Wednesday, August 29, 2018
After this Christ journeyed on and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth; and Christ said to him, “Follow me.” And so Levi got up, left everything, and followed Him. Then Levi gave a great banquet for Him in his house; and there was a large crowd of tax collectors and others sitting at the table with them. The Pharisees and their scribes were complaining to his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus answered, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance.” – Luke 5:27-32
I call this encounter between Christ and the Pharisees, the Parable of Irony. And now I will tell you why.
The Pharisees were a sect of Judaism that claimed to be “separated from the world”, though in irony, they clearly were not. The Pharisees sought to keep themselves clean from the politics of the times, though in irony, they were indeed a political party. The Pharisees considered themselves as being a force of righteousness, though in irony, they often displayed stark unrighteousness.
The tax collectors, like Levi, collected taxes, in particular the taxes demanded by the Roman occupation. The Romans tended to use local people in their empire to do this work that apparently was ripe with corruption with the tax collectors receiving a “cut” of the revenues collected. Probably, the Pharisees saw these tax collectors as being in collusion with the Romans and hence, they were unclean, they were sinners by way of their profession.
Levi is eager to meet with Christ, I assume to listen to His slant on the Judaic faith. Levi seems eager to finally be accepted by having Christ honor his invitation to share in a meal. Levi is wanting to heal of that which he has not yet learned its name. That disease was the sinful symptoms of self-righteous and condemnation, found in the attitudes of the Pharisees.
“Why, Jesus of Nazareth, why do you a Rabbi sit down with unclean sinners?” So asked the Pharisees. Christ answers, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance.” The irony … the physician came to heal both the tax collectors and the Pharisees … and those who judged with a posture of self-righteousness, they were the sinners to which He referred.
The Pharisees were but the example of a problem throughout the history of the faith. There have been and there are people who divide the world into We-the-Righteous and They-the-Sinners. TheY fail to see in themselves the sin which only they can commit … the sin of self-righteousness.
Always in Christ’s Service,
Fr. Charitas de la Cruz