WHY DOES HE EAT WITH DISREPUTABLE OFFICIALS AND SINNERS? Jesus went where the problems were and confronted them head on. He was not one to play it safe when it came to carrying out his mission. He knew very well that such a direct approach to outsiders and have-nots would get him into trouble with the authorities. To many of the respectable people it would seem that their leaders had reason to complain about his over-free style, especially when he gave the impression that abiding by accepted practices of long-standing was really not so very important. Their position was made all the more difficult by the fact that on any number of occasions he displayed a serious respect for the law as they taught it. When he healed the lepers, for example, as St. Mark tells us in the chapter preceding the present text, he sent them to the priests to be examined as a way of acknowledging their rights and privileges.
Our Lord's behavior shows the need for each of us his followers to learn from his example how important it is for us to be able to discern in the concrete just what the requirements of the Father's will demand of us. Circumstances and the character and dispositions of the persons we deal with as well as our own capacity give us indications as to how we are to practice charity toward God and neighbor. There is no substitute for our having the inner freedom and self- knowledge requisite for efficacious service to others. A sincere desire to discover God's will and to please him is also basic for a suitable fashion of responding to the opportunities offered by events so as to give of our self rather than subtly work for our own gratification.
Our Lord here, as in any number of other instances, is able to act freely and to give a simple and reasonable account of his motives. So reasonable, in fact, that one can counter it only by making oneself ridiculous. Who can argue with his reply to his critics in this instance? "It is not the healthy who need a physician, but the sick. I did not come to call the just but sinners to repentance."
We are grateful, Lord, that you came for us who are indeed sinners. What would happen to us if you did not invite those who need healing and who are weak to sit at table with and dine with you? Even though we are considered to be among the respectable and the healthy we know how profound is our need for your healing and for the nourishment you offer us in this Eucharist. Grant that we prove worthy of your invitation to partake of this meal with you by deeds of kindness to all, and by showing a special consideration to the poor, the marginal and those who are scorned by their neighbors. We have received your mercy, Lord, may we ever share it with those most in need.
Abbot John Eudes Bamberger
© Abbey of the Genesee
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