Friday, April 30, 2010

Luke 5, 27-32

After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. "Follow me," Jesus said to him, 28and Levi got up, left everything and followed him.
 29Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. 30But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and 'sinners'?"
 31Jesus answered them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 32I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
I have been writing up talks for a retreat I am going to give up in Wichita, Kansas.  The retreat is on the Beatitudes and I was working on a section that has to do with leaving everything behind at the call of Jesus, and what it means to do that and follow him.  I was struggling with the radical implication of such a call. Everything is, well, everything and leaving it behind means just that – not going back.  So, I maybe fudged a bit in the direction I took, writing out something that softens the blow.  Like, maybe it takes time to follow Jesus, takes time to leave everything, takes time to be a real and true disciple of the road, with no baggage and just a walking stick. 
Then I heard the above gospel at Mass.  I probably would not have paid close attention to it, but the writing about the call was fresh in my mind and when I heard the few lines above, I thought that things ain’t so bad. 
Levi must have been rich.  Nice guy, too.  He got up right away and left everything.  Sort of.  For then we hear that he must have gone back the house, like, you know, turned around and got out all his pots and pans and the fatted calves and wine and grapes, lamb and maybe some chickens, and whatever folks had for dessert back in those days.  Maybe lamb cookies, or olive flavored ice cream.  Anyway, it was, we are told, a large crowd.  All sinners, too – and there is that mysterious word “others.”  I have always felt at home with others.  So that is good.  I would have had a good time at the big party.

Well, I won’t revise what I wrote for the retreat.  But I will keep the above Scripture quote in mind.  For those who seek a strict interpretation of what it means to leave everything and worry about failing to respond to the call because of all the stuff they have and cannot leave behind, there is hope.  They can say yes, oh yes, and get up and run out of their house and get in their SUV’s and watch everything fade in the rear view mirror as they drive down the road following Jesus.  But then they can stop at the nearest Sam’s Club, stock up on everything they need for a feast for all the others they know, and then go back and have a banquet that will be as grand as can be, and that will by necessity leave till later the call of the wild.

Oh, one more thing.  Jesus was at that feast too, having left behind all his stuff someplace else. At least for a while.

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