Franciscan Spirit Blog

Lent with the Saints: Levi (Matthew) the Tax Collector

Lent with the Saints

Isaiah 58:9b–14; Psalm 86:1–2, 3–4, 5–6; Luke 5:27–32

Luke—and Mark—tell us the story of Levi, a tax collector whom Jesus calls as a follower in today’s Gospel passage. Levi promptly throws a party for Jesus. More tax collectors and others show up as well, prompting criticism from the Pharisees and scribes. Their disapproval draws one of Jesus’ most important responses: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:31–32).

Why did Levi not get numbered among the disciples of Jesus whose stories are told in the Gospel, such as Peter, Andrew, James, and John? We don’t know. In Matthew’s Gospel the evangelist (who was probably not the apostle Matthew) borrowed the story from Mark and changed Levi’s name to “Matthew.” Scholars suggest that the evangelist possibly wanted to match up this dramatic story of the conversion of a tax collector with “Matthew, the tax collector” who appears in all the listings of apostles.

This bit of biblical trivia is less important than the lesson Jesus gives. The Gospels are full of stories where Jesus meets and dines with sinners. In doing so, he overturned the expectations of “religious” people and proclaimed the reign of God through mercy and forgiveness. We are welcome in the company of Jesus, even though we are sinners.

Today’s Action

When in your life have you been called by Jesus to follow him? Recall your own vocation story.


God of forgiveness, surprise us today with the call to a change of heart.
May we hear the voice of Jesus inviting us to follow him.

Brotherhood of Saints

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