SUNDAY REFLECTION: “HAPPY THE SINNER WHOSE SINS ARE FORGIVEN…IN WHOSE SPIRIT IS NO GUILE”

SUNDAY REFLECTION: “HAPPY THE SINNER WHOSE SINS ARE
FORGIVEN…IN WHOSE SPIRIT IS NO GUILE”
(When the Pharisee who had invited
him saw this he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet,
he would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, that
she is a SINNER.”)
Despite its synoptic character, the gospel according
to Luke has its own peculiarity when placed side by side with the other two
synoptic gospels (Mark and Matthew). A critical study shows that the recipients
or beneficiaries of the gospel of Luke are the sinners, the poor, the abandoned,
the Samaritan, widows, orphans etc. This we clearly see in Luke 4:18-19, at the
proclamation of his mission in the synagogue, Christ said: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He anointed Me to preach the Good News to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, And recovery of sight to the blind, o set free those who are oppressed
In the readings of
today, and especially in the Gospel (Luke 7:36 –– 8:3), we see a practical
dimension of Christ’s mission, his relationship with a sinful woman. The Pharisee
(who felt he was “righteous” and worthy to associate himself with Christ)
criticized him saying: “If this man were a prophet, he would know
who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, that she is a SINNER.”
. For the Pharisee, Christ should only associate himself
with the righteous; but that is completely wrong. Christ quickly reprimanded him
and said: “Two people were in debt to a
certain creditor; one owed five hundred
days’ wages and the other owed fifty. Since they were unable to repay the debt, he forgave it for both.
Which of them will love him more?”
The Pharisee said in reply, “The one, I suppose, whose larger debt was
forgiven.” Christ said to
him, “You have judged rightly.” Thus, this is not far-fetched
from the attitude of the sinner. On another occasion in the
gospel of Luke when Christ was found associating and eating with sinners and tax
collectors, the Pharisees complained and asked him: “Why do you eat and
drink with tax collectors and sinners?”  Jesus
answered them, “It is not the healthy
who need a doctor, but the sick. I have
not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke
5:30-32). Ipso facto, all the
three readings stress that the Church is not made up of righteous people, but of
SINNERS who have been forgiven and who know that they need God’s continuing
forgiveness. Those who try to hide their evil doings behind a rigorous
observance of religious rules/laws may be “perfect” like the Pharisee, but will
not be able to show love.
This reality is not
disconnected from the Second Reading (Gal 2:16, 19-21). Paul, (having
recognized the mission of Christ, “hope for sinners, the poor, and the abandoned”
etc.) writes: “What justifies a man is not
obedience to the law, but faith in Christ Jesus… I live with the life of Christ
who lives in me.”
 This is a strong profession of faith in the
justice and mercy of Jesus who forgave him. In spite of Paul’s enormous sins
and ugly past, he walked about very satisfied and confident. This is because;
he experienced the mercy and forgiveness of Christ. He also and believed that
Jesus Christ who pronounced him “forgiven and acquitted,” meant every bit of His word.
In the same vein,
in the first reading, God convicted, David the sinner through the prophet
Nathan. Of course, David realized his sins, repented, and cried out: “I have sinned against the Lord.” David sincerely beckoned on God: “Forgive Lord the guilt of my sin.”  This led him to compose the prayer of
forgiveness and this we see in psalm 51; “Have mercy on me God in your kindness…”Even
though David had to suffer for the consequences of his sins, it never
diminished God’s forgiveness for him. Nathan
said to him: “The Lord for his part forgives you; you are
not to die
; thus David
accepted this in faith.
The
Responsorial Psalm expresses the joy of those who receives forgiveness from God:
“Happy the man whose offence is forgiven, whose sin is remitted. O happy the
man to whom the Lord imputes no guilt, in whose spirit is no guile.” Each time
I pray this psalm from the “Office of the Readings” I feel rejuvenated once
again as a beneficiary of God’s mercy, one who enjoys Christ’s saving Grace. This
we see in the characters of today’s reading: “the sinful woman, and David (who
eventually composed that psalm)
The
message of today is apparent. Inasmuch as God is ready to forgive us, we must
be ready to ask for it. We must be ready to say, not only to God, but to our
brothers, please forgive me, have mercy
on me, or I am sorry. We must not always presume forgiveness. Just like
sin is an act, forgiveness is also an act which counteracts its effect. Also,
when it is granted, we must accept it in faith and carry on with our lives. On
our part, we must also be ready to grant it to those who need it dearly from
us. This is what it means to be the image and likeness of God. It means the
readiness to act like God, in his mercy, love and forgiveness. And this in effect is the message of
this YEAR OF MERCY (the Year of the Lord, co-terminus with the expression in
the gospel) “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy”.

Dear friends in Christ, all God wants us to do
is to live is a better life, and to resolve not sin again. As we
journey through this period of the “ordinary Time of the Year”, we are called
to grow in faith and spirituality, just as we see in healthy plants nourished
with water, sunlight, and manure, and thus produces “green colour” as a sign of
healthy growth; we also should endeavor to grow in our Christian lives and show
the “green colour” of our spirituality nourished by the saving grace of Christ.
This indeed suggests the reason the Church puts on Green in the Ordinary Time
of the Year.
May the
Grace of Christ continue to be sufficient for us, and enable us to “arise” with
a cry of forgiveness (Lord, forgive the guilt of my sins) each time we fall in
the pit of sin. It is when we cooperate with this saving grace of Christ that
we can rejoice along with the psalmist who was a beneficiary of God’s mercy.
HAPPY
11TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, YEAR C

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