Contemplating the Lord calling Levi (the inciting incident of today’s Gospel), I imagine He is not meeting Levi for the first time. He has probably walked near by him several times – maybe often. Perhaps He has stopped for a friendly talk with him on occasion. For his part, Levi has no doubt heard a lot about Jesus on the grapevine, and likely studied Him whenever He walked by. It’s also likely Matthew the evangelist starts this story just as Levi is struck with the thought, “Why am I doing this? Why am I, a Jew, working for the Romans by taxing my Jewish neighbors, cheating them in the process? This Jesus: He’s a good man. I like Him! I would love to know him better. I’d like to be with him for a while. That would be great. Maybe He could help me turn my life around.”
I can imagine at this point Christ comes by again, and Levi looks straight at Him. Jesus responds: “Follow me.” Levi abruptly stops, stands up, and walks away with Jesus, leaving everything behind. Levi was ready.
These may or may not be like the circumstances of Levi's call, but from the gospel text we know Levi was indeed ready to follow Our Lord. All he needed was the invitation.
I think the story reveals something for us – it does so in particular during moments we’re bored to the bone, and especially when we recognize we’re not inspired, not satisfied with life, and we’ve stopped growing. We’re not fully alive, and we long to be. Imagine yourself in that state, and that a promising opportunity for a new direction comes along. I would take a serious look at it. But imagine more. Imagine Christ himself comes along, looks you in the eye, and says, “Follow me. . . . Come with me. I will show you what life really is, and I will give it to you. I will teach you what life is about and how to live it.” I think, like Levi, I would jump at the chance. I think we all would.
In fact, Christ did come along, He did call us, when we were baptized. And He has continually called us to be and do more, by coming to know Him more intimately and follow Him ever more closely. He has never stopped wanting us to experience what it is to be fully alive, and to have the experience as He did by entering with Him more fully into His mission. For most of us it takes a long time to recognize He's been by our side, calling us this way all our lives.
Today's gospel asks us to attend the call now. Our Lord invites us now to leave behind our greed for material comfort, status, power and control – to let go of it all in favor of the Kingdom – living in Christ, with Him, and through Him – living unconditionally for God and for others.
Every mass we celebrate, we are invited to recognize that we can do more for the love of God and for the sake of others. Whether we are married, single, priests, religious – whatever our vocation may be, Christ will never stop calling us to be more. To do more for God by living more for others. To praise, revere, and serve God our Lord by helping the men, women, and children of our lives realize more fully their dignity, goodness, and God’s love for them, just as God loves us, unconditionally.
Put yourself in Levi’s shoes. Are we ready?
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