Luke 5:27-32 Calling All Sinners
I have said it before. If Christ’s antagonists got anything right, it was this: He is the friend of sinners. Thank God! Thank God is God and I am not him. I know I could never be so merciful, so compassionate, so understanding as the Lord is to those who oppose him. His love endures forever.
People often complain about themselves when they commit the same sins over and over again. They complain even more in private, saying that they are always confessing the same things month after month. I remind them of what the Holy Father, Pope Benedict, said in a general audience with children. When a child asked the Holy Father why he should go to confession, “after all, I always end up doing the same sins over and over again”, the Pope responded child-like: We know how easily our room can get messy. And although it is the same mess over and over again, you still clean your room because it will look nice. The same thing is true with confession. We go to confession so that our inner room may be clean and beautiful.
“Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth” (Ps 86:11ab). There are very few evil people in the world. In all my life I have never met a truly evil person. I will not say that they do not exist. I know they do. But in my seventeen years as a priest I have not met someone who wished to harm another for no reason. Of course, I may be wrong, but so far I have not had that experience. The Lord had to deal with many people who wished him ill, and they all had their reasons. One of them was his love for sinners.
Imagine for a moment if someone asked you to stop what you were doing because it was bothersome. Most of us would do so. But for Jesus, it was impossible. There was no stopping the Lord in calling all sinners for this was his mission: “I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners.” But the tremendous irony of the whole thing is that it was not tax collectors or prostitutes or sinners that nailed the Lord to the Cross. It was the so-called “righteous.”
Who are the righteous? Are they not those who considered themselves more than they are? Those who are above the law and above God? Now it makes perfect sense when the Lord says, “The last shall be first and the first shall be last.” In the end it is the prideful, the vain and the luxurious who put the Lord to death. Of course the Lord was put to death because of sinners – even the tax collectors and prostitutes – this is the reason he had to come from Heaven to earth, to call them to repentance. But the shame that once held the sinners in fear has now been placed on the righteous that chained the Lord in fear.
What a mess!
Like Levi, let us leave everything behind and follow the Lord. Let us have the courage and the strength to clean our inner room: to throw away what is wrong and useless, to put back what is beautiful and good and to give away what is helpful to others.
Only then will we have enough space to throw a big party in celebration.