Homily for Saturday of 1st Week in Ordinary Time Cycle II

Theme: Strive for holiness
By: Fr. Mike Lagrimas

St. Michael the Archangel Parish
Diocese of Novaliches
Homily for Saturday January 15 2022
Mk 2:13-17
Jesus went out along the sea. 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. He said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. 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 he 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 [that], “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”
The scribes and Pharisees never stop trying to find a reason to discredit and malign Jesus. In yesterday’s Gospel, the issue was about forgiveness of sins. Before healing the paralytic, Jesus said to him, “Child, your sins are forgiven.” His enemies were aghast, and they accused Him of blasphemy: “Who but God alone can forgive sins?” In today’s Gospel, they have another reason for their indignation and resentment: Jesus sat at table with the sinners
At the beginning of His ministry, Jesus calls His first followers. His choices are unusual and strange. They are not the best men that society knows. They are just simple and unlettered fishermen. And to top it all, He even calls a public sinner to be one of them. The call of Levi, a tax collector, is outrageous, especially to the religious leaders.
A rabbi cannot be seen in the company of sinners. Otherwise, he himself is rendered unclean. But this does not prevent Jesus from calling a tax collector, Levi, as one of His disciples. And to make matters worse, He invites many tax collectors and other known sinners to dine with Him in His house. This is the height of scandal for the Jews. To sit at table with someone meant that he is considered a brother! But Jesus does not mind this at all. His main concern is His mission: “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”
We should be eternally grateful, for in Jesus Christ, we have a God who is infinitely merciful, forgiving and loving. We are sinners, and it is precisely due to our sins that He has become incarnate. This is what St. Augustine refers to when He coined the term “Felix Culpa” (‘Happy Fault’), which the Church uses in the Easter Proclamation.
But the certainty of God’s forgiveness should not lead us to spiritual sloth and complacency. Rather it should inspire us to turn away from our sinful ways, and seriously strive for holiness. God forgives us, not because He tolerates our sinful ways, but because He wants us to rise again and continue on our journey towards holiness. After all, as a popular quotation says, “Saints are only sinners who keep trying.” They are not perfect. To become saints, we, too, need not be perfect. We only need to be sincerely sorry for our sins and never cease to rise up after every fall.
This is well illustrated in the example of Levi. When Jesus called him, “he got up and followed Him.” From being Levi, a tax collector and public sinner, he becomes Matthew, the Apostle and Evangelist. We, too, can be like him if we constantly resolve to rise up again and again with the help of God’s grace. St. John Vianney said, “We can, if we will, become a saint, for God will never refuse to help us to do so.”
Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Michael the Archangel Parish
Diocese of Novaliches


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