Jesus has just called Matthew from the tax booth, and now he is sitting down with Matthew’s cohort – a variety of the undesirables in the social fabric of the day. Jesus has seated himself with a bolt of cloth, a great sheet of the “social fabric” we might say, that is in need of redemption and repair – mending and healing. The tax collectors and sinners.
Lent is a season when we have to ask ourselves if we should not be seated at that table with Matthew and the others as well; do we have a bit of the tax collector and sinner budding in finely curated and tended flower that we call “myself”?
“We have the choice of two identities: the external mask which seems to be real…and the hidden, inner person who seems to us to be nothing, but who can give himself eternally to the truth in whom he subsists. (295)”― Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation
During Lent we bring both selves to the table where Jesus is seated, rather than looking on and offering commentary and comment with the Pharisees. We recognize our need the physician and the medicine.
Jesus is giving a glimpse of how God is unmaking what has become a settled reality for us; the “Kingdom” toward which he is traveling is something that will be unmade, reverse engineered, root and branch. It is something so deep, wide, and mysterious that it will cause new eyes and new hearts to look upon the old way of “being ourselves” as something that must be reverse engineered. That is why the new patch cannot go onto the old cloth – like patching a suit. Or new wine into the old wineskin of yourself – his presence and purpose will burst the old ways that have become familiar.
Following Christ, we are being asked to be made into something deeper and greater than we have known; and we are being invited to share that reality with any and all for whom this new reality means New Life. And we are given the assurance than when all things, all persons, are being made “new” it will matter little, very little, to dwell on what “has been.”
As a friend of mine once said, “You know Alston, about 90% of life is simply about using our energy in excluding people. We might say that God is trying to give some of our best energy back to us. If we are to become new wine, we will be carried in new wineskins.
As John Wesley put it, “No man ever went to heaven alone; he must either find friends, or make them.”