From the Word of the Day
As he passed by, he saw Levi, son of Alpheus, sitting at the customs post. Jesus said to him, “Follow me”. And he got up and followed Jesus. While he was at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners sat with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. Some scribes who were Pharisees saw that Jesus was eating with sinners and tax collectors and said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus heard this and said to them, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”
(Mark 2: 14-17)
In Mark’s account of the call of Levi in today’s Gospel, the Evangelist strongly emphasizes that Jesus calls and chooses anyone to follow Him, even tax collectors ‘sitting at the customs post’. He does not observe the proscriptions of the Pharisees about ‘pure and impure’, which prohibit eating at table with pagans and sinners, like the Publican Levi. What’s more, Jesus sits at his table with many publicans and sinners. The Pharisees ask the disciples to give an account of Jesus’ behavior.
Here Mark intends to reveal the true nature of Jesus’ mission, which is showing itself to be very different from the common expectations. He does not let Himself be locked into the idea of the “just and sinner’. He did not come to call the righteous, but sinners. Not only does Jesus receive sinners, He goes in search of them; He even invites them to share His responsibility and to follow Him in proclaiming the Gospel. Levi, the Publican, is called to be part of the Twelve: “Follow Me”.
Is it not true that even we are sometimes tempted to separate ourselves from sinners, considering ourselves apart from them? The sinners are always the others. We are always among the righteous! Let us not be afraid to go among sinners with truth and humility. We too need the Father’s mercy! If we think we are healthy and just, the Good Shepherd will not go looking for us.
In my pause for silent contemplation, I will not be afraid to approach Jesus with my sins and failings for He is longing to show me His mercy.
Jesus, forgive me!
The Voice of Pope Francis
Even Matthew’s vocation is inserted in the horizon of mercy. As He passes the customs post, Jesus’ eyes are fixed on those of Matthew. It was a look full of mercy that forgave his sins, and, overcoming the resistances of the other disciples, He chose him, a sinner and a publican, to become one of the Twelve. The venerable St. Bede comments on this Gospel scene: Jesus looked at Matthew with merciful love and chose him, out of mercy. I always liked this expression; so much so that I chose it as my motto.