Fr Paul Gooley reads today’s Gospel from Luke (5: 27-32) in which Jesus says to the scribes and Pharisees, who chastise him for eating with sinners ‘It is not those who are well who need the doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the virtuous, but sinners to repentance.” Fr Paul says at the very beginning of Lent are we being we are being challenged with a couple of huge contrasts. Jesus calls a degraded tax collector to be one of his close associates but if that is not bad enough, he has a party with more dirty tax collectors and other sinners, whose company he seems to enjoy. It is striking to see how willingly they left their lucrative but degrading employment: here we hear of Levi; in another version of the story it is Matthew; and at Jericho the story is told of Zacchaeus. Remember tax collectors were despised and shunned on religious grounds: they worked for the unclean Romans, and this contrasts with the Pharisees who lived their lives strictly in careful, detailed observance of God’s Law. So the dilemma here is that either Jesus has lost all claim to be God’s representative or the Pharisees have got their priorities all wrong. In the Gospel Jesus replies with two of those splendid, forceful contrasts which are so characteristic of his speech: not the healthy but the sick, not the virtuous but sinners. In other words, it is not the details of the Law which matter, but the purpose of the Law: to bring men and women to God. Jesus positively welcomes sinners. So, at the beginning of Lent there is no point in denying that we are sinners. We would fit nicely into the dirty, degraded company that Jesus shares at this table. Let’s see if we can just hang on to him just for a bit in this image of being at table with Jesus. Fr Paul invites us to reflect on today’s Gospel Lesson – Jesus always welcomes the sick and the sinners.