In today’s Gospel Our Lord shows an approach to sinners that presents either an innovation or an aberration for the Pharisees: instead of roping sinners off as contaminated and contaminating and socially shunning them, not only for fear of contagion, but in judgment over their behavior, Our Lord actually recruits one and then dines with a score of them. He reminds us today that God works toward reconciliation and healing with the help of others: the flip side of an erroneous attitude of thinking that spiritual matters are strictly between you and God is that logically you won’t get involved in the spiritual matters of others either, since God should sort everything out. The Son was sent by the Father for a reason.
Our Lord not only dines with tax collectors and sinners, but he has his disciples dine with them too. We all need help to be holy. Even hardened sinners need some presence in their life of someone kind, compassionate, and concerned for them: it’s like a ray of light showing the way out of a pit so dark that up can’t be told from down. Many stories of redemption and conversion recount that one person who seemed to be a lighthouse amidst life’s shipwreck that was needed for a rescue. This love has to be firm as well: it’s not a question of putting yourself in range of being exploited by someone, but of being the voice of reason and hope in their life, helping them to see that goodness and holiness are still possible.
Let’s not only pray today for the conversion of sinners, but work for it as well, just as Our Lord has taught us.
Readings: 1 Samuel 9:1–4, 17–19, 10:1; Psalm 21:2–7; Mark 2:13–17. See also St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist.