Saturday after Ash Wednesday
(Click here for readings)
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…
Retake. In one sudden move, Levi (Matthew) retook his life, a life stolen by the lies of the world and caught by the truth of Christ Jesus.
Christ’s simple invitation to Matthew led him to leave it all behind.
I know the fear. I also know the excitement. To lose your life for others can be frightening; but to find it in Christ is just plain thrilling.
As Christ spoke to Matthew, I can only imagine what was going on in his mind. He was probably calculating one last time. It turned out to be his very best: to gain Christ would be worth all the losses of this world.
Well, he sold it all, all the things he ever wanted and worked so hard to obtain – power, prestige, property and comfort - to buy something he never imagined: the cross.
“What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ” (Phil 3:8).
The Pharisees and scribes complained. They complained for a variety of reasons. First, because Jesus was eating with tax collectors and sinners. Next, because He was having a good time with them. Finally, and most importantly, because He was changing their lives for good.
The Lord did what they were unable to do. But what exactly was that?
Come to think of it, the Lord didn’t really eat at the home of a tax collector or sinner. He ate at the home of a former tax collector and newly minted saint [Remember the definition of a saint.]. Levi gave a great banquet for Jesus in his home. The money spent came from the selling of his property and business. After giving money back to all the people he had extorted, he used the rest to honor and celebrate his God and Savior. In the meantime, the Pharisees and their scribes complained the only way they could: by rejecting the evidence all around them.
In a short period of time, Christ had done what they had never been able to do: see a child of God beneath all that mud.
Matthew sold while Christ purchased. For both, it was all or nothing.
“Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth” (Ps. 86:11ab).
Conversion is accomplished through love. And Love (or sacrifice), has two sides to it. On one side is the virtue of giving; on the other, receiving. The Pharisees, chief priests and elders failed to accept Christ because they failed to sacrifice for Him. To accept a life you must be willing to lay down your life for them. Love is paid with love. There are no acceptable alternatives, no currency exchanges. The Pharisees failed to accept Christ for the same reason they failed to convert people: they lacked in the school of love (sacrifice).
It’s gotta be love or there is no deal.
When I first entered the religious life I asked my superiors a simple question: Will you love me as much as my family loves me? To my surprise, they answered yes. It was for this reason that I entered. It was for this reason that I moved on. (0)
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