Pray For Them

Jesus went out along the sea.
All the crowd came to him and he taught them.
As he passed by, he saw Levi, son of Alphaeus,
sitting at the customs post.
Jesus said to him, “Follow me.”
And he got up and followed Jesus.
While he was at table in his house,
many tax collectors and sinners sat with Jesus and his disciples;
for there were many who followed him.
Some scribes who were Pharisees saw that Jesus was eating with sinners
and tax collectors and said to his disciples,
“Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
Jesus heard this and said to them,
“Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do.
I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”
(Mark 2:13-17)

Scripture Study

2:13 He taught them: The account of a single day’s ministry of Jesus on a sabbath in and outside the synagogue of Capernaum (Mk 1:21–31) combines teaching and miracles of exorcism and healing. Mention is not made of the content of the teaching but of the effect of astonishment and alarm on the people. Jesus’ teaching with authority, making an absolute claim on the hearer, was in the best tradition of the ancient prophets, not of the scribes. The narrative continues with events that evening. The cleansing in Mk 1:40–45 stands as an isolated story.

2:14 As he passed by: The meaning of discipleship is a major theme of the Gospel. Right at the beginning of his mission, therefore, Jesus calls disciples to follow him and to share in his own ministry of fishing for people. This rapid-fire story condenses the early church’s theology of discipleship: (a) discipleship is a gift; all of the initiative comes from Jesus, not from the disciples themselves; (b) the essence of discipleship is following Jesus, an allegiance that takes precedence over every other value; (c) the disciple is privileged to share in the mission of Jesus, here expressed in terms of “fishing” for people. In the Bible (see, for example, Jer 16:16; Hb 1:14f), that image of fishing is used to describe the gathering of people for the final day of judgment. Jesus’ own ministry has similar strong tones. Customs post: such tax collectors paid a fixed sum for the right to collect customs duties within their districts. Since whatever they could collect above this amount constituted their profit, the abuse of extortion was widespread among them. Hence, Jewish customs officials were regarded as sinners (Mk 2:16), outcasts of society, and disgraced along with their families. He got up and followed him: i.e., became a disciple of Jesus.

2:15 In his house: cf. Mk 2:1; Mt 9:10. Lk 5:29 clearly calls it Levi’s house.

2:17 Do not need a physician: this maxim of Jesus with its implied irony was uttered to silence his adversaries who objected that he ate with tax collectors and sinners (Mk 2:16). Because the scribes and Pharisees were self-righteous, they were not capable of responding to Jesus’ call to repentance and faith in the gospel.

Scripture Reflection

Our Lord’s words should move us to pray humbly and confidently for people who seem to want to continue living in sin. As St Teresa beseeched God: “Ah, how hard a thing am I asking of thee, my true God! I ask thee to love one who loves thee not, to open to one who has not called upon thee, to give health to one who prefers to be sick and who even goes about in search of sickness. Thou sayest, my Lord, that thou comest to seek sinners; these, Lord, are the true sinners. Look not upon our blindness, my God, but upon all the blood that was shed for us by thy Son. Let thy mercy shine out amid such tremendous wickedness. Behold, Lord, we are the works of thy hands.”

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.