We never tire of reading or listening to the pages of the Gospels. In them, again and again, we are given wonderful stories of life, of love, of fidelity, of truth. And also the opposite is true. We are given narratives of suspicion, of selfishness, of betrayal, of errors embraced. One of the current themes that we find in those pages as we meditate on the different narratives is the theme of FORGIVENESS. Not just forgiveness in a generic sense but FORGIVENESS OF SINNERS. This is indeed a current theme in the life of Jesus and something that must have exasperated those who were looking for any occasion to trap him in his non-observance of the Torah, sacred to all who were considered faithful followers of the Law of Moses. FORGIVENESS is given by Jesus naturally without asking anything in return. Forgiveness is rendering such precious gifts without asking any questions. It is humbly sought and freely given as an act of generosity of the Son of God who had come precisely to give us a new image of the FATHER as all loving and forgiving God.
The readings for this Sunday dwell abundantly in that theme of FORGIVENESS. The first reading from the II Book of Samuel (12: 7-10, 13) relates to us an extract of the aftermath of the great sin of King David-a sin of un-chastity, a sin of infidelity and a sin of murder. Quite heavy baggage to carry around. King David thought that he had outsmarted everyone with his orders of the plan of battle for the soldier Uriah, husband of Bathsheba, who lived close to the palace of King David. The story is told with almost lurid details and the ending could not be more tragic. King David thought he has hatched the perfect plan but GOD KNEW the secrets of his heart. Because God's Providence had other plans, more life giving and salvific, David's life would be spared but not his son, and before a reminder is given to him through the prophet Nathan: God knows what you have done. You have been an unfaithful servant of the God who chose you to be the leader of his people. You have betrayed His Trust and committed infidelity and murder. You will suffer it in your own flesh. David confessed aloud and said: I HAVE SINNED AGAINST GOD. He was given the gift of REPENTANCE and humbly asked God's forgiveness and mercy. God, generous and faithful in his love, granted David FORGIVENESS.
The woman in this Sunday's Gospel from Luke (7: 36 - 8:3) risked much coming into a room where all men had gathered for a dinner with Jesus at the invitation of Simon the Pharisee. She risked embarrassment, insult, condemnation, harsh words from Jesus for not being faithful and living a sinful life, rejection ... Yet, in spite of it all, she presents herself in the house of Simon and starts anointing the feet of Jesus, pouring on them an expensive vase of perfume oil, and drying Jesus' feet with her hair. There must have been eyebrows raised, shock, disbelief at the behavior of this sinful woman. The amazing thing from the gospel picture is that Jesus lets her do what she is doing. That is completely unheard of, utterly extraordinary, subject to ritual contamination from a woman known as a public sinner. But Jesus is silent and in that gesture of allowing her to do that, she is offered great FORGIVENESS and REDEMPTION "because great was her love." She risked much because she loved much and her love for this itinerant rabbi who preached a different message was rewarded with the ultimate proof of her acceptance as a person of worth in the eyes of God, no questions asked, and heard the words of Jesus: "Your sins are forgiven" (v. 48).
GOD LOVES A SINNER WHO REPENTS. That is indeed the basis of the Hebrew Scriptures and of Gospels as signified by the Parables of the Kingdom uttered by Jesus, in concrete the Parable of the Prodigal Son and the Parable of the Good Shepherd. Even the sentence "there is more joy in Heaven for a sinner who repents than over ninety-nine who do not need repentance" (Luke 15: 7) may fluster us a bit. An exaggeration of Jesus, perhaps, in order to make a clear point expressed again and again in his redemptive ministry: "I have not come to invite the self righteous to a change of heart but sinners” (Luke 5: 32).
And so we can say that Jesus in his ministry showed that he loved sinners. We can say also that we are all sinners, that our Church is a Church of sinners, seeking to be constantly healed by the God of forgiveness and that we are all BEGGARS of His Mercy at the foot of the Cross. After all, WHAT IS A SAINT BUT A RECYCLED SINNER!!! The tool for recycling is nothing else but GOD'S UNCONDITIONAL LOVE and our complete surrender to His Grace.
So, what is your next step? START RECYCLING!!!