In today’s scripture we hear two powerful stories of God’s willingness to forgive us our trespasses no matter how great they may be.
Someone once said that our greatest difficulty is not so much in believing that God exists but in believing that God forgives. We imagine God’s heart is as stingy as our own. We hold grudges, past hurts and slights, memories of betrayed relationships deep in our hearts. They just won’t leave us alone. May today’s reading give us deeper trust in God’s love and God’s willingness to forgive us, no matter what.
King David was a sleaze. God took him from minding his father’s sheep and made him king of the people of Israel. He was rich and powerful. Even with all he had, he wanted more. He wanted Bathsheba for his wife because he committed adultery with her and she was pregnant. He arranged to have her husband Uriah, a faithful soldier, killed in battle to get him out of the way. The prophet Nathan confronted him with his sins and David admitted ‘I have sinned against the Lord.’ Nathan’s response was startling, ‘ the Lord has put away your sin, and you shall not die.’
These words sound so simple but they couldn’t have been spoken if David didn’t acknowledge he’d committed the great crimes and sins of adultery and murder and wanted to repent of these sins. These words couldn’t have been spoken unless Nathan, speaking for God, accepted David’s contrition and spoke words of forgiveness.
In the gospel we hear of this wonton woman of the streets who dared to crash the dinner party at Simon’s house. She had to see Jesus again to thank him for assuring her that her many, many sins were forgiven her. This no name woman wanted to show Jesus the great love she had for him because he showed her the love and forgiveness of God. It was not the case that the woman loved Jesus and therefore was deserving of forgiveness. It is just the opposite. He had already forgiven her sins and as a result she loved him. God’s love is always first no matter how sinful we are. That love remains personal and present for each of us, if we can let go of our guilt.
Simon, the host, felt that Jesus should be honored at being invited into his home so he didn’t bother to offer him the usual courtesies of having the servants wash the street dust from Jesus’ feet. Simon didn’t offered Jesus a kiss of welcome. Simon’s refusal to act like a host indicates that he has not experienced, perhaps not even thought that he might be in need of forgiveness. He was more interested in propriety.
There is a saying that even God can’t unscramble an egg. Fr. Ron Rolheiser offers this reflection on our scrambled eggs.
‘We need a theology which teaches us that even though God cannot unscramble an egg, God’s grace lets us live happily and with renewed innocence far beyond any egg we might have scrambled. We need a theology that teaches us that God does not just give us one chance, but that every time we close a door, God opens another one for us. We need a theology that challenges us not to make mistakes, that takes sin seriously, but which tells us that when we do sin, when we do make mistakes, we are given the chance to take our place among the broken, among those whose lives are not perfect, the loved sinners, those for whom Christ came.
We need a theology which tells us that a second, third, fourth, and fifth chance are just as valid as the first one. We need a theology that tells us that mistakes are not forever, that they are not even for a lifetime, that time and grace wash clean, that nothing is irrevocable. Finally, we need a theology which teaches us that God loves us as sinners and that the task of Christianity is not to teach us how to live, but to teach us how to live again, and again, and again.
We are all mistake making beings and that’s why, with today’s scripture readings in mind, we have to trust the words of Isaiah, ‘though your sins are like scarlet they shall be white as snow, though they be red as crimson they shall become like wool,’ and live with and beyond our scrambled eggs.