Ordinary 11th Sunday – BOUNCING BACK
Ordinary 11th Sunday
2Sam 12: 7-10, 13 Gal 2: 16, 19-21 Lk 7: 36 – 8: 3
Repentance from sin is a necessary pre-requisite to relate with God.
Someone asked a cardinal, named Suenenz, “Is there Satan?” His reflective answer was, “Well! I don’t know! I have not seen it. But I see sin everywhere.” All of us commit sins. Nobody can claim to be sinless (though unfortunately many claim). A true spiritual life involves progressing in our ability to bounce back from sin. Sin is like a wall. A sinner is the one, who like clay, when thrown on the wall because of circumstances, gets stuck on it. However a spiritually oriented person , like a ball, bounces back from it as early as possible. To give another metaphor, sin is like a trap. Many are the people who are engulfed by this trap. The readings today invite us to free ourselves from the clutches of sin – especially from the sins of flesh and ego.
(a). From the Clutches of Flesh:
The body we possess is from mud (matter) and so it has got the qualities of matter. According to science, one of the qualities of matter is to mutually attract each other. So we, as people possessing the body, are attracted towards each other. When this attraction leads to actions which are beyond the purview of morality, it becomes sin.
St. Paul, while giving a long list of the works of the flesh, starts his list with the sin of sexual immorality (Gal 5: 19). It was the sin David fell into. This sin of David led him to commit a series of other sins: He tried to cover it up by sending Uriah to his house to give the impression that the child was through Uriah; When that did not happen, he intoxicated Uriah and tried to enforce his above hidden plan; Even that too failed. So he murdered Uriah in a cunning manner.
Jesus said that the flesh is weak (Mk 14: 38). Many are the people who are victims of this weak flesh. There was a person, called Kramski, who did this experiment. He shut a hungry man with food and a naked woman inside a room. Through a hidden camera he was watching what was happening. He first chose woman and then ate food. This experiment shows that craving for sex is stronger than for food. Besides this innate urge, the media today constantly feed people with obscene materials so much so that people do not seem to feel anything wrong with it. Even those who feel that sexual immorality is a sin, find it difficult to get out of it. Neither self-condemnation, nor self-justification is necessary to deal with the sin of the flesh. David was a person who did not much justify his sin. When Nathan confronted him, David was open enough to acknowledge his sinfulness.
(b) From the Clutches of Ego:
If the craving of the flesh is difficult to overcome, much more difficult it is to overcome the inclinations of one’s mind. One of the tendencies of mind is egoism. In fact, in Indian tradition, the false identification of oneself with one’s mind is responsible for egoism. The more a person identifies oneself with one’s mind, the more one is egoistic.
Egoism was the problem of Simon, the Pharisee (the gospel today). In him, we see various expressions of ego: (a) An egoistic person is pompous and shows off. Simon showed his pomposity by throwing a dinner, even though there seems to be no specific reason as such for the dinner. (b) An egoistic person is very judgmental and condemns others. Simon, in his mind, was condemning the woman for touching Jesus, and Jesus for allowing her to touch him. (c) An egoistic person thinks highly of him/herself by comparing with others. Simon, by condemning the woman as a sinner, considered himself righteous. (d) An egoistic person is falsely humble. Though Simon was judging Jesus in himself, outwardly he showed himself as a person who respected Jesus. He called Jesus ‘Teacher’, a respectable word in Jewish society. (e) An egoistic person takes pleasure in humiliating others. Though apparently he presented himself as a Pharisee who loved Jesus by calling him for the dinner, he humiliated Jesus by not doing the things a host was supposed to do (giving water to wash, kissing the guest, anointing with oil. (f) An egoistic person is an unaware person. Because of that, s/he considers him/herself as the eighth wonder of the world. Simon was unaware of his sins. Jesus had to remind him of his sins.
It takes great courage to be aware of one’s egoism and come out of it. St. Paul had that courage. In the second reading, it looks as if that he speaks against the law (i.e. Torah). The reason for such a position was that meticulous following of the Torah made the Pharisees to be egoistic and full of themselves. Saul, the former Paul, too suffered from it. He was very egoistic to the extent that he thought that there was nothing wrong in killing somebody for the sake of one’s religion. On the contrary, when a person is aware of God’s grace at work in oneself, then one begins to be humble. That is why Paul gave so much of importance to the aspect of grace in contrast to meticulous observance of the law.