June 8, 2016 // Uncategorized
The power of forgiveness
Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
The first reading for this weekend’s liturgy is from the Second Book of Samuel. Scholars refer to First and Second Samuel as historical books. Historical books in the Bible do not exactly fit the description of history books today, not because they are untrustworthy or make-believe, but because the point of the book is to tell a religious story.
For the authors of these works, as well as for the prophets, nothing was more important in life than being true to God.
In this reading, Nathan, the prophet, confronts David, the king of Israel, with his relationship with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, the Hittite leader. Since Bathsheba was married, the relationship was adulterous. Ancient Hebrews detested adultery, and only one thing was worse, namely adultery with a pagan. Such unions weakened the commitment of Israel to the one, true God.
Nevertheless, when David admits the error of his ways, even in these grave circumstances, Nathan assures him that God forgives him.
The Epistle to the Galatians furnishes the second reading. This passage splendidly reveals what genuine Christian living is. “I live now not I, but Christ lives in me.” This one statement, so familiar to, and beloved among, Christians, captures the intimacy of the bond between the Lord and true disciples. It is a bond created in uncompromising faith. It is a bond that brings salvation to the disciple.
St. Luke’s Gospel provides the third reading. It too is familiar to Christians. It is the story of a “sinful” woman. The text does not describe this woman as a prostitute, but over the centuries Christians usually have assumed that she was a prostitute.
Assuming that the woman was a prostitute only underscores the depth of God’s love, shown in Christ’s forgiving the woman. This aspect of the story, namely God’s forgiveness, is the point of this passage.
Whether the woman was a prostitute is not the point. She was gravely sinful. All, very much including Jesus, saw her as such. At the time of Jesus, in the Jewish culture of the time of Jesus, the greatest sins that a woman could commit were prostitution and adultery. She may also have been a prostitute.
Her gesture of washing the Lord’s feet, and perfuming them, was a great act of deference and humility.
God’s forgiveness, given in Christ’s mercy, is so great and unquestioning that the Pharisee, the specialist in theology, cannot fully comprehend what was occurring. Jesus had to explain God’s love in a parable.
First of all, the place of women in the New Testament intrigues many people. As so often said in the Gospels, the Apostles, all males, accompanied the Lord. They were Christ’s special students and followers. Also in the Lord’s company were several women, including Mary of Magdala, from whom seven demons had been expelled.
The presence of the Apostles verifies their future role in the development of Christianity. The presence of the women shows the outreach of Jesus. Women, while not Apostles, hardly would have been admitted to the company of male figures so important to the unfolding of salvation had they been regarded as inferior.
Second, these readings teach that the mercy of God unquestioningly is given those who humbly and sincerely ask for God’s forgiveness of their sins.
The Gospel does not give us the exact details of the sin of the woman who met Jesus. However, the sin committed by David in his liaison with the wife of Urriah, the Hittite, is clear. Together, the picture is vivid. The women, as well as David, were guilty of grave sin.
Yet, mercifully, God forgave them. The key for them, and now for us, is to give self totally to Christ, in trust and love.
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