This man welcomes sinners and eats with them. (Luke 15:2)
The man who welcomed sinners and ate with them was? …Jesus. His eating with sinners especially displeased the Pharisees because? …The Pharisees justified themselves based on their observance of purification customs. They had transformed the ancient Temple purification rituals into little routines observed in the home.
This did not come out of nowhere. The ancient nomadic forefathers of Israel had indeed distinguished themselves by the cleanliness of their camp. So the Pharisees turned this into the distinguishing characteristic of their religion. They measured their fidelity to God by their scrupulosity in proper household purification.
We can hardly condemn them. It comes naturally to us, tribal creatures that we are, to suspect the hygiene practiced by people different from ourselves. And we also know perfectly well that sharing a table with strangers, with whom we share little in common, poses big challenges. Making conversation with people from a different clan makes for a lot of work. In human social interaction, like naturally congregates with like.
But a Christian simply cannot be satisfied with this. When our Lord and Master walked the earth, He dealt with others at a deeper level. Christ interacts with the innermost heart, where the one, true God and Father of all speaks. He speaks the truth of His love.
We all possess that interior depth, regardless of color or language or hygiene customs. We have that human depth in common. And that interior depth is the place where we can meet a brother or sister in real friendship–as opposed to the shallow relations we can have based on the externals trappings of tribal affinity.
The jubilee Year of Mercy will soon draw to a close. What lesson can we take from this year of special graces? Maybe this: cherishing in our hearts the image of Christ meeting His brethren in their innermost hearts, where we all stand together before God, as His beloved handiwork.