Fr. Roger J. Landry
Crypt Chapel of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington, DC
Given 2016 Catholic Young Women’s Leadership Forum
Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
June 12, 2016
2 Sam 12:7-10, Ps 32, Gal 2:16.19-21, Lk 7:36-8:3
To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below:
The following text guided today’s homily:
Mercy and the Given Forum
We are now 188 days into the 349-day extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, a period of special grace that, like every ecclesiastical holy year is meant to have a profound influence not just on everything the Church does in her evangelizing, sanctifying, and shepherding of God’s people but on our individual lives as Catholics. It’s no coincidence in God’s providence that this first Given Forum is taking place within this extraordinary Jubilee, because the full flourishing of the feminine genius that is so important for the life of the Church is enveloped within the mystery of mercy given by God that in turn is given by grateful, transformed, redeemed women to others.
The revolution of love that Jesus Christ came into the world to bring to fulfillment is a mission that he has, in a special way, entrusted to the leadership of women. Women, through their special God-given aptitude for receiving and reciprocating love, are called to be the professors in the school of love that is the Church, that is the home, that is meant to be the world.
And so today, as we conclude the 2016 Given Forum with an exclamation point of Eucharistic gratitude to God, we allow the Lord to give us a special valedictory address in today’s Gospel on merciful love in the life of women. It’s what we could call a special divine “commencement” address in which Jesus hopes to inspire each of us present here in a special way to begin something new and adopt an action plan of merciful love that will extend not merely through next April but give meaning and motivation to the rest of our life.
The Root of Loving
In the Gospel, Jesus teaches us in a moving and unforgettable way the open secret about how to grow in love, which is a lesson at the heart of this extraordinary Jubilee of grace. After the inhospitable Simon the Pharisee takes offense at Jesus’ allowing a woman known to be sinful to bathe his feet with tears, dry them with her untied hair, kiss them and drench them in ointment, Jesus asks Simon a question about gratitude, mercy and love. Which of two people who had owed a debt, he queried, would be more grateful for the debt’s being forgiven: one who owed a year-and-a-half’s salary or two month’s? When Simon replied that it was likely the one who had been forgiven more, Jesus affirmed his answer and drew the striking moral: “Her many sins have been forgiven because she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven loves little.”
Simon loved little because he was so little open to receiving God’s mercy — and he wasn’t open to receiving God’s mercy because he thought he didn’t need it. The woman was capable of great love because she knew how much loved she had received.
To grow in love for God and for others, in other words, we must first have the experience of the Lord’s merciful love. “In this is love,” St. John would write to the first Christians, “not that we have loved God, but that he has loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). The greater our experience of God’s mercy, of being loved by God “while we were still sinners” (Rom 5:8), of what Christ did for us from Calvary, the greater our capacity will be for loving God and loving others. And when we realize, through another parable of Jesus, that God has forgiven us a debt of 10,000 talents — or 60 million days wages, 164,000 years of work, without sabbath days off! — then we, enriched by God’s mercy (Eph 2:4) that we have received, become spiritual trillionaires capable not just of forgiving others the much smaller debts they’ve accumulated against us, but also of letting that love of God overflow from us in so many other ways, as we give ourselves, our tears, our hair, hands and heart, to others and allow the sacred anointing with which God has bathed us to anoint others.
Witnesses of Loving Much
This is what we see in the second half of today’s Gospel in the life of Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna and the “many others” who accompanied Jesus and the apostles and “provided for them out of their resources.” This was not a group of bored do-gooders who figured that these wandering 13 men would be lost without their feminine genius and maternal practicality! No, St. Luke tells us that they were all “women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities.” Each of them had received from Jesus a physical healing, a spiritual healing, or probably both. And having received much, they loved much, and they wanted to give Jesus and his mission all the love, the time and the material goods they could.
We see the same lesson with King David in today’s first reading, when, after having been accused by Nathan, he confessed his sin and spent the rest of his life not only praising the Lord for his mercy but seeking to love and serve him and to help his people learn to repent, to love and faithfully to serve Him. He wrote down the words in today’s Psalm, “Blessed is the man whose fault is taken away!,” so that others with him, including us today, could appreciate, praise, receive and pay forward God’s mercy.
We see the same lesson of loving much after having received great mercy in today’s second reading from St. Paul. We remember what St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, that he felt he was “born dead,” literally in Greek an abortion, the “least of the apostles and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God,” but he said, “By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been ineffective. Indeed I have toiled harder than all of them, not I however but the grace of God within me” (1 Cor 15:8-10). St. Paul’s receiving of the Lord’s extraordinary mercy led him work harder than all the other apostles in spreading love of him, to give his entire life as an ambassador of Christ, eventually appealing to everyone (as we hear each Ash Wednesday), “Be reconciled to God!” (2 Cor 5:20). He was so pervaded by God’s mercy, what he called the “grace of God within me,” that he was able to say in today’s second reading, “I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me.” Crucified to the world and the world to him, he was now living by God’s mercy and was giving his life to help the Christians of his age and ours to do the same.
And we see the same lesson conspicuously displayed in the lives of so many the 21 “women who have gone before us” whom you have taken an inspiration during this Forum, women who have experienced mercy, women who have become through that experience incredible witnesses of mercy, women who have responded to that mercy by giving their lives for others through the corporal and spiritual works of mercy: Dorothy Day, Elisabeth Leseur, Faustina Kowalska, Flannery O’Connor, Josephine Bakhita, Mother Teresa and so many others. Even St. Therese, whose spiritual director doubted she had ever committed a mortal sin, considered herself an even greater witness to God’s mercy because she thought God, seeing her weakness, gave her the grace sufficient to remain faithful when tempted; and she responded to that gift by seeking with God’s help to fulfill her vocation which is in some way the vocation of every Christian woman, to become “love in the heart of the Church,” within Carmel with the cantankerous older sisters, and with a missionary heart, to the end of the world.
This is a lesson of mercy that we see perhaps most beautifully in the life of the 22nd female inspiration, the greatest female genius of all time in whose house we now are; who at her conception was blessed with the gift of God’s prevenient mercy; who would later have her spirit rejoice in God her savior whose mercy is from age to age and remembers his promise of mercy to Abraham and his descendants forever (Lk 1:46-55); and who would spend her whole life and now eternity going in haste to bring her Son, Mercy Incarnate, to others and encourage them and encourage us to do whatever he says.
They all loved much because they all had a profound recognition of how much they had been loved by God in his mercy. They all gave so much because they grasped how much they had been given. And they’re not just inspirations for us, but intercessors, that we may like them learn and live that same most important lesson that Jesus teaches us today in the Gospel, and help those we know — and even the whole world — to learn and live it, too.
Encountering and Sharing God’s Maternal Love
The greatest school of merciful love God has given us is the classroom the Divine Master opens for us every day here at Mass.
This is where Jesus says, “this is my body given for you,” so that we, having received this gift, might be given in love for others.
This is where he goes far beyond pouring out tears on feet, but pours out his blood for us and for many for the forgiveness of sins.
And this is where the maternal dimension of God’s merciful love reaches it zenith. God would tell us through the prophet Isaiah, “Can a woman forget her suckling child or have no mercy on the child of her womb? Even if these were able to forget, I would never forget you” (Is 49:15). This live participation in the Last Supper and Calvary is where Jesus Christ, like the mother pelican for her toddlers during a famine, opens up his breast to pour out his blood and water, giving his own body and life, breast-feeding us in a sense, so that we, his beloved, might not perish but survive, grow and have life to the full. This maternal dimension of mercy, what Sacred Scripture calls rahamim, is what we not only encounter but ingest here. It’s this tremendous outpouring of merciful love that changes us on the inside to love others with the same rahamim with which God has loved us.
And so let us, like the woman in today’s Gospel, pour out our gratitude and all we are and have at the foot of the altar where Jesus will soon descend, so that, like Joanna, Susanna, and Mary Magdalene, like King David and the Apostle Paul, like Dorothy, Elisabeth, Gianna, Rose and Katharine, and so many others who have been “cured of evil spirits and infirmities,” we might go out in the long pilgrimage through time accompanying Jesus and the successors of the apostles on the action plan of the salvation of the world by helping the world receive God’s mercy and lavishly love in response to that grace that never ceases to be given.
Praised be Jesus Christ!
The readings for today’s Mass were:
Reading 1 2 SM 12:7-10, 13
“Thus says the LORD God of Israel:
‘I anointed you king of Israel.
I rescued you from the hand of Saul.
I gave you your lord’s house and your lord’s wives for your own.
I gave you the house of Israel and of Judah.
And if this were not enough, I could count up for you still more.
Why have you rejected the LORD and done evil in his sight?
You have cut down Uriah the Hittite with the sword;
you took his wife as your own,
and him you killed with the sword of the Ammonites.
Now, therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house,
because you have looked down on me
and have taken the wife of Uriah to be your wife.’”Then David said to Nathan,
“I have sinned against the LORD.”
Nathan answered David:
“The LORD on his part has forgiven your sin:
you shall not die.”
Responsorial Psalm PS 32:1-2, 5, 7, 11
Blessed is the one whose fault is taken away,
whose sin is covered.
Blessed the man to whom the LORD imputes not guilt,
in whose spirit there is no guile.
R. Lord, forgive the wrong I have done.
I acknowledged my sin to you,
my guilt I covered not.
I said, “I confess my faults to the LORD,”
and you took away the guilt of my sin.
R. Lord, forgive the wrong I have done.
You are my shelter; from distress you will preserve me;
with glad cries of freedom you will ring me round.
R. Lord, forgive the wrong I have done.
Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, you just;
exult, all you upright of heart.
R. Lord, forgive the wrong I have done.
Reading 2 GAL 2:16, 19-21
We who know that a person is not justified by works of the law
but through faith in Jesus Christ,
even we have believed in Christ Jesus
that we may be justified by faith in Christ
and not by works of the law,
because by works of the law no one will be justified.
For through the law I died to the law,
that I might live for God.
I have been crucified with Christ;
yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me;
insofar as I now live in the flesh,
I live by faith in the Son of God
who has loved me and given himself up for me.
I do not nullify the grace of God;
for if justification comes through the law,
then Christ died for nothing.
Alleluia 1 JN 4:10B
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
God loved us and sent his Son
as expiation for our sins.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel LK 7:36—8:3
A Pharisee invited Jesus to dine with him,
and he entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table.
Now there was a sinful woman in the city
who learned that he was at table in the house of the Pharisee.
Bringing an alabaster flask of ointment,
she stood behind him at his feet weeping
and began to bathe his feet with her tears.
Then she wiped them with her hair,
kissed them, and anointed them with the ointment.
When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this he said to himself,
“If this man were a prophet,
he would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him,
that she is a sinner.”
Jesus said to him in reply,
“Simon, I have something to say to you.”
“Tell me, teacher,” he said.
“Two people were in debt to a certain creditor;
one owed five hundred days’ wages and the other owed fifty.
Since they were unable to repay the debt, he forgave it for both.
Which of them will love him more?”
Simon said in reply,
“The one, I suppose, whose larger debt was forgiven.”
He said to him, “You have judged rightly.”
Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon,
“Do you see this woman?
When I entered your house, you did not give me water for my feet,
but she has bathed them with her tears
and wiped them with her hair.
You did not give me a kiss,
but she has not ceased kissing my feet since the time I entered.
You did not anoint my head with oil,
but she anointed my feet with ointment.
So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven
because she has shown great love.
But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.”
He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
The others at table said to themselves,
“Who is this who even forgives sins?”
But he said to the woman,
“Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
Afterward he journeyed from one town and village to another,
preaching and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God.
Accompanying him were the Twelve
and some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities,
Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out,
Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza,
Susanna, and many others who provided for them
out of their resources.