The gospel from yesterday (Lk 15:1-3, 11-32) is another opportunity Jesus takes to try to enlighten the Pharisees and scribes to the error of their ways. The line above is the response of these religious leaders to the types of folks who were gathering to hear Jesus. Knowing this, Jesus tells the Parable of the Prodigal Son. This very familiar story has one of two sons ask for his inheritance immediately. He goes off, blows it all, and eventually finds himself in dire straits, starving. Desperate, he decides to go back to his father, asking to simply work as a hired hand. His father rushes to him when he sees his son far off. He throws a lavish party for the returned son. His brother is angry about this treatment and refuses to join in. The father pleads with him and he tells the father off. The father responds that they must celebrate the return of the “dead” brother. Jesus, the sinless One, welcomed sinners (the prodigals) and shared the intimacy of meals with them. We, sinners, have a much more difficult time doing the same with our fellow reprobates. It does us much good to meditate on the horror of sin — starting with our own. A large crucifix should be a fixture in every Christian home to remind us what sin did and what it continues to do, how it affects God and neighbor. And it does us no good to compare sins (witness the Pharisee and tax collector: Lk 18:9-14) or be concerned to point out others’ transgressions (see Mt 7:3-5). A good mantra, oft repeated the last five hundred years, is “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” So, let us thank the Lord for sparing us from the fate of the grievous sinner while continuing our own reform, but let us look to bring him out of the muck by our prayers, concern, and love. Eat with the sinner. We may be the only encounter with Christ that he has.