Monday, June 17, 2013

Be Aware

Readings for Sunday, June 16/ Eleventh Sunday of Ordinary Time:
2 Samuel 12:7-10, 13
Psalm 32:1, 2, 5, 7, 11
Galatians 2:16, 19-21
Luke 7:36-8:3

The readings this weekend invite us to reflect upon a number of important topics: sin, forgiveness, love of God, and reconciliation. But for us today I think the most important is that of an awareness of our sins.

In the Gospel we hear about Simon the Pharisee, who invites Jesus to his home for dinner. He doesn’t seem to have a real desire to draw closer to the Lord, though, as Jesus points out that he has failed to show any signs of hospitality. The common courtesy was to give water to wash a visitor’s feet, a little oil to freshen them up a bit, and a kiss of peace as a sign of welcome. By not attempting to do any of these things he shows that while he has opened his home to the Lord he surely hasn’t opened his heart. It seems, instead, that the dinner invitation is more about status; you can imagine Simon later in the week bragging to his friends ‘Hey, you know Jesus came to my house for dinner the other night.’

In stark contrast to Simon we have the woman, this nameless lady of faith, who comes and does everything that Simon should have done – and does it to excess. Rather than a bit of water she pours out her tears, instead of oil she gives the Lord precious ointment, and she kisses his feet ceaselessly, not just once. You can tell right from the start that she comes to express her love for the Lord and to have a personal connection with Him in that moment.

The difference between the two is an awareness of sins. Simon comes to the occasion thinking he has nothing to learn and nothing in need of changing. He’s just fine in his own eyes and so he keeps the Lord at arms length. The woman, however, recognizes her sins and comes to the Lord for His forgiveness and help. Both were sinners, but only she recognized it. So we have to ask ourselves the necessary question: Am I more like Simon or the repentant woman?

King David by Gerard van Honthorst
To help further our reflection on that topic we can look at the person of King David, whose own story of repentance we heard in our first reading. David is said in the scriptures to be ‘a man after God’s own heart’ and who is often depicted as a model disciple. That reality can be a consolation to all of us, that while David was indeed a man of holiness he was also a sinner, just like every one of us. Nobody is exempt from sin and its temptations. And so we hear about the great repentance of David who, by Nathan’s parable recognizes his sins, and repents. The repentance is intense because the deeds he committed were very serious – adultery, murder, lies, and abuse of his kingly authority were nearly all punishable by death under the Law of Moses. So David recognizes the seriousness of what has taken place. But the reality is that David didn’t just wake up one day and say, “I think I’m commit some serious sins today” and get to work on that. It never happens that way, does it? It’s always something more subtle. The devil is far too intelligent to suggest we dive right into serious sins. Instead he starts with a small trap and leads us along the way; and that’s what we see with David. If we go back a bit from the section we read today we find the full story. It begins with David in his palace. This detail seems insignificant, but it is actually quite important. The fact that Uriah, the husband of Bathsheba, with whom David commits adultery, is out on military conquest. It was the season for military men to be out defending or strengthening their country and it was duty of the king to be there leading the charge. But where is David? Enjoying some lazy days at the palace. You can hear the excuses: “I’ve done enough of that”, “They can take care of things without me”, and “Just this one year I need to rest a bit.” Always it begins with some little choice and for David it begins with a simple slacking up on his responsibilities as king. Then the description goes on to point out how David awoke late in the day; he’s been getting a lot of rest lately, a bit lazy it seems. And then the hinge is when David goes up on his roof to simply survey things, to look around and see what’s happening in his kingdom. Here we can see in a descriptive sense that David who once was obedient to the Lord has now slipped himself in the place of the Lord. David now makes the rules in a sense. Here is where he goes wrong and find himself looking up Bathsheba with lust and then follows the whole list of sins he committed.

The important thing is that the big things always start from little things, those things which seem so insignificant and we can easier give ourselves a ‘free pass’ of sorts. How many times have we said, “It been a long day at work/school…” , “But I did such and such the other, that should count for something…” , “That’s just my personality…” and any other number of creative phrases which simply mean “I’m don’t care about that little sin.” Like Simon, we can think everything is fine because we’ve blinded ourselves to our little sins and eventually the big ones. But what the Lord invites us to today is an awareness of our sinfulness, especially in the little things. But we must not stop there, lest we just become consumed by our sins. We are called to learn from David, Paul, and the woman of the Gospel who, recognizing their sins, fly to the Lord for forgiveness. Our Lord Jesus died for our sins and it is the deepest desire of His heart to have the same exact experience with us as He had with the woman in the Gospel. He longs to have us come with tears of repentance, to shower Him with kisses out of love, and to provide a special ointment of conversion to Him. And that happens in the confessional. There we can have the assurance of forgiveness. There we can know the Love of God for us and give that love in return. There we can hear also those blessed words, “Your sins are forgiven… Your faith has saved you, go in peace.”