Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Homily for Holy Spirit Catholic Community,11th Sunday OT, by Beverly Bingle, RCWP

Two Saturdays ago
six-year-old Robbie Richardson of Quincy, Massachusetts,
called 911 when his father drove through a red light.
Robbie knows the law.
“Daddy went past a red light,” he told the dispatcher.
“It was in the brand new car, my mummy’s car.”
The 911 dispatcher asked Robbie to put his father on the line.
Robbie's father explained about his right turn on red
and apologized to the dispatcher.
It's a cute story—a six-year-old calling the police on his dad.
It's understandable.
Six-year-olds are very literal.
It's different for an adult…
like Simon the Pharisee in today's Gospel.
Robbie saw his father go through the red light.
He thought he was seeing his father break the law.
Simon the Pharisee saw a woman with her head uncovered,
touching Jesus.
What did Simon think he was seeing?
Historians say there is clear evidence
that first-century Jewish women covered their heads
not only for prayer
but whenever they were outside of their own home.
For the women it was a matter of morals and a religious duty.
That's the way it was.
And for Pharisees the law was sacred—
the only way for them to please God.
So Simon is seeing the woman's hair,
and for him it's a clear sign of her immorality.
She is a sinner.
And she is touching Jesus.
That breaks another law,
the one that makes a person unclean for touching a sinner.
So it's unquestionably clear to Simon that Jesus is a sinner, too.
That's the law.
And for Simon, the law is the most important thing.
Those three little verses at the end of today's gospel
help explain what's really going on at that dinner.
Women followed Jesus.
They provided for him.
Other women, as well as men,
experienced healing from Jesus' teaching.
The woman at the well experienced acceptance
when Jesus entered into theological dialogue with her.
She became a disciple.
All around Galilee women and men
experienced freedom and new life
when Jesus accepted them as equals.
He talked with them.
He ate with them.
He showed God's love to them.
Perhaps the woman in today's Gospel had heard Jesus teaching.
Followed him on the way.
Saw him taking sides with the marginalized.
Listened to him, turned her life around
and, freed from guilt, changed her ways.
That fits the dynamic that Paul describes in the second reading,
that it's not following the law that makes us right with God.
It's our openness to God's gracious presence in our lives.
Once we see, we change—
and the fruit of our faith in God is love.
So Jesus doesn't tell the woman, “I forgive you.”
He tells her, “Your faith has saved you.”
That is, you admitted your wrongs,
you let yourself be open to God's loving forgiveness,
and you are now right with God.
You are justified.
The same lesson
is at the heart of Jesus' story to Simon about the two debtors:
the response to forgiveness is love.
The woman's extravagant act of devotion is a sign
that her many sins—whatever they may have been—
have already been forgiven.
Free of her past sins, she is full of love,
and she pours it out
on the man who taught her about God's forgiveness.
Simon's friends, in that same legalistic and judgmental mindset,
still don't understand.
They think Jesus—the prophet who came out of the desert
calling people to “repent and believe the good news”—
is claiming that he is the one forgiving her sins.
But Jesus clearly says that he doesn't forgive sin.
God does.
These scriptures have deep levels of meaning for us today.
Among other things, they teach us about forgiveness,
that God is the forgiver of sin,
that gratitude for forgiveness spurs us to good works.
They show us that Jesus stood with
the poor, the hungry, sinners, and the marginalized
over the religious and political leaders.
We know that God has forgiven us.
We celebrated that forgiveness
in our penitential rite and general absolution
at the beginning of today's Mass.
Out of gratitude, we—like that sinful woman—
are filled with love and called to good works.
We are called to follow Jesus' Way,
along with that formerly sinful woman,
along with every sincerely remorseful sinner who ever lived.
As Dr. Elizabeth Vasko puts it,
“To be a Christian
is to take sides with those who are marginalized,
dehumanized, and subject to violence.”

How do we take sides?
In the next few weeks we will see
two major party Presidential nominating conventions.
We are already seeing the ads—especially the attack ads—
for and against the candidates for President and Congress.
We've been seeing ads
that glorify fracking and promote the use of fossil fuels
for quite a while.
One of the ways we take sides is by exercising faithful citizenship.
We look for the candidates who stand with the poor, the hungry,
the repentant sinners, and the marginalized.
We vote for policies and issues
that reflect the values and principles
of Catholic Social teaching,
all based on the right and dignity of the human person—
every person.
We take into account the preferential option for the poor.
It's not always an easy choice.
Maybe we wanted a different candidate,
but someone else got nominated.
Maybe we don't think any of the candidates
are as good as we'd like.
But whether we like it or not—neutrality is not an option.
We have to do our homework
and put our X for the candidates and issues
that most closely reflect our deepest values.
We have to be on the side of
the poor, the hungry, and the marginalized.
We have to stand up for them… just like Jesus did.

Holy Spirit Catholic Community
Saturdays at 4:30 p.m./Sundays at 5:30 p.m.
at 3925 West Central Avenue (Washington Church)

Rev. Dr. Bev Bingle, Pastor
Mailing address: 3156 Doyle Street, Toledo, OH 43608-2006

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