Catholic Mass Readings and Reflection February 17, 2024


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R/. Teach me, O Lord, your way, so that I may walk in your truth

V/. Glory and praise to you, O Christ

R/. Glory and praise to you, O Christ

V/. I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, says the Lord, but that he turn from his way and live.

R/. Glory and praise to you, O Christ.

At that time: Jesus went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth. And he said to him, “Follow me.” And leaving everything, he rose and followed him. And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them. And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”

1.      The Lord calls Levi or Matthew in today’s gospel. It was something annoying and radical to call a tax collector to follow him. For as known, tax collectors were labelled and despised as sinners. It would certainly invite a lot of criticism and the Lord knew it.

2.      Yet, he goes ahead unperturbed. This call is in perfect tune with the very purpose of his coming to earth. He declares emphatically: “I have come not to call the righteous but the sinners to repentance”.

3.      This does not mean that one continues in the same state of sin. In a way, being sinful becomes a launching pad for soaring high. The Lord does not care much for our backgrounds or our credentials.

4.      All that matters the most is whether we hearken to his call and respond to him and follow him; whether we are willing to repent and change our life. This repentance and renewal consist in making a decisive transition, a shift from having sinned to becoming graced.

5.      Some of the details of this transition are well-marked in the first reading from the prophet Isaiah. On one hand, it is turning away from a life of sin. It would mean not going our own ways, not seeking our own pleasures, not talking idly; it would call for taking away the yoke of oppression and injustice, the accusing of others wickedly.

6.      On the other hand, it would commit us to care unselfishly for the hungry and the afflicted; to keep the Sabbath holy and honourable and delightful; to repair the breaches and to restore the strayed and scattered.

7.      Then, the results are marvellous. Our light will rise in the darkness; we shall be revitalized; we shall be like a watered garden, like a never-drying spring of water; our ancient ruins shall be rebuilt. The Lord will make us ride on the heights of the earth.

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