Isaiah 58:9-14 / Luke 5:27-32
God speaks: “Help others and I will help you.”
A woman named Linda was in a state mental hospital. She said she was without hope for the future and without faith in God. Then one day she happened to notice a small sign: “Volunteers needed to help the elderly.” She says she doesn’t know why she responded to that sign, but she did. Several months later she wrote about her experience, “Each day spent with these elderly patients awakened something within me.” Linda’s experience with the elderly patients restored not only her faith in the future but also her faith in God.***
Recall a time when our faith and hope were restored after sharing love with another. When we reach out to others, we frequently help ourselves far more than we help them.
The season of Lent has a penitential orientation for us. It constantly reminds us of the need for repentance and conversion. Of course, that means that we are going to be reminded of our sinfulness. Sinfulness might seem to be an abstract subject for reflection and self-examination. But when we reflect on our inter-personal relationships, we would immediately come to see that there are areas in our relationships with others that we have crumbled.
The 1st reading mentioned two graphic images that we can easily identify with - the clenched fist and the wicked word. Yet when we confess our sinfulness in our relationships with others as well as with God, then we shall become like a watered garden and a spring of water that will never run dry. Indeed, during this season of Lent, Jesus wants us to know that He came to call sinners to repentance. Sinfulness makes us sick in the spirit. Jesus is our Healer. Let us turn away from our sinfulness and follow Him as Levi did.
SATURDAY AFTER ASH WEDNESDAY - LITURGY
Jesus came to call sinners. It is they that need him, not so much the just, the righteous. It is the sinners who need healing. We are among them, and so we need healing. The Pharisees considered themselves just, but there was little mercy in them; their hearts were dried-up, and it is mercy that Jesus wants, not sacrifices. Jesus comes to encounter Levi-Matthew. Just a call, and Matthew leaves everything behind: his desk, his past. He is a new man, created anew by Christ. He lives now for the future. His converted heart will turn to others too, as he becomes an apostle. In this Eucharist Jesus comes to call us and to change us; he sits at table with us, as he did with Levi-Matthew.
Lord our God, merciful Father, when you call us to repentance, you want us to turn to people and to build up peace and justice among us all. According to your promise, let us become, with your strength, lights for those in darkness, water for those who thirst, rebuilders of hope and happiness for all. May we thus become living signs of your love and loyalty, for you are our God for ever.
Repairer of the breach. Restorer of ruined homesteads. Those designations would have been apt and welcome in 2005 when a mammoth hurricane destroyed a large part of the city of New Orleans. Many people did their part in the midst of such a calamity, but when all was said and done, there was still much reconstruction to do. But there are other breaches to repair, ways in which we can respond honorably to disaster, especially moral failure. And Isaiah today outlines some of them. In the matter of living God’s law there is a strong incentive: happiness in doing what God wills. This happens when the Sabbath is not a burden, but a delight. It is commended to honor the Lord’s day by not following our own will nor speaking of others with malice. If we do so, all will be well. The avoidance of false testimony and improper speech, coupled with a sense of outreach and care for the sick—such are signs of a correct conscience, worthy of a holy people. When Levi gave a reception for Jesus, he was not discriminating of the people who attended. He was, after all, a tax collector and would certainly have had friends among such people, who were agents of a foreign, pagan power. Tax collectors were not table companions for believing Jews. But once again Jesus breaks the barrier. It is precisely for the unwanted that he has come. They are the sick in need of help, much the same as the sick in the emergency rooms of our hospitals. Jesus sees his role largely in terms of care for the morally ill. They, not the well, need the physician. Today’s readings are a call to an upright life. Of course, we all fall short. But we still return to the task. In doing our best, we add to the collective good. We help repair the breach. And if we feel a bit wounded at time, the physician is there to see us through.
Points to Ponder
Choosing God over ourselves
Christ’s embrace of the unwelcome
– That Christians may experience the joy of receiving forgiveness from God and from forgiving one another, we pray: – That people entangled in sin and who don’t know how to get out, may encounter Jesus, who came as a healer of hearts, we pray:
– That we may all learn that it is a part of our conversion to turn to people and to bring them justice and love, we pray:
Prayer over the Gifts
Merciful God, you have sent your Son among us to eat and drink with us sinners. May Jesus look also at us intently and call us to genuine repentance, and may we be so humble as to recognize that we are in need of conversion. Give us the strength to follow Jesus, who is our Lord for ever.
Prayer after Communion
Lord God, merciful Father, your Son Jesus Christ has touched our hearts and we are willing to follow him. But we are weak and frail, and so we pray you: May the bread of life and the wine of strength, which we have taken at the table of your Son, sustain us on the road to you, our God for ever.
Through Jesus, God creates people anew by forgiving them. He makes an apostle out of a typical sinner, Matthew, the tax collector. As forgiven people, we help God to restore people by our goodness, by helping others. May almighty God bless you, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.