Weekly HomilyArchives

Friday, June 08, 2007

“Jesus said, ‘Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love.’” (Luke 7:47)

“SOUL-SURFING” – June 17, 2007
Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
(2 Samuel 12:7-10, 13 & Luke 7:36-8:3)
Fr. Robert deLeon, CSC

“A man was being tailgated on a busy boulevard by an obviously stressed-out woman. Suddenly, the light turning yellow just in front of him, he played it cautious, stopping before the crosswalk, even though he could have beaten the red light by accelerating through the intersection. Behind him the tailgating woman hit both the roof and her horn, screaming in frustration as she missed her chance to get through the intersection. Red-faced in mid-rant, she heard a tapping on her window and looked up into the face of a police officer, who ordered her to exit the car with her hands up. He took her to the police station where she was searched, fingerprinted, photographed and placed in a holding cell. After a couple of hours, an officer approached the cell and opened the door. She was escorted back to the booking desk where the arresting officer was waiting with her personal effects. He said, ‘I'm really sorry for this terrible mistake. You see, I pulled up behind your car while you were blowing your horn, gesturing rudely to the driver in front of you and cursing a blue streak at him. I noticed the “Choose Life” license plate holder, the “What Would Jesus Do” bumper sticker, the “Follow Me to Sunday School” bumper sticker, and the chrome-plated Christian fish emblem on the trunk. Naturally, I assumed it was a stolen car.’" (Original source unknown)

Actions speak louder than words. No matter what values our bumper stickers espouse, they mean nothing to those who experience our courtesy (or lack of it) traveling the roadway of life. Indeed, our deep inner selves inevitably find expression in our words and actions. This is surely what we encounter in the gospel passage we hear today.

Invited to dine at the house of a Pharisee, Jesus accepted, aware that it was not friendship that had prompted the invitation but suspicion. With other leading religious leaders also in attendance at the feast, the host planned the occasion as an ambush. Seated amidst the leading men of the community, Jesus would be unable to escape their questioning about his religious orthodoxy. A trap had been set, no escape possible! But then, as the gospel relates, a notoriously sinful woman wanders into the dinner party and, copious tears of gratitude flowing from her eyes, she washes and anoints his feet. The stark contrast between her tender heart and the calculating heart of the host is immediate. Jesus, aware of what the Pharisee is thinking, offers a parable that reveals the unwelcome and uncomfortable truth of the matter. In short, Jesus knows well that this festive dinner is more a conspiratorial set-up than an expression of genuine hospitality. Further, Jesus asserts that this woman, notorious for her sins, has actually been a far better host than has the Pharisee. Indeed, she alone possesses the qualities and attitude necessary for true hospitality. She alone among all those gathered has really welcomed Jesus into her heart. And in the depth of that welcome, her sins have been forgiven and her life forever changed. Jesus concludes the parable with an affirmation of her new-found life: “Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love.” (Luke 7:47) Indeed, her tender ministrations were a natural expression of the love she’d first experienced deep within when Jesus forgave her sins.

Another biblical figure appears in the first reading we hear today, a worse sinner than either the gospel woman or the tailgater, a figure of royal stature. In a passage taken from the Second Book of Samuel, we find David, King of Israel, accused by the prophet Nathan of both adultery and murder. Admitting the crimes he’s been accused of, “David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the Lord.’ Nathan said to David, ‘Now the Lord has put away your sin; you shall not die.’” (2 Samuel 12:13) And, indeed, God kept his promise to David, though God insisted that the son conceived through David’s act of adultery must die.

So many sinful characters put before us today: the rude tailgater who espouses Christian values; the Pharisee who set a lavish feast as a ploy to entrap Jesus; the forgiven woman whose show of hospitality puts all the dinner guests to shame; David, King of Israel, adulterer and murderer, the worst one of the lot! But there’s a distinction to be made: the woman who washed the feet of Jesus and King David both admitted their sins and asked forgiveness of God. Not so for the tailgater or the holier-than-thou Pharisee, at least as far as we can tell.

What’s the lesson for us? A real car bumper sticker I spied years ago comes to mind, a challenge to be true to what we profess. The bumper sticker read: “If it were a crime to be a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” Indeed, we must ask: does my life evidence the power of God’s grace? Do my words and actions reveal a sinner forgiven and now grateful at heart? And though I stumble again and again into sinful ways, do I reach out for the hand of God to lift me, to forgive me, to set me aright once again?

Surely, we are all sinners simply because we’re human. What can make us different, though, is that we readily admit our sins, make what amends we can and accept the forgiveness that God offers. It’s this that marks a Christian. It’s this to which God daily calls us.


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