In today’s readings, Jesus and the Prophet Isaiah ask us to consider: How does God define a healthy community?
Isaiah tells us: a healthy society feeds the hungry, removes oppression, speaks the truth, and takes time for silence and discernment. If we do these things, the Prophet assures us, the “gloom” of our broken world “shall become for [us] like midday.”
Through his interaction with Levi*, Jesus gives us a model of how we, as justice-seekers, are to relate to others. Levi the tax-collector would have been shunned and looked down upon as a collaborator with the occupying Roman government by both the Pharisees and Jesus’ own disciples.
Nevertheless, Levi was called.
The lesson is clear: all are invited to work for justice, even those whom we might not consider the usual suspects or part of our “team.” This message is especially apt in our age of troubled politics. It is so easy to retreat into little circles of people who look, think, and act like us. We can do that and remain comfortable. Or we can try to become “repairers of the breach” in our communities, countries, and world.
One practical piece of important, non-partisan, yet deeply difficult advice comes from Barack Obama in his farewell address: “If you’re tired of arguing with strangers on the internet,” the former president said, “try talking to one in real-life.”
If we want to achieve meaningful change, we must stop hiding behind walls and start building bridges.
*Levi is synonymous with the evangelist and apostle Matthew, depicted above in Caravaggio’s famous painting.
Matt Cuff is the senior policy advisor of the Advocacy Office of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States. He earned his B.A. in theology from Fordham University in the Bronx, New York, and is a graduate of Scranton Preparatory School in Scranton, Pennsylvania.