In today’s gospel (MK 2:13-17) when he is asked why he is eating “with sinners and tax collectors,” Jesus answers that “those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do.” Just in case they don’t get the point he adds: “I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.” I always wondered how the people at the table felt when he announced to the Pharisees and the scribes (who were not the dinner guests) that he knew he was eating with sinners. Most of us would be horrified to be put in that category; we would much rather believe that our sins are well-hidden. My perspective has shifted on this point, however, as I’ve gotten older and practiced letting go of what I consider to be my failures. The recognition that perfection might be a goal for the end of life, but only if it means “wholeness” as some have come to define it, is much less anxiety producing. A more sensible way to be is to live in the present, accepting myself as I am and trying to accept others that way too.
Although this way of being is more easily said than done, Pope Francis has been quite helpful in the consideration. When he announced to the world, “I am a sinner,” some could have thought he was just trying to help the rest of us think better of ourselves. I have come to appreciate that what he was really doing was embracing the totality of the human condition and acknowledging that no one is exempt from failure to choose the good – and even to be downright mean on occasion. If this holy man who has electrified the world with his loving, expansive touch can admit his frailty with an honesty that makes me believe he means what he says, why would I not follow his example?
Today I pray a blessing on Pope Francis for his wisdom and humility and for the genuine expressions of love that he pours out in word and deed wherever he goes. And I ask God’s blessing on all of us who are, indeed, sinners – that we might know the embrace of a God who longs to lift us from our sins with the message that divine love is unconditional and that we are, indeed, enfolded in that love.