Saturday, 1/14/17: Don’t Be Brainless

zombiesHaving been raised not to talk to strangers, not to believe everything I hear and to know what I’m getting into before signing on the dotted line, I’ve always had a hard time with the notion that the early followers of Jesus simply dropped everything and came running the first time that He beckoned. I mean seriously, who does that? Who has that level of blind faith? Don’t get me wrong, it’s laudable and all, but I can’t help wondering if some of these folks were simply nuts or if there is a bit more to the story than the gospel writers are telling us.

I suspect it is the latter, but taken at face value, I always picture the whole thing going down like one of those 1950’s B-grade horror films in which the central character puts some kind of spell over the other individuals and they follow blindly behind him, with their arms outstretched and a dazed look on their faces as if they are part of the walking “undead.” Let’s face it, this visual doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence and if that sort of thing happened in the 21st Century, we would assume someone had been brainwashed and we’d organize an intervention to try and snap him or her out of it.

As the type of person who has to read at least five reviews before deciding which movie to see, must research product developments before selecting a pair of tennis shoes and who generally overanalyzes every aspect of her life before making a decision, I have a hard time believing that Levi (Matthew) simply turned his back on his career in the middle of tax season to follow a traveling preacher without conducting the most basic of background checks.

In all likelihood, he didn’t. Now, I wasn’t there of course, but I am pretty sure we can all agree that Levi was not a stupid guy. Though he was the low man on the social pecking order, he wasn’t dumb. He had a head for numbers and most likely would have been the type of guy to check his work before submitting a final invoice so to speak. True, he would not have corrected an error in his favor, but he wasn’t going to gamble where his own finances were concerned. Maybe he heard about Jesus’ reputation prior to their meeting. Perhaps he was in attendance as Jesus was teaching and liked what He had to say. Who knows, maybe a friend of a friend saw the five-scroll review written by Peter and said, “You gotta check this guy out!” (I’m kidding of course, but you get my point.)

It seems to me that Levi may have been looking to make a change in his life and when Jesus happened to be in the right place at the right time, he went for it. Isn’t that what we do? I suspect he was contemplating a career change for a while and needed the right person to come along and help set everything in motion. Although it may have looked as though he were a brain-dead zombie following along in a cloud of confusion, I have serious doubts that Levi acted on the level of blind faith that is implied in today’s gospel. He invited Jesus over for dinner. He introduced Him to his friends and if I had to guess, I’d wager he asked the hard questions over the main course. Perhaps he got Jesus’ take on current events, politics and religion before deciding whether or not he could work with the charismatic Nazarene. Maybe he slept on it for a few days. Maybe he second-guessed himself. We don’t know because Mark doesn’t go into that part. Mark merely says he followed.

While Christ wants us to answer in the affirmative when He calls us; He doesn’t want our abject submission. He knows we have questions. He knows we have been thinking about this for a while. He knows we want to make changes. He knows we want to make the right move and although He doesn’t want to be put to the test, He wants us to have all of the information we need so that we can go forward with confidence. Naturally sometimes what we think we need and what He is willing to give us are two different things, but He does not ask for blind faith. He gave us our brains and He expects us to use them.

In this season when we strive to make changes in our lives, let us conduct the due diligence necessary to go forward with confidence and be willing to follow where Christ wants to lead. The two are not mutually exclusive but work in concert to bring His plan to fruition for all of His people in this world and in the next.

Today’s readings for Mass: HEB 4:12-16; PS 19: 8, 9,10, 15; MK 2:13-17

About the Author

Julie Young is an award-winning writer and author from Indianapolis, Indiana in the USA, whose work has been seen in Today’s Catholic Teacher, The Catholic Moment, and National Catholic Reporter. She is the author of nine books including: A Belief in Providence: A Life of Saint Theodora Guerin, The CYO in Indianapolis and Central Indiana and The Complete Idiot's Guide to Catholicism. She is a graduate of Scecina Memorial High School in Indianapolis and holds degrees in writing and education from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College. She can be found online at www.julieyoungfreelance.com

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10 Comments

  1. Thanks Julie for the wonderful sharing of today’s Gospel. This reflection reminds me that Jesus’ love is never end for me and for you.. Jesus speaks up to us through the story of Levi.. Levi is one of the famous person in the gospel who changes his life completely and follow Jesus to the place where he could find happiness in a spiritual way of life. However, I love this story indeed, it also encourages me to do what is right and follow him to the place where I could find happiness of heaven here on earth.

    May the blessings of the Lord be upon you and your family always!

  2. Thank you Julie for your reflection but I think you may have overlooked one vital aspect.
    Jesus Christ is like nobody who shares our human race – before his physical form appeared on the earth or since he left us. He is the Word made Flesh and God himself in human form and although we can’t see him, he shares every moment of our lives. Jesus has a radiance and a magnetism that is impossible for us to understand, probably because we are “victims” of our own life’s circumstances.
    And Jesus brought Levi (Matthew) and everyone else he chose into his discipleship through his love and his grace (ie God’s love and God’s grace) and I believe with utter spontaneity.
    Jesus has touched me – and probably you too – in exactly the same way.
    Peace and Blessings
    Frank Callinan
    Brisbane, Australia

  3. Julie, I have the same thought like yours. Since the beginning of Mark Gospel this week’s readings, Jesus has been preaching/teaching about God’s kingdom, I guess Levi is aware of this and has been reflecting on it. Jesus being the Word discerns every heart and thoughts because He knows every man (John 2:25) as we read in Heb. 4:12 today. I assert that those who hear and are touched will definitely follow when He calls them.

    Thanks Julie, it is an awesome insight you have presented. God bless.

  4. Julie
    As usual you join humor, common sense and faith in your reflections. I have a slightly different take being one whose life path started as a cradle Catholic, strayed from the path and was called back by a single event and a single person. I did not plan to give up my sinful ways. I met a priest purely by accident who simply said God loves you you are a good man! I was struck almost like being hit by lightening and followed. The change was not instantaneous but the path was clear. I am still trying to reach the goal.
    So maybe the same thing happened to Levi, he got up followed, sometime erred, but continued following, that is my take. God Bless you Julie you always make my day

  5. Julie
    As usual you join humor, common sense and faith in your reflections. I have a slightly different take being one whose life path started as a cradle Catholic, strayed from the path and was called back by a single event and a single person. I did not plan to give up my sinful ways. I met a priest purely by accident who simply said God loves you you are a good man! I was struck almost like being hit by lightening. So maybe the same thing happened to Levi, he got up followed, sometime erred, but continued following, that is my take. God Bless you Julie you always make my day

  6. Thanks Julie, for your candid and somewhat humorous reflection. It was wonderfully poignant and refreshing, while gradually leading our minds to our own current situations regarding taking the leap, if you will, with Jesus.

  7. Nice read Julie. Alway nice to inject a little humor. We humans are funny. I wonder about those Apostles all threw out the gospels. Sometimes I think “What a bunch of knuckle heads”. The Apostles did not truly understand what Jesus’ mission was about until after the resurrection and Pentecost Sunday. Jesus being human and Devine had to have had a good sense of humor too. Keep up the good work!

  8. Hi Julie, excellent commentary; the way I see it is first of all, Matt is very succinct, in his writing he doesn’t get into details and like in the movies as you can see, there’s a lot of details that are left out. Now I’m sure you know of cases in which a man meets a woman and is so enchanted by her that immediately he falls in love with her, pursues her, get married and grow old together (it happens a lot), and remember that Jesus is the “great lover”. None of the apostles was 100% convinced about Jesus been the “Son of God”, only after the resurrection and Pentecost their doubts disappeared. If we believe that God created the whole universe, then why doubt that he could transform us in a flash? Nothing is impossible with God.

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