As Jesus passed by, he saw Levi, son of Alphaeus, sitting at the customs post. Jesus said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed Jesus.
Christianity is a very powerful religion because it is the only religion that combines two truths that contract each other: it combines logic with illogic. The Lord is sinless, blameless and radiant. Levi is sinful, blameful and spent. And yet, the Lord walks right up to Levi and invites him to follow him. The two team up. How bizarre!
Would any of us invite a criminal into our home? Would any of us hire a thief to work for us? Of course not! But instead of our Lord saying “Congratulations” I think he would say, “What a tragedy!” Have we forgotten? Have we succumbed to amnesia? Have we not been called by God to turn the thief into the good thief? I am worried. I am worried that the “calling of sinners” - singular and unique to Christianity – is gradually disappearing from our Church. It has already disappeared from our society. We no longer rehabilitate criminals. We keep them far, far away, which marks them for life and hold them to despair. God forbid that this should become the practice of the Church! The calling of sinners is a hard doctrine to accept and embrace; and yet, the calling of sinners is a gentle reminder of our own failings and call from the Lord to follow Him. It is a sort of déjà vu that we must wake up to.
To love the unlovable. God works his wonders gradually, slowly and methodically. In today’s first reading, we read how the prophet Samuel chooses Saul to be the first King. “Kish had a son named Saul, who was a handsome young man. There was no other child of Israel more handsome than Saul; he stood head and shoulders above the people.” (Sam 9:1-4)
It is not hard to love someone that is handsome, charming and tall. He’s the obvious choice, right? Unfortunately, these same characteristics are still used today in appointing individuals in leadership positions. I know! Trust me! I have seen it with my own eyes! That’s probably why I was always overlooked.
While I was a seminarian in Rome, I always wanted to altar serve for the Pope. The Vatican would always open their door to seminarians from various congregations. The Legionaries of Christ were always be invited to serve for the Christmas Eve Mass. The Vatican invited; our superiors chose the men. Two months before Christmas, I told my superior that the only gift I wanted this year was to serve for the Holy Father. I had never served for him and soon I would be ordained a priest. It was my last chance after being in Rome for over five years. While I was enjoying my Christmas Eve dinner, my superior came up to me and whispered in my ear, “Have you ever had a chance to serve for the Holy Father?” My heart skipped, I smiled and said, “No! Never!” Then he said to me, “Oh, ok” and walked away. I was never asked to serve.
The legacy of Saul lives on!!! It was a lesson the Lord wished to teach his rebellious children!
Christ is never referred to in scripture as being handsome, charming and tall. His greatness comes from above and he speaks with authority by loving the unlovable and changing their lives.
I am sure you have heard it said, "You can believe whatever you want." But it is not true, for reality hits us square in the face. This morning I was looking for my cufflinks. I could have sworn I put them on my night table. But they were not there. I looked around and at a certain moment I thought that maybe someone had stolen them! And then I found them. They were somewhere else. I never remembered putting them there, but I must have. In theory you can believe what ever you want, but you will be dead wrong to believe that there is something greater than Love or that Love can be expressed by something other than sacrifice.
We have to wake up from our amnesia and remember who the Lord invites: sinners. We are all sinners and we have all been called.