St. Luke says that Jesus told the Prodigal Son story because some Jewish authorities criticized Him for eating with sinners.*
In that light, the most striking thing about this story are the two meals. The first meal is with the pigs, where the younger son feels the depth of his loneliness and isolation. That pigsty meal is in sharp contrast to the warm welcome and joyful roast beef dinner prepared for that younger son’s homecoming.
The older brother refuses to join the party. The father overlooks his bitterness. He begs him to enjoy the same lavish meal as the younger son. Will the older one join the feast with his sinful brother? Or will he be like those Jewish authorities who refuse to eat with sinners…thinking, of course, that they themselves aren’t sinners at all!
So, why does Jesus eat with sinners? Because nothing they/we do stops Him from loving us. His love for us is unconditional, freely given and unearned. Jesus is like the father in the story, who goes overboard in loving his children. It seems too good to be true!
Remember: Although we are sinners Jesus breaks bread with us every time we come to mass. He invites us all of us sinners to eat with Him.
Take a moment to name other people who know you are a sinner and eat with you anyway.
*Luke 15:1-3 (Introduction to Prodigal Son Story.) Luke 15:11-32 (The story.)