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Contemplating today's Gospel

Today's Gospel + homily (in 300 words)

Saturday after Ash Wednesday

1st Reading (Isa 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 honorable; if you honor 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: 85
R/. 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.

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.

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.
Versicle before the Gospel (Ezek 3:11): I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked man, says the Lord, but rather in his conversion, that he may live.
Gospel text (Lk Lk 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.”

“I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners.”

Fr. Joan Carles MONTSERRAT i Pulido (Cerdanyola del Vallès, Barcelona, Spain)

Today we see how Lent is moving forward and the strength of the conversion our Lord summons us to. The figure of the apostle and evangelist Matthew is very representative of those of us who think that, because of our background, or because of our personal sins or complicated life, we are unworthy of our Lord.

Well, no, we are not; to remove any doubt we might still have, Jesus Christ is offering us the possibility of following him, as He did with the first evangelist, Levi the tax collector, to whom He simply says: “Follow me” (Lk 5:27). Jesus does with him exactly the opposite of what a “judicious” mentality would do pretending to be “politically correct”. Levi —instead— came from a world where he was openly rejected by all his compatriots, as he was considered, just because of the fact he was a publican, and a helper of the Romans and, possibly, as much of a corrupt by the “commissions” he might receive, who indulged in choking the poor to collect their taxes; in short, he was considered a public sinner.

Those considering themselves as perfect, could not even think of Jesus not only not requesting them to follow him but not even asking them to his own table.

However, by choosing Levi, Our Lord Jesus Christ is telling us that it is rather this kind of people whom He prefers to call to expand his Kingdom; He has chosen the sick, the sinners, those who consider themselves unworthy: “Rather, God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong” (1Cor 1:27). For these are those who need help and, as such, they will also understand those also in need.

We are not to think God wants spotless and immaculate followers to serve him. That privilege belongs only to Our Mother. But for us, subjects of God's eternal salvation and Lent's protagonists, God wants just a contrite and humble heart. In words of Saint Augustine: “God has made you weak to give you his own power”. This is the type of person who, as the psalm says, God would not despise.

Thoughts on Today's Gospel

  • “But, if you will, you may be healed. Entrust yourself to the Physician, and He will couch the eyes of your soul and of your heart. Who is the Physician? God, who heals and makes alive through His word and wisdom. God by His own word and wisdom made all things.” (Saint Theophilus of Antioch)

  • “A first fact strikes one: Jesus does not exclude anyone from his friendship. ‘I came not to call the righteous, but sinners’ (Mk 2:17). The good news of the Gospel consists precisely in this: offering God's grace to the sinner!” (Benedict XVI)

  • “Jesus invites sinners to the table of the kingdom: ‘I came not to call the righteous, but sinners’. He invites them to that conversion without which one cannot enter the kingdom, but shows them in word and deed his Father's boundless mercy for them and the vast ‘joy in heaven over one sinner who repents’ (Lk 15:7) The supreme proof of his love will be the sacrifice of his own life ‘for the forgiveness of sins’ (Mt 26:28).” (Catechism Of The Catholic Church, Nº 545)