JUNE 12TH, 2016: ELEVENTH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
Nathan said to David:
“Thus says the LORD God of Israel:
‘I anointed you king of Israel.
I rescued you from the hand of Saul.
I gave you your lord’s house and your lord’s wives for your own.
I gave you the house of Israel and of Judah.
And if this were not enough, I could count up for you still more.
Why have you rejected the LORD and done evil in his sight?
You have cut down Uriah the Hittite with the sword;
you took his wife as your own,
and him you killed with the sword of the Ammonites.
Now, therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house,
because you have looked down on me
and have taken the wife of Uriah to be your wife.’”
Then David said to Nathan,
“I have sinned against the LORD.”
Nathan answered David:
“The LORD on his part has forgiven your sin:
you shall not die.”
Brothers and sisters:
We who know that a person is not justified by works of the law
but through faith in Jesus Christ,
even we have believed in Christ Jesus
that we may be justified by faith in Christ
and not by works of the law,
because by works of the law no one will be justified.
For through the law I died to the law,
that I might live for God.
I have been crucified with Christ;
yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me;
insofar as I now live in the flesh,
I live by faith in the Son of God
who has loved me and given himself up for me.
I do not nullify the grace of God;
for if justification comes through the law,
then Christ died for nothing.
A Pharisee invited Jesus to dine with him,
and he entered the Pharisee's house and reclined at table.
Now there was a sinful woman in the city
who learned that he was at table in the house of the Pharisee.
Bringing an alabaster flask of ointment,
she stood behind him at his feet weeping
and began to bathe his feet with her tears.
Then she wiped them with her hair,
kissed them, and anointed them with the ointment.
When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this he said to himself,
"If this man were a prophet,
he would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him,
that she is a sinner."
Jesus said to him in reply,
"Simon, I have something to say to you."
"Tell me, teacher," he said.
"Two people were in debt to a certain creditor;
one owed five hundred days' wages and the other owed fifty.
Since they were unable to repay the debt, he forgave it for both.
Which of them will love him more?"
Simon said in reply,
"The one, I suppose, whose larger debt was forgiven."
He said to him, "You have judged rightly."
Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon,
"Do you see this woman?
When I entered your house, you did not give me water for my feet,
but she has bathed them with her tears
and wiped them with her hair.
You did not give me a kiss,
but she has not ceased kissing my feet since the time I entered.
You did not anoint my head with oil,
but she anointed my feet with ointment.
So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven
because she has shown great love.
But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little."
He said to her, "Your sins are forgiven."
The others at table said to themselves,
"Who is this who even forgives sins?"
But he said to the woman,
"Your faith has saved you; go in peace."
Afterward he journeyed from one town and village to another,
preaching and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God.
Accompanying him were the Twelve
and some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities,
Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out,
Joanna, the wife of Herod's steward Chuza,
Susanna, and many others who provided for them
out of their resources.
One of the keys to understanding Matthew and Luke’s theology is to employ “redaction criticism.” That particular exegetical tool, developed after World War II, tries to surface how each of the two evangelists changed the material he copied from earlier authors in order to convey his unique theology. Matthew and Luke just didn’t copy from their sources; they redacted them. Today’s gospel pericope supplies us with a classic example of Luke’s redaction.
Notice at the end of the passage, the evangelist mentions “accompanying (Jesus) were . . . some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities . . . .” He then goes on to name Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna, “. . . and many others who provided for them out of their resources.”
Though one source which Luke had in front of him when he composed his gospel – Mark’s gospel – also mentioned the women who followed Jesus, it doesn’t do so until after Jesus dies in chapter 15. It’s almost a surprise to discover Jesus had attracted women disciples.
Luke, on the other hand, redacts Mark, moving his remark about the women up to chapter 7, a third the way into his gospel. So whenever Luke refers to Jesus’s disciples throughout the rest of his gospel, we’re to presume that includes male and female followers! Certainly different from what we find in the other three gospels.
We can always count on Luke to give women an even break. He, for instance, not only makes Jesus’ mother the ideal Christian, his Jesus also reminds Martha that her sister Mary, by listening to him, has “chosen the better part.” And in today’s pericope, he praises the faith of the sinful woman who anointed him and bathed his feet with her tears.
As Paul reminds the Galatians in today’s second reading, faith is always more important than “works of the law.” The Apostle is forced to say this because he’s being challenged by conservative Jewish Christians due to his converting non-Jews to Christianity without first converting them to Judaism. These “Judaizers” insist that any follower of Jesus must also follow the 613 laws of Moses. Unless they perform such works they’re not “justified:” doing what God wants them to do.
Paul is convinced that justification revolves around giving ourselves to the risen Jesus: making his/her faith our faith. He doesn’t object to anyone keeping the Mosaic laws for extra credit. But these regulations certainly aren’t obligatory. Faith, for the Apostle, is rooted in our becoming other Christs. And Gentiles can pull that off just as well as Jews.
The key aspect of Jesus’ faith was his relationships with people. Those personal encounters, in Jesus’ mind, always trumped just keeping religious laws.
Even the prophets of the Hebrew Scriptures, as we hear in today’s II Samuel reading, stressed the priority of relationships. Nathan confronts David over the issue of Bathsheba not so much because the king broke Yahweh’s laws, but because the Gentile Uriah had rights as Bathsheba’s husband that not even a king could disregard. Only when David recognizes his sin against Uriah does he also recognize, “I have sinned against Yahweh.”
The authors of our Christian Scriptures were convinced that the historical Jesus of Nazareth didn’t create a new religion as much as he created a new focus. He didn’t eradicate the Mosaic Law; he simply taught his followers to focus beyond it.
In Luke’s theology, other Christs are expected to uniquely focus on women. His gospel Jesus is always concerned with what he can do for them; not what they can do for him. That’s why, according to the late Fr. Frank Cleary, such women would do anything for him – even “provide for (him) out of their resources.”