GOD CALLS THE WEAK—THE UNWELL
The word of God is alive and active, says the first reading. It is so alive and active that this word of God, spoken by Jesus, changes sinners into saints. This word can judge, but it judges with mildness: by offering new chances. Do we offer these chances to others? Or does our attitude—if not words—of condemnation keep people confined within their mediocrity and failures?
Matthew is a typical sinner, a tax collector, one who was not only exploiting his own people but a traitor to them as a collaborator with the Romans. But he responds to Jesus’ call and becomes an apostle and martyr, faithful to the end.
God of mercy and compassion, you call weak people, sinful as they are, to give shape to your dreams about people and their world and to be instruments of salvation. Give us trust, not in our own strength, but in the power of your love, which can do through us and with us what we ourselves are incapable of. We thank you for calling us out of our frailty and alienation through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen!
1 Reading: Hebrews 4:12-16
The word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart. No creature is concealed from him, but everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must render an account. Since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin. So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 19:8, 9, 10, 15
R. (cf. John 6:63c) Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.
The law of the LORD is perfect, refreshing the soul; The decree of the LORD is trustworthy, giving wisdom to the simple. R.
The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; The command of the LORD is clear, enlightening the eye. R.
The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever; The ordinances of the LORD are true, all of them just. R.
Let the words of my mouth and the thought of my heart find favor before you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer. R.
Alleluia: Luke 4:18
Alleluia, alleluia. The Lord sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor and to proclaim liberty to captives. R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel: Mark 2:13-17
Jesus went out along the sea. All the crowd came to him and he taught them. As he passed by, he saw Levi, son of Alphaeus, 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.”
A lack of appreciation for the Bible was once regrettably common among Catholics. The Second Vatican Council changed all that, ushering in the rise of biblical interest among lay Catholics. At first, some people wondered how Catholics would respond to workshops and lecture series on a contemporary understanding of scripture. But people responded very positively, and their love for the Bible has not diminished over the years. Hebrews today speaks of the penetrating power of God’s word. It reaches the reflections and thoughts of our heart and enables us to hold a mirror up to our deepest human aspirations.
Jesus is God’s gift to us. He now is present in the heavenly court, acting as our high priest, interceding for us in our weakness. We all wrestle with our weaknesses. But Christ was tempted just as we are. He is like us in every way, except that he did not sin. He is thus in a unique position to sympathize and help us in our inadequacy.
In the Gospel narrative, we cannot help but be impressed by Levi’s willingness to leave behind his tax collector post—a position that was looked down upon by the people as being corrupt and sinful—and follow Jesus. It could not have been easy for Levi to leave behind his former associates and friends. Jesus dines with Levi and is criticized for it, since the law forbade a practicing Jew from association with public sinners. Jesus gives little heed to such precepts. Indeed, this is one of the things that makes his mission different. He comes into the world precisely to find sinners and the spiritually ill, not to avoid them.
If we would find time for scripture reading in our daily lives, we would certainly become more sensitive to God’s will. It will also make us less judgmental in our dealings with others. It reminds us that no one is beyond the pale of God’s love.
– For the Church, a community of saints and sinners, that we the people of God, and our leaders may not so much condemn those who fail but give them new chances in life, we pray:
– For people who have failed often and no longer dare believe in themselves, in God or in the community, that they may draw new courage and hope from our understanding and compassion, we pray:
– For priests and religious, that they may keep trusting in the Lord who called them notwithstanding their human weakness, and that with Christ, they may care especially for the poor and the weak, we pray:
Prayer over the Gifts
Lord, our God, your Son did not deem it below his dignity to go to the houses of sinners and to eat and drink with them. We are thankful that here today, he sits at table with us, weak people. We recognize your merciful love. All we can say is: Thank you, Father, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen!
Prayer after Communion
God, in this Eucharist, we have experienced your forgiving mercy and your call for hope and trust in you. May we never look down on people struggling against their weakness or too tired to stand up. Help us to recognize in them our own flesh and blood torn apart and crying out, aloud or in silence, for an understanding heart and a helping hand. We ask this through Jesus Christ. our Lord. Amen!
How daring of Jesus, how sure of himself! Jesus chooses one whom all consider a public sinner and makes him his apostle, to build his Church on him, similar also on some other apostles, who will show signs of great weakness. God trusts us. Let us also trust him and ask for the blessing of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen!