The strict practitioners of religion complain once again that Jesus welcomes sinners and eats with them. They probably deride him, whispering to each other, “You cannot take him to any banquet.”
But again, too, Jesus does not back down; he doubles down instead on his resolve to carry out an important aspect of his mission, which he has already enunciated earlier:
Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do. I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners.
Jesus affirms this mission when Simon the Pharisee, who has invited him to dinner, starts to doubt him at seeing that he lets a female public sinner touch him. He is not beholden to his host. He even denounces the host, another Pharisee, who is amazed that his guest does not wash before eating.
Clearly, Jesus is not an ambitious politician who does not dare express an opinion opposed to that held by someone who is entertaining him. The Teacher does not give in either to “friends” who cannot bear the presence of “unclean” people in a banquet.
Jesus is also unlike not a few of us. Too worried perhaps about our own “nice person” image, we keep quiet in the presence of acquaintances who are being influenced by rich candidates who play on citizens’ anger and fear, and call for the building of walls, not of bridges.
Jesus is the presence of the invisible God who celebrates a sinner’s return with a banquet. He makes clear, moreover, that to be feted with a banquet is not a matter of merits or demerits, of whether one is the older son, faithful and hardworking from the first hour, or the wayward and lazy younger son who is the last to go to work.
That is to say, the banquet is due only to the Father’s grace, goodness and mercy. To think we deserve to be lavished with a banquet, while the marginalized sinners do not, is to fail “to refer it all to God from whom all good comes,” to quote St. Vincent de Paul (SV.FR XI:340).
And if such thinking is not to try to rebuild the wall of separation between Jews and Gentiles already torn down by Christ, it surely is living in a bubble of vanity and banquets. It makes us examine others, which is not what St. Paul tells us, for he teaches:
A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup.
Lord, grant us to understand and live the teaching, “The Eucharist … is not a prize for the perfect but a … nourishment for the weak” (EG 47) on the way to justification.
March 6, 2016
4th Sunday of Lent (C)
Jos 5, 9a. 10-12; 2 Cor 5, 17-20; Lk 15, 1-3. 11-32