In today’s first reading and Gospel we have two powerful accounts of sin and forgiveness. The first reading gives us a summary of the story of David’s sin with Bathsheba. David committed adultery and then committed murder to cover his tracks. What happened was this: At the height of his power king David was walking on the roof of his palace one evening when he saw a beautiful woman in a nearby garden taking a bath. He asked who she was and he was told that her name was Bathsheba and she was the wife of Uriah the Hittite. In other words, she was married. But David was a powerful king and used to getting what he wanted, so he demanded that she be brought to him and he slept with her. Some time later Bathsheba sends him a message to say that she is pregnant. Now David begins to panic because he realises he is going to be found out. So he sends for her husband Uriah who is away fighting one of David’s wars.
When Uriah arrives David invites him for dinner and asks him how the war is going and how the men are doing, etc. Then he dismisses him for the evening and tells him to spend the night at home with his wife. But Uriah doesn’t go home and instead remains at the palace. Maybe he was suspicious.
The following day when David hears that Uriah didn’t go home he asks him why he didn’t and he invites him to dinner again that night. This time David makes sure that Uriah has plenty to drink and then tells him again to go home for the night and that he will send him back to the battle the next day. But again Uriah does not go home.
The next day when David realises that Uriah didn’t go home, he writes a letter to Uriah’s commanding officer and tells him to put Uriah at the front of the fighting and then pull back so that he is killed. So Uriah returns to battle not realising that he is carrying his own death warrant and he is killed in battle. Now David seems to be safe.
However, because God loves David, and that’s the important thing, God doesn’t let David away with this. So God sends the prophet Nathan to David who tells him this story. Nathan says that there was once a very rich man who lived in a town. He had all he could want, thousands of animals and servants, etc. There was also a poor man who lived in the same town who had just one little lamb. And he loved the lamb like one of his family. One day the rich man had a guest, but instead of taking one of his own animals for the banquet, he took the poor man’s lamb and had it killed for the feast. When king David heard this he jumped up and said, ‘The man who has done this thing deserves to die!’ And the prophet Nathan says to him, ‘You are the man!’
Now king David is considered one of the greatest kings of ancient Israel and one of the reasons why is because of what he does next. When Nathan says, ‘You are the man’, David says, ‘I have sinned against the Lord.’ David could have had Nathan killed as well, but he realises he has done wrong and he repents. That is why David is a great example.
What the Lord is teaching us through all of this is that God is not worried about the sin, so long as we come back and ask forgiveness. I don’t mean by that that the sins don’t matter. Sin is sin, but what is more important is that we come back and repent, because the Lord's forgiveness is waiting for us.
As you know well, we will never be short of sins to repent of, because as long as people are people we will have sin. We want to live one way, but we fall in spite of our best intentions. That doesn’t really matter so long as we come back to the Lord and ask forgiveness.
All the accounts of Jesus’ dealing with sinners in the Gospel are beautiful. There is no condemnation, only compassion and mercy. We see it in today’s Gospel too. The Pharisee who invited Jesus was concerned about show and what looked good and he was embarrassed when the woman came into his house and caused a scene by weeping at the feet of Jesus. But Jesus’ response was to show her total love and compassion because he knew she was asking for forgiveness. He had no interest in the etiquette side of things. He didn’t care if he looked good before the Pharisee or not. Instead he pointed out that the woman’s love was what got God’s response.
Jesus is saying the same thing to us: ‘I have no interest in your sins, only that you keep coming back to me and when you do come back, don’t be afraid.’
One final point. After David had killed Uriah he then took Bathsheba to be his wife. The child that was born died, but the next child born to them was king Solomon, the great peace-making king and the one who was to build the temple in Jerusalem. God can bring great good out of the mistakes that we make. Not only does God forgive us, but He enables us to begin again. With this in mind, let us never be afraid even when we fall into sin.