And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, ‘Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?’
Many times in Scripture the scribes and the Pharisees are the bad guys. They are condescending and sneaky, trying to catch Jesus saying or doing the wrong thing, upset with Him for upsetting their world. But here, in today’s Gospel, I can’t help but empathize with them and wonder if they really were just genuinely and innocently baffled.
Why did Jesus eat with tax collectors and sinners? Don’t those of us who are trying to walk the walk need a little help and support?
Then comes Jesus’ response: He said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.'
It reminds of a conversation I had with our family doctor during my first child’s six month check-up. I was exhausted, trying to do everything The Right Way, and always feeling like I was failing. As our doctor finished up the appointment he told me, completely unprompted, “You’re a good mom, and you’re doing a great job.”
“Do you say that to everyone?” I asked, feeling like he was just trying to be nice in the face of my embarrassingly bad job.
“No,” he said matter-of-factly. “I don’t say that to everyone. Not everyone is.”
And there it was. Some moms weren’t doing well and needed help, but I was doing a good job and just needed to keep on keeping on.
So it is with Christ. Jesus didn’t ignore the Scribes’ question; He wanted to help them understand and see the big picture: The tax collectors and sinners needed much more love, support, and instruction and so Jesus gave that to them knowing that the righteous just needed to keep on doing what they were doing.
I don’t know where you are in your life. If you identify more with the sinners, I want to encourage you to see that Christ has made Himself available to you, so please go to Him—in confession, adoration, Mass, and prayer. And I also want to encourage many of you to consider that you are already doing a great job and Christ wants you to keep on keeping on.
Keep on doing a great job.
Bonnie Engstrom is a writer, baker, speaker and homemaker. She lives with her husband and five children in central Illinois. You can find out more about her here.