Sunday: Jesus Keeps Bad company

Jesus keeps bad company.

That’s the lesson of the readings for the 11th week in Ordinary Time (Year C) — all of them.

The most obvious bad company Jesus keeps is in the Gospel, when he allows a notorious prostitute to touch him.

Visiting the home of a Pharisee, he accepts her extravagant show of affection for him, causing his host to raise his eyebrows and think “If this man were a prophet, he would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, that she is a sinner.”

But the first reading also shows the bad company Jesus keeps.

It refers to the sordid story of David, and how he stole Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, by sending her husband to his doom. There is a place in the Gospel we hear about this. At the beginning of the Gospel of St. Matthew, we read the genealogy of Jesus, which includes, “And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah …”

The story of David’s sin is also the story of Jesus’ family.

In addition to the prostitute and the murderous adulterer, there is one other story of the bad company Jesus keeps. In St. Paul’s Second letter to the Galatians, before today’s second reading starts, Paul points out how he “persecuted the Church of God violently and tried to destroy it.” Paul was a zealous follower of the law willing to kill Christians, but he was converted and now declares, “I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me.”

The readings are all about the bad company Jesus keeps because they are about the one thing that makes it possible for him to do so: Forgiveness.

Jesus says about the prostitute: “Her many sins have been forgiven because she has shown great love.”

“The Lord on his part has forgiven your sin: You shall not die,” the prophet tells David, the adulterer.

“The Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me,” says St. Paul

Which brings us to the other bad company Jesus is keeping, even now: us.

Though we are sinners, too, he comes to our table in the Mass and he invites us to his table in heaven.

“Jesus invites sinners to the table of the kingdom,” says the Catechism.  He came “‘not to call the righteous, but sinners.’ He invites them to that conversion without which one cannot enter the kingdom, but shows them in word and deed his Father’s boundless mercy.”

When Jesus forgave the prostitute she responded by loving him more than the religious leaders of her time. She went from notorious local sinner to world-renowned example of Christian worship (see Catechism 2712). When God forgave David, he responded by becoming a great hero for God. He is praised throughout the Jewish world and by Christians as “a man after God’s own heart.” When Jesus forgave Saul, the scourge of Christians, Paul responded by becoming the greatest Christian missionary the world has seen.

What will we do in response to God’s forgiveness of us?


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Tom Hoopes

Tom Hoopes

Tom Hoopes, author of The Rosary of Saint John Paul II and The Fatima Family Handbook, is writer in residence at Benedictine College in Kansas and hosts The Extraordinary Story podcast about the life of Christ. A former reporter in the Washington, D.C., area, he served as press secretary of the U.S. House Ways & Means Committee Chairman and spent 10 years as executive editor of the National Catholic Register newspaper and Faith & Family magazine. His work frequently appears in Catholic publications such as Aleteia.org and the Register. He and his wife, April, have nine children and live in Atchison, Kansas.