Monday, September 6, 2010

11th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Imagine the scene 2000 years ago. Jesus the itinerant preacher of Nazareth is visiting our little town. For months we have heard the rumors, stories about miracles, how the crowds follow him, how they hang onto every word he says and how he preaches about God’s love and forgiveness. And tonight, Simon the Pharisee, one of the pillars of our community is throwing a big dinner in his honor! Everyone is here tonight!
Now let’s not forget this is no ordinary dinner. Pharisees are very careful about the people they allow into their homes; after all they have to be very conscientious about keeping their ritual purity, so they avoid contact with sinners, especially if the sinner is a woman. So by having Jesus over, and all the other outstanding men in our community, Simon is showing that there is some common ground between this Jesus and us.
The night has turned out to be wonderful affair. Our host is gracious, the food is exquisite, the guests are engaging and the conversation is invigorating. Simon has opened the doors so that the whole town can witness the event. All the important guest are sited at the table, while the town folk sits on the floor, stands against the walls or, look from the outside, through the windows. The servants have just cleared the table and everyone is getting ready to hear Jesus speak. Perhaps he will talk about the kingdom of God, perhaps he will entertain us with some of his wonderful stories, or perhaps he might even heal someone right in front of our own eyes! Everyone is expecting Jesus to do something truly memorable. When all of the sudden: SCANDAL! The last person we thought to see tonight is standing right next to Jesus! How could a woman enter into this banquet? Not only that, the town sinner! And she is anointing him with perfume! She is actually touching His feet! Everybody knows that the only woman allowed to touch a rabbi is his wife and only on certain times of the month! And now she is taking the tears that are running down her cheek and washing his feet! And drying them with her own hair!!
People are shocked, how can he allow this woman to touch him in such an intimate way? People are looking at Jesus as if he were a fraud, some are leaving, others are screaming. People are confused and angry, but among all this confusion and anger the figure of Jesus stands out like a beacon, to let us know how to deal with scandal in our lives.
Notice his approach: First he keeps a leveled head; he approaches the issue directly but discretely. He talks directly to his host “Simon, I have something to tell you” almost as an aside conversation between two friends. Second, he finds the root of the problem and derives a lesson from it. We see this clearly with the parable he communicated to his host.
Jesus shows Simon one of the great mysteries of the human condition. Those who love much are forgiven the most, but the ones to whom little is forgiven, love little. The more we love the more we are willing to forgive. When we are forgiven we have a chance to open ourselves to great love. Love and forgiveness go hand on hand. And most importantly the only way to deal with scandal is through love and forgiveness
This is a very important lesson my brothers and sisters, especially in times like ours in which our Church is been viciously attacked for the scandal caused by the sins of just a few. If you pick the newspapers or watch the news you would see that those persecuting the Church do not care about discretion or about deriving lessons from this scandal. By listening to then you would think that our church is filled with evil, depraved men that had never loved anyone but themselves and have never forgiven or asked for forgiveness. This attitude is not surprising this is the way the world always deals with its own scandals.
How are we to react to all this? To the irrationality, the persecution, the feeding frenzy attitude, the jokes, the innuendo and the plain lies about our priests, bishops and our Pope? The voice of our savior comes loud and clear in today’s gospel: with love and forgiveness. We have heard the words of the gospel “Love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you”. This is how we should answer to all this. The power of forgiveness comes from the capacity to love even those that are doing us wrong, and when we forgive them, we open ourselves to God’s own love and forgiveness.
Now I’m not saying that we should give a blind eye to the problems of the Church, but instead of getting depressed, angry or discouraged we should be as level headed as Jesus in today’s gospel and look for the root of our problems and derive the lesson in this scandal. I have thought long and hard about this and this is what I think: The root of our problems is that for far too long we Catholics have given the impression that our church is hotel for saints, but the reality is that the Church is hospital for sinners, and in this hospital we are all patients starting with me and ending with Benedict 16.
What we should do first then? Love and forgiveness; pray for those who persecute the Church, and pray for our leaders in the church. And then, remember that we are all sinners in need of forgiveness and that even in Her brokenness, the Church is the one place in which we can all find healing for our wounds, and that there is no scandal that can ever change that. Amen.