Levi (“Matthew” in the Gospel of Matthew) is next to be called after the four fishermen: Simon and Andrew, James and John. He seems no better a prospect to be Jesus’ companion than the fishermen because he is a tax collector, sitting at the customs post. Levi must have been surprised to be called by Jesus who has gained renown in Capernaum by the authority of his teaching and mighty acts. Still, he is pleased to follow Jesus and he prepares a despedida supper where he invites tax collectors and those branded as sinners like him. Jesus answers the Pharisees who murmur why he eats with the likes of Levi and his friends, “I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”
Pope Francis has made no secret with his affinity for the calling of Levi/Matthew. On the feast of St. Matthew, at the age of 17, Jorge Bergoglio felt in a very special way the presence of God in his life. Following confession, he felt a gaze of tender love of God, the experience that led him to the priesthood. As Bishop and Pope, he would explain his motto based on the experience of Levi, “I am one who is looked upon by the Lord. I always felt my motto, Miserando atque Eligendo (“By having mercy and by choosing him”), was very true for me.”
Gospel • MARK 2:13-17
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.”
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