Saturday, June 12, 2010

11th Sunday, Year C (Gospel: Luke 7:36-8:3) The need to ask for forgiveness

There is a powerful story in the Old Testament about King David. It has all the ingredients of a good movie. David—who is now a very powerful king with everything he could ask for—is walking one day on the roof of his house and he sees a beautiful woman in a nearby garden taking a bath. He asks who she is and he is told that she is Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite. But because he is king and he is used to getting his own way, he has her brought to him and he sleeps with her. Some time later she sends a message to him to tell him that she is pregnant. Now he is afraid because he knows he is going to be found out. So he sends for her husband Uriah, who is away at war fighting for him. When Uriah comes David asks him how the war is going etc. Later he invites him to dinner with him and then he sends him away and says ‘go home to your wife and tomorrow I’ll let you return to the battle.’ But Uriah doesn’t go to his house. Instead he sleeps at the door of the palace with the servants. Maybe he is suspicious.

The next day when David finds out that he didn’t go home to his wife he invites him again to come and eat with him. This time he gets Uriah drunk and then tells him to go home to his wife and spend the night there, but again Uriah sleeps at the gate of the palace. So the following day David sends Uriah back to the battle with a letter to his senior officer telling him to place Uriah in the thick of the battle and then to pull back so that he is killed. Uriah basically carries his own death warrant with him and he is killed.

So we have lust, adultery, lies, betrayal and murder; Quite a list of evil, all committed by the so-called ‘great’ King David. But because God loves David He doesn’t let him away with it and so he sends the prophet Nathan along to David, who tells him the following story.

Nathan says, 'There was once a rich man who lived in a city. He had all he wanted: huge farms, many servants etc. There was also a poor man in the same city who just had one little lamb, and he loved the lamb like one of his own family. One day a stranger came to the rich man, but instead of taking one of his own flock, the rich man took the poor man’s lamb and had him killed for the meal.' When David heard this he jumped up in a rage and said, ‘As the Lord lives, the man who did this deserves to die.’ And Nathan says to David: ‘You are the man.’

Now David is considered one of the greatest kings of ancient Israel and the reason is because of what he does next. When David hears the Prophet Nathan’s accusation he says, ‘I have sinned against the Lord.’ David was powerful enough to be able to do anything he wanted, but when God challenges him he is big enough to confess that he has done wrong and he repents of the sin.

It is because God loves us that He challenges us to acknowledge our wrongdoing and repent of it. The Lord doesn’t want our downfall. On the contrary, the Lord wants us to be able to live in peace, which is why He offers us the extraordinary gift of his mercy and forgiveness as often as we ask for it, but we must ask for it.

What the Gospel reading shows us is just how much the Lord wants to show us that mercy. God wants us to be at peace, so that we can get on with our lives until our time here on earth is over and then He will come to bring us home to him. But God also knows that in oder to experience this peace we must confess our sins before him and ask for this forgiveness.

The way to look at it is not to focus on our sinfulness so much as to see God’s desire for us to be healed and to be at peace. That is what the Lord wants for us. That is why in the Gospel Jesus points out to Simon the great love that the woman has experienced, because she knows she has been forgiven. The greatest healing ministry of the Church is the forgiveness of sins.

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