Jesus can turn everything in our lives - even sin - to good

Homily for the Eleventh Sunday of Year C

by Fr. Tommy Lane

It seems incredible to us that King David did not seem to realize he had done wrong in having Uriah sent to the front of a battle to get him killed so he could have his Uriah’s wife. We could say he had lost his senses. What brought him to his senses again? It was the prophet Nathan speaking the word of God to him. In the passage in 2 Sam before our first reading today God sent Nathan to David and Nathan used a very clever story to help bring David to his senses (2 Sam 12:1-7). Nathan told David there were two men in a town, one rich and the other poor. The poor man had one lamb but when a visitor came to the rich man he took the poor man’s lamb and made a meal of it. When King David heard this he became angry and said the rich man deserves to die and should restore the lamb to the poor man fourfold. Nathan responded, “You are the man.” Then David realized the wrong he had done to Uriah. It seems King David would not have realized he had seriously sinned unless God had pointed it out to him through the prophet Nathan.

We too are no strangers to sin. Even the best of us are no strangers to sin; Prov 24:16 says a just man falls seven times a day and rises again. We do not want to sin but we do. If even the really good sin seven times a day as Prov says, why do some think they have no sin or at least are not aware of sinning? We can deaden our conscience to sin and sometimes it might take a jolt for us to realize that we are sinning. In a similar way sometimes it happens that someone with a serious alcohol problem will not go to AA or get himself/herself treated until something serious happens when they are forced to admit that they need to sort themselves out. In our first reading King David realized that he had done something serious and needed to sort himself out after Nathan spoke the word of God to him. What about us? Are we examining our conscience to see where we stand before God? Do we allow the word of God to penetrate us and show up the dark spots in our lives so that we can bring them to the Lord for his healing and forgiveness?

Sin always leaves bad effects, sin always destroys something good. King David had Uriah and his marriage destroyed. Not only does sin hurt other people but it always hurts God. So as we heard in our first reading King David said, “I have sinned against the Lord.” Because our sins hurt the Lord our sins also hurt us when we come to our senses like David because we know the Lord loves us so much. We know that it was because of our sins that Jesus suffered his passion and death. Sin always has bad effects and consequences. Restoration and healing is always needed after sin. There is always a price to be paid for sin and Jesus paid that price for us in his passion and death. Therefore when we sin it hurts us because we know that it is our sin that inflicted all the suffering on Jesus during his passion and death.

But the wonderful thing is that God is forgiving. We cannot even begin to imagine how ready God is to forgive us. We think in a human way and we find it hard to imagine God being so full of love and forgiveness. It has been said that God created us in his image and likeness (Gen 1:27) and ever since we are creating God in our image and likeness. But to try to make us understand how loving and forgiving God is Jesus spent much of his time ministering to sinners.

We heard in our Gospel the beautiful account of the woman who was a known public sinner meeting Jesus. It is one of the most tender and intimate moments in all the Gospels. She washed his feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. In this beautiful intimate encounter Jesus is saying something to all of us; we are not to allow past sins to drag us down, the Lord wants to forgive us and release us and wants an intimate friendship with us. Recently when I was on retreat one of the preachers told us the story of the monkey and coconut. If you cut a coconut in half, take out its contents, put something hard into it and put it together again with a chain or something to keep it firmly together while leaving a hole in it big enough for monkey to put his hand in the monkey will not let go of what you put into it until he gets it out. It has to be something hard that you put into it, not something soft like a banana. Sometimes we can be like that monkey when we will not let go of our past or allow the Lord’s forgiveness and healing to renew and heal us. (A more developed form of that story is in Healing Words from Jesus by Fr. Isaias Powers pp92-93) Again look at the beautiful intimate picture we see in our Gospel between Jesus and the woman who had been a known public sinner. Jesus wants an intimate friendship with all of us and is ready to forgive us, we are not to allow ourselves to be dragged down by the past. As we heard in our Gospel the one who is forgiven most loves Jesus most.

How wonderful it would be if we could truly understand how much the Lord loves us and wants to forgive us. If we could truly understand this we would have no fear in approaching the Lord asking for his mercy. Jesus suffered and died for you, he desires intimate friendship with each of us. Why keep Jesus distant? Draw close to Jesus and allow him to draw close to you. Live all of each day with Jesus. Our whole life is meant to be a close loving relationship with Jesus. If we have sinned in a serious way let us not drag ourselves down. Sin does have consequences but God can turn evil to good in his own mysterious way. In a mysterious way good came out of David’s sin. The son born of his adultery with Uriah’s wife died but the next son became King Solomon who is credited with being the wisest man in the Old Testament although unfortunately towards the end of his life he allowed his heart to be distracted from the Lord. In Rom 8:28 we read,

We are well aware that God works with those who love him, those who have been called in accordance with his purpose, and turns everything to their good.

Also in Rom 5:20 we read,

Where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more.

So let us allow the Lord who is all merciful and loving to be more powerful than sin in our lives and turn everything to good. As Paul wrote to the Galatians in our second reading today,

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. (Gal 2:20)

We also heard Paul write earlier in that reading that a person is justified not by works of the Law but by faith in Jesus. This text was badly understood in past centuries. Paul does not say that we are saved by “faith alone”, nowhere do the Scriptures say we are saved by “faith alone.” (Jas 2:24 says we are not justified by faith alone.) Paul says that works of the Law do not save, faith does. What are those works of the Law that Paul is referring to? They are the prescriptions of Moses in the Old Testament, specifically the law about circumcision. Paul is saying that circumcision is not necessary for salvation but faith in Jesus. Naturally when we have faith in Jesus we will do Christian works of charity. Faith and Christian works are the two sides of the one coin and go together. (more info)

David sinned and was forgiven by God. The woman in our Gospel sinned and was forgiven by Jesus. Our sins caused Jesus to suffer and die but Jesus desires us to live in intimate friendship with him. Let us not be like a monkey with a hand in the coconut holding onto the past, let us allow the Lord to renew and heal us so that we may say like Paul in our second reading,

“I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me.” (Gal 2:20)

Copyright © Fr. Tommy Lane 2013

This homily was delivered in a parish in Maryland near where I have joined the faculty of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland.

More homilies for the Eleventh Sunday Year C

Related Homilies: Today’s Gospel in the context of Luke 2007

Second Reading: no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me