Saturday after Ash Wednesday
The readings for the day can be found here.
Today in Luke’s Gospel,Jesus’s choice to dine with tax collectors, the notoriously greedy characters of the Bible, causes quite the stir. I think it is rather easy to identify with the confused Pharisees—how initially frustrating it must have been to see Jesus eating with those people that are known to be cruel, unforgiving and living contrary to Jesus’s mission.
During Lent this season, we are called to focus on our relationship with God and prepare our hearts for Jesus’s resurrection. In addition, I believe that we can identify ways in which we can truly love others more fully—and not just those who are easy to love.
Don Miller, the author of Blue Like Jazz, wrote “The problem with Christian culture is we think of love as a commodity. We use it like money.” He illustrated this by pointing out the language that we use to discuss relationships. We value people. We invest in relationships. People are priceless. Relationships can go bankrupt. All of these are words that indicate that we possess a rather economically frugal view of love, rather than viewing it as an infinite resource. When I read this, I found it extraordinarily applicable to what I think Jesus was communicating by sharing a meal with the tax collectors. Without realizing it, we have turned into tax collectors ourselves—only on a whole other level. Instead of being greedy with money, we are often greedy with when it comes to the currency of love. Like our money belongs to God, our love belongs to all, and we are instructed to spend it without inhibition—even on the tax collectors. Is God not so full of love that there is more than enough, an unending vault that is disbursed to all? Just so, we can follow this example and offer our hearts, even when we find it difficult to love someone.
After all, in the readings today, Jesus says “Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do. I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners.” You cannot heal a person if you withhold all treatment, and the treatment for the brokenness of humanity is love. The marvelous truth of the gospel is that we are all sinners, but Christ does not leave us alone in our debt.
During this season of reflection, repentance and preparation, we have the opportunity to seek out ways in which we can truly care for others, as God has cared for us. It is our nature to budget our affection and withhold it from those we deem undeserving, but that limitation comes from our desire to use love as a reward. Jesus died for all people, and our love toward one another is not to be treated as a method of payment.
Above all, the beauty of “spending” love without limits is that, with God as our investor, we can never go bankrupt.
Amanda Bartelson is a junior studying nursing. She is active in the Micah Program and the Spanish Mass community.