The Gospel Today
Saturday after Ash Wednesday
Jesus saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at the customs post.
He said to him, “Follow me.”
And leaving everything behind, he got up and followed him.
Then Levi gave a great banquet for him in his house,
and a large crowd of tax collectors
and others were at table with them.
The Pharisees and their scribes complained to his disciples, saying,
“Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”
Jesus said to them in reply,
“Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do.
I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners.”
Reflection (Sem. Emmanuel Calumpong):
“The Call of Levi”
When your neighbor stumbles through sin or ignorance, do you point the finger to criticize or do you lend a helping hand to lift him or her up? The prophet Isaiah tells us that God repays in kind. When we bless others, especially those who need spiritual as well and physical help, God in turn blesses us.
Jesus in today’s gospel does not cover up the tax collectors’s situation. He shows His critics that as the Messiah, He has come to call the sinner like them, not to condone their sinful acts but corrects them. Jesus, as divine physician, associates with the spiritually sick to invite them to repentance.
Jesus worked on a new principle of salvation, that is, salvation by association rather than salvation by segregation. It was a break from the customary practice of the Jewish religious leaders, who avoided table fellowship with tax collectors and sinners. Levi, a tax collector and an outcast is called to such an assocaition and he becomes not only a follower, but also a disciple of Jesus. The call of Levi comes with a message that a sincere conversion is demanded by Jesus from his followers. It also shows that even the worst among sinners could respond to Jesus’ call with wholehearted sincerity as Levi did.
Our problem sometimes, is that, we easily judge people by the way we see them. Longfellow, a famous poet and educator said: “If we can read the secret history of our enemies, we should find sorrow and suffering enough to disarm any hostility.” If only we can read the secret history of all the sinners, their life’s sorrows and sufferings, then it would be enough to stop us from condemning them. Do we still find it easy to despise sinners? Do our attitudes toward sinners reflect our heavenly Father’s loving heart?