"Perhaps we would obtain a more vivid impression of our Lord's personality and of his character if Luke had described this scene from the point of view of the sinners at table with Jesus in addition to telling us of the highly critical attitude expressed in the comments of the learned scribes and religiously observant Pharisees. Had he done that he might well have added such words as these: "Tax collectors and sinners upon hearing Jesus as he preached were so impressed with his warmth and the friendly message he so simply and winningly conveyed that they eagerly invited him to share a meal with them. They wanted to know more about him and his message. At table they hoped to hear at greater length what he had to say about God of whom he spoke so naturally and who displayed such familiar spontaneity as he referred to God as his Father. They wished to know better this person so friendly who could speak of such serious matters with a captivating charm. He caused them to feel a new kind of self-respect by his whole manner of treating them. He made them interested for the first time in religious teachings that were presented not as burdensome prescriptions of law but rather as a more appealing, more worthy way of life. In his presence these hardened men no longer felt despised by someone they recognized as being highly intelligent and cultivated with a new kind of learning in the Torah that caused them to recognize that he was somehow more concerned for their welfare than in imposing observances." (Abbot John Eudes Bamberger)
There is a perspective presented here that draws our attention and compassion onto that of the sinners who ate with Jesus. In doing this, Eudes succeeds in highlighting some ways that we as followers of Christ are called to imitate the way of our Lord through humility and compassion. We are presented with the opportunity to reflect upon the way that we share Christ and encounter the truth of our own inner state. Do we share the love of our Lord? Do we act with compassion? Are we quick to judge and label others as sinners--before first looking at ourselves? Through the eyes of others do we appear as self-righteous hypocrites or do we truly show Jesus? It can be suggested that the most effective part of our journey as followers of Christ is striving to be "Christ-like".
Today's first reading reminds us of the unavoidable reality of God's judgement....
"Why then do you judge your brother or sister?
Or you, why do you look down on your brother or sister?
For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God; "
It is dangerous to place ourselves in a position of superiority to others as if to appoint ourselves to the judgement seat of God. We must set our gaze upon our own affairs being harsh to examine our own deeds and recognize our own inadequacies and lack of faith. We should be so busy striving toward the Lord in love with a fullness of devotion and repentance, thus leaving little time to regard the faults of others.
We must be humble, seeing ourselves and our own affairs before we condemn. Let us love our neighbour through all faults, gently guiding them along a path by our witness that we too attempt to walk.
Like the Sinners who saw Jesus as a man of love and compassion, so too should we strive to share the love of our Lord and not concern ourselves with condemning and judging our bothers and sisters. We must take the time to know our faith, take the time to recognize that it is not a collection of "burdensome prescriptions of law", but rather a way of attaining life. Perhaps many would be more apt to embracing religious observances if they witnessed the authentic freedom and living joy of those who follow the Lord.
"This man welcomes sinners and eats with them" May we pray for the humility to see ourselves among the sinners, understanding that it is only by the grace of God and His mercy that we can acquire holiness. May we strive each day to "imitate Christ" sharing the love of God and being true examples of Who it is we follow. (C.C.)