Each Lent we spend time thinking about the need for conversion. To facilitate that thought process, we engage in the traditional Lenten practices of prayer, fasting, and alms giving. These practices are not done for their own sake. They are the means to an end.
Although we are all unique, there is one thing that I believe is common to all of us; namely, we tend to do the same thing over and over again. We are by nature people of routine. We may actually get so used to ourselves, our way of living, our faults even, that we tend to take the whole package as given, as nonnegotiable. This is the way we are, and there is no use in trying to change who we are.
That is why we need Lent. We need something to shake us out of our routine. This is why we fast, why we engage in extra prayer, and why we make an extra effort to practice charity. It is the Church’s way of trying to shake us up.
The Gospel for today tells us that Jesus tried to shake the Pharisees and their scribes out of their routine way of thinking about those they labeled as sinners. He asked them to remember that God sent Abraham, Moses, David and all of the prophets to rescue people from their situation. God speaks to Moses and says, “I have witnessed the affliction of my people. . . I know well what they are suffering. . . Therefore I have come down to rescue them.”
This is precisely why God sent Jesus into our midst. God had witnessed our affliction, our sins. God knew that we were in need. Therefore God sent Jesus down to rescue us. God sent Jesus to help us have a change of heart.
In the Gospel today, Jesus does this by eating with Levi and his friends. It is not a great leap to recognize that Jesus does the same for us every day in the Eucharist. God invites us to the table today and every day to eat with us in order to reconcile our differences and to forgive our sins.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator