June 14, 2013

Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe first reading for this weekend’s liturgy is from the Second Book of Samuel. Scholars refer to First and Second Samuel as historical books. They are not history in the sense that books of history are written today. It does not mean, therefore, that they are historically unreliable or just the creature of a writer’s active imagination.

Rather, it means that they draw religious lessons from the history of ancient Israel.

In this reading, the prophet Nathan confronts King David about his relationship with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, a Hittite leader fighting for Israel. Since Bathsheba was married, as evidently was David, 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.

St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians furnishes the second reading. This passage is a profound definition of what genuine Christian living is. “I live now not I, but Christ lives in me” (Eph 2:20). 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 us with 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.

The woman had gravely sinned. The Pharisee, the Lord’s host, denounced her as a sinner. Everyone saw her as such. In the Jewish culture of the time of Jesus, the greatest sins that a woman could commit were prostitution and adultery. Prostitution so often enabled adultery. So she was regarded as the worst of the worst.

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.

As so often said in the Gospels, the Apostles were in the Lord’s company. They were Christ’s special students and followers. The presence of the Apostles verifies their future role in the development of Christianity.

The presence of the women shows the outreach of Jesus to all. Women hardly would have been admitted to the company of other male figures who called people to holiness. The women sensed their need for God, and in Jesus God responded.

Reflection

The powerful lesson offered us by these readings is that the mercy of God is unquestioningly given those who humbly and sincerely ask for God’s forgiveness of their sins.

Another powerful lesson is about sin. In David’s sinful liaison with the wife of Uriah, the Hittite, adultery was committed. The woman who came into the Pharisee’s dinner was a sinner, and was perceived by others as a great sinner.

Yet, mercifully, God forgave David. Through the mercy of Jesus, God forgave the woman in the Pharisee’s house.

Adultery is not the only violation of God’s law. Many may feel that they have greatly sinned. Sin is being trapped in slavery. It leads to death.

By giving ourselves to Christ, by humbly seeking forgiveness, in God’s loving mercy, we are freed. We are given life. †

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