Reflection for Saturday, January 15, 2022: 1st Week of Ordinary Time.
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|The reading begins with Jesus inviting Levi, a tax collector, to follow Him. We see Jesus and his disciples dining at Levi's house. Other tax collectors and "sinners" are there, too, which leads the Pharisees to question why Jesus would associate with the unrighteous in this manner. Jesus tells them he has come to heal, and these folks need him. I like how The Message translation presents this interaction: |The religion scholars and Pharisees saw him keeping this kind of company and lit into his disciples: "What kind of example is this, acting cozy with the misfits?" Jesus, overhearing, shot back, "Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? I'm here inviting the sin-sick, not the spiritually-fit."|Several years ago, I read a magazine feature about Fred Rogers, the Presbyterian minister best known in our country for his children's television show, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. For the article, the author accompanied Mister Rogers as he filmed different parts of his show. While they were in New York City, large numbers of people repeatedly and excitedly came up to Mister Rogers, including one young man whose appearance and language suggested he was street tough and perhaps even dangerous. This young man's face shown with joy as he talked with his childhood hero. His language was very rough, laced throughout with expletives, but Mister Rogers remained sweet and gentle throughout. Afterwards the author asked Mister Rogers why he had not said something to the young man about his swearing or his appearance. The reply, spoken much more eloquently by Mister Rogers, was something along the lines of: It is obvious that this young man has a lot of pain in his life, while seeing Mister Rogers brought joy as the young man recalled fonder memories from his childhood. Correcting him in public would have embarrassed him, which would have caused more hurt and would have erased the joy he was experiencing. In other words, this young man needed love more than chastisement.|When my oldest son was in middle school, he and my wife were part of a church group that participated in a program to experience and help with area ministries over the course of a weekend. One of these ministries reached out to people living on the streets. A member of our youth group was talking with a young woman who felt that, having done so much wrong in her life, she was too far gone to ever be accepted by society, church or God. The young man from our church didn't know what to say, but the Holy Spirit spoke through him to let her know that she was not only lovable but was indeed loved, that she was still eligible to be healed and redeemed.|It can be tempting, albeit subconsciously, to align with the Pharisees, dismissing "tax collectors and sinners" as I judge the actions of others and expect God to judge them in the same way. I can forget what Jesus told Nicodemus (a Pharisee): God sent his Son not to condemn the world but to save it (John 3:17). I can forget Paul's reminder that all have sinned – including and especially me – and fall short of God's glory (Romans 3:23), or the admonition of Jesus to take the log out of my own eye before addressing the speck in another's (Matthew 7: 4-5). I can forget that God desires that all should be saved (I Timothy 2:4), even those whose actions I find appalling or those who don't believe that they merit God's love.|Jesus reminded us to love our neighbors as ourselves. I think the Mister Rogers theme song mirrors that sentiment: "It's a beautiful day in this neighborhood, a beautiful day for a neighbor. Would you be mine? Could you be mine? Won't you be my neighbor?"
University Ministry, Creighton University.
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