16 February. Saturday after Ash Wednesday
Isa 58:9ff. If the people are converted, they will be richly blessed…”like a spring whose waters never fail.”
Lk 5:27ff. The converted tax collector sits at table with Jesus, who welcomes sinners to repentance.
First Reading: Isaiah 58:9-14
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, “Here I am.” If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday. The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail. Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.
If you refrain from trampling the sabbath, from pursuing your own interests on my holy day; if you call the sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honourable; if you honour it, not going your own ways, serving your own interests, or pursuing your own affairs; then you shall take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride upon the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of your ancestor Jacob, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.
Gospel: Luke 5:27-32
After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up, left everything, and followed him.
Then Levi gave a great banquet for him in his house; and there was a large crowd of tax collectors and others sitting at the table with them. The Pharisees and their scribes were complaining to his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus answered, “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 to repentance.”
Levi, a Paradigm of Acceptance
The Jesus we follow is one who loves and accepts the individual in their reality, as life has formed him or her. His open acceptance of Levi as a conversation partner over dinner, and later as a trusted helper, is symptomatic of his wider approach to others. The converted tax collector is not made to feel a second-class citizen, simply for coming relatively late into the Lord’s circle. Levi’s contribution to the later life of the church – as originator of the Gospel of Matthew – was no less important than that of the earliest apostles who had been fishermen in Capernaum when Jesus called them.
Our Jesus believes in conversion: he calls people to it, and awaits their positive response. How fully he would endorse Isaiah’s conviction on this matter: “Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, “Here I am.”