Re-creating Encounter

Jesus came to call sinners. It is they that need him, not so much the just, the righteous. It is the sinners who need healing. We are among them, and so we need healing. The Pharisees considered themselves just, but there was little mercy in them; their hearts were dried-up, and it is mercy that Jesus wants, not sacrifices. Jesus comes to encounter Levi-Matthew. Just a call, and Matthew leaves everything behind: his desk, his past. He is a new man, created anew by Christ. He lives now for the future. His converted heart will turn to others too, as he becomes an apostle. In this Eucharist Jesus comes to call us and to change us; he sits at table with us, as he did with Levi-Matthew.

Opening Prayer
Lord our God, merciful Father,
when you call us to repentance,
you want us to turn to people
and to build up peace and justice among us all.
According to your promise,
let us become, with your strength,
lights for those in darkness,
water for those who thirst,
re-builders of hope and happiness for all.
May we thus become living signs
of your love and loyalty,
for you are our God for ever.

Reading Isaiah 58: 9B-14
Thus says the LORD:
If you remove from your midst oppression,
false accusation and malicious speech;
If you bestow your bread on the hungry
and satisfy the afflicted;
Then light shall rise for you in the darkness,
and the gloom shall become for you like midday;
Then the LORD will guide you always
and give you plenty even on the parched land.
He will renew your strength,
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring whose water never fails.
The ancient ruins shall be rebuilt for your sake,
and the foundations from ages past you shall raise up;
"Repairer of the breach," they shall call you,
"Restorer of ruined homesteads."

If you hold back your foot on the sabbath
from following your own pursuits on my holy day;
If you call the sabbath a delight,
and the LORD's holy day honorable;
If you honor it by not following your ways,
seeking your own interests, or speaking with malice.
Then you shall delight in the LORD,
and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth;
I will nourish you with the heritage of Jacob, your father,
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

Responsorial Psalm 86:1-2, 3-4, 5-6
R. (11ab) Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth.
Incline your ear, O LORD; answer me,
for I am afflicted and poor.
Keep my life, for I am devoted to you;
save your servant who trusts in you.
You are my God.
R. Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth.
Have mercy on me, O Lord,
for to you I call all the day.
Gladden the soul of your servant,
for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
R. Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth.
For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving,
abounding in kindness to all who call upon you.
Hearken, O LORD, to my prayer
and attend to the sound of my pleading.
R. Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth.

Verse before the Gospel: Ezekiel 33:11
I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked man, says the Lord, but rather in his conversion, that he may live.

Gospel 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.V I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners."

– That Christians may experience the joy of receiving forgiveness from God and from forgiving one another, we pray:
– That people entangled in sin and who don’t know how to get out, may encounter Jesus, who came as a healer of hearts, we pray:
– That we may all learn that it is a part of our conversion to turn to people and to bring them justice and love, we pray:

Through Jesus, God creates people anew by forgiving them. He makes an apostle out of a typical sinner, Matthew, the tax collector. As forgiven people, we help God to restore people by our goodness, by helping others. May almighty God bless you, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Repairer of the breach. Restorer of ruined homesteads. Those designations would have been apt and welcome in 2005 when a mammoth hurricane destroyed a large part of the city of New Orleans. Many people did their part in the midst of such a calamity, but when all was said and done, there was still much reconstruction to do.
But there are other breaches to repair, ways in which we can respond honorably to disaster, especially moral failure. And Isaiah today outlines some of them. In the matter of living God’s law there is a strong incentive: happiness in doing what God wills. This happens when the Sabbath is not a burden, but a delight. It is commended to honor the Lord’s day by not following our own will nor speaking of others with malice. If we do so, all will be well. The avoidance of false testimony and improper speech, coupled with a sense of outreach and care for the sick—such are signs of a correct conscience, worthy of a holy people.
When Levi gave a reception for Jesus, he was not discriminating of the people who attended. He was, after all, a tax collector and would certainly have had friends among such people, who were agents of a foreign, pagan power. Tax collectors were not table companions for believing Jews.
But once again Jesus breaks the barrier. It is precisely for the unwanted that he has come. They are the sick in need of help, much the same as the sick in the emergency rooms of our hospitals. Jesus sees his role largely in terms of care for the morally ill. They, not the well, need the physician.
Today’s readings are a call to an upright life. Of course, we all fall short. But we still return to the task. In doing our best, we add to the collective good. We help repair the breach. And if we feel a bit wounded at time, the physician is there to see us through.