Liturgical Colour : Green
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard the story of how Jesus called one of His twelve Apostles from among the tax collectors and sinners, Levi who was then afterwards known as St. Matthew, the Apostle and one of the Four Evangelists. And this calling of St. Matthew was closely linked to what we also heard in the first reading, when in the book of the prophet Amos, God through him denounced all those wicked ones who manipulated the poor and the weak for their own benefits.
It is also related to the behaviours and attitudes of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law during the time of Jesus our Lord. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law during that time behaved as if they were righteous and just, as great ‘role models’ for all the faithful people of God. They acted as if they were beyond and above all the other people of God, and they thought highly of themselves, thinking that because of all the supposedly good and pious things they have done, they have earned the right to brag about them.
And worse still, it was not just that they have bragged about their faith and being proud of them and the high status which they have received from the people, but they also actively persecuted all those who disagreed with them, or those who openly refused to listen to their demands and orders. They persecuted the people and burdened them with many obligations to the laws and the customs of the Jewish traditions.
And worst of all is the fact that, which our Lord Jesus had mentioned directly to them and to others, is how these people preached and demanded very strict, unbending and even blind obedience to the precepts and the laws of God, and yet they themselves had no God in their hearts and minds. They did not do what they had preached, and their actions were often contrary to what they have said. And as a result, the faith they had was superficial and lacking in real substance.
Thus Jesus rebuked them and warned the people that while they should listen to them, but they should not follow what they were doing or how they observed the laws and precepts that they themselves preached. Thus was the faith of the hypocrites who thought of themselves as better than the others and those whom they deemed as sinners, unworthy of God’s love and grace.
And Jesus broke all of those misconceptions, as He ventured forth to the sinners and to all those whom the society had deemed to be beyond salvation. He called Levi, the tax collector who would then become a great Apostle and a great Evangelist. If we read through the entirety of the Gospel of St. Matthew, surely we will be amazed at the kind and the extent of transformation that had occurred, from a lowly and considered sinner as tax collector, to a great and eloquent writer of the Gospels of the Lord.
But before we then go and claim that all sinners are welcome and can have an easy happy ending in the Lord, we too have to take note that, when Jesus called Levi the tax collector, he had the choice to ignore Him or to listen to His call and follow Him. Certainly he had a choice, and by the conventional wisdom of the world, even at that time, the most logical choice would be to ignore Him and to continue with his life.
But instead, he chose to abandon everything behind, leaving behind all of his wealth and status as the tax collector, whatever advantages and disadvantages these brought to him, and followed Jesus from then on. This therefore is the same thing we must expect from ourselves, and from all sinners who are willing to return to the Lord. God’s mercy is for all, and He loves us all without end, but sincere and genuine repentance is a must.
May the Lord bless us all and help us on our journey. Let us all devote ourselves anew and commit ourselves fully to God and His ways. Let us all not doubt any longer but give ourselves fully to the Lord and do our best to fulfil what the Lord asked of us, not through blind obedience as what the Pharisees and the teachers of the Lord had done, but instead through sincere and true faith. May God be with us all. Amen.