Welcoming Sinners and Eating With Them

The California Catholic Daily can’t let go of Archbishop Niederauer. They posted his MHR homily on their site, followed by a commentary churning with anger from Catholics who seem to expect the cavalry to ride into town like San Francisco is some Wild West outpost. Does Archbishop Burke ride a noble steed and wear a white cowboy hat?

From the homily:

Do you recall what probably bothered the Pharisees most about Jesus Christ? His awful taste in people! Their exact words were: “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them!”

And twenty centuries later, Jesus Christ is still welcoming sinners and eating with them. Indeed, feeding them with his own Body and Blood.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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13 Responses to Welcoming Sinners and Eating With Them

  1. “Does Archbishop Burke ride a noble steed and wear a white cowboy hat?” Interesting image, and one I think many wish their bishops could embody.

    Better yet, how about a tank division led by the Holy Father and the editorial staff of New Oxford Review? Bishop Fury and his Howling Commandoes? Cardinal Chuck Norris?

  2. crystal says:

    I posted some of a homily James Alison gave at that San Francisco church a while ago – it was also on the British radio. It was amazing the hostility his being there brought out in some of the blogs.

  3. Deacon Eric says:

    I’ve long been troubled by the violent and un-Christian metaphors used in the far-right blogs: “come down on” “hammer,” crush,” “slam,” “kick out,” “fire” — these are the kinds of words that are applied to their supposed adversaries, the language of battle. It is most disturbing.

  4. Dale Price says:

    Just a few quick points:

    The archbishop’s homily was better than I expected. The oblique, but notable, reference to being guided by church teaching was a nice touch near the end. But the Pharisee motif has become a touch shopworn. If anything, Sadduceeism is just a big a problem in Catholic spirituality.

    While I wouldn’t recommend “hostility” to James Alison, I can understand wide-ranging disdain for his theology. I certainly share it.

    Finally, martial imagery is not absent from the NT lexicon. Paul repeatedly refers to himself as a “soldier of Christ” and uses military terms for the spiritual struggle, described in no uncertain terms as a “battle.” Ostracism is also a remedy recommended in the Christian scriptures. Not that I’m saying the writers or commenters at CCD have the discernment of Paul or Matthew, but hard words and images have a place in Christian spirituality. Nor do I recommend getting drunk on them.

  5. Jimmy Mac says:

    There are more than a few of us who are less than edified by Abp. Niederauer’s knuckling under when the going got a bit rough. Quite frankly, we expected better from him than that. But now he knows what it is like to be on the receiving end of the bile of Good Catholic Folk.

    Maybe the next time he gets creamed by them (and he will because they know how easy it is to bully him) he might just decide to stand up for what is right as opposed to being espoused by the Right.

  6. Tony says:

    It seems that those sinners invited Christ to their table were looking to accept Him to transform their lives of sin. Never did we hear that Christ ate with unrepentant sinners.

    Now we have unrepentant sinners who approach Christ’s table, not expecting to conform to Christ, but expecting Christ to conform to them. This sort of self worship is the same that brought Satan to his doom with “Non serviam!” on his lips.

    I think that having a bishop to takes his job seriously and does the hard, distasteful things that must be done is a good thing.

    Sometimes if the sheep won’t follow, you have to whack them with the crook to get their attention. And when you find wolves in sheep’s clothing, you have to dispatch them.

  7. Todd says:

    Tony, the sinners were identified as such by the self-righteous. The Gospel stories would seem to focus on the association with sinners as an arguing point against Jesus. Except for the woman who anoints, they seem silent on the matter of the moral state of the so-called sinners. Matthew simply follows Jesus; there is no word of repentance.

    We know nothing of the inner expectations of so-called sinners. Prudence would seem to suggest we withhold judgment we are not qualified or appointed to make.

    Yes, a bishop doing distasteful things may indeed be a paragon to imitate. This one seems a bit of a flip-flopper to me. It seems to me that the conservatives were doing the whacking and the archbishop was on the receiving end of it. That sort of turns things upside-down.

  8. John Heavrin says:

    “Matthew simply follows Jesus; there is no word of repentance.”

    There is no possibility of following Jesus without repentance.

  9. Dale Price says:

    “Matthew simply follows Jesus.”

    Which itself is an act of repentance: he’s no longer collecting taxes. Another for the repentance column–Zacchaeus promises amendment and restitution.

    More to the point, the Gospels make little sense on this question unless repentance is at least an implicit requirement. An argument from silence in this context is inadvisable.

  10. Todd says:

    “There is no possibility of following Jesus without repentance.”

    Agreed. But that may be part of the point. Repentance is never perfect for flawed mortals, so isn’t it a labor in progress by definition? Ultimately, it is not for the branches to decide which leaves and stems get pruned, but the vinedresser. My discomfort is with people who wax on sinners a bit too eloquently.

  11. John Heavrin says:

    “My discomfort is with people who wax on sinners a bit too eloquently.”

    I have equal discomfort with statements implying that it is possible to follow Jesus without repentance.

    And perhaps they’re waxing on sin, Todd. Can’t be too eloquent about that. We should love sinners, not condemn sinners; but we must take care that such love doesn’t imply tolerance for sin, which is how it’s often taken. Hard needle to thread, when condemning sin, which we’re bound to do, gets you called “bigot.”

    To keep silent about sin is not to love sinners, but to hate sinners.

  12. Todd says:

    “I have equal discomfort with statements implying that it is possible to follow Jesus without repentance.”

    Good. I don’t recall anyone here implying that, so you must be completely comfortable with this discussion.

    And yes, it is a hard needle to thread. Nobody ever said it was easy.

  13. John Heavrin says:

    “…I don’t recall anyone here implying that…”

    You did, with the following statement:

    “Matthew simply follows Jesus; there is no word of repentance.”

    What does this statement imply, other than it is possible Matthew was not repentant, and therefore, when it comes to following Jesus, it is possible to do so without repentance? I grant that it is certainly possible to mistakenly think you are following Jesus without repentance, but I maintain that it is, in fact, impossible and unthinkable. Jesus came to redeem sinners, not sin, to save sinners but condemn sin.

    To repent, in my view, is not to be sinless, which is impossible in this life, but it is to struggle and do penance for sin. Accordingly, to follow Jesus but not to repent…how does that work? I can’t imagine.

    I agree with Tony’s take on the matter. But let’s get to nub of it, Todd. Do you think Our Lord’s example of “welcoming sinners and eating with them” means a person whose life is not compatible with the state of grace should receive Holy Communion? That seems to be the issue at MHR, as well as the implication of your original post, if you’ll forgive the expression.

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