Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator
We have been reading St. Mark's Gospel for one week at our daily Eucharist, and in the space of one week we have heard of the healing of a demoniac, Peter's mother-in-law, a group of generic people who were ill and/or possessed and a paralytic. Today we hear the story of Levi, son of Alphaeus, a tax or toll collector. Is there a common thread that runs through these stories of healing?
First of all, you might be asking, why does Fr. Lawrence refer to the story of Levi as a story of healing? That is a fair question. Actually, it is this story that provides us with the link or thread which runs through all of the stories. In each case including the story of Levi, these men and women have been excluded from normal Jewish life by their situation. Each of them would be considered ritually impure. Touching them or associating with them would mean that their ritual impurity would be transferred to the person who touched them. In the case of Levi, his ritual impurity stems from the fact that he has strayed from the life of Judaism by this collaboration with the Roman occupation. The story tells us that Jesus came to his house and sat down to table with him and those like him. Scripture scholars point out that eating with sinners is taboo because these people would not have bothered to have paid attention to the Jewish dietary laws, among other things.
So in each case, Jesus confronts an example of how the Law has excluded people because of their illness, their possession by demons, or by their life situation. Instead of excluding them, Jesus reaches out and includes them through his healing touch. Perhaps the most dramatic of these stories in this regard is the story of Levi because we hear that Levi leaves his life as a tax collector and returns to ordinary Jewish life.
Excluding others is something that we human beings are good at. We do it for a variety of reasons. Yet we profess to be people who love our neighbor as Jesus has loved us! The Gospel challenges us to rethink this issue, prayerfully and earnestly seeking the power of healing in both our own life and the lives of those who have been excluded by our "them" and "us" mentality.