Homily January 14th, 2023

Saturday of the First Week of Ordinary Time – Mk 2:13-17

            Today’s Gospel presents us with the call of Saint Matthew, also called Levi. There’s a lot we could say: for instance, notice how, even in the midst of his sinfulness (because tax collectors were considered public sinners), when Jesus comes to him and says, simply, “Follow me,” Matthew gets up and goes. God offers us such a better alternative to sinfulness, loneliness, and the boredom that is vice, that once the offer is made to follow Him, it really makes no sense to reject it. We could also talk about how, once Matthew converted, he didn’t hesitate to bring others to Christ, especially his tax collector friends who wouldn’t have dared to get close to Jesus otherwise. “Like evangelizes like,” as Saint John Paul II said.

            However, and especially on Saturday, when we think of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we can think of how Jesus spoke at the end of today’s Gospel: “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.” In a similar way, we can consider today how Mary is called Refuge of Sinners, as though sinners had a particular right to her maternal affection and intercession.

            According to Saint Alphonsus Liguori, that title, Refugium peccatorum, Refuge of Sinners, goes back to the 8th century. Another priest explains the title this way[1]: “We read that there were, in the Old Law, cities of refuge, to which the guilty, whose crimes had rendered them worthy of death, could flee for safety. In the New Law, the mantle of the Mother of God is like a citadel, wherein sinful souls may find refuge. How can the divine wrath strike us, if we are covered by the mantle of Mary, the chosen daughter and the honored Mother of God? . . . It was the privilege of the Mother of God to be exempt from all sin, original as well as actual; and so the principal grace she accords to her faithful servants is to preserve them from sin. Like a most tender and loving mother, she protects her clients against the fierce onslaughts of the enemy, supporting and guiding them through the thorny pathways of life, and keeping them away from all stumbling-blocks.”

Today then, as we continue our journey through ordinary time, let us pray, through the intercession of Mary, Refuge of Sinners, for the grace to turn to her as our help and refuge in times of need.

[1] Alexis Henri Marie Lepicier, The Fairest Flower of Paradise. Considerations on the Litany of the Blessed Virgin.



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