“They do not deserve to live.” This is one of the most common comments that I read in every news article that is shared on social media involving someone who has committed a crime. I must admit that I was also one of those who quickly criticize them without understanding the real story behind them. Ironically, in 2016, I was employed as a healthcare staff by the Department of Social Welfare and Development to work in an institution that serves hundreds of children in conflict with the law. It was an eye-opener for me, and it made me understand that most of them are simply victims of circumstances, rooted in socioeconomic issues such as extreme poverty and dysfunctional families where they were raised. Their stories then inspired me to be more compassionate and grateful.
The Gospel is a reminder that Jesus came to strengthen me despite my sinfulness. As Jesus said, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do.” Indeed, His mission is to call the lost sheep of His flock.
As a priest-in-process, I am challenged to be merciful and gracious like Jesus. The Pharisees questioned His humility, yet His response clearly mirrored His love for humanity. The same invitation with Levi calls me to continue following in His footsteps no matter how others perceive it. Like Levi, who never asked anything, obedience to Jesus would always be the most important part of the journey.
Being a future shepherd, I am reminded that the Church exists not for the perfect, but for the weak, the lost, and the sinner. As Pope Francis says, “The Church is not a museum of saints, but a hospital for sinners.” I am humbled to be here in the seminary and to be a witness of God’s unfailing love to everyone.
By: Sem. Peter John D. Arao
Jesus went out along the sea.
All the crowd came to him and he taught them.
As he passed by, he saw Levi, son of Alphaeus,
sitting at the customs post.
Jesus said to him, “Follow me.”
And he got up and followed Jesus.
While he was at table in his house,
many tax collectors and sinners sat with Jesus and his disciples;
for there were many who followed him.
Some scribes who were Pharisees saw that Jesus was eating with sinners
and tax collectors and said to his disciples,
“Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
Jesus heard this and said to them,
“Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do.
I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”