When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” –Matthew 9:11
They say you can gain a sense of a person by the company they keep. Who among us has not felt a little pride when we have met or even shared bread with a celebrity or person of note? In our parishes, “Dinner with Father” is often auctioned off with great success at fundraisers. I still remember shaking John Glenn’s hand at an event over 20 years ago, and yet often I cannot remember the name of someone I was introduced to 15 minutes later. We place great store on the reputation of others and how it might rub off (for good or bad) on us.
I imagine this was something of what the Pharisees had in mind when they questioned Jesus’ disciples. They must have been flabbergasted that Jesus chose to eat with outsiders and the marginalized when he could choose to eat with the rich and famous (them). Instead, Jesus’ answer was simple: ‘This is what I came to do’. And, as always, Jesus calls us to do the same. Who are the “tax collectors and sinners” in our lives with whom we can break bread? Not just sinners in the traditional sense, but possibly our own family or friends who have “trespassed against us?” Can we find in our hearts the space to invite in those we marginalize?
But to go even deeper, are there parts of ourselves that need healing? Have we declared some parts of who we are to be outsiders and shunned them? Earlier in Matthew Jesus calls us to “be perfect, as your Father in Heaven is perfect.” The Greek word teleios which is translated as “perfect” can also mean “complete” or “whole.” Are there wounded parts of ourselves that need to be brought back to the table for healing and forgiveness before we can be whole?
Jesus is forever crossing the lines of what we feel is proper conduct. My prayer today is that I have the courage and strength to follow Him across those lines, both outwardly and in myself.
Talib Huff works and volunteers at Christ the King Retreat Center in Citrus Heights. He can be reached at [email protected]