Today we celebrate the 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time as well as the secular holiday of Father’s Day. The readings this weekend focus on the forgiving ministry of Jesus. God always forgives, even before we ask for forgiveness. Yet, because God wants us to participate in the ministry of forgiveness, we need to show that we are remorseful and desire to be forgiven. In this way, we indicate that we understand that we’ve done wrong and will try to do better in the future.
In some sense, a father does the same. I remember breaking a window when I was about 5 years old. Although my dad forgave the error, I still needed to apologize for the breakage and make restitution. Dad didn’t excuse the breakage as an example of “boys will be boys;” he recognized that I needed to learn from my mistake so I wouldn’t do it again in the future.
This is what is happening in today’s Gospel. The sinful woman knows that she had done wrong, but she needed to do something to make restitution for her past life. Moreover, she needed to hear Jesus say to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” This is how we cooperate with God’s grace and mercy: God always offers forgiveness to us, but we need to accept that forgiveness and participate in some form of restitution. If we don’t at least make the attempt at restitution, we gradually fall into an attitude of entitlement. We begin to think, “God always forgives me but I am so undeserving and I could never possibly repay God, so why bother going through the motions.” But it is precisely in “going through the motions” (whether by anointing Jesus’ feet with oil and drying them with one’s hair or by reciting a rosary or doing a corporal work of mercy) that we grow in God’s grace and participate in our salvation. We demonstrate our faith by acting on it.
As Catholics, we believe in faith and in works. Both are necessary if we are to call ourselves Christian. We believe therefore we do good works and we do good works because of our belief: Both go hand in hand. As we reflect on God’ love and mercy, let us never fail to remember that God wants us to be fully alive in Christ Jesus. As Paul relates in today’s second reading, “Christ lives in me.” Therefore, I become as Christ to the world around me which means that I demonstrate my faith by action.