When we’ve been hurt, we may wish to get far away from the one who caused our pain. At times, we may need to do this to avoid being hurt again. Sometimes, however, we apply this principle to God himself. We fear that because we have sinned- breaking our friendship with God, and hurting those he loves, including ourselves- God doesn’t want anything to do with us anymore. In our shame, we conclude that because God is so holy, he surely wouldn’t want to grace us with his presence.
This, I think, is how the Pharisees in today’s gospel misunderstood God. When Jesus dined in the home of Matthew, his new disciple, the Pharisees were shocked that he was happy to eat alongside “tax collectors and sinners.” In their mind, such people were to be shunned and scorned. And as for God, he would surely have nothing to do with them.
But Jesus thought differently. He likened himself to a doctor who seeks only to heal the sick. If he lived today, he wouldn’t compare himself to a health insurance company, because he’s happy to accept us with all our pre-existing conditions. He loves us regardless of whatever we may have done, and he always meets us right where we are- because it’s only from there that our healing can begin.