Leaving everything behind, Levi got up and followed him.
Jesus invites people individually and personally to follow him. Levi, despite the fact that he was truly an unlikely candidate, was one of these people so blessed. As a tax collector his friends were other tax collectors and sinners. He was not in good standing in the community. His obvious riches, from which he threw a “great” banquet for Jesus in his house, were amassed at the expense of the members of the community whom he had overtaxed. His relationships there were broken, bridges burned through greed and corruption.
Yet Jesus, going out and walking along, saw Levi sitting at the customs post and knew exactly who and what he was.Jesus specifically offered an invitation to Levi to be one of the group who would become the intimate Twelve who would abide with him, build relationships with him, and become with the others the foundation stones of the new Jerusalem.
There was no mistake. Jesus wanted Levi. Jesus chose Levi.
And Levi chose Jesus.
It was Jesus who first called Levi to follow him. Levi did not call himself. He was instead irresistibly drawn. He was encountered by the Savior of the world, the King of Kings and Prince of Peace, the Christ. It was the glorious person of Jesus Christ who exerted such an attraction on him, that Levi immediately got up without hesitation, walked away from his occupation that benefited the Roman occupiers and himself, and began to walk after Jesus.
To follow Jesus is to move. To get up. To leave something behind. To enter into a new and unknown life. To be drawn into relationships where the one inviting sets the terms. To be drawn into utter obedience and submission to the demands of the Gospel.
There is a decision to be made. It may or may not have been easy for Levi to leave behind his lucrative career, but in doing so, in following Jesus, he was walking into poverty. He was walking towards the cross. He was walking into the glorious power of the resurrection.
Leaving everything behind, Levi got up and followed him.
Where have you heard these words from the lips of the Master, “Follow me.” Was it long ago when you attended a retreat, during a sacred moment of Eucharistic adoration, at a decisive moment of your vocational journey?
To follow Jesus is the most important thing you can do with your life.
It doesn’t mean you must sign away your house, your finances, your career. Levi left his tax collector’s post with all the greedy practices by which he overtaxed his fellow Jews. Yet he shortly afterward threw a large and expensive party for Jesus and invited his friends to meet the one who had become such an important part of his new life. He put his considerable wealth, property, and relationships at the service of the Kingdom in one of the first and most astounding moments of evangelization on record. He knew he was following not a project but a Person, so parties and friendships were now a part of his call, his love, and his loyalty to Christ.
So, again, where are you hearing right now the invitation of Christ to follow him? He is walking by and he is choosing you. This, by itself, is astounding. He is worthy of your time, of your attention, of your creative response. He desires your presence at the Mass, for you are his friend. He waits for you in the chapel of Eucharistic adoration because he wants to be there for you in good times and in difficult times. He hopes that you will introduce him to your friends in a way that reflects your temperament and creativity.
Leaving everything behind today. Get up and follow Christ.
Praying with this passage of Scripture
Lectio Divina is a way of listening to God as he speaks in his Word. It is a practice of communicating with God through Scripture and attending to God’s presence and what he wishes to tell us. In this slow and prayerful reading of the Word of God, we allow ourselves to be transformed by the Spirit who forms us into the image of Christ.
There are four movement in Lectio Divina: Read (lectio), Meditate (meditation), Pray (oratio), Contemplate (contemplation).
Begin by finding a still space to pray. Breathe deeply and become quieter within. Abandon any agenda, worries or thoughts you bring to this prayer and entrust these things to the merciful care of God. Ask for the grace to be receptive to what God will speak to you through this Scripture reading. Grant me, Jesus Divine Master, to be able to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God and your unfathomable riches. Grant that your word penetrate my soul; guide my steps, and brighten my way till the day dawns and darkness dissipates, you who live and reign forever and ever Amen.
Begin by slowly and meditatively reading your Scripture passage out loud. Listen for a particular word or phrase that speaks to you at this moment and sit with it for a time.
After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,” Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him.
Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”
Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
Meditate (meditatio) – Read the same passage a second time. As you re-engage the text, let the word or phrase that stood out become your invitation to speak from your heart with God who wishes to share his heart with you. Allow this word or phrase to wash over you and permeate your thoughts and feelings. You may wish to repeat this phrase quietly and gently for a period of time.
Pray (oratio) – Read the text a third time. Listen for what God is saying to you. Speak heart to heart with God. Notice the feelings that this conversation with God raises up within you. Share with God what you notice about your response to this conversation. You may wish to return to repeating the phrase quietly and gently, allowing it to permeate you more and more deeply.
Read the text a final time. Now be still and rest in God’s embrace. Ask God to give you a gift to take with you from this prayer. You might ask God if he is inviting you to do some action, for instance, make some change in your thoughts, attitudes or reactions, in the way you speak or how you treat others. Thank God for this gift and invitation as you conclude your prayer.
Photo Credit: Giovanni Paolo Panini, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons