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Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time

2 Sam. 12:7-10, 13 & Lk. 7:36-8:3

The nature of love is such that it always evokes a response from the beloved. A person cannot remain neutral in the face of love: we respond either by accepting it or by rejecting it and behaving ungratefully.

When God created humanity He invested our nature with a dignity far above all other creatures, by giving us the gift of free will with its capacity to accept or reject love. The greater the magnitude of the love shown, the greater the contrast between the alternative types of response. Nowhere is this more strongly seen than in the response to God’s love.

The basic message of the Good News is that God loved us first, long before we thought of loving Him. We did not, and do not, earn His love. Our love for Him, therefore, is not the cause of God’s love for us, but rather our response to His love.

When we accept God’s love and behave with gratitude, we are made righteous. When we reject His love, we sin. Today’s readings put before us three characters who responded to God’s love in different ways.

God had expressed His love for King David by giving him beautiful wives, victory over his enemies, peace and prosperity, and had made him king of all Israel and Judah. Things could not have been better! Despite all this, in a moment of weakness, he rejected God’s love and committed adultery with the wife of one of his soldiers.

Speaking through the prophet Nathan, God confronted David who had the humility to acknowledge his sin and repent. God’s love for David, however, was not defeated by his sin. Thus he moved from experiencing God’s love to rejecting it and, finally, to again accepting His love and forgiveness.

The woman in the Gospel passage had been living a disreputable life. No doubt, she wanted to find love, but looked for it in the wrong places, and instead must have felt abused. Then she encountered Jesus who showed her what is true love. He respected her dignity as a person, showed compassion for her weaknesses and held out the offer of a new lease of life.

In Jesus she experienced, for the first time, the immense love and forgiveness which God was offering. In response she was overwhelmed with gratitude. She followed Jesus courageously as an uninvited guest into the house of Simon, sat down at His feet and performed various gestures.

Why was Simon scandalised by these? It was because his understanding of true love was limited. By all accounts, he must have been a good man, a Pharisee who observed the minutiae of Jewish Law. However, his focus was on what he did for God, rather than on what God had done for him. Although God loved him, he had not expressed this love in the same way as the woman who had been forgiven.

A sense of righteousness crept into his thinking, and all he could see was a sinful, unclean woman touching Jesus and seemingly contaminating Jesus with her uncleanness. He had missed the point. If only he had realised how much God loved him, his manner of welcoming Jesus would have been as moving as the woman’s behaviour to Jesus.

At different times of our lives we can probably identify with these three different characters. If we are feeling self-righteous like Simon the Pharisee, then let us remind ourselves of our sinfulness and focus on God’s love and mercy. It things are going well for us like King David, then let us remind ourselves of our frailty and tremble with humility at the prospect of falling into sin. Finally, if we feel like the woman, crushed by our sins, let us turn to Jesus with confidence and joy, and simply accept the love and forgiveness which He always holds out for us.

Lord Jesus, Your love and forgiveness towards us shines out all the time, like the sun, no matter what our sins. Encourage us to come to You and receive with gratitude the love You offer each of us, and to express our gratitude by the way we live.

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