Reflection for Thursday, September 18, 2003: 24th week in Ordinary Time.

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Kalb, Howie, S.J.
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In today's Gospel, Jesus was invited to dine at the home of Simeon. Luke records how a woman of the streets provided the amenities neglected by the host. She bathed the Lord's feet with her tears, dried them with her hair, continued to kiss them and anoint them with ointment.|| On seeing this Simeon thought, "If this man were a prophet, he would know who and what sort of a woman this is who is touching him, that she is a sinner." In defense of her, Jesus told him: "...many sins are forgiven her, HENCE, she has shown great love." This is what was read today at Mass from the New Vulgate translation of Holy Scripture. A while ago when the New American Bible translation was used, you heard the same defense as follows: "...her many sins are forgiven, BECAUSE of her great love."| Anyone can see a difference in the meaning between these two expressions. But really there is no big problem if properly understood. To begin with, Jesus forgave all of our sins once and for all when he died on the cross and offered to reconcile us with the Father. So for example, today if a person separates himself from the Lord by some sinful action, God already has forgiven him. However, since we are free, God's forgiveness is ineffective until that person who sins accepts the forgiveness by turning back to the Lord.|The sinful woman turned back to God by her great love. The Good Thief did it by asking Jesus to "Remember me." A few ways we turn back to the Lord are by our contrition or by receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation. God's forgiveness is beyond our control. Our only part of the action consists in accepting or rejecting his forgiveness.| If we sincerely and conscientiously realize what God has done by forgiving us, then like the woman, (HENCE) we should be moved by great love for him. Or one can erroneously conclude that what God does in forgiving us just automatically happens without any involvement on our part, and that is impossible. On the other hand, without proper understanding a person could think that it was his love (BECAUSE) that caused God to forgive him. But a person can hardly cause forgiveness that the Lord already offered freely from the cross on Calvary. And so regardless of translations, we know God is offering his forgiveness before, during and after we have sinned. Our necessary response is to accept the forgiveness by turning back to him in love.
University Ministry, Creighton University.
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