Gospel Mk 2:13-17
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.”
Friends, today’s Gospel recounts Jesus’ banqueting with Matthew and his friends after he calls him to be a disciple. The very first thing that Jesus does is to invite Matthew into intimacy with him, reclining around a table for a meal with friends.
In this account, the Pharisees see Matthew’s intimacy with Jesus and they comment, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” Notice that it never occurs to them that the influence might move from Jesus to the sinners rather than from the sinners to Jesus.
And then Jesus’ wonderful comment: “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.” He is admitting that Matthew and his fellows are sinners. He is not in the least “soft” on sin. But he has come to bring precisely such people into intimacy with him.