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11th Sunday of Ordinary Time

“To err is human; to forgive, divine.”  This well known saying is attributed to English poet Alexander Pope (1688-1744), who was inspired by an even earlier Latin proverb “Errare humanum est,” which was likely inspired by even the even earlier Hellenistic philosophies of Plato.  Regardless of its origins, this phrase has embedded itself into our Christian conscience as a way of understanding the nature of sin and redemption.  It is also the topic of our readings for this Sunday:

2 Samuel 12:7-10, 13
Psalm 32:1-2, 5, 7, 11
Galatians 2:16, 19-21
Luke 7:36-8:3

Our first reading from the second book of Samuel gives us the story of David confronting the Lord with his sin by getting Uriah killed, and thus freeing up Bathsheba to become his wife.  Our narrative has Nathan the prophet delivering God’s chastisement of David for these actions… and doing so even as the Lord has given him so much.  David sees the err of his ways, and begs the Lord’s forgiveness.  God, in all his mercy, relents and forgives David.  Our Psalm reflects David’s contrition as we sing “Lord, forgive the wrong I have done.”  A contrition that, in our own human weakness, we can well understand.

In our Gospel from Luke we have a similar story of forgiveness.  Jesus has been invited by Simon the Pharisee to dine with him… imagine a fairly elaborate dinner party with all the town’s elite.  A sinful woman in the town, upon knowing where Jesus is dining, enters the gathering and anoints Jesus’ feet.  As usual, Jesus turns this into a “catechetical moment.”  While Simon and the others are quick to point out her sins, Jesus points out where his host has also failed in his duties, then turns to the woman and forgives her sins.   This is something of a surprise to the other guests as they say “who is this who even forgives sins?”  They did not understand what we do, that it is our faith in Jesus that helps us attain salvation.. faith in his power to forgive.

Our second reading continues our study of Paul’s letter to the Galatians.  Here Paul reminds us that it is our faith in Jesus Christ that justifies us for salvation, and not by work (following the Law) alone.  Paul postulates that just following the Law isn’t enough.  Did Jesus die on a cross to bring us back to following the Law?  The obvious answer to Paul’s question is, “no.”  To die for just that would be meaningless.  Instead Jesus died to show the Lord’s power over death, so that our faith and trust in the Lord is justified.

Final thoughts:
What is it that will get us to Heaven?  Some argue that we need to “earn” our way into Heaven by doing good works.  Still others argue that we can’t just buy our way into Heaven and that it is our faith in Jesus that will save us.  It’s an ancient debate that still resonates in certain circles today.  We Catholics, however, have put this debate to bed long ago by recognizing that our salvation is based on both our faith and our good works.  In fact, Catholics recognize that one can actually feed the other, in kind of a yin and yang relationship, with our faith increasing our desire to do good, and our desire to do good increasing our faith.  It’s not “either/or” it’s “both/and.”  This dual nature is infused into our Catholic faith right down to the nature of Christ himself (both human and divine).  And it is this nature of Christ that in his humanness can understand our sin, yet in his divinity allows him to forgive.


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