Exchange and freedom

We have just celebrated the feast of St Matthew, whose version of normality was disrupted, and overturned, by Jesus passing by, and his own response to this. What might it have been like for Matthew sitting there at the tax booth, suddenly to have been freed—just like that—from a great constricting, even violent web of exchange and expectation? What would it have been like to be freed from the need to look constantly over one shoulder at one’s state employers, and over the other at one’s countrymen, keeping each in view at all times, always wary of being jumped in some way?

Here we are, inhabiting a world where nothing is truly free, keeping an eye out for the cost of the exchange, concerned for the cost to us in social expectations. It looks like normal social health to us. But what would it be like to be freed from these conventions, to live by love without strings attached, without the pressure to conform to so many expectations that are really violence dressed up in polka dot fabric? Is this even thinkable or possible?

Jesus is always, every day, passing by our customs’ booth in still prayer, in lectio, in study; in the office, in the kitchen, the yard, the garage. Can we allow ourselves at all these times and places to hear the clear purity of Jesus’s voice cutting through these many entanglements we feel bound into? Do we have the strength to trust ourselves to this one voice that has nothing to do with exchange, and everything to do with freedom, to leave that way behind and follow? In the time we have been given, as St Benedict says, “Today”, let us say “Yes” like Matthew and get up and follow.

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