Saturday of the First Week in Ordinary Time
Hebrews 4:12-16 + Psalm 19 + Mark 2:13-17
January 19, 2013
“I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.” [Mark 2:17]
In today’s Gospel passage from the second chapter of Mark, Jesus lays part of the foundation for his public ministry. The events of today’s Gospel took place not long after Jesus’ Baptism, which inaugurated His public ministry. The last sentence of the passage holds several clues for us about Jesus’ earthly mission.
“I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.” If we took these words at face value, we might consider “the righteous” to be the Pharisaic scribes who provoked these words from Jesus. Obviously the scribes considered themselves so. But like Jesus’ parables and so much else in His preaching, there is a paradox at work. Jesus turns the popular notions of who is righteous and who is a sinner on their heads.
We could certainly not say that the tax collectors and other “sinners” were made righteous simply by the act of physically dining with Jesus. But the physical proximity, and the closeness it suggests, symbolize that neither Jesus nor the “sinner” shuns the other’s company. We cannot receive spiritual and moral righteousness from Jesus if we don’t spend time with Him, especially in the banquet of the Eucharist. To shun him there would be to stand like the scribes, aloof and self-righteous.