Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year C - 12th June, 2016

Contrasting Attitudes

 

In today's Gospel story we are invited to contrast two different attitudes to Jesus. One is that of the Pharisee who invites Jesus to his house for a meal, with mixed motives we might add, the other is the attitude of the woman who truly welcomes him into her life.

 

Jesus’ parable shocks Simon and his friends and highlights the difference between their attitude and that of the unknown woman. Simon's sense of his own importance prevents him from responding properly to his guest. The woman, on the other hand, knows that Jesus has restored her dignity in a way that no other could and so her heart bursts with gratitude. Divine mercy is the greatest expression of the heart of God.

 

This story is a vibrant reminder that in the kingdom all are invited to sit at God's table but some fail to appreciate what a gift this really is. Simon believed in a God of right behaviour and correctness and failed to recognize the God of love. We find him talking to himself. It is always a bad sign talking to the little boss in our own mind, it is our way of justifying ourselves ... usually by finding fault in others. How difficult it can be for some so called virtuous people to really believe in the unconditional love and mercy of God for all.

 

We can only imagine how the woman felt as she entered that hostile environment. I wonder if she had second thoughts. “What am I doing? I’m risking a lot here.” Yet she was so focused on Jesus that nothing and no one could stop her. Not even her sins prevented her from going to Jesus. The sight of Jesus moved her, moved her to love. And this love was freeing – she was free from all that bound her.

 

Sadly, very often, if we sin, our first reaction is to brush it aside and continue on as if nothing has happened. Another reaction is to blame others who led us astray. Such responses, however, do nothing to lift our spirits. Indeed they can take a toll on our wellbeing both spiritually and physically.

 

At some stage we must accept responsibility for our actions and opt to return to God. As we receive the forgiveness of God a great weight will lift from our shoulders and joy will replace our distress. With the psalmist we will exclaim, 'How blessed are those whose sin is forgiven'.

 

We cannot impress God by our achievements or by our own self-righteousness. We can, however, do as the woman did in turning to Jesus, - find love and forgiveness in the mercy of God.

 

An African proverb sums it up for us: It is never dark in the place where we are loved. This is all the more so when we accept the love of God.

 

Fr Kevin O'Shea, C.M.  .