Jesus loved to eat with people who were considered not worthy by many of the religious authorities because they were impure... they were sinners!! Well, who doesn’t fall into that category? The religious leaders would have been openly welcome to dine with Jesus at table with sinners because they, themselves, were sinners!! They just didn’t see it that way, since they were the “pure” ones who followed the letter of the Law. Jesus would later describe them as blind guides and hypocrites, which would make them quite the sinner.
Jesus did not dine with the outcast and sinners just to gain points, or be thought of as “liberal” and enlightened. No... he dined with them for a purpose: to hell them rediscover what they had lost by sinning. When we sin, we “lose” our dignity, becoming isolated and alienated from ourselves and others, including God. Jesus naturally attracted people who wanted to change, to turn their lives around... to be “found” by a greater force called Love.
People who are blinded by hypocrisy love to keep company with fellow hypocrites, for then they can “elevate” themselves in smugness and condescension. Their dinner parties are ultimately boring, lifeless and suffocating. While their stomachs might be filled with sumptuous culinary delights, their spirits are hungering for a much richer fare.
The best dinners cost very little and dining at restaurants where meals are exorbitantly priced is a luxury that is a scandal. Wonderful meals are prepared in simplicity and with love, conscious that the purpose of the meal is to bring people together in fellowship. The food and it’s preparation are secondary, for what is most important is the people who are gathered.
We dine together allowing a “spirit” to envelop the meal, a spirit that comforts, heals, even forgives, as the people gathered communicate, surfacing what’s going on in life. The nourishment is feeling welcomed and loved, such that deep inner divisions of the heart are healed. The most wonderful things can happen at shared meals.
Is it any wonder that Jesus chose to connect his life giving sacrifice on the Cross with a meal? When we dine at the Eucharist, we gather with fellow sinners and in the “breaking of the bread” and in our eating of this bread transformed into Christ’s Body, we rediscover our dignity. Yes, in every Eucharist we are forgiven. It thus can only happen if we count ourselves among the sinners, lost, needing to be found again and again and again....