October 7 – Saturday of the Eighteenth Week after Pentecost (3rd of Luke) Luke 5:27-32
Wisdom’s Children, continued – Tax Collectors and Sinners: Luke 5:27-32, especially vs. 32: “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” Wisdom’s children, we have seen, are those who strive to keep the words of the Lord Jesus (Mk 3:34-35). Since the Lord is wise, the obedient disciple is joined to a “great cloud of witnesses” (Heb 12:1), which includes everyone who knows and loves the Savior, manifesting the depth of the riches of His wisdom (see Rom 11:33).
Levi, also called Matthew, was such a man, for when the Lord calls him away from his lucrative and rapacious tax-collecting business, he obeys. “He left all, rose up, and followed Him” (Lk 5:28). Levi’s example highlights the key facet of our obedience to the Lord Jesus: it entails repentance. To obey Him is to repent, which is ever the hallmark of Wisdom’s children.
Let us not miss what is at stake in such repentance, for Levi changes his occupation, his morals, his way of life, and his eternal destiny when he answers the Lord’s call. In the original Greek, the word “repentance” appears as metanoia. Literally, this word means “to change the nous or deep center of the heart.” Repentance is thus to reform the inner core of ourselves.
In English, the root of the word repentance is “penitence.” However, repentance in Christ is not merely a sorrowful act of personal recognition – a matter of hanging our heads in grief. Sorrow is only a first and minor part of the change.
Let us carefully how Levi’s life changes when he follows our Lord. First, Levi “left all” (vs. 28). We should not assume, from this statement, that he suddenly abandons everything. Yes, he arises from his usual place at the tax office and becomes a disciple, training full-time under the Lord Jesus. However, he first holds a great feast for the Lord Jesus with his fellow tax-collectors at his home (vs. 29).
Levi did not leave at once but began withdrawing, bit by bit, from his former life. First he left his occupation, then his home, and finally even his native land. Holy Tradition records that as Saint Matthew he preached in Parthia (Iran) and Ethiopia. By becoming a disciple, he gave up much. God, however, replaced these losses with the inestimable riches of His Kingdom and a victor’s crown!
We too have answered the call of Christ, the Wisdom of God. We began dropping our former values to follow Wisdom more fully. Much of this “leaving” required by true repentance is actually interior. We may let go of relationships, jobs, places, and even thoughts – it is an ongoing inward process.
Saint Paul says of himself, “When I became a man, I put away childish things” (1 Cor 13:11). The process takes time. Tragically, for some of us followers, the point may come when the cost of letting go seems too great. May this never happen to us, so that we never go away sorrowfully (Mt 19:22). We must not hold too tightly to things of this world, for the Wisdom of God is calling. He is too valuable ever to lose!
Levi discovered that when Wisdom confronts a person, a fork appears in the road of life. Indeed, in Christ, we are free to choose our direction. Wisdom faithfully points out the right way, free from error, for us to follow at each milestone. The “old man” (Eph 4:22) in us often longs to to follow the old deceitful path of desires and indulgence, but our task is to follow where Wisdom leads, always!
Levi invites his fellow tax collectors to dine with Wisdom, so that He might heal them as well. Many around us are sick, but some are ready to risk change to gain genuine health. Let us invite them into our banquet halls where the Wisdom of God is found: the Divine Liturgy.
Grant, O Lord, that we may complete the remaining time of our life in repentance. – Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom