The dinner party

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The dinner party. All enter the fast food restaurant and place their order for burger and fries, sit around a table and start to talk. A casual conversation and a casual affair perhaps before a movie? The professional dinner, a call to entertain a client. It’s the sales pitch. The family dinner, communal, bonding and informational. There are a lot of ways people gather for a meal. Each influences the conversation, and each have their own purpose. The first century was no different. The dinner Jesus was invited to had its purpose, and it had its structure. The meal should not be taken out of context. Jesus was invited to dinner not as simple guest. Jesus was the reason for that meal, the meal was arranged around the Pharisee and Jesus. Lk 7:36—8:3 The event was the conversation between the two. The seating arrangement was formal with Jesus and the Pharisee occupying the central seat. Those of influence and importance sat close and within earshot, others a good distance away. Everyone certainly knew their place at the table, and in society. Formal, and rigid. One should remember that Jesus was a prominent member of society, and when he preached he drew enormous crowds. That is a well-documented historical fact.

The penitent woman, Mary Magdalene, knew her place in society. The Pharisee in the text announced it, and according to the rules of society she should have been distant from the main event. The Pharisee also announced that a sinner, a ritually unclean person, should never have contact with the likes of a Pharisee. In public a Pharisee would cross the street to avoid such a person. One can say they had a paralyses of fear regarding the unclean. In their beliefs sinners, unclean, cripples, the infirm, the blind, were all out of Gods favor. They were denied entry into heaven regardless of their actions. They need do nothing wrong to be cast into hell. Contact with such people could result in their own heavenly demise. Pharisees were separated by choice, fenced off by all that could harm them.

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
God loved us and sent his Son
as expiation for our sins.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Jesus was the polar opposite. He sought the infirm, the cripple, the unclean, and the sinner. If the penitent woman had not touched Him, He certainly would have reached out to her. Such is His nature. There is the dinner conversation. The difference in theology. Jesus sought those like the penitent woman so that they might gain entry into heaven. The Pharisees avoided them out if the fear that they might hinder their own heavenly aspirations. The dinner conversation is Jesus preaching God’s forgiveness. While sin might keep her from the LORD, her tears bring her back. That is the fundamental description of repentance and forgiveness. The dinner conversation gives reason for the confession of sins.

One burning question becomes how the Pharisees become so hardened towards the sinner, as scholars they certainly should have recognized their God as a God of forgiveness. The entire history of the people of the covenant is one of sin, repentance, and forgiveness. The first reading  2 Sm 12:7-10, 13 is a simple example of the sin of David in pursuing the wife of Uriah the Hittite. In the conversation about the event between David and Nathan, David recognizes his sin, and Nathan recognizes God’s forgiveness. This sin is but one sin of an individual, the sins of the nation are their history. And so is the LORDS forgiveness of sins. The Pharisees were formed from the Babylonian exile, an exile attributed to the sinful nature of a nation. Their presence in Judaea was the result of the collapse of their native Israel. According to their own history, weren’t they also outcasts? Shouldn’t they have clearly seen their God as one of compassion and forgiveness? What caused their hardness of heart? What caused them to deny their own sins, and to cast their sins onto another? Perhaps they should have learned a lesson from Mary Magdalene, her tears of confession and her humility, and her faith in the LORD. Her tears, an honest confession, and every aspect of her posture tells of her humility. Her posture also tells of her praise of God, she anoint His feet. Humility and adoration. She knew her place at the table, but also recognized where she needed to be in the eyes of the LORD. On the other hand the Pharisees knew where they wanted to be, and thought they knew how to get there, but somehow missed their mark. One has to wonder what happened after that meal. One should read the Psalms Ps 32:1-2, 5, 7, 11

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