Saturday After Ash Wednesday
Jesus 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.
Christ Jesus ushers in a revolution. Every other religion or way of life, makes you a penitent in order to approach God. After a long, hard slog you finally earn your stripes.
When Christ comes, He turns things on their head. He calls us to Himself, embraces us and His embrace makes of us life-long penitents. Levi did not leave everything first as the condition for finding Christ. Christ found him first and then Levi left everything behind. And yet there is not the slightest hint of a surly reluctance in Levi’s reluctance. Levi actually throws a banquet for Jesus. In Christianity we speak of joyful penitence. When we find the pearl of great price, all other lesser loves lose their charm – they become either great heavy chains or fine silken threads but in either case, they prevent the soul from going to Christ.
With things turned on their head – Christian penitence is not a program of renunciation that we plan in advance, map out, set goals, earn and conquer. It arises from the exigencies of the relationship itself. What prevents me from truly loving Christ and the brother and sister who is Christ in the flesh for me in the here and now? This distinguishes true renunciation from that which has the appearance of rigor and devotion but is full of self.