Listen to the recorded homily:

Readings for Saturday of the First Week in Ordinary Time

“Why does Jesus eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

Because Jesus is the perfect evangelizer.

He is so natural, so smooth, so unassuming in his masterful way of loving people, that he’s able to easily slip into their daily life. Why? To be with them. To build authentic relationships. To bring the light of truth into whatever their darkness is, and offer them the healing only He can provide.

We’re being invited into this same mission.

I wonder sometimes, however, if we Catholics are often too hesitant or simply just too awkward when it comes to associating with the tax collectors and sinners of our time? Are we willing to eat with them? To kick off a real relationship with people who don’t know Jesus yet? Are we willing to DO LIFE with the people who are far from God?

This is the unique opportunity of the laity in particular: to be radically and unapologetically Christian at the heart of the world. Pope St. John Paul II put it this way:

The lay faithful have an essential and irreplaceable role in this announcement and in this testimony: through them the Church of Christ is made present in the various sectors of the world as a sign and source of hope and of love.

Christifideles Laici #7

When it comes down to it, bishops and priests are simply unable to reach the people that so many of you are able to reach, to influence, to love and serve… to evangelize! Remember that where YOU go, the Church goes as well. You are the Church’s letter of mercy and extension of love to all the people in your life who aren’t yet on board with the Gospel.

That means that YOU need to go eat with the “tax collectors and sinners” that God has placed in your life. If you don’t, who will? If we only ever spend time and energy within the safe confines of the Church, doing Church-things with Church-people for Church-reasons… then I have to ask the hard question: Who are we really evangelizing?

I get it: It’s much easier to retreat into the Catholic bubble isn’t it? I live in a seminary surrounded by 70 guys studying for the priesthood. If that’s not a Catholic bubble, nothing is!

But here’s the thing: If we only stay inside the Catholic bubble, then we run the risk of forfeiting our seat at the table of the tax collectors and sinners. And when we do that, we end up forfeiting the Church’s seat at that table.

Let’s go a step deeper, though — What really motivates Christians to go sit down at the table of tax collectors and sinners? What else, but that precious experience of when Jesus first came and sat at OUR table and struck up a conversation with US. We go out to fellow sinners, because Jesus first came to us… first loved us.

Take courage, therefore, and pop that Catholic bubble, trusting that Jesus goes with you!

But before you go… before you go eat with tax-collectors out there — let’s first eat together here: At the altar where we are filled with the greatest Evangelizer Himself, Jesus Christ.