June 8, 2008 Year A
Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Reflections on the Readings
By Dennis Hankins
Theme: I Desire Mercy
"Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?"
It was contact with the world Pharisees avoided. Every effort of every day was spent in avoiding contamination from sinners.
Israel had conformed to the idolatry of her neighbors. The harlotry of Ephraim invoked God's judgment.
But the Pharisees of Jesus' time had embraced a 'holier than thou' approach to their neighbors, invoking Jesus' rebuke. Israel abandoned God through capitulation while the Pharisees rejected Jesus through hypocrisy. They loved to be seen. They thanked God they were not like other men like tax collectors and sinners.
We often feel the current culture offends everything we hold as good and decent. And our response is often outrage; forgetting God is love and mercy. In this climate of righteous anger the love of many grows cold. Some stray from the faith. Others wander away discouraged and disgusted. Then there are those who become cynical and harbor thoughts of ill will. Hardness of heart absent of any love or mercy, abandons the God of all hope. We must never be conformed to the 'spirit of this age.' The kingdom that is from above is neither Pharisaic nor apathetic. This kingdom is simply not of this world.
It is true we are not to be conformed to this world. It is equally true we are to be 'transformed by the renewal of our mind.' It is we who are to have a sure knowledge of what is the perfect will of God.
Yet we can become closed in on ourselves. Hectic schedules can inhibit even the Church having quality experiences of basic human interaction. Let us in mercy not be oblivious to others. Especially let us not be oblivious to those of the same household of faith. If there is any mercy in this world surely it is in the Church.
Recently my family and I ate at Steak and Shake. I had been craving a good shake for a while. As soon as we walked through the door we were greeted by our Hostess and given a table. Not accustomed to such quick service I said, "Oh, you were expecting us." She replied, "Actually I was." We can learn something from this Hostess. And that is mercy and acceptance start at the door. Perhaps we can fulfill our obligations to be at the TABLE by also showing a little interest in those we are eating with.
Lyrics from 'Getting To Know You' from the Musical The King and I by Oscar Hammerstein say:
Getting to know you,
Getting to know all about you.
Getting to like you,
Getting to hope you like me.
Getting to know you, putting it my way,
You are precisely,
My cup of tea.
We live in very isolated times. But going to Mass should not be just a holier version of the times we live in.
In today's Gospel I see a man of self-control and possessed with a higher mind eating with sinners. Jesus, the very incarnation of mercy is on a mission. No man ever spoke like this man. And he ate; of all things he actually sat down at a table and ate with sinners. Mercy always has an open door.
Jesus says to us as he said to the Pharisees "Go and learn what this means, 'I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.' For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners."
Let us pray: Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner. Amen.