1) Opening prayer
Father of love, hear our prayers.
Help us to know your will
and to do it with courage and faith.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2) Gospel Reading - Mark 2,13-17
He went out again to the shore of the lake; and all the people came to him, and he taught them. As he was walking along he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax office, and he said to him, 'Follow me.' And he got up and followed him.
When Jesus was at dinner in his house, a number of tax collectors and sinners were also sitting at table with Jesus and his disciples; for there were many of them among his followers. When the scribes of the Pharisee party saw him 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, 'It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick. I came to call not the upright, but sinners.'
• In yesterday’s Gospel, we have seen the first conflict which arose concerning the forgiveness of sins (Mk 2, 1-12). In today’s Gospel we meditate on the second conflict which arose when Jesus sat at table with the sinners (Mk 2, 13-17). In the years 70’s, the time when Mark wrote, in the communities there was a conflict between Christians who had been converted from Paganism and those from Judaism. Those from Judaism found great difficult to enter into the house of converted Pagans and to sit with them around the same table (cf. Acts 10, 28; 11, 3). In describing how Jesus faces this conflict, Mark orientates the community to solve the problem.
• Jesus taught, and the people were happy to listen to him. Jesus goes out again to go near the sea. People arrive and he begins to teach them. He transmits the Word of God. In Mark’s Gospel, the beginning of the activity of Jesus is characterized by much teaching and much acceptance on the part of the people (Mk 1, 14.21.38-39; 2, 2.13), in spite of the conflicts with religious authority. What did Jesus teach? Jesus proclaimed the Good News of God (Mk 1, 14). He spoke about God, but he spoke in a new way, different. He spoke starting from his experience, of the experience which he himself had of God and of Life. Jesus lived in God. And surely he had touched the heart of the people who liked to listen to him (Mk 1, 22.27). God, instead of being a severe Jew who threatens from far, at a distance, with punishment and hell, becomes once again, a friendly presence, a Good News for the people.
• Jesus calls a sinner to be a disciple and invites him to eat in his house. Jesus calls Levi, a tax collector, and he, immediately, leaves everything and follows Jesus. He begins to be part of the group of the disciples. Immediately, the text says literally: While Jesus was at table in his house. Some think that in his house means the house of Levi. But the most probable translation is that it was a question of the house of Jesus. It is Jesus who invites all to eat in his house: sinners and tax collectors, together with the disciples.
• Jesus has come not for the just, but for sinners. This gesture or act of Jesus causes the religious authority to get very angry. It was forbidden to sit at table with tax collectors and sinners, because to sit at table with someone meant that he was considered a brother! Instead of speaking directly with Jesus, the Scribes of the Pharisees speak with the disciples: How is it that he eats and drinks together with tax collectors and sinners? Jesus responds: “It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick. I came to call not the upright, but sinners! As before with the disciples (Mk 1, 38), now also, it is the conscience of his mission which helps Jesus to find the response and to indicate the way for the proclamation of the Good News of Jesus.
4) Personal questions
• Jesus calls a sinner, a tax collector, a person hated by the people, to be his disciple. Which is the message for us in this act of Jesus, of the Catholic Church?
• Jesus says that he has come to call sinners. Are there laws and customs in our Church which prevent sinners to have access to Jesus? What can we do to change these laws and these customs?
5) Concluding prayer
May the words of my mouth always find favour,
and the whispering of my heart, in your presence,
Yahweh, my rock, my redeemer. (Ps 19,14)