Prayer and action can never be seen as contradictory or mutually exclusive. Prayer without action grows into powerless pietism, and action without prayer degenerates into questionable manipulation. If prayer leads us into deeper unity with the Compassionate Christ, it will always give rise to concrete acts of service. And if concrete acts of service do indeed lead us to a deeper solidarity with the poor, the hungry, the sick, the dying, and the oppressed, they will always give rise to prayer. In prayer we meet Christ, and in him all human suffering. In service we meet people, and in them the suffering Christ.
Action with and for those who suffer is the concrete expression of a compassionate life and the final criterion of being a Christian. Such acts do not stand beside the moments of prayer and worship but are themselves such moments. Why? Because Jesus Christ, who did not cling to his divinity, but became as we are, can be found where there are hungry, thirsty, alienated, naked sick, and imprisoned people. Precisely when we live in an ongoing conversation with Christ and allow his Spirit to guide our lives, we will recognize him in the poor, the oppressed, and the downtrodden and will hear his cry and respond to it wherever he reveals himself.
Henri J.M. Nouwen Compassion
There are three different ways in which we may judge others: with our passions, our reason and our faith. Our passions induce us to love those who love us; our reason makes us love all people within certain limits; our faith makes us love everyone, including those who do us harm and are our enemies.
Fulton Sheen Way to Inner Peace (1955) 110.
You can tell a man by the company he keeps, or so the saying goes. The Scribes and the Pharisees certainly subscribe to this idea and in this morning’s Gospel are not afraid to express it. They are more than happy to be judgemental – to only be seen with the right sort of people, certainly not with sinners, outcasts, people who ‘aren’t like us’ Well all I can say is that it’s a jolly good thing that God doesn’t treat humanity like it treats itself: as to put it simply the human judgement of others, to which each and every one of us falls prey from time to time, has no place in the Christian Faith at all. God in Christ seeks the lost, the outcast, the people outside the religious in-crowd, God seeks them out and eats with them. How shocking! It offends our human sensibilities and breaks down human distinctions to show us the radical freedom of the Kingdom of God. The woman who anoints Jesus’ feet does so out of love, and through her love and generosity her sins are forgiven. She puts her faith into action, and through her faith she is forgiven.
We are each and every one of us sinners, we are not worth of having God come to and eat with us, but that is exactly what happens day by day and week when Christ feeds us with himself, so that we may become what he is, so that we can be transformed by grace and share in the divine life. That is why we are here this morning to be fed by Him and with Him, to be healed and restored by Him, to share in His life. God takes the initiative, He goes to seek out the lost, He doesn’t wait for them to come to Him. The banquet of the Kingdom is one to which everyone is invited, if they turn away from sin, if they repent and believe the Good News of Jesus Christ. Thus we can say with the Apostle Paul, it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me, we live for others, and to bear witness to God’s saving love
God does the hard work, so that we have the simpler task of turning away from all that separates us from Him and each other. To do this takes humility – knowing our need of God, and his grace and mercy, knowing that without his help we are and can do nothing. Our response to His love is to love Him and our neighbour – to put our faith into practice in our lives. This is a cause of joy in heaven, whereas its opposite, the reaction of the Scribes and Pharisees is to moan and begrudge, to criticise. It is a response of misery and bitterness, a smallness of mind and heart. Such feelings should have no place in the Church. The church is called to be generous, so that it follows the example of a generous God, who dies for love of us, who pays the price which we owe, who dies so that we might live, and live for Him.The world around us will be quick to point out out faults, without realising that the point of the Church is to be a place where sinners can encounter and be transformed by the love and mercy of God.
Christ is the Good Shepherd, who goes after the lost sheep to carry them back on his shoulders – likewise the Church is meant to be there for those outside it, to welcome them back inside the fold rejoicing. Our faith then should be the cause of our joy, a deep happiness that comes from being known and loved by Our Heavenly Father, who sent His Son to die for us, so that we might live. This is healing and generosity on an unimaginable scale, which has the power to transform our lives, so that we live for, in and through the God who loves and who heals us.
With our joy there comes freedom, a freedom from being constrained by the ways of the world, from conforming to its ways, a freedom to welcome others to Banquet of the Kingdom, where the clothes that matter are those of baptism, a sign of humility, where God gives himself to feed us to transform our human nature, to prepare us for eternal glory. So let us cast our cares on him so that his grace may be at work in us So that we may believe and be transformed, and share our faith with others that they too may believe and be transformed and give glory to of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost, to whom be ascribed as is most right and just all might, majesty, glory, dominion, and power, now and forever.