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
Jesus went out along the sea. All the crowd came to him and he taught them. As he passed by, he saw Levi, son of Alphaeus, sitting at the customs post. Jesus said to him, "Follow me." And he got up and followed Jesus. While he was at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners sat with Jesus and his disciples; for there were many who followed him. Some scribes who were Pharisees saw that Jesus was eating with sinners and tax collectors and said to his disciples, "Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?" Jesus heard this and said to them, "Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners."
• In yesterday’s Gospel, we saw 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, there was a conflict in the communities between Christians who had been converted from paganism and those from Judaism. Those from Judaism found it difficult to enter into the house of converted pagans and sit with them around the same table (cf. Acts 10:28; 11:3). In describing how Jesus faces this conflict, Mark directs 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 teaching and by acceptance on the part of the people (Mk 1:14,21,38-39; 2:2,13) in spite of the conflict 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. He spoke from His experience, of the experience which He himself had of God and life. Jesus lived in God. 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 afar with punishment and hell, becomes a friendly presence and 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 disciples. 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), it is the conscience of His mission which helps Jesus to find the response and to point 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. What is the message for us in this act of Jesus?
• Jesus says that He has come to call sinners. He provides a path to forgiveness. How do we act once we have His forgiveness? Do we consciously try to avoid sin?
5) Concluding prayer
May the words of my mouth always find favor,
and the whispering of my heart, in Your presence,
Yahweh, my rock, my redeemer. (Ps 19:14)