12 June 2016: Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary time

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
2 Sm 12:7-10, 13 Ps 32:1-2, 5, 7, 11 Gal 2:16, 19-21 Lk 7:36-8:3


Forgiveness: our unmerited gift from God

Green_banner_sm During Ordinary time the Lectionary invites RCIA participants and the believing community to hear and to reflect on Jesus’ stories and teachings from his everyday ministry. This week’s readings ask us to reflect on God’s unmerited forgiveness and our response.

In the first reading from the book of Samuel, the prophet Nathan confronts King David about his adultery with Uriah’s wife (Bathsheba). David immediately recognizes his failing against God and against the community. Nathan tells David “the Lord has forgiven you:” God’s forgiveness comes before David’s personal acknowledgement of his moral lapse. (See the second reading and gospel.)

The second reading continues Paul’s letter to the Galatians. This reading outlines Paul’s view of God’s forgiveness. Religion’s goal is to make us “right” with God. Paul, an observant Jew, had tried to be right with God by following Mosaic law. However, after encountering the risen Jesus, he understood that being right with God was a gift from God, not something he could earn through his own “works of the law.” God alone justifies us (makes us righteous), we cannot justify ourselves. If the law were able to justify and save, then there would have been no need for God to take human form and suffer death.

Luke’s gospel is also about God’s forgiveness. Jesus’ radical forgiveness, including welcoming sinners and eating with them, scandalized the religious leaders. Simon the Pharisee invites Jesus to a meal in his house to entrap or to embarrass Jesus. He offers Jesus none of the required hospitality gestures: greeting his guest with a kiss, providing water to wash his feet and hands, offering oil to anoint (moisturize) his hands and face. Instead, the uninvited woman, who recently received Jesus forgiveness, provides Jesus hospitality. Her actions result in:

  • A parable. Jesus tells Simon a parable about a creditor and two debtors. The parable’s context suggests that Jesus is the creditor, the larger debtor is the woman, and the smaller debtor is Simon. Jesus has already forgiven both their debts. Who loves more? The woman’s love causes her to act; Simon’s lack of love results in his lack of action.
  • Discipleship. Luke gives his model for discipleship:
    1. Discipleship begins with a personal encounter: Who is Jesus? We either hear the good news and have faith or reject his message.
    2. The good news is God’s unmerited forgiveness (Paul calls this grace). Faith allows us to recognize that God’s unmerited forgiveness has made us right with God (Paul calls this justification). This is why Jesus tells the woman, “Your faith has saved you.”
    3. God’s forgiveness moves us to love.
    4. Both faith and love require us to act: to change our hearts and minds (metanoia) and to follow Jesus (become disciples).

Today’s readings remind us that God’s kingdom is not a meritocracy: we don’t earn or deserve admittance. God’s grace comes before we even ask for it. Faith helps us see God’s gift. Now we must act. Like the sinful woman, we can choose love, metanoia, and discipleship; or, like Simon, we can stand with our hands in our pockets and do nothing. We are already forgiven. What is our response?

—Terence Sherlock


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