14 January
Mk 2:13-17

Jesus went out again beside the lake; the whole crowd gathered around him, and he taught them. As he was walking along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up and followed him.  And as he sat at dinner in Levi’s house, many tax-collectors and sinners were also sitting with Jesus and his disciples—for there were many who followed him. When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that he was eating with sinners and tax-collectors, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does he eat with tax-collectors and sinners?’ When Jesus heard this, he said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.’

What a wonderful mix: these extraordinary powers of Jesus, and the seedy world of prostitutes and tax-collectors!  It is a scandal for anyone who likes to divide the world neatly into groups: the good and the bad, the ‘right people’ and the wrong people, religion and the wicked world.  The English proverb, “a cat may look at a king,” is based on the understanding that there is no parity between them.  And we know, of course, that it is not really about cats and kings, but about different classes of people!  Jesus had no class-consciousness; he had friends from every quarter. 

Tax-collectors are frequently mentioned with prostitutes in the gospels (e.g., Mt 9:10; 21:31f; Lk 5:30); they were excluded as unclean.  Levi (generally believed to be Matthew) was a tax-collector.  He was still working at his rotten job when Jesus called him.  It was an ugly exploitative job: he and his likes were shunned by Pharisees and befriended by nobody.  But Jesus didn’t wait till he had turned his back on his old way of life.  He called him while he was “sitting in his office,” totting up his profits, it may be, for he was a tax collector.  What do we see next?  A whole crowd of tax collectors, having a meal – and Jesus in the middle of them.  And for good measure there were some public sinners there too.  In those days, to sit at table with someone was to express unrestricted friendship with them.  What were they talking about?  Try and imagine that! 


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This page gives a very brief commentary by Donagh O’Shea on the gospel reading for each day of the month. 


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