June 9, 2016

HOMILY FOR THE ELEVENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, YEAR C (JUNE 12)


HOMILY FOR THE ELEVENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, YEAR C (JUNE 12)

Ronald Stephens
Bishop of Holy Trinity Diocese and St. Andrew’s Cathedral Parish
The Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)

Today is all about that unpleasant topic – sin! If you are like me, you don’t like to be always reminded that you are a sinner, that all men and women are sinners and that we tend to be ungrateful creatures of our our Creator God. I know that for a number of years before I became a priest myself, that was the kind of message i heard every week from the pulpit and would leave Mass feeling guilty and certainly not full of joy.
The problem is that that message is, like Nathan’s message to David today, all true. We are sinners, who seem to fall back into sin even when we don’t want to. But…and here is the important part – this is only half the message. The other half of the equation is the mercy and forgiveness of our God. Even David, who had committed a dreadful sin in the eyes of God was told by Nathan that God has “put away [his] sin. [He] shall not die.”
It bothers me so much today when people dwell only on the sin and ignore the forgiveness that is offered to us time and again. As you know, I end every sermon with the mention of Good News. Being told you are a sinner, realizing you are a sinner, falling again into sin….this is not Good News. That’s the bad news! The Good News is that God is willing to forgive and forget countless times. All we need to do is be sorry, confess our sin and God’s mercy will come to us in abundance.
David’s sin in the first story was great in so many ways. He murdered a man, but if that weren’t bad enough, he did it because of pride, not wanting it to be found out that he had made the man’s wife pregnant. So many of us do things that we try to cover up because of our pride. But God knows all, and we should never think we are hiding it from God.  In a way, David was lucky because God sent a prophet, Nathan, to make him realize his sin was not hidden. It was like God was giving him a second chance. We, too, have prophets inside us – called a conscience – which works in somewhat the same way if we let it.
The Psalm today, Psalm 32, is all about acknowledging one’s sins and not hiding them. Only then will God forgive the guilt of our sin, the psalmist says. Since David also wrote this psalm, no one knew better than he what the Lord had forgiven. If you have to hide, he says, hide in the lord and be preserved from sinning again. The Psalm ends also with Good News: Be glad in the Lord and rejoice…and shout for joy, all you upright in heart.” And surely that is Good News that should never leave our hearts.
Paul today talks about justification which can be a confusing and difficult topic. If I might simplify it, justification means that God has, through the death of Christ, taken away the guilt and penalty of our sins and made everything right again. So it is very much what we have been talking about, but something that happens not just individually but to all men and women. Christ died to make us right and not just to forgive sin, but to open up again the kingdom of heaven to each of us. It is really remarkable Good News and news that should raise us up and make us feel so loved.
In the Gospel today we get a story which is a prime example of all the theology we have just been talking about. Jesus translates  into action this whole sin and forgiveness concept in his own wonderful way.
Jesus is dining at the home of a Pharisee. I am sure the Pharisee’s house was kosher in every way, because Pharisees were noted for their adherence to all the rules and regulations found in the Bible. But even though he was “kosher”, he didn’t include the niceties that would have been expected to have been done to distinguished guests. He didn’t have a servant wash Jesus’ feet, he didn’t welcome Jesus with a kiss, he did not perfume Jesus with ointment.
We are not told how this “sinful” woman entered the Pharisee’s house – she may have even been a servant girl. In any case, she was known by the Pharisee to be a sinner, which could have meant many things from prostitution to uncleanliness. It is never specified. In any case, the woman was moved by Jesus and took out a jar of ointment she had with her and proceeded to anoint Jesus feet after bathing them in her tears and using her hair to wipe the dust off his feet.
The Pharisee doesn’t actually say anything about this but he thinks the worst of this girl and the worst of Jesus, that he would allow a sinner to touch him, defiling him.
So Jesus, as he often des, tells a story. A very simple story. A man had two people who owed him money. One owed a lot, the other a little. The man forgives both their debts and they don’t have to pay him back. Jesus asks, “Which one will love the man more?” Obviously, the answer wold be the one who was forgiven the biggest debt.
Then Jesus forgives the girl of her sins because she has shown great love. But he puts down the Pharisee because he has shown little love for Jesus in his actions, and indicates that he is little forgiven.
The people in the room, presumably many Pharisees were astonished that Jesus was claiming to forgive sins. Notice though it is in the passive voice, “Your sins are forgiven.” He doesn’t actually say that he is forgiving them. But Jesus is more and more beginning to identify himself with God.
So Jesus and the apostles leave the house and we are told they they went about proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom of God. Finally, it is interesting to note that others began to follow him and those that were named were all women. The church would be good to examine THAT as well!
So, this week, I would like you concentrate on the forgiveness of God, and not on the guilt of our sins. It is what Jesus would want you to do. Even more, act on that forgiveness by forgiving others as you would be forgiven. Our faith translates into action. Our being forgiven translates not our ability to forgive others. That is the Christian path, the Christian way – and anyone who tells you differently is not Christian!

This is the Good News I want you to act on this week. God bless.