Jesus saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at the customs post.
He said to him, “Follow me.”
And leaving everything behind, he got up and followed him.
Then Levi gave a great banquet for him in his house,
and a large crowd of tax collectors
and others were at table with them.
The Pharisees and their scribes complained to his disciples, saying,
“Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”
Jesus said to them in reply,
“Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do.
I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners.”
The last line speaks to each and every one of us.
When your neighbor stumbles through sin or ignorance, do you point the finger to criticize or do you lend a helping hand to lift him up? The prophet Isaiah tells us that God repays in kind. When we bless others, especially those who need spiritual as well and physical help, God in turn blesses us. When Jesus called a despised tax collector to be his disciple he surprised everyone including Levi (also known as Matthew). The religious leaders were especially upset with Jesus’ behavior towards public sinners like Levi.
What does it mean to “leave all and follow the Lord”? Bede the Venerable, a 7th century church father comments on Matthew’s conversion to discipleship: “By ‘follow’ he meant not so much the movement of feet as of the heart, the carrying out of a way of life. For one who says that he lives in Christ ought himself to walk just as he walked, not to aim at earthly things, not to pursue perishable gains, but to flee base praise, to embrace willingly the contempt of all that is worldly for the sake of heavenly glory, to do good to all, to inflict injuries upon no one in bitterness, to suffer patiently those injuries that come to oneself, to ask God’s forgiveness for those who oppress, never to seek one’s own glory but always God’s, and to uphold whatever helps one love heavenly things. This is what is meant by following Christ. In this way, disregarding earthly gains, Matthew attached himself to the band of followers of One who had no riches. For the Lord himself, who outwardly called Matthew by a word, inwardly bestowed upon him the gift of an invisible impulse so that he was able to follow.” Are you ready to forsake all to follow him?