THE FACES HAVE CHANGED, BUT THE MESSAGE REMAINS THE SAME!
Have you ever wondered why bad news sells? It seems to be a fact of life in the world of mass Media, that bad news, sad stories, atrocious murders, demonic dictators and despotic regimes hit the front pages of our Newspapers, 24/7 Television News, and social Media like Facebook, Twitter and Flick and Click! Is it because deep down we secretly like to see things go wrong, instead of going right? Do we have some inner appetite for: “Gotchya moments” so that we can sneer?
It seems that there is a little bit of all of that in most of us; and the Media people know that we can be teased in such a way as to want more of these kinds of tragedies in our faces. Yet, on the other hand, when we see the most beautiful aspects of humanity come to the surface, when innocent people are at their lowest; our hearts often beat a little faster, tears may well up in our eyes, because we can feel some of the goodness that humanity is capable of displaying to all. Every now and then we get glimpses of the answer to the Lord’s Prayer, when we pray that ‘Heaven comes to Earth’.
I am absolutely amazed at the continual criticism levelled towards our Pope Francis, who is unashamedly friend, to the outcasts, embracing the poorest of the poor, and walking through barriers of Religious, Political or Cultural taboos, in order to be “Christ’s love in human and Shepherd form” to all people. The faces have changed, but the message remains the same!
This Sunday’s Gospel story from Luke 7:36-8:3 is a real ‘eye opener’ as to the responses of Jesus, while given situations where His true and pure love is tested against some of the social and religious mores of His time! But, let’s remember, His responses are not just set within a time warp of His time; His response is for all times and seasons throughout the ages.
So, now let’s go deep sea diving into the Scriptures for today. The opening scene is that Jesus is invited to a Pharisee’s house for a meal; a very meritorious invitation; let’s not misjudge the man just because he was a Pharisee; Saul of Tarsus was also a Pharisee, lest we forget! The fact that Jesus was invited to a meal, and he took his place at table has some serious overtones, which we could be bold enough to say are Eucharistic? In comes a woman to the Pharisee’s house who had a bad name in the town….Did the Host of the house stop her? Was he as open minded as Jesus, or was it a “Let’s see what happens now” moment? Notice, she had not been invited, she took it on her own stirrings to see Jesus; it therefore must have been the talk of the town where Jesus was for the meal on that day! Notice that she brought with her, special oils and ointment to anoint Jesus…..she just didn’t happen to have these things in her handbag! She was prepared for this encounter of welcoming hospitality, because she already had responded to a ‘hint’ within her that this was not some usual encounter with a man in town; her ‘insight – faith’ had been alerted within her! It says in the Scriptures that she waited behind him; this is not the kind of waiting that we do at a Bus stop! This word already carries within it, the faith – provoked actions of ministry. She paid Jesus the greatest respect of cultural hospitality at the time; washing the feet; drying His feet, and anointing them! See how close this action prefigures the future action of Jesus in the washing of His disciples’ feet?
Notice the inner thoughts of Simon, the Pharisee? He too had been caught by his ‘faith trigger’ to invite Jesus to his place because he was coming to believe that Jesus was a Prophet! Now, before we go any further, a Biblical Prophet is not just someone who foretells the future; but someone who is ‘in tune’ with God, and that his words and actions reflect clearly the mind and will of God.
It is surprising to note that Simon did not tell the woman to get out! However, his thoughts, it would seem were fairly normal in such a situation.
Let’s also remember that the woman was on the floor of the house ministering to Jesus…..She knew exactly who she was at that moment because she was searching for the truth, in humility, and that her desire of a ‘change of life style’ and her actions covered many of the motifs of Psalm 50….the great Act of Contrition in the Old Testament. Remember the story of the woman caught in the very act of committing adultery and she was brought to Jesus as a socially condemned woman? Her attitudes and internal disposition was in itself an act of contrition……Jesus forgave her! We can safely say that here in this case in today’s Gospel, Jesus is doing the same! Jesus does the same to us, now!
Then the message of Our Lord’s unconditional forgiveness comes out in the little story of the two people in debt, as a reflection about the woman’s inner disposition and actions! Then we see the twitter message, which is the highlight and message of the story, for the woman and for us…..when Jesus says to her, and to us…’your faith has saved you; go in peace’
What does that really mean? It would seem that her insight, being triggered well before she went to the house, grew within the experience of ministering to Jesus, and being the human embodiment of Psalm 50! Being in the House in Scripture is another place where Salvation can be experienced! Remember the little fellow Zacchaeus, the wealthy Tax Collector who invited Jesus to his House? Salvation came to his House as his faith-insight developed, and came to fruition in a change of life style. The same went for this woman…..when Jesus said….’Go in peace’! This is not just a nice way of saying…’Goodbye’ it means that she had to continue on her journey of faith, with others and gathering others, as she resolutely took the road to Jerusalem. But it is a walking, and talking and gathering journey for this woman, to share her faith, to trigger the faith-insight in others, and to be the human bearer of ‘SHALOM-PEACE’. Just as Jonah was sent to the Pagan Ninevites, it was his inner disposition of ‘SHALOM-PEACE’ which triggered the faith-response and conversion of the people in that large city!
In the conclusion to today’s Gospel, we see that Jesus and his companions, including women, continued on their Missionary Journey, as the new twelve tribes of Israel, and they were undergoing their Novitiate!
Finally, let’s remember the opening paragraphs to this little homilie; we can so easily misjudge others, put them in boxes, label them and send them off by ‘snail mail’ to some place where we don’t go! The criticism that is around the world and in our own country Australia, of the motivations of our Pope, and other Christ-minded people is astounding! So many ‘do gooders’ can quote chapter and verse of some many Vatican Documents, or memoirs of Saints, to use for their own critical ends! This Gospel story of today cannot be any clearer in the message of Jesus to welcome all, to forgive all, and to enable their faith to respond! Unfortunately, there is a vocal element in our world today, who have never had it so good with their clarion calls through social media, that openness to other people’s Religions, cultures and weakness is like being on the side of the Anti-Christ! Today’s Gospel is a strong ‘wake up call’ to all of us, because these insidious dispositions of elitism, and being ‘one-eyed’ in and a self-made guardian on what God cannot do is atrocious! I see it in ‘seed form’ within my own DNA as an Anglo-Celtic Australian, I read it in ultra conservative Posts and Chats; I see it within the higher echelons of authority in the Church and State Governance. Where is all of this going? We are all called to be ‘foot washers’ of the Lord, to acknowledge our inner shortcomings, and through insight, recover the ground that Jesus has won for us. A ground that is to be shared with everyone! How dare anyone say that it is only Catholics who can get to Heaven! I think that we are all in for some big surprises when we are invited to walk into Heaven’s Foyer as we prepare to enter into the ‘changed’ life after death, and see many people there who got in before us! And who according to our narrow mindedness would not have got an entry ticket on earth. Food for thought!
From Word to Thanksgiving…Taken from The Glenstal Bible Missal, Page 1246.
We give thanks to God our Father for this Eucharistic meal. He welcomes us as repentant sinners, and gives us more than we dare to ask – the body and blood of his Son, signs of his immense love, sourse of all peace.
Fr Kevin Walsh
New South Wales