I always think that when priests and/or other homilists see that the readings from the upcoming Mass include St. Paul’s instruction to women that they should be submissive to their husbands, they must simply groan. Because no matter how the homilist couches St. Paul’s words, it doesn’t lessen the blow to the wives sitting in the congregation. Yes, while it’s true that the words following his suggestion of submission instruct the husband to love his wife, it always seems like the words not added are ….even if they aren’t submitting to you like they are supposed to. Oh, Paul.
On the other hand, priests and/or deacons must have felt like they got a soft pitch when they saw the readings for Sunday’s Mass. God’s abundant love and never-ending forgiveness? Su-weeeeeeet.
Being the brilliant biblical scholar that I am, I must admit that I always get a bit tired of hearing about David, God’s chosen king of the Jews. Such a goody-goody. He could defeat a giant with a mere slingshot and write poetry and play a mean lyre afterwards. He was the Israelites’ favorite and he was God’s favorite.
So I must admit that I am always kind of glad to hear the story of Bathsheba, when David really, really screwed up. I always like a good Walks-On-Water-Guy-Goes-Bad story. Plus, since slaying a giant with a rock seems like such an unobtainable goal, it’s kind of nice to see that David can sin with the best of us. He broke a handful of God’s Ten Commandments in one fell swoop.
In the Second Book of Samuel (part of which was our first reading at Mass), the prophet Nathan assured David that despite his grave sin, God forgave him. But before he assured David that he was forgiven, he told him the parable of the rich guy who had everything, but nevertheless chose to steal the lamb from the poor man who had nothing else in order to feed a visitor. And what does David say? Why, the nerve of that selfish man! And then Nathan tells him, “David, YOU are this man.”
Oops. Who, me? Gulp.
And our gospel reading from St. Luke was the story of Jesus having dinner with the Pharisee only to be interrupted by the woman known far and wide to be a sinner. She has the nerve – the NERVE I tell you – to wash Jesus’ feet with her tears and dry them with her hair. When his host questions Jesus’ willingness to be in the company of a sinner, Jesus asks him a question which is so reminiscent of Nathan’s parable – who would be more grateful to have a debt forgiven, someone who owed 500 days’ wages or someone who owed 50 days’ wages.
The answer is simple, of course. The man who owes more.
God’s love for us is endless and he forgives us, no matter how badly we sin. That’s the truth that both David and the sinning woman knew. They were forgiven. And that’s good news for sinners like me.
God only asks one thing in return – that we forgive others, just as he forgives us. This message of forgiveness is so beautiful that the homilies must write themselves!
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