Studying God’s Word

2 Samuel 12:7-10, 13
Galatians 2:16, 19-21
Luke 7:36—8:3 or 7:36-50 [93C]
The readings for the Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time speak to the complex relationship between faith and forgiveness. Each of the readings call to us view the role of forgiveness anew in our lives.
The first reading from 2 Samuel recounts a grave sin committed by David early in his reign as king of Israel. David was the second of three kings who ruled over the one hundred years of the United Monarchy (1020–922 BC), and his reign lasted forty years, 1000–961 BC. 2 Samuel 11-12 provides the full narration of David’s sinful acts: committing adultery with a woman named Bathsheba and conspiring to murder Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah the Hittite (one of his own soldiers). The Lord sent the prophet Nathan to confront King David about his sin of adultery and murder. Today’s reading is Nathan’s recitation of God’s judgment upon David for his sins. While David suffers consequences for his actions (“The sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me [the Lord] and have taken the wife of Uriah to be your wife”), God forgives the repentant David: “The Lord on his part has forgiven your sin.” Despite David’s grave sin, God remained faithful to his covenantal promise to David (see 2 Sm 7:8-16, the Davidic Covenant), and revealed to David the depth of God’s divine mercy and forgiveness.
In a similar way, in the context of a dinner invitation, Jesus teaches Simon the Pharisee some important lessons on God’s love and forgiveness in today’s Gospel reading. One of the hallmarks of Jesus’ public ministry was his table fellowship. In fact, Luke presents Jesus eating and drinking more often than any other Evangelist, a total of nineteen times! Luke shows Jesus eating meals with people ranging from sinners and outcasts to the religious elite, as in today’s reading, Jesus dining with Simon the Pharisee. For Luke, Jesus reclining at table was a public and visible sign—a clear message that all people are welcome in the kingdom of God. This radical inclusivity was foreign—and likely offensive—to many of the religious leaders in Jesus’ day. Simon’s initial negative reaction to the presence of the “sinful woman” and his questioning of Jesus’ prophetic status makes that evident. In response, Jesus engages Simon in a brief parable of the creditor. The parable helps Simon sees the sinful woman from God’s perspective and allows Jesus to interpret her actions differently from Simon’s first impression. Jesus saw the woman’s actions as a sign of the depth of her faith and, in turn, granted forgiveness for her sins. Nonetheless, the interaction between Jesus and the sinful woman perplexed Simon and his guests: “Who is this who even forgives sins?”
The second reading from Galatians picks up on Paul’s motivation for writing this letter—his anger at the Gentile believing Galatian men who had themselves circumcised. In response, Paul speaks of “justification” (having the right relationship with God) in terms of faith in Christ versus works of the law. For Paul, circumcision was an aspect of the works of the law. And in Paul’s view, if one can be “justified” through the works of the law, “then Christ died for nothing.”
This was more than a theological debate for Paul—it was the core of his Gospel message. Faith in Jesus is sufficient for justification.
Dr. Daniel J. Scholz