14 Jan. Saturday of Week One
1 Samuel 9:1ff. A fine young man, is anointed king at God’s inspiration.
Mark 2:13ff. Jesus calls a tax collector to be a disciple, and dines with him.
Each of us is called to leadership of one kind or another, through God’s gift. We are to inspire other members of our family, neighbours, work-force, community or parish with enthusiasm for goodness, forgiveness, truth and love – precisely those virtues to which God calls us. In today’s readings, we learn through the vocations of Saul and Matthew. We see the types of people God calls, the norms for effective leadership, and the helps for living up to these ideals.
We see how God calls the most likely person, Saul, and the least likely person, Matthew. Saul was a fine young man, we are told. There was no finer Israelite than Saul, standing head and shoulders above the people. Yet Matthew, as a tax collector under the hire of the Roman occupation force, was a miserable Jew, not permitted to enter a synagogue or the Temple. He was excommunicated from all contact, even at table, with law-abiding Jews. It is not that God can choose any riff-raff for religious leadership, but rather that He whose word penetrates between soul and spirit, recognizes value and potential in people whom others too quickly discard. One is reminded of the poem, where an old, discarded violin is brought to vibrant life by “The Touch of the Master’s Hand.” Others may have seen in the tax-man Matthew only a non-observant, half-pagan Jew, friendly with the foreign oppressors, but Jesus recognized him as a man of compassionate heart, optimistic and hopeful towards others. Jesus was also aware of Matthew’s faults, and in explaining his choice to the grumbling Pharisees, said, “I have come to call sinners, not the self-righteous.”
When thinking about norms for leadership, the most basic is a desire for sharing our gifts with others. Leaders ought to recognize and support the good qualities in others. Jesus not only calls Matthew but also agrees to dine in Matthew’s home with all his friends and fellow tax collectors. The training is already underway, friendship is being deepened, points of contact being established. Our Scriptures combine a pure insight into ideals and a compassionate understanding of human nature, two essential qualities for religious leadership.
1 Samuel 9:1-4, 17-19; 10:1
There was a man of Benjamin whose name was Kish, son of Abiel, son of Zeror, son of Becorath, son of Aphiah, a Benjaminite, a man of wealth. He had a son whose name was Saul, a handsome young man. There was not a man among the people of Israel more handsome than he; he stood head and shoulders above everyone else. Now the donkeys of Kish, Saul’s father, had strayed. So Kish said to his son Saul, “Take one of the boys with you; go and look for the donkeys.” He passed through the hill country of Ephraim and passed through the land of Shalishah, but they did not find them. And they passed through the land of Shaalim, but they were not there. Then he passed through the land of Benjamin, but they did not find them.
When Samuel saw Saul, the Lord told him, “Here is the man of whom I spoke to you. He it is who shall rule over my people.” Then Saul approached Samuel inside the gate, and said, “Tell me, please, where is the house of the seer?” Samuel answered Saul, “I am the seer; go up before me to the shrine, for today you shall eat with me, and in the morning I will let you go and will tell you all that is on your mind.
Samuel took a vial of oil and poured it on his head, and kissed him; he said, “The Lord has anointed you ruler over his people Israel. You shall reign over the people of the Lord and you will save them from the hand of their enemies all around. Now this shall be the sign to you that the Lord has anointed you ruler over his heritage.”
Gospel: Mark 2:13-17
Jesus went out again beside the sea; the whole crowd gathered around him, and he taught them. As he was walking along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him.
And as he sat at dinner in Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were also sitting with Jesus and his disciples – for there were many who followed him. When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, they said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” When Jesus heard this, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”