11th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year C.
Commentary Theme for this Sunday:
“The ‘Perfect’… Who Are Incapable Of Love”.
When faced by guilt, we are tempted to hide it or to justify it one way or the other. Behaviour like this hinders God’s forgiveness.
David in the first reading, the woman sinner and all other woman that the Gospel mentions today are people who have admitted their guilt, their sinfulness and their need for God’s help and forgiveness.
All three readings stress that the Church is not made up of the “upright”, but of sinners who have been forgiven and who know that they need continually the forgiveness of God and of their brethren.
Whoever is endeavouring to hide their evil behind an exact and rigorous observance of norms and religious rules may seem to be a ‘perfect’ person, like the Pharisees… but will certainly not be able to love.
Christ’s Church is not a sanctuary for the upright; it is a hospital for sinners where the best medicine is ‘love’.
It is recommended that the actual readings are first studied and then meditated upon with a prayer to the Holy Spirit to grant you the gift of ‘wisdom’ to understand the meaning of the messages of Love, Forgiveness and the Offer of Salvation that the Lord has for each one of us in the Holy Bible.
These commentaries, which have been extracted and summarised for our meditation, are from the published works of priests who have, by their Divine inspiration, become acclaimed scholars of the Scriptures and generally reflect the Church’s understanding of the readings.
These commentaries are not meant to replace the Sunday Homily at Holy Mass but are provided as an additional guide to assist and further enhance our understanding of the Sunday Liturgical Readings.
‘Daily Reflections’ and a Prayer are included to enable us to ‘Live the Word’ during the week following the Sunday Mass. We will begin to understand the meaning of gratuitous love and our life’s true purpose. Through His Word, we will follow the Light to help fulfil the mission that has been given to each one of us by our Creator.
“Allow the Spirit of God to break the chains that keep us from understanding and accepting the word of God.”
2 Samuel 12:7-10, 13.
In the first reading, the prophet Nathan, through telling David a parable about a rich man who steals a lamb, brings him to realize his guilt and shame and the great offence he has made against the Lord, who has given him everything a man’s heart could desire. Nathan then confronts David with his sins of adultery with Bathsheba and the subsequent murder of her husband, Uriah. David accepts Nathan’s rebuke and acknowledges, “I have sinned against the Lord.” Nathan replies, “Now the Lord has put away your sin; you shall not die. David’s failure was most serious. Yet, when he repented, God was quick to forgive. Not only did God forgive David, God did not in any way take back the promise he had made to David and his descendants.
David was a murderer and an adulterer, by God’s own accusation. Why then, does David get off the hook? Some persons in Hebrew Scriptures have been struck down in their tracks for touching a sacred object out of turn. Yet David is spared for far worse offences. What saves David’s life is his great honesty, coupled with his great love. David is the first to admit his guilt, although he does not exactly seek Nathan out to confess, David now sincerely repents for the contempt shown for the Lord.
It is important to note that this passage is not primarily about sin; it is about forgiveness. David is more than just a disobedient servant. He is also one who loves God and who manifests this side of his character by straightforwardly acknowledging his sinfulness. In response to David’s acknowledgment, God assures him that he has already been forgiven. The punishments that God had levied on him would stand, but David would continue as king and as God’s friend.
We all know how difficult it is, after a betrayal, to re-establish conjugal and family peace, friendship and unity, and mutual trust between husband and wife. Experience tells us that man cannot get out of this situation by himself, nor does he know how to free himself from the deadly consequences this dramatic situation has brought on him.
God does not abandon him in that painful situation he got himself into. The one who loves much is forgiven much, and David has been fervent in his love for God until now. The lesson we might take to heart here is to love lavishly, like holy fools, not knowing when and if our ‘love’ might stand as the only character witness we have in our favour. The last word of God is always forgiveness, never a word of threat.
Psalm 32:1-2, 5, 7, 11.
The Psalm is a penitential psalm, which begins with a blessing on those who have had their sins forgiven. Like David, the sinner has made a public confession of guilt. This leads to a deeper appreciation of the goodness, mercy and fidelity of God.
Galatians 2:16, 19-21.
One of the ideas most deeply rooted in the minds of many Christians is that paradise is only for those who gain the right to enter into it through good deeds. This was also the mindset of the Pharisees at the time of Jesus. They were sure that salvation was strictly linked with merit and it could only be achieved by scrupulous observance of all and even the least important law.
Many of them were converted to Christianity (Acts 15:5), but did not forgo this way of understanding religion, and they introduced and spread also in the early Church these convictions of theirs.
In the passage of today Paul is reminding the Galatians who had fallen for this idle talk and opinions of the Pharisees-turned-Christians that God gives salvation to men and women in a totally gratuitous manner. It is not us, or our good deeds, that buys for us the right to enter paradise; it is God who makes us good by granting us his grace and love.
The Gospel of today combines two scenes. The first in (Lk. 7:36-50) takes place in the house of Simon the Pharisee. His meal is interrupted by a woman known to be a sinner. She dares to approach Jesus with a gesture of love and gratitude because she has experienced God’s forgiveness and love in her sinfulness. This is a challenge to Simon’s self-righteous image. The second scene shows that among the disciples of Jesus there were men and women who followed him and participated in his ministry.
The customary way of Jews at the time of Jesus in taking their meals was to remove their sandals, recline on a couch with the feet outside and face towards a central focus. This explains why the woman was able to approach Jesus and wash his feet with her tears, kiss them and then anoint them. She could not have done this under a table.
Is the woman forgiven because she has loved much? Or does she show such great love because she has been forgiven? What comes first, God’s mercy or her love? Some see God like a bookkeeper who keeps an account of our good deeds and then forgives us if we deserve it. Jesus destroys the idea that ‘forgiveness is earned’ in the story of the ‘two debtors’.
It is the person who has been forgiven a bigger debt that will love more. Jesus sees the love of the woman as a sign of the forgiveness of God she has experienced. It is the very nature of God to forgive (Ex. 34:6). We do not buy God’s forgiveness by our love. We receive it freely and then live by it.
The story Jesus tells Simon reinforces the difference between the one who forgives and the one who delights in the sin of others. Two men owe a certain moneylender different sums. (Here, amazingly Jesus identifies himself with a moneylender). Both debts are written off, as if the moneylender does not differentiate their value. To the moneylender these two debtors are the same: neither one can pay. So they are treated the same and both sums are written off.
If Simon could really have understood it, he would have realized that he, a Pharisee, was being equated in God’s eyes with a notorious sinner. His small, hidden sins were the same to God as her flamboyant, high profile infractions. She may have been wearing the ‘red dress’ and he the modest prayer shawl, but to God, both of them were in need of forgiveness, and that is what God was offering.
When we say that God forgives our sins, it does not mean that God pretends that nothing has happened or that no harm has been done. Evil is evil. Evil does do harm. The harm that evil does often persists in the lives of others for a long time. We need to be clear about all that. But God loves us anyhow, in spite of what we have done and in spite of what we still have to make up for. God is a God of forgiveness because God is a God of love – in spite of our sinfulness.
In many and various ways we have all demonstrated disregard and ungratefulness for the gifts that God has given us. We all stand in need of God’s forgiveness, in need of God’s love in spite of our wrongdoing. For that reason we are called to love those who have done wrong to us. We cannot expect to get forgiveness unless we are willing to give it. God calls on all those he has forgiven to forgive each other as he has forgiven them. This is the best way we can express our desire to be like Jesus is to be forgiving like he is.
Jesus’ attitude to women was very revolutionary for the time. He mixed freely with them and accepted them to express publicly their deep love for him, as in the Gospel of today. He even welcomed them among his disciples. These women accompanied him all the way to his crucifixion and, in all the four Gospels they are the first witnesses to the Resurrection. They are sent to bring the ‘Good News’ to the male disciples. God reveals through Jesus that women have a place equal to what society had traditionally attributed to men.
In dining at Simon’s house Jesus has confronted his host with a question on how he sees other people. Today many questions are addressed to us also. Am I the one who judges others, who spreads scandal, who gives a bad name to somebody? Am I the cold, unfeeling person looking down on others? Am I a sinner who will be eternally grateful to God for his mercy?
‘Acknowledgement and Thanks’ to ‘Recommended Source Material’ by:
Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Fr. Fernando Armellini SCI, Peter Edmonds SJ, Richard Baawobr M.Afr, Joseph A. Slattery Ph.D, Adelmo Spagnolo MCCJ, Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap, J.E. Spicer CSsR, John R. Donahue SJ and Alice Camille – Master’s degree in Divinity.
Reflections for each day this Week to lead us in the ‘Way, the Truth and the Life’.
Almighty God and Father, on the … of the week following 11th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year C, we reflect on …
Sun. …The prophet Nathan relates a parable to David to bring him to the realization of his sinfulness and guilt. David accepts Nathan’s rebuke and acknowledges his wrongdoing. How receptive are we to a dressing down or being taken to task for our actions which have hurt others in our communities and offended God? Do we acknowledge the embarrassing reproach from ‘the messenger’ in the spirit that it is meant or do we cover up or become defensive or even aggressive?
Mon. … David sincerely repents for the contempt shown for the Lord. When we wilfully sin and put our will and desires before God’s will, we are showing contempt towards God. How sincere is our repentance; how sincere is our love for our God?
Tues. …We all need to respond to God’s unfailing forgiveness with acts of love. We are all sinners and we need to realize that the only ‘character witness’ we may have in our favour is our love for one another and our love for God.
Wed. … Many of us still believe that paradise is only for those who gain the right to enter it through good deeds and merits achieved by scrupulous observance to all the laws in fine detail. Paul reminds us in his Letter to the Galatians that God gives salvation to men and women in a totally gratuitous manner. It is God who makes us good by granting us his grace and love. Do we live a life filled with God’s love sharing it with others or do we replace his love by our own will and foolish pride, hatred and selfishness?
Thurs. … Jesus’ parable of the ‘Two Debtors’ destroys the idea that forgiveness is earned. It is in the very nature of God to forgive. We do not buy God’s forgiveness by our love. We receive it freely and then live by it. Many of our sins can be likened to huge debts that could never be paid back. Like the ‘moneylender’ God writes these debts off when we truly repent and in our meagre way offer up our humble but sincere reparation.
Frid. … Are we sometimes like ‘Simon the Pharisee’ by striving to be perfect? Do we delight in the sins of others? Our small and hidden sins are the same in God’s eyes as the more serious violations that others may commit. Evil is evil, and does cause pain and suffering. We should never assume that in God’s eyes our sins are lesser and we are better than others.
Sat. … Jesus’ attitude towards women was revolutionary for the time. He welcomes them among his disciples. God reveals through Jesus that women have a place equal to what society had traditionally attributed to men. How do we treat women in our families, in our workplaces and in our communities?
Prayer after the Daily Reflection.
Father, let us today reflect on Your love and forgiveness. You call upon us to forgive each other as you have forgiven us. We pray for Your guidance that we may become like Jesus and be as loving and forgiving as he is.
This we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.
Compliments: Bible Discussion Group.
Our Lady of the Wayside, Maryvale.
“Discovering the Truth through God’s living Word”.