Did you hear the one about the Motley Crew and the Pope?

One of my favourite pieces of Gospel text is Matthews going away bash! (Matt 9:9-13)

I am sure you remember it, he has just heard the invitation of Jesus, he has found enough in his heart to say some sort of yes. Like the fishermen, Peter, Andrew, James and John, he too got the special and personal invitation whilst at work. They were told to leave behind catching cod, mackerel, salmon and plaice. I wonder what was said to Matthew. As they were told to leave their nets, had he simply to leave the office or was it worse than that? Had our Matthew to leave behind his calculations? In his figures, his ‘number – scribbling’ did he cause more problems than he solved? Was he corrupt like many’s a tax collector? How corrupt? Did he rip off the poor?

Did Jesus say ‘ Hey Matthew! Leave behind the tax books, fiddle no longer. From now on may your sums calculate what’s good for souls’? Or words to that effect.

Whatever about all this, there seems to have been a great turn out for his going away party. Now that needs further clarification, it was not so much a turn out of the great and the good as a gathering of the good, the bad and the ugly! It was by any stretch of the imagination a right motley crew that showed up for Matthews retirement do. In this mix’em gathering we had the hypocritical Pharisees, the greedy corrupt tax collectors, the desperate prostitutes to mention a few. When Jesus arrives into this gathering he does not tut tut nor does he finger point, nor does he seek a special seat, nor does he remain apart, no rather he takes his place amidst them. Of course, predictably enough, the finger pointers and tut tutters have a field day. They are quick to condemn Jesus and yet he uses this opportunity to teach, to educate them about God. We learn about a Church of and for sinners and we learn about service and compassion.

For me in my desire for both the reform and renewal of the Church Matthew’s farewell bash is one of the key passages. Apart from the overall issue of Church I wonder could we be learning something relevant to the World Meeting of Families.

Is it possible that WMF could be a gathering of the Messy Church? Could we gather around the Pope at the end of August and rejoice in being a meeting of the Good, the Bad and the Ugly? Could we cope with the observation after World Meeting of Families, ‘ well that sure was a motley crew that turned out to meet Pope Francis?’

Could Pope Francis cope? The evidence points to a resounding yes to this question. This Pope oozes compassion. This Pope is clear that at the heart of evangelization, at the heart of ministry is service. In our planning of WMF will we have the courage to actively include all. If this means letting the tut-tutters and finger pointers continue on their path whatever about to hell at least to a substantial period in purgatory, have we the stomach for this?

If WMF is going to be just for the goody goodies, the very ‘holy’, the ones who have it sorted, the ones who tick the right boxes….. I think I’ll stay at home.

Actually if the Pope hears that WMF is organized by a cosy comfortable elite for a cosy comfortable elite I’d say he might stay at home?

Where will Jesus position himself at WMF? Will we find Jesus on a throne in the sea of celibate red at the top or will he find himself more comfortable with those who did not feel that welcome and who squeezed in at the back or is he more likely to head to the hub for the homeless or the Provision Centre?


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