CACINA

Homily for July 3, 2016 the Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted in Called, christian, church events, ecclesiology, Faith, homily, inspirational, religion, scripture, Spirit, Word by Fr Joe R on June 29, 2016

14 sun2In today’s gospel, Jesus picks 72 disciples and sends them out to preach. This particular passage only appears in Luke and is interesting in its details. Remember we are talking about the Middle East and pathways or dirt roads were the means of travel. The disciples were to carry no staff, carry no bag and wear no sandals. How difficult it would be to walk, plus there would be no defense without at least a staff, and walking barefoot is certainly not easy. By not greeting anyone, meant a simple gesture and the quickly moving on from anyone they met which gave an air of 14 sun1urgency to their mission. To stay in one place and accept the hospitality given also pointed out the need to get right down to business and spread the Word of God. They were to heal and bless and tell them the Kingdom of God was at hand. If any place rejected them, they were told to shake the dust of that place from their feet, for God would ultimately judge them.

What is interesting, is that none of the 72 (70 in some Greek translations) were Apostles. These laborers he selected were different from his select 12. His word was not meant to be spread by just a few but all his believers and so he selected and empowered those 72 to go out. They returned to Jesus and rejoiced at the result of their labor, of the power they possessed to spread the word, to cast out demons, to be immune from snakes and scorpions. But note, Jesus told them to not rejoice at 14sun5their power but that their names were written in heaven. The lesson of power is one that comes up and is one that was needed even for the Apostles. The real exercise of power for a follower of Jesus is not in using it or lording it over others, but in truly serving others. Real power for the Christian is in assisting another to know and love Jesus and come to believe in him. It is the power of love reaching out one by one embracing as many as we can into the company of Jesus and his community. No staff, no bag, no sandals, Jesus is saying reach out as you are, with your humanity, your understanding, your love. We are all brothers and sisters.

Homily for the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time (July 3)

Posted in Uncategorized by Fr. Ron Stephens on June 28, 2016

Homily for the Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C (July 3)

We continue this week learning about what it means to be a “servant” of the Lord to someone who has been called. Last week, if you remember, Jesus was very hard ‘like flint’ in his call to the three young men. There was no time for them to say good-bye to anyone or to take care of other duties before they left home and begin to follow Jesus.  We also saw that this was because Jesus was beginning the trip to Jerusalem where he would die. Time was running out.

Today we don’t see as harsh a call, either in the first reading from Isaiah nor in the Gospel. What we do see today are the rewards for being a servant of God, for those called to a religious vocation specifically, but also for those who, like all of you, are called to evangelize in your daily lives.

The first reading uses beautiful imagery drawn from motherhood, images of consolation, feeding at the breast, drinking deeply with delight, being cradled, being bounced on a mother’s knee and being comforted. These are all promised to God’s servants. While I was away in Canada a few weeks ago, I celebrated my anniversary as a priest, and I have to admit that I have experienced many of these feelings working with all of you. I have what Isaiah would say is a “rejoicing heart” because of my work in this parish and in this community. That is not to say that I haven’t travelled with you through many difficult times dealing with sickness or death or disappointment, but the contentment and joy I have felt much more than any negatives. Hopefully, you, too, will feel this more and more as you become servants of the Lord in the outreach we do in our little community.

In the reading from Galatians today, Paul talks about his ministry and that he sometimes had trouble from people, but in the long run what he has more than anything else is peace and mercy from his service to Jesus.

The Gospel today continues with Jesus appointing his disciples and giving them instructions on how they are to behave. He had already bestowed on them the ability to heal and to drive out devils. Now they are to travel all over and use these gifts.

The passage starts by saying that Jesus sent out seventy people in pairs. We don’t know that that was an actual number or was Luke’s way of having us remember that in Numbers, Moses chose seventy people to help him. Or it may be reminiscent of the seventy nations mentioned in Genesis. In any case, it is a cross reference to those priests or priestly nations that Luke is recalling.

Jesus sends them out two by two, which also is reminiscent of Genesis and Noah’s ark, and indeed the imagery is also of animals: “I am sending you out like lambs in the midst of wolves”.

The other imagery Jesus uses is from farming. He tells the disciples that they are to go out and gather the harvest for the kingdom of heaven. And that we should pray for more laborers to do the same – there are a lot of souls to be saved!

Because this appointment of the seventy is given in Luke right when Jesus begins his final trip to Jerusalem, these disciples are also like messengers who are announcing Christ’s coming.  They go to all the places that Jesus was to go on his way to Jerusalem.  In that way they are like heralds announcing the arrival of a King. It raises one’s mission to a kingly one to have messengers announce his coming.

Then we have a list of instructions for the disciples. Once again there is a time element. There is not a lot of time for socializing. They need to get the work done. You just have to get on the road and get there.

They don’t have the time to pack a lot of things to take with them. No!  You get to take no purse, no bag, no sandals – just yourself and your message.

When you reach a house, you first of all offer the occupants “Peace”.  You are to accept their hospitality as your wage. Expect no money from them.

It is interesting at this point that Jesus seems to direct them to ignore any purity laws. They are to eat and drink what is put in front of them. This passage may have helped settle the later debates of whether Gentiles needed to follow the Jewish purification laws.

Next they are to get down to business.  There is no time to go from house to house to stay, but there are to go out and heal the sick in that community. And then move on.

If the village does not welcome the disciples, they are not to be judges. Wow. I wish people would hear this today. People are so quick to judge others! They are not to reign down fire on the village – as we saw last week when Jesus said that they were not to judge a place and curse it. There will be a judgment, but his disciples will not be the ones to judge and make that decision. Let THAT be a lesson to us!

So after this advice, the seventy go out and do what Jesus asks.  They come back to Jesus to report success in their preaching and healing. They seem quite proud of themselves that even demons were afraid of them.  But Jesus rebukes them not to be proud of what they could do, but only to be proud of the fact that they were doing God’s work and would attain heaven or eternal life. That’s what they should be happy about.

I have fallen into the same trap as the apostles, I think.  I worry that I am not doing enough and that our parish isn’t growing as I think it should, or that attendance some Sundays is very low. What this passage teaches me is that I have to continue to do the work in Jesus’ name and take pride only in the fact that I am doing his work and so, am on the right road to eternal life myself. It is quite humbling.

So, this week, I ask you to look at your motives. Why do you come to Mass? Is it because it is what you have been asked to do to stay on the road to heaven? Is it to glorify God and do what Jesus asked – to do this in memory of him?

Why do you contribute to charities, work on Stop Hunger Now, work at food banks, bring peanut butter, contribute to the running of the parish? What is your motive?  If it is because it is what has been asked of you to get to heaven, great.  if it is for socialization, pride in how much we collect, guilt or other reasons – not so good.

This is what the Good News today reminds us of, and what I hope we will all ask ourselves this week, so that we all can take Jesus’ good advice..

Ronald Stephens

Bishop of Holy Trinity Diocese and pastor of St. Andrew’s Cathedral Parish

The Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)

[Volume 3 (Luke) of Bishop Ron’s homilies, one for every Sunday and Feast from the last Cycle C, is available from amazon.com for $9.99 – “Teaching the Church Year”]

June 26, 2016 Today’s Homily at Holy Trinity Parish for the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted in Called, christian, ecclesiology, Faith, homily, inspirational, religion, scripture, Spirit, Word by Fr Joe R on June 26, 2016

Homily for the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C (June 26)

Posted in Uncategorized by Fr. Ron Stephens on June 25, 2016

Homily for the Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C (June 26)

I want to start off today by noting that there is a subtle change taking place today which we will follow through for the next many weeks of Ordinary Time.  In the story Luke tells of Jesus, he structures his story in a way unique to the other Gospel writers.  We begin a brand new section of Luke’s Gospel today with the words: “Jesus set his face to go to Jerusalem.” Luke seems to be using the device of a journey which will end in Jerusalem, yet it takes the next ten chapters of his book to get Jesus there. But the journey’s end – Jerusalem – is always in the forefront of Jesus’ thought now and colors a lot of what will happen to him. 

However, it is not that he steadfastly sets his face to Jerusalem and races there. Along the way, he does take time to stop at friends, and eat meals with friends, and so on….but the journey to the cross in Jerusalem is how Luke  pushes along the narrative from now on. Jesus’ knowledge in Luke of what will happen in Jerusalem gives an underlying tone and inevitability to everything Jesus says and does. We will watch for this over the next number of weeks.

After this initial set up in the Gospel today,  in our readings we get little lessons on ‘making excuses’. Whenever we don’t want to do something or are not fully committed to something, most of us are experts at making excuses. Some excuses involve stretching the truth, others are outright lies. But the end result is that we put off doing something.

In both the first reading and the Gospel today we have young men making excuses for not doing something right away when asked to. In the first reading the prophet Elijah was asked by God to anoint another prophet to study under him and take his place. This would be the prophet Elisha.  At this point, Elisha was just a young farm boy out ploughing his fields. The act of throwing his mantle over the boy signified that he was being chosen to take on the prophet’s role. We use the expression today sometimes when we say someone took up the mantle of someone else. They followed in his footsteps or ways.

But Elisha just doesn’t set down his tools and follow Elijah. He excuses himself by saying that he has to kiss his parents goodbye and do some things in preparation for the journey. He kills the oxen which were pulling his plough, by roasting them on a fire made from his plough, and gives the food to the needy. Then he comes back, follows Elijah and becomes his servant – eventually becoming the prophet Elisha.

So this excuse was an honest excuse. He didn’t want to not let his parents know he was going, and he wanted to take care of any unfinished business he had before he left, so that he could start afresh.

There is a lot going on in the Gospel today but I want to focus first on the “excuse” section. When I mentioned at the start that Jesus’ movement to Jerusalem, his realization of his death to come and the need to complete his mission all color what some would think as a kind of ‘grouchy’ Jesus here, who demands a whole lot from those who want to follow him, and even more, his answers here seem curt and snippy. The excuses start with he second man. Jesus has asked the man to follow him. The man says, “First let me go and bury my father.” Now this is a dishonest excuse if not an actual lie. The man’s father has not died. If he had, the young man wouldn’t be there – he would be sitting shiva with the Father as was required. No, the young man wanted to go home and wait for his father to die, collect his inheritance, and then maybe follow Jesus. Jesus did not have time for that. “Let the dead bury the dead. Let those who are spiritually dead and still interested in the things of this world bury the dead, perhaps Jesus is saying.

The third young man offers the same excuse as Elisha did: “Let me say farewell to those at my home.” We saw that this was a good excuse and even laudable perhaps in the story of Elijah and Elisha, but Jesus is having none of it. Because his eyes are set on Jerusalem – set “like flint” the psalm might say, Jesus is accepting no excuses. The kingdom of God is inevitably pushing forward on Jesus’ agenda, and there is no stopping the train. There is no time now to look back!

A couple of points about the beginning of the Gospel today as well. Jesus sends the apostles to Samaria to prepare a place for him but the Samaritans, enemies of the Jews are not being very hospitable. Jesus wanted to bring the message of the kingdom to Samaria (as he tells the Apostles at his Ascension as well) but right now the Samaritans aren’t open to it.

In retribution, the Apostles want to use their new powers to destroy the enemy, but Jesus rebukes them for it. This may be what happens in the Old Testament regularly, but it is not the way of Jesus. His message is of love, not hate. Our political leaders could learn a lesson from this!

What can we do with these readings in our own lives this week? Let’s try to listen hard to the call of Jesus through the Spirit and not be quick to make excuses when possibilities arise. There are a lot of opportunities to help others, show our love for them and spread the kingdom, but we have to be open to them and not be making excuses all the time. Some excuses are valid, certainly, but others force a commitment from us that we are afraid of, or too comfortable with things the way they are. As Paul says today: “Do not use your freedom as an opportunity of self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another.” We are busy, but if we are given the opportunity to do something for an hour a week, can’t we really find that time if we want to, and think less of our own needs and more of others.  Just a thought. But it is what the Good news prompts us to think about today.  God bless.

Ronald Stephens

Bishop of Holy Trinity Diocese and St. Andrew’s Cathedral Parish

The Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)

[Volume 3 (Luke) of Bishop Ron’s homilies, one for every Sunday and Feast from the last Cycle C, is available from amazon.com for $9.99 – “Teaching the Church Year”]

Homily June 26th, 2016 the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted in Called, christian, Christianity, Faith, homily, religion, scripture, Spirit by Fr Joe R on June 23, 2016

13 sunTwo words come out of today’s readings, commitment and freedom. In the first and third readings we see Elijah calling Elisha and Jesus calling new followers. In both cases, the one called is told to move on, to not look back and to steadfastly move on to their new future commitment. I remember that this idea was very strong in people called in past times to a vocation in the church, to the point that contact with family or their past was seen as a negative thing. Certainly, some ties can hold back a commitment to a vocation, but completely moving on and ignoring one’s past is not the best for a person’s vocation or family and friends who have led them to their vocation. Surely, Jesus’ apostles left and followed Jesus, but they visited and remained in touch until a later time when they were called to go out and preach to the surrounding countries and places far distant. God’s call is one we are looking to answer, but his love and its call is not to exclude anybody, especially those who have nurtured our faith. However, our response must be to the moment and to the task that is immediately at hand. Our service of love is one that is personal and involves our attention and action as best we are able to give. In serving God, we all have one master, but serving does not preclude a personal, private life of our own at the same time.13 5

The second word we hear is freedom which is from Paul. In committing to Christ we are becoming free. Free because we are being given the capacity to love, to share our knowledge and love of God by loving our neighbor as ourselves. This is the most Godly thing Jesus has given us and makes us free for others and not in a selfish way. It is the acceptance of the spirit and living in and by the spirit. Freedom allows us to be open and outgoing expressing ourselves as we are meant to be. Surely, Christ’s call is to give up all, but on the contrary, it is gaining all, giving all.

Homily for the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C (June 26)

Posted in Uncategorized by Fr. Ron Stephens on June 21, 2016

Homily for the Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C (June 26)

I want to start off today by noting that there is a subtle change taking place today which we will follow through for the next many weeks of Ordinary Time.  In the story Luke tells of Jesus he structures his story in a way unique to the other Gospel writers,  We begin a brand new section of Luke’s Gospel today with the words: “Jesus set his face to go to Jerusalem.” Luke seems to be using the devise of a journey which will end in Jerusalem, but it takes the next ten chapters of his book to get Jesus there. But the journey’s end – Jerusalem – is always in the forefront of Jesus’ thought now and colors a lot of what will happen to him. 

However, it is not that he steadfastly sets his face to Jerusalem and races there. Along the way, he does take time to stop at friends, and eat meals with friends, and so on….but the journey to the cross in Jerusalem is what pushes along the narrative from now on. Jesus’ knowledge in Luke of what will happen in Jerusalem gives an underlying tone and inevitability to everything Jesus says and does. We will watch for this over the next number of weeks.

After this initial set up in the Gospel today,  in our readings we get little lessons on ‘making excuses’. Whenever we don’t want to do something or are not fully committed to something, most of us are experts at making excuses. Some excuses involve stretching the truth, others are outright lies. But the end result is that we put off doing something.

In both the first reading and the Gospel today we have young men making excuses for to doing something right away when asked to. In the first reading the prophet Elijah was asked by God to anoint another prophet to study under him and take his place. This would be the prophet Elisha.  At this point, Elisha was just a young farm boy out ploughing his fields. The act of throwing his mantle over the boy signified that he was being chosen to take on the prophet’s role. We use the expression today sometimes when we say someone took up the mantle of someone else. They followed in his footsteps or ways.

But Elisha just doesn’t set down his tools and follow Elijah. He excuses himself by saying that he has to kiss his parents goodbye and do some things in preparation for the journey. He kills the oxen which were pulling his plough, by roasting them on a fire made from his plough and gives the food to the needy. Then he comes back, follows Elijah and becomes his servant – eventually becoming the prophet Elisha.

So this excuse was an honest excuse. He didn’t want to not let his parents know he was going, and he wanted to take care of any unfinished business he had before he left, so that he could start afresh.

There is a lot going on in the Gospel today but I want to focus first on the “excuse” section. When I mentioned at the start that Jesus’ movement to Jerusalem, his realization of his death to come and the need to complete his mission all color what some would think is a kind of ‘grouchy’ Jesus here, who demands a whole lot from those who want to follow him, and his answers here seem curt and snippy. The excuses start with he second man. Jesus has asked the man to follow him. The man says, “First let me go and bury my father.” Now this is a dishonest excuse if not an actual lie. The man’s father has not died. If he had, the young man wouldn’t be there – he would be sitting shiva with the Father as was required. No, the young man wanted to go home and wait for his father to die, collect his inheritance, and then maybe follow Jesus. Jesus did not have time for that. “Let the dead bury the dead. Let those who are spiritually dead and still interested in the things of this world bury the dead, perhaps Jesus is saying.

The third young man offers the same excuse as Elisha did: “Let me say farewell to those at my home.” We saw that this was a good excuse and even laudable perhaps in the story of Elijah and Elisha, but jesus is having none of it. Because his eyes are set on Jerusalem – set “like flint” the psalm might say, and Jesus is accepting no excuses. The kingdom of God is inevitably pushing forward on Jesus’ agenda, and there is no stopping the train. There is no time now to look back!

A couple of points about the beginning of the Gospel today as well. Jesus sends the apostles to Samaria to prepare a place for him but the Samaritans, enemies of the Jews are not being very hospitable. Jesus wanted to bring the message of the kingdom to Samaria (as he tells the Apostles at his Ascension as well) but right now they aren’t open to it.

The Apostles want to use their new powers to destroy the enemy, but Jesus rebukes them for it. This may be what happens in the Old testament, but it is not the way of J Jesus. His message is of love, not hate.

What can we do with these readings in our own lives this week. Let’s try to listen hard to the call of Jesus through the Spirit and not be quick to make excuses when possibilities arise. There are a lot of opportunities to help others, show our love for them and spread the kingdom, but we have to be open to them and not be making excuses all the time. Some excuses are valid, certainly, but others force a commitment from us that we are afraid of, or too comfortable with things the way they are. As Paul says today: “Do not use your freedom as an opportunity of self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another.” We are busy, but if we are given the opportunity to do something for an hour a week, can’t we really find that time if we want to, and think less of our own needs and more of others.  Just a thought. But it is what the Good news prompts us to think about today.  God bless.

Ronald Stephens

Bishop of Holy Trinity Diocese and St. Andrew’s Cathedral Parish

The Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)

[Volume 3 (Luke) of Bishop Ron’s homilies, one for every Sunday and Feast from the last Cycle C, is available from amazon.com for $9.99 – “Teaching the Church Year”]

Homily at Holy Trinity Parish June 19, 2016, the 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Homily June 19, 2016 the 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted in Called, christian, Christianity, ecclesiology, Faith, homily, religion, scripture, Spirit, Word by Fr Joe R on June 16, 2016

12 sunIn today’s gospel, Jesus asks “Who do you say that I am?” When Peter said “the Christ of God”, Jesus scolded them. Why did he scold when such an important revelation had been made to them? Simply, they did not understand what it meant, they only had a glimpse of Jesus’ mission and knew nothing of what was to come. Jesus was the Christ, the prophet, the one to come, but no one knew or was ready to fully understand what was the role and mission of Jesus to suffer and die. His humanity and holiness they knew and felt, but his divinity and the saving suffering mission he had was a darkness they didn’t know. The revelation of who he was had to unfold as he preached and worked among the people, gradually showing, revealing and teaching even his own disciples who he was.

12 sun 3Even today, we come to know and experience Jesus in different ways and at different times of our lives. Our faith and commitment is something that grows and expands and deepens as our lives and experience goes on. Jesus and the Spirit work in our lives and speak in various ways. I don’t know anyone who has direct communication yet so often in life prayer and the Spirit leads us in the right direction. A spiritual life can be joyful and fulfilling or at times it can seem dry and humdrum. Faith and prayer and constancy leads us to an ultimately full and encompassing prayer life. While religion is personal, Jesus called us to his family to his community. Love, care and concern are important to all believers as we worship in the Lord and share his sacraments. 12 sun 2Suffering, sickness, violence, evil in the world can seem so overwhelming, that only with an anchor in our faith and love of Jesus in community and prayer, can we weather the world and what lies in it. Christ is with us and speaks and acts in our lives and actions if we only give in to the love with open mind and hearts and share it with others and not be concerned with anything but that others are God’s children called to be saved like each of us. Scolding? Yes Jesus scolded because they knew but didn’t understand. Hopefully we know and we never cease trying to understand, so we are ready to love and give as he did.

Today’s Homily June 12, 2016 at Holy Trinity Parish

Posted in Called, christian, church events, ecclesiology, Faith, forgiveness, homily, religion, scripture, Spirit, Word by Fr Joe R on June 12, 2016

Already Forgiven!!

Posted in christian, Christianity, ethics, Faith, homily, inspirational, religion, scripture, Spirit, Word by Rev. Martha on June 10, 2016

11th Sunday Homily, 6-12-16  year C, 2nd Samuel 12:1-13, Galatians 2: 16-21, Luke 7: 36-50

Our 1st reading is one of the few readings in the Sunday lectionary from King David’s life, and it’s sad that we read about one of his worst moments.  Adultery & murder are taboo in most cultures because they tear the very fabric of community life.  David knowingly and purposefully sinned.  Nathan told him a parable which made him face what he did. David used his wiles, his wealth, his power, and his position to sin.  How could God forgive him?

But there is a clear message of God’s grace and mercy. Psalm 51 is David’s confession. “A clean heart create for me, God; do not drive me from your presence, nor take from me your holy spirit. Restore my joy in your salvation.”  So, what is the message Nathan brings?  “The Lord has forgiven your sin.”   That is the message of the story.  That is the take-away.  That is the point.  No matter how far he had fallen – even the mighty King David – or the darkness of the sin, God had announced his forgiveness to Nathan before David had even been confronted.  There are, however, repercussions from David’s actions – not punishment from God, but natural consequences; that’s an important distinction.

Then we hear Paul’s take on how we move from sin to grace. “I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me,” Paul writes to the Galatians.  Paul wrote to the church in Rome: “But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  We rejoice because of what God has done.” Let me paraphrase.  ”I live in the present”, he says.  ”But my sin, even before it happened, died with Jesus when he was crucified.  I have faith in and believe this in the very core of my being:  that Jesus loved me when I was at my worst, and that he was willing to die a shameful dead, a torturous death at the hands of people just like me, people who did the same sinful things I do.  All of this Jesus did before I ever came to believe.  Jesus’ actions and God’s forgiveness preceded my understanding of and my confession of my sins.”

But a picture is worth a thousand words, so Luke provides the picture. So often we find the original story in the Old Testament, like David and Nathan, and then Jesus comes along and takes that same story line, and lives it out, showing us God’s ways. See, without Jesus, we are inclined to think God is like us, and we want to create a god in our image.  We want revenge, we want others to stoop and gravel before us.  We want to hear, “Oh please, I beg you to forgive me!!”  So we assume, from our expectations, that we must cajole or coax or wheedle or shame God into forgiving us, you know, lean on him a little.  But is that really how God is??

To answer that question, Jesus, like Nathan, presents a compelling parable about forgiveness – in this case the forgiveness of debt, a concrete subject that wealthy Simon the Pharisee can relate to…just as David, once a shepherd, understood sheep story.

Here it is: Two men are in serious debt. One owes 50 days wages, which would take years to repay.  The other owes 500 days wages –hopeless, impossible to repay.   The vineyards that have been in his family for 100’s of years will be sold off, the wife and kids will be sold into slavery. But the creditor forgives both of them.  Which man will be really delighted, but which one will be ecstatic, jumping, screaming with joy, sobbing with love and thanksgiving?  Obvious.  Simon’s response sounds hesitant to me, and I suspect he hears a rebuke coming, for Simon the Pharisee is well aware that he has not extended the appropriate hospitality to Jesus.  Simon would have seen to it that anyone of his own social status would have been greeted with water to wash his feet, would have been given a firm kiss, and his hair would have been anointed with soothing perfumed oil.  But Simon had done none of these things for Jesus.  Jesus has been treated like the entertainment, and quite possible the amusement, for the other guests.

Meanwhile, Jesus had allowed this woman’s administrations, which are far beyond social norms. She sobbed over him, to the point of washing his feet with her copious tears, wiping them with her hair, which no proper woman would loosen and display in public, kissing and anointing his feet with ointment.  The boldness of this woman was undoubtedly caused by her understanding of who Jesus was, and the undeniable need to seize this chance to express her overwhelming gratitude.  Simon judges Jesus as ignorant of what he thinks is the impropriety of her behavior; Simon judges her to be of low morals and sinful.

But suddenly Jesus turns the tables. Simon is called out on his rude behavior, and the woman is praised: “Her many sins have been forgiven; therefore she has shown great love.”  The Greek structure of that sentence becomes ambiguous when translated to English.  Some might find it confusing and think her show of love has lead to her forgiveness.  Not so; think back to Jesus’ parable.  Did the debtors display any great virtue or faith?  No!  It was the creditor who forgave the debt, and the love and joy were a reaction to the forgiveness of the debt. And Jesus, to seal the deal so to speak, announces, “Your sins are forgiven”, and causes the other guests to stop and reconsider the whole situation.

So what are we left with here? Can it be that God initiates forgiveness?  Can it be that God has already forgiven us our sins, even before we acknowledge them?  Is it possible that we waste enormous parts of our lives avoiding facing our darkness and shutting our eyes and ears to reconciliation with God and neighbors?  Do we miss the chance to feel and express our joy; do we shut down and remain static instead?  Maybe the part of the darkness in this world that is ours just seems too large to fix or beyond our control, so we rationalize it as too big for God to fix.  How would our lives change if we forgave everyone of everything right away instead waited for them to confess guilt?  What if Christians really were known for their love and forgiveness?  Perhaps in the answers to these questions is the hope our churches and community and nations seek.