Yesterday, just before Mass ended, as a kind of addendum to the homily, our priest shared with us some thoughts he’d had as he prepared his homily on Jesus’ calling of Matthew the Tax Collector. Father said he’d been struck by the thought that no Christian church, including the Catholic Church, treated sinners like Jesus did Matthew and the people he shared a meal with in Matthew’s house that day. There was no condemnation. Jesus joined in a meal with those who were considered the most public of sinners in that day and culture. There was no suggestion that these sinners had to somehow make themselves acceptable before Jesus would dine with them. Jesus acknowledges their sins, but only when He reminds the Pharisees that God is looking for mercy, not sacrifice.
Father went on to make an extremely impassioned statement, that as long as he was pastoring our parish there would be nothing condemnatory from either the diocese or the Church printed in the bulletin or spoken in the homily. He got a round of applause from about half the congregation present.
I thought it a laudatory sentiment, although somewhat vague. Condemnation of what…abortion? Homosexuality? Adultery?
Did Jesus sit down to eat with the various sinners to validate who and what they were, lifestyle-wise? Doesn’t Jesus readily point out that they have something wrong with them, that they need the Physician they’re eating with?
I also thought about human beings and how we prefer forgiveness of sin to change. How we love to turn the seventy times seven in our own directions instead.
Now, I’m all for throwing wide the doors and saying everyone is welcome. But don’t we need to make the point, up front, that once you encounter Christ, He will change you forever. Come just as you are, but don’t expect to stay that way. Wasn’t Jesus simply making the point that in God’s eyes, tax collectors and Pharisees were indistinguishable?