“Once a sick man, in his passivity, begins to ask, “What is the purpose of my life? Why am I here?” the crisis has already begun. Conversion becomes possible the very moment a man ceases to blame God or life and begins to blame himself; by doing so, he becomes able to distinguish between his sinful barnacles and the ship of his soul. A crack has appeared in the armor of his egotism; now the sunlight of God’s grace can pour in. But until that happens, catastrophes can teach us nothing but despair.” ― Father Fulton J. Sheen, (Peace of Soul)
Gospel Text: (Lk 5:27-32)
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.”
Levi probably had a very comfortable life. But then he heard Jesus and his heart was stirred so powerfully he was willing to part with his old life. You might think that this would be the perfect way to end the story: hardened tax collector embraces a kinder, simpler life. But Levi encountered a new wrinkle when some Pharisees disrupt the special dinner that he gave in Jesus’ honor. They objected to Jesus spending time with Levi’s sordid group of friends.
Shouldn’t a spiritual leader avoid the sinful so as not to risk contamination?
Then, as if to add insult to injury, Jesus agrees with the Pharisees by likening Levi and his friends to the “sick” in need of a physician. That’s right—sick! How would you respond if everyone were talking about you like this? Wouldn’t you get just a bit defensive? You can imagine Levi—whom we also know as St. Matthew—responding, “Wait a minute! It’s not like I’m the walking plague! But that’s not how Levi reacted. The fact that he stayed with Jesus and became one of his twelve apostles is a testament to his humility and his dedication.
In a wide-ranging interview last September, Pope Francis likened the Church to a “field hospital” for the faithful—not just for those who don’t believe but for all of us. It’s hard to think of ourselves as being sick and needing help. But that’s what the season of Lent—that’s what the cross—is all about. As St. Paul wrote, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Of these I am the foremost” (1 Timothy 1:15). If we can bring ourselves to echo Paul’s words, if we can find the humility and dedication of Levi, we’ll end up finding the same joy, peace, and freedom that he discovered.
By choosing Levi, Our Lord Jesus Christ is telling us that it is rather this kind of person whom He prefers to call to expand his Kingdom; He has chosen the sick, the sinners, those who consider themselves unworthy: «Rather, God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong» (1Cor 1:27). For these are those who need help, and as such, they will also understand those also in need.
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