11 Sunday 2013 Robert VerEecke, S.J.

11th Sunday 2013
Robert VerEecke, S.J.
Last week on my way to the Jesuit ordinations in New York, I had the
opportunity to visit my mother who will be 98 years old this month. She
presently lives in a nursing facility on Long Island. She has limited
cognitive functioning and is unable to recognize her family, but she looks
well. She even won the nursing home’s award for “best hair”. My four
brothers all inherited this trait. I was left out. On this visit two of my
brothers were there so my mom was surrounded by three of the five boys.
My eldest brother showed us a black and white photo from the 1950s of my
grandmother surrounded by almost all of her grandchildren. Of course the
challenge for me younger brother and I was to first find ourselves in the
photo and then try to recognize our siblings and cousins. I imagine you’ve
had the experience of trying to find yourself in an old photo, marveling at
your appearance and saying, “ Did I really look like that?”
Sometimes it takes an extra effort to recognize ourselves. We can be startled
into the realization that we really did “look like that”, or dress like that. Oh,
that’s when I had hair! Sometimes even when we see ourselves in a mirror
we can be startled into recognition. Oh, that’s me! That’s whom others see
when they see me.
My question this morning/evening is, “Do you recognize yourself in the
story of King David or that of Simon the Pharisee and the Sinful woman?”
Can you see a reflection of your own life in these stories? Hopefully that’s
what the scriptures do, they awaken us, they “hold up a mirror” for us so that
we just may be able to recognize ourselves in the stories we have just heard.
You’re the man! Those are the words we didn’t hear but they are the ones
that begin this passage from the book of Samuel. The prophet Nathan has
just told David the story of two men, one rich and one poor. The poor man
had a precious lamb that he loved. “It was like a daughter to him.” But
when the rich man who had so many possessions was entertaining a traveler,
he took the lamb from the poor man instead of using one of his own. David
is outraged when he hears the story. He says to Nathan that that man
deserves death for his lack of pity and compassion and taking from him this
precious lamb. That’s the part of the story that precedes our reading today
and we miss Nathan’s first words: “You are the man.” Despite the fact that
God had given you so much, you took for yourself the wife of Uriah and had
him killed.
Suddenly there is recognition on the part of David. He sees his reflection in
the mirror of the man who had acted cruelly and without compassion, taking
for himself what was not his. The words of Nathan “you are the man”
brought him to his senses. He recognizes himself as a sinner.
I’m not suggesting that any of us are sinners on the scale of King David. But
can we see ourselves reflected in this story? Can we hear “how much the
Lord has done for us and given us”, and yet we continue to be self-centered,
and sinful? I know I can.
In the Gospel, Jesus holds up the mirror to Simon the Pharisee so that he can
see his lack of compassion reflected in the story of the two people who were
forgiven their debts. But where in the story of David we see his shame and
his self-awareness, we do not see self-recognition on the part of Simon. He
continues to judge the woman and Jesus.
Can we see ourselves in Simon? Do we resist the truth about our own
hardness of heart? When someone speaks the truth to us about ourselves do
we hide behind our defenses and excuses?
And then there is the woman who was a “known” sinner. To take such a
bold and courageous action as to enter this house filled with men and
publicly make a show of her love and affection for Jesus, she must have had
a moment of self-recognition before this scene takes place. In my
imagination, this woman must have gotten a glimpse of Jesus somewhere.
Maybe she witnessed one of his healings. I imagine though, that somehow
she was able to look into the eyes of Jesus and see her reflection. And what
did she see and recognize in the eyes of Jesus? Infinite love. Did she see
herself as that “sinful woman”? Perhaps. But more she saw herself as
infinitely, unconditionally loved. Something in her was awoken at that
moment of seeing herself as Jesus saw her. Something that gave her the
courage to express her love and gratitude.
Can we see ourselves reflected in the story of the sinful woman? Can we see
our reflection in the eyes of Jesus, loving us as we are, even with our faults,
our failings and our sinfulness? Can we be awoken to this infinite love and
caring that is God’s gift to us in Jesus Christ? Remember: I no longer live
but Christ lives in me.