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WE ARE ALL IN NEED OF CHRIST’S FORGIVENESS

Father Francis's picture
Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

Hard-headed rationalists boast that they only believe what they are able to discover for themselves. That kind of boast may impress people who aspire to become independent thinkers. But the only problem with this proud claim is that no one actually believes it!

Even the person who loudly insists that he only believes what he can prove for himself would never fly in a plane, or visit a doctor, or read a history book, or drive a car. Every day of our lives we depend on information that other people give us. We take the doctor's advice because we accept him as an expert on medical knowledge. We believe the historian’s report because we take him to be an expert in historical investigation. Most of what we know is taken on the authority of others.

In every area of life, from science to religion, we build on the wisdom that has been handed down to us from people who are older and wiser than we are. For all of his brilliance and originality Saint Paul was no different. He made it quite clear to the Corinthian Christians that he handed on a message that he himself had received from others. Paul was first schooled in the faith by the Lord and by believers at Antioch before he ever set foot on the mission field. Every Christian is a debtor to those who have blazed the trails ahead of them. Those who build their faith on the Bible are drawing on the religious experiences and insight of others. A living faith is, of course, built on what has been passed down from the past.

In today's Gospel reading we see a woman who acts in an unbelievable way! To do what she did in public meant that what Jesus had said to her in the past touched her deeply, for she brought an alabaster jar of ointment and with floods of tears washed His feet and wiped them away with her hair. Then she kissed them and anointed them with the ointment she had brought.

Obviously Jesus knew how His words had touched this sinful woman’s heart and so He did not stop her - but if she had done the same to the Pharisee I am sure he would have been very embarrassed. Now all the Pharisee could do was to criticize her knowing she had a sinful past. Jesus knew that, too, but He also knew that she had repented and was so grateful to Him for forgiving her, and for understanding her weakness.

Jesus chose this moment to point out to the Pharisee that he had missed an opportunity for forgiveness because he was a sinner, too, but was too smug to ask for it as she had. She knew how to seek forgiveness and so her many sins had been forgiven.

This episode in the life of this sinful woman can teach us to realise that we are all sinners and in great need of going to Christ in the confessional and asking Him to forgive us - and hearing from Him “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Lord Jesus, may I never be critical of others but always be conscious of the sins I commit, and be ready to seek Your forgiveness in the wonderful Sacrament of Reconciliation.

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