Good News for the Day, January 13, 2018
Saturday of the First Week in Ordinary Time (310)

Jesus went out walking along the sea. A significant crowd came to him and he would teach them. As he was passing by once, He saw Levi, Alphaeus’s son, sitting at the tax collecting office. Jesus said to him, “Follow me.” He got up and followed Jesus. While Jesus was eating dinner in Levi’s house later, some tax collectors and other people with bad reputations were sitting by Jesus and his followers; for many such people followed him. Some educated Pharisees saw that Jesus was eating alongside disreputable people and tax collectors and asked his followers, “Why does he eat alongside tax collectors and such scandalous people?” Jesus overheard them and addressed them, “Healthy people do not need a physician, sick ones do. I have not come to call people who are all right, but ones who have gone astray—sinners.” (Mark 2)

It seems clear that Jesus attracted “bad guys.”  Tax-collectors earned their living by enforcement—Rome required a certain amount of money, and an official tax collector could call on the Roman military to collect it—plus whatever he himself could “skim.” “Sinners” meant public sinners in some sense—You might think “sexual harassers,” women thought to sleep around, people who lie or exaggerate about their accomplishments, sullen, angry, ranting men (and women), arrogant or snobby people of wealth, the lazy and foul-mouthed. The unlikable sort. The one you and I tend to look down on, and judge in our hearts. Maybe just the real people you don’t like.

The Good News challenges you to associate with such people, to count ourselves as one of them, and admit that you and I have faults that—to some—make us to them arrogant, or stubborn or stupid—or self-righteous. A follower of Jesus is just not (self-)righteous, not a judge of others.

You and I are “with Jesus” in daily living—not as superior and morally perfect people, but as human beings who want to love and be loved—reaching out to our equals, seeing brothers and sisters, no matter how repulsed, judgmental or hurt we may feel. The person at peace with God, our Father, knows that every sinner—including yourself—is a potential saint, someone like yourself, needing to be loved, forgiven, comforted, understood as best we can. It is in and with such an attitude—such a Spirit—that true joy and the celestial banquet of mutual nourishment becomes real. There lies true happiness.

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