Having 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