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     Home > Church >  2013-06-08 16:25:45
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11th Sunday of the year - 16 June, 2013

II Sm 12: 7-10, 13; Gal 2:16, 19-21; Lk 7: 36-8: 3
William Miller, in The Joy of Feeling Good, relates the story of a woman who went to a psychiatrist because she was severely depressed. As her therapist began to probe her emotions, he discovered she had never worked through the death of her husband many years before. Her husband had died one week after President Kennedy was assassinated. This woman had watched with admiration how well Mrs. Kennedy handled the shock and trauma of her husband's death, and when her own husband died, she made up her mind to be just as composed, calm, and brave, saying to herself, "If Jackie Kennedy can do it, so can I." She did not realize that Jackie Kennedy on national television was not Jackie Kennedy behind the scenes, sharing her heartbreak with her family and friends. So that woman's grief remained repressed because she never let herself express what she was really feeling. (1) Have you ever known what it is to have a breaking heart? Have you ever let go and let the tears fall without regard for what others might think? Luke tells us about a woman who did just that. He tells us about a woman at Jesus’ feet at a banquet, whose heart was breaking in two.
The central theme of today’s readings is an invitation to repent, do penance and renew our lives instead of carrying the heavy baggage of our sins. Our God is a God who always tries, not to punish, but to rehabilitate sinners, so that we may be made whole and experience inner peace and harmony. Today’s liturgy celebrates the fact of God’s forgiveness. In the first reading, David’s sincere repentance for his sins of murder, adultery and deceit is met by God’s gracious and loving pardon. Today’s Psalm (51) has been regarded as David’s prayer of repentance. It includes an acknowledgment that the injustice done against another is a sin against God himself: “having sinned against none other than You." St. Paul, in the second reading, reminds us that it is by faith in Jesus that we are saved. He says that it is the realization that Christ died for us and lives in us that should bring us to true repentance, leading to renewed life in Christ. Paul suggests that the experience of forgiveness is made available to all sinners through the saving cross of Jesus. Presenting the true repentance and conversion of a public sinner, today’s gospel invites us to real repentance.
Today’s first reading gives the concluding part of the story of David and Bathsheba. In spite of his possession of Saul’s harem and several wives of his own, David became enamored of the beautiful Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, one of his lieutenants, and committed adultery with her. In order to conceal the deed and save both himself and Bathsheba's shame, David plotted against his loyal soldier Uriah, sending him into the front line of battle during Israel’s second campaign against the Ammonites. Ordering him abandoned there, David caused Uriah’s death. Then David took the dead man’s widow for his own, and soon the child of their illicit union was born. God sent Nathan the prophet with the story of the little lamb that was the only possession of a poor man. Nathan invited David to repentance and penance for his sins. Since David did not deny Nathan’s accusation or use his power to silence the prophet, God exempted him from the death penalty as prescribed in Exodus 21:37. But his sins did not go unpunished. Bathsheba’s son met with a premature death and later David’s sons Amnon (2 Samuel 13:29), Absalom (2 Samuel 18:14-15) and Adonias (I Kings 2:25) would also perish by the sword, thus fulfilling Nathan’s prophecy: “the sword shall never depart from your house.”
In the second reading, writing to the Galatians, St. Paul asserts, "What makes a person right with God is not obedience to the Law but faith in Jesus Christ." It is this faith in the mercy of God and trust in Christ’s forgiveness which prompted the sinful woman to throw herself at Jesus’ feet and surrender herself entirely. Her action proves that faith is primarily an act of love and total trust. That is why St. Paul argues that it is trust in God through Jesus Christ that transforms our lives. When Paul said that a person is not justified by the works of the law, he was referring to the Mosaic Law and all its ceremonies, the different kinds of animal sacrifices and offerings for the forgiveness of sins. With the arrival of the Messiah, the Mosaic Law had become obsolete. When Paul refers to justification by faith, he is making reference to the necessary attitude of the person concerned. That attitude includes the acceptance of the Divine revelation made known through Christ and the individual’s necessary response to that revelation – a complete dedication of his/her personal life to Christ. Because the Christian has been crucified with Christ, it is no longer he who lives, but it is Christ who lives in him. This new status of justification has not been achieved because of good works; it was only made possible through the saving work of Christ. Through faith and the Sacrament of Baptism, [Rom. 6:3] the Christian has been identified with the phases of Christ's passion, death, and resurrection. And so he can "live for God". There is no need for Law when our lives are totally directed by love. As long as there is love, the real intentions of the law will be observed even if one violates the letter of a law. Such a person can say with Paul: "I live. No, it is not I, but Christ lives in me."
Although all four Gospels include accounts of an anointing of Jesus by a woman (see Matt 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9; John 12:1-8) Luke's account is so different that it suggests this is a different incident. Why did a Pharisee like Simon invite Jesus to his house? It could be that Simon had invited Jesus with the deliberate intention of enticing him into some word or action which could then be made the basis of a charge against him. More likely, Simon was a collector of celebrities and with a half-patronizing contempt had invited the young Galilean to have a meal with him. That would best explain the strange combination of respect along with the omission of the usual courtesies. Simon was a man who tried to patronize Jesus.
Jewish good manners demanded that when an invited guest entered such a house of banquet, three things were always done. a) The host placed his hand on the guest's shoulder and gave him the kiss of peace. That was a mark of respect which was never omitted in the case of a distinguished Rabbi. b) Since the roads were only dust tracks, and shoes were merely soles held in place by straps across the foot, cool water was poured over the guest's feet to cleanse and comfort them. c) Either a pinch of sweet-smelling incense was burned or a drop of attar of roses was placed on the guest's head.
According to social customs of the ancient Near Eastern world, dining rooms--especially those of the rich and famous-- were left open to the public. Uninvited guests and curious onlookers could pass in and out of the room at will. This explains how the public sinner got inside. What shocked Simon and surprised other eminent guests was the uninvited entry of a public prostitute. She was carrying an alabaster flask of concentrated, costly perfumed ointment, her hair was unbound and that she chose to make what was considered an excessive show of repentance and love. The woman thought she would offer the precious perfume to Jesus and ask for the forgiveness of her grave sins in public. Luke says that “she stood behind the reclining Jesus at his feet weeping and began to bathe his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and anointed them with the ointment.”
The rabbinical teaching said prostitutes should be kept at a distance of two yards. While Simon silently condemned Jesus for not divining the character of the woman, Jesus proved himself to be a prophet by reading the secret thoughts of Simon. Jesus then presented the parable of the two debtors to Simon, asking him, which person loved the merciful creditor more: the one who owed five hundred denarii or the one who only owed fifty. Through this parable Jesus defended and justified the good intentions of the woman who had publicly demonstrated her true repentance. He also criticized the rude and inhospitable behavior of his host who had prided himself on his strict observance of the Mosaic Law. Thus Jesus demonstrates correct understanding of forgiveness and justification. The verse "She has shown great love" has become a classic text for showing that perfect charity has the power of forgiving sins. It was because the woman answered the love of Jesus by loving Him back so much that her sins were forgiven. Her love for Jesus had not “earned” her forgiveness. Jesus’ pronouncement, “Your sins are forgiven; your faith has saved you” (v. 48), is a confirmation of what occurred, i.e., the divine initiative, reaching out to bestow forgiveness or justification and the loving penitent receiving it with joy. In the final verses of today’s reading (8:1-3), Luke reemphasizes Jesus’ special predilection for those who understand their need for justification.
Life messages: 1: We need to accept the mercy of God: We are challenged to accept or reject the mercy of God. We often share Simon’s mentality, displaying an attitude of lovelessness and harshness. Let us remember that Simon’s self-sufficiency prevented him from acknowledging his need for the grace of God. Do we invite Jesus into our lives in the hope of gaining prestige? Or do we love him because he is the one and only Savior who has died for our sins?
2: We need to be grateful to our forgiving God: As the repentant sinner showed her gratitude to Jesus by anointing his feet with tears and precious ointment, we, too, should show gratitude to God for unconditionally and repeatedly pardoning our sins. This is possible only if we try our best to keep the promises we make in our act of contrition in confession "to sin no more and to avoid the near occasions of sin.” Our sincere attempts to avoid the occasions of sin will be proof of our sincere repentance and the expression of our gratitude to the merciful God who has forgiven our sins.
3: We need to cultivate a forgiving attitude towards our neighbor: Although it is not easy, we must learn to forgive those who hurt us if we want to be able to receive the daily forgiveness we need from a merciful God. We start forgiving when we try our best to patch up quarrels, misunderstandings and disagreements and pray for the well-being of our offenders.
Once upon a time a certain well known priest was seen at midnight, coming out of a house of ill-repute in his parish. A photographer got a picture of him. A newspaper printed it. A group of Catholic laity put together a petition to the Bishop to remove him as pastor. The priest was summoned downtown. The Bishop, the Chancellor and the Vicar General sat behind the Bishop’s desk, staring at him implacably. "Have you seen this picture, Father?" the bishop asked. "Once or twice." "What is that building from which you are exiting?" "It is a house of ill-repute," he replied with a smile. "What were you doing there?" "Visiting some of my parishioners." "At 11:00 at night?" "That’s when they called me." "And you felt obliged to visit them at that hour?" "At any hour of night someone in the parish calls for an emergency like that, I respond." "You were giving spiritual solace to those unfortunate women?" "No bishop." "Then what were you doing?" "I was administering the last sacraments of the Church. I said the funeral mass for her the next day and went to the graveside for her burial. Any objection? Jesus said once that those who have been forgiven much love much." They didn’t say anything at all after that. (Fr. Andrew M. Greeley)


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