Saturday, 16 January 2021 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us are presented through the readings of the Sacred Scripture, the truth of God’s love and compassionate nature, and His desire to seek us and to love us all once again, as He has shown us through Jesus Christ, His one and only beloved Son, Who came into this world to be our Saviour, and not just any one’s Saviour, but for everyone, without exception, even to the worst of sinners.

That is why today we are presented with the story of the calling and conversion of Levi, the tax collector in our Gospel passage today. Levi was the name of St. Matthew the Apostle before he was called by the Lord and embraced the calling to be an Apostle. Levi was a tax collector, which as a group of people were greatly hated and reviled within the community by the rest of the Jewish people.

The tax collectors were seen as traitors to the nation for their work in collaborating with the Romans in collecting the much hated taxes, the symbol of the Roman dominance over the region. And they were also seen as greedy and haughty, seeking to enrich themselves over the others, many of whom were living in poverty and destitution. However, in truth many of them were really no different from all others, those who seek a living in difficult and turbulent times.

What the people thought of the tax collectors were biases and prejudices that were sustained by the elders as a means to seek scapegoats to place the people’s hatred and all the blame for the misfortunes and challenges that they faced. When the Lord came to Levi and called him to be His follower, it was with this mentality that many others had seen the tax collectors like Levi all that time.

Yet, Levi showed us and all the people that tax collectors were not necessarily evil as they had often been painted as, and they were in fact good and just people too, in their own way. And Levi willingly abandoned everything, his job and profession, all that he had in order to follow the Lord. Not only that, he also gathered the other tax collectors, many of whom were evidently also willing to listen to the Lord and seek Him.

The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were quick to criticise, pointing out to the disciples of the Lord and questioning them why their Lord and Master would sit and have dinner together with sinners, and activity that was often disliked by the elders and the Pharisees as they deemed entering into the house of sinners and being with them to cause them to be defiled by the sins of those sinners.

Yet, ironically, as they pointed out the sins of others, in truth they themselves had failed to realise that they themselves were sinners. And because they were sinners, they should have been like the tax collectors in desiring to seek God for His mercy and forgiveness. Instead, they hardened their hearts and closed them to the Lord, preferring to remain aloof and looking down on others from their high position and maintaining an attitude of self-righteousness.

But this is exactly where they faltered and fell, brothers and sisters in Christ. For while the tax collectors might have committed sins and lived wickedly, yet by listening to God and answering to His call, and as exemplified by Levi, who abandoned everything to follow the Lord and became one of His disciples, even the greatest of sinners could become great saints themselves had they chosen to embrace God’s ways and abandon their sins.

This is a lesson and reminder for all of us never to allow pride and ambition, greed and ego to bring us to our downfall. We should not allow all these to lead us down the wrong path, but instead, following in the examples of Levi, we should seek the Lord and follow Him with all of our heart, He Who is our High Priest and Redeemer as according to the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, that we have been hearing for the past few days.

May the Lord bless us all and may He strengthen us all our faith, and may He guide us down the right path that each and every one of us may follow Him ever more faithfully. May God be the Light of our lives and be our strength, forgiving us from our sins and faults when we come seeking Him in humility and sincere desire for forgiveness, at all times. Amen.

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