08 June 2016

'Your faith has saved you; go in peace.' Sunday Reflections, 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Feast in the House of Simon (detail), Paolo Veronese, 1567-70
Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan [Web Gallery of Art]

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)

Gospel Luke 7:36 – 8:3 or 7:36-50 (New Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition, Canada) 

One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table. And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him—that she is a sinner.” Jesus spoke up and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” “Teacher,” he replied, “speak.” 

“A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii,  and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he canceled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt.” And Jesus said to him, “You have judged rightly.” 

Then turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet.  You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.”  Then he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

[Soon afterwards he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him, as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their resources.]

(Revised American Bible)

When I was parish priest of Lianga, Surigao del Sur, on the east coast of Mindanao for eleven months in 1993-94, there was no telephone in the town. The mayor's big promise was, 'By next year we will have a telephone'. It would be in the town hall. However, modern technology has since flourished and now almost everyone in Lianga has a mobile phone and some have access at home to the internet.

The only way of contacting the world outside of Lianga was by telegram. And outside of the larger cities in the country the telegram was essential, right up to the 1990s. Apart from being the only to convey personal news, telegrams were also a way of sending greetings. Among these were expressions of sympathy when someone died.

When Columban Fr James Moynihan, a New Zealander, died in 1992 in Cagayan de Oro City someone went to a telegraph office there to send a message of sympathy to the Columbans. The clerk taking the message was a young man with long hair. When he saw Father Jim's name he asked the customer, 'Is that the priest who was always hearing confessions in the Cathedral?' 'Yes.' 'Where is he being waked?' 'At the Cathedral'.

As soon as the transaction was finished the clerk left the office and went on his motorbike to the Cathedral to pay his respects to Father Jim. Clearly he had been one of his penitents. Father Jim, like other Columbans, 'semi-retired' after many years in parish work, spent many hours in the confessional almost every day in St Augustine's Cathedral, Cagayan de Oro City. And they always had penitents, some of them from other parts of the Philippines. In the Redemptorist churches in the Philippines there are lines of penitents, especially on Wednesdays, when the Novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Help is held.

Today's gospel is a beautiful expression of the sacrament of confession, which we also know as the sacrament of penance, of reconciliation. The woman was known to everyone as a sinner but she saw in Jesus someone she could trust, someone who would not use her or humiliate here. In a previous Sunday Reflections I've written about the former prostitute from the Philippines who spoke at the funeral Mass of King Baudouin of the Belgians in 1984. The King had been concerned about the lives of such women and had visited a brothel in Antwerp to sit with them and hear their stories. 'He was the only man who ever listened to us', the young woman said.

Pope Francis laments not being able to listen to confessions outside theVatican. But on his first visit to one of the parishes in his new Diocese of Rome he heard some confessions before Mass. In his homily on Monday 29 April 2013 the Pope said this about confession: Humility and kindness are the framework of a Christian life. Oftentimes we think that going to confession is like going to the dry cleaners to get out a stain, but it isn’t. It’s an encounter with Jesus who waits for us to forgive us and offer salvation.

Clearly, the woman in the gospel wasn't 'going to the dry cleaners' but went to Jesus whom she knew was waiting for her to forgive her and offer her salvation.

He is waiting for each of us to forgive us and offer salvation.

Statue of St John Nepomucene, Prague [Wikipedia]

St John Nepomucene is considered the first martyr of the seal of confession. He was thrown into the River Vlatva (Moldau) at the behest of King Wenceslaus because he wouldn't divulge what the Queen had confessed.

Vlatva (The Moldau) by Smetana, 1874
Boston Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Rafael Kubelík

The Charles Bridge in Prague from which St John Nepomucene was thrown can be seen in the video from 10:35 - 11:00. The statue of the saint is one of many on the bridge.

Beauty, whether that of the natural universe or that expressed in art, precisely because it opens up and broadens the horizons of human awareness, pointing us beyond ourselves, bringing us face to face with the abyss of Infinity, can become a path towards the transcendent, towards the ultimate Mystery, towards God. [Pope Benedict XVI]

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