Common of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?
Today begins the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, and today’s Gospel (Mark 2:16) is a wonderful way to start!
Try to picture the scene here. Jesus and his disciples are eating in the courtyard of Levi’s house. But his opponents can’t understand why. How could he be sharing a table with tax collectors and other “undesirables”? Doesn’t he believe the teachings of the Torah that call Israelites to separate themselves from the unclean?
What do you think is on Jesus’ mind? Could it be possible that he is wishing with all his heart that his detractors could join them for dinner? It might be hard to imagine in this situation, but that has always been Jesus’ vision. He wants everyone around his table! He wants us all to be united in love and brotherhood. In fact, his final prayer before his crucifixion was “that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you” (John 17:21).
When we think of our brothers and sisters in other denominations, we probably aren’t like these Pharisees who opposed Jesus. We don’t shun them or put them down. But there are still walls between us and other churches. Some of those walls were built centuries ago through schisms and religious wars. Some were built by years of ignorance and false assumptions. And some walls arose simply because we find it uncomfortable to step outside of our comfort zones. But there is no wall that Jesus can’t pull down.
During this week, make a commitment to unite your prayers with Jesus’ prayer for unity. Perhaps each day, you could pick a different theme for your prayer. For example, today you could pray for a greater openness to dialogue between churches. So much has already been accomplished, but much work remains. Tomorrow, you could pray for an end to mistrust. On Monday, pray that people will see the good in other churches and learn from them. You might even pray for your own relationships with other Christians.
Don’t discount your prayers because you’re just one person. Remember, people all around the world are praying with you!
“Lord, bring your Church together so that everyone can join you at your banquet table!”
1 Samuel 9:1-4, 17-19; 10:1