In today’s gospel reading we read of something that Jesus did frequently while he was here on earth. He ate. Jesus lived like all the other people of Galilee and like them he took his daily meals. We read that he sometimes ate on the road with his disciples as he journeyed from town to town. At other times he dined privately with his apostles. And he was often a meal time guest at someone’s home. When Jesus took meals during his public life he was very often the guest of someone else. Since he was traveling constantly, he took his meals wherever the opportunity offered.
Today’s gospel is one of several passages in the gospel of St. Luke where Jesus has an encounter with Pharisees while dining with them. On this occasion Jesus had been preaching to a large crowd. When he had finished he was invited to dine at the home of a Pharisee who was in the crowd. Jesus graciously accepted the invitation and went to the man’s home. Before they began to eat the incident occurred which is the basis of this gospel passage. Before they sat down to eat the Pharisee and his guests performed the ritual washing that was prescribed by Jewish law. Jesus, on the contrary, took his place at the table without performing the ritual washing. The Pharisee was scandalized. He apparently thought that a great teacher like Jesus, so versed in the law and the prophets, would scrupulously observe the Jewish ritual of washing. The reaction of Jesus and his sharp denunciation of the Pharisees may at first seem extreme. He is not being a very good dinner guest and is making a scene in front of the other guests. I think that for Jesus the important thing on this occasion was not eating or being a good dinner guest. Rather it was to continue to do the work for which he had come into the world, the work of preaching and teaching. The amazement of the Pharisee and his guests proved Jesus the opportunity to teach all those present an important lesson. The lesson that the most important thing we are called to do in life is to love God. Jesus knew the hearts of the Pharisees, and he know that some of them were hypocrites who placed more importance on the ritual observance of the law than on the love of God and the practice of the virtues. He uses this occasion to denounce them in strong terms and to teach all the guests the importance of the love of God.
For us today the message of this gospel is the same. It is that we should hear and heed the message of Jesus: the message that we should love God and practice the virtues that Jesus taught us.
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