Today’s gospel contains one of the most famous of Jesus’ parables, the prodigal son. When we have our reconciliation service on Wed. evening March 16th I’ll be giving a reflection on this parable at that time.
This morning let’s look at the opening thoughts of today’s gospel. The Pharisees and the scribes were totally shocked by the fact that Jesus would break bread with the likes of tax collectors and sinners – with the riff raff of society. Why would he even want to be seen with such people? Crooks and thieves.
When Jesus eats with these outcasts, it is not because of some humanitarian broadmindedness, as though the laws of God or the Pharisaic regulations did not matter because they did, no – it is God breaking through the condemnation of his own law in order to reach out and save the lost
Breaking bread, sharing wine with people such as these, Jesus looked into their lives and saw an honesty and goodness and a willingness to be there for one another that their pompous judges could never imagine.
This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them. He still does. Jesus welcomes each one here, mistake making beings that we all are and shares with us the bread of life.
At this Mass we hear again the invitation to the disciples at the Last Supper – take and eat this is my body – take and drink this is my blood. When Jesus first offered us this a wonder ‘unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood you cannot have life in you,’these startling words challenged the faith, the trust his followers had in him, so much so that many of them said, ‘this is a hard saying and who can accept it’ and many of them walked with him no more.
That same invitation ‘take and eat, take and drink is offered to us, today. We know we are not worthy of such a gift – we are not worthy that Jesus should eat and drink with sinners such as we. We accept his invitation ‘come to me all you who find life burdensome and I will refresh you.’ We believe that bread is more than bread and wine is more than wine, it is the body and blood of Jesus, we receive the bread of life.
Over the years I’ve heard the complaint, ‘nobody goes to confession anymore but everybody goes to confession.’ Shocked that Jesus eats and drinks with sinners. Many people were shocked when Pope Francis said, ‘ the Eucharist is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak. My own take on this is that Jesus gave us his body and blood as a gift and over the years the church has made it a reward – for those who are good enough.
We come to this Mass bringing with us the blessings with which we have been blessed and the self- inflicted wounds of our sins grateful for Christ’s invitation, ‘take and eat, take and drink.’
Gratefully we come as one to be nourished by Jesus, our bread of life finding in this food the grace we need to live this Mass outside these walls in the lives we live, the prayers we pray and the service we give.