Saint Mary of the Angels homilies and reflections

Homily, "Tears of Gratitude and Love", June 16, 2013, Fr. Ken Hughes, SJ

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St. Mary of the Angels

Sunday OT 11 C     6/16/13

II Samuel 12:7-10, 13;  Galatians 2:16, 19-21;  Luke 7:36-50

 

My Brothers and Sisters,

 

I need to begin this morning by correcting our Gospel text.  This text has Jesus saying, “So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven because she has shown great love.”  That is an inaccurate translation and bad theology!  The text should read, “So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven and so she has shown great love.”  Forgiveness is not dependent on our love.  Rather our love is a response to God’s forgiveness.  God’s action always comes first and freely.

 

Now, what attracted  me most in today’s Gospel were the tears of this repentant woman.

There are many kinds of tears, as you know.

There are tears of grief and sorrow – as when we lose a loved one. 

There are tears of relief – as when a time of trial has ended. 

There are tears of anger and rage – as when our desires and dreams have been thwarted. 

There are tears of compassion – as when our hearts are moved by the suffering of others.

And there are tears of gratitude and love – as when we have been given a precious gift, like the gift of forgiveness in today’s story.

 

Tears of gratitude and love.  That is what we see in this woman.  She knows the life she has led, the sins she has committed, but she also knows that God in Jesus has forgiven her.  We don’t know how or when that happened, but, overcome with gratitude, she must have been seeking a way to show Jesus her love and appreciation.  Now she finds her moment.  She risks all, crashes a banquet.  In front of everyone, she dares to touch Jesus, a so-called contaminating act.  She lets go of all outward dignity to express the inward integrity of her heart.  In this bold move, she risks ridicule and rejection.  But she knows the heart of Jesus in forgiveness.  She trusts his love.  She can’t help it; her tears flow.  Thus, we have this beautiful gesture of bathing Jesus’ feet with her tears, wiping them with her hair, kissing and anointing them – all out of gratitude and love.

 

As I read this story, I weep in joy with the woman, but also weep in sorrow for Simon, and for myself as well, because my heart, like Simon’s, frequently becomes covered over, buried under the critical, judgmental thinking of my mind.  Notice that, until Jesus draws him out, Simon is having a head conversation with himself.  He is mentally waving a scolding finger at the woman and at Jesus.  Notice that he carries on this scornful conversation in the safety of his mind.  (How often, do I do that while walking or driving!)  But, as so frequently happens, his body language betrays him, not in what he does, but in what he doesn’t do: no water, no kiss, no anointing.  Jesus reads his judgmental mind and exposes his self-righteous heart.  How sad that he will not hear those words addressed to him which Jesus speaks to the woman: “Your faith has saved you.  Go in peace.”

 

Looking back, was this woman emboldened by the David and Bathsheba story of our first reading where God’s forgiveness follows so immediately upon David’s sins of murder and adultery?  Looking ahead, I sometimes wonder if Jesus did not have this woman in mind when he knelt before his disciples and washed their feet, not with tears, but certainly with love.  And, perhaps, a few tears of sorrow did mingle with the water as He foresaw the painful days ahead.

 

Though we may not like to cry and can feel ashamed of our tears, still they are a sure sign of our hearts being moved and broken open and meeting the reality before us, whether good or bad, with an immediate and transparent honesty.  Tears reveal the heart as nothing else can.  With tears we are naked before another, whether human or divine.

 

It has been said that the longest distance is the distance from the head to the heart.  This is not to demean our intellects and the importance of thinking and reasoning, but, when the mind is disconnected from the heart, it plays tricks on us, and we can have head conversations which tell and re-enforce lies, -- such as that I am superior to others or that I am inferior to others, or that I am the center and controller of my life.  Such lies separate us from our true self and from one another.  We don’t like tears, but tears do bridge that gap between head and heart.

 

And when I look at Jesus, I see all the tears mentioned: grief, relief, anger, gratitude, love.  But mostly, I see tears of compassion -- in today’s Gospel as well.  I am sure that the woman’s tears brought forth his own tears. 

We are entering a time of “New Evangelization,” but if “New Evangelization” is simply a program of teaching, it will only produce more Simons.  And have we not had enough of them!  Today’s Gospel once again reminds us that God’s name is Compassion, and that the foundation of our life is the love and compassion we have received from God.  In response, with gratitude and love, maybe even  or especially with tears, we express our gratitude and love in hymns of praise to God and in loving service to one another.

 

 

 

                                                                     Kenneth J. Hughes, S.J.

                                                                     Brighton, Mass.  6/16/13

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