It is never comfortable to see oneself as a Pharisee or a scribe; they are the “bad guys” after all, but that is precisely what we must do if we are to glean all that we can from this passage. We need to see ourselves as those types of hypocrites and sinners to understand that Jesus is not worried so much about the lost sheep as he is about the unity and solidarity of the community. We all need to repent, for we all are sinners, and the sooner we come to terms with that, the better.
This reminds us of the story that is often told at summer camp about “going on a bear hunt” where we come across all kinds of obstacles while going on our bear hunt, and at each one, the refrain is “can’t go over it, can’t go under it, can’t go around it, have to go through it.” The sooner we accept our sinful natures and repent, the sooner there will be “joy in the presence of the angels of God.”
We must also remember that our acts of repentance must include mercy and forgiveness to those who may have acted against us.
Where do you see yourself in this reading?
What steps might you take to “welcome sinners” and unite your community?
How can your attitude of forgiveness and mercy fit into this context?
Prayer: O God, because without you we are not able to please you mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.