poor students, and for the hungry. The taxes are channeled in to the Roman Empire, their colonizers.
For sure, when Jesus called Matthew, he called a sinful man, a man hated by many. But this act of Jesus is one powerful and beautiful testimony that God looks beyond our sinfulness, that despite our sinfulness, He has our attention, that He can trust us with a mission.
We celebrate this Holy Eucharist, our very first as one department for this school year, on this first Friday of July, a day of devotion in honor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Pope Francis spoke of this Heart of the Good Shepherd, as not only the Heart that shows us mercy, but is itself mercy.
This merciful heart sent the prophet Amos in the first reading (Am 8:4-6, 9-12) to warn the powerful who hurt the poor, who take advantage of the weak, who exploit those who are in need. Here, we have an image of a God whose heart beats only for lowly ones. He is to be their protector. That He takes up the cudgels for them to defend them from their oppressors.
Our liturgy today invites us to zero in on three attitudes we could assume to honor this Heart, so that like Matthew who was once a sinner, we, too, may be able to follow Jesus.
First, let us cultivate in our hearts this attitude of being merciful, forgiving, of a heart that does not keep grudges. It is perfectly logical to get even with our classmates who did us wrong. But that is not what our Christian calling is all about; that is not the way of Jesus.
Second, let us have confidence in Jesus, let us trust His heart. Ipagkatiwala natin ang ating buhay sa Kanyang mahal na puso.
Last night, I went with one of our alumni to a hospital to anoint his sister, a young girl who has been very ill for several years now.
Her doctor told them that his sister has got only just a short time to live.
Seeing her poor condition, I was at a loss as to what to say to comfort their family, but their example of openness and readiness to accept what God wills for them has shown for me what concretely faith means. They are open to whatever the Lord has in stored for them.
In situations like that when it was perfectly okay to blame God, this family has shown incredible faith in the Lord. My being with them for a short time was like a beautiful catechism class on how authentic Christians behave in trying times.
Finally, let us not get tired in trying to live a life of perfection, a life free from sin. Yesterday, I heard the confessions of the elementary students. I was very moved when one Bosconian asked me “what should I do so that I will not repeat these sins anymore?” This question is coming from someone, young as he is, who has seen the ugliness of sin in his life.
Sin takes us away from becoming the loving persons God calls us to be. And if we see ourselves failing again and again in our serious attempts to get rid of a particular sin, I am sure that God is pleased with this. He will be quick in offering His mercy and His help.
Again, let’s have the three attitudes our liturgy today challenges us to do: 1.) Let us cultivate a heart which is ready to forgive; 2.) Let us have confidence in Jesus; and 3.) Let us not get tired in avoiding sin.
May this our celebration of the Eucharist in honor of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus inspire us and encourage us to do as what Matthew did: He followed the way of Jesus.