Saturday after Ash Wednesday
We come now to another rich young man, one who is quite different from the other. In the first young man we saw fidelity to the Law and love of God; here we see a tax collector who was, in today’s terms, seen as “the lowest of the low.” We can assume, as many in the Gospel’s attest, that he was not a devout follower of the Law, taking more money than he needed, cheating, lying and as a final insult to his own people, collaborating with the very Gentiles who had occupied the land of God’s people. Tax collectors of this kind were looked upon with great disdain, as we see later in today’s Gospel when the Pharisees criticize Jesus’ choice in company.
Yet in this particular rich young man we see something the former did not have: disdain for his wealth. The former man was invited by Jesus who, recognizing his goodness, invited him to sell all he had and follow Him; the man went away sad. Levi, rather, left “everything behind…got up and followed Him.” Rather than going away sad Levi gave a great banquet for Jesus in his own house, for in losing everything he came to find everything. St. Gemma Galgani perhaps captures Levi’s experience in these words of hers: “Often I seem to be alone, but really I have Jesus as a companion. I try to deprive myself of everything, but instead I find all. I shun all the pleasures of life, and I happen on one so great that I am utterly happy.”
Surely Levi, though he was rich, was dissatisfied with that wealth. In accumulating it he had estranged himself from his community and his God. Yet this God looked upon him, loved him and said to him, “Follow me.” He gave Levi the opportunity, as He gives each of us every day in the Eucharist, to turn away from the idols of wealth and pride, to return to our place as the beloved children of God, to be free of the chaos of sin’s disorder, to be chosen out of the world and brought into the Kingdom of God.