Do we respond to Jesus’ gift of foregiveness?

As is my want I normally make an appearance in the staff room of the local primary school when I hear the click of the kettle. However, one morning recently, I was being very health conscious and trying to slim for my summer holidays so I declined tea. That was when I noticed the teacher seated next to me eating a bag of ‘Monster Munch’. The memories came flooding back as we reminisced about 5p packets of ‘Meanies’, the joys of ‘Quavers’ which remind you of the plastic bag full of prawn crackers you are loaded down with as you cart your Chinese takeaway home. I was never a fan of prawn cocktail favoured crisps so ‘Skips’ were a big no no.

As is my want I normally make an appearance in the staff room of the local primary school when I hear the click of the kettle. However, one morning recently, I was being very health conscious and trying to slim for my summer holidays so I declined tea. That was when I noticed the teacher seated next to me eating a bag of ‘Monster Munch’. The memories came flooding back as we reminisced about 5p packets of ‘Meanies’, the joys of ‘Quavers’ which remind you of the plastic bag full of prawn crackers you are loaded down with as you cart your Chinese takeaway home. I was never a fan of prawn cocktail favoured crisps so ‘Skips’ were a big no no.

I could eat all the ‘Mini Chips’, ‘Monster Munch’, ‘Golden Wonder’ and ‘Tayto’ you put before me but cheese favoured crisps were a bridge too far. Which is just as well- have you ever seen someone after they have eaten a bag of ‘Wotsits’. By the time the person has wiped their hands all over their face they look has if they have been tangoed or it’s a case of a spray tan gone wrong.

Why is it every time you try to watch what you eat, suddenly, everywhere you look you see food? In the staff room the minute I looked up from the ‘Monster Munch’ another teacher was tucking into a turnover. Thankfully there was no butter involved which would have been the biggest sacrilege. Of course you know what happened next, we spent the next five minutes talking about buns. We ventured from baps, cookies, cream fingers, eclairs, custard slices not to mention a cream puff. At this point the foreigners on the staff - from Tyrone, Donegal and Fermanagh explained their confusion relating to German buns which were known as Paris buns in the rest of the civilised world. What caused total consternation in the imaginations of the non-local staff was the famous Derry gravy ring.

Every locality has customs, sayings and descriptions of foods, rituals which characterise their culture and their sense of place. In first century Palestine, like today, meals were very important social occasions which centred on friendship and hospitality. How you were welcomed to the table reflected the esteem you were held in by your host. In the Gospel story, when Jesus arrived at the Pharisee’s house, he wasn’t made to feel totally welcome. Yes, Jesus was invited to eat at table but unlike the local ritual or expectations there was no welcoming kiss or embrace, no water to wash the dust from his feet. Instead, Jesus was welcomed by the woman who had the name in the town for being a great sinner. Yet through her outpouring of love and in her great desire to perform the rituals of welcome, she showed her desire to leave the past behind. Only God can forgive, so when Jesus forgives her, grumbling breaks out around the table. So how do we respond to Jesus’ gift of forgiveness, do we rejoice and share the gift or do we grumble at Jesus’ generosity towards all.