Today’s readings are clear about the reality of sin. In our selection form the Second Book of Samuel, Nathan tells King David his sin. “Why have you spurned the Lord and done evil in his sight?” Once his sins are made known, David honestly takes responsibility.
Psalm 31 is also an invitation to us to acknowledge our sin before God: “Lord, forgive the sins I have done.” In the Gospel today, Jesus speaks directly about the reality of sin, and demonstrates that He alone has the power to forgive our sins.
As Jesus enters the house of Simon, a Pharisee, he is offered not a kiss, nor water to wash his feet, nor is he anointed with oil. However, a woman, publicly known as a sinner, approaches Jesus and kneels at his feet, washing them with her tears, drying them with her hair, and anointing him with ointment. It is a truly intimate scene and demonstrates great love.
In our world today, we do not hear much about sin. However, we hear a lot about ‘goodness.’ The message of our culture today is “as long as I am a good person, that is enough.” But, we must recall the final goal of life, death; and beyond death, eternal life, the Kingdom of Heaven. To enter this Kingdom, we must be saved by Christ, for as he told us: “No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Jesus shares this Divine Life with us. He is the author of all life. He came from heaven to earth and took on our human flesh precisely to save us from our sins. He came to redeem what was lost through sin.
If we think goodness alone suffices in this life – then what defines this goodness? Who defines goodness? If we allow each person to define goodness for him or her self – then, in a sense, each one becomes their own savior…there is no longer any need for Christ, and certainly there is no longer any need for his Church.
In our Creed, we express our belief that Christ will come at the end of time to judge the living and the dead. What will this judgment be based upon? My definition of goodness, or His knowledge and standard of holiness?
So, goodness is defined by God. He gave us the 10 commandments as his definition of how we are to live in right relationship with himself and with one another. Jesus is the One who fulfills the law perfectly. Jesus is the fullness of the Kingdom. Jesus is Life itself.
To some extent, St. Paul address this reality in our second reading today from the Letter to the Galatians (2:21): “if justification comes through the Law, then Christ died for nothing.”
We must take the reality of sin seriously in our life. Sin diminishes the Divine Life within us. This Divine Life is initiated in baptism, the moment in which Christ frees us from Original Sin. However, as great as this gift is, we are always in this life still inclined to sin. I am very aware of this reality in my own life.
When we give into those sinful inclinations, we diminish the Divine Life instilled in us by Christ. This life and presence of Christ is precisely the “inner dwelling of the Kingdom.” That is why Christ says: “the Kingdom of God is very near, it is within you.” This presence of Christ is precisely what the Father sees in us at the moment of our death, and is our admission to the eternal Kingdom.
So, the lesson is that goodness is not what we seek. Rather, holiness is our goal. Holiness is our full, free, conscious cooperation with the will of God and the person of Jesus Christ in each of our lives. Jesus Christ and His Kingdom are our goal. Jesus did not tell us to seek ‘goodness.’ He told us to seek first the Kingdom of God.
To return to the woman of today’s Gospel, I can hear her praying the ‘Jesus prayer’ as she knelt at the feet of Jesus. “Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” This is our posture before Jesus. This is our prayer. But we pray this prayer with great hope, because Jesus died for our sins. God the Father desires nothing but that we be made holy. (1 Thessalonians 4:3)
The final lesson from today’s Gospel; the sinful woman at the feet of Jesus tells us we have nothing to fear in confessing our sins. Jesus already knows us intimately, even better than we know ourselves. Jesus is always waiting, patiently, to embrace us and heal us. That is why we know him as “Jesus, Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.”
Let us run to him and find God’s mercy and healing. He alone frees us for great love!