Drifting from mercy when I need it the most...

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Homily for the Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Scriptures for today's Mass

Audio for homily

How can it be that after 2,000 years we still don’t get it
when it comes to understanding God’s mercy
and his forgiving our sins?
How is it that after all this time we still have it upside down?
It’s an old story. Older than 2,000 years. 
King David didn’t get it right either.
While his friend Uriah was away at war (fighting for his king!)
David had an affair with Uriah’s wife Bathsheba
who was now carrying David’s child.
So David had Uriah killed on the front lines
and then takes Bathsheba as his wife.

Our sins, yours and mine, might not be as grave as King David’s
but isn’t it true that, like David,
the bigger our sins the more inclined we are
to rationalize them and excuse ourselves of responsibility?
We can hide our sins from others - and even from ourselves -
but there’s no hiding our faults from God
and because we know that, because we intuit that,
we sometimes drift away from God precisely
because we know God knows the truth about us.
But hiding and drifting from God
serves only to isolate us in our sins
and distance us from the mercy, the forgiveness
that God is always holding out to us.
If any of us were truly hungry and starving
and we knew where there was someone with plenty of food
who wanted to feed us – at not cost -
would any one of us not beat a path to his door?
and be mighty grateful for the nourishment offered to us?

Follow me here:
My mistakes, large and small; my selfishness and betrayals;
my prejudice and laziness and pride:
all these starve my heart of the life it needs
to be fully alive and to flourish.
My sins, my hiding and drifting away from God,
can starve my hungry heart like a famine, like a drought,
while just within arm’s reach waits the Lord
with living waters to quench my soul’s thirst
and the rich food of mercy to feed my heart’s hunger.
But too often, foolishly, I often choose to hide and drift and starve.

The woman in the gospel story goes unnamed:
let’s call her Rebecca.
Rebecca’s a sinner.  She knows it.  And so does Jesus.
But she chooses to hide no longer.
With bold and absolute daring Rebecca, uninvited,
enters the Pharisee’s house and approaches Jesus
and reaches out to touch him with her hands, her tears and her hair.
If this would seem a breach of etiquette today,
imagine how many social rules Rebecca was breaking
in first century Mediterranean culture.
But her heart was hungry for love
and so she beat a path to Jesus’ feet where she knew she’d find
food for her soul and mercy for her sins.

In the lesson Jesus teaches here in the story about the two debtors,
he’s making the point that the greater our faults
the more reason we have to be thankful when forgiven.
But we live in an age
which largely denies that such a thing as sin exists,
that there’s anything at all to be forgiven.
If that sounds like an exaggeration, let each of us ask ourselves,
“Have I really sinned today?
Have I really sinned in the past week?
Have I really sinned in the past month?  in the past year?
And if I have really sinned, what have I done about it?
And if I think I have not really sinned in all that time,  
am I truly so nearly perfect?”

No fault is more roundly condemned in our culture
than attempting to keep others from doing whatever they want to do.
That’s sin today.
Such relativism provides easy cover for us
when we’re inclined to hide our sins from others and ourselves
and even from God.
When very few moral lines are drawn, it becomes ever easier
to drift from the Lord and the mercy he offers us.

How good it is, then, every weekend,
to draw near to Jesus every weekend.
To gather in the shadow of his arms,
stretched out in love for us on the Cross,
opening wide and inviting us
not to the Pharisee’s table but to his own.

He invites us to lay down our sins at the foot of the altar,
at the foot of his Cross
and to drift no longer but to cling to him, as Rebecca did:
to beat a path to the door of his mercy and his love.

If our hearts know anything of the famine and drought of sin,
then let us come to this table of the Lord’s Supper
where, in the Bread and the Cup of the Eucharist,
he quenches our thirst for mercy
and feeds our hunger for love.


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