LUKE 15:1-3,11-32

Jesus Called Matthew

THIS MAN WELCOMES SINNERS AND EATS WITH THEM.   Perhaps we would obtain a more vivid impression of our Lord's personality and of his character if Luke had described this scene from the point of view of the sinners at table with Jesus in addition to telling us of the highly critical attitude expressed in the comments of the learned scribes and religiously observant Pharisees.   Had he done that he might well have added such words as these: "Tax collectors and sinners upon hearing Jesus as he preached were so impressed with his warmth and the friendly message he so simply and winningly conveyed that they eagerly invited him to share a meal with them.   They were move by his manner as well as by his word and so sought to know more about him and his teaching.   At table they hoped to hear at greater length what he had to say about God of whom he spoke so naturally, for his winning comments were made with warm and familiar spontaneity as he referred to God as his Father.

These men of affairs with a reputation for being hard hearted, even extorters, proved eager to know better this person so friendly who could speak of such serious matters with such captivating charm.   He caused them to feel a new kind of self-respect by his whole manner of treating them.   He made them interested for the first time in religious teachings that were presented not as burdensome prescriptions of law but rather as a more appealing, more worthy way of life.   In his presence these hardened men no longer felt despised by someone they recognized as being highly intelligent and cultivated, possessing a new kind of learning in the Torah that caused them to recognize that he was somehow more concerned for their welfare than in imposing observances.

Surely, some such attitudes must have been the reaction of these practical men of affairs used to being trerated as outcasts by the religious authorities.   Impressed and attracted by their encounter with so novel and appealing a personality as they recognized in the Lord to be, they did not hesitate to join them for a meal together.   He readily agreed.

Knowing ourselves to be so needy, weak, and so often selfish as to be even sinful before God if not always seen as such by our fellow men and women, we can readily identify with these tax collectors and sinners who showed themselves so receptive to the person of our Lord. Like them we join him at table, though it is he who invites us to this Eucharistic meal he so generously provides for each of us here.   He has paid for it with the costly price of his suffering and death so that by our sharing this meal with him we might become so united in him and be so bound with him as to have ready access to the God whom he lovingly calls His Father.   In inviting us to share this meal with him he enables us also to grow so familiar with our God that we too can know Him as OUR FATHER IN HEAVEN.

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger