Saturday after Ash Wednesday

Is. 58:9-14; Luke 5:27-32

The Call of Levi


It is Saturday after Ash Wednesday, so a reminder of authentic fasting and abstinence, is in order, served dully by the first reading. For one, the more meaningful fast is not just from food but from certain satisfactions urged by our unthinking (“baser” sounds so Manichaean) instincts. For another, we are too fast not from meat just to feel a sense of deprivation (proper to those who have too much food to spare) but rather to turn over our meat to the already deprived (the countless who fast because they must, never having food enough). One is senseless masochism; the other is charity in the spirit of the gospel.

Finally, we can fast and abstain in yet another sense. We take it as a matter of fact we can pursue our lives autonomously, on our terms. For Lent we can choose to ask, Lord, what will you have me to do? And then allow his anawim dictate the subsequent agenda.

Each of these, but specially the last, would be a more worthy imitation of Jesus whose goal in life was to do not his will but that of Abba. That is not possible without the fast and abstinence of not only the body but of the spirit, so that we can better discover the will of our Abba as well. (Fr, Diony Miranda, SVD Bible Diary 2002)


Notice the reaction of people called for a mission. St. Ambrose of Milan is said to have hidden himself when he learned that he was to become a bishop. Mahatma Gandhi fasted when he was called to protest for the sake of justice. Joseph Ratzinger, as reports say, “looked forlorn” when he was elected Pope. Cory Aquino retreated to a convent of Pink Sisters when she was asked to run against Marcos.

In the Old Testament, the typical reaction to God’s call for mission is one of objection. The prophet Jeremiah objected by saying: “I am too young.” Gideon’s call to help Israel was met with a common complaint: “My family is poor.” Moses, the liberator of Israel, protested five times to God not to send him to such mission. His last objection is still heard today: “Send someone else” (Ex. 4”13).

In today’s gospel, we miss the familiar objection to a call. Jesus called Levi. Levi did not protest. Instead, “leaving everything behind, he got up and followed Him.” The objection, rather, come from the Pharisees and scribes who complained, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”

When we feel inadequate to fulfil a God-given mission, we are being made to be aware that God’s grace outshines our human effort. This fact we see in the irony of the first reading: When God calls, human beings objects; but when human being calls, God answers (Is 58:9). (Fr. Randy Flores, SVD Bible Diary 2006)


“Levi”, is it a popular brand of fashionable jeans? No, Levi was not a fashion designer. He was a tax collector whom Jesus called to be an apostle.

Tax collectors in Jesus’ time were called “publicans,” a term synonymous to public sinners. Why did Jesus call Levi to become His disciple? Was it because he was an honest and upright man in spite of all the temptations to cheat and to steal, or was he perhaps also guilty of dishonesty himself? Jesus’ motive for choosing him, we can only surmise. But for one thing, Levi was surely a humble man. Being considered and counted among public sinners is no light matter! That’s not nice or inviting, isn’t it?

Humility is first of all the road to repentance. I’m reminded of people I met who, when talking of conversion of heart and confession, they say: “Father, I’m a good man, I do not evil to anyone, I have nothing to confess.” And yet, one sees from their manner of talking and living that there’s something wrong in their lives. They have a nice excuse and justification for every sin they commit. To them, Christ says in today’s gospel: “”I have not come to call the righteous but the sinners to repentance.”

Humility coupled with commitment is also the road to discipleship, because true discipleship means unselfish service. One must serve God and the Church without ambition for honor or power. With the massive involvement for the laity in church ministry, thank God for that, there is this danger in the institutional church that ambitious people, particularly the rich and influential, vie and compete for the high places. They want to be associated with the “holy” and the “great” for prestige. It’s kind of carryover from the professional competitiveness in civil society. “Humble service, Oh no! That’s not for me. I’m a professional.” However, I’m glad to know that in the Basic Ecclesial Communities simple, humble lay ministers still abound.

So this is just a thought for Lent, lest our ministry become pharisaical: Is my service or ministry in the Church characterized by the Spirit of Christ, the humble Servant of Yahweh? (Fr. Erasio Flores, SVD Bible Diary 2007)


In our human relationships, it is not difficult to see that there are people we have difficulties relating to. The other may have hurt us at one point in our lives; or the other may have ways we feel uncomfortable about. No matter how we try, the other may not easily take us into his/her circle of relationship. Because of this, the danger for human relationships to be filled with mutual rejection is indeed imminent.

There may have been moments when we strive to resolve our difficulties and learned to adjust to the other’s ways. But human as we are, it can become convenient to simply stop relating to the other. But God has a different way for us by following His Son Jesus.

On this Saturday after Ash Wednesday we see Jesus literally approaching Levi, someone who symbolizes those whom we normally ostracize in our lives, those whom we hate, if not simply ignore. Lent is then shown as the season when God Himself comes into our midst calling us to conversion, to healing. In His Son Jesus, God comes to help us reassess the way we deal with each other. None of us can look into our lives and see no experience of keeping someone off our lives simply due to the other’s lifestyle. The challenge of Lent is for each one of us to acknowledge our sins and knowing that He is with us and for us, we can celebrate this divine generosity so we ourselves can be generous to others as well. In this way, our repentance that He desires can happen. The Church can then become a community of men and women who have experienced the divine tolerance and mercy constantly calling us until we shall have fully overcome our own difficulties. When that time comes, the other may no longer be someone for us to hate and ostracize but someone with whom we can build the kingdom of God in our midst. (Fr. Bernardo Collera, SVD Bible Diary 2008)


One day when Pope John XXIII was a bishop of Venice, he was told that one of his priests was becoming an alcoholic, ‘We’ll have to go and visit him,” he told his secretary. When they got near the presbytery of the priest’s parish, the bishop and his secretary stopped at a hotel and the future Pope John sent his secretary off to get the priest. The secretary came back and said, “His hat is lying on table but he isn’t there.” To which the future Pope answered, “If his hat is there, he must also be there. Go and look again.”

A few minutes later the secretary came back. He had found the priest at the local pub. All three of them walked over the presbytery. There the bishop offered the priest a chair and said to him, “Sit down brother. I want you to hear my confession,” (Willi Hoffsuemmer).

Just like the understanding bishop in the story, Jesus in today’s gospel does not cover up the tax collector’s situation. He shows His critics that as the Messiah, he has come to call sinners like them, not to condone their sinful acts but correct them. Jesus, as Divine Physician, associates with the spiritually sick to invite them to repentance.

Jesus and the early Christians worked on the new principle of salvation, that is, salvation by association rather than salvation by segregation. It was a break from the customary practice of the Jewish religious leaders who avoided table fellowship with tax collectors and sinners. Levi, a tax collector and an outcast, is called to such an association and he becomes not only as a follower but also a disciple of Jesus. The call of Levi comes with a message that a sincere conversion is demanded by Jesus from His followers. The story shows that even the worst among sinners could respond to Jesus’ call with wholehearted sincerity as Levi did.

Henry W. Longfellow said: “If we can read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each person’s life sorrow and suffering enough to discern any hostility.” If we can read the secret history of all sinners, their life’s sorrow and sufferings, then it would be enough to stop us from condemning them. Do we still find it easy to despise sinners? Do our attitudes towards sinners reflect our heavenly Father’s loving heart? (Fr. Emmanuel de Leon, SVD Bible Diary 2009)


February 13, 2016 Saturday

Jesus invited the tax collector Levi (Matthew) saying: “Follow me.” At that time the tax collectors were the most despised people. Hence the Pharisees and scribes were reacting against Jesus’ holy invitation. Moreover, they were horri ed when Matthew left the money-table to sit with Him at the banqueting hall of forgiveness. They remarked: “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Such action awakened in Matthew his potential and dignity.

While the Pharisees and scribes saw only Matthew’s peripherals, Jesus saw his core (kardia). The word Kardia is used in the NT symbolizing a person’s innermost feelings, emotions and judgements. To grow spiritually one must go below the surface of neat appearance and proper behavior, a difficult practice at times when we are governed by our xations. Jesus saw beyond the failures and flaws of Matthew. That made Matthew change, leaving everything behind – job, home and security. He followed Jesus wholeheartedly without turning back. No wonder he knew and loved Jesus very well to the point of writing about Him in a gospel.

Some years ago there was this popular saying: “wholeness is holiness.” Matthew epitomized this. From the first reading of Isaiah we read thus: …The light shall rise for you in the darkness, and the gloom shall become for you like midday… He will renew your strength and you shall be like watered garden like a spring whose water never fails. (58: 10 – 11)

Are we becoming a spring for others like Matthew despite a murky past of our own? (Fr. Eugene Orog, SVD CKMS, Quezon City Bible Diary 2016)



Reflection: What made Jesus call Levi to follow Him? What made Levi leave everything behind to follow Jesus? Of course the main reason was Levi was a sinner. Therefore Levi threw caution to the wind to follow Jesus. For he knew that at long last there was someone who’s not judging him. And someone who’s willing to give him a second chance to live life away from sin.

In this gospel episode Jesus gives us valuable lesson on how we can call others to conversion. First is let us not be too judgmental with those whom we perceive as sinners. Who are we to judge when we are sinners also? Second is let us always give others a second chance no matter how sinful they are.

There are many who are itching to live their lives away from sin but no one is willing to give them a second chance. It seems to them that almost everyone is condemning them. If only we know that they are already sick and tired of living in sin. If only we know that they are just waiting for us to call them to a life of renewal.

During this season of lent let us make it our vow not to be judgmental. Let us make it our vow to give those whom we perceive as sinners a second chance. There are sinners because there are people who are judgmental and people who are not willing to give them a second chance to live life faraway from sin.   (Marino J. Dasmarinas)



Friday, February 12, 2016

Reflection for February 13, Saturday after Ash Wednesday; Luke 5:27-32

Reflection: Who are the modern day sinners that Jesus wants to call to repentance? Its no other than us, we are sinners; we sin through our thoughts, actions and words. Like the tax collector Levi, Jesus calls us to follow Him, to leave behind us our sinfulness.

Why does Jesus calls us to follow Him? He wants to build a deeper friendship with us. And this would only happen if we would choose to respond to His call. Rather than respond to the call of the devil.

When we respond to the call of Jesus we ensure ourselves of a meaningful life. This doesn’t mean that the moment to we say yes to Jesus we would be free from worries and trials. We would still have our own share of trials and worries. Yet in the midst of our worries and trials we will feel the abiding presence of Jesus in our lives.

If we decide to follow Jesus there would be people who will despise and perhaps belittle us. But we have nothing to worry with those who will despise us. What is most important is we chose to leave behind our sinfulness in favor of Jesus’ call.

To leave behind our sinfulness is not easy to do because the devil will not easily let us go. Nevertheless, nothing is impossible for Jesus all He asks us is our yes and our firm desire to leave behind our sinfulness.

Lest we forget, a sinful life is a life in union with the devil. Let us therefore respond to this call of Jesus, to leave behind our sinful life. – Marino J. Dasmarinas



Friday, February 12, 2016

SATURDAY AFTER ASH WEDNESDAY (YEAR C) – LUKAS 5:27-32. KINSA MAN ANG MAS BULAHAN, ANG MAKASASALA BA O ANG MATARONG? Sa pag-ingon ni Kristo, “Gitawag ko ang mga makasasala, dili ang mga matarong”, wala niya ipasabot nga mas pinangga niya ang mga masalaypon kaysa mga buotan. Ang mga matarong gimahal pag-ayo sa Dios. Apan, gusto usab niyang luwason ang mga makasasala. Sila ang nanginahanglan og doktor ug sila ang hinungdan sa pag-anhi ni Kristo. Ang mga makasasala nga modawat sa ilang sayop ug mobiya sa daotang kinabuhi aron pagsunod kang Kristo maoy makaangkon og kaluwasan. Mao kini ang nahitabo kang Levi, Zakeo, Maria Magdalena, ug uban pa. Apan ang mga tawo nga nagtoo nga sila walay sala, sama sa mga Pariseo, mao na hinoon ang dili maluwas. Sakto ang panultihon, “A humble sinner is better than a self-righteous saint”. Posted by Abet Uy



Saturday after Ash Wednesday

Is 58:9-14; Lk 5:27-32

God of Hope

Archbishop Van Thuan from Vietnam was imprisoned by the then Communist government for thirteen years and then ‘released’ to house arrest for many more years. The Archbishop faced what he describes as “the agonising pain of isolation and abandonment.” Eventually, in 1991, Archbishop Van Thuan was expelled from Vietnam. Later he served the Church remaining in Rome. He preached the Retreat for Pope John Paul II in the Jubilee Year, 2000. Archbishop’s message to John Paul II is equally valid for us too; “Faced with any darkness, we have a reason for confidence: Christ, Hope of the World.”

Today’s Scriptural readings present before us a God who fills hope in the lives of the people. The Israelites were under the Babylonian oppression. The people were in utter despair. Prophet Isaiah instils in them the hope saying that ‘God has remembered his covenant whereby they are again his chosen people.’ The Old Testament has very often presented God as one who restores his Kingdom, as one who rebuild the Temple, as one who embraces the people as his children and so on. With the Incarnation, the whole word received a renewed hope of breaking the bonds of slavery of sin. The same incarnated Jesus, through today’s Gospel offers hope to Levi, the Tax collector. And Jesus says that ‘every sick and sinner will have God near to him/her’ (Lk 5:31,32).

This God who is nearer to the sinner and sick’ is the Emmanuel.  Each Eucharist is the celebration of this Hope that ‘God is with us’. And it places a challenge too in front of us. Hope is the scarcest thing in today’s world where people are thrown in to the deep abyss of despair and dejection, pain and suffering. Each Eucharist must make us an ambassador of Hope, because our God is the ‘God of Hope.’ Fr. Johnson Bezalel CMI



February 13, 2016

REFLECTION: Today’s two readings, despite their apparent diversity of presentation (the first is an exhortation, whereas the second is a straight narra­tive), nevertheless convey the same message: conversion or turning to God is always a cause for rejoicing. Why? Because God is the source of our happiness. We are made for God like fish are made for water. And when we find God, we find happiness.
In the case of Levi, he is so happy about Christ’s call to join his band of followers that he throws a wild party in honor of Jesus. And apparently there is a kind of strange solidarity among all those social outcasts. For Levi’s fellow tax collectors join in the party. They seem to think that, if one of them has been judged worthy to follow a man of God like Jesus, maybe—just maybe—God could perhaps accept to forgive their way of earning their living?

What is most mysterious in all this is the encounter Levi-Jesus. What kind of man could turn around another man’s life with these two words, “Follow me?” What did Levi see in the eyes of Jesus that reached the depths of his soul and made him willing to follow Jesus to the ends of the earth?


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See Today’ Readings:  Year I,   Year II

Back  to: Saturday after Ash Wednesday

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