Grace to you!
Previously, I shared a story about the identity of the Lord Jesus as one who forgives our sins because he is God. Here, I would love to share with you another story about how Jesus actually searches out, literally reaches out to the sinner. To do this, permit me to give some background information to the writings of the Gospel of Mark. It may provide some context for some of our readers who aren't familiar with the authorship of the Gospels. You may have observed that Mark's Gospel has been our main reference text for the past five days.
The Gospel of Mark, as you know, is one of the four Gospels in the New Testament. Many Scripture scholars believe that the writer, Mark, must have been a close disciple of Peter and therefore wrote on behalf of Peter. It was written to share the story of Jesus' life, witness, death, and resurrection to the Roman audience who wanted to know who Jesus was. Accordingly, the writer of the stories tries to use a style that fits the Greek audience. The Greeks want a methodic, concise, and systematic storyline. Hence, the Gospel of Mark is the shortest Gospel, built on stories showing the supremacy of Jesus as Christ and God who has power over nature, the world and all that is in it. It also demonstrates Jesus has the authority over the hearts and souls of people; he can heal them and forgive their sins. Equally, the Gospel reveals the humanness of Jesus as well. It presents the Lord as someone who connects with everyone, especially the poor, the sinner, as well as those who aren't members of his culture and religion of birth. These are some of the glaring themes that resonate with the Greek people of the time.
Hence, in the Gospel of Mark chapter 2:13-17, the writer tells us a story of the fifth person called by Jesus to be his disciple. The name of the person is Levi. He was a tax collector, a job which the religious, patriotic practitioner of Jewish religion at the time disliked for good reasons. It was the popular opinion at the time that many tax collectors were dishonest people. Many believed that they made their money by cheating the Jewish taxpayers as well as the Roman Governors to whom the taxes collected were paid. Tax collectors were, therefore, for the most part, regarded as thieves and shameless sinners.
Thus, when the Lord Jesus called Levi, the tax collector, to be his disciple, it raised some eyebrows, if not scandalous. Worse was when the Lord went to dinner in Levi's house, and many other tax collectors and sinners joined at the table. Such an action was deemed shameful by those who claimed they were righteous. Why would this so-called Jesus eat with tax collectors and sinners? They were curious to know.
The Lord's response that he has come to call sinners and not the righteous was spectacular and revolutionary. But there lies one of the decisive missions of Jesus. He reaches out to sinners; he seeks them out and offers them a handshake.
A sinner is the Lord's favorite candidate. When the sinner welcomes Jesus in their home, he gladly dines with them. Sin is never a barrier to the embrace of the Lord Jesus. He wants us to approach him with our sins, and at the Confessional, he heals us. Didn't you realize that the person who God forgives much, loves so much? The Lord himself gives us a hint to that effect (Lk 7:47). Don't you know that you, though a sinner, are God's favorite candidate?
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Saturday Week 1: 1 Sm 9:1-4, 17-19, 10:1a; MK 2:13-17]
Author and Goal
Father Maurice Emelu PhD., provides a daily blog of reflections based on the Scriptural readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. The goal is to teach, inspire, encourage, and foster healing through the grace of God's word. They are written in a language that is appropriate for a general audience. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration, and developing your thoughts. They may also be useful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.