Casting faith in a mould – Saturday, 1st Week in Ordinary time – Mark 2: 13-17
When we read about the scribes or Pharisees in the Bible, our minds are practically made up! These were the Christ-killers; the thorn in Our Lord’s side, the bitter and unhappy ones. But what if initially they were not? What if they were just seekers who sought to understand the strange and shocking actions of our Lord that seemed so alien to what they were used to?
Consider today’s Gospel. As usual Jesus is teaching (2:13). Notice that the Gospel of Mark has mentioned this fact several times already. While he was teaching our Lord was also observing. We know from the Gospel of Mark that at this point he had many followers and disciples but he had called just four to be apostles ( a title not yet mentioned in the Gospel of St Mark) We know that Peter and Andrew, James and John have been called by Jesus to follow him (Mark 1:16-20). Now he calls Levi or Matthew, a tax collector with words similar to the call of the previous four.
Notice that none of these five apostles have questions or clarifications when called. The call of Christ is clear and those whom he called or is calling (yes that includes you) knew that this is a call from Jesus himself. It is the evil one that sows doubt. Think about it, you are being called to serve and to follow him right now but instinctively you will have doubts and fears; that is satan acting against us.
Levi obviously has thrown a dinner. This was by no means a pauper who struggled to eke out a living. Tax collectors were corrupt, ruthless and had no qualms sleeping with the enemy. Levi’s resignation from his job to follow a preacher would certainly have drawn in all sorts of curious onlookers. We are told the house has other tax collectors, sinful men (remember women did not sit at the table) and a bunch of Jesus disciples and followers and perhaps lurking outside the house were the Scribes of the Pharisees.
This was the most unconventional place for a self-respecting Rabbi to be seen, much less easting supper. Dining with someone was an indication that you shared in the innermost circle of love and trust. There is no evidence that the scribes of the Pharisees (a curious term used here) had daggers drawn out against Jesus. Perhaps as I have suggested, they were flummoxed and could not wrap their head around this most bizarre gathering. Hence, they sought an explanation. “ Why does your master eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
The Scribes of the Pharisees exist today too. We have cast expression of religious behaviour into a mould which we have grown comfortable with. We have created set beliefs when it comes to expressions of the faith and anything outside of that sets tongues wagging or vociferous protests from some quarters of the parish who refuse to acknowledge the dynamic movements of faith expressions.
Jesus did then what he would expect many of us to do with those who are left ‘confused’ by new expressions of evangelization. Jesus answered the Scribes of the Pharisees. Unlike his previous interaction with the scribes when he healed the paralytic and addressed their thought (Why do you raise such questions in your hearts? Mark 2:8) here Jesus simply answers their doubts by revealing his mission. “Those who are well have no need of a physician.” Jesus could have well been telling the Scribes of the Pharisees, “guys you are well, your soul is well.”
As I said earlier there is no need to read animosity into this text. This is a straightforward mission statement on the part of Jesus. What is clear is that while he did not need to settle in to the home of a scribe or Pharisee at this moment (he did eat in the home of Simon the Pharisee later) his presence was important to those who needed him most “those who are sick.” I have come to CALL not the righteous but sinners.
There are many who seek answers about the faith and foolishly we interpret their questions as with a hostile intent rather than seek to provide an answer. We are not called to win over people with clever rhetoric and smart answers but to share simply our faith. Casting the faith in the same old mould may keep up comfortable but then we sit at the table of the Scribes and Pharisees and will never evangelize the tax collectors and sinners of our day.