“Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
Jesus heard this and said to them,
“Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do.
I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”
I suppose there are a great many hypocrites who attend church, but I don't meet many. Most of the people I meet are pretty modest, decent, generous souls who hope that God ignores enough of their sins to permit them a temporary stay in Purgatory.
But I am told there are many hypocrites in church. When someone tells me that's the reason they don't attend church, I assure them, "There's room for more!"
Today's brief gospel gives us a verbal triptych of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.
- First there is Levi's response to Jesus. He got up and followed him. No hesitation. No questions asked. Our following of Jesus is always immediate. Ours is an opportunistic religion; opportunity, as they say, doesn't knock twice. When Jesus says, "Now!" we grab the moment.
- Secondly there is the silence of the disciples when they are questioned by Jesus' critics. Sometimes we have to let the Lord speak for himself, rather than get all defensive and bent out of shape.
The scribes and Pharisees are already reacting defensively to Jesus; they sense quite accurately that his preference for "tax collectors and sinner" is a silent protest and a prophetic gesture.
Our reactions to their questions might only make matters worse. If we have gathered the despised to our churches, homeless shelters and food kitchens and some people don't like that, let them stew in it.
- Finally, the disciple sees clearly the mission of Jesus. He has been sent from the Father to gather his elect from the "highways and byways." No one can snatch them out of his hand. (John 10:28) Anyone who dares risks his rebuke.
The disciple of Jesus is continually delighted by this three-fold image of discipleship. We are astonished and grateful and glad that we have answered his call, that we have let the Gospel speak for itself, and especially that God has stooped down to live among us.