January 18, 2020

Some scribes who were Pharisees… said to [Jesus’] disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

Jesus had just begun choosing disciples, and already Mark gives us five controversies. Yesterday we saw the first conflict which arose concerning the forgiveness of sins (Mark 2:1-12). In today’s gospel, we reflect on the second conflict, which arose when Jesus sat at table with the sinners (Mark 2:13-17). In the early centuries of Christianity many converts from Judaism found it difficult to sit at table with Gentiles (cf. Acts 10:28; 11:3). In describing how Jesus faces this conflict, Mark directs the community to solve the problem.

Even harder for some to appreciate is how Jesus was not only willing to eat in the house of a sinner but even call him to be a disciple. Jesus calls Levi, a tax collector, and he immediately leaves everything and follows Jesus. He begins to be part of the group of disciples. This act causes the religious authority to get very angry. It was forbidden to sit at table with tax collectors and sinners, because eating with someone meant that he was considered a brother! Jesus, however, responds: “It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick. I came to call not the upright, but sinners!”

In every Eucharist, Jesus invites us to his table. Is this because we are sinless? Or because our sinfulness calls forth his loving mercy and an invitation to share in his life? None of us are worthy of eating at Christ’s table. We are called there because we need his grace to become more and more worthy of his love.

Do we refuse to join in church because there are sinners there? Or do we recognize that we are all sinners?

Let Us Pray:

O loving Lord, I thank you for inviting me to your table. Please preserve me from the temptation of thinking that I am better than others there with me.


Daily Eucharistic Reflection – Center for Eucharistic Evangelizing (eucharisticevangelizing.com)


About Paul J. Bernier, SSS

Blessed Sacrament Father Paul J. Bernier served for many years as the editor of Emmanuel. He is a popular writer, preacher, and director of retreats. Among his many published works is Ministry in the Church: A Historical and Pastoral Approach, Second Edition, published by Orbis Books in 2015.