Pastor's Corner Apr 14 2019

All relationships develop when one party initiates and the other party responds. A deep relationship is developed by a series of initiations and a series of responses. This back and forth is even witnessed in the animal kingdom in their mating dances. This is no small analogy. Some of the animals, incredibly, as we know, mate for life. Spiritual writers say that God always initiates each stage of our relationship with Him. He is the one asking us—Dare we say it?—for a dance.

Witness this dance: a woman referred to as a ‘sinner,' whom tradition accepts as Mary Magdalen, appears at Simon the Pharisee's house, wept on, wiped, kissed and anointed our Lord's feet. Simon and some of the others were 'scandalized'. Is it possible to be 'scandalized' by what God does? Absolutely. The cross is a scandal too. The defect, however, is not in what God does but our understanding.

Our Lord gives a parable lesson: Which of two forgiven debtors, great and small, will love more? Simon gets the correct answer: he who is forgiven more, loves more. But, the conclusion that our Lord Himself draws seems to reverse the cause-effect order, saying: "Wherefore I say to thee: Many sins are forgiven her, because she hath loved much," (Lk 7:47). Is the forgiveness the cause of the love? Or is the love the cause of the forgiveness? He also gives the opposite order: "But to whom less is forgiven, he loveth less," (Lk 7:48). In the ritual of making friendship, the answer must be both.

In the case of the woman, He gives her the grace to repent. She responds with generosity by repenting whole-heartedly, in a public manner, and using expensive perfume. As a consequence, He generously accepts her public repentance—even at the risk of His own reputation. He praises her publicly. Then He initiates a higher relationship by granting her forgiveness saying: "Thy sins are forgiven thee," (Lk 7:48).

After she accepts, Jesus dismisses her by saying: "Thy faith has made thee safe, go in peace," (Lk 7:50). Did she make herself safe, by faith? Or did God make her safe? Both. Her response of faith allowed Jesus to initiate her safety (salvation) and her peace. She would respond again, one week later, again appearing at His feet on Mt. Calvary.

If our catechism makes it seem like our relationship with God is merely two dimensional or binary, on or off, then our catechism is either childish or defective. Some will say, for instance, that if we are in the state of mortal sin, God doesn't hear our prayers. Tell that to Mary Magdalen. If this were true, no one could repent, heaven would be almost empty. God never ceases to listen; never ceases to be our friend.

In the dance with God, some of us are like wall flowers; some of us have two left feet; some of us are whirling around the room in a blue-ribbon performance. Holy Week is a time to make an adequate response to His personal initiation. God love you.

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