I often reflect on how magnetic a personality Jesus must have had for a man like Levi (aka Matthew) the tax collector to rise and follow Jesus without so much as a question like, say, “Where are you going?” Encountering Jesus in the flesh must have been an electric experience.
And yet not everyone who encountered Him was as quick to follow Him as Levi, so there must be something more to it than the Lord’s personality: Namely, humility on the part of Levi, who somehow knew in that moment that a relationship with Jesus Christ was worth more than anything he had ever acquired in his life, and so he left all behind, just like that. And then, like a good disciple, he wanted to introduce others to Jesus, so he threw a dinner party.
When the Pharisees and scribes grumbled about the company that Jesus was keeping that day, the Lord said to them, “Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do. I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners.” At first, it might seem that Jesus is saying, “I have come to help these sinners, but not you because you don’t need me.” But we all know that the Pharisees are just as much in need the Physician as the tax collectors at that banquet.
Jesus isn’t excluding the (self) righteous Pharisees from His call to repentance. It’s the Pharisees who think they have no need to repent.
Now, before we self-righteously call out the hypocritical Pharisees, let’s examine ourselves: Do I exhibit the same humility as Levi so as follow Jesus unreservedly? Do I actively introduce my friends to Christ? How often do I forget – or, rather, ignore – my own need for repentance? How often do I compare my sins to others’ and give myself a pass?
Not one of us is excluded from the call to repentance. As Lent continues, let us, like Levi, humbly leave everything that keeps us from unreservedly following Him.
Anna Mitchell is host and producer of the Son Rise Morning Show on EWTN Radio. Download the show’s app at sonrisemorningshow.com.