José Cristo Rey García Paredes CMF, “Teología de las Formas de Vida en la Congregación”, en Misioneros Claretianos, La vocación y misión del misionero hermano. Materiales del encuentro de Vic 2014. Publicaciones Claretianas, Madrid, 2015. Pág. 174-177.
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Image: Caravaggio, «The call of St. Matthew»
Usually, we propose the vocation ministry as a divine selection to those who are close to us: the vocational proposal is made to those who are close, the young people who are part of our groups, our parishes, our institutions. But it is strange and risky to make a vocational proposal to those who are “far away” or “far from the faith”. The vocation ministry of Jesus, however, presents a different pastoral paradigm, which is sometimes ignored. What about the encounter of Jesus with Levi, and his call?
Jesus approached those who were distant from religion and Jewish nationalism. He broke the religious and political conventions, and entered in a dangerous terrain. A certain Levi was seated there, collecting tax from the impoverished people of God for the Roman Empire. Probably there were other tax collectors there; but Jesus only looked at him. Jesus was establishing the community of his followers. Surely, someone would dissuade him from this in that context nowadays. However, Jesus approaches who is distant, stares at him, and commanded: “Follow me!”
Strangely, the reaction of Levi was immediate and radical: “He rose up and left everything following him”. Levi probably was an inexperienced man, a religious illiterate who had to learn everything. Because of his goodwill and gratitude, he organized a big feast; in this way, he wanted to offer it to Jesus and as a farewell to his own. Therefore, he invited his colleagues and other people that were close to him, but who, like him, were distant from the religious system of Israel.
The reaction of the religious group were very critical and indirect. They did not dare to question Jesus; they questioned his disciples, who were led by the actions of Jesus: “Why do you eat and drink with tax-collectors and sinners?” It is as if they said, what could be obtained from a human group like that of publicans and sinners? The community would be signed by the presence of this kind of people in it. However, Jesus immediately warns of criticism and comes out defending his action. It is a vocational and therapeutic meal: eating and drinking with sinners heals them, converts them and put Levi in an authentic vocational path.
What for such parable in action! It is a story that generates other stories. Jesus knows that certain signs of choice and communion are dangerous and risky because they destabilize the system; but he does not back out.
Sometimes in the Church, we miss new vocations for the different forms of Christian life and ministry; but we seldom dare to look at those who are no part of our system, as Jesus did with Levi. We rarely enter into their world in order to offer them possibilities of conversion, and a change of mind.
How can we be called community of Jesus, if we are the Church that does not make communion with the sinners as Jesus did? Perhaps we could find here a way of “new evangelization”; a path that many of us –more identified with the group of Pharisees and doctors of the law– have not condescended to travel. Jesus approaches those who are distant. Sometimes we move away from them. Jesus looks for the lost sheep, while sometimes we consider it already lost.
Eating with those brothers and sisters who have not good reputation, those who do not take into account our moral or legal norms, those excluded from our system, should not be considered as a crime, as something reprehensible. Everything is different when we see things as Jesus did. Closeness, conviviality is a healing medicine that makes people think differently, making them accessible to the commitment to the kingdom of God.
Why do not we think about the vocation ministry in this way? A vocation ministry for those who are “far away” of us?
Jesus, how incomprehensible are your signs for many of us. We are afraid to pollute ourselves, to loose good reputation or prestige, to be criticized by our own group. It is because of this that we prefer to meet and commune with people that seem to be right and not problematic. Give us your Spirit of freedom and audacity so that our actions will tell your parables in action.
The vocation proposal to young people who are “far from us” could start with the parable of the Good Samaritan, but in action throughout a Samaritan experience, which could conclude by saying, «go and do you the same”.
Why are we narrating this vocational story in an encounter of Missionary Brothers? Just to make you to think!