Saturday after Ash Wednesday, Feb 20

 Saturday after Ash Wednesday, Feb 20

Isaiah 58: 9-14 / Luke 5: 27-32

Jesus talks about his mission: " "I came for those who need help.

Recently a convict sent a prayer he wrote to a Jesuit newsletter called Twofold. A portion of it reads:

"Dear heavenly Father, I come to you a bent and broken man. . . I come to you from prison, from a place that's called death row and ask that you take pity, Lord, on a convict's wretched soul.

 "Dry these tearstained eyes; have mercy on this awful man, please hear my mournful cries." Jack Joe Holland. It was for sincere, repentant people like Jack Joe that Jesus came.


Do we have the same sincere repentance for our sins that Jack Joe has for his? “The greatest of all faults is to be conscious of none” Thomas Carlyle.


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. 


At any point in time, we can surely think of a person or persons that we have difficulties relating with. We may just feel uncomfortable about that person, or cannot accept certain qualities about that person, or that person may have hurt us before. Hence human relationships are often laced with anything from indifference to intolerance. Of course, we being the disciples of Jesus will try and strive to resolve our differences.
But the moment we get hurt again or feel that it is pointless or feel that there can be no change for the better, we will immediately and conveniently give up. But in today's gospel, we see Jesus approaching someone whom we would automatically ostracize in our lives, especially if that person has betrayed us and sold us out. Levi was such a person and yet Jesus not only approached him, but even called him to follow Him.

Jesus came to bring together all peoples into the peace and unity of God's kingdom. In our Lenten journey ahead, let us heed the word of the Lord from the 1st reading. Let us release our clenched fists and drop the wicked word. Then our light will begin to shine for others and our own shadows will be shortened. 


    Encountering Christ:

    1.  “Follow Me”: As we begin Lent, the Church reminds us through this Gospel passage that Jesus always initiates our following of him. Levi, better known as St. Matthew, was perhaps a little perplexed when he heard this call. Caravaggio’s great painting captures this moment, depicting the tax collector with a surprised, “Who? Me?” kind of look. Indeed, we should all feel like that. We have not earned the grace to follow Jesus; it is a free gift given with immeasurable love. As with Levi, this call challenges us to abandon the comfort zone of spiritual mediocrity for something much greater.

    2. Celebration: We see Levi wanting to share the joy of apostleship with others. They were his old crowd, probably not the most savory folks, but they could already sense something profoundly different in Levi. The overflowing grace of repentance that Levi exuded was already evangelizing those around him. Jesus would say later to the chief priests: “Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you.” Levi was first in line of the stunning converts made by Jesus, and he communicated the grace Jesus gave him to others. Therein lies an important goal for our Lent: to send off ripple effects of the graces we receive.

    3. The Originality of Jesus: The Pharisees certainly had their struggles with the innovative nature of Jesus’s ministry. He was breaking down certain conventions that were, in effect, a straight jacket on evangelization. Nevertheless, it would be wrong to say that Jesus was “anti-tradition”; after all, he came to “fulfill not abolish” the law and prophets. But new wine does need new wineskins. Let’s look at our own lives. What might we try doing differently to be better, more engaged apostles?

    Conversing with Christ: Lord, what an effect your encounter had on Levi. I, too, rejoice that you have come into my life and are inviting me to be your apostle. Sometimes I feel like my wheels are spinning. But I trust that the light of the Holy Spirit can help me to find new ways to live a more holy life and to be a better ambassador of how blest the Catholic life is.

    Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will joyfully share my faith with someone, as did Levi.


Prayer: 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. Amen.