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The Righteous and the Sinners
Saturday of the First Week in Ordinary Time
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.”
Opening Prayer: Lord, please give me the grace to answer your call. Free me from any wrong thinking or constraint that may hinder me. Teach me humility. Make me keenly aware of my need for your healing and your mercy as I read these words today.
- Calling All Sinners: Jesus’ fame is spread far and wide at this point in his ministry. He needed no one to help him succeed or make him more popular. We don’t know why he called Levi, the tax collector, to follow him, but by doing so, Jesus sent a powerful message to those of us who may feel unwelcome or unworthy to be Christians. Clearly, the Kingdom of God is open to anyone who accepts the invitation.
- Tax Collectors and Sinners: It is especially significant that Jesus “was at table in his (Levi’s) house.” Eating a meal with someone, whether accepting or offering hospitality, can be a sign of intimate friendship. We break bread with those we love or those whom we wish to know better. In his book A Meal with Jesus, author Tim Chester says, “His (Jesus’) mission strategy was a long meal, stretching into evening. He did evangelism and discipleship around a table with some grilled fish, a loaf of bread, and a pitcher of wine.” Here, in this simple setting, Jesus was exercising his divine physicianship, showing his unconditional love for Matthew and his friends (Matthew 9:12). He has the same unchanging and perfect love for us.
- Doctor, Doctor: Just in case the Pharisees or anyone else missed the point, Jesus drove it home with a clear analogy: People do not seek out medical care when they are well. It is when we are sick, injured, or infirm that we seek a doctor. Likewise, people who are full of their own righteousness are sometimes so intent on judging others that they do not always see their deep need for Christ’s healing in their lives. “All have sinned” (Romans 3:23). As sinners, we humbly acknowledge our sicknesses–our attachments–and leave the judgment of others to Christ. We seek with faith and hope our personal cure from the Divine Physician.
Conversing with Christ: Jesus, how easily I can fall into the trap of judging other people. Please remind me that I will be judged the same way I judge others (Matthew 7:2). Soften my heart that I might look at my sinfulness with honesty and humbly come to you for the cure. Help me to look on the people in my life with love and mercy. I give you thanks for your love, grace, and mercy.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will pause before each meal to give praise and thanks for the food and drink you provide, also remembering your merciful love.
For Further Reflection: A Meal With Jesus, by Tim Chester.
Cathy Stamper lives in Maryland with her husband, Mike. They have been partners in marriage and business for over thirty-one years. They are grateful for their five young adult children and large extended family.