Monday, June 13, 2016

11th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sam 12:7-10.13
Psalm 31
Gal 2:16.19-21
Luke 7:36:8:3

Being deeply in debt is uncomfortable.  Being forgiven a debt is an extraordinary experience.  What would it be like to open an envelope from the credit card company to find that the bill had been wiped clean? To be told you owe nothing more?  The word tremendous comes to mind.  Wouldn’t it be great to receive a letter from the bank informing you that the mortgage had been forgiven—and you were being given $10 grand for remodeling?  What would it be like to learn that an anonymous benefactor  had freely chosen to pay your debt?  Were we to then meet that benefactor most of us would be speechless in the face of such generosity.  That is what Jesus did for us.  Jesus freely chose to pay our debt, to atone for sin and to save us—not from bankruptcy court—but from death. 

Unfortunately, even after we come to know the one who had freely chosen to pay the debt, even after we learn how that debt was repaid, most of us behave more like the Pharisee than “the woman known in town to be a sinner.” No big deal.  Gratitude is not always our response to the gift or to the giver.

In its commentary on the first reading The Jewish Study Bible notes, “David has been ungrateful to the Lord who gave him everything.”  That is quite an understatement.  The Lord had given David everything and then some.  But—as it is for many—everything wasn’t enough.  He, like us, wanted even more.  So David went as far as to arrange for Uriah the Hittite to be sent to the front lines where he was certain to be killed, so that David could marry Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba, with whom he had already committed adultery resulting in a very inconvenient pregnancy.  David has only one redeeming feature in this sordid chapter.  As the commentary notes, “David, without arguing, frankly and immediately admits his guilt.”   He did not make excuses.  He did not say,  “I was only just . . ."  David did something that is very difficult for all of us.  He said, “I have sinned.”  He admitted his guilt.  He confessed.

The Gospel is something of a contrast. 

While it is difficult, if not impossible for us to admit, “I have sinned,” we are usually enthusiastic participants in the sport of pointing out the sins of others, oftentimes to anyone who will listen.  Simon, the host of the party, and his guests were certainly happy to do so.  “She is a sinner. . . .”  We are all sinners.  We are all sinners loved by God.  But unlike David we are reluctant, if not unwilling,  to admit our guilt.

How many rationalize not taking advantage of the sacrament of confession, or criticize Catholics, by saying "I don't need a priest.  I confess directly to God."?  Perhaps. The rationalizations for not confessing sins are sometimes creative.  In the end they all boil down to one thing, unwillingness to admit to ourselves that we are sinners.  We are unwilling to say it aloud. 

In our relationships with others  we find it difficult to apologize without trying to excuse ourselves saying something such as  “I’m sorry BUT . . .”, a line that is generally followed by inventive rationalizations and self-justifications.  Indeed, we oftentimes begin a comment that is going to hurt another individual with “I’m sorry, BUT. . . ."

The woman in the Gospel recognized the gift.  She recognized the tremendous gift of forgiveness.  And she acknowledged the giver.  Just like us, if we were to meet the benefactor who had freely chosen to pay off our mortgage, the woman was speechless.  She could only weep.  Did she weep from joy?  Did she weep from relief?  Perhaps she wept from sorrow when she realized how undeserving she was.

The responsorial psalm is explanatory:

“I acknowledged my sin to you
My guilt I covered not.
I said ‘I confess my faults to the Lord,’
And you took away the guilt of my sin. 

That is not an easy thing to do.   If we are able to do so, however, there is joy.

“Happy the one whose fault is taken away,
 Whose sin is covered.
Happy the one to whom the Lord imputes not guilt In whose spirit there is no guile."

In his letter to the Galatians Paul wrote, “I will not treat God’s gracious gift as pointless.”   He tells us what we are called to do.  To treat God’s gracious gift not as pointless, not as something that we deserve, not as something to which we are entitled, not as something for which we need not give thanks, but. . . . as the tremendous gift that it is.  The mortgage has been paid off. The bankers can’t touch us anymore.

Despite the bystanders muttering, “Who is this that he even forgives sins?”  we can only stand in silent gratitude as Jesus says to us,

“Your sins are forgiven. . .
Go now in peace.” 

A free day tomorrow.  For the first time in about 35 days I don't have to go anywhere to celebrate Mass.  I love doing it but the luxury of not having to hit the road by 9 AM or later is going to be appreciated.  As there is coffee, cereal, and a few other staples in the room I won't have to get out of my long-sleeved t-shirt and ratty basketball shorts.  Nor will I leave the room, especially dressed like that.  After a certain age a man should never be seen in public in shorts.  I've passed that age.  

The photos attached were taken in Lyon, France one year and one day ago (on 14 June 2014).  It was a perfect June day.  Sunny, warm, with breeze and no humidity.  Absolutely glorious.  I'd been there for two weeks already.  Got some very fine shots.  It was one of the few times I returned home for lunch and downloaded all the photos before going out again.  

The first two are the footbridge from Rue Sala, where the community was located, over to Vieux Lyon.  The church is St. Georges where Mass is exclusively celebrated in the extraordinary rite.  Beautiful stained glass.  The bridge was about 30 yards to the left of our entrance. 

The tiny cafe was almost directly across from the entrance to the community on Rue Sala.  Very tiny. 

Two shots of an art gallery in Vieux Lyon.  There were several things I would have liked to have purchased.  If I had money.  

The farmer's market along the Saône.

Breakfast at an outdoor cafe near the cathedral.

The Cafe des Jacobins, on the other side of the Place Bellecour. 

+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD

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