Daily Reflection
of Creighton University's Online Ministries
September 20th, 2012

Robert P. Heaney

John A. Creighton University Chair
Click here for a photo of and information on this writer.
Memorial of St. Andrew Kim Taegon and companions
[446] 1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Psalm 118:1b-2, 16ab-17, 28
Luke 7:36-50


The story in today’s Gospel is familiar. Jesus, is invited to a dinner party, and a woman provides a service that His host had failed to offer. The other guests at the party were scandalized because the woman was considered by them to be a “sinner”. Jesus should have known! Jesus responds first by pointing out His host’s lapse, and then by telling a little parable about two individuals forgiven debts, one small and one large, and asks His host which would be more loving. The host correctly answers that the one forgiven the most would likely be the most grateful and loving. Jesus then tells the assembled guests that the woman’s sins have been forgiven. The guests are shocked and wonder how Jesus could presume to forgive sins, which is something only God can do. But the story doesn’t say that Jesus did the forgiving, and the parable that he told made it clear that the forgiveness preceded the woman’s gratitude. Jesus tells his fellow guests that He could tell that the woman had been forgiven (past tense) by virtue of the loving service she provided. She couldn’t have done it had she not already accepted God’s forgiveness.

We’re so locked into a quid pro quo mentality that we naturally think, as did the guests at the dinner, that Jesus forgave her because of her good deed. That’s not what this episode tells us, and it’s quite clear from other sources that God doesn’t work that way. You can’t earn God’s favor. God requires no quid pro quo. God forgives first and asks the forgiven one to accept that forgiveness. When one finally realizes that he or she has been forgiven and does accept that forgiveness, then loving action follows. You’ll notice that, in the question Jesus posed His host, He didn’t ask who would be the more grateful, but who would be the more loving. If we can’t bring ourselves to such loving action, maybe it’s because we haven’t really accepted God’s offer of forgiveness.

As Luke makes clear, especially in the narrative surrounding the story of Jesus’ conception and birth, the job of the disciple is to hear, accept and act. Hear the word (forgiveness in this case), accept it, and act on it (which means, among other things, both telling everyone we know the good news that they, too, are forgiven and living as one continuous act of self-giving).

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