Listen, the Lord is Calling

Mark 2: 13-17
1 Sm 9:1-4,17,19,10:1 / Ps 21

Jesus said, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.’
(Mark 2:17)

We sometimes give a false excuse
When the occasion doesn’t suit us;
Take heed, this call you can’t refuse,
The invitation is from Jesus.

Once again Jesus went out beside the lake, where a large crowd came to Him, and He began to teach them. As He walked along, He saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed Him. While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” were eating with Him and His disciples, for there were many who followed Him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw Him eating with the “sinners” and tax collectors, they asked His disciples: “Why does He eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?” Upon hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:13-17)

Reflection

Jesus most probably knew that Levi had wanted to get out of this hated position as a lackey of Rome, and the object of taxpayers’ derision. Sure, he was making a lot of money, but he was sick of being an outcast of his own people, and longed to be in the company of real friends, and be a follower of a real leader, like Jesus of Nazareth. But how could he even think of being invited into such an exalted company? The chasm between him and this Man of God was like earth and the sky. And then a miracle happened. The Messiah came up to his post one day and invited him, saying simply, “Follow me.” Naturally, Levi got up, left everything, and pursued a new life.

A known sinner like Levi would never have had the courage to enlist himself as one of the disciples of Jesus. Nor would any of the Lord’s company dare to sponsor him. In the eyes of the Jewish world at that time of the Roman occupation, the publicans, (or tax collectors of King Herod and the Roman conquerors) were worse than lepers, being in cahoots with gentiles and their tainted money. Like the paralytic, they would never be able to rise up again from their unforgivable sins, because, like the demoniac, they were possessed by an insatiable greed for money.

But no sinner is beyond the saving power of God. The transformation of Levi was not of his own initiative. It was Jesus Who chose him. When we are called to join a ministry such as for instance the Eucharistic lay ministers or the parish lectors and commentators, we have the tendency at first to resist — perhaps because of our misplaced feelings of unworthiness or inadequacy. But as our former parish priest told a friend, when he invited him to become a lay minister, “Why don’t you let the Lord be the judge of that, and allow Him to change your heart?” The same case happened to a prospect, who had kept putting off the persistent invitation of a member to a Catholic fellowship breakfast. He only realized later on that he had been missing out on a wonderful community, and the chance to get to know the Lord better, all because he had been shunning God’s invitation for a long time.

Christ came to earth to invite sinners, and not the righteous. His mercy pardons the greatest sins; His grace transforms the greatest sinners, like Levi the tax collector.

Thank You, Lord Jesus for inviting us to become Your followers, and for making us worthy to be members of Your chosen community. Amen.

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