Thou Art The Man, a Homily

Homily, June 11-12, 2016: Cycle C, 11th Sunday of Ord Time (Seeing Sin In Others)

Today’s readings remind us of how easy it is to see sin & wrongdoing in others but in ourselves, not so much!

In the Old Testament Reading from 2nd Samuel we hear quite a story about King David. Actually, our reading is a summation, so let me back up a few verses to get the lurid details.

King David was on the rooftop of his home and viewed Bathsheba bathing at a distance. He was determined to have her and arranged for her husband to be transferred to the front lines of a battle. When he was in fact killed, King David felt free to take her as a wife.

Now you might say, “Well, that’s what kings did back then.” But, David was different from most.

The irony is that David is described in scripture as having a heart modeled closely after God’s own heart.

Yet, here he is seen committing adultery and murder & is seemingly oblivious to his wrong doing.

That is, until Nathan the prophet went to David. Rather than confront him head on, Nathan told him a story in which he hoped David would see himself. The story was about a ruler who took a poor man’s lamb to feed friends, even though he already had many of his own. He took the only one the poor man owned.

The strategy worked because as David listened to the story, he became enraged and said the ruler should be punished for doing what he did. Nathan then dropped the bomb on David and uttered the famous line, “David, thou art the man”. In a flash, David understood what he had done and repented.

There have been several books written with that title, “Thou art the man”. The books point out the leniency we afford ourselves while being harsh at the sin of others.

The theme continues in our Gospel from Luke. We have the story about the Pharisee who invited Jesus to dinner in his home. A prostitute heard that Jesus would be there and decided to crash the dinner to be close to Jesus.

She brought a jar of fragrant oil with her and after washing Jesus’ feet with her tears and drying them with her hair, she anointed His feet with the oil and kissed them.

The Pharisee complained to Jesus about what happened pointing out the woman’s sinfulness and how Jesus as a prophet should have been able to know what kind of woman she was. Jesus, as usual, filleted the Pharisee for his hypocrisy.

He reminded the Pharisee that he did not offer him water to bathe his feet when He arrived, as was the custom. He did not greet him with a kiss, as was the custom, and did not anoint his head with oil, while the woman had done all of these things out of her great love for Jesus and the forgiveness He offered.

The whole issue in the Gospel is much the same as in our first reading. We are much more adept at seeing sin and wrong doing in others than we are in ourselves.

It is such a universal tendency. I know with me it often comes as a complete epiphany when I finally see something that I have been doing wrong.

And, worse, it is devastating when I realized that it has gone on for a while, and I realize that others may have already noted that in me. Just when I thought I had everyone fooled.

A couple of weeks ago Deacon Mike & I were in conversation at Starbucks, of course about things spiritual. We talked about the spirituality of the presidential campaign. That didn’t take long.

We talked about St Thomas Aquinas & KIA Sorentos & St Augustine & KIA Souls, you know.

I ended up sharing with him how I recently remembered doing something wrong when I was very young, 4 or 5, and I distinctly remembered the motivation for doing what I did. I also realized that, that same motivation was active throughout my entire life, even today.

You might ask how could I possibly remember so long ago. Well, because memories are stored along with the associated emotion and since at that time parents used corporal punishment which I clearly remembered.

Still, when you think about it, it’s pretty amazing. It borders on admitting that my free will is not really as free as I would like to think.

My motivations are affected by things inside and outside of me. How I was raised. Expectations placed on me. How I was affected by the circumstances in life, the proclivities of my parents and teachers, affect me today. Some would even call it approaching, “Hard wiring”.

With that being the case we should take a whole different view about judging and forgiving others. They are affected by influences as well. God tells us not to judge for very good reasons, because He understands those influences better than we do. We don’t even understand them in ourselves much less others.

When Jesus went after the Pharisee for judging the woman, He was also talking to us. Do we have an excuse for our wrongdoing based on our free will not being quite as free as we thought?

Can we blame God for making us that way or allowing us to be formed that way? Can we do whatever we want to do and not worry that there may come a day of reckoning?

In a word, “No”.  Sorry. Not a chance. We should accept our proclivities and motivations as hurdles that require us to redouble our efforts in those areas. They are our special crosses that we bear to make us, ultimately, more like Jesus when we do overcome them.

We can use these opportunities not to excuse ourselves but to show ourselves and others, mercy.

In this Year of Mercy, proclaimed by Pope Francis, we are given a unique opportunity to emphasize the value of the virtue of mercy. As we apply it to ourselves and to others we could find a new sense of peace settling over us.

We could enter a new freedom to enjoy life more completely – freed from constantly judging others and comparing ourselves favorably to them.

We could more fully appreciate the depth of God’s love and mercy and forgiveness toward us.

Thou Art The Man

In 2 Samuel 12,  7 we hear the story of two men, one was wealthy and had thousands of sheep in his flocks. The other man was poor and had only one small sheep that lived with his family as a pet.

When the wealthy man had a visitor he wanted to impress he sent his servants to take the one lamb of the poor man to feed his guest rather than take one from his flocks of thousands.

Nathan the prophet used this story to shame David for taking the wife of Uriah and having a child with her. David could have had any woman in Israel as his wife to raise up children, but instead he took the wife of a solder and had the solder killed.

Nathan pointed out that David had indeed done the very same thing as the wealthy man who took the one and only sheep from the poor man. When he told the story to David, he became enraged that anyone would do such a thing. At that point, Nathan said to David, “Thou art the man”.

This simple story from antiquity is a good example for us today to strive to increase our awareness so that we do not do similar things unknowingly. In this age of rampant selfishness, we tend to think only of ourselves and what feels good to us as the sole criterion for our behavior.

We see the powerful of our day, even those in leadership, who have many resources and yet take from those who have only a few. This happens even in the Church where we see Christians so possessed of selfishness that they behave as if they never have enough and are on the lookout to take from those who only have a little. Those who are gifted in serving others will sometime use their gifts to feel important rather than let one less gifted use his small gift to serve another.

We see those with much reach for the little that others have and never seem to be aware of what they are doing. We need a Nathan today to tell us, “Thou art the Man.”