Who are we to question God’s ways?

  • June 8, 2007
11th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C) June 17 (2 Samuel 12:7-10, 13, Galatians 2:16, 19-21, Luke 7:36-8:3 or 7:36-50)

Moral outrage and indignation can be very satisfying, but can also be a cover for our own darkness. David discovered this to his immense chagrin.
David made many compromises with truth and justice during his climb to the top from humble beginnings. He always loved God, but he did not really allow that devotion to cramp his ethical style. If one were to compile a list of his sins and errors of judgment, it would not be far from the mark to put him down for at least one of everything. The corrupting influences of absolute power ran their course, for David made his own rules and is his own law. He was guilty of treachery, adultery and murder for both personal and political reasons. He had everything he wanted, and was not too concerned with how he got them.

But the moment of truth came at the hands of Nathan the prophet. Realizing that David would not be receptive to a direct attack, he disguised David’s sin of murder and adultery as a case of a rich and powerful man who takes all that a poor man had. Filled with self-righteous fury, David pronounced a death sentence on the imaginary perpetrator. Nathan’s response was like a pistol shot: “I’m talking about YOU!”

Cut to the quick, David humbled himself in sincere repentance before God, giving us a clue as to why he was always favoured by God. Today we would probably think of the terrible punishments pronounced against David as the natural unfolding of his hurtful and negative actions rather than punishment from God.

Jesus warns us not to judge, most of all because we are usually wrong. But even more than that, what we condemn in others — either individuals or nations — usually is present in our own heart and in our own history. Tossing labels around or loudly calling for the punishment of others usually comes back to haunt us.

There is no real conflict between good works and faith. That supposed conflict was born in the time of the Reformation in response to some bad theology and church practices. The works of the Law of which Paul speaks does not mean what we would call good deeds, and he is not talking about how to “get saved.” Performing the works of the Law is how one established and maintained membership in the covenant community.

Paul insisted that faith is now the means by which one belongs, rather than purity or how well the rules are kept. Faith represents both trust in God and the desire of the heart to walk in God’s ways, regardless of how imperfectly we may do that at times.

This is illustrated splendidly both in the story of David above, and that of the anonymous woman in Luke. A woman known to be a sinner crashes the dinner party that Jesus is attending at the home of a prominent religious person. Her hair is loose and flowing in what was considered a brazen and immodest manner. But her next act scandalizes those present. She actually touches Jesus thereby defiling Him as it was thought. Washing His feet with her tears and drying them with her hair is a very intimate and familiar act, and Jesus’ host can barely conceal his disgust and contempt for her and his disappointment with Jesus. The mini-parable that Jesus relates about the two debtors, one forgiven a huge sum and the other a small one, ends with a question: who will be more grateful and joyful? The answer of course is the one who had the bigger debt — the one forgiven the most. Jesus then contrasts the cold and rather unloving behaviour of his host with that of the woman at his feet. The amount of love, faith and hope that she displays is proof positive of the presence of God and the work of grace in her chaotic life.

Love is both the cause and the result of inner healing and freedom. Who are we to question or reject the ways God works in the lives of others? Ultimately it is a question of faith and trust that God is love, wills the salvation of all and knows best how to bring that about. The old saying still stands: Let God be God.