This Sunday’s Liturgy of the Word puts before us the Good News that those who have sinned much can be forgiven much. In the first reading Nathan informs David that “the Lord, for his part, has forgiven him his sins—even though his sins were that he [David] killed Uriah the Hittite and took his wife for his own. Jesus in the Gospel defends the “sinful city woman” and explains to Simon that she who has sinned much will be all the more grateful for the forgiveness she receives. In fact he tells the woman that her faith has saved her and to “Go in peace.”
Today’s readings beg the question, “How ready are we to forgive?” Certainly King David—at the very least—broke the law when he murdered and committed adultery. Whatever the sinful woman from the city did was most certainly against the law. It is Paul who addresses forgiveness and law when he writes to the Galatians: “…even we have believed in Christ Jesus that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.”
We live in a world today in which, not only are people being tempted to take the law into their own hands, but they have weapons of mass destruction to carry out their (probably crazed) will. We know all too tragically the enormous harm that can follow from that! Our country along with many other countries struggles with the “hot button” issues of the day, and in some cases those issues are before our own Congress, President, and United States Supreme Court as we speak. And, speaking of courts, let us remember that all of the above technically are in “Caesar’s court”; what emerges may or may not be what is declared in God’s court—that is, Jesus’ kingdom. Who gets to define what living a “rule of law society” means? What’s a Christian to do?
In my first assignment as a priest in inner city Los Angeles, I lived near a troubled, gang-ridden junior high school, and sometimes I had coffee in the morning before school with some of its teachers. Once, one of those teachers said to me, “You Catholics are lucky. You get to teach Catholic morality in your schools. We public schools are expected to hand on morals to the children, but we can’t seem to get there, because no one can agree on whose morals are allowed to be taught.” Well, there you have it.
If you and I could claim like Paul, “…I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me,” what difference might that make in our decisions and how we live—how we treat “the sinner” and “the evildoer”? I could hand the lawbreaker over and be satisfied that I kept the letter of the law—gave to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, but would I have given to God what belongs to God? Paul says that the law has no power to justify me, only faith in Jesus Christ who gave his life for me can, in the end, justify and save me. And, by all means, let us all take a stand on “what Jesus would do,” but let’s make sure and do our homework first and be ready to back up our claim by the clear evidence of Jesus’ life and how he lived it.