31st Week in Ordinary Time
This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.
Jesus certainly knew how to stir up trouble: hang around with sinners. Worse yet: eat with them. This scandalized faithful, law-abiding Jews like these Pharisees and scribes. Their identity as God’s chosen people set them apart from the nations around them. So fraternizing with wrongdoers would make them—and Jesus—unclean. But Jesus wasn’t trying to anger people or violate purity codes; he wanted people to understand the vastness of God’s plan. Jesus had come to share his Father’s love with everyone.
Jesus’ mission to reach out to people who are ignored or shunned has continued in the lives of Christians over the centuries. In fact, this sacrificial love for the outcast and the poor became one of the defining characteristics of the early Church. Tertullian (AD 160–225) expressed this pagan observation: “It is mainly the deeds of a love so noble that lead many to put a brand upon us. See, they say, how they love one another. . . . See, they say about us, how they are ready even to die for one another.”
In today’s first reading (Luke 15:2), St. Paul reminds us that “none of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself” (Romans 14:7). Our call remains the same, whether in the first century or the twenty-first. We were created to reach out to other people. We are fully alive only to the extent that we strive to be men and women for others.
How do you deal with the “unpopular” people God puts in your path? This could mean a homeless person or someone else society looks down on. Or it could be someone you just prefer to avoid: someone who needs a ride, and helping them would inconvenience you. Someone with a difficult personality, and spending time with them requires a great amount of patience.
Perhaps the best thing to do in these situations is to take just one more step forward. Go ahead and do that uncomfortable or inconvenient thing that you are resisting. Go ahead and pay the cost. You’ll never regret obeying God’s command to live in love. Because as you reach out in this way, you’ll meet Jesus.
“Lord, help me to take that one step forward to reach out to someone today.”
Psalm 27:1, 4, 13-14
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