Reflections

Saturday After Ash Wednesday, February 20, 2021

I CALL SINNERS, NOT THE RIGHTEOUS
Introduction
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.
 
Opening 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!
 
1 Reading: Isaiah 58:9B-14
Thus says the LORD: If you remove from your midst oppression, false accusation and malicious speech; If you bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted; Then light shall rise for you in the darkness, and the gloom shall become for you like midday; Then the LORD will guide you always and give you plenty even on the parched land. He will renew your strength, and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring whose water never fails. The ancient ruins shall be rebuilt for your sake, and the foundations from ages past you shall raise up; “Repairer of the breach,” they shall call you, “Restorer of ruined homesteads.” If you hold back your foot on the Sabbath from following your own pursuits on my holy day; If you call the sabbath a delight, and the LORD’s holy day honourable; If you honour it by not following your ways, seeking your own interests, or speaking with malice Then you shall delight in the LORD, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will nourish you with the heritage of Jacob, your father, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.
 
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 86:1-2, 3-4, 5-6
R. (11ab) Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth.
 
Incline your ear, O LORD; answer me,
for I am afflicted and poor.
Keep my life, for I am devoted to you;
save your servant who trusts in you.
You are my God. R.
 
Have mercy on me, O Lord,
for to you I call all the day.
Gladden the soul of your servant,
for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. R.
 
For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving,
abounding in kindness to all who call upon you.
Hearken, O LORD, to my prayer
and attend to the sound of my pleading. R.
 
Gospel Acclamation: Ezekiel 33:11
Glory and praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ!
I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked man, says the Lord,
but rather in his conversion, that he may live.
Glory and praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ!
 
Gospel: Luke 5:27-32
Jesus saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at the customs post. He said to him, “Follow me.” And leaving everything behind, he got up and followed him. Then Levi gave a great banquet for him in his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were at table with them. The Pharisees and their scribes complained to his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus said to them in reply, “Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do. I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners.”
 
Commentary
In response to complaints from the Pharisees and the teachers, Jesus says: “Healthy people don’t need a doctor; but sick people do. . . . I call sinners, not the righteous.” The truth of the matter is, there is no one who is not a sinner, and everyone has some sickness of the soul that needs healing. D. T. Miles reportedly said: “Evangelism is just one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.” Once we recognize our sinfulness we also recognize our shared broken humanity with others and our common “beggarhood” before God.
It is ironical that the Pharisees and the teachers do not recognize their sinfulness or the illness of their soul, and hence reject their common humanity with tax collectors and other public sinners as well as their need for the healing grace Christ offers. It is not Christ who excludes them, but they themselves do so, by their blindness. Where do we stand?
Jesus uses a proverb that says: the healthy does not need a physician but the sick does. He is the true physician, who can cure the sick body and the wounded heart of guilt. Jesus cares not only for serious diseases such as leprosy in his time, which today are cancer or AIDS but also for the dark vices of the soul. Levi-Matthew is healed from the monotony of a bad profession being a tax collector. Matthew understands the need to be cured and to discover that Christ, seated at the same table, did not come to call the righteous but the sinners.
 
Intercessions
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. Amen!
 
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. Amen!
 
Blessing
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. Amen!

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