Fr Paul reads from the Gospel of Mark (2: 13-17) in which Jesus says ‘It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the virtuous, but sinners’.Today’s Gospel starts with a piece of local lore and a puzzle. The piece of local lore is that Capernaum is the first village reached after crossing the Jordan and entering the territory of Galilee, so this was a good road along the side of the Lake and a busy trade route. No doubt there was a border tax you would have to pay. The puzzle is in the name of the tax collector. In Mark and Luke’s Gospel, the name of the tax collector is Levi. In Matthew’s Gospel, interestingly, the tax collector’s name is Matthew. The main part of this Gospel is the outrage of the Pharisees. Jesus has not only picked out tax collectors and, but he also seems to enjoy their company. In Gospel times, the tax collectors worked for large companies and they were further unpopular because they also worked for the Romans. To the Pharisees, whose job it is to decide who is ritually clean and unclean, it was incomprehensible that a religious leader should associate with such people, particularly over a meal. It was incomprehensible that a religious leader, like Jesus, should associate with tax collectors and sinners and, yet, as we hear at the very end of the Gospel, these were the people Jesus was looking for. For our prayer and reflection today, Fr Paul says, we might simply give thanks that when Jesus came he came to save us; he came looking for those who were tax collectors and sinners; he came looking for those who were in need of healing and help.
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