FR. MIKE’S HOMILY FOR SATURDAY AFTER ASH WEDNESDAY
THEME: HE MAKES SAINTS OUT OF SINNERS
BY: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
HOMILY: Lk 5:27‐32
After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at the customs post. He said to him, “Follow me.” And leaving everything behind, he got up and followed him. Then Levi gave a great banquet for him in his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were at table with them. The Pharisees and their scribes complained to his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus said to them in reply, “Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do. I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners.”
“There are only two kinds of men: the righteous who think they are sinners and the sinners who think they are righteous.” This is according to the French philosopher Blaise Pascal. The truly righteous people humbly admit their sinfulness. That is why we see in the lives of the saints that they go to confession very often and regularly. On the other hand, the self-righteous people think they have no need to repent.
Jesus is particularly hard on the scribes and Pharisees because they are too self-righteous. They are convinced of their holiness and superiority over the rest. They do not think they are sinful and so they do not need God’s forgiveness.
That is why in the Gospel today Jesus declares: “I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners.” It is simply impossible to call to repentance those who are self-righteous because they do not acknowledge their sins. In effect, though the Pharisees are the religious leaders of Israel, their behavior is saying that they do not have any need for God and His forgiveness. As the Servant of God Fulton Sheen said, “Far better it is for you to say: ‘I am a sinner’, than to say: ‘I have no need of religion.’ The empty can be filled, but the self-intoxicated have no room for God.”
The Pharisees are horrified to see Levi become one of the followers of Jesus. Levi is a tax collector, and therefore, a public sinner. A respectable rabbi like Jesus should have nothing to do with such persons. But the Lord does not mind. He came into this world precisely to bring sinners to repentance and be saved. And He knows all men are sinners. It is just too sad that the Pharisees do not admit their sinfulness, and so they cannot be forgiven.
There is a story about a priest who went to a barbershop for a haircut. The barber casually remarked, “Father, I don’t think there is God.” The priest was surprised, and asked, “Why did you say that?” The barber replied, “Because if there is God, there would be no sinner, yet there are a lot of sinners in the world.” The priest replied, “You see, I think soap is not real.” And pointing at a dirty beggar passing by, he explained: “If soap is real, there would be no dirty people around.” The barber protested, “But it is because they do not take a bath.” “You are absolutely right!” the priest said. “There is soap, but many people are dirty because they do not use it. There is God, but people continue living in sin because they do not repent and ask forgiveness from God.”
The Gospel today reminds us we should not judge those who commit sin because we, too, are sinners. As a quotation says, “Don’t judge someone just because they sin differently than you.” We all have our sins as well. So, instead of judging others, we humbly and fervently ask God’s mercy.
Yet sinners though we are, we should still be full of hope and gratitude, for God is always ready to forgive us. In fact, it is precisely because of us sinners that Jesus has come. The philosopher Søren Kierkegaard said, “God creates out of nothing. Wonderful you say. Yes, to be sure, but He does what is still more wonderful: He makes saints out of sinners.”
Like Levi, who became St. Matthew, the great apostle and evangelist, we, too, by the grace and mercy of God can become saints and truly pleasing in the eyes of God. Nothing is impossible with God. If He can turn stone into bread and water into wine, He can also turn sinners into saints.
Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Michael the Archangel Parish
Diocese of Novaliches