12 June 2016
2 Samuel 12:7-10, 13
Galatians 2:16, 19-21
Luke 7:36 – 8.3
‘Set no limits to forgiveness’ is a theme in today’s readings. In the first reading David sinned seriously by arranging for the death of Uriah, the husband of Bathsheba and taking her for himself. God who spoke through Nathan did not condone these sins. Ironically David was magnanimous in sinning and repenting. Both murder and adultery called for the death penalty. God chose to be generous in forgiving David. Here there was no limit to forgiveness.
In the gospel Simon the Pharisee seem sure of the entrance requirements to God’s kingdom with computer accuracy. He believed that unless the law was kept perfectly there was little hope for sinners.
Perhaps we might have some sympathy for Simon’s reaction as it would have been totally foreign to the religious ideas of the time. But Jesus was quite at peace with this. The woman would have had a low self image so Jesus doesn’t want to crush this altogether. He knows from what we read that her many sins must have been forgiven her or she would not have shown so great love. He told her to go in peace since it was her faith that saved her.
Many people practise forgiveness in their lives. For example, husbands and wives who regularly forgive each other, who set no limits. Friends who speak again to their offenders have no use for limits. Priests in Confession, in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, in dealing with penitents who reflect Jesus’ standard of no limits. For these and similar people, love overrules limits. A very well known example of this is Nelson Mandela, who despite all the atrocities committed against him forgave his persecutors when freed from prison. Obviously our great model is Jesus on the cross who set no limits when he prayed to his Father: “Forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.”
Whilst the Law is necessary, like going to Mass, keeping the commandments etc. it must always be done for the sake of loving God, our neighbour and ourselves. Love is the primary law for Jesus’s disciples and it may be necessary to ‘break’ the law if the law of love demands it. St. Paul deals with this in the second reading. He says that it is not obedience to the Law as such that counts but faith in Jesus Christ. Simon had yet to learn from Jesus not to set limits to forgiveness. Where are we in all this? Is there anyone we refuse to forgive? Maybe we need to forgive others for being different. They don’t measure up to our demands and conditions and so we judge them harshly even though we may fail in those very areas ourselves. Often they mirror back for us what we don’t like in ourselves.
We must see the goodness in one another and affirm it. People’s faults can only be cured by loving and forgiving them. We cannot change anyone unless we accept them as they are. Condemnation does not liberate, it only represses. Jesus did not condemn the woman. He saw her sorrow, her humility, her courage and her love. He affirmed this side of her. The woman had never experienced anyone like this before. Jesus was the best person she had ever met. She was not only forgiven, but also loved by Jesus. What is our personal experience of him?
‘Lord Jesus, thank you for forgiving me, loving me and accepting me just as I am. Help me to do the same for others by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen’.
Fr. Jim Kirstein SMA