Saint John of God, Religious
Follow me. (Luke 5:27)
As a government employee, Levi probably had a very comfortable life. But then he heard Jesus, and his heart was stirred so powerfully that he was willing to part with his old life and become a follower of this traveling preacher from Nazareth.
You might think that this would be the perfect way to end the story: hardened tax collector embraces a kinder, simpler life. But Levi encountered a new wrinkle when some Pharisees disrupt the special dinner that he gave in Jesus’ honor. They objected to Jesus spending time with Levi’s sordid group of friends. Shouldn’t a spiritual leader avoid the sinful so as not to risk contamination?
Then, as if to add insult to injury, Jesus agrees with the Pharisees by likening Levi and his friends to the “sick” in need of a physician. That’s right—sick! How would you respond if everyone were talking about you like this? Wouldn’t you get just a bit defensive? You can imagine Levi—whom we also know as St. Matthew—responding, “Wait a minute! It’s not like I’m the walking plague! If Jesus wants to spend time with me and my friends, that’s his business.”
But that’s not how Levi reacted. The fact that he stayed with Jesus and became one of his twelve apostles is a testament to his humility and his dedication.
In a wide-ranging interview last September, Pope Francis likened the Church to a “field hospital” for the faithful—not just for those who don’t believe but for all of us. It’s hard to think of ourselves as being sick and needing help. But that’s what the season of Lent—that’s what the cross—is all about. As St. Paul wrote, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Of these I am the foremost” (1 Timothy 1:15). If we can bring ourselves to echo Paul’s words, if we can find the humility and dedication of Levi, we’ll end up finding the same joy, peace, and freedom that they both discovered. And our Easter celebration will become that much sweeter!
“Lord, there are so many ways that I try to say I don’t need you, but you know what is truly in my heart. Lord, I do need you. Come with the medicine of your mercy so that I can know your grace and presence!”
Isaiah 58:9-14; Psalm 86:1-6