Levi's/Matthew's Vocation came from Jesus, not from the opinion of others

Homily for Saturday Week 1

by Fr. Tommy Lane

Jesus said to Levi, “Follow me” and Levi became a disciple of Jesus (Mark 2:14) and was later called again into the circle of the twelve apostles (Mark 3:14-19 where he is named Matthew, see Matt 9:9 and 10:3). In Matthew’s Gospel the same tax or toll collector is named Matthew (Matt 9:9; 10:3). He certainly would not have been considered worthy to have been called by Jesus because he was working for the Gentile Romans collecting their tolls on goods being transported through a key point on the Roman road network, but worse than that, it was common knowledge that such toll collectors only gave a fraction of the tolls collected to Rome so he kept the remainder of the money for himself. Not only does Jesus call Levi which is a challenge to the status quo, but after calling him Jesus had dinner in Levi/Matthew’s house (Mark 2:15-17), and in yet another challenge to the status quo Jesus was in the presence of many sinners and tax collectors also at the party hosted by Levi. In his defense Jesus stated, “I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.” (Mark 2:17)

Quite clearly Jesus had a different opinion of those whom he called than did the Pharisees and others in Jewish society. When Jesus calls you, you have been found worthy by Jesus and you are not to define yourself by the way others think of you. Jesus takes you out of the box others put you into; don’t allow them or yourself to put yourself back in the box. We have been called by Jesus to purify society, not to reflect society. In the first reading (1 Sam 9) Samuel anointed Saul as the first king of Israel. Later in the first book of Samuel it is clear that Saul was emotionally unstable and by our standards was not the right person to be chosen as king and he made very poor decisions. Yet it is very clear in the first reading that Saul had been chosen by God.

It is common in the Scriptures to see that those called feel unworthy or need much encouragement for the mission they are to undertake. Paul encouraged Timothy, “I remind you to stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control.” (2 Tim 1:6-7) When the prophet Jeremiah was called by God he said, “Ah Lord God, I know not how to speak; I am too young” and God responded, “Say not, ‘I am too young.’ To whomever I send you, you shall go.” (Jer 1:6-7)

Jesus said to the apostles during the Last Supper “You did not choose me, but I chose you…” (John 15:16). If you have been called by Jesus, that vocation came from Jesus, not from the opinion of others. Later in the Gospel of Mark the Pharisees said to Jesus, “we know that you are a truthful man and that you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion. You do not regard a person’s status but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth” (Mark 12:14). Jesus was not concerned with others’ opinions about those whom he called, “I did not come to call the righteous but sinners”; all Jesus wanted was that they give themselves completely to him. Jesus said to Levi, “Follow me.” And Levi got up and followed Jesus (Mark 2:14).

© Fr. Tommy Lane 2014

This homily was delivered in Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland.