Thursday of the Twelfth Week of Ordinary Time (June 23rd, 2016)

Today’s excerpt from the Old Testament Book of Kings signals the end of the Kingdom of David. In the year 587 BC, the defenses of the city of Jerusalem would fall. The temple would be destroyed. The inhabitants of Jerusalem would be exiled and enslaved. The royal family, King David’s descendants, would be put to the sword. The walls of the city would be demolished and all that would remain would be a desolate ruin.

The end of the Kingdom of David should have meant the end of the Israelites, but the words of the prophets were fulfilled, a remnant of faithful Israelites remained. From this remnant of faithful Israelites, God’s people would re-emerge, purified and redeemed. Suffering would give way to new possibilities. Death to new life.

In the midst of the catastrophe of 587 BC it seems that God had abandoned his people, but the prophets insisted that this was not the case. God remained present, active and working. It didn’t feel like this was the case to the Israelites, but the prophets insisted that despite what it felt like, God remained with his people. Despite their refusal, their infidelity, their idolatry, God would not reject the people that had so many times rejected him.

How was God with his people in the midst of catastrophe? The answer to this question was finally revealed in the cross of Christ, wherein God himself descends into shame, into suffering, into death and in doing so demonstrates to us that none of these harsh facts of human existence can separate us from his divine life and presence. Not even the worst possible outcome is beyond God’s power to transform, to save, and to redeem.

The cross of the Lord Jesus is God’s answer to not only the questions raised by the catastrophic events of 587 BC, but also to the questions raised by the shame and suffering and death that we experience ourselves.   In the cross we see that no matter how the raw facts of life feel, God has not abandoned us and makes himself present to us even when it seems impossible for him to do so.

Faith is an act of trust that God is faithful to his promises. The Bible testifies over and over again that God remains faithful, even when we are unfaithful. The foundation upon which our act of faith in God rests is the cross of Jesus Christ.

Christ insists that our profession of faith in him be sincere. To call Christ our Lord is not to give him a title or an honorarium. To testify Christ is Lord is a statement about who Jesus is and what our relationship to him actually entails. If Christ is our Lord, this means that we belong to him and have placed our lives at his service.

Is this true? Do we belong to Christ or is our commitment to him mitigated by all sorts of other attachments? Do we place our lives at his service? Or do we seek to serve only ourselves and our own interests and needs?

Being a disciple, truly being a disciple is always an unrelenting test of our sincerity. It is within this test, this crucible, that we are forged into saints.

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Wednesday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time (June 22nd, 2016)

Today’s first scripture for Mass is yet another excerpt from the Old Testament Book of Kings. Yesterday, we heard about the tribulations of King Hezekiah, one of the few rulers of the Israelites who was actually a virtuous king, a man of competence and character.

Today we learn about another of the good kings of the Israelites, a man by the name of Josiah. Josiah initiated a reform of the Israelites priesthood that expressed itself in a purification of Israelite worship. The dictates of the Law of Moses regarding Israelite worship were strictly applied, reverence to pagan gods and goddesses was forbidden and worship was centralized at the temple of Jerusalem. It was also likely that during the reign of Josiah that what we know as the Old Testament book called Deuteronomy was compiled, a book which would serve as an important point of reference for Josiah’s religious reforms.

Josiah’s concern about worship highlights that in order for there to be culture, there must also be a cult. What people worship, what a community esteems as their ultimate concern, will shape and influence politics, economics, literature and the arts, indeed all the aspects of civilization that we call culture.

Josiah knew that many of the Israelites were insincere in their worship. They were playing games with Israelite religion and using it, not as a way of honoring God, but as means to advance their own agendas and causes. Further, despite professing faith in the one, true God, they were at the same time worshiping false gods- the gods of wealth, pleasure, power and honors. The worship of these false gods had seeped into the public worship of the temple, symptomatic of the soul sickness of the Israelites. The one true God had been displaced in his own house by gods of wealth, pleasure, power and honors.

Has the one true God been displaced in our own lives by false gods?

Christ the Lord warns us to beware of false prophets. A prophet speaks God’s word of truth. A false prophet will speak his or her own word and elevate that word to having divine authority. How does one distinguish a true prophet from a false prophet?

Our reference point is Christ. A true prophet will bear witness to the Lord Jesus in words and in actions. They will introduce you to the Lord Jesus and present themselves as his servant. They will propose, not impose. They will offer an invitation, not a threat. They will introduce you to Christ, and they will not stand in his way. And the true prophet will do for you what Christ does- will for you what is the highest and most important good.

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Tuesday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time (June 21st, 2016)

Today’s first scripture is an excerpt from the Book of Kings. As I have mentioned, the Book of Kings, along with the books of Samuel and Chronicles detail the rise and fall of the Kingdom of David. The Kingdom of David was the means that God used to unite the disparate and fractious tribes of the Israelites into one people. The purpose of this unity was so that the Israelites could better accomplish their mission, which was to bear witness to the world the reality of the one, true God and show forth their relationship with the one, true God through the unique way of life.

The Kingdom of David was subverted from the beginning by irascible and wicked desires for wealth, pleasure, power and honors. These things were elevated to divine status, becoming the ultimate concern of the Israelites. While the attainment of wealth, pleasure, power and honors are considered by the worldly to be what it means to be successful, the rapacious desire for these things and the elevation of these things to be gods brought about the destruction of the Kingdom of David.

Most of the kings and queens remembered in the historical books of the Bible were mediocre or wicked. Few were faithful to God. Hezekiah, the king mentioned today, was one of the few rulers of the Israelites who was a rare example of fidelity and virtue amongst the mediocre and wicked.

Hezekiah is facing the imminent invasion what was one of the most brutal armies of the ancient world- the armies of Assyria. He turns to the prophets for counsel, and they assure him that the armies of Assyria will be defeated, not by the armies of the Israelites, but through divine intervention. The Israelites cannot save themselves. God will save his people.

The Israelites would be rescued and the Kingdom of David would receive a reprieve from destruction. The people would have the opportunity to repent, but would they?

The words of the prophets to Hezekiah are ominous in this regard. Eventually, only a remnant of the Kingdom of David would remain. The Kingdom of David would fall and the Israelites would be driven from the lands of their ancestors.

Yet, from this remnant, a new hope and new possibilities would arise for the Israelites. God will use what is small to create something great.

Hezekiah is mentioned in the Gospel of Matthew as one of the ancestors of the Lord Jesus. It is Christ who is the new hope who would arise from the tiny remains of the once great Kingdom of David. In appearance, Christ seems to be only one man, a small thing, but it is Christ, who to the world appeared to be insignificant, who will re-create Israel and enliven the Israelites with new possibilities.

Christ the Lord has three pieces of advice for us today. The first is to be careful about our presentation of the faith to others, especially the great mysteries of our Faith- the Sacraments. Many will not be prepared to receive the faith in its fullness and if our efforts to share the faith with others are not prudent and carefully measured by what an individual can and is willing to receive, the end result can be disastrous. If we are imprudent in our intentions and methods, it would be like throwing sacraments to dogs, or valuable treasures to swine. Nothing good will come of it.

The second piece of advice is to treat others as we would like to be treated. If we want to be forgiven, we should forgive. If we desire mercy, we should be merciful. If we want to be cared for, we should care for others. If we want justice, then we have to be just ourselves. How we treat others returns to us. We should not expect kindness if we are ourselves unkind.

Finally, Christ insists we seek the mysterious “narrow gate” as our route of access to God. This gate is Christ himself and the way of life that he gives to us.

The way to God is not something that we make up out of our ideas or opinions or feelings, this would be the wide and broad way that Christ insists leads only to destruction. It would also seem to us to be an easier way and it is- but it cannot save and it cannot redeem. Rather than taking us to God it traps us in our own ego, and once imprisoned in the ego, the route of access to God is blocked, obstructed.

Christ and his way of life are more difficult, but he takes us where we need to go. He is the privileged route of access to God and his way sanctifies, heals and redeems.

We could choose another way other than Christ, but Christ the Lord insists that we should not have any illusions about the end result of such a decision. Christ wants us to flourish. He wants us to share his divine life. He wants us all to be saved. But is this what we want? We must make a decision.

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Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time (June 19th, 2016)

The Church’s first scripture for today is an excerpt from the Old Testament book of the Prophet Zechariah. The prophet Zechariah proclaimed God’s truth during a time of restoration and renewal for the Israelites. A time of great trial and tribulation was coming to an end, as the Israelites were freed to return to their ancestral lands after a long and painful exile in Babylon. The Israelites had languished in Babylon as captives after the catastrophic events of 587 BC, when the Kingdom of David came to a violent end, conquered by the armies of Babylon.

The Israelites had literally lost everything in 587 BC, but during the ministry of the Prophet Zechariah, things changed in favor of the Israelites. The Israelites were going home. Thus the prophet Zechariah proclaims that God has given the Israelites a second chance and new opportunities.

 

The specific passage from the Prophet Zechariah you heard today is very mysterious. He foresees that one day the Israelites will look upon a man who is pierced, and in their grief they will recognize that God has visited his people in an extraordinary way, and from this pierced man will come forth an opportunity for communion with God.

Christians have understood the Zechariah’s words as referring to Christ. Christ is the pieced one of Zechariah’s vision, a vision that becomes reality in his cross, which is contrary to all appearances, God’s means of offering us communion with his divine life.

This might seem hard to understand, but here in your sanctuary is a monumental representation of Zechariah’s vision- the image of the crucified Savior, the pierced and wounded Christ. This image of Christ crucified is not merely a decoration, but a point of reference that helps you to understand what is happening in this place, in the Holy Communion of the Mass. It is always in relationship, in communion with the Pierced Christ that God reveals himself to us.

For it is the cross that God’s identification, his relationship with us is most profound and deep- God experiences for himself the pain of suffering and the loneliness of death. God is with us, and he is with us, not just in some things, or in pleasant things, but in all things, all the events and circumstances of life. This is the covenant of his Body and his Blood (the Pierced Christ)- it is his promise that he keeps and it is the promise that he renews each time the Mass is offered and the Blessed Sacrament is adored and received.

The Church’s second scripture is an excerpt from the Letter of St. Paul to the Galatians. In his testimony, St. Paul makes it very clear that the categories of identity that the world considers important- political, ethnic, familial, economic, cultural are not as important as the identity that is given to us through our Baptism, the identity that comes from being in relationship with Christ.

All the worldly categories that we prize and deem so important will all one day fall away. When we meet the Lord Jesus face to face, all the worldly markers of identity that we cherish and value will merit barely a fraction of a second of the Lord’s attention. He will not see us in accord with the identities that we construct out of our worldly categories, but will know us and measure us and judge us only in reference to the identity that he has given us- that being a son and daughter of God.

This is not pious boilerplate. It is a revelation. In the end, when each of us comes to meet Christ face to face, he will not ask us what political party we belonged to, or what university we attended, or what degrees we attained. He will not ask us how much wealth we created or the status of the corporations we owned or worked for. Christ will not ask us our nationality or ethnicity or our family name. What he will be interested in is what we did with the gifts he bestowed on us, the opportunities he placed before us to love and to serve- and most importantly he will demand to know whether or not the Baptism he gave us was appreciated and taken seriously.

We might not take our Baptism seriously, reducing it to merely a quaint custom, convince ourselves nothing much is at stake in our Baptism, but God in Christ takes it very seriously, because it is the only identity we take with us from this life to the next. Any identity that we have in this world passes away in the world to come- except that identity that comes from our Baptism.

The Christian knows this, and for this reason, the Christian does not cling to worldly identities that are passing away, but holds fast to the identity Christ gives to us in Baptism- the identity of being a beloved member of God’s household, a member of his family, a brother or sister of the Lord Jesus- a son or daughter of God.

This is the meaning of the Apostle Paul’s testimony, his insistence that for those who are baptized in Christ, all are one, and the worldly distinctions we make absolute and cling to, are all just passing away.

Much of the hard work of being a disciple is letting go of worldly identities and coming to fully accept our Baptismal identity, our relationship with Christ.

Christ begs a question of his disciples in his Gospel, and in begging a question of his first disciples- he begs the same question of us- who do you say that I am?

Note that Christ has only cursory interest in what others have to say about him. He is not interested in a disinterested answer, the kind of answer a journalist or historian or biographer would contrive.

Instead he insists that each of his disciples answer the question personally- and further, he indicates that there are many wrong answers and only one answer that is really and truly right. Our idea about him, or our opinions or our feelings do not make him who he is. He is always boldly and serenely himself. Christ is asking us to profess our faith and to tell the truth. Who do we think that he is- and in terms of what we think, are we getting him right or just making things up, or worse, remaining passive and indifferent.

Do we know who the Lord Jesus really and truly is?

Now mind you, the question is not what we know ABOUT the Lord Jesus, but whether or not we know him personally- as one knows a friend. To be in relationship with Jesus Christ is to be a friend of God. It is only in this relationship of friendship that the fullness, the grace and truth of the Lord Jesus is revealed.

If we truly know Christ as a friend, then we can introduce him to others, and in our willingness to introduce others to Christ, the Church can flourish and grow.

But if we do not know Christ as one knows a friend, then the Church will falter and fail, for the purpose of the Church is to serve as a means of introducing people to Jesus Christ.

You see, the Church is not merely an institution we fund with our surplus wealth or a private religious club of our own making. The Church is the means that God in Christ has chosen to make himself known. The Church is first and foremost, the way Christ chooses to introduce himself to people. It is through the Church that a relationship with Jesus Christ happens and it is relationship to Christ and the Church that one becomes a Christian.

Therefore, being a Christian, is not about being a privileged recipient of faith based services or matriculating through Catholic-themed institutions. You can do these things and still not be a Christian- or worse, be a bad Christian.

Being a Christian, in faith and in truth, is about knowing Jesus Christ as one knows a friend and inviting others to know him too!

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Saturday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time (June 18th, 2016)

Our first scripture for today is an excerpt from the Old Testament Book of Chronicles, one of the historical books of the Bible. The Book of Chronicles, along with the Books of Samuel and Kings, detail the rise and fall of the Kingdom of David. The Kingdom of David was the means that God used to unite the disparate tribes of the Israelites into one people, but human pride and folly subverted God’s purpose almost from the beginning of the Kingdom.

Most of the rulers of the Israelites were wicked and brought misery to the people. The Books of Chronicles, Kings and Samuel are brutally honest about the failures of the men and women who ruled the Israelites. The Bible has a keen sense of the tendency of all political arrangements, causes and ideologies towards corruption. Politics can be helpful, but politics cannot save us from our sins, and more often than not, we have to be delivered from the political and ideological systems that we create.

The wickedness of the Israelite rulers was manifested in idolatry, which means the worship of false gods. These false gods were representations of the desires, of not only the Israelite rulers, but also the Israelites themselves, for wealth, pleasure, power and honor. So consuming was the desire for wealth, pleasure, power and honors, that the elites of Israel were willing to sacrifice almost anything to attain them- even their relationship with the one, true God.

Today’s scripture makes it very clear that idolatry is not without consequences- in the case of the Israelite rulers it led to violence and murder.

It was the idolization of wealth, pleasure, power and honors that undermined and ultimately led to the destruction of the Kingdom of David. There was no political remedy to the soul sickness of the Israelites. Deliverance would only come when the Israelites, betrayed by the false gods that they worshipped, repented, and returned to the one, true God that they had rejected.   As it was then, so it is now…

The effects of idolatry on our own lives may not be as dramatic as what is described today in the Book of Chronicles, but there will be consequences. Wealth, pleasure, power and honors may not be our idols, but false gods afflict us all. Perhaps our idols are our fears, our desire to be right or to have things our way. Whatever our idols are, nothing good will ever come from them and it is best that we turn away from them and turn back to God.

Christ the Lord insists today is his Gospel that there is no negotiating or equivocation possible when it comes to idolatry. We cannot serve two masters. We either belong to Christ or to someone or something else. The distinction is that stark and demanding.

Belonging to Christ entails a rigorous test of our sincerity, a willingness to detach ourselves from those things that are contrary to his will for our lives. Disciples will often times refuse to choose those things that the world considers to be necessary and important. Further, we cannot be so pre-occupied, as worldly people tend to be, with personal comfort and security. Disciples must be ready for mission and the mission will demand a willingness to endure hardships, make sacrifices and take risks.

Christ may not ask us for the kinds of sacrifices or to endure the kinds of risks and hardships that characterize the lives of so many of the Church’s saints, but he will ask something of us for the sake of the Church’s mission. Everything that we surrender to Christ he returns to us, transformed and redeemed. Nothing of what we give to Christ is ever lost.

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Thursday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time (June 16th, 2016)

The Church’s first scripture for today is an excerpt from the Old Testament Book of Sirach. This particular passage is a hymn of praise to the prophet Elijah, the mighty wonderworker, who spoke God’s word of truth in his defiance of wicked men and women of power and worldliness.

Elijah was one of the greatest of the Israelite prophets, but he was not the last. God continued to speak through the prophets, but his word of truth spoken through the prophets was preparing Israel and the world for Christ. Christ is not just a prophet, but he is God. At one time, God’s word, was mediated by the prophets, but in Christ, God speaks for himself- and he speaks to us.

Christ is not silent, his word speaks to us in the Church, and like the word of the prophets, what Christ tells us is the truth.

The prophets were opposed because they spoke God’s truth, and Christ was opposed, so to the Church. God’s truth is more often than not precisely what we do not want to hear, and it often insists that we change and asks that we do what we find to be difficult. For these reasons, we tend to resist God’s word. Our resistance cannot bend God’s truth to our will, no matter how hard we try. God will not compromise in a matter as important as our salvation. He wants to save us, redeem us, deliver us, free us- but will we let him? His word of truth is always a lure, an invitation, to receive from God what we need the most, but will we accept what he wants us receive?

The Bible reveals that there are true prophets and false prophets, and in every age, both true and false prophets will be revealed. This is as true for now as it was in the days of Elijah.

True prophets are witnesses to Christ and inasmuch as their word is an invitation to know, to love and to serve Christ, their word is true. The false prophets of our time are cunning with their flattery, insisting that Christ’s Gospel is about affirming us as we are, rather than transforming us into saints.

False prophets have little use for Christ, except to use him as a means to advance political causes and ideological agendas. For the true prophet, Christ is the way, the truth and the life. For the false prophet, Christ is merely a slogan.

The Church must resist false prophets, with the same courage and tenacity with which Elijah resisted the false prophets and worldly powers of his own day.

The story of Elijah makes it clear that the Church’s resistance will not come without cost, but if we acquiesce to false prophets, we risk betraying Christ.

Christ the Lord encourage us to pray, and to pray in the words that he gives to us. His prayer is revered by Christians, and rightly so, but Christ does not give us in his prayer simply words that we are to reverence, but a way of life.

The way of life that Christ offers us acknowledges that God is foremost our Father, which means that we are his sons and daughters. And further, that we pray for the coming of his kingdom, not merely for the success of worldly kingdoms of wealth and power. The kingdom of God is revealed inasmuch as we adhere to God’s will, which happens when we keep the commandments that God gives to us.

We are to beg God each day for his bread. The clumsy, English translation of this text conceals that kind of bread Christ asks that we pray for- it is not merely earthly bread, but heavenly bread- the food that is Christ’s own Body and Blood. And we ask that we have the opportunity to forgive those who have wronged us, for in our willingness to forgive, we become like Christ who forgave those who hurt him, and he forgave them even when those who harmed him did not deserve to be forgiven.

We pray also to be delivered from temptation and evil, which means from the lure of worldliness, from the desire for wealth, pleasure, power and honors, from the false security of self interest and the tyranny of ego-centric desire.

Christ’s prayer, the prayer he insists we pray, is all about asking God to help us to live a different, a unique way of life- the life of a disciple, the life of a follower of Jesus Christ.

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Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time (June 12th, 2016)

The Church’s first scripture for Sunday Mass today is an excerpt from the Old Testament Book of 2 Samuel.

The Book of Samuel is one of the most remarkable books in the Bible. It details the rise and fall of the Kingdom of David, providing details about the Israelite Kingdom ruled by David and his successors. Because it deals with real people and real events, the Book of Kings can be rightly described as a history book. But more than a history book it is also a brilliant work of literature, a study in human character and desire. But more than a history book or a work of literature it is also a magnificent theological statement, presenting the truth that God is not merely a distant, cosmological force, but an active and interested presence in all of human affairs- religious, yes, but also politics, economics, art, indeed all of culture.

(If you like “Game of Thrones” you will like the Old Testament Book of Kings).

Today’s excerpt from the Book of Samuel presents a dramatic confrontation between King David and the prophet Nathan. David had committed adultery and, to cover up his crime and because he desired to marry another man’s wife, a woman by the name of Bathsheba, he had the woman’s husband murdered in an elaborate scheme. The man he had betrayed and murdered had been a trusted advisor and loyal friend.

Through his actions, David had indicated that he had succumbed to the great temptation that afflicts all men and woman of worldly power- this temptation is to act as if you are accountable to no one for your actions and exempt from any standard of justice other than the standard you create for yourself. David the King’s actions demonstrated that he believed that he was accountable to only himself- not the law, not the prophets, not even God!

And Nathan sets David right. He confronts David, exposes his treachery and then places a kind of curse upon him and his house. The violence and treachery he had inflicted on the man he murdered would be visited upon his own family. In the prophet Nathan’s words “the sword shall never leave your house”.

Overcome with guilt, David repents of his crime and his sin. Nathan assures David that God is merciful, but that David, because of his treachery, will have to endure troubling consequences for his actions, and only through enduring these consequences can the wrong he has done be set right.

The lesson?

Worldly power is dangerous and easily gives way to destruction if we succumb to the same temptation that afflicted David the King. If we come to believe we are accountable to no one but ourselves, if morality becomes merely an exercise in self-interest, if we come to believe that we are above the law, and not even answerable to God, our arrogance will give rise to destruction- if not only for ourselves but also for others.

God is not mocked and his creation bends in accord with his justice. We can break his commandments, but we cannot evade the consequences of our defiance. We may, in the immediacy, receive some benefit from breaking God’s commandments, but in the long term, God’s justice prevails.

David the King’s treachery would haunt his family for generations. In fact, in the great drama of the Book of Kings, it is David’s treachery against an innocent man that is the beginning of the fall of his Kingdom.

Our second reading for today is an excerpt from a New Testament book, St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians.

In this text, St. Paul testifies that he has been delivered from something that he call “the law” and his deliverance from this “law’ has made possible a new kind of life- a way of life that he describes as a relationship with Jesus Christ.

It is through this new way of life that St. Paul has been given the opportunity to become ever more and more like Christ, and through this opportunity his life has been given a meaning and purpose that he had not dared dream was possible. St. Paul declares that what he describes has changed his life for the better and that what he has received is God’s greatest gift.

The “law” that St. Paul has been delivered from is his former way of life. St. Paul had been a violent man, whose zeal for the righteousness of his causes had made him cruel. His cause had been the destruction of the Church. Yes, in his former life, St. Paul had been a persecutor of the Church. He had hated Christ and hated Christians, but Jesus Christ intervened in his life in an extraordinary way. The life of meaning and purpose that Jesus Christ gave St. Paul was a life of friendship with Christians. Christ had given St. Paul a new way of life called the Church.

It is the purpose of the Church to introduce people to Jesus Christ and invite people to share friendship with Christ in the Church. Once people know Christ, and come to love him, and are then willing to serve him, then they receive the extraordinary gift of becoming like Christ. If fact, this is the point, the purpose, of the Church- to help people become ever more like Jesus Christ. Of course, this will not happen if we construe the purpose of the Church to be that of a clubhouse or institution, or if evade the invitation to know Christ as a friend, to love him and to serve him. Stop thinking of the Church as a thing that you manage and control. Start thinking about the Church as a way of life that gives meaning and purpose to your life.

If you are a Christian, your mission is to share with others what Christ has given to you. What Christ gives you is a unique way of life called the Church. If you are a Christian, your mission is to become like Christ yourself, so that you can help others to become like Christ too!

Today’s Gospel presents an extraordinary scene in which Christ demonstrates that what he desires most of all for those who have sinned is that they repent and find in him the gift of forgiveness and with that forgiveness, a second chance and a gift of peace.

The Gospel presents a contrast between a Pharisee and a woman who is described as a “sinner”, a designation that likely denotes that the woman was a prostitute.

Pharisees were members of a religious movement that emphasized keeping the commandments of God will meticulous and intense zeal. This particular Pharisee in the story, a man named Simon, evidently believes that his zeal for keeping God’s commandments makes him morally superior than others, especially those people, like the woman, who evidently do not keep God’s commandments.

It seems that Simon the Pharisee has divided the world into those who keep the commandments and those who don’t. In his estimation there are commandment keepers and commandment breakers and it is to his credit that he is a commandment keeper. As for those who are commandment breakers, Simon only has contempt. Note that Simon thinks that commandment breakers are so repellent to him that merely touching one is to be contaminated by their sin!

Christ sees through the pretense of Simon’s apparent virtue. Simon knows the commandments of God, he even observes them, but he doesn’t know the God who gave the commandments or the purpose for which he gave them.

God gave us the commandments as a means of rescuing us from misery, the misery we impose on ourselves when we act contrary to God’s will for our lives. Following the commandments leads to human flourishing and that is what God wants for us all- he wants us to flourish.

But what about those people who break the commandments? What does God want for them?

Simon thinks God wants commandment breakers shunned. Christ, who is God, reveals shunning sinners to be precisely what (he) God doesn’t want. God wants sinners to repent, to be forgiven, to be restored. If this happens, he wants sinners to experience mercy, not scorn.

God in Christ rejoices that the woman who is a sinner has repented. Simon, who is zealous in his concern for keeping God’s commandments, should too.

Today’s Gospel evokes the meaning of Pope Francis’ words when he referred to the Church as a “field hospital”. Sin wounds us and what those wounds need is healing. In a world in which there is not only such resistance, but also ignorance of God’s commandments, the walking wounded are all around us.

For some, the wounds of sin are so catastrophic, that they seem to be not only the walking wounded, but like unto the walking dead!

If the walking wounded come to the Church, come to field hospital, will they meet in us the scorn of Simon or the healing power of Christ?

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