Can you imagine being invited to someone’s home for an evening meal and then find yourself being criticized for the way you eat your food by the very host who welcomed you? It might very well make you wonder why you were invited in the first place!
Our Gospel passage today presents a very interesting moment in the life and public ministry of Jesus. Luke tells us that after Jesus had spoken, a Pharisee invited him to dine at his home. As the Gospel reading yesterday portrayed for us, Jesus had just spoken to a large crowd of people and surely some of those in the crowd were Pharisees. They heard him say that, “This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah.” If I was told that I was part of an evil generation how would that make me feel? I am not so sure I would want to invite Jesus to my home for a meal unless I had some ulterior motive. Yet, Jesus accepted the invitation, never wanting to miss an opportunity to set those so terribly bound by mere observance of the law free. But his host missed the chance of a lifetime and could only fall back on criticizing Jesus because he did not observe the ritual of washing before the meal itself. He missed the freeing love of Jesus who was there with him at table. What a great loss!
Paul tells us in our first reading from Galatians that only faith working through love is what matters and that for freedom Christ set us free. Today’s scripture readings are a wonderful reminder that we, like the Pharisee, can invite the Lord into our home, to welcome him as we gather around our table for a meal. But the freedom he brings will only be ours if we are willing to welcome him in trusting faith and selfless love, something our Pharisee friend could not do.
Fr. Pat Brennan, C.P. is the director of St. Paul of the Cross Passionist Retreat and Conference Center in Detroit, Michigan.