“ those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do…”
Jesus called Levi to follow him, ate with him at his home. Levi, a tax collector, and thus despised by most people – tax collectors were known to exploit and ‘overtax’ everyday people to fill their own coffers. Tax collectors were notorious for being less than honest ‘bullies’ to get what they wanted at the expense of law-abiding people trying to make ends meet and take care of their families.
Yet, Jesus saw something in Levi – some glimmer of humanity, love or perhaps some kernel of righteousness. Jesus joined him and other tax collectors for dinner – maybe hoping to get an insight into their story, maybe even challenging some of their practices and ways of doing things.
The Pharisees, those who tightly embrace the ‘letter of the law’, challenge Jesus – how can you eat with these sinners, these tax collectors, these low life…? Once again, Jesus, confronts them and challenges them with their own (false) righteousness. The Pharisees saw themselves as above the law – the righteous enforcers and judges.
In essence, Jesus is saying, you think you are ‘perfect’, above the law and therefore not in need of God’s help. I can’t help but remember, when my kids were little how important the “well baby checks” were – we didn’t only take them to the doctor when they were sick, but we took them regularly – to prevent illness, to get the preventive shots, and to ‘catch’ anything that my lead to problems, unhealthy habits, or chronic illness BEFORE it became a problem. As adults we do that too, with annual check-ups, physicals and screenings – to insure as best we can that we will live healthy and catch potential difficulties and illnesses before they escalate.
So too with Jesus, we need to ‘check-in’ with him every day. Through prayer and conversation, by listening for his voice, noticing his presence or face in the midst of our everyday activities. To allow him to move us, shape us, and prevent us from getting too far from him. We, like Levi, need to allow Jesus to see something in us, to call us and we need to respond – we need to follow.
Faith Offman is the Associate Director of Ministry at St. Paul of the Cross Passionist Retreat and Conference Center in Detroit, Michigan.