31st Sunday in Ordinary Time: 30 October

With whom do you refuse to eat?

 With whom do you refuse to eat?  ING-043
28 October 2022

Someone in Jesus’ group blushed — Judas? — when Jesus invited himself and his entourage to eat at the house of Zacchaeus: “Jesus will eat with anybody. This preference for the shameless gesture is a constant feature of his teaching. Where is all this heading?” A papal chamberlain would think as much when his Holiness chooses to spend Holy Thursday washing the feet of prisoners in a Roman jail.

Jesus ignores boundary lines; he is deaf to the sigh of admonition, “We do not do that!” In the service of his Father’s will to love the world, the Only Begotten considers nothing below his dignity. He acts from compassion rather than from fear. He is eternally the divine and deeply human physician without borders.

When Jesus hosted his disciples on the night he was betrayed, he first washed their feet. Peter blushed, but the Lord’s word at his embarrassment was pointed: “Unless you acknowledge the generosity of my love for you, you mistake the nature of my Father’s kingdom. Being and acting out of abundant Love is how the Father rolls.”

Mary of Nazareth, listening to the Spirit’s word, consented to become the mother of the Messiah. Dear, clumsy Simone Weil’s philosophy pushed her into factory work. Dorothy Day managed a house for outcasts, some of whom were immature social activists. Women still sit down with patriarchs and speak out against the value of their lace tablecloths. All these ignore their society’s materialist and constricted horizons and choose to represent the disenfranchised.

Ignatius of Loyola taught, “Love manifests itself more in deeds than in words.” The scriptures must be fulfilled: we must serve and live among the least of “these”. Those serving in religious field hospitals ignore whoever asks, “What will people think when you eat with Zacchaeus?”

Before we receive the sacrament of reconciliation, we examine our consciences to detail our worst (so we surmise) sins, uncomfortable sometimes with our imagined admonition to come from the priest. But should the priest be a boundary-crossing disciple of Jesus, he ignores the sins we thought might shock. “I get your bad temper, your sexual desires, your lying, your love of filth, but before I pray for your absolution, tell me the folks with whom you refuse to eat? Tell me your mortal sin.”

May the Holy Spirit bestow courage when, examining our consciences, we ask ourselves two related questions: “With whom do I refuse to eat?” and “Who still eats with me in spite of my presence giving them indigestion?”

By Jonathan Montaldo