11th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year C
One of the things I try to sneak into my homilies is a few minutes to set the stage for the homily. This week I talked about some of the earlier posts on the blog that helped me to pick a theme for the talk. These posts were
- The real Mary from Magdala- Not the sinful woman of this reading!!
- Fr. Robert Barron’s Homily in the This Sunday Post on the first reading
- Three themes of 1st and Gospel reading
- Three themes of 1st and Gospel reading
- A video of Brennan Manning why we often fail to realize how loving our God really is even when we deserve no love
- The Sinful Man story which is a part of today’s homily!
Fr. Richard Rohr, in a CD series called the Sermon on the Mount , shares words to this effect- he says:
“Jesus was not killed by bad or evil men. Jesus was killed for having challenged the conventional wisdom of the day.”
Fr. Rohr spends about 4 of the 6 hours of the series setting the CONTEXT for the Sermon on the Mount- he speaks to the conventional wisdom of our Lord’s time and why His teachings were such a threat to the powerful that were charged with maintaining the status quo.
Context is very important if we are to truly understand the scriptures in a modern day western setting.
What is the Context for today’s gospel- the Story of the dinner at the house of Simon the Pharisee and the sinful woman? This is an excellent example of a teaching and an action that challenged the conventional wisdom of the day and one that certainly got Jesus into trouble with the Jewish religious and political leaders.
Simon the Pharisee was an influential community leader. He was most likely well known and many scholars think this dinner was a set-up to trap Jesus. It is certain that all in attendance would have been men as women at this time would not have been allowed into an event like this.
The woman in our story is also well known. The author refers to her as a sinful woman which means she has almost certainly committed some sort of sexual crime-she is either a prostitute or an adulterer.
Remember the context is important- There are few crimes as serious as this for a Jewish woman at this time in history. To have a reputation as a sinner of this nature means people talked about her, wherever she went. She is considered by the faithful to be unclean, unworthy. She is to be avoided.
Picture the scene- A large room full of men reclining at table. Into this setting, that would be intimating for any woman to enter, comes this person who knows she is being judged by every set of eyes in the room.
Jesus and the woman do not exchange any words- the woman’s actions of respect and caring speak for themselves.
The participants rush to judge Jesus. Simon the Pharisee says:
“If this [Jesus] were a prophet, he would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him that she is a sinner.”
Others must have judged that Jesus was a sinner and knew the woman, he must certainly be a client of hers and therefore was himself unclean. It is the reaction of the participants I want us to consider for a moment and to do this I want to put this scene into a modern day context.
Imagine for a moment that our church community has been transported several hundred kilometers from here to the beautiful farming community in Simcoe county. We have gathered here in great anticipation because Jesus has returned and he has come to speak to our community.
He has come here because we are a wounded parish family. Sitting scattered throughout the congregation are 47 women who have been victimized by the parish priest- Fr. Charles Sylvestre – and Jesus has come to comfort us in our pain.
Suddenly the Church doors swing open and ever so slowly, up the centre aisle of the Church comes a small, frail and broken 84 year old man. He is wearing priestly clothes and instantly all of us realize that into our midst has come the abuser- the sinful man so hated by all of us.
He arrives at the front of the Church and falls to his knees and grasps the feet of Jesus.
Jesus raises the man up- embraces him and says in a voice loud enough for all to hear- “Your sins are forgiven.”
What is your reaction as Jesus embraces the sinful man and forgives him?
Consider this story from at least 3 perspectives:
- The story of the sinful woman of the bible and the modern day sinful man starts with an act of contrition on the part of the sinner. Just like David in the first reading, they come to God with a heavy heart and they are sorry for the wrongs they have committed.
- They are then forgiven. It is unconditional and the fact that each is guilty of the worst possible offenses they are embraced and their sins are pardoned.
- There is also a sense of reconciliation. The sin has caused a rupture in the relationship between sinner and God and the act of contrition by the sinner and forgiveness by God has made the relationship whole again.
Do you believe in an image of God that is so loving that he will always welcome you back no matter the seriousness of your sins?
Are we strong enough to learn from the example of Jesus and find the courage to break with conventional wisdom and accept the sinner into our midst- Can we suspend judgment and accept that people are worthy of love no matter their past?
And finally can we follow Jesus example and offer forgiveness to others.
By the way it is important that we understand that there is a difference between forgiveness and reconciliation. They are two very different ideas.
Forgiveness frees us from the past and may allow the offender to go forward as well. To forgive does not require and act of contrition on behalf of the offender and reconciliation between humans is not always wise or possible.
This weeks readings remind us of our call to be forgiving people. In a moment we will pray the prayer Jesus taught us at the end of his Sermon from the Mount. I would encourage you to think of two words from that prayer in a new way. When we offer the prayer we will ask our Father for forgivesness and then we will at least imply that we ask for this forgiveness in a masure equal to the mout of forgive we offer to others.
I encourage you to pay attention to the words AS We when we say:
Father forgive us our trespasses AS WE forgive those who have trespassed against us.