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Daily Gospel Reading - January 16, 2010 PDF Print E-mail

Mark 2:13-17

The Call of Levi

13[Jesus] went out along the sea. All the crowd came to him and he taught them. 14As he passed by, he saw Levi, son of Alphaeus, sitting at the customs post. He said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. 15While he was at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners sat with Jesus and his disciples; for there were many who followed him. 16Some scribes who were Pharisees saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors and said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 17Jesus heard this and said to them [that], “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”

Tax Collectors and Sinners

Galileans in Jesus’ time were burdened by state taxes paid to Rome and Herod Antipas who imposed direct taxes on land properties and individuals (head taxes). Moreover, indirect taxes were imposed on transit trade and market exchanges in Capernaum, an important fishing locale.

Fishing, which was part of the Galilean economy, was not a “free enterprise” for fishermen around Lake Tiberias. Herod Antipas, through the local rulers, sold fishing rights to “brokers” (telonai, commonly translated as “tax collectors”). These, in turn, contracted with fishermen. The fishermen received capitalization along with fishing rights and were therefore indebted to the brokers. The fishermen might contract partners and hired laborers to help with all activities.

Levi is probably a broker or contractor of royal fishing rights. As such, he may have bid leases to fishing families like those of Simon and Andrew, and Zebedee and his sons.

The heavy taxes were a great burden to the people, and the brokers could be looked upon as robbers and thieves, due to feelings or perceptions of injustice. In the Gospel, the Pharisees are shown to avoid Levi and his fellow tax collectors, whom they lump with other sinners. They also condemn Jesus’ association with these people.

By answering that those who are well do not need a physician, Jesus is implying ironically that the Pharisees are more ill than those they call “sinners.” Affirming that these outcasts need healing, Jesus neither condemns nor ostracizes them but loves them and sits down to a meal with them.

Daily Gospel Reading - January 15, 2010 PDF Print E-mail

Mark 2:1-12


The Healing of a Paralytic

1When Jesus returned to Capernaum after some days, it became known that he was at home. 2Many gathered together so that there was no longer room for them, not even around the door, and he preached the word to them. 3They came bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. 4Unable to get near Jesus because of the crowd, they opened up the roof above him. After they had broken through, they let down the mat on which the paralytic was lying. 5When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Child, your sins are forgiven.” 6Now some of the scribes were sitting there asking themselves, 7“Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming. Who but God alone can forgive sins?” 8Jesus immediately knew in his mind what they were thinking to themselves, so he said, “Why are you thinking such things in your hearts? 9Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, pick up your mat and walk’? 10But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth”—11he said to the paralytic, “I say to you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home.” 12He rose, picked up his mat at once, and went away in the sight of everyone. They were all astounded and glorified God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this.”

Faith and Intercession

In Capernaum, the reputation of Jesus as a healer spread fast. News traveled fast through the “gossip network.” So when it became known that he was at home (probably in Simon’s house), people flocked to the house, some bringing with them their sick. People then believed that only God could heal; they would see Jesus as God’s “broker,” the dispenser of God’s favor.

Mark mentions “mat” (“bed” in Matthew and Luke) and the “(thatched) roof” (“tiles” in Luke), harking back to the original Palestinian setting where many people were poor. The paralytic is carried by a group of friends. The evangelist notes: “When Jesus saw their faith…” The four friends show confidence and loyalty to Jesus (the basic meaning of “faith”). They trust that Jesus will heal their friend.

The person usually requests for healing or miracle as an act of faith in the power of Jesus. Or Jesus himself inquires about the person’s faith as a condition for the requested miracle. But faith is here shown by the four companions of the paralytic. We are not even sure if the paralytic has faith in Jesus or has simply played along with his friends so as not to offend them by belittling their concern for his welfare. At any rate, Jesus takes into account not just the faith of the paralytic (if he had any) but also the faith of his friends. This tells us that the power of intercession is real and decisive!

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