This Lent, resume the eating habits of Jesus

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A reflection for the Saturday after Ash Wednesday

“Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” (Lk 5:30).

During Lent, we often ask ourselves, “What am I going to give up? By default, we deny ourselves something pleasant or even important in our lives. I once abstained from the Eucharist during Lent in order to intentionally reflect on the mystery of the sacrament and hopefully rekindle my spiritual hunger for God.

One of the biggest stories we’ve covered in the past year has been the infamous Communion War – a heated debate over whether or not priests should deny the Eucharist to President Joe Biden. . The second Catholic president in the history of the United States is a regular at masses. According to the head of the U.S. Bishops’ Conference, some of Mr. Biden’s policy positions advance moral ills and threaten human life and dignity, including in the areas of abortion, contraception, marriage and gender. It is very serious.

Thus, it is understandable that some Catholics adopt a protectionist attitude and plead to deny him the Eucharist. It was a noble compulsion: to protect the integrity of the sacrament that is so central to the life of the Catholic community and a bodily bond with Christ. And yet this willingness to arbitrate the altar clashes, ironically enough, with another cornerstone of the Catholic faith, namely Jesus’ own ministerial practices around meals as described in the Gospels.

Jesus did many things to destabilize the religious authorities of his time. But whoever had him killed ate with tax collectors and sinners.

Jesus did many things to destabilize the religious authorities of his time. But whoever had him killed ate with tax collectors and sinners. We hear of one such encounter in today’s Gospel.

Tax collectors and sinners were not individuals who periodically slipped by skipping synagogue, lying to a spouse, or wishing ill on their neighbor. These were individuals who deliberately made life decisions and pursued occupations that placed them outside the established moral norms of the community. They were considered outcasts and completely unacceptable in sacred spaces like the temple.

In today’s gospel we see the impulse of the Pharisees and scribes to protect the sanctity of sacred spaces and the whole community in full display. Yet this story, and so many like it in the Gospels, tells how Jesus challenged this dominant attitude and system by leaving the confines of sacred space to eat and drink with the impure, the unworthy, the broken – people like Levi.

Jesus’ pastoral strategy was so creative: instead of having an exclusive meal and guarding the door against sinners, he went where the sinners were. We can only conclude from stories like this in Luke 5 that Jesus would have eaten with anyone! But why? It seems that he believed that grace operates in such encounters. Our faith is built on the testimony that grace did operate in these encounters.

If Catholics want to protect the integrity of the Eucharist, then studying the habits of Jesus around the dinner table, clearly written on the pages of the Gospels, is a good place to start.

I mentioned that the impulse to protect the integrity of the Eucharist – Jesus truly present to us – is noble. Maybe President Biden should be denied communion, or maybe he shouldn’t. But if Catholics want to protect the integrity of the Eucharist, then studying Jesus’ habits around the dinner table, clearly written on the pages of the Gospels, is a good place to start.

I have no intention of abstaining from the Eucharist this Lent. Instead, I will pray for the grace to be more like Jesus and to enlarge my table.

Meet Sebastian Gomes, Editor-in-Chief

What are you giving up for Lent?

I don’t give up anything. Instead, I plan to attend traditional Latin Mass in my local community, which I never do, and try to make new connections.

Do you cheat on Sunday?

Not usually. As Augustine wrote, total abstinence is easier than perfect moderation.

Favorite meatless recipe

I went almost 100% vegan, so the list could go on and on. A real comfort food for me is a vegan burrito bowl with rice cooked with diced tomatoes, chili powder and cayenne pepper, along with black beans, fajita vegetables, avocado and topped with cilantro and lime juice.

Favorite Lenten Poem

“The Donkey”, by GK Chesterton


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