Last night as I drove home from work a particular Gospel reading started bouncing around in my brain. I couldn’t tell you off hand which Gospel it was from but I could hear Jesus’ words clearly; he came for the sinners the “sick.”
This morning I logged online and read the readings for today:
Jesus saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at the customs post.
He said to him, “Follow me.”
And leaving everything behind, he got up and followed him.
Then Levi gave a great banquet for him in his house,
and a large crowd of tax collectors
and others were at table with them.
The Pharisees and their scribes complained to his disciples, saying,
“Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”
Jesus said to them in reply,
“Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do.
I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners.”
Ah, yes, Holy Spirit, once again you have my attention. We are all sinners, we are all “sick” in our fallen state. But, we must not forget our need for Jesus in times when we are “well” nor the sacraments either.
In today’s world we have a huge emphasis on “preventative medicine.” Most insurers cover at least annual physicals, pap smears, regular checks for prostate, breast and colon cancers and any variety of screenings: cholesterol, blood pressure etc. The idea being that with regular maintanance, doctors will find issues sooner or early signs and be able to stop events before they even start.
I remember an older friend once telling me that when life was well, she would sometimes find herself neglecting prayer outside of her weekly Mass commitment. She wouldn’t even think of Sacred Scripture and Confession was the furthest thing from her mind. And then the bottom would drop out and she would humbly, hat in hand, find her way back into a more regular routine with Jesus, acknowledging that her low state reminded her of her total reliance on God for everything.
It is true that the Church is a field hospital, as Pope Francis says and equally true that Jesus came for the sinners. And I can see where I relate to what my friend was saying. At times when all things are good, it is sometimes easy to “forget” why that is.
My Lent is starting off better than any I’ve had in years. We made it to Ash Wednesday Mass and no one was sick. I’ve been keeping my fasts and they are seeming deceptively easy for some reason and feeling very engaged in new spirtual practices. It feels so easy, but that Gospel bouncing in my head last night kept my feet on the ground, “Keep doing it Kristen, keep it up,” the Holy Spirit seemed to say, “you feel ‘well’ but the sickness of sin lies just under the surface and if you neglect Him, it was rise up.”
Just like regular visits to my doctor will help me to prevent issues in my physical health, so regular reception of the sacraments, reading of scripture and prayer help fight against spiritual ailments. I think of Blessed Mother Teresa who kept going despite such spiritual dryness. I will never be so well that I do not need Jesus. Even if everything feels as though it is going “right,” that deception of “feeling well” will only be a temporary mask over the eventual illness if I neglect God in my life.
When God and Satan talked about God’s servant Job, Satan said Job faithfulness to God only happened because Job’s life was going well and that if God took it all away, Job would falter. We seem to have the opposite problem in our lives today. Today Satan tries to steal us from God by making us feel as though we do not need God when times are good and that we, not God, are sometimes responsible for the good things in our lives, and it is only when God removes them that we are humbled by our reliance on Him.
Jesus came for the sinners, all of us, and we should not forget that in the times when life seems to be all above the board. It is then that we should cling harder and persist, not to keep that bad times away but to be able to say, as Job did,
Naked I came forth from my mother’s womb,f
and naked shall I go back there.*
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
Blessed be the Lord!”
We are never as well as we seem or feel, we need Jesus for preventative, as well as emergency, care.