One of the strong messages in our gospel today is the beauty of realizing how much we are loved by God despite our being a sinner. When we realized how much we are loved by God things slowly change in us. We would have a new perspective on things. We would have a new attitude towards one another. Our relationships flourish. We just keep on doing good, and aiming for the best. However, being loved by God doesn’t guarantee us that we may never fall again, but it assures us that God would always help us get up from falling.
One way to realize how much God loves us is to know and accept our being a sinner. Simon the Pharisee has some problem with this. He couldn’t take this, because he thought he’s so good enough that he could easily distinguish ‘sinners’ from saints. He thought he is better than the others. Our gospel tells us a glimpse of this kind of person by telling us what Simon was thinking about Jesus and the woman who gate-crushed on his party. “If this man were a prophet, he would know who this woman is that is touching him and what a bad name she has.” Unfortunately, with this kind of attitude, it takes a lot of hard work to realize how God loves us in an unconditional way. Because with this comes the tendency to compare, to judge, to put ourselves over and above others. With this it is hard if not impossible to accept our being a sinner. However, to accept our being a sinner does not mean living comfortably with sin or in sin, rather it means continually asking God’s forgiveness and healing. If we take it as living comfortably with sin, then it is a problem. “The problem is not that we are sinners” says Pope Francis, “the problem is not repenting of sin, not being ashamed of what we have done. That’s the problem.”
Another way to realize the love of God for us is to appreciate the gifts we have received even us without asking. Sometimes, we may complain to God for not listening to our prayers. But have we ever tried counting the blessings, the graces that we have received everyday even if we didn’t ask for it. For me, a whole lifetime wouldn’t be enough to count all the blessings I have received from God so far. Though it is a valid human reaction to say that our efforts went to nothing, our prayers were not answered and that our sacrifices didn’t mean a thing for us but we have to know that God couldn’t let our effort pass without doing anything about it. To illustrate this I would tell you a true story. A man married to a Filipina shared with me his experience when he first went to visit the village in the Philippines where his wife comes from. One day he said, he went to see a running race organized by the locals. He had fun cheering the competitors as each of them got to the finish line. But this man felt sorry to the last kid who got to the finish line. He wouldn’t get any of the prizes of course. We could easily imagine him being ‘booed’ upon for taking it so long. So this man gave a personal prize money to the kid, acknowledging his effort to join the race and for continuing to run to the finish line even if all others have already finished. And the interesting thing about it too was that the money he gave to this kid was even worth more than what the champion got. All because a foreigner who witnessed the event, looked at and had appreciated the effort shown by this poor kid just to get to the finish line.
The other way to realize God’s great love for us is to keep up in our following of Jesus and be empowered by his message. The woman went to Jesus to thank him of the graces she received- the grace of forgiveness for her many sins. And in the latter part of the gospel we heard of the few men and women who now started to follow Jesus wherever he went. This is what the Church is on about. This means that we go proclaiming Christ to others through our lives. True, there are always people who would discourage us from doing so. It is because for some Jesus Christ does not only comfort the afflicted, he also afflicts the comfortable. But as St Paul would encourage us in our second reading today, because of our faith in Christ we have the right and the mission to proclaim his name to the world. By virtue of our being baptised in Christ, we are now living in Christ and thus Christ lives in us. This awareness is so engrained in St Paul that he said: ‘It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me,’ [Gal 2:20.]
So as we continue our Eucharistic celebration today, let us thank God for three things: the gift of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the opportunity he has given us to live our lives to its fullness, and for giving us all the graces that we need to live.
Let us always remember, God does not just look at us, he looks at us with such a loving gaze.