2.17.18 Saturday after Ash Wed. – Lent
The Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.
1st Reading – Isaiah 58: 9b – 14
Gospel of Luke 5: 27 – 32
Jesus saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at the customs post. He said to him, “Follow me.” And leaving everything behind, he got up and followed him. Then Levi gave a great banquet for him in his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were at table with them. The Pharisees and their scribes complained to his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” †Jesus said to them in reply, “Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do. I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners.”
The Gospel of the Lord.
Homily: Fr. Mike Murphy Called Amidst Our Weakness
The Pharisees and their scribes were very strict when it came to the Rabbinic Law. Tax collectors and others were considered sinners and second-class citizens to them. They avoided their company, they refused to do business with them, they refused to receive or give anything to them – accept, of course, they gave them plenty of scorn. That was the one thing that they gave to those whom they considered sinners.
So when they see †Jesus socializing with these sinners, these religious leaders are in absolute shock. These were the religious leaders of the time who refused to help the people who were in the greatest need. In reality, they were as needy as the people they despised. Recall the words of St. Paul from his Letter to the Romans: “All have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God”. (Rom.3:23) All of us have; we are all sinners.
Even though Levi, whom we know as Matthew, was a public sinner and the object of scorn by many Jews, he was still worthy of a vocation. Imagine that! A call from God to collaborate in the Mission of †Jesus; and Levi was still worthy of that. Are we worthy to participate in the Mission of †Jesus? If the criterion is sanctity – the answer is: “No”. None of us are holy. Yet – †Jesus still calls us to follow Him just as He called Levi; who at the time, was considered a great sinner, because of his collaboration with the Romans; and he was probably a thief, too.
Bede the Venerable, was an 8th century Anglo-Saxon monk and he observed this: “By ‘follow’, †Jesus meant not so much the movement of feet – as of the heart, the carrying out of a way of life.” All of us have been called by †Jesus to be part of His Mission – to follow Him.
The Pharisees and their scribes thought they were part of God’s work by their external observances of the strict Rabbinic Laws. However, their hearts were not moved by the presence of God in their midst – †Jesus Christ. They preferred to impose Rabbinic, man-made Laws on the people rather than the Law of God, which was to: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, all your mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself”. (Matt.22: 37) What the Pharisees did was to impose on people their idea of who was, and who was not, acceptable to God.
But †Jesus makes it clear in the Gospel: no one is excluded from the care of the Divine Physician. He has come to “give life and to give it to the full” (John 10:10). And the Lord does not turn His back on us regardless of the source of our illness. Whether our illness comes from a lack of morality, or maybe it is a physical illness, emotional, psychological, spiritual, it makes no difference. He still calls us to: ‘Follow Him’, as He did to the tax collector – to turn our hearts to Him.
Lent is a beautiful season that the Church gives us to turn our distracted – preoccupied – and broken hearts – back to †Jesus. The Lord also gives us the ‘Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick’ for the grace of healing us physically, emotionally, psychologically, spiritually and morally; the grace to turn our hearts back to Him. Or, maybe we will turn our hearts to Him for the first time, because we really never tried to do so in the past. Maybe today is the day we start that journey.
The Sacrament of the Anointing may cure the outward symptoms of illness but its true purpose is to heal hearts and souls. That’s the primary purpose of this Sacrament – to heal our hearts and our souls, but if our physical ailments are healed – that is a bonus.
This Lent, let us deepen our call to discipleship, to follow †Jesus even in the midst of illness and pain and our daily struggles; because in spite of our lack of wholeness, we are always loved by God.
In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.