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11th Sunday, Year C
It is tempting when we first hear our readings today to focus on sin and forgiveness. Perhaps I might labour the need for us to be ever mindful of the Sacrament of Confession; but I suspect you have heard this often enough over the years. Rather, I think there is mileage in reflecting upon love.
In our first reading we hear God, speaking through Nathan, who tells David exactly what he has done for him. We hear of the many wonderful gifts which the Almighty has lavished upon David, and then, astonishingly, God says “and if this were not enough, I would add as much again for you.” God speaks these words to you now. There is simply no length which God will not go to demonstrate his love for you.
We can easily identify that Jesus loves us to the point of his death, quite literally upon the cross, but there is another aspect to this. God, the Father, gave his Son that we might be saved. God gave his Son. The Father allowed his Son to suffer in terrible pain and humiliation because he loved you so much! And if this were not enough, I would add as much again for you.
Put the love of God into this context and you can begin to realise the haunting words of God come down to you now through the centuries: Why have you shown contempt for the Lord? For this is what sin is, it is utter contempt for one who loves you beyond all measure.
It reminds me of a friend of mine, who is a priest, who took advantage of the opportunity to go to Confession whilst on pilgrimage to Rome. He went into the box which was headed up English and began by saying the usual: forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been x weeks since my last Confession. I am a priest and these are my sins. He promptly rattled off his sins, which to be fair were not excessive and awaited the counsel of the Confessor. The response was prompt and cut straight to the point: Why do you spit on the face of Christ?
Harsh though this is; it is the truth. Sometimes I can be so focussed on MY sin, on what I have done, or not done, what I have said or not said, what I have thought or failed to consider that I forget the effect upon Jesus. It is as though I have focussed on the shock of spitting on the face of Christ and missed the hurt in his eyes. Of course as soon as I see the eyes, the tears welling and the harsh reality of the effect I have caused I’m torn with guilt.
The psalmist understands all too well the frailty of human beings. He begs: forgive, Lord, the guilt of my sins. Admitting we have done something is, relatively speaking, easy compared to admitting our guilt in the situation. The language of love, on the other hand, is simple. I love you. We don’t say: when you look at me in such a way as to make me feel great and leave me feeling like I want to laugh out loud, to hug you and to kiss you and within me this evokes a feeling of wishing to reciprocate because to not do so may mean that I am not being entirely honest with myself, nor you for that matter and so I feel compelled to look at you in the same way. No. We simply say I love you and this is everything.
Now ask yourself this simple question. Does God love you? Does God love you? The answer should be short and sweet. If you answered no: go and speak to a priest, or someone who can offer you assurance. If you answered well probably, but I’m not certain and anyway how can any of us be certain but on balance then he probably does: God puts no conditions on his love for you so why do you put conditions on your acceptance of the love of God? If you answered yes: your faith has saved you; go in peace.