Thursday, June 10, 2010

Moving Forward with Grace and Forgiveness

Eleventh Ordinary Sunday Year C

What is the basis of our faith? What is at the heart of Christianity? Is it the obedience of God’s law and the laws of the Church? For many people, religion is seen merely in these terms – as the keepings of laws. A Catholic is one who must come to church every Sunday, must not eat meat on Friday, must go for confession at least once a year etc. When we begin to think of our religion as merely a set of laws, several things happen. When laws become the only consideration, our faith is then based on fear of judgment and punishment from God. If we obey these laws we will be blessed and nothing bad will happen to us, but if we break these laws then we will be punished and cursed.

When religion is based on fear, we become judgmental. We judge others by external appearances and behaviour. We are ready to catch people when they make a mistake and are quick to ostracise them from the community if they are habitual sinners. This was the kind of the mentality that the Pharisees had in today’s gospel. Based on his perception of his religion, the Pharisee who invited Jesus to his house only saw a sinful woman. This woman is described as one who had “a bad name in town.” Perhaps, this is an indication of the kind of lifestyle that she lived. She may have worked as a prostitute. For the Pharisee, this woman’s sin is too great and cannot be forgiven. She will always be remembered for the mistakes that she had made in the past rather than what she can become in the future.

How do we see others? Do we often judge others by appearance? Do we often remember their mistakes and use it against them?

Today’s readings remind us of what it really means to be a Christian. According to St. Paul in the second reading, “what makes a man righteous is not obedience to the law, but faith in Jesus Christ.” What does this mean? It means that religion is not just following a set of rules and laws. Religion and faith is based on relationship with God and Jesus Christ. So, what is at the heart of our faith must not be the laws but love. This is how God relates to us – not as a judge waiting to punish us when we have done wrong but as a God who loves us. St. Paul speaks of his faith: it is “faith in the Son of God who loved me and who sacrificed himself for my sake.”

Since our faith is based on love rather than the law, we are also called to mercy rather than judgment. Today’s gospel gives us the beautiful story of Jesus and the sinful woman. Jesus also tells a parable that highlights the importance of mercy and forgiveness. Jesus saw the woman differently. He knew that she was a sinner but he also knew of what she could become if given the opportunity. Mercy and forgiveness creates the opportunity for change. Mercy and forgiveness allows us to leave the past behind. Mercy and forgiveness is how God relates to us and he challenges us to also show mercy and forgiveness to others.

We have been speaking about our parish as a welcoming parish. In order for this parish to become a welcoming parish, we must first learn how to forgive. In order to welcome others, we must show mercy, not judgment. The sinful woman in today’s gospel showed hospitality to Jesus. In return, Jesus rewarded her with mercy and forgiveness. May we too begin to show mercy, understanding and forgiveness to one another. We recognize that we are all sinners. We acknowledge that we are not perfect. We admit that we have hurt one another by our selfishness and jealousies. But we should not be trap by these failings. The way forward is through forgiveness and mercy.

3 comments:

  1. Hye, Fr Mike, Hope you didn't think you could get rid of us that easily....hehehe....just checking in to view the blog, God Bless

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  2. Your homily at Assumption sunset mass was most illuminating, almost a revelation for me. The idea of sinning (and repeatedly) as trivialising God's mercy and forgiveness really resonated with me. I mean to hang onto that thought always, to keep temptation at bay.
    Thank You so much, Fr Michael.

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