Rejoice, You Just

( Homily for Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C)

Bottom line: Like David's act of adultery and murder, our sins bring the judgment of God; but if we accept the key Jesus gives us, we (like David) can be included among the just.

Some of you remember Bishop Sheen's television program: Life is Worth Living. He often began with a humorous story. Once Bishop Sheen told about a priest who went to hear confessions in mining community. He arrived at the mine where the men were working and the miners lined up for confession. The first one went in and told the priest how long it had been since his last confession. Then he said, "I can't think of any sins, Father. I haven't murdered anybody." A bit irritated, the priest said to him, "Look. Get out of here and make a good examination of conscience." So the man stepped out. He turned to the others who were lined up, "It's no good, boys," he said, "Father's only taking murder cases."

Well, today's first reading is about a murder case. King David had committed adultery with a woman named Bathsheba, then had her husband killed so he could marry her. David thought he had gotten away with murder. He would soon learn differently. Nathan - who was the court prophet - confronted David: You might be able to escape the judgment of men, but you cannot escape the judgment of God. David had to face the consequences of his sins and the punishment was terrible. But that is not the main point. All of us have to live with the consequences of our wrongdoing. Still, David received a further word. Nathan said to him: "The Lord on his part has forgiven your sin; you shall not die."

We hear Davidís response in today's Psalm. If you look it up in the Bible, you will see that Psalm 32 is a "Psalm of David." It expresses his joy: "Blessed is the one who fault is taken away, whose sin is covered. " Then it adds: "Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you just."

You might wonder how David could be so bold as to count himself among the "just." After all he had committed some very ugly sins: adultery and murder. In the Bible, however, justice does not mean being perfect, never doing anything wrong. Justice, rather, belongs to God. It is what God has done for us in Jesus.

We can see that in todayís Gospel. A woman who is a public sinner approaches Jesus. She bathes his feet in tears of remorse. This upset the others. Now, people might think they were just a bunch of uptight guys. But, they reacted to the woman the same way we would react to someone who corrupts youth and wrecks homes. Jesus did not make light of her wrongdoing. He told her that her sins, "her many sins," were forgiven.

What does it mean that Jesus forgives sins? That is not an easy question. I grapple with it over and over. Recently I read a little book which helped me. It has a nice title: "Ten Prayers God Always Says Yes To." You can get at stores or even at the King County Library, like I did. One of the prayers God always says yes to is, "God, forgive me." The author, Anthony DeStefano gives this comparison: God's forgiveness, he says, is like a man who loses a key and has to call a locksmith to make a new one. I identified with the comparison because I often lose things, including keys. Once I didnít lose my car key; I broke it trying to pry a cassette loose from the player. I was fifty miles from the parish and I had no duplicate. The only thing I could do was to call a locksmith. I watched eagerly as he used the two parts of the key to make a duplicate. Then he handed me the key. I put it in the ignition and - it seemed like magic - the car started.

In this comparison, the locksmith does all the work. I simply turned the key and I was back on the road. So it is with God's forgiveness. Jesus has already done everything for us. He was born among us, lived and then died on the cross. He hands us the key so we can make a new beginning, a fresh start. For that reason, Jesus says to the repentant woman, "Your sins are forgiven." He wants to say the same words to us. When we say the simple prayer, "God, forgive me," He always says "yes." Although we are far from being just, Jesus makes us right. He justifies us. Forgiveness does involve a process that includes sorrow, change of behavior, confession, retribution and absolution. Still, the moment we say, "God, forgive me," we can be confident he answers, yes. We have before us the example of the penitent woman who Jesus forgave. And like King David, we can know the incomparable joy of God's forgiveness:

"Blessed is the one who fault is taken away, whose sin is covered...Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you just."


Spanish Version

From Archives (11th Ordinary Sunday, Year C):

2016: Becoming a Disciple Week 2: No Excuses
2013: What David Did Not Say
2010: Who Even Forgives Sins
2007: Rejoice, You Just

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