26th Sunday in Ordinary, October 1, 2017

"Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes
are entering the kingdom of God before you."
Ouch. This had to sting. Jesus spoke these
shocking words not just to anybody. He spoke
them to "the chief priests and elders of the
people." The ones who were professional
law-keepers. The ones who were religious
leaders and teachers. The ones who were,
in truth, self-righteous, pompous, and
presumptuous. Jesus must have known
how offensive it would be to His audience
to share this unpleasant fact. Be He said
it anyway because He knew they needed
to hear it.

But the point wasn't wasn't to offend.
The point was to amend. Jesus was
urging them to change their lives for
the better, to come to God with a
humble,contrite heart, seeking forgiveness
and mercy. The unrepentant upper-crust
leaders were plagued by an inability to see
their sins. They were too focused on identifying
where others were going wrong. And, as was His
style, Jesus' preaching was adapted according to
His audience. These guys needed to get knoked
out of their complacency. So Jesus did what He
had to do.

It's important to realize by the way, that the
reason tax collectors and prostitutes were leading
the line to heaven wasn't because of their sins.
It was because of their sorrow. The people Jesus
had in mind when He mentioned this--like Zacchaeus
and Mary Magdalene perhaps--had repented from
their sinful behavior and begun anew. This is why
He praises them. And this is what the Lord longs
to see everyone doing, including us. Either we need
to acknowledge and repent of our sins, or we are
placing ourselves in the same category as the
pharisaical priests and elders. And that's definitely
not the place to be.