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My friend and fellow wanderer Deacon Robert Kinghorn was the homilist at his parish this past Sunday as well. We both share a street ministry of sorts and Robert literally wanders the streets of Toronto offering the healing gift of listening to those he encounters.

He focuses us on seeing the people we often miss in this world and the radical teachings on forgiveness we find in the Gospel.

Homily 11th Sunday OT by Deacon Robert Kinghorn

I was called last week to lead a funeral service at a funeral home downtown. I did not know the woman who died, but she had lived for the last three months at a shelter downtown. She was literally born on the street with no family, and she was a street person for all of her 50 plus years. About 10 people showed up at her funeral, all of them knew her from the shelter. As she realized she did not have long to live, they looked after her in the shelter because up until shortly before she died, they could not find a palliative bed for her in a hospital. During the service, I asked if anyone had any memories they wanted to share. Four of the social workers who worked with her came forward to speak.

They said that she could be demanding and shouted a lot. That she had a mask of toughness that kept others at a distance. However, they talked about the last couple of months. They talked about how she finally let down her guard as she realized she did not need to keep others at a distance any longer. She started to show her concern for those who were looking after her. One of the social workers who was closest to her and who looked after her during her last couple of months said this:

“The day that you were told that your journey would soon be over you first worried about me, and then you said that you did not want your journey to end so soon. Next, you became upset and worried about what you could give me or leave me. You looked at me with tear-filled eyes and said, “I will give you my heart.”

I will miss you through the remainder of my journey, but I feel honoured and proud to be the “keeper of your heart.”

I thought of this funeral when I was reading about the lady in the gospel today. She was a street person with a bad name in the town. Just like the lady I buried. And there she was, the cast-off of society daring to touch Jesus, daring to cry in front of him for her sins. And all she could offer him was her heart.

There is something about that moment when we see our weakness. When we finally see we cannot do it alone, and we become human and want to be reconciled with those we have hurt. Both these ladies, the one I buried and the lady in the gospel, took the risk of being vulnerable and asking for friendship, help and forgiveness when they knew they had done nothing to earn it. All they had to offer were their hearts.

I say they took the risk because the response can be exactly what the lady in the gospel received from the Pharisee, “Does he not know who this lady is who is touching him?”  The response from Jesus was simple, “Do you see this woman?” Not just her reputation, not just the label she wears on her forehead for all to see, “Unclean, sinner,” but do you really see her – both her reputation and the person asking for forgiveness.

Fr. Richard Rohr said that two thirds of the teachings of Jesus are about forgiveness. If you look at the readings today it is hard to see any message other than the forgiveness of God. However, today I don’t want to focus on our need to forgive others, but on Jesus, and what he did to win that forgiveness for us. We have to keep our eyes upon Jesus and his forgiveness because that shows us the forgiveness of God.

In the first reading, we heard the remarkable story of King David, the greatest king in the history of Israel. We heard he committed adultery and then had the woman’s husband killed in battle, so he could marry her. And this is the King David whose psalms, we read at mass, and who was the ancestor of Jesus. David simply said, “I have sinned against the Lord.” And he was forgiven. Restored to glory.

Today I ask you, “Do you have something in your life that you feel is unforgivable?“ Some guilt you carry around with you that you fear can never be forgiven? Maybe it’s just some sin, some weakness that you can’t get over, and so you feel that God does not fully accept you. Listen to the readings today. David, an adulterer and a murderer turned to the Lord and was forgiven. The lady in the gospel knelt at the feet of Jesus and she was forgiven.  Is it that easy? For us it is that easy but for Jesus it cost him his life. This is why it is that easy for us. We no longer have to earn our forgiveness, just ask for it, just accept it. We have to stop believing that we have to earn it. Just ask for it, just accept it. Just turn to God in the privacy of your own room or else in the great sacrament of reconciliation and simply say, “I have sinned against the Lord.” Turn to God and say, “I will give you my heart.”

At that moment, like the lady I buried, when we realize our total weakness, and that we are powerless; we turn to others and to God for forgiveness. And then, something happens, something amazing happens. As we feel our freedom and the forgiveness we receive, then we are free to forgive others.

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