Today’s Scriptures present the motif of Call and reminds me of Paul’s Letter to the Romans where he writes, “For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable” (Romans 11:29), his experience of the Risen Lord on the road to Damascus changed everything. In reading Paul’s letters from the time of his call, he experienced many challenges and tensions while living it out, yet, that call was irrevocable—no going back only forward in faith, hope and conviction. Martin Luther King is quoted as saying, “Out of the mountain of despair—a stone of hope” and what strikes me as I read this Gospel is that Jesus represents this stone of hope—this new day, to Levi, the tax-collectors and sinners, the disciples and the crowds who continued to appear everywhere he went.
We are only in the second chapter of Mark and already the story suggests a tension which we know builds all the way to Jerusalem as Jesus lives out his call.
As I reflected, I couldn’t help but have compassion for “some” Pharisees who were struggling to reconcile their understanding of the Law with what this healer –Jesus—was doing and teaching. Not to mention the effect he was having on the crowds. And what of Jesus’ disciples? Might the question posed to them by the Pharisees be the very question rising within them? Mark often portrays them as struggling to keep up with Jesus’ teachings. Did they question who is this person who evoked such a strong desire in them to “follow” and seemed to challenge much of what they held to be true, stretching them beyond where they expected to go. Sound familiar?
Then we have Levi, he is a toll collector—not a tax-collector, however, it sounds as if this profession is equally despised; being employed to collect a fee from anyone entering his region by Philip, the son of Herod the Great (also known as the puppet king). According to historians, the Jewish people frowned on anyone or anything connected to Roman rule. They were labelled as sinners. Can you imagine how he might have been treated? It is likely he came to expect rejection and believed himself unworthy—an outcast. And along came Jesus—the true King—and called him to follow. Hope dawned in the life of Levi as it dawns on all of us who come to understand our worthiness-in-Christ.
The Creator of the Universe deems you—and me—worthy to pitch his tent—among us, to take on our skin and share the good news of life everlasting; a life which is already here—and not yet. And it’s the “not yet” which can be tricky as we struggle to live out our call as Christians finding those stones of hope in the mountain of despair; making this the day the Lord has made and rejoice—always.
To claim my sickness, to know I cannot do this without God’s Grace, is the beginning of Wisdom.
Jean Bowler is a retreatant at Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center in Sierra Madre, California, and a member of the Office of Mission Effectiveness Board of Holy Cross Province.