Juli Schreiber ’06 MA
Assistant Athletics Director; Guest Relations
Jesus’ table fellowship with tax collectors and sinners in today’s Gospel confounds the Pharisees—they asked the disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with them?” It reminded me of Pope Francis’ visit to America last September. At the conclusion of his discussion with Congress at the nation’s Capitol, he decided to forgo a luncheon with political dignitaries. Instead, he joined homeless people served by St. Maria’s Meals.
After blessing the food, the Pope connected the homeless people to the experience of the Holy Family: “The Son of God knew what it was like to be a homeless person,” he said. “We know that Jesus wanted to show solidarity with every person.”
I was delighted with the Holy Father’s decision, but my joy was not in a kindhearted spirit. In an age where we see entitlement based on status and wealth, my initial reaction was that the politicians got what they deserved. Pope Francis’ intent was not to show disrespect—he seized an opportunity to serve and to share God’s love.
In his speech to Congress, the pope warned against the “temptation which we must especially guard against: the simplistic reductionism which only sees good and evil; or if you will, the righteous and the sinners.” By choosing to share a meal with the homeless, he opened himself to attend to those on the outside, as Jesus does in this passage. He chose to eat with those who may not eat every day, not with those who jockey for positions of power.
So many times, we see our human spirit revealed in the wake of tragedies, as we most recently saw in the shootings in Orlando. People come together in the unity and love Jesus displays in this Gospel, without judgments that place some on the inside and some on the outside.
Let us not wait for the next disaster. Today, let us choose to follow Jesus the way Matthew did. “We know that Jesus wanted to show solidarity with every person.”