Today's Gospel testifies to the reckless, unending mercy of the ever-so-generous Father and offers a profound declaration of who Jesus is. It is a call for repentance, new beginnings, and intimacy. The King of Kings feasts with the tax collectors who leave everything behind to be at the table with Him. It is the ultimate invitation to the broken.
Yet, for weeks, this Gospel has created an undeniable knot in my stomach as I read the response of the Pharisee.
"Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” (Luke 5:30)
With all honesty, I am always the first to write off the Pharisees in frustration of their constant misunderstanding and questioning of the Kingdom that Jesus was building in His ministry. But this time reading it, I cannot help but feel a stirring of empathy and compassion towards the guy who tried to spend his life doing what was right and true.
In my own life, I have long walked in the path of the Pharisee, obsessed with striving and posturing. My mindset has remained that if I could just devote my life to upholding a squeaky clean reputation and moral compass, I could rightly earn a seat at the table. I have cultivated an identity of the entitled daughter where I subconsciously love Him with the expectation of being rewarded.
However, Jesus shows favor towards the tax collectors, and I cannot help but feel the stinging of resentment and bitterness. The tax collectors spend their lives unconcerned with the law, yet in the instant they choose to leave everything behind and follow Him, all is forgiven. They celebrate by throwing a large banquet where the Pharisees cannot even partake as they complain to Jesus.
In this, I come to know it is in my own righteousness that I am blinded from the realization that the love of Jesus is radical and transformative. It is my own entitlement that hinders me from knowing that Jesus calls us to encounter grace, not to make sense of it. My journey is not compared to that of my sister. His love stretches for us both.
Father, may my own bitterness never block my capacity to be merciful and lighthearted towards those who were divinely created to sit in Heavenly places with You, in the same way that I was.
Sarah Erickson is a politics pre-law major at the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. Born and raised in Arizona, she finds great joy in mountains, lattes, American history, and the piano. She is constantly discovering Christ's wild love in the little things. You can find out more about her here.