Sunday, June 12, 2016

Sin and Forgiveness

                           11th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today’s readings deal with sin and forgiveness. The first reading from the Book of Samuel presents us with what is perhaps the most shameful deed in the entire Bible. I'm surprised that the makers of the famous TV series, "The Sopranos," never thought to use the story of King David and Uriah the Hittite as the basis for an episode. We only get the tail end in today's verses but if you read the eleventh and twelfth chapters of the Book of Samuel you will get the whole story.

It is the famous account of David and Bathsheba. It begins with lust and degenerates into betrayal and murder when David orders Bathsheba's husband Uriah, one of his most loyal and dedicated soldiers, to be killed. David's sin is especially despicable because he had previously been given so much by the Lord. He had literally come from nowhere for he was the least of his father's many sons, a mere shepherd. Nevertheless, he was picked to lead his people and become their King. 

As the reading indicates, David had everything. He had been saved from death at the hands of Saul, the previous King, and had been given all of Saul's possessions even his palace and many wives. In those days the Israelites especially their leaders could have many wives as well as concubines. Still, for David, like so many of the rich and famous, it was not enough. He set his eyes on a poor soldier's wife and the results were tragic.

I would like to guess that David never realized that all of his success and achievements were the result of his faith in God until he and his family suffered the consequences of his sin.

St. Luke's gospel account today presents us with another sinner--the sinful woman who anoints our Lord with oil, and washes his feet with her tears. In this touching and meaningful story our Lord tells the woman that her "sins are forgiven." Then he tells her, "Your faith has saved you, go in peace."

What did our Lord mean? It is clear that He uses the woman as an example not only to the Pharisee who invited Him for dinner but also to us. It was the woman's faith that led her to perform the basic works of hospitality that the Pharisee had omitted to perform for his guest. Pharisees prided themselves on their strict adherence to all the practices required by the Law.

This incident with the woman will help us to understand what St. Paul is talking about in today's second reading. For us today justification is a word that has lost much of its meaning. When St. Paul introduces the concept of "justification by faith", it just conjures up theological controversies of long ago. What is justification? What is faith? What are works? Is there a conflict between faith and works?

Although St. Paul always stressed the importance of faith, no one worked harder for those entrusted to his care. After listing all the trials and tribulations he had endured in his missionary endeavors, he concluded with these words.

I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel week? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?

The best way to understand the relationship between faith and works is to turn to the gospels.

In today's gospel the woman, despite her sinful status, performs the basic work of hospitality. Our Lord's words to the Pharisee are addressed to us.

         Do you see this woman?
         When I entered your house you did not give me water for my feet,
                  but she has bathed them with her tears
                  and wiped them with her hair.
         You did not give me a kiss,
                  but she has not ceased kissing my feet since the time I entered.
         You did not anoint my head with oil,
                  but she anointed my feet with ointment.
         So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven
                  because she has shown great love.

Time and time again in the gospels our Lord urges us to do the work. Those who do the work are the ones of great faith and love. They are the justified who can go in peace.


Reading 1. 2 Samuel 12:7-10, 13
Reading II. Galatians 2:16, 19-20
Gospel. Luke 7:36--8:3, (the sinful woman).

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