I am no scientist. Actually, failing organic chemistry is part of my vocation story. But one basic scientific principle I remember from school is that “every action has an equal and opposite reaction.” (This is why, for example, there’s kickback when firing a cannon or gun.) But when it comes to a relationship with the living God, things are not this scientific and automatic. The “reaction”/response depends on us.
We see this played out in our Scriptures today. In the Gospel we see that Simon the Pharisee invited Jesus to his home for dinner. But he didn’t really act like he cared that Jesus was there. He didn’t really, fully embrace Him. He didn’t even follow the minimum of what the basic cultural norms of hospitality would have demanded. I think we all face a similar temptation: we may say we need/want God in our life, but do we really, fully embrace Him? Do we really prepare a place for Him? Do we let Him into our life and allow Him to take our life and transform us?
We see a different situation with St. Paul. After all that he had experienced—his transformation from being a persecutor of the Church to the greatest Apostle—he is able to proclaim, “I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me.” Now perhaps many, if not most of us—myself certainly first and foremost—are unable to claim this as St. Paul did. But can we truly say that that’s our goal? Do we want that to happen, to really be the case?
Simon the Pharisee had the love and mercy of God “live and in person” with Jesus Christ sitting right there at his own table, but it didn’t seem to touch his heart. From what we hear he didn’t allow that encounter to be transformative for him, and it didn’t even seem like he wanted it to be. He was likely too caught up in his own stuff, his own hardened heart.
But of course the presence of Christ made all the difference in the world for someone that day: this woman who judged (fairly or unfairly) for being this big sinner. “The human face of God” [B16] present right there in her own neighborhood awakened such faith in this woman’s heart that she knew that Jesus came to bring her forgiveness and healing and restoration and redemption from whatever it was that she had done—and this unleashed a flood of love and devotion for the One who had come to save her and bring her from death to life, from darkness to light, because only He had the power to do so.
Two very different reactions to the presence of the Savior.
With the example of David in our 1st Reading, it’s a little more complicated. Through the prophet Nathan, God relates all that He had done for him. The great king didn’t do any of this on his own; it was gift from the goodness of God. Yet all these wonderful blessings didn’t keep David from acting on a disordered passion. Despite all the good things God poured into this life, David chose to sin in a particularly egregious way. Still, when confronted with this his heart is contrite and repentant, and so God forgives him and says “you will not die.” (This doesn’t mean, however, that there won’t be any fallout/consequences of his actions. There certainly will be, which is another reason to avoid the web of sin in the first place.)
Considering all these examples, we ourselves, as human beings, maybe have the tendency sometimes to want to cover our tracks, to keep any sinfulness hidden, even from ourselves, and also hidden from God, as if that could actually happen. But Christ came to set us free from those chains that bind us/that keep us from loving as we should, as we were made to do. When we look to God to help us get rid of those things that hold us back, we are then set free—free to love, free to love in grateful response to the merciful and compassionate love that God always shows us first, a love that burns for us in Christ’s Sacred Heart.
As with the woman in the Gospel, the new life we are offered calls us to seek out and to be with our God—in prayer, in the Church, in the sacraments, and even in the midst of our daily lives. It calls us to conform our hearts more and more to be like that of Jesus. And in conforming ourselves to Jesus, we long to be able to truly say, as St. Paul did, “I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me.”
God doesn’t love some people more or less than others, as we might think sometimes. That would be against God’s nature. But being a disciple is intentional, not accidental or automatic. Gathered here around the Lord’s table, let be open to His saving presence among us and make this “Ordinary Time” extraordinary.
©2017 St. Peters Catholic Church Huron Ohio.
Built by BrandBrella