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Sunday Scripture: Your faith has saved you, go in peace

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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

By Sister Betty J. Lillie, S.C.

Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time: 2 Samuel 12:7-10, 13; Psalm 32:1-2, 5, 7, 11; Galatians 2:16, 19-21; Luke 7:36-8:3.

During this period of Ordinary Time our liturgical readings remind us of some of the important teachings of our faith tradition. In the case of this week’s passages there are some difficulties with interpreting the texts, chiefly because of their antiquity. Nevertheless, what David did was wrong, even in view of standards of morality in that time period.

It required courage on Nathan’s part to deliver the Lord’s message to David, even though the moral standard that directed it was in place and known also by David. Strictly speaking, David should have been the one to die for his sin, but as a special favor to David, God’s judgment fell on his child. The sin was against the Lord, for it was God who set the moral standards, and thus the nature of the punishment was in the hands of the Lord. What David did secretly would become known before all Israel, and David’s first child with Bathsheba would die.
Here we see David confronted with his own depravity. Though David was often called the righteous king, he had a record of cruelty that makes us wonder about his goodness. In the history of the time the prevailing idea was that human beings are not perfect, but when their failings occurred they could be restored to good standing by repentance. The case in point here is that David acknowledged his sins.  He repented and his sins were forgiven.

It might seem strange that the Messiah would come from the line of David.  However, it was thus that Jesus was humanly of royal descent. We may want to take a moment to look at Matthew’s version of Jesus’ genealogy (Matthew 1).

In our Gospel reading (Luke 7:36-8:3) we have Luke’s version of the anointing of Jesus. In this text the woman is characterized as a sinner. The story can be compared with other versions that follow the tradition (Mark 14:3-9; Matthew 26:6-13; John 12:1-8). Only Luke calls the woman a sinner.  Finally, John identified the woman as Mary of Bethany.

She was not a public sinner, but instead, a lover of the Master. Luke’s purpose may have been to make the point that repentance is possible and forgiveness is a blessing of the compassionate love of the Lord for His people.  The history of the tradition bears out the validity of that possibility.
In this case, too, her sins were forgiven through her act of repentance. Her actions were sharply in contrast to those of Simon, who was somewhat less than gracious to Jesus and blatantly judgmental of the woman. The implied purpose of relating the incident may have been to contribute to a realization of Jesus’ identity. Who was Jesus that He even forgave sins? Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you, go in peace” (Luke 7:50).  Or, to echo Paul, it is not by works of the law that we are justified, but by faith in Christ (Galatians 2:16).
With the psalmist we recall that those who confess their transgressions to the Lord can be forgiven. We are glad and rejoice in the forgiveness of transgressions and in God’s magnificent deliverance (Psalm 32).

Sister Betty Jane is a faculty member at the Athenaeum of Ohio.

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