Bishop Thomas Gumbletonby Bishop Thomas Gumbleton
Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace

Yesterday, when I had been reflecting on these Scripture lessons over the last few days and was trying to complete my reflections, I was visited by a couple of friends from another diocese nearby. They told me of what had just happened in that diocese, where, like so many other places in our country, parishes are being closed. This particular parish was closed, but the people said, “Well, the bishop can take the building, but he can’t destroy our community. We’re still a parish family.”

So they began to gather at a different place, rented a building and so on, and their parish priest felt he should stay with them. They were the community of God’s people that he had been pastoring for a number of years. Now they were alienated and cut off, told they didn’t exist anymore, and he decided he would stay with them. This had gone on for a while, but then just this week, the bishop excommunicated the priest and the people. Now, you think about that and listen to today’s Gospel. Where do you think Jesus would be? With the outcast people or with the bishop?

When you heard the first part of today’s Gospel, Luke tells us that tax collectors and sinners were seeking the company of Jesus, but the Pharisees and the Scribes frowned at this, muttering, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Then Jesus tells the parable. It seems to me that people are like those sinners, I guess. They’re cut off, they’re outcasts, their parish priest stays with them, but the leader, like the Scribes and the Pharisees, said, “No, you can’t be with them. They’re sinners,” like the Scribes and Pharisees telling Jesus, “No! Don’t be with the sinners and the outcasts, those who are cut off.” Then Jesus tries to tell them, through the parable, who God really is and where God is always — with those who are sinners…

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