Kempis tells us of an experience most every person knows because we sinners ourselves have actualized it: giving in to temptation and then instantly feeling terrible about it. (1,6) Some Catholics, usually non-practicing or ex-Catholics, often derisively refer to this as “Catholic guilt.” Well, guess what, God, in His mercy, has gifted everyone with a conscience (see the CCC for more on this) which, when properly formed, helps us to stay on the narrow path to life (see Mt 7:13-14) or get back onto that trail when we have taken a detour.
In today’s Gospel (Mk 2:13-17), Jesus, as is often the case, takes heat from the Jewish religious leaders because He is dining with “tax collectors and sinners.” Jesus deals with why He is compelled to do this in the passage, but what about His dinner guests? Undoubtedly, they found Jesus’ preaching appealing and His manner welcoming. They were quite bold to be so near to this great figure when they certainly realized the manner in which they were being judged by others. Regardless of any hesitation they may have felt, they had become keenly cognizant of their own sinfulness and were not at peace with themselves. Maybe they were aware of this all along. Or maybe it was Jesus who tweaked their hearts (or, rather, pierced their souls — see Heb 4:12).
Both Kempis and Mark the Evangelist direct us, sinners all, to the Prince of Peace (see Is 9:5) the Divine Physician, to find forgiveness, healing, and the strength and grace to carry on and stay on His path.
The Feast in the House of Simon the Pharisee (1567-1570) by Paolo Veronese