I once knew a priest who was affectionately known as the Street Padre, because of his habit of daily wandering the city streets of his parish, of entering bars and pool halls to visit his more unpolished and marginal parishioners who didn’t often think — or dare! — to darken the doors of a church. Lots of people (especially men) would return to Mass, go to Confession and find even gainful employment under the sway of his intrusive and kind priestly influence. The late Rich Mullins authored a song a number of years ago (here) that made me think of this priest’s heart-driven mission to the ‘lost sheep’ off the beaten path.
I imagine St. Matthew would have written no Gospel, would have died no glorious martyrdom in Ethiopia proclaiming Christ as the Lover of Sinners, had Jesus not strayed off-path toward Levi’s seedy tax-collecting booth that fated day.
O wonder! The Creator clothed in human flesh enters the house of tax collectors and prostitutes. Thus the entire universe, through the beauty of the sight of him, was drawn by his love to the single confession of God, the Lord of all. -- St. Isaac of Syria