11th Sunday Ordinary Time C

I have sinned against the Lord

God loved David very much because he was, as the Scriptures say, “a man after God’s own heart.” So God gave him great favors. He made him ruler over all the Israelites. He bestowed on him the gifts of music and poetry (many of our psalms are attributed to King David). Most importantly, he promised that the Messiah would be of David’s stock. Thus Jesus was “of the house and lineage of David”.

For all his strengths, David had his weaknesses. Power can be abused and David abused it. His most notorious offense was to steal Bathsheba from her husband, General Uriah, and then to “cover up” the adultery by arranging for him to be “accidentally” slain in battle. Truly, the mighty King had fallen low!

But even though he had committed this gross double sin, David still remained a sincere person. So when the prophet Nathan, speaking in the name of God, rebuked him for his crimes, he brought him to his senses. As today’s first reading records it, David exclaimed, “I have sinned against the Lord!” And he really was sorry. When Nathan saw his remorse, he reassured him of God’s grace. God had forgiven his sin and would not condemn him to death. But David would still have to pay a severe penalty for his offenses, even though they were forgiven. David did not balk. He knew he had it coming to him!

In 1983 the church observed a special Holy Year in commemoration of the 1950th anniversary of our Redemption through Christ’s death. Pope John Paul called on us to repent of our sins and to confess them privately to our priests – the present day “Nathans” – so that we may receive their assurance, “The Lord on his part has forgiven your sins.”

If were are to confess our sins completely and humbly, we must first of all admit that we are sinners. Otherwise, we may try to excuse rather than accuse ourselves. Therefore, may we who share David’s frailty also share his honesty and be able to say with him to God, “I acknowledged my sin to you. My guilt I covered not” (Ps. 32:5)

-Father Robert F. McNamara

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Q428: How come David got off so easy (2 Samuel 12:7-10, 13)? Murder (not to mention Lust and Adultery) seems to top the list of actions one could get stoned for, according to Torah.

The readings were not selected today to show that the King was a law unto himself. Rather, they show the critical part that sincere repentance and acknowledgement of guilt play in our relationship with God.

David is the great example of a sincerely repentant person. He realized that not even Kings are exempt from punishment and death in the eyes of the Lord. Psalm 51, the “Miserere,” is usually attributed to his authorship. It reflects the heart of a man who knows he is guilty, yet is truly repentant and begging for mercy from Almighty God. We hear from the Prophet Nathan in the First Reading that this repentance and trust in God’s mercy were answered.

The Gospel (Luke 7:36-50) also tells a story of a repentant woman. By her weeping, one knows that she recognizes her guilt, and trusts in God’s mercy as she kneels at the feet of Jesus. The beautiful part is that Jesus forgives her “for her many sins,” even though she did not verbalize such a request. Her actions spoke louder than words.

God’s mercy is unlimited, and available to all. Even murder (including abortion) and adultery are not outside the realm of God’s forgiveness! All we need to do is acknowledge our sins, sincerely repent and confess these wrongdoings (whatever they are), and trust in God’s mercy. His answer is always simple, like it was for the woman in the story: “Your sins are forgiven. Your faith [in my mercy] has been your salvation. Go now in peace.”

St. Paul reminds us in the 2nd Reading (Galatians 2:16,19-21) that we are not “justified” (made right with God) by the Law. Instead, it is faith in the mercy of Jesus, the Son of God.

KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! Jesus was a “scandal” to the Jewish religious leaders, because they did not understand that his mission was to call sinners to repentance (CCC #588). Accepting their mission from Jesus, the Church bestows God’s mercy to man (CCC #2040). Now it is your turn: to whom do you bestow (or withhold) your own mercy?

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Q584: If Simon the Pharisee knew that the sinful woman in today’s gospel story was a sinner, why did he let her in his house?

The scenario of Jesus having his feet anointed by a woman with a bad reputation always brings to my mind the song “Naughty Lady of Shady Lane” (sung by the Ames Brothers, Dean Martin, and others). Just the title alone can explode your imagination and take you down the sordid pathways of life. The “Lady” throws her come-hither glances at everyone, and never turns down liquid refreshment. But when we get to the beautiful last line of the song, we are delighted to find out she is only a nine-day old baby girl.

Today’s Gospel (Luke 7:36-50) starts out in a similar fashion. A lady we presume to be a naughty lady comes in and starts kissing the feet of Jesus, and anoints them with expensive perfume and her tears. We think, “oh-oh, there’s going to be trouble.” Simon the Pharisee’s motivation is already questionable, because he had not even extended normal hospitality to Jesus when he entered the house. Here was his opportunity to prove to everyone that Jesus wasn’t a prophet. After all, If Jesus was a prophet, Simon reasoned, he would have known about the woman and surely would have prevented her from anointing his feet.

But Jesus immediately turns our attention (and Simon’s) to the subject of monetary debts that are forgiven and the attitudes of grateful hearts. The message is clear: if you are forgiven a lot, you will love a lot. Obviously the woman that the Pharisees thought was a “shady lady” had already acknowledged her sins before God, and knew in her heart that she had been forgiven. So she poured out her expression of gratitude and love by washing the feet of Jesus. Her heart and soul were as clean as that nine-day old baby girl in the song! The last line of today’s gospel song is one of perfect beauty.

It is a powerful double message for us to ponder today. If we do not have unconditional forgiveness in our hearts, and express it, then we do not have love. If we do not acknowledge our own sinfulness and seek forgiveness, we will be unable to love unconditionally. Jesus told the woman to “go in peace.” Is there peace in my heart? If not, what must I do about that?

KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! The prayer from a penitent heart is always answered by Jesus. We do not have to be as extravagant as the gospel woman; all we have to do is ask (CCC#2616). God has given men (priests) the power to forgive sins in his name (CCC #1441).

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David had been given great gifts from God but he threw it all away through his self-indulgent desire for Bathsheba.  His sins were great but God’s love and mercy were greater and David was forgiven when he repented. In the second reading St. Paul reminds us that none of us can earn our salvation.  It is always God’s gift to us.  All we can do is accept it and try to live up to it.  Love is the best antidote for human frailties.  We see this also in the Gospel story of the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet and the two debtors.  Jesus tells us that “little is forgiven where there is small love.  Even is we have sinned greatly, our hope is not destroyed.

Lord, hear my voice when I call to you.  You know how many ways I have failed to respond to your gifts. Help me to change my ways and act more out of love in response to your love.  Aware of my own weaknesses help me not judge others harshly.  Give me the grace to discipline my self in humble response to your self-giving and forgiveness.

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