June 10, 2016

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. 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, the prophet Nathan confronts King David about his adulterous relationship with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, a Hittite leader. 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 splendidly reveals what genuine Christian living is. “I live now not I, but Christ lives in me” (Gal 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 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 one.

Such an assumption 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 particular nature of the woman’s sin is not the point. She was gravely sinful. All, very much including Jesus, 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.

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, a specialist in theology, cannot fully comprehend what was occurring. Jesus had to explain God’s love in a parable.

Reflection

The place of women in the New Testament intrigues many people. As so often is 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 it.

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 Uriah, the Hittite, is clear. Together, the picture is vivid. The women, as well as David, were guilty of grave sin.

Yet, God mercifully forgave them. The key for them, and now for us, is to give oneself totally to Christ in trust and love. †

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