A Case of Mistaken Identity
“Meanwhile tax collectors and sinners
were seeking the company of Jesus, all of them eager
to hear what he had to say. But the Pharisees and the
Scribes frowned at this, muttering. "This man welcomes
sinners and eats with them.”
(Saint Luke 15.2)
we encounter the hypocritical
judgments of the Pharisees and the Scribes in this Gospel reading.
Their attitude is the complete opposite to that of Jesus. Their
reaction to the presence of so-called sinners and tax collectors
was judgment that condemned; Jesus' attitude
was one of love that redeemed.
In Jesus' time a “sinner” was one who was not within the Covenant,
a pagan who did not observe God's will, particularly as expressed
in the Law.
The tax collector was despised and equated with public sinners because
of his link with the pagan occupying power and his frequent extortion.
Because of this he was kept at a distance by every Jewish observer
of the Law.
The Pharisees and Scribes self-righteously condemned the tax collectors
and sinners, looking only at the externals, because indeed, the
externals were all that they could ever hope to perceive.
Had they truly been men of prayer they would have seen
into the hearts of men.
Jesus could see into the souls of these “sinners”, whose real sin
was that of greed, an idolatry of wealth and money. He saw
them as people to be liberated, redeemed, people to be called away
from false idols to the worship of His Father.
His knowledge of man was liberating, the
Pharisee’s knowledge was binding.
There is a great lesson in all this: Our learning
should always be at the service of love, without a
practical application, learning can be useless and dead.
It is also very humbling to see that often those outside Holy
Mother Church, the pagans, the heretics, the schismatics, are sometimes
more receptive to God’s Word and more readily assent to Truth than
our own episcopacy, our bishops, cardinals, priests, Religious —
and even the pope, who crave for the approval of the world ... than
many Catholics are.
A Poor Clare Colettine Nun
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