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Recognizing the Divine Physician
Saturday of the First Week in Ordinary Time
Once again he 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. He said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. 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 he 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 [that], “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”
Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, help me to see where any false sense of righteousness binds me from opening to your healing grace.
- Jesus’s Availability: Jesus is yet “once again” along the sea. There are many areas along the Sea of Galilee that lend themselves to perfect gathering places for large crowds. People can come by boat or land, from the Jewish and the Gentile towns surrounding the sea. And from there, Jesus can reach many surrounding towns with great ease. His divine intention is manifest—he longs to encounter all and is willing to make himself available to all who will welcome him, no matter Jew or Gentile. Levi was one of the Gentiles and represents all those considered unworthy. But worthiness in Jesus’s eyes equals those whose hearts are sincere and allow him, in his generous availability, to enter their dwelling.
- Strike 3: Throughout the past days’ readings Jesus has had several run-ins with the Pharisees. Jesus shocks them with his response this time. It seems like he throws them a curveball. At first it doesn’t seem that he directly answers their question, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But then the ball hits home plate, strike three, for the Pharisees as Jesus answers them, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.” The Pharisees have continually maintained their self-righteousness. By doing so, they automatically disqualify themselves. Only those who recognize their need for repentance are reconciled to God.
- The Divine Physician: Jesus is the divine physician. He recognizes our ailments and comes to the rescue. Sometimes those in need are brought by friends, like the paralytic on the stretcher lowered from the roof. Some travel long distances to seek him out. Others are surprised by Jesus’s presence in their midst and an immediate reaction of faith wins them healing. It seems that we all come to the divine physician by different paths, but the truth is Jesus is always present, always available. He simply waits for our acknowledgment that he truly can heal us. In Saint Teresa of Calcutta’s words, “We give him permission” to act as the divine physician in our lives with the disposition of the centurion, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed” (Matthew 8:8).
Conversing with Christ: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed” (Matthew 8:8). Let me speak these words to you with sincerity of heart and gratitude for your constant salvific presence in my life.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace, I will recognize signs of self-righteousness in myself and make a hidden act of humility.
For Further Reflection: Raising Our Children to Be in but Not of the World, by Tim Challies.
Jennifer Ristine is a consecrated woman of Regnum Christi who is dedicated to spiritual and faith formation through teaching, conferences, writing, and spiritual direction. While serving in Ancient Magdala she wrote Mary Magdalene: Insights from Ancient Magdala