I was recently preparing to throw away a pair of old shoes, friends of mine, who have walked so many miles with me. I was holding one of them and trying to remember all the places to which they have taken me. I am like that with clothes, sweaters especially. It is cold here for five months and they have warmed me often, like good friends.
Each spring our house, (five Jesuits) has a clothing drive and I gratefully, but sadly say goodby to many fuzzy friends. Most of them were gifts to me and like good gifts they are meant to be passed along. Old shoes, mine at least, are not meant to be for others though.
We can prepare for the gift of the Eucharistic community and the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist by getting in touch, even physically with the gifts surrounding us. We can pray with the memories of just who gave us this or that. He clothes Himself in us and has walked with us. I am not saying He is an “old shoe”, but we can pray with the warm and comfort that He is familiar with us.
David gets a direct word from God through the prophet Nathan in today’s First Reading. David had abused and misused his God-given powers as king of Israel. He had lusted after Bathsheba, the wife of one of his generals. He summoned her to come to him and she became pregnant. In order to have her for himself he had Uriah, her husband, deliberately placed in the front line of a battle where he would be killed. Then David took Uriah’s wife as his own. In time the child grew ill and David prayed and fasted, but after seven days, the child died.
Nathan speaks to David, words from God. It is an historical accounting of God’s goodnesses to David and then David’s misuse of his kingly and manly gifts. Nathan is presenting David’s confession for him and David makes the simple and honest response. He has sinned. Nathan then after hearing David’s confrontation with his truth announces God’s truth of forgiveness. Even though the sins of misused-power and violence were so terrible, God’s response of power is gentle and life-giving.
Today’s Gospel is full of the pushes and pulls in the life of Jesus. He is invited by a Pharisee, but not welcome. He welcomes a sinful woman who is not invited. There is much of this theme in Luke’s Gospel about which we will be hearing in the next weeks of this year’s liturgical cycle. Luke’s presentation of the “Kingdom of Heaven” is that it belongs to the welcomed-poor. Those who are rich in stature or possessions are responding to the invitations of other kingdoms. Simon the Pharisee has invited Jesus to dine, but less as a guest and more as a test. It is set up like a court-scene. Simon is the prosecutor, the others who are invited are the jury and Jesus is on trial.
A surprising element of evidence appears on the floor of the court. A sinful woman kneels for mercy from the person on trial. Jesus welcomes her into His Kingdom of the forgiven and in so doing confronts the kingdom of the unforgiving. Jesus raises her and sends her back to a new life. He has evidence of her attitude and contrasts that with the attitude of Simon. Luke is not very subtle in presenting the contrasts between the Kingdom of Heaven and the ways of the worldly powerful.
The Gospel-reading ends quite significantly with the naming of those women who were also close friends and disciples of Jesus. In the culture of the times, women’s power was limited. Jesus invites, welcomes and dignifies them by His open embracing of their presence. They are finding in this holy Man a power that is used - not abused. In the Kingdom which Jesus preaches women are empowered to give Him birth, care, and sent to tell His good news from the touching experiences of their own lives.
Was David doubtful of his kingly powers? My hunch is that he was. God’s forgiveness of David’s sin is not merely a judicial act of kindness, but a command that he, David, must accept all his kingly powers as gifts from God and use them for the continuing creation of God’s Kingdom within the Jewish people.
The sexual powers we all have are meant for the same purpose of continuing God’s creation of others and through the proper use of all powers is meant to bring about the Kingdom of Heaven through grateful use of power for justice.
“One thing I seek: to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.” Ps. 27, 4
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