Jesus calls the tax-collector Matthew and publicly rebukes the Pharisees after they insult Him. Every Catholic man can grow in happiness by seeking the Gift of Counsel so he can receive and proclaim Christ’s Truth and Mercy and by building the Virtue of Diligence so he can continually seek conversion in his life.
Saturday after Ash Wednesday – Lk 5:27-32
As Jesus begins His public ministry in Galilee, He preaches, heals, and calls 12 men to be His Apostles. Even early on, Jesus’ teachings and exploding popularity threaten the power of the Pharisees (“Separated Ones”), and they go on the offensive, seeking to find evidence to condemn Him. Undeterred, and relentless in His desire to spread His Gospel, Jesus builds His early Holy Catholic Church by systematically recruiting the men who will become His vanguard (the Apostles), including Levi, also called Matthew.
Jewish tax collectors were despised by Jews as unredeemable sinners because they robbed the people by over-collecting taxes, they had regular contact with the “unclean” Gentiles, and they collaborated with the enemy of Israel, the occupying Romans. Despite the profound stigma, as Jesus passes by Matthew the tax collector, Jesus calls him to “Follow me.” Hearing, Matthew immediately gets up, leaves his secure source of income and follows Jesus. Later, Matthew holds a feast at his home to honor Jesus, and invites many other tax collectors and other sinners.
Table fellowship was a sign of personal acceptance and friendship, and Jesus’ decision to dine with a tax collector violated the Pharisees’ (meaning, separated ones) strict refusal to mix with “sinners”, especially in table fellowship. The Pharisees and scribes, afraid to challenge Jesus directly, go to the disciples and seek to discourage the Apostles by denigrating Jesus, accusing Him of eating with “tax collectors and sinners.” As always, Jesus is keenly aware of the schemes of men. He publicly rebukes the Pharisees with a powerful assertion of His authority, saying, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” The Pharisees, blind to their own sins, do not recognize that they themselves are also “sick” and should repent; instead, later they will plot to kill the Son of God.
Be awed by Jesus Christ
Marvel at Jesus as He builds His Holy Catholic Church: Jesus has a stunning Charisma that is so compelling the hardened and tough tax-collector Matthew (Levi) immediately leaves his lucrative livelihood and follows Him; Jesus Shrewdly (a part of Prudence) emphasizes His call to repentance of sinners by a public display of calling and converting sinners everyone thought were irredeemable; Divine Prophet, Jesus uses a masterful and memorable response which summarizes His mission of mercy (physician); Divine Priest, Jesus emphasizes the need for repentance, a prefigurement of the Sacrament of Penance.
Receive and proclaim Christ’s Truth and Mercy
Realize: Jesus’ words are often cherry-picked to support sinful positions; some Catholics selectively use His words to defend intolerance, and some who oppose Jesus use His words to promote and accept perverse sins and to accuse Catholics of intolerance.
Believe: Reflect upon Christ’s Merciful Outreach to Sinners (CCC 545, 588-589, 1503).
Pray: Holy Spirit, give me the Gift of Counsel so You help me hear Your merciful call to me to recognize the truth of my sinfulness, and I am better able to proclaim the fullness of Your truth and saving mercy to other sinners like me.
Diligently pursue a life of continual conversion
Realize: Jesus’ call to Matthew leads to a radical conversion, and Matthew instantaneously gives up everything, and follows Him.
Believe: Reflect upon the need for Conversion (CCC 1423, 1427-1433).
Pray: Jesus, Perfection of Diligence, help me build the Virtue of Diligence (a part of Temperance) so I seek continual conversion, I regularly conduct a rigorous and fearless Examination of Conscience, and I frequently receive the astounding joy of Your forgiveness in the Sacrament of Penance.