Jesus went out to the shore of the lake; and all the people came to him, and he taught them. As he was walking on he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus, sitting by the customs house, and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up and followed him. When Jesus was at dinner in his house, a number of tax collectors and sinners were also sitting at the table with Jesus and his disciples; for there were many of them among his followers. When the scribes of the Pharisee party saw him eating with sinners and tax collectors, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ When Jesus heard this he said to them, ‘It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick. I did not come to call the virtuous, but sinners.’ (Luke 2:13-17)
Have you ever had to sit in an ‘A and E’ department, counting down the long waiting time, looking around you and wondering if everyone actually needs to be here, and thinking that you may be seen quicker if so many of them weren’t here. And do you wonder, too, if some of them are looking at you thinking the same thing! Jesus is castigated in today’s gospel reading for dealing with someone whom the religious authorities think is ‘spiritually sick.’ Surely, Jesus shouldn’t be wasting his time with such people when there are other more worthy and upstanding members of the public with whom to pass the time of day. In response, Jesus doesn’t defend Levi. He agrees with their diagnosis. But it’s because of such sinners, he says, that he has come in the first place. It’s those of us who have separated ourselves from God through sin that Jesus needs to claim back, to heal. There is such an important relationship between healing and forgiveness. Both are liberating actions, saving works. Being forgiven begins the process of healing in so many ways. We can’t peer into the soul of another and make a spiritual diagnosis. But we can open our own hearts to the Lord.
Loving Father, you search us and you know us through and through. Help us to be honest with ourselves and honest with you so that your healing and forgiveness will take root in our lives and help us grow in your love. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.