Saturday After Ash Wednesday

February 17, 2018 / By: Fr. Scott M. Carl

Is 58:9b-14/Lk 5:27-32

Churches are full on Ash Wednesday.  In an age when most are reluctant to call themselves sinners, people come in droves to ask God’s mercy and start over.  Levi had the respect of his peers giving a great banquet for a large crowd of tax collectors.  They must have had a fraternity among themselves being united as traitors of their people. By actively commiserating with the foreign imperial power of Rome they collected taxes and then some for their own benefit. They had a lucrative yet dishonorable career.  However, at this gathering there was something different.  “Others” had been invited.  Initially we are not told who they are.  It is only with the mention of the Pharisees that we come to know they were “sinners”, those who one way or another threatened the Pharisees’ ceremonial purity.  There was another difference; Jesus, a guest, was acting as host.  As He begins to speak the Pharisees expect Him, a respected rabbi, to mention the means by which they could preserve ceremonial purity among such a crowd.  On the contrary, Jesus invites the outcasts to dine with Him as they are.  Levi’s following of Jesus has facilitated an opportunity for him to facilitate for “others” an encounter with Jesus like the one that changed his life.  The life of dishonesty and corruption took its toll.  Levi needed a Physician.  Perhaps we could say he was ready to abandon the life of a tax collector to be known as a repentant sinner, that is, one who finds his or her identity in asking for and receiving God’s tender mercy.  Having this authentic encounter with Jesus, we can hear Levi in today’s psalm response, “Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth.”  Levi discovered that freedom is not doing as you please but walking in the way of the Lord Jesus.  Recognizing our need to bear ashes, what is Jesus asking us to leave behind so as to walk in the freedom of being a repentant sinner?  How might we facilitate such a Christ encounter for others?

Fr. Scott M. Carl
Vice Rector for Administration and Associate Professor of Sacred Scripture