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"I have come not to call the righteous, but sinners"

Saturday, February 24, 2007
Saturday after Ash Wednesday

Readings: Isaiah 58:9-14, Psalm 85:1-6, Luke 5:27-32

In today’s Gospel we have an account of the call and response of Levi the tax collector. In Jesus’ time, being a tax collector was not a popular occupation. Those tax payers amongst us might sympathise – a letter from the tax office is rarely greeted with joy! Yet amongst the Jews the poor tax collectors were really treated as outsiders. The taxes were demanded by the Roman occupiers, which made the tax collectors traitors. Corruption was widespread, even encouraged by the occupiers. But most scandalous of all, especially for the Pharisees, was the fact that tax collectors had dealings with Gentiles in the course of their work. Because of this contact with those who were not observers of Pharisaic laws, the tax collectors were deemed to be ritually impure, outcasts.

How shocking then, that Jesus should be associated with Levi, and even more shocking that he should be seen dining with a whole group of similarly ‘unclean’ people, engaging in an act which symbolised friendship and acceptance – friendship with and acceptance of the untouchables. By doing this, Jesus breaks down the barriers between the Jews and the Gentiles. The boundaries are now marked in a new way, so as to gather in all those who are in need of his mercy, of his compassion and healing – people just like us. Levi’s response to the call, immediately leaving everything to follow Jesus, brought him within this new boundary. By humbly acknowledging our faults before God in prayer and in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we recognise our need for his grace and mercy. Then like Levi we open ourselves up, allowing ourselves to become the kind of people who can receive God’s healing, able to freely respond to the call to discipleship.
Good news indeed!

Robert Gay OP


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