THE LORD’S KINGDOM DOES NOT CONSIST OF PEOPLE WHO HAVE NEVER SINNED, BUT ......
(A biblical reflection on the 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time [Year C] – June 12, 2016)
Gospel Reading: Luke 7:36-8:3 (Luke 7:36-50)
First Reading: 2Samuel 12:7-10,13; Psalms: Psalm 32:1-2,5,7,11; Second Reading: Galatians 2:16,19-21
The Scripture Text
One of the Pharisees asked Him to eat with Him, and He went into the Pharisee’s house, and sat at table. And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that He was sitting at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind Him at His feet, and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw it, he said to himself, “If this Man were a prophet, He would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner.” And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And He answered, “What is it, Teacher?” “A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he forgave them both. Now which of them will love him more? Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, to whom he forgave more. And He said to him, “You have judged rightly.” Then turning toward the woman He said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house, you gave me no water for My feet, but she has wet My feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave Me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss My feet. You did not anoint My head with oil, but she has anointed My feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.” And He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” Then those who were at table with Him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” And He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Luke 7:36-50)
Forgiveness is the subject of today’s readings from Scripture. These readings are stories of “forgiveness received”, not “forgiveness refused).
The Old Testament reading tells how Nathan confronts King David with his sins of adultery and murder. David acknowledges his guilt and is then forgiven by God.
In the Gospel, a woman – the town sinner, so to speak – dares to approach Jesus at dinner. With profound and sincere gestures she acts out her contrition. After telling the host Simon a short parable about forgiveness and gratitude, Jesus tells the woman that her many sins are forgiven because of her faith and love.
These biblical texts abound with contrasts. First, King David acts like a villain, but with God’s forgiveness he recovers his lost virtue. His fall occasions a greater fidelity. Second, in the Gospel, Simon the Pharisee sees himself as a self-styled saint, but in fact he is a sinner who needs to be forgiven for pride and a sense of superiority. In the eyes of all the townsfolk, the woman is one of their worst sinners – but under the gaze of the Lord, she is also one of their greatest lovers. Third, according to His parable, Jesus implies that both Simon and the woman are forgiven – but while the woman accepts the gifts, Simon does not.
Fourth, as the host, Simon should have shown more hospitality to our Lord who was his guest. By contrast the repentant woman, who was a complete stranger to Jesus, overwhelms Him with affection. Simon seems to hold back and never gets close to Jesus, or to anyone else for that matter. The woman is not afraid to express her feelings and outdoes herself in repentance, just s she had outdone herself in sinfulness before.
Fifth, the use of oil is pivotal to the story. Simon withheld from Jesus an anointing with even a little ordinary olive oil. The sinful woman literally poured out on Jesus a whole vase of expensive perfumed oil – a symbol of both the vastness of her love and of the forgiveness she received.
Dear Sisters and Brothers, how do we face our own sinfulness and accept forgiveness? Unless we honestly confess our sins we miss out on the miracle of God’s mercy, the way Simon the Pharisee did. Unless we open our hearts to accept the gift of forgiveness from God, from others and ourselves, we can waste a lifetime. But if we are man enough like David or woman enough like the penitent woman in the Gospel to confess our sins and seek forgiveness, make guilt give way to gladness and change dead ends into new beginnings.
The Lord’s Kingdom does not consist of people who have never sinned, but of people who have sinned and been forgiven; of people who have failed, even grievously, yet found grace. So we don’t have to pretend to be perfect as Simon did. All we have to do is place ourselves at the feet of Jesus s the penitent woman did and experience the pardon and peace of His unconditional love.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, with David and the penitent woman in today’s
readings, we thank You for the forgiveness of Christ and our faith in the Son of God who loved us all and had sacrificed Himself for our sake. Almighty God, our hope and our strength, without You we falter. By Your Holy Spirit, help us to follow Christ and to live as His faithful disciples according to Your will. Amen.
Jakarta, 11th of June 2016
A Christian Pilgrim